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This blog post is longer than usual, but I believe the subject matter required it. I hope you will take time to read it.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the idea of a long age (millions of years) for the earth was being popularized by deists, atheists, and other non-Christians. They were attempting to use a so-called “scientific investigation of the world” to justify their rejection of God and His Word. At the time, their primary target was to undermine the plain reading of the Bible concerning the Flood of Noah (and its consequence of rock layers and worldwide fossil deposits) and a young age for the earth. It was really their attempt to undermine the authority of the entire Bible.
At that time, there were church leaders who adopted these ideas (millions of years) into Scripture. This was no different than today, and really no different than what happened with the religious leaders in the Apostle Paul’s day, and also no different to what was happening with the priests and false prophets in ancient Israel.
Fallible sinful man, ever since Genesis 3, has had the propensity to believe the fallible words of humans rather than the infallible Word of God. That is really our nature. At heart, because of sin, we are against God and what He teaches. People will go out of their way to trust in man rather than trust what God has clearly revealed.
In the early 1800s, there were church leaders in England who began to reinterpret the days of creation and the Flood account in Genesis to fit in the millions of years. Some advocated the idea of a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Others said that Christians could interpret the creation days as long ages. Others realized that if one interpreted the fossil layers as representing millions of years, then how could one believe in the global Flood of Noah’s day? Such a flood would destroy those layers and deposit more layers with fossils. Thus, it was postulated that Noah’s Flood was only a local (regional) flood in the Mesopotamian Valley (modern-day Iraq).
As the nineteenth century progressed, Darwin popularized his ideas of evolution. There were church leaders who then reinterpreted Genesis to fit in evolution, even human evolution. When the idea of the big bang was popularized in the early twentieth century, in the same manner many church leaders then adopted this into God’s Word.
Over the past 200 years, many different positions regarding understanding the creation account of Genesis have arisen in the church, such as the following:
A number of scientists who were Christians actually opposed these compromise positions. Various books and articles were written to challenge the church to stand on God’s Word and not compromise with the fallible ideas of man that, intentionally or unintentionally, seriously undermined the authority of the Bible.
In February 1961, the book The Genesis Flood was published, authored by a scientist (Dr. Henry Morris) and theologian (Dr. John Whitcomb). This book dealt with the scientific and biblical aspects of the Genesis Flood account in Genesis 6–9, and challenged the church to stand on the authority of the Word of God and not reinterpret God’s clear words in Genesis.
Today is the unofficial anniversary of the publication of this famous book that began the modern biblical creation movement. I encourage you to read the lead article on AiG’s website today, commemorating this historic event.
Since the publication of this book, the biblical creation movement has grown. While the battle between God’s Word in Genesis and the fallible ideas of man has changed somewhat, the same battle still rages today.
Since 1961, biblical creation scientists and theologians have been able to conduct tremendous research and have provided many answers in geology, biology, astronomy, anthropology, archaeology, and theology, which have equipped Christians to stand uncompromisingly on Genesis. The several thousand articles on the AiG website are a good example of providing such answers, as well as the hundreds of books, DVDs, and other resources now available.
The modern creation movement has been highly successful in pointing out to Christians of the inconsistencies in trying to add millions of years and evolution into the Bible. Many articles on the AiG website (or in the Answers magazine) deal with this issue.
Even with this wonderful research and its dissemination, the spiritual battle is intensifying. We don’t fight against flesh and blood but “principalities and powers” (Ephesians 6:12). As more and more answers have been given, and inconsistencies pointed out, the arguments against God’s Word in Genesis move on to different topics. This is why we continually need to be on our guard as we “contend for the faith” (Jude 3).
So where is the battle today? I have observed an interesting phenomenon that is permeating Christian colleges and seminaries, which influences future church leaders and what they take to the pulpit, mission field, etc.
I believe many Christian academics recognize the inconsistency in trying to add millions of years and evolution to Genesis. The compromise is obvious. Many of them recognize that one has to totally change the meaning of the words in Genesis to allow such compromise. For example, creating Adam out of dust and Eve from a rib have to be changed to mean that ape-men and ape-women changed into Adam and Eve. But this ignores many details in the biblical text and ends up playing language games. Various articles on the AiG website point out the numerous problems with such compromise. Ultimately, of course, the result of this compromise undermines the authority of God’s Word. And in the church today, we see two thirds of young people leaving the church by the time they reach college age, and it’s largely because the reliability and authority of God’s Word has been undermined (as our research for the book Already Gone has shown).
Today, the same battle rages, but we see a change in what is being foisted on the church as the enemy continues to attack God’s Word. Remember, the attack has always been on God’s Word, as it started with the questioning of what God said to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 and has never let up. That attack just manifests itself in different ways in different eras. I have observed that more and more Christian academics, in their attempt to adopt man’s ideas of evolution and millions of years, are continuing this attack in a different sort of way. Let me give you some examples.
I will use the almost 1,000-page Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch edited by T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker to illustrate where the battle is heading today.
On page 315, there is 12-page section on the Genesis Flood account written by John Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College in Illinois.
I wrote a recent blog post about Walton’s approach to Genesis, pointing out that he believes Genesis 1 is not an account of material origins, but an account of God’s “Cosmic Temple.” Walton believes that a person needs to understand ancient Near-Eastern thinking and culture in order to understand Scripture. He argues that such an understanding has been lost for ages, but that academics like himself have been able to regain an understanding of this ancient Near Eastern thinking so the rest of us in the church can finally (after thousands of years) understand what Genesis 1 means. Walton certainly has a different view of inspiration to that of Drs Whitcomb and Morris, our AiG staff, and millions of other Christians around the world. Walton, though, looks at the person(s) who wrote Genesis and the pagan culture’s of the day as authoritative. Morris and Whitcomb (and AiG and ICR—two of the leading creation apologetics organizations), however, understand that it is the words of Scripture that are inspired.
I think of this passage of Scripture: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”(2 Timothy 3:16).
In the original Greek language, “inspiration of God” is one word and it means literally “God-breathed.” This verse clearly states that the words of Scripture are God breathed! Every one of them came from Him as the Spirit of God worked through the prophets and apostles. We are also told that God’s Word will stand forever. If the infinite God, who created language, cannot move people to write His “God-breathed” words so all people (regardless of culture) can understand them, then there is something dreadfully wrong. If it is only now, after thousands of years, that we can finally understand what Genesis means because of what a few academics claim about ancient Near-Eastern thinking, how can we be sure we know anything? How do we know those academics like Walton have it right? No wonder Scripture cautions us that “knowledge puffs up.” We are seeing academia in the Christian world going mad as “Protestant popes” are popping up all over the Christian world.
Regarding the Flood, Walton applies the same misguided approach as he does in Genesis 1. He states the following:
The theological message of the Bible was communicated to people who lived in the ancient Near Eastern world. If we desire to understand the theological message of the text, we will benefit by positioning it within the worldview of the ancient cultures rather than simply applying our own cultural perspectives. (p. 315)Walton then discusses ancient Near-Eastern mythology and relates it to Scripture and its book of Genesis. In essence, he is using pagan, idolatrous mythology to supposedly help enable us to understand what God and Moses really meant!
But really, the whole underlying reason for what he is doing (as I noted in my previous blog) relates to the ideas of millions of years and evolution. Walton recognizes that you can’t fit millions of years and evolution into Genesis, so he is hoping to popularize an idea that Genesis is not revealing an account of material origins. Genesis chapter one, for instance, is supposed to be about God’s Cosmic Temple and the function of the different creatures in that temple (which came into existence who knows when)!
So what does the Flood account mean then?
Walton declares the following:
It has already been suggested that the boat in Mesopotamian accounts may have served as a floating shrine. In its dimensions, the Genesis ark is much more realistic for a boat, though conceptually it may also represent a sanctuary where order is maintained floating on a sea of resurgent chaos. In this sense the Mesopotamian ark appears as a physical representation of a sanctuary, while the Genesis ark appears as a functional representation of a sanctuary. Creation both in the Bible and in the ancient Near East entailed deity bringing order while pushing back chaos . . . The forces of chaos were most consistently represented in the cosmic waters. In this sense, the flood represents a reversal of creation. This is more the case in the biblical account than in the ancient Near Eastern accounts, for in the latter there is no textual representation of re-creation. (p. 322)Now that makes sense to the average person, doesn’t it?! Why didn’t any Jews or Christians before the twentieth century ever think of this?
While Walton insists that he does not propose his views as a response to millions of years and evolution, that is exactly what his underlying motive is. It is obvious when you read his writings carefully. For instance, Walton objects to a global Flood by bringing up the same old arguments that Morris and Whitcomb were confronted with and were answered in their book!
For instance, Walton makes the following claims:
So the battle rages. It is the same battle Morris and Whitcomb were dealing with in their masterpiece The Genesis Flood. These great scholars were passionate for the Word of God. In the fifty years since their book’s publication, the biblical creation movement is more passionate than ever for the Word of God. At the same time, we now see Christian academics like Walton using the argument that Genesis is not an account of material origins and that a Christian has to understand ancient Near-Eastern thinking to know what Genesis really means.
Walton’s own arguments can be summed up this way; he states the following:
Some feel they are protecting theories that account of the details of the traditional interpretation of the text. Too often, however, these theories prove to be implausible and are easily discredited by the scientific thinkers whom they intend to win over. (p. 320)Let me reword this for you (my words are interspersed in Waltons’ and are in brackets to help explain what I believe Walton is saying):
Some [those like Whitcomb and Morris] feel they are protecting theories (protecting the clear teaching of the text) that account for details of the traditional interpretation of the text [the interpretation that greats like Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Gill, and others held because of what the text clearly states]. Too often, however, these theories [their views based clearly on the text—Scripture alone] prove to be implausible [to unbelievers, but not to Bible-believers] and are easily discredited by scientific thinkers [fallible sinful humans whose hearts are “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” and who arrogantly claim that “science” has disproved the Bible’s account because they insist millions of years are a fact] whom they intend to win over [who need to listen to God’s Word but instead “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18)].Today, let’s praise God for the faithfulness of scholars like Whitcomb and Morris and for the publication of their book, The Genesis Flood. In some ways, this was the beginning of a new “reformation” in the modern church, which continues to this day as organizations like AiG, Institute for Creation Research, Creation Research Society, etc., continue to challenge the church and culture to return to the authority of the Word of God.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.