An important question that Christians need to reflect upon is whether we should disagree over the interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis.
In general, while some disagreements are the result of personal differences (Philippians 4:2) or devotion to a favourite teacher (1 Corinthians 1:11–12), there can also be disagreement because some have left the teaching of God and have embraced the teaching of men (Matthew 15:1–9). Paul exhorted the Corinthians, in Jesus’ name, to agree with one another (1 Corinthians 1:10) as some of them had gone beyond what was written in Scripture (1 Corinthians 4:6).
Many Christians see the matter of the days of Creation and the age of the earth as unimportant or at best as a side issue. Unfortunately, the big picture here is often either overlooked or completely ignored. There are several reasons as to why Christians should agree on what the early chapters of Genesis state:
- The Word of God clearly teaches that God created the world and universe in six literal days around 6,000 years ago (Genesis 1:1–2:3, 5:1–32, 11:10–32; Exodus 20:11, 31:17). Scripture forbids us from adding or taking away from what it says (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Proverbs 30:5–6).
- The idea of an old earth is based upon uniformitarian geology which understands the fossil record to have been laid down over millions of years. The fossil record, which is believed to record millions of years of earth’s history, is filled with death, disease, suffering, bloodshed, violence, and extinction. However, Scripture clearly teaches that God made the world very good and without death of any kind (Genesis 1:29–31). Animal and human death as well as physical and spiritual death came about as a consequence of Adam’s sin (Genesis 2:16–17, 3:7–8, 17–19; Romans 5:12–14, 8:19–22; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22; Revelation 21:4, 22:3).
- The global Flood is key to understanding the age of the earth. The idea of the great age of the earth came from the belief that the fossil record was laid down over millions of years. However, either the fossil record is the evidence of millions of years, or it is largely the evidence of Noah’s Flood—it cannot be both. We cannot logically believe in millions of years and a global Flood. For this reason, many old-earth creationists and theistic evolutionists believe that the Flood mentioned in Genesis 6–8 was either a local flood or a myth. However, the Genesis account of the Flood is clearly a historic global catastrophe in which only Noah and his family were saved (1 Peter 3:20). This is asserted by the text itself (Genesis 6:13, 17, 7:11–12, 17–24) and by the New Testament authors (Luke 17:26–27; 2 Peter 3:5–6).
- There are two major problems in rejecting the Flood as a historical global catastrophe: (1) After the Flood, God made a covenant never to destroy the earth again by a flood (Genesis 9:9–11). However, if the Flood were only local, then God has broken this promise as there have been many local floods since then. (2) Jesus speaks of the Flood of Noah as an analogy of the judgment to come at the end of the age (Matthew 24:37–39); so if the judgment in Noah’s day was local, then so must be the one at the end of age.
For these reasons it is important for the church to hold to the clear teaching of Scripture regarding what God has revealed to us in the early chapters of Genesis.
Disagreement over the meaning of the early chapters of Genesis does not come from ambiguous passages within Scripture but from influences outside Scripture, including evolutionary ideas. Therefore, the question of the days of Creation, the origin of death, and the extent of the Flood should not be something we disagree on as we might disagree on baptism, eschatology, and so on, since these disagreements come about on how to interpret certain passages from within Scripture itself.
This is not an unimportant matter, but it is a historical and theological fact with huge historical and theological implications. Christian agreement over these issues is a vitally important issue because it brings into focus whether the clear statements of Scripture are going to be accepted or whether they are going to be denied based on supposed scientific concerns.
The church is facing a crisis today because too many of her people and leaders have not thought about the consequences of disagreeing over the early chapters of Genesis.