Many Christians have a different principle for interpreting Genesis 1–11 than they do for the rest of God’s Word. So what does Genesis mean?
Answers in Genesis
Imagine if we approached everything we read like this headline states. For instance, if you were driving and came upon a sign that says STOP, you might think, “It says, ‘Stop,’ but what does that really mean? My personal interpretation is that it means slow down and stop only if you see other cars coming.”
We know better. We’re supposed to think, “Oh, a stop sign. I have to obey what it clearly says. It means to come to a full stop.”
Sadly, today we see Christians applying the first approach to the Bible, particularly the book of Genesis—and specifically the age of the earth and universe.
I was on a radio program, and the pastor interviewing me asked something like this: “You agree Christians can have different views of baptism, eschatology, speaking in tongues, Sabbath day, and Calvinism?”
I answered in the affirmative.
The pastor continued, “And Christians can have different views of Genesis; it’s the same thing.”
“No, it’s not the same thing,” I replied.
I then explained that when Christians disagree on issues like eschatology and baptism, they are arguing from Scripture and within Scripture.
However, I contend that the different views of Genesis come from people taking outside ideas, beliefs from fallible man, and interpreting the clear words of Scripture to fit those beliefs.
Many different views persist within the church, particularly among church leadership and academics, on how to take Genesis. The list of positions includes theistic evolution, evolutionary creation, progressive creation, framework hypothesis, day-age theory, local flood, gap theory, and new ideas like Genesis 1 describes the creation of some “cosmic temple.”
Now, I’ve actually had people come to me when I speak at conferences and say, “Our pastor is a gap theorist,” or “My daughter’s college professor is a theistic evolutionist,” and so on, and then someone asks me, “What is your position on Genesis?” My answer? “The biblical one, of course: six literal days, young earth, literal Adam, and global Flood. I take it as written.”
I have looked into every one of the positions on Genesis that contradict the “biblical one” listed above, and I’ve found one common factor. Every single one in some way attempts to incorporate the “millions of years belief” into Genesis.
Here’s what’s so disheartening to me. Many Christian leaders and academics who hold one of these positions on Genesis would, by and large, take God’s Word the same way I do from Genesis 12 onwards! Yes, we may have some theological disagreements arguing from within Scripture, and we may differ on the book of Revelation. But from Genesis 12 onwards, we don’t use outside beliefs from the secular world to force a particular view on God’s Word—but this is what they are doing in Genesis with the millions of years belief.
And therein lies the issue—they have one hermeneutical principle for interpreting Genesis 1–11 (forcing man’s beliefs in millions of years into Scripture) and a different one for the rest of God’s Word (taking God’s Word as written and interpreting Scripture with Scripture). And yet most of them can’t see this, or don’t want to. Why not? I believe it’s primarily because of academic peer pressure, academic pride, and a desire for academic respectability.
If we let God’s Word speak to us, keeping in mind the aim of various types of biblical literature, anyone can understand the basic message in the same way we can understand a traffic manual.
Yes, there are difficult passages in Scripture. And yes, having an understanding of Hebrew and Greek will add depth to one’s understanding of what God’s Word is teaching us. But God’s Word is for all people for all time. God has communicated the basic message in a way we can understand. If we let God’s Word speak to us, keeping in mind the aim of various types of biblical literature, anyone can understand the basic message in the same way we can understand a traffic manual. That’s called the perspicuity of Scripture, a big word for a simple concept that the message is clear. It means what it says.
If you read Genesis 1–11 to a child, he or she will understand the basic message and would never get the idea of millions of years from this account. No! The idea of millions of years comes from fallible man’s beliefs and is imposed upon Genesis by many who would never impose man’s rejection of Christ’s physical Resurrection or virgin birth on the New Testament!
So what does Genesis mean? It means what it so clearly says!
But as for you, continue in what you
have learned and have firmly believed,
knowing from whom you learned it
and how from childhood you have
been acquainted with the sacred writings,
which are able to make you wise
for salvation through faith in Christ
Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by
God and profitable for teaching, for
reproof, for correction, and for training
in righteousness, that the man of God
may be complete, equipped for every
good work” (2 Timothy 3:14–17).