Originally published in Creation 19, no 2 (March 1997): 47-49.
A pastor’s wife called me to plead with us not to, as she put it, ‘alienate people in the church’ with our stand on the ‘non-essentials in Genesis.’
‘Why can’t we just agree on the essentials so we can work together without this division?’ she exclaimed!
‘What do you mean by the essentials?’ I asked.
‘Well, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he died on the cross for our sin, and was raised from the dead.’ She went on, ‘Do you believe that if a person is born again as the Bible describes, then they will go to heaven even if they don’t believe in Genesis as you do?’
I told her that if someone was truly born again, even if they didn’t believe as I did concerning Genesis, then they certainly would spend eternity with the Lord. She then blurted out, ‘See, what you believe about Genesis is not essential—the essential thing to believe is the message of Jesus and the Resurrection.’
I then asked her a very important question: ‘Why did Jesus die on the cross?’
’For our sins,’ she answered.
I said, ‘Please explain to me what you mean by the word "sin".’
‘Well, sin is rebellion against God,’ she replied.
‘How do you know this—what is the origin of this rebellion?’ I continued.
She seemed to think for a moment, and then exclaimed, ‘I know what you’re trying to do!’
‘Yes, of course,’ I answered. ‘I’m trying to get you to see that unless there was a historical event in a real garden with a literal man, serpent, and fruit, as recorded in Genesis, then there is no origin for sin.’ I continued, ‘Even though a person will go to heaven if they are born again, ultimately, is it essential to believe in “original sin” or not?’
There is a growing emphasis in the church today for a tolerance of everyone’s beliefs.There is a growing emphasis in the church today for a tolerance of everyone’s beliefs—we are being asked by church leaders and others to bury any areas of disagreement and work together. That sounds attractive on the surface, but in reality it is not just a request to put aside minor doctrinal differences. Rather, it is being used to counter any challenge to the church concerning serious departure from the teaching of Scripture in major, foundational areas.
A look at just a few of the doctrines which are grounded in a literal Genesis should quickly lay to rest the idea that this is some sort of ‘minor issue’ for the Christian.
The Crucifixion and Resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:21–22) The whole reason Jesus (the ‘last Adam’) died for us was because of the sin nature inherited from the (literal) first Adam. Jesus rose from (physical) death to conquer (physical) death, which the Bible calls the ‘last enemy’ (v.26). If long-age theology is right, God has sanctioned billions of years of death and suffering. How then could death be an ‘enemy’? And why would God call His creation ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31) if the ‘last enemy’ was an integral part of it?
Marriage (Mark 10:6–9) Jesus refers to the creation of a literal Adam and Eve—from the beginning of the creation, not millions of years later.
The restoration (Acts 3:21; Revelation 21:4, 22:3) In the long geological ages view, death and suffering were there all along. All things can’t be restored back to a sinless, deathless world if there never was such a world in the first place.
Trustworthiness of the Bible. Topflight Hebrew academics are unanimous that Genesis was written to convey exactly what we creationists claim.1 Are not those who reject this accusing God of misleading His people for thousands of years?
Many Christian leaders today speak out against the creation movement and its stand on six literal days, no death before sin (and thus a young Earth), etc. Diverting attention from the Biblical issues, they label creationists as intolerant and unnecessarily ‘divisive.’
Sadly, some of these attacks come from those professing to be ‘anti-evolution creationists.’ For instance, Dr. Hugh Ross is a progressive creationist who believes such things as the ‘big bang,’ a local Flood for Noah’s day, millions of years of death and bloodshed before sin, and various humanlike ‘soulless’ beings before Adam and Eve who buried their dead and did cave paintings. In his book Creation and Time he stated the following:
‘Much as circumcision divided the first-century church, I see the creation date issue dividing the church of this century. As circumcision distorted the gospel and hampered evangelism, so, too, does young-universe creationism.’2
The irony is, of course, that one of the main reasons why ministries like Answers in Genesis are growing rapidly is because people can see their evangelistic effectiveness. In my years in creation ministry, I have seen countless letters from people from all walks of life who came to Christ through God’s use of our stand on Genesis. Often, they had already given up on Christianity, because the answers they had been given (by Christians trying to fit the long-ages idea, with death and suffering before sin, into the Bible) were so clearly wishy-washy attempts to distort the Bible to fit the current orthodoxy.
One effective means of discrediting believers in Genesis creation, both inside and outside the church, is through the way the label ‘fundamentalist’ is applied to them today. This was once an honourable term for those who believed in ‘the fundamentals’ of Christianity. Thanks to media associations with ‘Islamic fundamentalists,’ terrorism and fanaticism, it now carries connotations of extremism and bigotry. Because of this change in perceived meaning, I would prefer to be called a ‘revelationist’—one who believes the God of history has told the truth in His Word, the Bible.
Even the Catholic church is getting in on the act. A 1994 Associated Press report began: ‘A new Vatican document on how to interpret the Bible condemns the fundamentalist approach as distorting, dangerous and possibly leading to racism.’ The document, written by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, says that ‘fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide ... The fundamentalist approach is dangerous for it is attractive to people who look to the Bible for ready answers to the problems of life.’3
In another ‘hit’ against a literal Genesis, the Bill Moyers program, ‘Genesis: A Living Conversation’ was released on public television in the USA in October, 1996. This show, which contains derogatory judgments on the character and motives of God, features the opinions of Jewish, Islamic, liberal Christian and atheist commentators—but none who believe Genesis to be true history.4
A Newsweek article on the Moyers series made an interesting comment on the Christian world today: ‘Denominational loyalties are disappearing. Seminaries float theories that once would have been blasphemous ... Americans still proclaim their belief in God, but divine authority is hardly absolute.’5
Once God’s Word in such an overwhelmingly plain area can be re-interpreted on the basis of secular theories...then the door is open to re-interpreting the rest of Scripture.The Biblical creation movement insists on a literal Genesis, standing on the authority of Scripture, without compromise, regardless of the reaction from the church or the secular world, knowing that much is at stake. Once God’s Word in such an overwhelmingly plain area can be re-interpreted on the basis of secular theories (such as the alleged age of the Earth), then the door is open to re-interpreting the rest of Scripture, so ultimately all truth is seen as relative.
Recently, a colleague of mine wrote to a very influential pastor in England, considered to be one of the leading spokesmen for evangelical Christianity in that country, challenging him on his stand against a literal Genesis.
The pastor replied, ‘I am afraid I simply don’t agree with you that the authority of scripture is at stake in the issue of a non-literalist interpretation of Genesis 1–3 ... The issue for me is closely associated with the antiquity of the Earth ... My deliberate ambiguity in Masterplan [his book dealing with Genesis] reflects a desire to maintain evangelical unity across the divided opinions on this vexed issue.’6
The sad thing is that while Christians are prepared to compromise their views in the face of secular opinion, and thus undermine the authority of God’s Word for the sake of ‘unity,’ the non-Christians are not!
For instance, World reported that an Islamic professor who appeared on the Bill Moyers Genesis programs, ‘ refuses to compromise his beliefs—Islam at least retains its doctrinal integrity. Judaism appears mired in endless dialogue and Christianity looks apologetic and confused.’7
There is a chasm widening in our Western culture—not between the church and the world, but between those in the church like literal creationists who stand on the absolute authority of the Word of God, and the rest of the church and the world!
Is division always wrong? Jesus said in Luke 12:51 ‘Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on Earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:’ When you shine the light of God’s Word in a dark world there must of necessity be some division.
Does it really matter that the literal creationists seem to be a minority even within the conservative church today?
In Matthew 7:13–14, in the context of salvation, Jesus presents the picture of a wide gate opening into a broad road leading to destruction, yet favoured by the majority. He instructs his followers to choose the small gate and the narrow road leading to life, a road which few are on. I often think of these words when I see the way in which so many in the church are rushing headlong to destructive compromise with the world on these crucial, foundational issues. Standing for the truth of Scripture is always the ‘narrow road.’
Which road are you really on?