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A ministry worker on a college campus thinks teaching a “literal interpretation” prevents students from accepting the gospel. Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S., shows why this is not the case.
I work with a well-known campus ministry and one of my primary responsibilities is to effectively sharing the gospel with non-believers.
In the hundreds of spiritual conversations that I have with college students, my goal is always to move them a step closer to placing their trust in Jesus Christ. Helping lost students see their need for the gospel is difficult enough.
However, if I was to adopt AIG’s insistence on people needing to believe the literal interpretation of the first few chapters in the Bible, I’m convinced that none of these students would ever make it to the gospel of Christ.
In essence, it seems that AIG’s approach would prevent more students from accepting Christ if I were to set up such a large hurdle for them to believe at first (namely, a literal interpretation of Genesis 1–3). The whole point of Scripture should point us to the grace of God in Christ, not a duty-laden belief system.
How would you respond to this very real scenario?
Thank you for contacting Answers in Genesis.
I would like to applaud you in your efforts to share the gospel. We share a desire to reach the lost for Christ. However, I’m not quite sure why you charge us with pointing people to a duty-laden belief system rather than to the gospel. We have never said that people must hold to a young earth in order to be saved. In fact, we have spoken against making such claims.
In decades past, sharing the gospel in the United States was much easier—even on college campuses—because most people understood the basics of God, sin, the Cross, repentance, etc. Nowadays, you must explain who God is, what sin is, why the Cross isn’t a form of divine child abuse, and why repentance is important.
We live in a culture that has drifted very far from a biblical foundation. I would encourage you to read “The Cross—Foolishness!” from Ken Ham’s book Why Won’t They Listen. It will answer your question about why we stress the importance of a literal six-day creation about 6,000 years ago and show you that we are following the Apostle Paul’s example in Athens.
We understand your concern that students would not believe if you walked them through Genesis, but we have found that the opposite is often true.
One of the reasons they refuse to trust in Christ is because they do not believe the Bible can be trusted—especially in the area of Genesis.Many college students have questions about the early chapters of Genesis. One of the reasons they refuse to trust in Christ is because they do not believe the Bible can be trusted—especially in the area of Genesis. When we show them that Genesis 1–11 makes sense of the world around us and is real history, then the gospel makes more sense to them, too. If they understand that God created a perfect world, that we messed it up, that we are all sinful, that God promised to send the Savior as far back as Genesis 3:15, that God judges sin (the Flood), and that Christ provides the only solution, then those stumbling blocks to belief are removed.
However, I think we would both agree that it will never be our arguments that bring someone to Christ—only the Holy Spirit can do that. But Peter did charge us to be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks us the reason for the hope that we have—with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
I have been working with high school and college students for over a decade, and I can testify that this approach truly is effective. This is true for students from both “churched” and “unchurched” homes. I have had dozens of students get very excited about their faith for the first time when they learn that Genesis 1–11 can be trusted. I have also witnessed atheists and others place their faith in Christ because these stumbling blocks have been removed for them.
I would also say that not every student will respond in this way. Some will be convicted of their sin through a presentation of the Law (following the model promoted by Ray Comfort), and others are convicted by an explanation of John 3:16 or the “Romans Road.” As evangelists for Christ, we must be prepared to take a person from where they are to the point that they will see their need for a Savior, and so often that begins in Genesis.
Again, thank you for sharing the gospel with young people. Remember, before they can really understand the good news, they need to understand the bad—and that is found in a literal understanding of Genesis 1–11 (especially Genesis 3). I hope this helps.