Defending the Bible’s Clarity

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I will never forget the conversation I had a few years ago with one of my favorite theology professors from my seminary days. I had been invited by another professor at the seminary where he now teaches to give a lecture to the professors and PhD students in their department.

My lecture topic was based on my PhD research and was similar to my DVD lecture Millions of Years: Where Did the Idea Come From? I explained how a belief in millions of years became the dominant view in geology and how most of the church quickly compromised by accepting that idea.

After lunch, I went to visit my former professor in his office. We caught up on life and discussed my lecture. I asked him what his view of Genesis chapter 1 was, and he told me, “The ‘indefinite day’ view.”

I asked, “What’s that?” He replied, “I don’t know how long the days of creation were, but they definitely were not 24-hour days.” Responding to the conclusion of my lecture, he ended the conversation by saying, “Terry, the issue is not the authority of Scripture. It’s the interpretation of Scripture.”

Over the years, I have repeatedly heard or read such statements by respected Bible scholars, apologists, and other Christian leaders who profess to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture—but who accept or lean toward accepting the millions-of-years idea and think that the age of the earth doesn’t matter.

Now, I could be sympathetic to such an answer if Genesis chapters 1–11 were hard-to-understand passages like some prophecies about the future in one of the Old Testament prophetic books (e.g., Daniel 12) or the book of Revelation or like some passage in Paul’s writings that even puzzled Peter (2 Peter 3:15–16).

Genesis 1–11, however, is not hard to understand. It is clear historical narrative, just like the rest of Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Judges, Acts, and the gospel accounts of events preceding and during the earthly life of Christ.

For the first 18 centuries of church history, that historical view is how virtually all Christians understood Genesis 1–11. Furthermore, everywhere that Jesus and the writers of the New Testament (who were inspired by the Holy Spirit) refer to those chapters, they take them as straightforward literal history.1

Nowhere in the Bible does it even hint that Genesis 1–11 is some kind of semi-poetic, figurative text that is shrouded in mystery and ambiguity.

Nowhere in the Bible does it even hint that Genesis 1–11 is some kind of semi-poetic, figurative text that is shrouded in mystery and ambiguity, only to be clarified by modern secular scientists operating within a naturalistic worldview. All theistic evolutionary views and so-called “old-earth creationist” beliefs are imaginative attempts to interpret these supposedly unclear chapters, on the basis of the supposedly undeniable truth-claims of the scientific majority about the age of the creation (if not also how it came into existence).

Many Christian leaders and Bible scholars admit that Genesis “seems” to teach a young-earth, but they don’t believe it because “science says” (no, actually because most scientists say) that Genesis can’t mean that.2 But this denial of the clarity of Genesis undermines the authority of Genesis—which undermines the authority of the entire Bible! This rejection of the clear, authoritative teaching of Genesis about how and when God created has significantly contributed to the moral and spiritual decadence into which America has descended.

You see, we can’t, with any consistent principles of interpretation (i.e., hermeneutics) defend the biblical teaching about gender, sex, marriage, racism, and Jesus’ virgin birth and Resurrection, but deny the historical account of the creation of Adam from dust and Eve from his rib (and then their fall in sin). We can’t with exegetical consistency defend a literal Adam and Fall, and the biblical teaching on gender, sex, marriage, and racism, while denying the global Flood and six literal, 24-hour days of creation.

Likewise, we can’t with logical or biblical consistency defend a Fall that impacted the entire universe, but also believe in millions of years of animal death, disease like cancer, extinction, and other natural evil before Adam. We can’t defend the future return of Jesus Christ and his cosmos-restoring redemptive work, yet also believe in millions of years of natural evil before Adam.

And we can’t with any exegetical consistency defend the truth and authority of Jesus and the apostles, but deny young-earth creation, which they clearly believed.

To do this violates the principles of sound biblical interpretation and erodes sound doctrine.

As AiG’s theme this year—“taking back the Bible’s clarity . . . from the very first verse”—emphasizes, that the Bible is clear on all these matters, and so we should be, with grace, humility, and uncompromising boldness.3

Footnotes

  1. See chapters 2–4 and 11–12 in Terry Mortenson and Thane H. Ury, eds., Coming to Grips with Genesis. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2008.
  2. See some examples in Terry Mortenson. “Why Don’t Many Christian Leaders and Scholars Believe Genesis?” Answers in Genesis, May 31, 2010, https://answersingenesis.org/genesis/why-dont-many-christian-leaders-and-scholars-believe-genesis/.
  3. See further study in Terry Mortenson, ed. “Adam, Morality, the Gospel, and the Authority of Scripture.” Chap. 16 in Searching for Adam. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2016, https://answersingenesis.org/bible-characters/adam-and-eve/adam-morality-gospel-and-authority-of-scripture/.

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