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My father was never intimidated or impressed by formal qualifications. Nonetheless, he always respected his pastors . . . even those he disagreed with.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15 (NIV)).
Both Ken and I have desired to build this book on two main concepts:
Our parents held to these principles tightly. They never explained their model for parenting, but because they lived it consistently, Ken and I have been able to identify it and describe it to you with accuracy. It is interesting to note that neither Dad nor Mum ever completed any formal theological training. In fact, my father was never intimidated or impressed by formal qualifications, even though he graduated from a university to be a teacher. Nonetheless, he always respected his pastors . . . even those he disagreed with.
“Theology” is simply the study of God and the beliefs we hold about Him.Dad may not have had a theological qualification, but he was definitely a theologian. Even more than this, he understood every Christian to be a theologian. “Theology” is simply the study of God and the beliefs we hold about Him. Dad understood the study of God to be an obligation of every believer. As soon as he understood someone to hold a position on God or His Word, it resulted in a theological conversation, and he was always excited to engage in it.
If you believe that God sent His only Son into this world to die for our sins, then you have already taken a theological position and you are a theologian, too! Regardless of whether you feel like you are a theologian or not, you are. The point I am trying to make is that everyone needs to take theology and the study of God’s Word very seriously.
Please listen to this next statement very carefully: If the authority of God’s Word plays a foundational role in parenthood, then a correct handling, understanding, and consistent application of God’s Word is essential to building a godly legacy. We can’t just agree that the Bible is foundational; we must act on that belief by diligently striving to understand, interpret, and apply the Word in our personal lives and in our homes. We must see ourselves as theologians and endeavor to fulfill that role. Before proceeding, however, it is important to note that biblical theology is a huge subject, and many highly educated men have written volumes relating to it. The study of the things of God is absolutely endless, just as He is. Thankfully, we will have eternity to master the subject! For now, however, we must only move on from where we are and what we already understand.
My father held a very high view of Scripture. As a Christian (and thus a theologian), he had some simple rules that helped him take God’s Word seriously. It is my privilege to share two major biblical theological concepts that governed my father’s pursuits: 1) What it means to have the Bible as your axiom, and 2) What it means to read the Bible in an “exegetical” manner.
Dad started with the belief that God’s Word is our full and sole authority in every matter it deals with—including relationships, history, science, etc. Even before having access to the materials through Answers in Genesis, God used my father’s biblical foundation like armor to deflect the humanistic, evolutionary thinking threatening to infiltrate our home.
When you think about it, to be logically consistent, if we accept the claim of the Bible for itself that it is a revelation from the infinite Creator God, then this Word must be the absolute and sole authority to enable us to build our worldview (the way we think about everything). The acceptance of biblical authority as absolute is paramount to ensuring a consistent starting point. It is totally inconsistent to insist on a biblical foundation, but at the same time accept man’s fallible views about the universe and life or somehow try to mix them together.
That’s what it means to have “the Bible as axiom.” The root of the word axiom is the same used for the word axle. Just as the axle is the central point around which things rotate, the Bible, as our axiom, is to be the central starting point around which all of our beliefs and convictions must revolve. Dad recognized that the Bible was the sole authority in all matters of life and practice and in every area it touched upon (geology, astronomy, anthropology, child raising, etc.). The Bible was the “axiom” of Dad’s life, the central point of truth around which everything else revolved.
Recently I was privileged to be a part of a Bible college mission that came to our church. The team conducted a series of evening meetings where friends were invited to hear answers to “why” questions. One of the questions was: Why is there death and suffering? I was greatly encouraged as I listened to the principal of the college approach this difficult question. He said that when he reads the Bible, he sees two main parts: Genesis 1–3, and the rest. He explained that the first three chapters in Genesis give us our worldview and he showed from the text that when we see things going wrong—such as people dying and suffering—we are constantly reminded that we no longer live in a perfect world, but are part of a fallen and sinful world laced with death.
It was clear from the way that the principal formulated his answer that Scripture was his “axiom of truth.” He started with the belief (like a “presupposition”) that the first three chapters of Genesis are historically accurate. By building his thinking on the history recorded in these chapters, he was able to put on “biblical glasses,” interpreting everything he saw from a biblical perspective (the “glasses” being the history he used to interpret the evidence of the present). His basic understanding was this: Because Genesis is true, we know sin has caused all of this death and suffering, and we shouldn’t be surprised to see and experience it.
Please recognize at this point that theology isn’t a theory. Theology reflects truths that have great practical importance in day-to-day living. The reality of death and suffering is a prime example. Our family is no stranger to these harsh realities. We understand this as well as any, finding that we have the capacity to sin even as we experience the consequences of living in a fallen and sinful world that is full of suffering and death.
When Ken was a child, he had chicken pox like you have never seen before. You couldn’t put a pin between the blisters and the scabs that covered his body. Later, he lived for months with his legs in plaster casts, his tendons having been pulled away from the bones because he was growing too fast. As a teen and an adult, he had a severe case of acne that covered his back and arms (at one point it required a three-month hospitalization, as huge infected cysts blanketed his back, arms, and head).
One of my other brothers, Robert—because of his foundational acceptance of Genesis—described pain, death, and suffering in this world as being normal; a natural consequence of the corruption and devastation resulting from original sin. He accepted it and expected it. He even taught about it in a sermon not long before he was diagnosed with a terminal degenerative brain disease at the age of 43.1
The issues of suffering and death are just one example of why it is vital that we have a biblical worldview. If we use the Word as our axiom, it allows us to rightly interpret what is happening around us. We live in a fallen world, full of death and suffering as a result of sin. As believers, we are not immune, and should not be surprised when these things befall us. Faith doesn’t insulate us from the harsher realities . . . the Bible tells us so.
That’s what it means to have the Bible as your axiom;
you strive to see the Bible as the central starting
point for all belief in all matters of life.
In order to have the Bible as your axiom, it is important to understand that there are two fundamentally distinct ways to interpret and approach your Bible: exegesis and eisegesis. In simplistic terms, exegesis (meaning “out of ”) is the process of bringing forth the truth from the words of Scripture. This entails reading and understanding the context of the passage, who it was written to, and what it was saying to them according to the type of language and literature used at the time. Exegesis takes the Bible “naturally” in a straightforward reading. This is also called the “grammatical, historical, interpretive method” that brings us to practical application.
Eisegesis (i-sa-ge-sis) involves “reading into” a passage by taking God’s Word and interpreting it based on human experience, values, and so on. Eisegesis uses extra-biblical data to interpret the meaning of the words of Scripture. This approach to Bible interpretation allows us (sinful, fallible human beings) to make Scripture say what we believe, and not necessarily what it actually says. Eisegesis starts with human experience and thought and tries to conform the Word to fit in our preconceived ideas. In actuality, we then become the authority, not God.
A great illustration of this is found in Ken’s talk Six Days and the Eisegesis Problem.2 This talk presents the difference between an exegetical and eisegetical treatment of the text of Genesis 1 as it relates to the six days of creation. Ken walks through the days of creation as they relate to the historical context of Genesis and the Bible as a whole. He also discusses the Hebrew word for “day” (yom), and presents the case that an exegetical study of God’s Word allows only one interpretation for the days of creation in the context of Genesis 1—six literal (approximately 24 hour) days. He then clearly shows that the main reason so many Christian leaders and others in the church don’t accept the six literal days of creation is because they are trying to fit the result of some of man’s fallible dating methods (which claim the earth is millions of years old) into the text (eisigesis), rather than interpreting the dating data according to what is plainly stated in the Word.
This sort of eisegetical treatment allows us to interpret any reference to science or literal history in the Bible as being simply allegorical, metaphorical, or symbolic, but not actual. So often we are told by the world—and even by many teachers in some Bible colleges, seminaries, and Christian schools—that the Bible is a spiritual book about man’s relationship with God and each other. The Bible is only presented as a book of religion, and we are often told that thinking in areas of science and history should be left to the scholars in those fields.
This is even done when the literal history of the passage and its scientific statements are foundational to doctrine and theology. For example, some Christian leaders claim Genesis 1–11 is meant to be interpreted as an allegory or myth—and yet this section of Scripture is foundational to all biblical doctrines such as marriage and the gospel. If the history and the science of those passages aren’t true, then biblical doctrines have no foundation in literal history, and thus can be reinterpreted in any way a person wants.
One of the best theological books I’ve read is According to Plan, by Dr. Graeme Goldsworthy, a former professor of Old Testament, biblical theology, and hermeneutics at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. Dr. Goldsworthy is a sincere man of God. I have read many of his books and respect him greatly. I am using Dr. Goldsworthy as an example because, while he is highly respected and is a strong teacher of biblical principles, his own writings about exegesis show how easy it is to allow man’s fallible thinking to invade and distort biblical truth—thus falling into the trap of eisigesis.
In his book, Dr. Goldsworthy takes carefully structured steps to explain the process of exegesis that results in correct biblical theology. In his outline of biblical history from the first chapter of Genesis, he states the following:
Two comments, however, can be made. First, the passage is unique and thus presents some difficulties in interpretation. The possibilities are far more numerous than a simple choice between strictly literalistic history (usually taken to mean creation in six periods of twenty-four hours) and non-historical myth (usually taken to mean no relation to historical fact). It is clear that the New Testament texts quoted above (John 1:3, Heb. 11:3; 2 Pet. 3:5–7) understand the creation as an historical event.
Second, when we face such ambiguities, that is, when more than one possible way exists of understanding something in the Bible, the gospel must instruct us since it is God’s final and fullest word to man. It is clear from the gospel that God created all things for a purpose, and that He exercises His rule over creation by His Word. It is not at all clear from the gospel that the creation took place in six twenty-four hour periods. Nor is it clear from the gospel that it did not happen in that way. The question is not whether the Bible tells the truth, but how it tells it.3
In a previous passage, Dr. Goldsworthy states that he is not entering the six day discussion further than these comments because “it touches on the creation evolution debate.” That’s unfortunate! Dr. Goldsworthy, while a brilliant, credible, and respected theologian, has in fact used both exegesis and eisegesis to interpret Genesis 1. Through exegetical interpretation, he has clearly shown that the gospel endorses historical credibility to Genesis 1, but because of the “ambiguities” he also suggests that the gospel does not endorse a literal interpretation.
The ambiguities are there only because of the influence of evolutionary/millions of years ideas—not because of what the text is clearly saying.The fact is that the ambiguities that Dr. Goldsworthy is speaking of have only arisen due to man’s non-biblical, humanistic (and therefore fallible) interpretation of evidence—particularly in regard to the age issue (millions of years versus thousands of years). The ambiguities are there only because of the influence of evolutionary/millions of years ideas—not because of what the text is clearly saying.
This doesn’t stop me from reading Dr. Goldsworthy’s books, but it does point out to me how careful Christians need to be in discerning truth, even when it is put to us from great and respected scholars.
We must remember that compromise on one point—even one that might not seem overly significant—can lead to compromise on many others. For example, the secular worldview claims that man cannot live for 900 years, but the biblical account in Genesis emphatically states as a matter of history that Methuselah’s age was of that order. The secular worldview claims that a human virgin cannot give birth to a baby, but the biblical account states clearly that Mary, as a virgin, gave birth to Jesus. The secular worldview claims that no man can rise from the dead, but the words of Scripture record as a matter of history that Jesus did rise from the dead—and even point out that if that was not the case, our faith is in vain!
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1 Cor. 15:1–2 (NKJV))
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! (1 Cor. 15:12–17 (NKJV))
And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. (1 Cor. 6:14 (NKJV))
Allowing fallible secular ideas to interpret
Genesis 1 opens the door for this to happen
with every other passage in the Bible.
If God’s Word alone is not good enough to be taken as written in Genesis 1 (where it is obviously written as history) then why is it good enough to be taken as written in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John?
The eisegesis problem has wider ramifications, as it eventually makes the Bible and the Church irrelevant. Last year our men’s group at church went to a teaching convention in the mountains south of the city of Brisbane. During a question time, the main speaker was asked, “Why are Australians not interested in coming into our churches anymore; and why are we so apathetic toward spiritual issues?”
The speaker really didn’t have an answer, but my brother David, squirming like a worm in his seat, shot to the floor with this follow-up question: “Do you think it is because the Church no longer takes a literal stance in Genesis 1, and therefore presents the world with no answers to their questions?”
I was internally applauding him. The world is asking questions in relation to origins and science and the contradictions between evolutionary ideas and the biblical text. It is obvious that most of the Church really isn’t answering these questions. Can you imagine how deflated I felt when the speaker (whom I greatly respect) replied, “We have to take Genesis seriously but not literally.” This was an eisegetical statement. What he was really saying was, “Despite the fact that it is obvious that Genesis is history (which is confirmed by the rest of the Bible), I am not prepared to dispute man’s fallible interpretation of physical evidence concerning the past. I can’t take Genesis literally, but we must take it seriously as there is a message there for us—but we can’t tell the world that the message comes from a history we can trust.”
The sobering fact is that even among the best of our modern exegetical biblical teachers, many are prepared to be eisegetical where it suits them—particularly when it comes to Genesis.
Now, you may be asking: How does all this impact our parenting and our commitment to building a godly heritage for our family? If one can take man’s fallible ideas about the origin of the universe and reinterpret Scripture accordingly, then why shouldn’t someone take man’s ideas about raising children and interpret relevant Bible passages to fit with these humanistic ideas as well?
How can you show your children you are consistent in your stand upon Scripture? As parents, we have to be well equipped to deal with these potentially faith-shattering inconsistencies we see in our leaders—and help our children to understand why they are being inconsistent.
Your view of the Bible as an absolute foundation for your thinking in every area will determine how you read and teach the Bible to your family. What theological perspectives are you handing on to your children? Are you teaching your children to read the Bible and interpret it correctly—exegetically? Are you teaching your children how to read the Bible consistently?
The truth is that even though we don’t all want to be theologians, we are—and we need to be good ones! Our theological perspectives are being handed down to our children. What an opportunity and enormous responsibility we have to get it right. After all, how we train them will determine how they train their children. Remember what I’ve said about our dad—and now look at our stand on Scripture! I think our dad’s way of thinking has influenced us! How is your way of thinking influencing your children?!
Because of our father’s stand on the authority of the Word of God, the more we studied the Bible and science, the more Steve and I understood that the Scriptures are a revelation from One who knows everything. Because of that, the Scriptures must be foundational to all of our thinking in every area, the axiom of all our beliefs. In most situations, however, we have the choice to either follow in the legacy of Darwin or the legacy of Luther, who stood on the Word of God alone. Whenever the two are mixed, the fallible and the infallible, truth is polluted with error, and they both become fallible.
God’s Word is not an exhaustive text book of astronomy, biology, geology, etc., but it does give us a record of the origin of all the basic entities of life and the universe—it’s “the big picture” of history. We have been given the major events of history in every area to enable us to have the key information to build the right way of thinking about everything. God’s Word enables us to have the right foundational information to build the correct way of thinking to understand this present world. It enables us to develop what I call the “big picture” understanding of reality.
As we use this revealed knowledge concerning the past to understand the present, we can use observational and repeatable science to understand more about how this present world operates—and what we do observe should not and does not contradict our way of thinking built upon the Bible.
For example, Scripture reveals that there was a global flood and that death and disease entered the world after Adam sinned. This enables us to have a “big picture” understanding of geology. So when we look at fossil layers like those in the Grand Canyon, we know they couldn’t have been laid down before sin because they contain millions of fossils of dead creatures. Because of what the Bible says, we can consider the possibility that Noah’s flood may have been the mechanism to lay down the layers. We can then use observational/repeatable science to test the geology, chemistry, etc., to see if the evidence is properly interpreted based upon the revelation of Scripture or the belief in millions of years. Creation scientists have written many books and papers showing that observational science does confirm the biblical “big picture” understanding built from the origins account in Genesis.4
When it came to training and raising children, my father had a biblical worldview that he applied in his teaching career. He had particular stands on discipline, work ethics, and morality. To the best of his ability and understanding, he had taken the principles laid down in Scripture (because he implicitly trusted this Book to be the infallible, inerrant Word of God) and built a “big picture” understanding to develop a world view he applied to his career in education.
Over time, I came to understand that if the Bible is really what it claims to be, then Christians must do this in every area—whether it be morality, science, history, art, music, child raising, etc. The Bible must be the axiom upon which we build all of our thinking. We must stand on the Word of God alone, for our choices can have great implications, not just for us and our families, but for all around us, many of whom have been abused in the legacy of Darwin.
One of the first times this really hit me was during my first year as a science teacher in 1975. In my class were true native Aborigines, tribal descendents of the first tribes that settled in Australia long before the Europeans came. Because of evolutionary thinking, the Aborigines have been oppressed and even killed. Those who committed the atrocities often claimed that the Aborigines (who tend to be shorter and darker skinned than Europeans) were “lower” on the evolutionary chain, and therefore sub-human.
As I taught the class, I made sure that my students were taught the problems with molecules-to-man evolution and the idea that the earth is millions of years old. I shared with them some of the scientific arguments I had gleaned from The Genesis Flood and other sources that supported the biblical account of origins. I explained that I did not believe man evolved from ape-like ancestors, but that the account of the creation of Adam and Eve was true—we were all descendants of two people.
I also gave details on the fact that all humans basically have the same skin “color” due to a pigment called melanin. I also discussed some of the Australian Aboriginal legends that sounded much like the creation/Flood accounts in Genesis. This enabled me to explain that the Australian Aborigines were descendants of Noah—just like everyone else in the world today—and that the stories they now have were handed down from Noah’s time. I continued to show how many years after the Flood, at the Tower of Babel, as a result of the different languages God gave, the human population (and thus the gene pool) split up into different groups and moved out over the earth. The Aborigines must be descendants of one of those groups that moved away from the Tower of Babel.
By my having taught that all humans were of one race and that all are descendents from Adam and Eve, the Aboriginal students were immensely interested and showed great hope and new confidence. The Bible gave them a real place in history and placed them on an equal status with every other human being—including their fellow classmates. The biblical “big picture” had tremendous implications for those who had been victims of Darwinian-based racism.
This incident had a great impact on my own life as well. I became very interested in the topic of the origin of so called “races.” At that time I didn’t have a lot of understanding about genetics and how the different groups of people obtained certain distinguishing characteristics. This event stimulated me to study this area much, much more. Eventually, I helped write the book One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism. I also developed talks to challenge the world and the church concerning racism and prejudice.
What happened back in 1975 was part of the training the Lord was taking me through as I developed a Christian world view in every area. This is why Steve and I have attempted to develop what we trust is a truly Christian way of thinking about training children; for when the Bible is the axiom of the home, and the parents strive to be good theologians, the implications are great.
Ken Ham, Don Batten, and Carl Wieland, One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1999).
Ken Ham and Carl Wieland, Walking Through Shadows (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2002).