For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? (1 Corinthians 14:8, KJV)
Recently I had a “dialogue” (which became something of a debate) with Dr. Richard Howe, professor emeritus of philosophy at Southern Evangelical Seminary. The topic was apologetic method—how we should go about defending the truth of Scripture, particularly Genesis.
Dr. Howe is a professing young-earth creationist. But he strongly disagrees with AiG’s insistence on Christians starting their thinking in every area, especially on the question of origins, using God’s Word to define and defend the faith. He rejects our view that origins is largely a battle of man’s word vs. God’s Word.
Like so many Christian leaders today, Dr. Howe implies that the issue is not the authority of Scripture but the interpretation of Scripture. He is not confident at all that his young-earth belief is the correct interpretation and is tolerant of old-earth views. He says Scripture is just not that clear. Frankly, he gave a very uncertain sound regarding the trustworthiness and clarity of Scripture.
In fact, as a result of that interaction last summer, we decided that our theme for the Answers in Genesis ministry in 2018 should be
Taking Back the Bible’s Clarity . . . from the Very First Verse
First Corinthians 14:8, as I quoted above, will be our theme verse.
I believe there’s a major “academic epidemic” that is catastrophically undermining the church’s impact on this and future generations—and the culture as a whole.
There’s a major “academic epidemic” that is catastrophically undermining the church’s impact on this and future generations.
What I’ve discovered over the years is this: the Christian world has a very fragmented and uncertain message. If you ask Christian college and seminary professors, pastors, and other Christian leaders what they teach about Genesis, you will often hear answers like this: “I teach the gap theory,” “my position is theistic evolution,” “I believe in the day-age theory and a local Noah’s Flood,” and “I’m not sure, but it doesn’t matter when and how God created, just that he created.”
And those are just a few of the faith-shattering compromise positions.
No wonder many believers who have been taught by these “uncertain sound” church leaders today are confused about Genesis 1–11. Those leaders are subtly or openly denying what God’s Word clearly teaches about origins.
At the same time, the secular world has a very “certain sound” and a unified message. Secularists are telling the world that life and the universe arose by natural processes. Astronomical evolution (i.e., the big bang), geological evolution (i.e., millions of years), biological evolution (Darwin’s view), and anthropological evolution (ape-like creatures becoming humans) are taught as fact in the public schools, media, museums, and national parks.
While evolutionary scientists and secular educators may differ in their worldview, their overall teaching is the same, and they have a unified “certain sound”—one that totally contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture.
When people ask me what position I take on Genesis, I reply, “The biblical one.” The point I’m making to them is that if a person accepts Genesis as written and as historical narrative—in other words, taking it naturally according to the literature and language (the grammatical, historical interpretive method)—then it means what it clearly says!
All careful readers know that there are parables, poetry, and prophetic visions in the Bible that use symbolic or figurative language. But it is usually obvious from the context if a passage is using such non-literal language. And it is equally clear from Genesis, the teachings of Jesus, and the apostles that Genesis 1–11 is literal, clear history!
This question of origins really comes down to your view of Scripture. Do we receive it as the words of fallible humans giving us their thoughts about God and religion? Or do we receive it as the Christians did in Thessalonica, who are described this way: “when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)?
This question of origins really comes down to your view of Scripture.
We need to remember that all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). It is his Word! The Bible is not just the words of men.
The leaders of the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago and conservative theologians today agree about the general “perspicuity” (clarity) of Scripture. But today, many of our academics are returning the church to conditions before the Reformation, when the common person was told by church leaders that only the church leaders can tell the person how to truly understand Scripture. Many academics want us to believe that we can’t take Genesis as written and that we must let them use their special knowledge to tell the rest of us the correct meaning.
Now, there are some difficult-to-understand passages in Scripture (as 2 Peter 3:15–16 says). But as I explained in the “debate” with Dr. Howe, anyone can watch a movie in black and white and understand the story. Similarly, the average person can read Scripture and understand its basic messages. Scholars can add color and depth to our understanding. But we should not let them change the clear teaching in Scripture, including in Genesis 1–11.
The Bible is not that complicated. After all, if parents are told to teach the Scriptures to their children (Deuteronomy 6:6–7; Ephesians 6:4), then the Bible’s truths must be generally clear, although we acknowledge that not every verse is equally clear.
One sad thing in my debate was that while the professor claimed to be a young-earth creationist, he believes that his old-earth friends have an equally valid belief and, therefore, that we must agree to disagree and “just all get along.” But such thinking undermines the authority and perspicuity of God’s Word. Unfortunately, this is a growing problem today. Misinformed Christian leaders do not hold firm to the clear teaching of God’s Word in Genesis. It is sending an unclear message to Christians and to lost sinners.
In 2018, Answers in Genesis is calling the church to take a stand on the clarity (perspicuity) of God’s authoritative Word and get back to giving a certain and unified message right from the Bible’s very first verse. God’s people need to be unified around God’s clear Word and not become unified under the terrible banner of believing man’s fallible word on evolution and millions of years.