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Creation and the Cross

By Andrew Rigg
President of the Association of Christian Astronomers International 

 

Introduction

"In the beginning…" writes the ancient author of Genesis "…God created the heavens and the earth", a statement that has for at least the past 160 years caused much dissent and debate within both Christian and secular circles.

In this paper I intend to briefly address the issues surrounding an increase in willingness to reinterpret the text of the Old Testament, specifically Genesis, to include an old earth, evolutionary position. In exposing the fallacies of this approach I will touch upon the historical development of evolutionary science and it’s impact on the world, the relationship between the God of the Bible and the God of man’s own understanding and the prophetic and eschatological relationship between the book of Genesis and the person and work of Christ. The nature of this topic is such that it requires much more than the scope of this booklet to properly explore in detail the intricacies surrounding this issue, therefore what follows is a brief discussion of some of the more significant themes associated with the broader topic.

I would encourage readers to further explore this topic and suggest the references listed at the end of this paper as a good starting point.

Historical View

Contrary to modern belief a literal understanding of the Genesis account and a belief in special creation is not a 19th Century invention. The perpetuated belief is that creationism arose following the encroachment of secular science into theological realms, most notably following the publishing of ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’ by Charles Darwin in 1859. With Darwin’s naturalistic thesis on the origin of all life came a greater inquiry into all that had long been considered fact by much of Christendom. Not only did the broadly accepted effect of life come into question but so too, increasingly, the Cause.

Thankfully history shows that the reaction to naturalistic and non-Biblical supposition did not originate with Darwin. In fact reaction by the Church against such claims has been plainly recorded by history. Not only did the leaders of the Protestant Reformation hold to a position in favor of special creation but so too the early fathers of the Christian faith.

Basil the Great, a leading defender of Biblical truth in the 4th Century clearly held a view that included a literal understanding of the Genesis account of creation. Basil, in a series of sermons entitled Hexaëmeron, which means 6 days, wrote,

In order that we might learn that the world came into existence at the timeless moment when God willed it, it was said: In the beginning God created … which other interpreters express more clearly by these words: God made everything together, that is to say, at one time, and in a short time. (1994, p. 23).

He further succinctly comments on the nature of those who held to the unsound philosophies of his time,

Reject the foolish ideas of those arrogant philosophers who are not ashamed to put their own souls and dogs’ souls on the same level, and who pretended to have once been … bushes, and sea-fish … they show themselves to have less sense than fishes (1994, p. 23).

The reformers, Luther and Calvin also held firm to a literal understanding of the Genesis account. Luther writes,

He [Moses] calls 'a spade a spade,' i.e., he employs the terms 'day' and 'evening' without allegory, just as we customarily do… we assert that Moses spoke in the literal sense, not allegorically or figuratively, i.e., that the world, with all its creatures, was created within six days, as the words read. If we do not comprehend the reason for this, let us remain pupils and leave the job of teacher to the Holy Spirit (1958, p. 6).

Calvin remarks,

Here the error of those is manifestly refuted, who maintain that the world was made in a moment. For it is too violent a cavil to contend that Moses distributes the work which God perfected at once into six days, for the mere purpose of conveying instruction. Let us rather conclude that God himself took the space of six days, for the purpose of accommodating his works to the capacity of men…I have said above that six days were employed in the formation of the world; not that God, to whom one moment is as a thousand years, had need of this succession of time, but that he might engage us in the contemplation of his works (in Sarfati, 2000, p. 44-45).

The Scientific Hypothesis

Since Darwin’s thesis was first published a very obvious change has occurred. Its affects are wide-ranging and easily discernible. Whilst the rise of 20th Century religious fundamentalism can be directly linked to the growth in popularity of the evolutionary philosophy, its effect on humanity’s understanding of its place in the universe cannot be understated.

Apparently Darwin struggled with the possible result of his ‘discoveries’, a result that would lead to the conclusion that life itself is nothing more than a chance occurrence, "…chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance absolutely free but blind, [is] at the root of the stupendous edifice of evolution" (Monod in Ankerberg, Weldon, 1972, p. 21). True Darwinian evolution cannot be divorced from this statement. The evidence when interpreted via the lens of Darwin’s theory draw’s only one plausible conclusion; that life came into existence on its own and has been sustained without any need of an intelligent sustainer/creator.

This position has been advanced more recently by a man touted as the world’s leading evolutionist, Professor Richard Dawkins, a Professor of Zoology at England’s prestigious Oxford University.

Dawkins has determinedly taken a stance most true to the naturalistic Darwinian hypothesis and openly and publicly taken on the religious establishment in blatant attacks on Christianity using evolution as his weapon. In his 1986 publication, the Blind Watchmaker Dawkins clearly refutes any notion of an Intelligent Designer. The title of his book is an antithesis of an idea, penned by natural theologian William Paley in 1802, in which Paley claims evidence for God in the complexity and intricacy of the biosphere just as a watch provides evidence for a watchmaker. Dawkins responds,

Paley's argument is made with passionate sincerity and is informed by the best biological scholarship of the day, but it is wrong, gloriously and utterly wrong. The analogy between telescope and eye, between watch and living organism, is false. All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind force of physics, albeit deplored in a special way. A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind's eye. Natural selection, the blind unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker (1986, p. 5).

Dawkins position is perhaps that most true to Darwin’s original thesis. The very basis of the evolutionary hypothesis is one that at best speaks nothing of God and at worst denies the very existence of a Creator, intimately involved in His creation. It is interesting then to see the way in which, on one hand, evolutionary science is lauded by many within the Christian community as correctly interpreting the available evidence regarding the perpetuation of life on earth but on the other hand is seen as insufficient in explaining theological issues. Is it really possible to hold onto both positions and still remain objective about both without one or the other (or both) falling into disrepute along the way?

Whilst post modern philosophy tries to tell us that truth is relative concept (Moltmann, 1993), dependant upon ones own background and experience, scientific truth can not be so loosely interpreted. The Maquarie Dictionary describes science as the "systematic study of man & [sic.] the physical world based on reproducible observations, measurements and experiments" (1982, p. 807). If true science is dependent upon a systematic study based upon repeatable observations how does Darwinian evolution fit into the category of true science? True science produces verifiable truths. Truths that result from experimentation, testing and re-testing. A process that relies on the ability to observe processes in action.

Darwinian evolution and its modern descendants are based on the ‘wisdom of man’. Evolution is the antithesis of natural theology. Through theistic evolution, a poor second cousin to the more ‘scientifically’ correct Darwinian evolution, scholars and theologians alike have reduced the word of God to little more than a fairy tale, taking from the Bible that which suits their evolutionary theology and discarding what remains. The pattern of creation given in the Bible does not reflect the evolutionary development of life on earth, the two present mutually exclusive frameworks.

How has the Church managed to go from "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Romans 1:20) to a materialistic, naturalistic understanding that speaks nothing of the Cause behind the creation. Whilst natural theology is deficient as a stand-alone doctrine, it is however clear that contained within the Bible is the concept of an intimate and intrinsic link between the Creator and His creation a link that cannot be explained and is in actuality denied by evolutionary science.

It has been stated that the primary concern of the Genesis account is ‘Who, not how’ and while this is without question true, a further development of this line of thought must lead one to consider the question, ‘what is a cause if it is without effect?’ What is a ‘Who’ if there is no ‘how’?

Genesis- Foundation to the Gospel

The bulk of accepted Christian doctrine, that expounded by the New Testament writers and more importantly that believed and expounded by Jesus Christ, is based directly and indirectly on the first two chapters of Genesis. Such ideas as marriage (Gen. 2:7, 18-25), sin and the fall (Chapters 3), the meaning of death as the result of sin (2:16-17; 3:1-6, 19), and the meaning of the seven day week and the Sabbath (Gen. 2:2). Genesis 3:15 is also said to contain the first Messianic prophecy, the proto evangelion. Are these truths of the Christian faith purely theological truths that have no basis in fact, in events that actually took place, or is their historical setting as important to understanding the reason for the truths as the truths themselves?

Dr Henry Morris concludes, "If the Bible were somehow expurgated of the book of Genesis, the rest of the Bible would be incomprehensible. It would be like a building without a ground a floor, or a bridge with no support" (in Ham, Taylor, 1988, p. 28). Genesis not only answers the question of ‘who?’ but also clearly provides answers to the question of ‘why?’ and ‘how?’. While I doubt that the theological value found in the answers that Genesis does provide for ‘why?’ is seriously debated within Evangelical Christian circles the question of ‘how?’ most certainly is.

If evolution, as previously shown to be, is incompatible with any notion of a Creator then the options for understanding the origin of our faith and God’s purpose in light of our origin is limited to one. That is a straightforward understanding of the nature and purpose of the book of Genesis. Humphreys writes,

A straightforward approach to Scripture is the only one I can think of which can yield surprising new knowledge. Without such an approach, I would tend to re-interpret any passage of Scripture which did not fit into what I thought was true at the time, and Scripture would lose it's power to astonish me. If God intended Scripture to inform us of things we would not otherwise know, then He must also have intended it to be understood straightforwardly. "Straightforward" does not necessarily always mean "literal." Someone who reads straightforwardly recognizes the metaphors in Scripture, while someone who reads literally will try and squeeze a metaphor into a concrete straight jacket (2000, pp. 56-57).

Many theories have been put forward over the past century in order to rationalize the work of Genesis. Genesis does not conform to the widely accepted hypothesis of evolution and so along the way something has to give. Either the Bible must be interpreted in light of naturalistic science or the hypothesis supporting naturalistic science must be recognized as being seriously flawed. Imagine if the same approach were taken with the Gospel accounts of Christ’s virgin birth and resurrection from the death, both scientifically inexplicable events.

Of course the obvious response is to return to the sound hermeneutical principle that ‘all Scripture be interpreted with Scripture’. However inevitably it is theology that suffers at the hand of our own attempt to rationalize that within Scripture that even when interpreted with Scripture fails to fall into our own conception of the world in which we live, a world influenced by the mass media and majority opinion.

In understanding the Genesis account we must look at the way in which it is understood within the context of its literary genre and the context of the understanding that is reflected in the work of the Bibles original authors. Certainly the original author of Genesis intended his work to be viewed as an historical account of events past.

...[Genesis] recounts past events and does so with a chronological structure. This last sentence sounds like the definition of a work of history and indeed such a label makes sense of the generic signals that the reader encounters in the work... In addition, there are no dramatic genre shifts between the book of Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch, and none between the Pentateuch and the so called historical books that would lead us to read it in any other way than as history. Indeed, if we are speaking of the original intention of the biblical writer(s), the style of the book leaves little space to argue over the obvious conclusion that the author intended it to be read as a work of history that recounts what has taken place in the far-distant past (Dillard, Longman, 1994, p. 53).

If Genesis is then an example of historical narrative, in line with other examples of historical narrative contained within the Old Testament, it stands to reason that any other explanation regarding the intent of the author of Genesis falls far short of the evidence provided by the Biblical text as a whole. The Genesis account is referred to by many of the Old Testament writers (eg. Deut. 4:32, Isaiah 42:5, Isaiah 45:12), at times in metaphor and at times as reflection upon historical events. Nonetheless the feeling is that the work of Genesis was accepted as testimony to the power and might of a God who could have created all in the blink of an eye but rather chose, as Calvin states, "[to take] the space of six days, for the purpose of accommodating his works to the capacity of men".

With this in hand the importance of the Genesis account needs to be further expounded. The creation account includes not just a record of past historical events but also gives reason to the very purpose of all that the Gospel contains. If there was no state of created perfection then there is no need of restoration, if the fall were not a literal fall then sin is not explained, if sin is nothing more than a human concept then there is no need of redemption, if there is no need of redemption then there is no need of Christ, if Christ died in vain there is no hope. While this may sound like an oversimplification of the ramifications of a straightforward approach to the Genesis account, it is often the simple truths that seem to elude us the most readily,

...we are convinced that the single most serious problem people have with the Bible is not with a lack of understanding, but with the fact that they understand most things too well! The problem with such a text as 'Do everything without complaining or arguing' (Phil. 2:14), for example, is not with understanding it, but with obeying it - putting it into practice (Fee, Stuart, 1993, p. 13).

If a plain and straightforward reading of the Genesis account is implemented the significance of the person and work of Christ as clearly manifest in the gospel can be justified. The words of Christ as recorded in the Gospel of John are evident in the response of many who choose not accept the authority of the Bible and the truth of the Gospel. Jesus said,

I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say? (John 5:43-47).

Conclusion

The purpose of the incarnation and the hope of the restoration do not lie in a theological truth that has no basis in historical reality. Rather the purpose and hope lie in a theological truth that has as a foundation; the record of a series of events that are firmly rooted in historical reality. A reality that sees the God of the Bible intrinsically involved in the history of His creation. A history that had a divine inception and that will end in a divine culmination when all is restored at the time of the return of Jesus Christ.

The evidence for any other position, no matter how steeped in intellectual discourse or theological wisdom, falls far short of the plain truth of the Bible. To view the text of Genesis in light of an hypothesis that refuses to comment and even leads to a denial of the existence of God is to put the intellect above the word of the Creator, it is to "serve created things rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:25).

The choice that has been made hard for Christians today is the choice between a mythologized version of the Genesis account which bows down to an assumption touted as science, or an understanding of Genesis that clearly and truthfully reveals the necessity of a Savior and God’s purpose in His role as Creator and redeemer. Unfortunately the former choice is one that has the potential to directly and indirectly lead to a slippery slide of disbelief. A refusal to accept the authority of The Bible as having a basis in historical truth has and will continue to have disastrous results. Charles Templeton, accomplished evangelist and preacher turned atheist highlights the toll that such a stance can take,

Is it not foolishness to close one’s eyes to the reality that much of the Christian faith is simply impossible to accept as fact? Should one continue to base one’s life on a system of belief that – for all its occasional wisdom and frequent beauty- is demonstrably untrue? (in Byers, Ham, 2000, p. 12).

The Bible is not a scientific treatise, it is a document with a historical and spiritual purpose, and in revealing this purpose it most importantly reveals the Cause behind it. The evolutionary hypothesis claims to be a scientific treatise however when examined closely it can be seen that it relies, much like Christianity, on an assumption. However in the case of evolution this assumption is unsupported. In contrast the Christian assumption is supported by a wealth of historical evidence encapsulated in the Biblical text, Old and New, evidence that will never replace faith and will not in this life reveal the full extent of God’s purpose, but evidence that nonetheless gives testimony to the One through whom all things were created, Jesus Christ.

The purpose of the person and work of Christ is emphasized in the light of a straightforward understanding of the Scriptures. The book of Genesis provides the understanding for all that has followed the creation, the history of God intrinsically intertwined with His creation, a creation that was once perfect, once subject to sin, once and for all redeemed and that one day will be restored to its former glory. If the history of the world primordial is that of millions of years of death and bloodshed then the very act of the fall can have no meaning. If the first blood was not shed by God in the Garden of Eden as a covering for sin then how little does it matter that Christ shed His blood upon a cross? If the first Adam was little more than a sophisticated ape on the event horizon of consciousness with a legacy of millions of years of death and bloodshed behind him then how can Christ be called the redeemer? To what is He redeeming, to what will the world be restored? Surely not to a world that consists of nothing more than a fireside fable of an ancient and primitive people at the dawn of time.

Suggested Reading

Evolution the Lie by Ken Ham

Darwin’s Leap of Faith by John Angerberg and John Weldon

Refuting Evolution 1 & 2 by Jonathon Sarfati

These books and many others are available from the Association of Christian Astronomers International (ACA).

The Answers in Genesis website – www.answersingenesis.com - also contains a wealth of information on the topic of evolution and Biblical creation and is highly recommended.

Reference List

Ankerberg, J. & Weldon, J. (1998). Darwins leap of faith: exposing the false religion of
evolution.
Eugene ORE: Harvest House.

Batton, D. (1994). Genesis means what it says according to great Church Father,
Basil of Caesarea (AD 329–379). Creation ex nihilo. 16 (4), 23.

Blair, D. (Ed.). (1986). The Pocket Maquarie Dictionary. Milton, QLD: The Jacaranda
Press.

Byers, S. and Ham, K. (2000). Slippery slide to unbelief: a famous evangelist goes from hope to hopelessness. Creation ex nihilo. 22 (3), 8-13.

Darwin, C. (1859). The origin of species. [ONLINE]. www.talkorigins.org/origin.html

Dawkins, R. (1986). The Blind Watchmaker. New York/London: W.W. Norton.

Dillard, R. B. & Longman III, T. (1994). An introduction to the Old Testament.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Fee, G. D. and Stuart, D. (1993). How to read the Bible for all its worth. Grand Rapids:
Zondervan.

Ham, K. A. & Taylor, P.S. (1988). The Genesis solution. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Humphreys, D. R. (2000). Starlight and time: solving the puzzle of ancient starlight in a
young universe.
Green Forest, AR: Master Books.

Luther, M. in Peliken, J. (Ed.), (1958). Luther’s works. St Louis: Concordia.

Moltmann, J. (1993). Crucified God. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

Paley, W. (1802), Natural Theology: Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of
the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature
. Boston, MA: Lincoln &
Edmands.

Sarfati, J. (2000). Calvin says: Genesis means what it says. Creation ex nihilo. 22 (4), 44
45.