Evangelicals and biblical creation
Published: 28 June 2012 (GMT+10)
Evangelicals believe that the Bible is the word of God, but most of them (in the Western world outside the USA, at least) do not believe that God created the universe in six literal days about six thousand years ago. Furthermore, they say that those who do believe it are interpreting the Bible wrongly. Why? Are they right? And why do so many of them say it? Also, why are so many resistant to even considering this matter? This opens up a huge area of discussion, and this brief foray does not intend to be comprehensive. Also, I write it in the knowledge that many ‘old-earth’ Christians are very sincere in their belief and commitment to the Gospel.
First, my own experience. Although I never believed in macro-evolution, for many years I was convinced that the ‘millions of years’ were a proven fact of science. I was aware that if this were true, it would mean that God’s method of creation involved millions of years of death, disease, violence, suffering and waste. I was uneasy about this, but the evidence for a billions-of-years-old universe seemed incontrovertible. However, I kept searching for the truth and the light finally dawned when I came to realise that the millions-of-years scenario is by no means a proven fact of science and is totally incompatible with the Bible. In fact, the scientific evidence supports the literal understanding of Genesis 1–11. The turning point, for me, was when I read Refuting Compromise.1
Secular deception and intimidation
The Western world has been duped into believing that macro-evolution, with its millions of years, is a proven fact of science. This belief, and the associated intimidation by secular science, is a major reason why so many evangelicals try to reconcile the Bible with evolution and/or millions of years. They tell us that the Bible has to be ‘interpreted’ in the light of modern science. They seem to forget, or do not realize, that evolutionary belief is itself simply an interpretation of the evidence, based on a materialistic worldview and a naturalistic definition of ‘science’. Instead of interpreting the scientific evidence in the light of what the infallible, unchanging God has told us, they interpret the God’s word, the Bible, in the light of fallible, changing human opinions.2
I kept searching for the truth and the light finally dawned when I came to realise that the millions-of-years scenario is by no means a proven fact of science and is totally incompatible with the Bible.
Evangelical church leaders in particular think that harmonizing the Bible with secular science is the ‘academically respectable’ thing to do. They seem to have lost sight of the fact that biblical creation is the orthodox, reformed belief of the church. The Reformers recognised that Genesis 1–11 is meant to be understood as straightforward history, and were unanimous in rejecting symbolical interpretations.3 It is those who try to reconcile the Bible with secular origins science who have departed from sound doctrine.
It is significant that no conservative biblical exegete thought of vast ages until secular scientists began to promulgate their theories in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.3 It was only then that Christians began to try to interpret the creation account in terms of vast ages. This is clear evidence that these ‘exegetes’ are not drawing the meaning out of the text, they are reading men’s ideas into the text. They are engaged in eisegesis, not exegesis.
Lack of knowledge, indifference and opposition
Many Christians are simply unaware of the powerful reasons for believing in Genesis creation—biblical, scientific and historical.4 Some of them do not want to know. But there are others who have read some of the literature, and are aware of at least some of these reasons, but they still hang on to their belief in evolution and/or millions of years—and they oppose biblical creation. Why?
One reason is that they think they can avoid the controversy by sidelining it as a side issue─and they may think genuinely that it is a side issue. They say that there are much more important things to be concerned with. However, to the extent that the following statements are true of the modern theory of evolution, it cannot be described as a side issue:
Evangelical church leaders in particular think that harmonizing the Bible with secular science is the ‘academically respectable’ thing to do.
- It was invented by anti-Christians in order to exclude God from science.5
- It is the foundation of secular humanism, not to mention Marxism and Nazism.
- It is a dogma which is no more than a flawed interpretation of the evidence, based on a materialistic worldview. Yet it is relentlessly taught as fact, and all other views are suppressed.
- It has had other evil consequence, such as eugenics and a particularly nasty kind of racism.6
- It logically undermines the historical foundations of the Gospel.
- It has caused and is causing many people to reject Christianity and the Bible.
Another reason is the stigma attached to belief in biblical creation. The secular world ridicules ‘creationists’ and equates them with believers in a flat earth. If it can, it destroys the careers of all who doubt the truth of Darwinism and denies them higher degrees.7,8 If a creationist biologist (for example) wants to earn a Ph.D., he can expect to be told by his professor that a Ph.D. will not be awarded as long as he is a creationist. Thus there is a significant cost to being a creationist in science. Unfortunately the ridicule heaped on creationists has rubbed off on many Christians, so that creationists are regarded (by other Christians, as well as by non-Christians) as ‘fundamentalist’, naïve and unwilling to accept the discoveries of modern science.
In spite of this, thousands of scientists believe in biblical creation, including many with higher degrees and a substantial number of professors (heads of department) at secular universities.9 These generally have tenure, meaning they cannot be dismissed now that they are ‘out’ as creationists. It is therefore quite wrong to label biblical creationists as naïve and unwilling to accept modern science.
Ridicule because we believe in the literal truth of Genesis 1–11 is to be expected. But it is sad that many Christians seem to be so influenced by this ridicule that they reject biblical creation—or worse, join others in propagating the ridicule.
Those who do believe it do so generally not because they are wooden literalists, but because of
- the way in which the rest of the Bible understands Genesis 1–11 (including the teaching of Jesus),
- the grammatical structure of the Hebrew,
- and the context. Genesis 1–11 continues without a break, merging seamlessly with the straightforward history of Genesis 12–50. The grammatical structure of both parts is the same.
These things have always indicated clearly that Genesis 1–11 is meant to be taken as literal, real history.
Furthermore, most of the scientific evidence makes much more sense when interpreted according to the biblical creationist worldview, rather than the materialistic one.
Another reason is the influence of church leaders─and they, in turn, are influenced by what they are taught in theological or Bible college. The policy in most evangelical colleges is to try to reconcile the Bible with secular science. This, as mentioned above, is thought to be the academically respectable thing to do! The mistake which so many evangelicals make is to accept this teaching without testing it against Scripture and examining the case for biblical creation─carefully, prayerfully, in depth and with open minds. The assumption seems to be: ‘If so many learned and respected evangelical leaders say that evolution and/or millions of years are compatible with the Bible, then surely that must be so.’ There is, therefore, on the part of both academics and non-academics, a failure to search the Scriptures, the science and the history with truly open minds in order to find out if this teaching is true (Acts 17:11).
An important further reason is that there is spiritual blindness in this area. I know that when I came to understand the truth, I felt that my spiritual eyes had been opened regarding this matter. Even when some people know most of the facts, they still cannot see the truth. They read or hear the facts, but do not really take them in. If one is to see the truth, one needs genuine openness and willingness to change.
- Sarfati, J., Refuting Compromise, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, Georgia, 2nd Edition (updated and expanded), 2011. Return to text.
- See: Wieland, C., Jesus on the age of the earth, Creation 34(2):51–54, 2012. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., Ref. 1, Chap. 3, pp.105–137. Return to text.
- For an introduction, see Gurney, R., Six-Day Creation: Does it matter what you believe? Day One, 2009. Return to text.
- Charles Lyell, for example wrote that he wanted “to free the science [of geology] from Moses”. See creation.com/lyell. Return to text.
- Gurney R., Ref. 4, pp.19–22. Return to text.
- Bergman, J., Slaughter of the Dissidents, Leafcutter Press, Southworth, 2008. For a review of this book see: To, L., If you can’t beat them, ban them, J. Creation 23(2):37–40, 2009. Return to text.
- Stein, Ben (presenter), Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, DVD. Return to text.
- See e.g. Aerospace engineer professes creation: interview with Dr Dewey Hodges by Dr Rob Carter, Creation 34(2):32–34, April 2012. Return to text.
I agree wholeheartedly. When I became a Christian in the early 80s I continued to believe in evolution, until I was challenged by Ken Ham's teaching on the subject. Once I understood the true significance and consequences of the compromise I was making, I committed my way to the true biblical understanding, and promote it at every opportunity. I find that 'religious' people - including Christians and evolutionists, are completely irrational in their rejection of the biblical argument. For them, it's not about truth, but about protecting their own belief.
Excellent article with which I totally agree. Just one minor point. The article mentions "the truth of Darwinism". Seems to me that a better word than "truth" might be notion, dogma or theory. The phrase "the truth of Darwinism" just hits me as an oxymoron, though I realize what is meant. Thanks for listening.
Great article! I am in the process of beginning my time at a very Bible-believing seminary here in the States, but I am already seeing some textbook authors making old-earth "arguments." Although, from studying creation.com and reading books like Dr Lisle's 'Ultimate Proof of Creationism,' it's clear that they are not arguing, but simply putting up opinions with a few "supporting" facts, which don't support, but simply draw one's attention away from the logic. I'm seeing this come out of conservative, well-meaning and competent circles. But sin can take many many forms in our lives, which is why, as this site strongly advocates, we put God first, and let our understanding follow second. Great article!
I was blessed to understand -and accept!- the literal sense of Genesis during my conversion. It was just an intrinsic part of the 'package.' And that happened after a lifetime of Marxism indoctrination and exposure to secular science all the way up to tertiary education.
But Jesus completely and irreversibly transformed my mind in that regard. The world, life, salvation and the Bible itself do not make any sense at all without a historic Genesis.
It then came as a surprise for me to find so many stern theistic evolutionists who call themselves Christians but use against a literal reading of Genesis the same arguments I parroted as an unbeliever. In so doing they place man's opinion at the same level or above God's revelation as epistemic sources on issues of origins without realizing how many concessions are given away, not only doctrinally but even scientifically as well.
By definition the Bible is the truth. So, any true Christian has to accept whatever the Bible says no matter what. If the Bible says the Universe was created over six literal days (which it does) and it outlines how it was done some 6,000 years ago (which it does) then it must be true. Anyone who says otherwise but calls themselves a Christian is actually saying God lies, and so can't be a true Christian.
Taking Genesis in a straightforward grammatical-historical way (as the NT writers and Christ Himself clearly did), is to arrive at the conclusion of literal days of Creation and an age for the Earth of around 6,000 years, as you say. CMI accepts that many genuine Christians are 'blessedly inconsistent' on these matters; indeed as some of us were ourselves before 'seeing the light'. So, while agreeing that grave issues of the truth of God are at stake, we do not believe that all those who are currently compromising on this issue are disqualified from being true Christians. A Christian is someone who has genuinely repented of their sin against God and who has exercised saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Yet, few of those who come to faith initially are fully sound in their understanding of all important doctrines; see Can Christians believe evolution?.
Hello, you say in the article that most evangelical christians reject the notion of six literal days. Which source did you get this information from? It is simply not true that most evangelicals believe in "millions of years". Most bible-believing christians take the bible by its whole word.
I think we have to distinguish between those are evangelical in the sense that this would have been understood 40-50 years ago, and those who profess to be evangelical, but whose beliefs on biblical Creation and other doctrinal issues demonstate a radical departure from traditional evangelicalism.
Speaking from my own experience of 11 years of full-time ministry throughout the UK and Europe (having spoken in many hundreds of churches and engaged in discussion with numerous ministers who would take the label 'evangelical', I would concur that the vast majority of 'evangelical Christians' (i.e. those who self-describe in this way) reject a literal six-day Creation. I know that every single one of the 28 speakers currently representing CMI around the world would agree unhesitatingly with me.
Furthermore, many organisations which would self-describe as evangelical teach strongly against six-day Creation and advocate death-and-bloodshed before Adam over millions of years, local Flood etc. An example is 'Reasons to believe', based in North America, whose 'progressive creationism' teaching has gained wide acceptance in many 'evangelical' churches.
I have held the enviable position of never having believed evolution, and always having believed that the Bible’s Genesis account is historical narrative to be read and interpreted in that way.
One area of disagreement I might have is over the ‘acceptance’ of those holding to an old-earth creation. If the earth was created ‘mature’, replete with fossil record and other indicators of life, there are two questions arising:
2: Is it not biblical fact that death came in with sin, and therefore how can we have dead stuff laying around that gives the appearance of having been dead for eons?
Good article … just a shame there are still so many that refuse to believe the Bible, and blindly accept the so-called ‘scientific’ paradigm. Science will one day catch up with the Bible.
Few 'old earth creationists' would hold to the world having been created mature in the way you describe. See Evolution—still an option?.
However, all those who swallow the claimed millions-of-years ages for past life must necessarily invoke death and bloodshed prior to Adam's creation, both for animals and man. I encourage you to read some of the many important articles on this subject from this topics page: Death and Suffering Questions and Answers.
An excellent article. The millions of years was a stumbling block for me at the time that the Lord was bringing me to faith. It seemed reasonable (although, like the writer of this article, I had never believed in evolution), yet was clearly contrary to what the bible said. I was delivered from it by John Whitcomb's book "The Early Earth" which seemed to blaze with the glory of God for me, establishing me in the understanding of God's Word as having 100% authority - whatever man might say. I am very thankful that God has raised up such men and ministries "at such a time as this".
Thank you for posting my feedback. Philip Bell's response to my comments however needs some clarification. I too believe many will be saved even though they don't all believe in the exact same doctrines other than the core beliefs such as why Jesus came, died and was raised. There may be certain other disagreements, such as whether we should keep the Sabbath as the Jews still do. I believe we do since it's the fourth commandment and Jesus told us to keep the commandments. However, that doesn't mean only those who keep the Ten Commandments will be saved. In fact we all failed at some stage or other to meet all Ten Commandments. We all have sinned, and will continue to sin since we are imperfect beings in this world. So, what I mean by a true Christian is one who believes everything the Bibles says in its raw form, but at the same time fails to carry out all of what it says. To comply 100% with the Bible one has to be one step above a true Christian, namely like Jesus himself, which at this stage in our life is impossible. Only later after Jesus returns can we reach a level above and beyond being simply a true Christian and then becoming something even better. That’s what awaits true believers, and it must be a wondrous thing to achieve. We all can only be patient and look forward to it.
Re. feedbacker Dave W. We should be careful to carefully assess created-mature concepts, usually attended by God-is-then-deceitful accusations. If I may revisit an issue previously discussed by creationist writers:
The first grouping of examples within maturity arguments is examples that are necessarily mature but non-deceptive. God had to create Adam and Woman mature, as at least young adults. God had to create the trees in the garden mature enough to be bearing fruit for Adam and Woman to eat, that first day (Day Six) of their existence. And so on. Since transparency exists in Biblical communication about such examples—God specifying the order and speed of creation of such things clearly—and since there is a necessity of maturity in these particular cases, no deception exists on God’s part. Any such complaint is unfair and invalid in such cases.
Second, there is a group of trivial examples that no serious Creationist insists upon. For example, while some creationists allow for the possibility of tree-ring patterns in the original trees, no Creationist of any standing insists on such. For non-young-earthers to invoke a divine-deception complaint against us with respect to such cases is an invalid (and very deceptive) argument involving a caricature of us. Since we don't insist on such trivial ideas, no divine deception regarding appearance of age is present here.
Third, the largest grouping (in my experience) of supposed examples of "appearance of age" involve indoctrination-generated misperception. It is only through this misperception of the hard facts that a further misperception arises, involving the supposed deception of God. The hard, empirical facts themselves do not signal vast age.
For example, I was 8 years old when I was trained in elementary school in the one-vertical-foot-of-sedimentary-rock-equals-about-1000-years-of-deposition notion. Indoctrinated that way, I wrongly thought that I saw many examples and proofs of vast age of the earth, as I looked out the car window. (And I also misperceived those 'examples' as accumulating corroborative weight of evidence for an old earth. All I was doing, instead, was consistently applying a wrong and subconsciously held extremely-low-deposition-rate assumption / filter that was implicitly snuck into the back of my mind.)
Further indoctrination occurred at my elementary school when I was 10-11 years old. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that a multitude of evidences pointed to an ancient earth: fossils took a long time to form, ditto for stalactites, oil & gas, coal, sand grains, etc. At that point, I was indoctrinated. I was fully captured by false-obligation "hollow deception". Because of the forcefulness of presentation and because I could not immediately see any speculation in those conclusions, my perception was misinformed, and I became 'locked into' that supposed old-earth-age signal.
My point of liberation, when I was almost 18, came through reading The Genesis Flood. Henry Morris gently pointed out that geological timeframe needs a knowledge of deposition rate as well as of vertical depth in the rock system under study. I was then freed up to become de-programmed, de-indoctrinated. As Henry Morris, and then others, went on to point out many geological evidences much more easily interpreted as fast-deposition phenomena, my geological perception radically shifted with respect to timeframe.
God is nowhere deceptive. Foolish people foolishly speculate beyond the hard facts in order to try to generate an invalid ancient-earth signal, and then—when the non-rigorous nature of their argument is exposed—they try to distract us (and themselves) from that lack of rigour by playing the deceptive-God card. Please don’t put yourself under any obligation to this “hollow deception”.
There is also the option that the universe is really old but life on this earth is young and then the fossil record is still evidence of the flood. An old universe but not the millions of years of suffering. I think that option doesn’t fit as well with the Bible as a young earth and a young universe, but I am just saying.
An old universe but a young earth? This still falls foul of Jesus’ own testimony regarding the ‘positioning’ of humankind at the dawn of Creation (see Mark 10:6), the very “foundation of the world” (lit. “cosmos” in the Greek; Luke 11:50). Similarly see Luke 1:70 and Acts 3:21 which variously translate the Greek “from eon” as “from of old”, “since the world began” or “from the beginning of time”.
I highly recommend this article: ‘Soft’ gap sophistry.
Great piece. Several of my elderly evangelical friends seem frightened by the idea that 'science' might be so totally wrong about origins. Their physical world comes falling down when the teaching they had at school, at Cambridge etc, is questioned.
Their very notions of who they are, are challenged.
Before I came to Christ, I argued mightily from two, to me, insurmountable and irreconcilable hurdles. One was the sovereignty of God vs the free will of man. The other was evolution vs creation. I knew all along that, to be consistent, if I trusted Christ, I was going to have to accept it all...that God is the Sovereign of the universe and that He created it all in 6 days. Finally I did it, I put my faith and trust in the crucified, risen Lord, firmly believing that I was committing intellectual suicide. Intense Bible study, the teaching and witness of a wonderful, godly missionary and a certain book called The Genesis Flood changed all that. I learned that faith is logical and God is true, tho every man be a liar. The veil over our eyes that stops us from seeing is lifted in Christ. Now it is all so obvious to me, I marvel that I was ever able to accept the "goo to you" fable. This faith is reinforced day by day, thanks to your website and your itinerant speakers. Thank you.