Even champions can be inconsistent
13 December 2003
Prominent Australian Christian leader the Hon. Rev. Dr Gordon Moyes has said, publicly and forthrightly, that there has never been a more urgent need to declare belief in the authority and inspiration of the Bible.
‘It is really impossible for a church from the reformed and evangelical tradition, to teach that the Bible has as much relevance and authority as last year’s Sydney telephone directory! Otherwise, coming near to you, will be a church, with a pile of discarded Bibles!’1
CMI agrees wholeheartedly. An indignant Dr Moyes identified the undermining of the authority of Scripture by church leaders as the church’s biggest scandal.
‘A free-for-all over the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures is leading the Australian church into a theological relativism of Monty Python proportions.’
He said some church leaders and preachers were generating uncertainty in the minds of many intelligent Australians by debasing the authority of the Bible as God’s inspired Word.
‘If these days, every Rev. Tom, Dick and Harriet interprets the Scriptures as they please, the whole question of the nature of the Scriptures, their inspiration, infallibility and authority is up for grabs.’
Dr Moyes’s remarks are particularly pertinent to the foundational issue of creation. The whole Gospel story becomes nonsense if we can’t believe what Genesis says about the origin of sin and death, for example.
Sadly, like so many other otherwise staunch champions of the faith, Dr Moyes has more than once been a willing (if unwitting) participant in undermining the Bible’s authority. For instance, he not long ago enthusiastically chaired a public forum on Genesis and the age of the earth, in which the whole thrust was to persuade Christians that one can’t possibly believe in a recent creation. All the speakers (which included a non-Christian) were on the same side and giving the same basic message: trust the scientists who are telling you about millions of years. Which means: don’t trust what Genesis seems to be telling you. Sadly, when evangelical leaders do this sort of thing, they usually feel persuaded that they are actually helping the Bible ‘be more credible’ or some such.
But if Christian leaders, no matter how otherwise well-meaning or orthodox, don’t believe the plain meaning of the first chapter of the Bible, how can they expect others to believe any of it? Especially where the ordinary historical-grammatical rules of interpretation are so overwhelmingly on the side of literal creation days and a world only thousands of years old? And if they are seen to reject what the Bible says about earthly things like the history of the world, including living things and mankind, how can they expect others to trust it on heavenly things? (John 3:12).
The arguments from the Bible for a straightforward Genesis are overwhelming—yet many evangelical leaders do not even want to hear them, for fear that they might be forced to ‘oppose facts’. (Generally poor teaching in the philosophy of science means that many people still don’t realize that there is a massive difference between facts and interpretation, and that believing the Bible’s Genesis account does not mean opposing any single fact of science.)
It boils down to a question of allegiance—choosing to put our faith in the Word of God (the Bible) rather than in the ever-changing words of fallible sinful humans. Those who believe in evolution or millions of years are (often subconsciously) regarding fallible human science as the ultimate authority, over and above the Bible. Also, they are in effect opposing the very words of Jesus Himself, who made it plain more than once (e.g. Mark 10:6) that people were present ‘from the beginning of creation’, not appearing after billions of years, i.e. towards the end of creation.
Belief in millions of years inevitably goes hand-in-hand with the belief that the fossil record is a gradual record of those millions of years, rather than a catastrophic record of the global Flood. But if Genesis is not literally true, and there were millions of years of death and suffering before Adam, then death, suffering, bloodshed, cancer, etc. is not the result of Adam’s sin, thus undermining the whole basis of our need for salvation, and our hope of a coming restoration.
Jesus made it clear that believing the Old Testament writings is foundational to believing in Him:
For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how shall you believe My words? (John 5:46–47)
The Bible exhorts us to teach ‘all the counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27), not withhold the hard or unpalatable bits to avoid ‘scaring people off’. Jesus had no qualms about driving people away with difficult teachings, for example the rich young ruler (Luke 18), and the crowd that wanted to forcibly install him as king (John 6). He would perceive whatever thing there was that would keep a person from totally committing themself to him, and then force the issue over that point.
Many atheists and non-Christians have little respect for Christians who quibble over the obvious meaning of Genesis. Testimonies I’ve heard from converted atheists affirm that tenuous Christian attempts to harmonise away the clear meaning of Genesis fill them with contempt. They can see right through the rationalisations that ‘old-earth’ Christians use.
God intends us to understand His Word without needing a pope, priest or scientist to tell us what it ‘really’ means. To defer to scientists is to impinge upon the perspicuity of Scripture—that is, to reject the idea that the Bible can be clear and understandable to ordinary Christians in all that’s important. CMI applauds those Christian leaders who follow Jesus’ example, accepting Genesis 1–11 as straightforward history.
In summary, we applaud Dr Moyes’ stand on the authority of Scripture. We would lovingly plead with him, though, to be totally consistent in the future. Then Bible-believing Christians everywhere could say an even heartier ‘Amen’ to his stand.
- Wesley Mission Press Releases, Undermining the authority of the Scriptures is the church’s biggest scandal, <www.wesleymission.org.au/releases/December03/031210.asp>, 10 December 2003. See also Publisher’s Perspective, CDP e-Mag, 10 December 2003. Return to text.