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Do I have to believe in a historical Genesis to be saved?

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Published: 7 November 2013 (GMT+10)

Flickr: Ian B-M

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Do we have to believe Genesis is reliable history to be saved?

The Bible lays out some basic truths we have to believe to be saved:

  • There is one true God.
  • He sent Jesus to die for our sins.
  • He raised Jesus from the dead.
  • Jesus is fully God and fully man.

That there is one true god is integral to the whole Bible. It was Israel’s main confession: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). God’s first command to them was “you shall have no other gods before me” (Exo. 20:3). But while belief in the one true God is necessary, it’s not sufficient.

Jesus Christ sets Christian faith apart from any other ‘one god’ religion. God sent his Son (John 3:16) to die for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3). God’s Son is Jesus Christ, and he is truly a man (1 Tim. 2:5). But God also raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 10:9). The gospel is how God fully reveals himself (Heb. 1:1–4) and saves us (Rom. 4:25). These are necessary, but still not sufficient.

The last factor is that Jesus is “Lord” (Rom. 10:9). In Rom. 10:8–13 Paul says that calling Jesus “Lord” is the same as calling him by the name for Israel’s God—YHWH. In Romans 10:13, Paul, talking about Jesus, quotes Joel 2:32. In the original Hebrew, “Lord” in Joel 2:32 is “YHWH”. So Paul calls Jesus “YHWH”—Israel’s God! Therefore, Paul says that confessing “Jesus is YHWH” is necessary for salvation.

Simply put, believing Genesis is history, by the Bible’s standards, isn’t necessary to be a genuine Christian.

Turning from our sin and personally trusting in this God, this Christ, and this death and resurrection is how we are saved. But I didn’t once need to reference believing that Genesis is history. Simply put, believing Genesis is history, by the Bible’s standards, isn’t necessary to be a genuine Christian.

But there is a very important “but”. The history of Genesis is integral to the gospel. If there was no literal Adam and Eve in a literal garden with a literal tree and a literal deceiver, and there wasn’t a literal Fall—then Jesus is literally irrelevant. So, someone who believes the above but doesn’t believe that Genesis records literal history is a Christian, but they are an inconsistent Christian.

We all have an amazing capacity to live with inconsistency. We may think we’re right in what we believe, but we’re not always right. So, we should treat all who confess those essential truths as family. However, inconsistency on something so integral to the gospel can lead (and has led) many away from the faith. So we also need to lovingly correct them because they are walking a dangerous path.

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Readers’ comments
J. K., Australia, 7 November 2013

Most American Chritians do not think deeply enough about Scripture to be bothered with Genesis. Faith is about feeling better and winning in this life. Job, success, possessions, my legacy, those things improved by feel-good faith without thought of Genesis, especially a true, factual Genesis, is all that matters.

Eric J., Australia, 7 November 2013

When I look back over my past 20 years as a believer, the few people I have known that walked away from the faith have been mostly those who took a less than literal view of Genesis. When Adam's original sin is reduced to an abstract idea and not a historic event, then the need for salvation makes no sense.

Eric S., Australia, 7 November 2013

As a retired Pastor I can attest to many people who are dedicated Christians and are ambivalent in regard to Genesis. Some people navigate their whole life without ever deeply understanding how God has joined the dots so convincingly for those others who must have absolute answers. (I am one of the latter) It seems to me some people are capable of truly having faith in Jesus as God and savior and the inner guarantee of the Holy Spirit holds them steady. Logic is not their primary need.

For others it is and I believe God has provided for the most anylitical minds he has ever created.

J. C., Australia, 7 November 2013

my friend once asked me if I were a creationist. I replied, I am a creationist I am a resurrectionist I am a water to wineist. I don't understand why Christians will accept some miracles and not accept the miracle of creation.

Janine D., South Africa, 7 November 2013

J.C Australia. I shall be using your comment from now onwards when asked if I am a Creationist. Good response. One that hopefully gives the other person more to think about.

Dave R., Australia, 7 November 2013

For those who know better, I disagree that they are just "inconsistant Christians". You cannot believe that Jesus came to wipe this stain of original sin, but not believe in the original sin and be a genuine Christian. As for "what's mentioned", you forget that back then, if those preached to were Jews, then they already believed in Genesis literally. And if Gentiles, the Scriptures were the OT and they were taught to put away those pagan creation myths. Those pagan creation myths were an intregal part of their religion. They would never claim to be of that religion and dismiss their creation myth. Neither would Jews. So how can you claim that Christians can and still be Christians? Back then, they were taught Genesis on and expected to believe it. No one could have gotten away with dismissing Genesis 1-2! You're putting modern thinking back to the beginning.

Shaun Doyle responds

Please see Can compromisers really be saved?, which addresses the complexities of belief, maturity, confession, and heresy around the origins debate really well.

David S., United States, 7 November 2013

There is another "but" that has to do with one God. If you think evolution is probably true in the sense of a scientist who has a theory that he is willing to reconsider based on evidence it is one thing. But if you "believe" in evolution and are willing to defend it at all cost it is a religion and you are in danger.

Rofhiwa T., South Africa, 7 November 2013

Does one has to believe in historical genesis in order to be saved? Absolutely yes. The problem of sin and death is a genesis problem. Without firm belief in the fall-of-man of the first man Adam there might not be a firm enough foundation upon which one accepts the salvation through the atonement through the man Jesus Christ. The explanation for sin, death and suffering need to be based on the fall of man in order for the salvation through a perfect man to be required. My faith is firm in Christ through the knowledge of why I need him and that reason is found in genesis.

Shaun Doyle responds

Yes, but notice I didn’t discuss whether one can reject a historical Fall and be saved, but whether one can reject a historical Genesis and be saved, by which I meant the whole Creation-Fall-Flood-Babel history as presented in Genesis 1–11. Some Christians who believe in ‘deep time’ also who believe in a historical Fall and cite it as the cause of the physical death of humans. My point is that there are differing levels of inconsistency and commitment to deep time among deep time believers who claim some sort of allegiance to Christ, not to deny that the integrity of the gospel rests on Genesis. (See Common ground with old-earth creationists?, where I affirm just this.)

Frank M., United States, 7 November 2013

I think Shaun is right on this because i remember when he interacted with me from this article: http://creation.com/common-ground he gave me a challenge and I remember him mentioning about Genesis and the salvation issue and took it by heart. Despite that I went through that phase and I am now committed to BC because of all the material and the challenged offered to me.

Rick W., United States, 7 November 2013

If you don't believe in a Hisorical Genesis, then why would you believe Jesus Died on the cross for you. YOU MUST believe the Bible as all truth from beginning to end. if not whats true whats not?

Shaun Doyle responds

Please see our Creation compromises page. There are many examples of people who believe in a historical Fall and that sin-death causality extends to physical death for humans (i.e. humans were not subject to death before they sinned) and yet reject biblical creation. How? Generally, they accept that certain basic themes of Genesis 1–11 are historical while rejecting the notion that the chronological particulars are historical. While we have argued numerous times that such a view is both exegetically untenable and violates sola scriptura in practice by treating secular geology as the ultimate authority for judging the meaning of Scripture, the fact is that they usually still confess the gospel, which makes them erring brothers rather than wolves in sheep's clothing.

Allen S., United States, 7 November 2013

I appreciate the fact that Genesis provides man with a rational, logical explanation as to how and why there is death, sickness and evil in our world. By having the Genesis record, there is much we can believe about God that we would otherwise have to arrive at through our imaginations, (which is historically proven to be considerably faulty.)

Genesis also confirms another important fact about mankind that our collective imaginations would have a problem in coming up with; which is: "Adam and Eve were not designed to die". (I believe this is a safe interpretation, based on the written record in Genesis).

As a Christian, or as a Scientist, Genesis provides us with the best, plausible, scientific explanation regarding how and why damage (or alteration) to DNA was first introduced into living things.

I suggest that while Physicists are busy contemplating light years, gravity, the Higgs boson and Mitochondrial ATP Synthase et al, perhaps they should consider the Genesis written record as the best "Theory of Everything" available.

Science, and men from all walks of life, are struggling to understand our physical, "natural" life at the galactic and atomic realms, while remaining stubbornly resistant to even consider that life exists at a spiritual realm as well. In my view, that's the life we should seek to understand. I believe there is much historic, geological and mathematical evidence of the reality of God, and His intervention into His physical, natural creation.

It is incomprehensible to me that God does not exist; and even more so that God's spirit cannot intervene in HIS natural realm in any way He so desires. (And at anytime.)

I welcome scientific study; because even with all the unimaginable technology that will come. "Real Science" can only prove truth.

Thomas D., Germany, 7 November 2013

"Do I have to believe in a historical Genesis to be saved?"

The correct answer is yes/no.

What will determine whether you are saved is your relationship with our God.

If you are in "Love" with him, than you will believe the story in Genesis.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (TLB)

4 Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, 5 never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong.

6 It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out.

7 If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.

Play close attention what verse 7 says.

But if your only reason for Being a Christian is for the 'retirement' package, or maybe even to avoid the punishment that you deserve, than some time in the future you will give up your Christian faith because it costs too much.

Our Bible says that our God has forgiven you: Ps. 108:8-13; Isaiah 38:17; Micha 7:18-20; John 3:16, 17; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:21, 22; Heb. 8:10-12; Heb. 10:15-17; Rev. 1:5.

But if you do not believe in the Genesis record, you are going to have a very hard time believing the above texts that says our God has forgiven you.

You can't pick and choose what you are going to believe about our Bible without suffering some bad side effect.

The bad side effect will be, not being able to determine what the "Truth" is.

And because you want to pick and choose what to believe in the Bible, you will be inclined to only believe those texts that support your way of thinking.

David B., United States, 7 November 2013

We are told in Genesis that Adam brought sin into the world and in the new testament portion of the bible we are told many times that Jesus' Death and resurrection paid the sin debt and concurred death. Jesus told us about Adam & Eve, Jonas, & Noah. We are told to believe IN Jesus by Jesus. That does not mean to believe that He exist, even Satan knows that. But we are to believe IN Him. That means to believe what He tells us. GOD gives us the account of creation in genesis. In John 1:1 we are told that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. V:2= The same was in the beginning with God. V:3= All things were made by him;and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Bottom line, If you wont believe what Jesus The Christ has told you, then you are not saved. That's from the first word of Genesis to the last word of Revelation. Jesus tells us straight up that, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Take it, or Leave it, that's the way it is.

Shaun Doyle responds

I agree. There are some who are so committed to deep time who are willing to say that Jesus was wrong in what he taught about Creation (see Jesus and the age of the earth). Faith in Christ entails believing that His teaching is trustworthy and true—not just because He is God, but also because it come from the Father: John 8:28. The Father has never been subject to human limitation, so there is no way out of saying that God as God is untrustworthy if Jesus taught error. If God is not trustworthy on basic history, He is not trustworthy on eternal salvation. Saying that Jesus taught error is contradictory to saving faith.

However, saying that Jesus didn’t comment on the age of the earth, however wrong that may be, does not imply that Jesus is untrustworthy. Now, Jesus did make comments relevant to the age of the earth (e.g. Mark 10:6). However, I can’t say they that any who think Jesus didn’t comment on the age of the earth believe Jesus taught error; they misunderstand Jesus’ teaching on this point but they do not necessarily reject His teaching. In fact, most deep time Christians (wrongly) believe Jesus didn’t teach a young earth because they (rightly) think He is intrinsically trustworthy. This leaves us with the title of the article, to which my (short) answer is still no.

dean R., Australia, 7 November 2013

Were the angelic hosts evolved and what of heaven, do evolutionists need the scientists to explain how that will come about before it can be understood...?

The consistent message of Genesis is linked to natural things & evolution tells us nothing of a holy God as its story changes from day to day.

C. H., Australia, 7 November 2013

A sensitively-written article. Nice work! I think "inconsistent" thinking is a good way to put it, not "compromised". There are well-meaning people in the long age or TE camp (or in no camp at all).

Jane U., United States, 7 November 2013

I love you guys but I believe you are clearly WRONG on this issue! God may be merciful to someone who is truly ignorant, but some and think just what you are really saying! You are clearly shooting yourselves in the foot! The secular view of origins is nothing but opposite of what the Bible says! Can you believe the opposite of the Bible and go to heaven? Come on! The Bible is the true so it's opposite is clearly a lie! The book of Revelation says all liars will be kept out of heaven! So you are WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!

Like · More · 8 hours ago

Shaun Doyle responds

Please also see Common ground with old-earth creationists?, which provides a counterbalancing perspective to the one offered in this article. I agree that the secular view of origins is the opposite of what the Bible says, but this does not mean that everyone who believes it has rejected the gospel. Please also see the related articles section, which expands on the issues briefly discussed in this article.

Let me also add that I empathize with you. I came from a non-Christian home, and the major stumbling block stopping me from becoming a Christian was Genesis 1–11. Basically, I thought that the Bible was so obviously wrong on basic history that anything else it had to say was utterly irrelevant. So, God made me a biblical creationist before He made me a Christian because that's the way it had to be for me. As such, I have always been perplexed at why Christians would bother trying to marry the Bible with deep time; it seems so obviously fruitless to me that it would be a waste of time. Nevertheless, I can see that many genuine Christians do just that.

Michael I., United States, 7 November 2013

What a great article, Thank you Shaun. I really appreciate how this is explained and will offer the same reasoning and link to this article when I am approached with the same question. It is completely fantastic to me that this has been addressed by CMI. There are two people that I speak to about Christianity and creation on a pretty regular basis. One is an Atheist and the other is sort of a theistic evolutionist. Both are very respectful with their questions and I consider them friends though I am saddened by their lack of faith given our imminent departure from this life. Confession that Jesus is the Christ is what matters, but in order for it to make sense and strengthen our faith we need to believe the teachings of the Bible. How can it be so difficult with all the fantastic work CMI does? God bless you Shaun, again truly great article and thanks to CMI for all you do.

Andrew S., United Kingdom, 8 November 2013

Jane. U,

One must remember what is stated about salvation; that only through Jesus do you return to the father.

For God sent a substitute to endure judgement, the penalties of sin, in the places of those who want it and renew their minds through Christ.

This is the only way for one to be saved; not through works or because one claims to be a good person.

Essentially, one can be 'saved by grace', even though the long-ageism and evolution is not correct history.

However, this does not mean that shoehorning outside, contradictory elements into the Bible is a good thing. Rather, it is something to be challenged intellectually; they are not conclusions one can arrive it via deduction from passages.

It compromises the Bible's record of history, its sound internal-consistency, and the message of salvation.

In other words, it will most likely result in the loss of salvation for someone; for true contradiction holds no intellectual ground for the outsider, and a Christian in this compromised position will become stumped at the problems their actions caused in the first place. Thus, they may turn away from God's word.

Nicole K., United States, 9 November 2013

It boils down to ultimate authority for determining truth. Does one rest upon the authority of God's Word or man's ideas? The true believer of the God of the Bible rests upon the Bible, God's Word, as his ultimate authority for determining truth about all things. The unbeliever, who rests upon man's ideas, has put himself in the place of God as the ultimate judge of truth. Therefore, they don't really trust God, but proudly put themselves above God. God is not on the throne in their mind, they are on the throne.

Shaun Doyle responds

The problem is that each one of us puts ourselves above God every time we sin. Sinning after conversion is sadly inevitable (with the practically irrelevant exception of someone dying immediately after becoming a Christian). Moreover, Christians all find themselves guilty of persistent moral failures. Sanctification takes time and effort, and we all fail at times, even though we can be confident of the final result (Philippians 1:6). And if this is the case with moral failures, I would suggest it also applies to doctrinal failures. There is such a thing as damnable heresy (i.e. 'another gospel': Galatians 1:6–9), and deep time belief can certainly produce heresy when consistently applied as one's primary axiom (see Common ground with old-earth creationists?). However, deep time belief per se does not automatically negate a person's Gospel confession. Please see Can compromisers really be saved? for more information.

Jared N., Zimbabwe, 9 November 2013

Great article Shaun.

I have to agree with CMI on this one. You dont have to believe in 6 Day Creation to be saved. Salvation is by Grace through Faith. And this can happen even while we still hold to various incorrect doctrines etc. which we all do to some degree. Salvation is not based on having correct theology in every area of Biblical doctrine, but on our surrender to God, repentance from sin, and faith in Jesus' death and ressurection.

Take the thief on the cross for example. There was no discussion on origins or Genesis. The thief simply humbled himself, admitted his guilt, confessed Christ, and asked Him to save Him and take him to paradise. Jesus confirmed that the thief would be saved and be with Him in paradise. This is the same in almost every case where Jesus spoke to people about the Kingdom of God.

Origins and Genesis are important, yes. But they are not a salvation issue. They are a correct understanding of the Word of God issue, and that is something we all grow in during our Christian walk as God reveals more to us and as the Holy Spirit teaches us all things.

We are all at different levels or revelation and in time God will correct us. All we have to do is be humble and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us and lead us. In time, wrong doctrine will be corrected, not just on the origins issue, but on many other issues that we hold as well.

Thanks Shaun for a great article!

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