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“Do you have to be a creationist to be Christian?”

A tactical question that avoids the real issue.

By Gary Bates

Flickr: Ian B-MBible-Genesis
First published as Creation Extra, CMI-US, 2022.

This question often comes up, particularly during QA sessions at ministry events. In my experience, the type of person that usually asks this question is not, what we would call, a biblical creationist, and has subscribed to some sort of view that adds millions of years or some evolutionary process to the opening chapters of Genesis.

For example, I was once invited to speak at a Christian high school as part of an origins series. Those with differing views were invited to share opinions on the creation/evolution debate. The teacher leading the meeting said that the purpose of exposing students to different views was to allow students to make up their own minds on the subject. However, this approach is already problematic, as it obviously suggests to students that Genesis can possibly mean many things, rather than what it clearly says. During the lectures, I recall that the leader (only) interjected during my talk on several occasions with one question; “Does that mean you have to be a creationist to be a Christian?’

The real point of this question is an attempt to undermine the vital importance of taking the creation account in a straightforward manner (as historical narrative).

‘Just believe in Jesus’

Some years ago, the Editor of an official publication of a major denomination in Australia wrote, “In my experience proponents of ‘creation science’ too often get distracted from evangelism, and become obsessed with persuading other Christians to their ‘creation science’ beliefs, as if these were necessary for salvation.”1

This tired old allegation is an example of a ‘straw man’ fallacy where one posits a false argument not actually made by your target, which you can then criticize. First, in my 30+ years of ministry I have never once heard an informed creationist claim that belief in a six-day creation was necessary for salvation. In my own personal experience of coming to faith, I journeyed from evolutionist/atheist to evolutionist/Christian to creationist/Christian, and it has been the same for countless others, including many in CMI. When I confessed Christ as my Savior, but still believed in evolution, I was obviously saved but I was still clearly ignorant about biblical creation and its importance. And this could have applied to many other Christian doctrines. For example, I had no concept of the Trinity, or eschatology. Even many who have been in the church for years still struggle to have a complete understanding of some of these and other important doctrines. It doesn’t mean that they are not saved, but it is testimony to the beautiful, saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ignorance is bliss?

Second, when someone claims that focusing on biblical creation is a distraction from evangelism, I immediately know that such a person has little or no experience in evangelism. If they did, they would know that biblical creation is arguably the most important aspect for evangelism today. Ask any street preacher, or evangelist on college campuses what the most-asked questions are when witnessing, and they will tell you that they have their basis in the evolution vs creation debate. For example, at the beginning of my speaking events, I often ask the audience the following questions.

“When witnessing to your friends, work colleagues or when discussing Christianity with family members, do they ask questions like:”

  1. “If God only made Adam and Eve, where did all the different races come from?
  2. And if it was just Cain and Abel, who did Cain marry?
  3. How do you fit dinosaurs into the Bible?
  4. And, if God is a God of love, why does He allow death and suffering in the world?”

Once I’ve posed just these four questions (there are dozens that relate to the events in Genesis), I usually ask for a show of hands. And despite ministering in thousands of churches and in many different countries, without fail at least 75% of the attendees raise their hands with the figures most times being around 90%. That so many have been confronted with these questions aptly demonstrates that this is a key issue for people when questioning the divine authority of Scripture. So, to say that the creation issue is a distraction for evangelism is, frankly, nonsense.

Evangelism must start at home

Furthermore, our college surveys of once-Christian youth featured in our DVD called FALLOUT2, demonstrated that not having answers to questions such as above was the major reason for students abandoning the faith that they were raised in. If we recognize that our children will be exposed to evolutionism at schools, then teaching creation at home and in the church is a major key to raising them with a resilient faith. One does not have to accept biblical creation to be saved, but it is vitally important for a robust faith that will withstand the challenges. For example, Andrew L. wrote to say that he dropped out after his first year at seminary:

“…due to the lack of defence against the documentary hypothesis and the multiple, non-biblical interpretations of Genesis 1; both from college teachers and pastors. Their teaching sapped the joy and confidence of my faith, and I drifted, un-moored for about a decade … until my kids asked questions, and my research brought me to the biblical defence given by CMI and others. My faith is renewed. Thank you.”

The Gospel starts in Genesis

It is understandable to doubt the point of salvation if there isn’t a need to be saved in the first place. We only need to be literally saved if there was a literal fall in the Garden of Eden.

Don’t let anyone try to stump you with ‘Do you have to be a creationist to be a Christian?' question, because it is just a ‘cop out’ that seeks to evade the obvious and real conflicts between evolution and the Bible. Instead, show them some of the wealth of positive evidence that demonstrates biblical Creation to be true.

Gary Bates
Creation Ministries International–US

Published: 26 October 2023

References and notes

  1. Kerry Nagle, Autumn 2000 edition of SALT magazine, by Scripture Union Australia. Return to text.
  2. See creation.com/fallout. Return to text.