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Believing a ‘literal Genesis’ is ‘flesh-minded’?

Published: 19 September 2015 (GMT+10)
wikipedia.org/Macobru tug-of-war

A correspondent, Kathryn C., commented on  article, Free to believe as follows:

Your insistence on a “literal Genesis” betrays you. Such a finite, flesh-minded tenet shows a closed door against life in the Spirit. Didn't you hear the angel say, from within the narrow confines of your tomb of fixed time, “Why are you seeking the living among the dead? He is not here, he is risen”? cf. Galatians 4:8–11

Philip responds:

Your charge, that CMI’s ‘literal’ (better termed a historical-grammatical) reading of the early chapters of Genesis is ‘flesh-minded’, would be serious if true. The Bible teaches that “living in (according to) the flesh” is synonymous with submission to the bondage of the law, that is “the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:5–6); it is to be “sold under sin” (Romans 7:14) and to “serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:25). As you may know, Romans 7–8 and Galatians 5:16–25 contain extensive teaching on what it means to be ‘in the flesh’ and ‘in the spirit’.

The Genesis account of Creation/Fall/Flood etc. is nothing to do with “the law” which the Apostle Paul talks about in these two epistles and you would be hard pushed to find any theologian or qualified Bible exegete who would argue otherwise. God’s Word does not (cannot) contradict itself. Unquestionably, the Lord Jesus Christ (along with the apostles and New Testament writers) affirmed Genesis as history; see here and here (and Jesus was no ‘red-letter Christian’!). To say that they were “flesh-minded” would clearly be blasphemous.

Thus, your charge actually raises a sobering question. The Apostle Paul elaborates in detail on the contrast between living “according to the flesh” and “according to the Spirit” in Romans 8:1–16. For instance, “to set the mind on the flesh is death … For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God. … Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:6–8). While the context of Paul's discussion (as already indicated) has nothing to do with the historicity (or otherwise) of Genesis, there is an implied exhortation to “please God” and to ensure that our attitude is not one which is “hostile to God”. Paul declares, “those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For … to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5–6). One would think that “the things of the Spirit” justifiably includes the things Jesus believed and taught—He in whom dwelt the Spirit of God in full measure (Colossians 2:9; compare Luke 4:1).

It is CMI’s view that one’s attitude to (and assessment of) Genesis 1–11 should conform to that of Christ and the other biblical writers; anything else qualifies as unbelief. And that certainly is serious.

Note that we are not saying that one must believe in a historical Genesis to be saved (see also Can Christians believe evolution?) But when it is shown that Jesus definitely believed Genesis, would it not be good to follow Him (unlike some theistic evolutionists)?

Helpful Resources

The Genesis Account
by Jonathan Sarfati
US $39.00
Hard Cover
Busting Myths
by J Sarfati & G Bates, edited
US $17.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Andrew S.
Hi Philip - Many of those with an emphasis on the Holy Spirit recognise the need to be committed to the Word of God, for instance in writing by RT Kendall. There is a saying that all spirit and you blow up, all word and you dry up, but Word and Spirit together and you grow up. So the assertion you are responding to is really misguided.
S.C. “Sissie” G.
Wisdom rests with the unassuming but this surely looks like the Kathryn C. commenting on—and defending Darwin’s Pious Idea (27th of July).

Truly it is important to note that “we are not saying that one must believe in a historical Genesis to be saved”—but just as when it comes to trust expressing itself in acts (i.e. obedience) I do see the “young earth position” as crucial: for koinonia. I confess not having the love to share all things with everyone calling themselves Christians. Especially I do see the similarities between P’rushim following the law (or, rather, upholding the fence of the law) to please men and different denominations following Darwin/Lyell to please men.

May wisdom rest with you all!
Frank G.
That is possibly the most interesting charge I've ever seen against those who hold to a Biblical, literal creation. In 2nd Corinthians's 5:16 Paul wrote, "We regard no one according to the flesh." Flesh is the Greek word sarx and contextually could have some variety in meaning according to the context, but a good case here can be made for a natural judgment based on what we see or hear, as opposed to a Spirit led judgment. Believers who reject a literal creationist interpretation are usually judging according to what they have seen or heard from sources that typically (not always) reject the Bible. They typically raise the opinions and worldviews of fallible man above the Word of God. While creationists also look at science and evidence the foundation is belief in the authority of God's Word. This charge is interesting because, to my mind, the exact opposite would be true. Kathryn, while a believer, has chosen to raise other opinions above what God has said. You don't have to believe in a literal Genesis to be saved but when we are willing to stake our eternity on God's Word it seems strange to me stray from it on other foundational issues like creation.
Steve S.
Why allow an evolutionist's misinterpretations mislead you? They have already ruled out the truth beforehand by not letting God be true and every man a liar. They don't fear the Lord, or it would lead to wisdom and knowledge.
john P.
The correspondent needs to think seriously what she has said as Jesus the Creator and our Saviour Himself believes Genesis as literal history and He ought to know being an Eyewitness. It is flesh-minded to pervert the truth of scripture to one's own worldview if this is not scriptural.Evolution in all its forms is a lie and a scam, a fairytale. It never happened.
earle R.
the book of Genesis is probably the most important in all the Bible for the person searching to establish a relationship with a God he/she does not yet know. If you are seriously looking for the religion on earth which is true (as opposed to one that is simply appealing) you need a measuring stick to gage which is true and which is false. An account of our origins is that measuring stick. For thirty years I have been searching for a single scientific provable fact that contradicts the Genesis account and I am still searching. With every other religion I have examined these contradictions are evident immediately. Perhaps this is this reason why there is this mix of science and history at the beginning of the Bible.
Geoff C. W.
Of course, if you didn't believe in a "literal Genesis", what would you believe in? The only other vaguely plausible option that I know of is the evolution axiom, proposed and adopted by people who prohibit belief in God as their starting point. Talk about "flesh minded"! Follow that path at your peril!
Chandrasekaran M.
Kathryn C’s charges like flesh-minded and implied unteachable are unfair in the sense her views are right and she does not explain why her views are right that CMI should change its views. Her charges reflect how she was thought how she depends on human teachers for doctrines and understanding of the Bible. If we don’t thing about what we have granted as truth solely based on some popular teacher, when hear an opposite or different view on the Bible we would feel our tool-box is empty in how to handle such different viewpoints. Unfortunately there are many such believers in this state who restore to playing the person instead of playing the ball. As Philp Bell mentioned in this article the Lord Jesus can’t contradict Himself. If we find contradiction in the Bible, the fault is not with the Lord Jesus but it is elsewhere – may be in translation. The immediate context of the verse or the context of the chapter or the context of the book in the Bible or the context of the whole Bible would shed light of the verse in the question. If only we ask the Lord Jesus to make clear His understanding of His word, the Bible, He is always more than longing to help us to have the right view – ie His view.

BTW, the so called evolution science is first of all not a science even by the standard of science. If people want to believe that there is no God, they can believe what where they want but why kill science by portraying evolution as science.
Peter D.
To be pedantic, I'm not sure that ‘belief’ is the correct word to describe Jesus’ attitude to Genesis 1. To explain, I can believe something to be true without having empirical proof. On the other hand, if I have been personally involved, then I know it as a fact, not as a matter of belief. I think that because Jesus was directly involved in Creation, then it is more appropriate to say that because of His personal involvement, He made an authoritative statement about what had actually happened.
Jonathan Sarfati
Not so. A common definition of ‘knowledge’ is ‘justified, true belief’. I.e. ‘Person A knows proposition P’ is equivalent to ‘A believes P is true; P is true; and A has good justification for believing P is true.’
Grahame G.
Is this really one of the best emails you receive from critics? It's hard to believe that someone would submit such a shallow argument.

But I shouldn't be surprised. It's just disappointing that the ones I encounter who have much better arguments don't appear to have the courage to send them to you where they could be much better answered than by me.
Terry D P.
When Jesus was asked about marriage and divorce…
He [Jesus] asked in return, ‘Have you never read that the Creator made them from the beginning male and female?’ — Mt§19:4
Well, what is being overlooked in this, it seems, is the fact that Jesus was the Creator, as these and many other Scriptures prove…
WHEN ALL THINGS began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was. The Word, then, was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be; no single thing was created without him. — Jn§1:1-3
So the Word became flesh; he came to dwell among us, and we saw his glory, such glory as befits the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. — Jn§1:1-14
Ergo, the evolutionist’s tenet of a non-literal Genesis, incredibly, actually contradicts the Word of their Creator. Which begs the question: How is it possible for someone to have faith in the Son of God, if they don’t believe he knows the facts about what he created?
Hans G.
What's wrong with some people? God wanted the humans in flesh, so He made them so. Like Dawkins telling God what He could have made better. Does God needs an advisor?
Dean R.
How true (CMI's response) & yet how often are the Scriptures twisted to fit an ulterior motive.

The Spirit minded creation & Genesis bought forth flesh, first with plant & fruit flesh, then animal, then man, then woman. All by the Spirit of God within 6 days, then God rested.

The Scriptures tell us plainly, but again, many seek to mutate the purity & truth of the Gospel for their own ends & sadly lose the truth in the process (devolution).

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