Simple, pastoral book encourages Christians to believe Genesis
A review of The God of Creation: Truth and Gospel in Genesis 1, by Richard D. Phillips
Published: 31 October 2019 (GMT+10)
It is increasingly common for both pastors and theologians to tell us we should not take the creation narrative in Genesis as written. Thus, it is especially refreshing to read Richard Phillips’ excellent exposition of Genesis 1 in The God of Creation.
Phillips does a good job walking the uninitiated reader through the major arguments for taking the Bible at its word. Coming in at less than 200 pages, The God of Creation is an unintimidating read for someone unfamiliar with the arguments and terminology surrounding creation. This book is good for anyone, from a teenager encountering evolutionary arguments in a high school science class to a new Christian wondering what the big deal is regarding creation vs. evolution.
Theology of God the Creator
The book is organized around the events of Creation Week. Phillips begins by examining the statement “In the beginning, God…” (Genesis 1:1). He draws out how we can derive many of the attributes of God (His goodness, omnipotence, etc.) from the creation narrative itself. He also contrasts the Genesis narrative with the pagan creation narratives of the ancient world and refutes the notion that Genesis is derived from those stories.
Phillips rejects the Big Bang origin of the universe along with the billions of years that comes along with naturalistic views of the history of the universe. Both Christians and non-Christians have to agree that the universe has a beginning. Using the word ‘science’ as a shorthand for ‘evolutionary naturalism’, he writes, “But Christians differ from science in that our position is not absurd. Science declares that everything came from nothing—an objectively irrational claim. Christians say that everything came from Someone—a mystery, for sure, but not an irrational one.” (p. 15).
When one asserts that God created the universe, the most common follow-up is “Who created God?” Phillips answers this question by explaining God’s self-existence. God needs nothing and no one outside of Himself; indeed, the creation is continually dependent upon Him, not the other way around. Following from this is the fact that God does not change; He is always eternally the same.
Theology of Creation
After thoroughly covering what we can learn about God in the first part of Genesis 1, Phillips moves on to give a thorough treatment of the rest of the chapter. He defends creation ex nihilo versus creation from pre-existing matter and also refutes the gap theory, based on the Hebrew grammar of the first several verses of Genesis 1. He also covers the often-overlooked role of the Holy Spirit and the Son in creation, showing how the creation account is Trinitarian.
One of the most common attacks against the creation account is to interpret the days figuratively. Phillips asserts that when ‘science’ and the Bible seem to conflict, one should always land on the side of Scripture. This is because, though God does reveal Himself through nature, science always needs a human interpreter, and this interpretation is never infallible. Furthermore, science is constantly changing and even reversing previously confident proclamations. He points out that all non-literal interpretations of Scripture exist for the sole reason of harmonizing with ‘science’.
Refuting pagan parallels
It is common to hear claims like ‘Genesis is copied from pagan creation narratives’ and ‘Genesis teaches an ancient cosmology which had a solid dome sky’. Phillips refutes these while showing the contrasts between the Bible’s creation account and pagan stories. He also shows how the Bible’s language accurately describes the world as we know it.
Genesis vs. evolution
Phillips takes a brave stand against evolution, saying, “Christians should reject evolution because it is not proven and, more importantly, because the testimony of Scripture stands squarely against it.” (p. 109). He refutes common evolutionary ‘evidences’ such as human and chimp DNA similarity and also highlights the difference between ‘adaptation’, ‘speciation’, and evolution.
But the most devastating effect evolution had on Christianity is that it eliminates sin’s effect of bringing death into the creation. It also rules out the historical Adam as the ancestor of all other humans. As a result, the doctrine of salvation has to be reorganized. He explains, “The Christian doctrine of salvation is that the second Adam, Jesus Christ, has overcome the failure of the first Adam by his life of perfect righteousness and sin-atoning death. … But under evolution, this gospel addresses a sin problem that is mythical, not historically real. If creation and [the] fall are myths, then the Christian gospel cannot escape that same assessment.” (pp. 111–112).
Humans in the image of God
Genesis teaches that human beings are the special creation of God and are uniquely created in God’s image. Phillips equates this ‘image’ with the special and unique faculties that people have, compared to all other life forms. He also speaks about how the image of God in man was damaged in the Fall and restored in Christ and why it is significant that the Bible asserts that both men and women are created in God’s image.
Helpful pastoral and devotional exposition
Phillips’s book does not stop at the facts of creation, which are important, but goes on to explain how the facts connect to salvation in Christ. He makes a clear case that believing Genesis, as written, is important. This book defends a biblical view of creation while feeling much more devotional than apologetic. While he takes a denominational view of the Sabbath that some of our readers may not agree with, this does not detract from the overall helpfulness of this resource.