‘Just preach the Gospel!’
Or: how not to impress atheists
Many Christians who disbelieve biblical (‘young earth’) creation claim that it harms the witness to atheists. Thus they say we should avoid such divisive1 issues as Genesis and ‘just preach the Gospel’. However, how does that match up with the best Gospel preachers in Scripture?
Paul’s Gospel message included Genesis
For example, how did the Apostle Paul preach the Gospel? In 1 Corinthians 15, he summarizes the Gospel, and reminds the Corinthians that this is what he had previously taught them when he first evangelized them about 15 years earlier:2
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, … (1–4)
But note the last phrase, “in accordance with the Scriptures”. Paul explains that the Gospel, the ‘good news’, doesn’t dangle rootlessly in a vacuum. To explain the good news, Paul gave the bad news, that we need saving because we are sinners, and where this all began: the reason for the Gospel, when he continued:
For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. … The last enemy to be destroyed is death. … Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. … The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. … Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (21–22, 26, 45–49).
So even when preaching the Gospel, Paul firmly grounded this in the first few chapters of Genesis3—the very parts that many people urge us to omit!
The Apostle Paul also wrote the Epistle to the Romans, the most profound exposition of the Gospel in the Bible. Here, Paul also contrasts the two men, Adam and Jesus.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned … Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses … But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. (Romans 5:12–15)4
And in the previous chapter (Romans 4:1–17), Paul teaches the vital truth of justification by faith alone not by works. Paul’s argument is based on the order of events in Genesis—precisely because “ Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—faith (Genesis 15:6), before he was circumcized—a work (Genesis 17).5
It’s notable how Paul expected his readers, some of the first Gentile converts in history, to know Genesis well—and accept it as history.6 And could they know Genesis unless they were taught it? This shows that the first Christian converts were thoroughly taught the book of Genesis right near the beginning of their discipleship.7
Atheists know the Genesis basis for the Gospel
The major reason for the atheists’ rejection of the Gospel is that it is “foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18). And one reason today for the apparent foolishness is that many evangelists try to preach the Gospel without its Genesis foundations. And the atheists rightly see this as foolish. E.g. vocal American atheist Frank Zindler:
The most devastating thing though that biology did to Christianity was the discovery of biological evolution. Now that we know that Adam and Eve never were real people the central myth of Christianity is destroyed. If there never was an Adam and Eve there never was an original sin. If there never was an original sin there is no need of salvation. If there is no need of salvation there is no need of a saviour. And I submit that puts Jesus, historical or otherwise, into the ranks of the unemployed. I think that evolution is absolutely the death knell of Christianity.8
Like Zindler, the Apostle of Atheopathy, Richard Dawkins,9 has no time for those who try to marry evolution with Christianity:
Oh but of course the story of Adam and Eve was only ever symbolic, wasn’t it? Symbolic?! So Jesus had himself tortured and executed for a symbolic sin by a non-existent individual? Nobody not brought up in the faith could reach any verdict other than ‘barking mad’!”10
Problem of death and suffering
In the above passages, Paul clearly links death and suffering to Adam’s sin. For Paul, death is the “last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26) and “the wages of sin” (Romans 6:23)—so it couldn’t have been part of God’s original creation, which He called “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Furthermore, mankind’s dominion over the whole creation (Genesis 1:26–28) meant that when Adam sinned, the whole creation under him was cursed as well. So the Fall was cosmic in scope, affecting the entire creation.11 As Romans 8:22 says, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now”—because God Himself subjected the creation to futility when Adam fell (v. 20).12
However, denying Genesis by trying to mix millions of years with the Bible causes a huge problem. These vast eons entail that the rocks were laid down over that time frame. But these rock layers contain fossils. And fossils are the remains of dead things! This includes dead humans,13 animals,14 and thorns.15 Yet this billions-of-years dogma puts most of this death before Adam’s sin, undermining the consistent biblical sin-death causality. Many long-age Christians are unaware of these problems (a major reason we don’t claim that long-age believers are not saved16).
Theistic evolution is even more illogical (which is saying a lot!), because this posits that death, “the last enemy”, is even the means by which God brought about His “very good” creation. Listen to Darwin himself:
Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.17
One must wonder whether theistic evolutionists realize what they are claiming. But once again, alert atheists know only too well. E.g. David Hull (1935–2010), an American non-Christian philosopher of biology (and prominent homosexual activist):
Whatever the God implied by evolutionary theory and the data of natural history may be like, He is not the Protestant God of waste not, want not. He is also not a loving God who cares about His productions. He is not even the awful God portrayed in the book of Job. The God of the Galápagos is careless, wasteful, indifferent, almost diabolical. He is certainly not the sort of God to whom anyone would be inclined to pray.18
The atheistic Nobel-Prize–winning geneticist Jacques Monod (1910–1976) was even more direct, saying that evolution is:
The more cruel because it is a process of elimination, of destruction. The struggle for life and elimination of the weakest is a horrible process, against which our whole modern ethics revolts. An ideal society is a non-selective society, is one where the weak is protected; which is exactly the reverse of the so-called natural law. I am surprised that a Christian would defend the idea that this is the process which God more or less set up in order to have evolution (emphasis added).19
As shown in the first section, Paul used Genesis extensively in his Gospel preaching and writing. Indeed, it’s clear that he and the other Apostles taught new Christians extensively about the true history of Genesis. We should follow his example!
Also, theistic evolutionists fondly imagine that concessions on evolution will win over the atheists. Sadly, much of the church has tried this for the one-and-a-half centuries since Darwin wrote his Origin. The Church of England even apologized to him!20 But atheists remain totally unimpressed. It’s hard to say it better than one creationist blogger who rebuked the theistic evolutionary organization BioLogos:
By your compromise, (A) you are not winning them over, but (B) are signalling to them that they are winning you over. They will simply wait you out, until you continue in your process of jettisoning everything the world hates about you as a Christian. After all, if they can get you to toss [throw out] such a straightforward chapter [Genesis 1], the rest should be child’s play.21
References and notes
- To deal with that charge, see Batten, D., But it’s divisive! creation.com/divisive, explaining that the divisive ones are really those who deny biblical teaching (Romans 16:17). Return to text.
- Anderson, D., creation.com/easters-earliest-creed, 8 April 2007. Return to text.
- Cosner, L., Christ as the Last Adam: Paul’s use of the Creation narrative in 1 Corinthians 15, J. Creation 23(3):70–75, 2009; creation.com/1-corinthians-15. Return to text.
- Cosner, L., Romans 5:12 21: Paul’s view of a literal Adam, J. Creation 22(2):105–107, 2008; creation.com/romans5. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., Why Bible history matters, Creation 33(4): 18–21, 2011; creation.com/bible-history. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., Genesis: Bible authors believed it to be history, Creation 28(2):21–23, 2006; creation.com/gen-hist. See also Batten, D., and Sarfati, J., 15 Reasons to Take Genesis as History, CBP, 2006. Return to text.
- Cosner, L., What the New Testament doesn’t say, creation.com/nt-doesnt-say, 11 September 2012. Return to text.
- Zindler, American atheist, in a debate with well known Christian apologist William Craig, Atheism vs. Christianity video, Zondervan, 1996. Return to text.
- Dawkins calls theistic religion a “virus of the mind”, which would make it a kind of disease or pathology, and parents who teach it to their kids are, in Dawkins’ view, supposedly practising mental child abuse. But the sorts of criteria Dawkins applies makes one wonder whether his own fanatical antitheism itself could be a mental pathology—hence, ‘atheopath’. Return to text.
- Dawkins, R., The root of all evil? Channel 4, UK, 16 January 2006. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe: Hugh Ross’s blunders on plant death in the Bible, J. Creation 19(3):60–64, 2005; creation.com/plant_death.
- For a thorough treatment of the implications of the Fall taught by Romans 8, see Smith, H.B., Cosmic and universal death from Adam’s Fall: An exegesis of Romans 8:19 23a, J. Creation 21(1):75–85, 2007; creation.com/romans8.
- For a thorough documentation of death, disease and injury in human fossils, and the problem for old-earth beliefs, see Lubenow, M., Pre-Adamites, sin, death and the human fossils, J. Creation 12(2):230, 1998; creation.com/pre-adamites.
- Gurney, R., The carnivorous nature and suffering of animals, J. Creation 18(3):70–75, 2004, creation.com/carniv.
- Catchpoole, D., Drawing power The famous Eden on bones illustration has a new stablemate, Thorns before sin , doubling the impact, creation.com/drawing-power, 16 August 2012.
- Moritz, K.P., creation.com/can-christians-believe-evolution, 21 October 2010. Return to text.
- Darwin, C.R., On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, 1st ed., p. 490, John Murray, London, 1859; darwin-online.org.uk (emphasis added). Return to text.
- Hull, D., The God of the Galápagos, Nature 352:485–86, 8 August 1991. Return to text.
- Monod, Jacques, The Secret of Life, ABC interview, Australia, 1976. See also Gadsby, P.W., Jacques Monod and theistic evolution, Creation 3(2):18–19, 1980; creation.com/monod (emphasis added). Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., Church of England apologises to Darwin, creation.com/anglican, 20 September 2008. Return to text.
- Cited in Cosner, L., Evolutionary syncretism: a critique of Biologos, creation.com/biologos, 7 September 2010. Return to text.