Pastor defends Genesis against compromise
Lita Cosner interviews Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Dr Ken Gentry has recently retired from the pastorate after 37 years of ministry in conservative, evangelical Presybterian churches. He has been married to his wife, Melissa, since 1971. They have three grown children who are all Christians, and six grandchildren.
Ken holds a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Tennessee Temple College (Chattanooga, TN), an M.Div. from Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson), and Th.M. and Th.D. degrees in New Testament from Whitefield Theological Seminary (Lakeland, FL). He has spoken at over 100 conferences throughout America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is the author of over 20 books, and is committed to the full inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture and a holistic Christian worldview founded in Genesis 1–3.
LC: Would you tell me about your conversion to faith in Christ?
KG: I was saved by God’s grace as a result of my parents’ divorce when I was 16. My uncle (my mother’s brother) was a pastor and saw the turmoil in my life. Consequently, he paid to send me to a one-week youth ranch in Boca Raton, Florida. On the first night that I was there, I heard the first clear presentation of the Gospel I had ever heard, and the Lord used the message to open my heart to Him. As a child I had attended a somewhat liberal church where I only heard the very basics of Scripture, but without any strong call to believe its message.
What led you to become a pastor?
After my parents’ divorce (and my salvation), my mother moved back to her hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee. There we joined my uncle’s church where a conservative approach to Scripture was preached. I was very excited about my new life in Christ and became deeply interested in learning about the Bible.
When I graduated from high school, however, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life or what I should study in college. In my first year I was an art major; in my next two years I was an engineering major. Neither of these endeavours interested me as a life calling though. So I enrolled in a local Christian college (Tennessee Temple College) where I majored in Biblical Studies and eventually received a B.A. degree in that field.
While studying Scripture more academically, I realized how much I wanted to learn more about the Bible so that I might teach it to others. When I graduated from college I went off to seminary with the idea of becoming a professor in a Christian college. But as I studied more deeply in Scripture, the Lord convicted me that I should teach Christians of all ages, not just those of college age.
Through this deep interest and conviction, I prayerfully went into pastoral ministry. I was a pastor for 37 years and retired in March 2016 to engage in full-time research and writing in biblical studies.
Were you always a young-earth creationist, or did you struggle with other views?
Was your young-earth view ever challenged in your education?
By God’s grace, my first church as a born-again Christian was strongly conservative and deeply biblical. Therefore I was taught early on in my Christian life and experience the biblical doctrine of six-day creation. I never had committed to evolution, though I was aware of the scientific challenges to the biblical view.
It seemed obvious to me that if I accepted the New Testament message of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection that I must also accept the biblical revelation regarding six-day creation. Especially since Jesus himself cited Genesis 1 and 2 in declaring that man was created “from the beginning of creation” (Mark 10:6–7). If it was good enough for Jesus, it was good enough for me.
Given my conversion as a teenager, my membership in a Bible-believing church, my enrolment in a conservative Christian college, and my early calling to ministry, I did not have any struggles with biblical creation. It was a part of my salvation outlook and Christian academic training. Of course, I have learned much more about the proper exegesis of Genesis through my deeper studies, so some of my earlier interpretations were altered by strengthening.
As a pastor, why do you think it is important for Christians to understand biblical (six-day) creation and a global Flood?
Evolution virtually controls science, media, education, and government today. And evolution is built on the principle of naturalism. Consequently, Christians are surrounded with constant challenges to their faith. Therefore, they need a sure foundation for faith and life, which can only be found in God’s special revelation (Scripture) which informs them of a God-created universe.
The Bible presents us with the doctrine of creation in its very opening chapters, and elsewhere it frequently calls upon men to recognize God as their Creator. Christians need to hear the Creator’s call to believe in and serve Him. The creation narrative shows God’s goodness in creation, whereas the Fall narrative shows man’s responsibility for the turmoil that now afflicts God’s good creation. The world is not as God originally created it. Not only did God’s curse befall man and the world, but God also judged the world through Noah’s Flood.
Christians need a full-orbed world-and-life view, which must involve a view of creation as well as consummation. Today man is deemed to be little more than a chance collection of molecules bound together through chemistry. There are no absolutes and no basis for morality in such a worldview. But Genesis 1 informs us that man is exalted above nature as the very image of God who must recognize God as our ultimate authority. Historically the church’s creeds have all had a prominent place for the doctrine of creation. For instance, the Apostles’ Creed opens with: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” I am convinced that the decline of the church’s influence in the world today is directly related to her compromising Scripture’s message, particularly regarding the doctrine of creation. To end right, you have to start right. And you can only do that with the biblical view of creation.
What led you to write As It Is Written?
I was a pastor in a small conservative and Reformed denomination which was tolerating theistic evolution. They allowed ministers to hold to theistic evolution due to their tolerating a re-interpretation of the creation narrative known as the “Framework Hypothesis”. This is a 20th-century aberration that claims that the days of Creation Week were not days in history but a literary framework. I was appointed to a nine-member committee that was to study and debate the issues. Out of my work on the six-day creation side of that committee arose my first book on creation: Yea, Hath God Said! The current book, As It Is Written, is an updating and expansion of that earlier work.
How is creation important to your preaching when you are in passages of Scripture other than Genesis?
My holistic worldview always influences my preaching. I do not approach Scripture in a piecemeal fashion. The doctrine of creation is inescapable as I preach to men created in God’s image and living in a God-created world. My understanding of six-day creation constantly informs my preaching in that my commitment to the inspiration, inerrancy, and integrity of Scripture is foundational to my preaching.
If someone is concerned that their pastor has unbiblical views of creation, how would you encourage that person to proceed?
With respect and humility. The pastor has a position of authority in the church and has been called by the congregation to serve with that authority. Plus the church member should remember Paul’s exhortation: “the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to all” (2 Timothy 2:24). I would recommend that the pastor be approached privately, not challenged publicly. I would encourage the concerned member to get a good book that deals with the issue of creation and ask the pastor to read it so that they might discuss the matter together.
Thank you, Dr Gentry.
It is encouraging to know that in an age where compromise is becoming more and more common and accepted within the church, there are scholars like Dr Gentry who are defending the biblical doctrine of creation. As it is Written was a useful resource for me personally; for instance, I had never heard the argument that the plural yamîm, translated ‘days’, in Exodus 20:11 and 31:17 must be speaking of literal creation days, because the plural is never used of long ages.
Our conversation closed with an encouraging remark from Dr Gentry:
“Always remember that the Scriptures are the Word of God. Therefore, natural revelation (truth learned through nature) will never contradict special revelation (truth embodied in Scripture).”