Loving the Bible too much?
(First published in CMI’s Update, August 2007.)
I’m sure that many of you, like me, must have often been frustrated at the number of good people you know in Christian circles who avoid the creation issue like the plague. And when you do press the point, you get that uneasy feeling that if they come out on any side at all on the matter, it’s definitely not going to be on the side of a ‘real’ Genesis.
I’m not talking here about the out-and-out apostates, those who say, for example, that the Bible ‘contains’ (rather than ‘is’) the Word of God. Such theological liberals do not believe in the authority of the Word of God. So they find it easy to overlook just about anything mandated in Scripture. So, logically, they see no barrier to ordaining a practising homosexual minister, even. After all, there is no such thing as any absolute biblical authority if the Bible is not regarded as true and without error in all that it teaches—every part of it, in context and ‘rightly divided’ (2 Tim 2:15). If we were to accept that some parts were mistakes, reflecting human fallibility or ignorance, then who is to say (other than fallible, mistake-prone humans themselves) which parts are mistaken and which parts are not? One may as well throw away the whole thing.
But here, I’m focusing on those who, while they reject God’s straightforward account of what He did in Genesis, are in all other respects evangelical Bible-believers. Let’s call them ‘evolution-compromising evangelicals’ (ECEs1 ). Many of them publicly stand on the correct side of issues such as ordaining homosexuals, or abortion, or the Resurrection—sometimes even bucking other portions of their own denomination. They are clearly committed to the historical, risen, crucified Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Those of you familiar with our materials would know how terribly inconsistent such ECEs are being on Genesis, which was clearly written as history. There is no hint of the NT writers seeing it as anything else. That’s how the Lord Jesus also took it—a lot of His words make no sense otherwise. For example, Mark 10:6 and other places where He makes it plain that people were there from the beginning, not millions of years after the beginning.
You probably also know how virtually any view other than straight six-day creation invariably puts the evidence we see in the fossil record for death, disease and violence/suffering prior to the Fall. (We would argue that the fossils are all post-Fall, most of them entombed in the Flood.) But if the fossils predate the Fall of man, what can that ‘Fall’ possibly mean? God’s Curse on the earth would then seem to have done nothing to the world. How could we then blame sin for ‘bad things’, such as cancer, since malignant tumours are found in the fossils? This means we would have the problem of a good God allowing such things senselessly.
The fatal flaw for all long-age views
In fact, if long ages were true (which means that the fossils existed before people), God must like such things as death, cancer and suffering—because He states, after people were created, that this world is all very good. But if He were looking at an ‘old earth’, He would be describing a graveyard of eons of cancer, suffering and death as ‘all very good’!
Such ECEs are unwittingly sawing off the branch on which they (and all Christians) are sitting. One of our ministry speakers a while back was at a university meeting in Sydney, Australia. While he was talking to one of those ECEs, a student was keenly taking in the whole conversation, as the ECE ducked and weaved about all the inconsistencies in his stance. After a while, the student interrupted and said, ‘I have to leave now, but listening to you two, I want to say something. I’m not a believer yet, but you [pointing to the CMI speaker]—you make sense. As far as you’re concerned [pointing to the ECE], you’re full of it!’ With that he spun on his heels and walked out, giving a friendly ‘thumbs up’ to the creationist. I know that in my own experience when I was an atheist at university, the ‘compromisers’ got very little respect for their position from myself and my fellow (at that time) humanists. Evolution/long-ages is so obviously not what the Bible teaches that the various ‘woolly compromise’ positions on Genesis are seen as an obvious cop-out.
ECE’s are often afraid that intellectuals will be ‘put off’ by a straightforward Genesis, but time after time we see the very opposite (think only of the 30 Stellenbosch University students that professed publicly receiving Christ after the CMI presentation, recorded on our new DVD Creation: The Key to Dynamic Witnessing.)
Why do they do it?
So why do ECEs take the stance they do? Many people, referring to discussions with them, describe something I’ve experienced myself. They say, ‘You have a rational conversation for a while, then when you make your main point, it’s as if the shutters go down, the eyes glaze over, and that’s it’. I.e., it’s more an emotional thing than a rational one. I recall once meeting a minister prominent in ECE circles. A CMI supporter had been dialoguing with him over months, bringing him to the point where the lights were just beginning to go on about the matter of death before sin, and the crucial Genesis-gospel links.
The meeting had clandestine overtones—he was fearful his colleagues would find out that he had been listening to the ‘dreaded creationists’. A personable fellow, he said smilingly, ‘You know, my tribe will not be happy that I’m even listening to you guys.’ He also said, ‘What you say makes so much sense biblically, but in a way, I don’t want it to. I don’t want to be forced to believe it.’
What emotions are driving it?
Perhaps I’m being too charitable, but I suspect that for many, their tragic ‘blind spot’ may actually be a misplaced demonstration of love for the Bible’s message. I think they are afraid that by exposing Genesis to the ‘real world’ of science, evidence and reality, it will fail the test. And with it will go everything they have stood for. Much easier to waffle on about things like, ‘O, you have to understand why Genesis was really written, it’s a theological discourse, not to tell you what really happened.’ (Funny, that—so why does Paul write about Adam’s fall into sin as if it really happened? And if it didn’t, what are we being saved from?) Then there’s the old standby, ‘You have to understand the literary genre’. (Actually, it’s historical narrative).
Unlike liberals, who have no problem with mistakes in the Bible, ECEs are under huge tension in the matter. Their whole position on the Gospel is based on the authority of the Bible. So, to hold onto that authority, they are forced to become evasive and fuzzy when asked why the plain Genesis history, repeated and alluded to over and over in gospel-crucial parts of the New Testament, does not mean what it seems to be saying.
For them, it seems easier to try to write creationism off as a ‘fringe’ movement, even though it is the historical position of the church through the centuries. It’s easier to use misleading slurs like ‘blind fundamentalism’ or ‘wooden literalism’ than to face the fact that the creationist position is garden-variety Christendom, based on time-honoured historical/grammatical principles.
In a sense, at the emotional level, they are loving the Bible ‘too much’, albeit in a very inconsistent way. They fear that if the history in Genesis is not protected from being exposed to falsification, it will fail. Imagine, though, if Paul were challenged with evidence against the Resurrection. We know from his own writings that he would not have become ‘fuzzy’ and ‘vague’, fearful that ‘they might be right’. No, he would have put it all on the line—if it’s not true, it’s all in vain, all for nothing (1 Cor. 15:17)!
And it is true—all of it. ECEs need to be reassured that a) honest exegesis shows that Genesis is to be taken just as Jesus and Paul took it, and b) that standing up for real Genesis history does not mean ‘flying in the face of facts’. In any case, as an Australian educator, an evolutionist, said: ‘The Genesis account of Creation may even be the correct one, but there is no way science can prove or disprove that, and the creationists know it.’2 Our ECE friends need to be lovingly shown that science, though a wonderful methodology, does not even have what it takes, philosophically, to disprove anything about origins.
Imagine how ECEs’ passion for Christ, unshackled from such unhealthy fears and freed from the pressure to massage and evade the force of the Bible’s teaching, could help impact the world!
The classic book for such folk, overwhelmingly powerful, is Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s Refuting Compromise. Then there’s the ‘cut-down’ version (we call it ‘RC lite’, deliberately small enough to be read at one sitting) by Drs Batten and Sarfati, 15 Reasons to Take Genesis as History.
Chris L wrote: ‘[I always thought] that Young Earth Creationists were people who were denying the obvious truth of an old universe. …
‘Just a week ago I found creation.com and was astonished at how wrong I had been. … [I have] found your arguments sound and biblical … [and] have become a believer in the literal reading of Genesis. Your desire to share the truth of how creation really occurred is appreciated by this changed mind. …
‘God bless all those at CMI who expose the bankruptcy of evolution, and an old earth interpretation of the Scriptures which clearly contradicts the intended meaning. May you continue to do as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 ‘We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’
You may know someone from that ‘tribe’—an evangelical who loves the Lord but resists the message of a real Genesis history of the creation. For the sake of the gospel’s penetration into our culture, getting that person ‘on-side’ is obviously vital.
God bless you for standing with us in this battle.
- I include in this arbitrary term the ‘progressive creationists’ because, though they are not Darwinists and reject biological transformism, in all other respects they accept the total evolutionary framework: cosmic and geological, and this dominates their understanding of the biblical text. Return to Text.
- MacInnis, P. (a prominent Australian science educator who has taught evolution at the Australian Museum), ‘The seven types of science’, http://www.abc.net.au/science/slab/macinnis/story.htm, 22 August 2002. Emphasis added. Return to Text.