Millions of years and the ‘doctrine of Balaam’
In Revelation 2:14 God, chastening the church in Pergamos, states, ‘But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.’ What is the doctrine of Balaam?
In Numbers 22–24 we read how the Moabite King Balak tried to get Balaam to curse the people of Israel, to destroy their effectiveness in warfare. However, God would not allow Balaam to do this. But in Numbers 25, we read that the Israelites sinned against God and so God judged them accordingly—thousands died. What caused this?
Balaam wanted God to be angry with the people of Israel, so he advised Balak to get some of the most beautiful women in his kingdom to draw the men of Israel into unclean and idolatrous practices.
Balaam knew that if the Israelites adopted pagan ways, God would not bless them as He had done. And so, the Israelites let the pagans influence them, instead of standing firm on the sure Word of God and His Holy Law!
Satan has used this ‘trick’ time and time again. The church at Pergamos had committed spiritual ‘fornication’ in allowing people to compromise the Word of God—allowing pagan ideas to be adopted into the church. 2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 11 also refer to people who have rebelled against God and are compared to Balaam.
Now what has all this to do with millions and billions of years? I believe Satan has used the same trick on the church today, as many Christian leaders have committed a form of ‘spiritual fornication’ in compromising with the world and thus have undermined the authority of the Word of the living God. How?
Read the following representative quotes from respected Christian leaders and look for the common element!
- ‘… we have shown the possibility of God’s having formed the earth and its life in a series of creative days representing long periods. In view of the apparent age of the earth, this is not only possible — it is probable. Nothing is to be gained by insisting that God had to create all things in six literal twenty four-hour days.’1
- ‘… Certainly, Genesis indicates that there were steps or stages. The debate is over the time duration of each step …. To be sure, the word “yôm" or “day" is almost always used to refer to a 24-hour period so the prima facie indication would be the same in Genesis … . My concern here is that the literary structure may indicate something else. …’2 From the same letter: ‘I have been open to an old-earth view because the Bible makes no claims about the date of creation.’
- ‘To rebut the literalist interpretation of the Genesis creation “week" propounded by the young-earth theorists is a central concern of this article.’ 3 ‘In this article I have advocated an interpretation of biblical cosmogony according to which Scripture is open to the current scientific view of a very old universe and, in that respect, does not discountenance the theory of the evolutionary origin of man.’4
- ‘From a superficial reading of Genesis 1, the impression would seem to be that the entire creative process took place in six twenty-four-hour days. If this was the true intent of the Hebrew author … this seems to run counter to modern scientific research, which indicates that the planet Earth was created several billion years ago … the more recently expanded knowledge of nuclear physics has brought into play another type of evidence which seems to confirm the great antiquity of the earth, that is, the decay of radioactive minerals.’5
- ‘I am afraid I simply don’t agree with you that the authority of Scripture is at stake in the issue of a non-literalist interpretation of Genesis 1–3 … . The issue for me is closely associated with the antiquity of the earth. I remain totally unconvinced by the attempts of the creationist lobby to defend a “young earth" position scientifically and I do not believe the “seven days" of Genesis 1 demands such a conclusion.’6
- ‘In our biology faculty we take a moderate view on origins. We all of course believe in creation, and all the full-time faculty believe that the earth is billions of years old.’7
- ‘… His private opinion as a layman with no training in the physical sciences, leans in the direction of a moment of creation that may have involved a “big bang" type of episode … . Whether that event occurred 6000 years ago or 4 billion years ago, or within a span of six literal, twenty four hour days, he doesn’t know, nor is he comfortable with those who claim without qualification that they do know.’8
Great preachers from the past offer wise words for us today …
Many Christian leaders scoff at people like ourselves for being dogmatic about the days of creation—yet they are no less dogmatic about allowing for the millions and billions of years.
But there is ‘no new thing under the sun’ (Ecclesiastes 1:9). In 1877, Charles Haddon Spurgeon had the same problem. What he said then needs to be proclaimed to the church today:
‘We are invited, brethren, most earnestly to go away from the old-fashioned belief of our forefathers because of the supposed discoveries of science. What is science? The method by which man tries to conceal his ignorance. It should not be so, but so it is. You are not to be dogmatical in theology, my brethren, it is wicked; but for scientific men it is the correct thing. You are never to assert anything very strongly; but scientists may boldly assert what they cannot prove, and may demand a faith far more credulous then any we possess. Forsooth, you and I are to take our Bibles and shape and mould our belief according to the ever-shifting teachings of so-called scientific men. What folly is this! Why, the march of science, falsely so called, through the world may be traced by exploded fallacies and abandoned theories. Former explorers once adored are now ridiculed; the continual wreckings of false hypotheses is a matter of universal notoriety. You may tell where the learned have encamped by the debris left behind of suppositions and theories as plentiful as broken bottles.’9
I have many other such quotes from Christian leaders—all saying basically the same thing—that they can’t believe in or insist upon six literal days of creation because they have accepted (or been influenced by) the evolutionary teaching of millions and billions of years.
Let’s be honest—if one just reads God’s Word, without any outside influences whatsoever, one would never get the idea anywhere of millions of years. This idea, which contradicts Scripture, comes from outside of it.
In fact, in my 20 years of creation ministry, I have found that in every instance where Christian leaders reject the six literal days and young Earth, it is ultimately because they have been influenced from outside of Scripture—particularly by the idea of millions and billions of years. Some will claim they reject the six literal days because of Scripture—but on further investigation, I have always found that the so called ‘scientific’ age of the Earth issue is the root cause.
As with the ‘doctrine of Balaam’, such leaders have let the world seduce them, and thus have compromised the Word of God. So what is wrong with Christian leaders believing in millions or billions of years?
- They are telling the church it is OK to interpret the Bible according to the fallible methods of fallible men. This ultimately undermines the authority of the entire Word of God.
- As soon as one allows for millions of years, one has to accept death, bloodshed, disease and suffering before sin, since the millions of years are invariably applied to the fossil record—which is a record of death, bloodshed, disease and suffering. This destroys the foundations of the Gospel message, as we have often demonstrated in this magazine.
- In essence, they are saying that God is unable to communicate to us clearly about origins—we have to trust the fallible scientists.
- They are fostering factual error. All truth is God’s truth, so real science must be built on God’s Word or it will lead to wrong conclusions.
- This compromise teaching is leading people away from simple faith in God’s Word, which brings the Lord’s condemnation.
Why would Christians be so quick to accept the results of man’s fallible dating methods as absolute? We have been so indoctrinated by the media and the education system, that it seems radical to believe in a universe created a few thousand years ago. There is a fear of being seen to deny ‘facts’. However, all dating methods are based on fallible assumptions by fallible humans (even the many which suggest a young age), and so should not be taken as absolute truth over the clear teaching of God’s Word!
Sadly, what seems to have happened within the church, is that the Bible is viewed as a book just like many others—it’s written by fallible men, so it needs to be interpreted according to the latest scientific theories, etc. But the Bible is not the word of fallible men—‘… it is in truth, the word of God …’ (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
Christian leaders would do well to consider the warning that the Lord gave the church in Pergamos concerning those who compromised the Word by holding the ‘doctrine of Balaam’. ‘Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth’ (Revelation 2:16).
The church is weak in our Western world—evolution-based humanism is taking over our nations. God is judging his church because of ‘spiritual fornication’—compromise with the world’s teachings.
My attitude to these Christian leaders of today is summed up nicely by the man who started the Reformation—the man who challenged the church to say Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), and return to the authority of Scripture—Martin Luther, who wrote:
’The “Days" of Creation were ordinary days in length. We must undertand that these days were actual days (veros dies), contrary to the opinion of the holy fathers. Whenever we observe that the opinions of the fathers disagree with Scripture, we reverently bear with them and acknowledge them to be our elders. Nevertheless, we do not depart from the authority of Scripture for their sake.’10
We need to give Christian leaders honour where it is due. Because they compromise in one area, does not mean everything they say cannot be trusted or used. However, Genesis is foundational to the rest of the Bible, and the way we approach Genesis will affect the way we approach the rest of Scripture. So if such leaders compromise the book of beginnings with man’s theories, then they must be lovingly held to account! The future of nations will be determined by what happens in this regard—it is indeed a serious issue.
References and Notes
- Genesis, an Expositional Commentary, James Montgomery Boice, p. 68. Return to text.
- Letter from R.C. Sproul,Ligonier Ministries, November 20, 1996. [Ed. note: Dr Sproul has recently been re-evaluating his position on this. See Famous evangelical apologist changes his mind.] Return to text.
- Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony, Meredith G. Kline, Westminster Theological Seminary in California p. 1. Unedited article prior to its appearance in Perspectives On Science & Christian Faith 48(1), March, 1996. Return to text.
- Ref. 3, Footnote 47, p. 34. Return to text.
- A Survey Of Old Testament Introduction, by Gleason L. Archer, p. 196–197, 1994. Return to text.
- Letter, September 25, 1996, from Roy Clements, Pastor, Eden Baptist Church, United Kingdom. Return to text.
- Letter from Dr John Brushaber, Chair Dept. of Biology, Asbury College, Kentucky, December 7, 1996. Return to text.
- Focus on the Family, letter from Carolyn Bush, Senior Correspondence Assistant to Dr James Dobson, October 28, 1994. Return to text.
- The Sword and the Trowel, C. H. Spurgeon, p. 197, 1877. Return to text.
- What Martin Luther Says: A Practical in-Home Anthology for the Active, # 4936, p. 1523, 1959. Return to text.