New Testament doctrines and the creation basis
My primary concern in this article is the credibility of the Word of God, and the power of that Word to meet man's basic needs. To state this concern I draw especially on the Biblical account of man's creation and fall into sin and death.
Scientifically, it is regarded as a mark of integrity to present the facts and to form the model best harmonizing with those facts. I believe this to be true and I believe Creation is the best model. However, it seems that because the creation model is based on the Bible it is largely ignored. It is not that it has been tried and found wanting—but to too great a degree it has been disregarded.
Professor D.M.S. Watson stated:'Evolution [is] a theory universally accepted not because it can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.' [D.M.S. Watson, Adaptation, Nature 124:233, 1929]
Today, man still refuses to accept personal responsibility towards the message of the Bible and the God of the Bible, under the guise that science disproves the Word of God. It is not considered a credible book because the light of the all-pervading model of humanistic evolution now illumines the globe.
Sadly, much prejudice, even opposition, comes from within the Christian church. Concerning the liberal movement within the church, Dr. Francis Schaeffer writes:
'The real issue is whether one believes that the Bible gives factual truth from God: or whether it grew up as a cultural expression of the writer's day—i.e. that it was some sort of evolutionary development.'
For the Christian pastor, or teacher, or the individual believer, it is difficult to go 'into all the world and preach the Gospel' to people who already believe it to be irrelevant. Hence my concern for the credibility of the Word of God.
How do we interpret the first half of the book of Genesis and how does our interpretation relate to New Testament doctrines? In considering this question, it must be remembered that doctrine is based on exposition of Scripture, which itself is established upon an objective scientific understanding of the text. This exegesis requires, not a literal translation or application, but a literal interpretation.
Before the menace of the evolutionary hypothesis presented itself, about 500 years ago, Biblical scholars saw no need to consider the possibility of a gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. However, in time the threat asserted itself and with it came the unfortunate desire to accommodate the humanistic evolutionary theory.
The length of the days of creation did not traditionally pose a problem. That problem unfolded itself also in time as man began to subjectively question the content of the Bible. However, if the exegesis of the Bible is subjected to man's anti-supernatural bias, can it not have unlimited interpretations based on man's whims and fancies? Does it not then cease to be God's objective revelation? If we are going to honestly conduct an exegesis on a passage of Scripture then we ought to allow it to stand literally as it is written. It is wonderful that God has effectively communicated to man through His Word, so that all can understand His interest in His creation and respond to that Word without the help of other aids. Therefore, it can be said that true exegesis allows for a basically literal interpretation.
Consider the discussion regarding Genesis 1–11 as to what type of literature this passage contains: myth, allegory, or true history. The record presented in this passage reveals God as the all powerful Participant. Since God can have no more complex counterpart of Himself, it is impossible to allegorise this passage. God's testimony is clearly set out—'God said', 'God saw', 'God moved', 'God divided', 'God called', 'God made'. To treat God's testimony literally is to take the creation of Eve for Adam's sake literally; also the meaning of 'day'.
Unless the foundation of Genesis 1–11 is literally what it says it is, many New Testament doctrines fall and the integrity of the whole Word of God is at stake. Furthermore, God's testimony concerning Himself as Participator is flatly denied. Surely a denial of God in one part of the Bible produces profound impact on our responses to other parts of His Word—and affects the way we think and behave.
Let us consider then what the New Testament says on the subject.
1.The Doctrine of Creation:
(a) The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the Agent of all creation.
John 1:3 says: 'All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made.' And in John 1:10 a similar truth is stated, 'The world became through Him.' In writing to the Colossians, Paul declared 'for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him' Col. 1:16, cf. Ex. 20: 11 and Heb. 1:2.
(b) God has Purpose in Creation
The last phrase in Col. 1:16 denotes that 'all things have been created through Him and for Him.' The aged John wrote on Patmos (Rev. 4: 11): 'Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou has created all things and for thy pleasure they are and were created.'
All things exist for God's purpose and especially does this relate to man. Man is more than the pinnacle of creation—man is its very purpose. The fantastic created environment is simply the setting for that purpose, man, to walk in. And what is God's exalted purpose for man? Micah, the Old Testament prophet described it: 'to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God.' There is a quality, a characteristic essential to the being of man, something which sets him totally apart from the creation God placed him in, and that is stated simply in one brief word, 'trust'. Over and above every other characteristic, trust is essential to personhood. When God created man, he fashioned him to have trust. In Eden Satan inveigled himself at the level of man's trust, asking 'Hath God said?' ('is God trustworthy?'). 'Don't trust', was the basis of temptation.
God's unchanging purpose in creation is man, and His desire was and is that man should live in relationship with Himself at the level of trust. This basic creation truth is seen right through the New Testament and we miss out on the purpose of life if it remains hidden from us.
(c) God Sustains His Creation
This doctrine has also been called 'The Doctrine of Providence'. God did not set creation going like a clock, only to allow it to run down. There is continuity in His work. Col. 1:17 says: 'And he is before all things, and by him all things consists' (or 'hold together'). Apart from God's sustaining power, the whole created universe would fall apart.
(d) Our Response in Worship
This concept of creation found in the New Testament, that Jesus Christ is the Agent, that man is the purpose, and that God is the Sustainer, leads to the question, 'what should be man's response?' It has already been indicated that God made man to live in a relationship of trust towards Himself. The Psalmist exclaimed (148:5): 'Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created.' So there is a doctrine of a worship response from the creature, man, towards his Creator, God. The New testament, (Rev. 4: 11), supports the reason for that response—'Thou art worthy . . .'
(e) Creation is a Revelation of God
In the introduction to his Gospel John wrote, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' Having considered this verse, it is suggested we now relate it to v. 14, 'The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.' The One who was the Word, the Creator Himself, became the revelation of God to man. Paul states (Rom. 1:20): 'For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead so that they are without excuse.'
2. Creation Ex Nihilo (out of nothing)
The writer of the letter to the Hebrew Christians stated (Heb. 11:3) that the universe 'was formed by a word of God so that we understand that what became or came into existence, or is seen, was not from things appearing.' It is significant that this is consistent with Old Testament doctrine. Psalm 33:6 & 9—'By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth ... for he spoke and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast.' Creation was accomplished by His Word. All creation cannot be other than instantaneous. Nothing can be in a state of becoming. A thing either is or isn't. There is no in-between state. From the point where it is not to where it is, is instantaneous. People are threatened by the concept that God acted quickly. Even if God created just one molecule per year so that the work was spread out, it is still a fact that creation per se is instantaneous.
3. Creation of Adam and Eve
(a) First, let us look at Adam as an individual person—'one man'.
This concept relates to our teaching on original sin—(not to be confused with the doctrine on 'the origin of sin.') The doctrine of original sin deals with the reason why men and women have a universal propensity towards evil. Paul writes (Rom. 5:12)—'As by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin so death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.' 'Death passed upon all men', not because Adam sinned first (we are notorious for blaming him), but simply because all have sinned.
Another aspect of the individual Adam was bara creation—bara a word only occurring the creation account in Gen. 1:1, 21, 27—i.e. three times—a word referring to a specific creative act of God where there is no intermediate process.
In the New Testament genealogies, Luke quotes Genesis—in Luke 3:23–38, in which the specific individuals are recorded back to Adam. The Adam individual lived 930 years. (Gen. 5:5) The Luke genealogy covers a time of thousands, not millions, of years. Tribes and clans are not referred to in genealogies but individuals belonging to each generation.
(b) Not only is Adam referred to as an individual—but as the first individual.
(i) Adam—the first individual. Paul in 1 Cor. 15:45 writes 'the first man Adam'. This reference by Paul to Adam opposes the idea of any 'pre-Adamic' man necessary to substantiate any gap theory.
Does not any prior creation deny Genesis as Genesis? 'The first man Adam was a living soul, the second Adam a living giving spirit' (2 Cor. 15: 45). This is a very significant verse in relation to the whole view of creation because it rules out any pre-Adamic man. If there were a pre-Adamic race, then the Bible cannot be trusted.
(ii) Adam was before Eve. 1 Tim. 2:13—'For Adam was first formed, then Eve'. Writing to the Corinthians Paul reminded his readers that 'the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man' (1 Cor. 11:8,9).
(iii) Adam—specific flesh. Beyond the thought of Adam as an individual first man, there lies the teaching regarding his specific flesh ... 'All flesh is not the same flesh: out there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, ... '(1 Cor. 15:39).
(iv) Eve—a special creation. Regarding the creation of Eve, again I suggest we have to accept literally what the Word of God says. Either the creation of Eve was a special creation or it was a myth. However, if evolutionary development were taking place there would be no purpose or need for a special creation because production of males and females would spasmodically occur in all generations. Yet in the Genesis account we see Adam a single individual for whom God goes to great pain in bringing all those living creatures before Him, but finding none suitable as a help fit for him. So Adam remained alone, and God saw that he needed a companion. And so God undertakes His second creative act. When the Word of God says that 'male and female created He them', that is exactly what it means. Each was an individual creative act of God. Notice here that mankind is only mankind insofar as it is a complementary relationship of man and woman, not equal but complementary.
(v) Adam and Eve Naked. Genesis 2:25 describes the innocence before the fall in one word—'unashamed'. This is mentioned here because later when God clothed them, it was for moral necessity, not for physical protection. This moral need for clothing has prevailed ever since. Very few primitive tribes have been discovered who go totally naked. As an expression of rebellion and defiance towards God some 'civilised' people attempt to bypass the cross of Christ simply by throwing off their clothes. They think they can go back to a state of being unashamed by ignoring the necessity of the cross, i.e. the fact of sin.
4. The responsibility of Man
(a) From within the concept of man's being made in the image of God, two ideas emerge—'spirit' and 'likeness'—the idea of 'spirit' containing the thought of an exact replica—and 'likeness' containing the thought of similarity. Without pressing these thoughts too far, it nevertheless must be affirmed that we are spiritual beings, as God is a spiritual being. 'Similarity' however, suggests we are alike, but not exactly like Him. Man's ability to make a choice emphasizes our 'likeness' to God. Man is not a machine. He was given the ability to trust, to choose, and the opportunity to exercise these abilities in relation to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Adam and Eve refused this responsibility of trust and their failure resulted in sin, and so sin passed upon all men; all men however, having the individual responsibility for being sinners. Death entered too as a result of this failure (1 Cor. 15:21–22 and Rom. 5:12).
A pre-Adamic race, or any evolutionary process, would require that when Adam was made, all previously existing life forms would still be alive since death was unknown. Now that would hardly be evolutionary because selective advantages could not be in process of happening. New Testament doctrine lays down the thesis that death is the result of sin and therefore not something built in, as it were, with creation and its deterioration. That of course is consistent with our Second Law of Thermodynamics.
(b) Besides being made in the image of God, man was created with authority—so another responsibility is laid upon mankind—i.e. the responsibility to exercise dominion over the created order (Gen. 1:28). Adam had this authority uniquely. In the New Testament (Heb. 2:7), this delegated power is reinforced. Notice however, that it is only a derived power (1 Cor. 11: 3). Because of sin, mankind by and large does not recognise the hierarchy of authority but any dominion that is exercised responsibly is recognised as being derived from God. Any failure to recognise God means an abuse of authority which we see with tragic and widespread results today.
I believe the acceptance of the authority as described in 1 Cor. 11:3 is fundamental to embracing the Gospel.
All the miracles recorded in the New Testament required instantaneous creative action. At the marriage feast in Cane, the water was made wine. What did not exist at one moment was made to exist, and it happened instantaneously. The water needed an ingredient God alone could give. The Creator/God acted in New Testament days as in Old Testament days.
Lepers were healed instantly (Matt. 8:4).
Lazarus was called forth from the tomb and obeyed at once (Some sort or considerable creative activity of a significant scale is indicated here, since Lazarus had been dead four days.) (John 11:43).
The loaves and fishes multiplied in an instantaneously continuing action of creation.
All these things happened of that 'which did not appear'. The purpose of the miracles was to reveal God's glory (John 2:11), just as creation was to reveal God's glory as Paul wrote to the Roman Christians (Rom. 1:20).
It is important to grasp that there was instantaneous creative ability of the same God through the same Christ who had worked together with the Father in the beginning. In that way the miracles are quite natural. Let us especially appreciate the purpose: that God's glory might be revealed.
One further point is drawn from the concept of miracles—which is that of the mature age creation, or as some writers express it, 'the superficial appearance of age'. Furthermore, let us note that God created man—Adam, the individual—a mature man; and gave him Eve—a mature woman.
6. Future Hope
Rom. 8:19–23 gives a clear account of the reversal of the fall. The creation waits eagerly, expectantly, for the sons of God to be revealed.
The whole universe is hanging on tenterhooks, as it were, in hopeful anticipation of the second coming of Christ. We are hoping, waiting, longing—but creation is also, for that will mean its release from bondage as well. 'For the creation was subjected to frustration (a painful experience), not by its own choice but by the will of one who subjected it' (Rom. 8:20).
When man sinned, God placed creation under that deterioration—so creation at His coming will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Also, obviously inherent in this reversal of deterioration in creation, is the restoration of all things. God in intervention will turn it back and that will come through judgment. 2 Peter 3:9–12 deals with this aspect leading to the restoration.
To look at these facts, to understand what they say, means to do something about it. An alternative model for evolution would be a dead end if no response is forthcoming. Peter referred to this restoration in his sermon in Acts 3:19–21—' Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.'