“I’m a New Testament Christian”
Genesis provides the litmus test for the basis of Christian belief
Originally published in a CMI newsletter, August 2016
Some years ago while back in Australia I (Gary Bates) used to attend the annual National Prayer Breakfast at Australia’s Parliament House, the national seat of government in Canberra. The Parliamentary Christian Fellowship (PCF) was a network of Christian politicians who organized this annual event. So CMI’s attendance was an opportunity to network with other Christian leaders and also politicians who professed to be Christian.
Needless to say, politicians are often pretty clever people. After all, they’ve managed to persuade lots of people to vote for them. As a result they often understand the political hot potatoes; subjects to be sidestepped at all costs. And in the realm of Christian politics and biblical subject matter, taking strong positions on hot buttons such as same-sex marriage are similarly avoided by some of even the most conservative Christian politicians. In America, one of the first questions many evangelical candidates are asked during the primaries is “Do you believe in evolution?” or words to that effect. Even those Christian politicians who believe in biblical creation usually sidestep the question—because they know that the liberal media will have a field day ridiculing such beliefs, with headlines such as “Politician believes dinosaurs and man lived together!”
‘Jesus is all about love and acceptance’
I recall a conversation with the head of the PCF in Australia during one of my visits. I gave him all the convincing arguments about why Creation is relevant—arguments that most often sway Bible-believing Christians. His reply to me was “We don’t want to get hung up on Genesis and the Old Testament. Anyway, I’m a New Testament Christian.” His daughter, a media personality in her own right, has publicly supported gay rights within the church.1 So, presumably he thought (wrongly) that the New Testament is less condemning of those sorts of relationships. Some years later I similarly canvassed his successor (who was also the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia at the time) only to receive a similar “It’s not really an important issue for us to discuss.” Subsequently I sent him copies of Creation magazine and some books, but never even received a reply to my letters. I suspect this was a case of the sidestepping I mentioned earlier and his not wanting to be ‘trapped’ by making any comment or expressing an opinion.
Beliefs about Genesis are the issue!
While not everyone has such clear-cut motives for wanting to discount the history and teaching of the Old Testament, there are many Christians with a similar way of thinking. After all ‘We’re living in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ—we don’t need the Old Testament anymore.’ But this is not an idea you would get from the New Testament itself. Biblical Creation actually serves as a kind of litmus test for what someone’s Christian belief is foundationally based upon. Why do we say this?
The New Testament is replete with references back to the Old Testament, because its history records how God has intervened to bring about salvation for His people. And when it comes to Genesis there are over 100 references; every NT author references Genesis and the Lord Jesus Himself references Genesis on 16 occasions. 1 Obviously they weren’t just ‘New Testament Christians!’
Some people think that just focusing on the New Testament will absolve them from dealing with those ‘difficult’ creation passages, such as creation in six days, a global Flood, and a God who is willing to kill many people in judgment. However, the New Testament actually brings out the theological significance of creation and the global Flood even more than the OT passages outside of Genesis, and Jesus spoke more about God’s ultimate judgment and Hell than any other subject in Scripture.
“As in the days of Noah”
For instance, Genesis tells us that God decided to judge mankind’s sinfulness with a global Flood (Genesis 6:7), and that He warned Noah and commanded him to build an Ark to save himself, his family, and representatives of every kind of land animal (Genesis 6:13–14). It gives us the details of the Ark’s construction, dimensions, and cargo (Genesis 6:15–22), the length of the Flood and its different stages (Genesis 7:11–8:19).
But when you look at what the New Testament has to say about the Flood, it doesn’t just repeat the information from the Old Testament—the NT authors just assumed their readers knew Genesis. So, they brought out new information emphasizing the theological significance of the Flood. Jesus even compared the suddenness and comprehensiveness of God’s judgment in the Flood to how His return will be (Matthew 24:37–39). Peter referenced the Flood in reference to baptism (1 Peter 3:18–22). The author of Hebrews points to Noah as a model of having faith in the unseen (Hebrews 11:7). The theological points the NT authors draw from these OT events depends on the historicity of the events they’re referencing. If the global Flood was not a real judgment, it can’t point us to the reality of a future, final judgment. If the account of the fall of Adam is a sort of primordial ape-to-human evolution tale, then Paul’s arguments about why Christ needed to die in history to save us make no sense. How does one be a NT Christian if one doesn’t accept what the NT authors believed?
The real rubber meets the road issue—Genesis history!
Scratch beneath the surface of many popular theologians and their writings today such as Tim Keller, Alistair McGrath, Denis Alexander and William Lane-Craig2 and you will discover a massive inconsistency in their theology and apologetics. Although they may wax eloquent about the OT, many of them do not accept the Genesis narrative as real history, or at least not in any way that would exclude evolutionary explanations. But this creates other theological problems, because if Genesis is just some poetic framework, for example, then it does not have any real, historical foundational basis for any NT doctrine. This would include soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), because Jesus is actually the fulfillment of the OT Scriptures. When an ever-changing, secular view of the Bible’s history (evolution) becomes one’s basis for theology, then the Bible is no longer one’s authority. So there is a huge disconnect.
No natural division
It simply isn’t possible to divide the New Testament and the Old Testament and discount the latter while affirming the former. The way the Old Testament looks forward to the New, and the New Testament refers back to the Old, means that they stand or fall together. This powerful point is made visually with the graphic which represents the 2,800 cross-references in Scripture.
As we indicated above, many scholars mislead people into thinking that science has disproved Scripture’s statements about the creation of the world and human beings. We would argue that this is not a reconciliation of ‘science and Scripture’ that strengthens faith—it undermines it. For example, Bobby H. wrote and said:
“… I wanted you and CMI to know about a situation that happened here at church several months ago. … A young college age lady came up for prayer asking for help with her wavering faith. I asked why she thought it might be wavering. She said she was a geology student and all the information she was getting at school was causing her confusion. She has been a Christian for many years, but was now having some serious doubts regarding evolution etc. I am fairly solid in my apologetics in this area largely because of all the articles I have read on your daily emails. I offered her the website and we had a long conversation that completely changed her from wavering back to stronger faith. I saw her the next week and she said that she just loved the CMI site … A completely changed and increased faith, Glory to God!” (emphasis ours).
The reality is we are living at a time when there are more resources showing that we can trust the whole Bible than at any other time in history. And many of these resources are freely available on sites like creation.com. A quick search of our site can inform you on how to answer people who scoff that Noah could never have fit all the animals on the Ark, or who say that humans and chimps are 99% identical, so we must have evolved from a common ancestor.
In short, it has never been easier to equip yourself to be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you the reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). And this information changes lives, enabling Christians to share the Gospel with confidence, and even leading some people to faith in Christ as they realize that the Bible presents the true way of salvation. E.g. Homer C. emailed to say:
“I am one of the few who became a believer late in life. I was in my 60’s when the proverbial light turned on. It was because of sites such as yours that I became a believer.”
Or Geoff E. who said:
“First I would like to thank you for your incredible resources, they have been a source of information and a rock for my faith as an undergraduate in science (now doing honours). Thank-you again for your powerful and effective ministry.”
‘New Testament Christians’ are ironically operating from a view that did not exist in the minds of the NT authors. The Old and New Testament come together to tell one story covering the broad sweep of history. If we can’t trust the first chapters of Scripture that tell why we need a saviour, how can we trust the part that tells us about the Saviour and how to be saved?