The resurrection of Jesus and the beginning of creation
This article is in three parts:
Part 1: What the resurrection tells us about God, the world we live in, and Jesus
There is no question that the Bible’s teaching concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It is the central affirmation on which the truth of the Gospel hinges. If Jesus rose from the dead in a literal, physical sense, as the Bible affirms in many places, the whole system of Christian doctrine is established by this one fact alone. On the other hand, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, the whole system of Christian doctrine collapses like a house without a foundation. Therefore, the resurrection is the key event in history that sheds light on the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. In the light of the resurrection we can clearly see the reason for His coming into the world, the meaning of His death on the cross, and the power that has been given to Him as the only Lord and Saviour of men. The resurrection is the cornerstone of the Gospel, for it establishes the infallible truth of all that Jesus taught during His life on earth.
Key Bible doctrines
I want to develop this concept of the centrality of the resurrection by considering the extent to which the resurrection of Christ can help us resolve some of the pressing theological questions that the church is facing today. We are living in days of much doctrinal confusion, days in which the truth of many basic doctrines of the faith are being called into question. Which doctrines? Doctrines such as:
- the creation of the world by the direct and miraculous operation of God;
- the descent of the entire human race by natural generation from one human couple especially created by God at the outset of history;
- the creation of Eve after Adam and from the physical substance of Adam;
- the historical Fall of mankind into sin through the first sin of Adam;
- God’s design for marriage as exclusively heterosexual in nature;
- the Flood as a real event of history that destroyed all mankind except for the eight people who were in the ark;
- and the division of tongues at Babel as a real event of history.
Today, all these doctrines are being questioned, even among those who identify themselves as evangelical Christians, and as a consequence, great doctrinal confusion reigns in many churches, in Europe, the United States, and across the western world.
I find the current situation lamentable, and I ask myself if God is pleased with it. Is He pleased that there is so much confusion on these matters about which there has been such a strong consensus in the past among those who claimed to believe in the authority of Scripture? If God is not pleased with the existing situation, then why are things the way they are? Is the Bible such a confusing book, so dark, so difficult to understand, that we can never arrive at any strong convictions about what it is teaching concerning the origin of the world and mankind? Or does the problem lie with us instead? Is there some internal barrier in us that is preventing us from seeing what these first chapters of the Bible are clearly telling us?
I am increasingly convinced that one of the strategies that Satan has used to weaken the testimony of God’s people in the face of an unbelieving world has been to cast doubt on the meaning of the early chapters of the Bible. Why do I say that? Because if you are in doubt concerning the correct interpretation of these chapters, that will produce an agnosticism regarding the interpretation of other parts of the Bible as well. For example, if you question the existence of Adam as a real person in history, what are you going to do with the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 5 when he says that “sin came into the world through one man” and that “one trespass led to condemnation for all men” (Romans 5:12, 18)? If you sow doubts about the veracity of Genesis as a record of actual historical events, in the end you sow doubts about the interpretation of the entire Bible. You sow doubts about the Gospel itself, and what Christ has accomplished by his death on the cross. In addition, you sow in the hearts of believers a sense of insecurity as to their own ability to read and understand with confidence what the Bible is saying (see Restoring confidence in the Bible and its Author).
That is why it is crucial that we consider the resurrection of Jesus—in order to see if this central confession of Christian faith can help us to resolve these doctrinal challenges that the Church is facing today. Is there a link between the resurrection of Christ and the correct interpretation of the book of Genesis? If the doctrine of resurrection occupies such a central place in the whole system of Christian doctrine, is it possible that it is the key to interpreting correctly the first chapters of the Bible? I think so. I believe that the resurrection of Christ sheds light on the whole Bible, and if we hold unwaveringly to our belief in the resurrection of Jesus as the starting point for our thinking about everything else, this great doctrine will serve as a beacon of light to lead us to the correct interpretation of Genesis—Jesus taught it as history both before His resurrection (e.g. Matthew 19:4–5; 23:35) and afterwards (Luke 24:27).1
As Christians, we have a moral obligation to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), and one thing this implies is that we must labour to bring all of our thoughts into alignment with the first principles of our faith. This is something that logic itself requires. If the conclusions we draw on any issue conflict with the first principles of our belief system, we are not thinking logically or coherently. To think logically, we must be guided in all our reasoning by the first principles of our faith. For the Christian, this means that we must always think according to the fundamental doctrines of our faith; and as we have seen, there is no doctrine more fundamental than the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To arrive at a valid conclusion about the correct interpretation of Genesis 1 to 11, then, we must make sure that any conclusion we draw is in accordance with the resurrection of Jesus and the corollaries that flow out of His resurrection. If our conclusion about Genesis does not agree with the resurrection and its corollaries, it cannot be valid.
What does the word ‘corollary’ mean? A corollary is a logical conclusion derived from a previously established truth. When we think of the resurrection of Jesus, we can think of several corollaries of that event, because the resurrection is not mute but an event that speaks. It tells us certain things. What truths are established by the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead?
I. What the resurrection tells us about God
It tells us in the first place that God exists, and that He is a God of infinite power who is not limited to acting always within the limits of the laws of nature. He can act outside those limits. As one writer has said, “The resurrection witnesses to the immense power of God Himself. To believe in the resurrection is to believe in God. If God exists, and if He created the universe and has power over it, then He has power to raise the dead. If He does not have such power, He is not worthy of our faith and worship. Only He who created life can resurrect it after death, only He can reverse the hideousness that is death itself, and only He can remove the sting and gain the victory over the grave (1 Corinthians 15:54–55). In resurrecting Jesus from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute sovereignty over life and death.”2
In addition to speaking of the power of God, the resurrection also speaks of God’s faithfulness, because God raised Jesus in fulfillment of the promises which He had given beforehand about this event. For example, through the prophet Isaiah, who lived eight centuries before the coming of Jesus, God clearly said that the coming Messiah would live again after dying for the sins of God’s people. “When his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand” (Isaiah 53:10). So, the resurrection tells us about God’s faithfulness, as well as his power.
II. What the resurrection tells us about the world we live in
It tells us that the world is not as many scientists today conceive it to be—what Francis Schaeffer calls “a uniformity of natural causes in a closed system.”3 One of the reasons why many scientists today do not believe in the God of the Bible is because they see the universe as if it were a completely self-contained system closed to any miraculous interventions by God. They believe that everything that happens in the realm of nature can always be explained in terms of natural processes observable to human sense and understandable to human reason. Consequently, all events in the ancient past that have served to shape the world as we find it today must be explicable in purely naturalistic terms; there is never any need to appeal to a supernatural intelligence or power outside of nature to explain anything within nature.
The resurrection of Christ demonstrates the fatal error of this way of thinking, however, for Christ was raised from the dead by a miracle of God and not by any force found within nature itself. No force within nature can ever explain how a body that was dead can rise from the dead, or how it can appear in various places and at various times to many different people. No force within nature can explain how that body can visibly ascend to the heavens before the eyes of men and then be hidden from their eyes by a cloud. These events demonstrate the absolute bankruptcy of philosophical materialism; they warn us against seeing science as if it were infallible in its proclamations, or the only reliable source of knowledge concerning the remote past. There are events that have occurred in the past of which we would have no knowledge at all apart from the personal, verbal testimony of the only eyewitness to those events—God Himself. His testimony is more reliable than the testimony of all men put together.
III. What the resurrection tells us about Jesus Himself
First, it tells us that, without a doubt, Jesus is the Son of God. Paul affirmed this link between the resurrection and the identity of Christ when he wrote that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1: 4). Why does the resurrection confirm the identity of Jesus as the Son of God? Because during his earthly ministry, Jesus said on several occasions that he was the Son of God, and if he had been lying, God would surely not have honored him by raising Him from the dead. The resurrection is the divine seal confirming the truthfulness of Christ and his divine authority as the Son of God.
In addition to confirming his identity, the resurrection confirms his teaching authority, because as the Son of God, He is an infallible Teacher, instructing men with the authority of God Himself. He claimed such authority in John 12 when He said that his words had authority to judge men, because they came from the Father who had sent him into the world: “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me” (John 12: 49–50). It is very clear what Jesus is saying; He is affirming in no uncertain terms that all His teaching ought to be received as true, because it is backed by the authority of Heaven itself. The true God has put words of truth in the mouth of his Son, and those words must be received with confidence, because they come from heaven.
Part 2: What Jesus tells us about the Old Testament
We have seen that Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead confirms both His divine identity as the Son of God and His infallible authority as a Teacher. He has come from heaven to teach faithfully the truth taught Him by the Father (John 8:28). His words can be trusted, therefore, because they are backed by the authority of Heaven itself.
If Jesus possesses infallible teaching authority, that authority must surely extend to what He taught about the Old Testament. It would be a totally incoherent position to say that Jesus speaks with authority when He speaks of salvation or the love of God, but not when He speaks to us about the Old Testament. However, there are people who take this incoherent stance. They say that when Jesus speaks about the Old Testament, his words reflect the erroneous beliefs of the Hebrew culture in which he was raised, and therefore, they do not come to us with the infallible divine authority of God Himself. But it is not right that we should impute to Christ’s words at any point the character of fallibility. That is to deny to Jesus the authority He claimed in John 12:49–50. Consequently, if we believe Jesus’ claim to divine authority, all that He taught about the Old Testament must be true; otherwise, we could not see Jesus as God made man, but would have to see him as a fallible teacher like any other, with no unique, special authority. If He were right in ninety-nine percent of what He taught, the occasional error in His teaching would erase any essential distinction between Jesus’ authority and that of any other man.
It is true that Jesus acknowledged His ignorance of the timing of His second coming because it was not the Father’s will for Him to know it (Mark 13:32); but we should not assume that this confessed limitation (as touching His human nature) influenced the character of His teaching by making it fallible or subject to error. None of His words would be spoken out of ignorance. Consequently, we can be assured that everything Jesus asserted about the Old Testament is true. Nothing He taught about the Old Testament was based on culturally inherited ignorance of the truth.
So what did Jesus teach about the Old Testament? First, He affirmed at the beginning of his ministry the unshakable authority of the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17–18). Clearly, Jesus considered the writings of Moses and the prophets to be absolutely infallible and without error in their teaching. He believed that these writings had an authority that would last until the end of the world, for “until heaven and earth pass away,” Jesus said, “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Therefore, we can say that Jesus believed in the infallible authority of the prophetic writings, because he believed that all that the prophets had written had proceeded from the mouth of God.
Moreover, besides confessing the infallible authority of the Old Testament, He manifested a personal dependence on that authority. When Satan tempted him in the wilderness, for example, repeatedly, He relied on the judgment of the Scriptures to answer the father of lies. “It is written”, he told the devil again and again. He rested on the teaching of the Old Testament as the final answer to any controversy. He appealed to its teaching to resolve theological questions. When the Sadducees mocked the doctrine of the resurrection, Jesus rebuked them by saying that the root of their error was their ignorance of the Scriptures. “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” (Mark 12:24). In addition, Jesus interpreted His whole mission in this world in the light of the Scriptures. Why could He not avoid going to the cross? Because as Jesus Himself explained, were He to have taken the easy path by fleeing the cross, “how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” Jesus understood that it was necessary for Him to endure the pain of the cross, “that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled” (Matthew 26:54, 56). Such statements make it plain that Jesus believed in the plenary (verbal) inspiration of the Old Testament writings and their absolute authority as a revelation from God.
It should be noted that Jesus’ view of the Old Testament did not change when He rose from the dead. Even after His resurrection, we see Him appealing to the infallible authority of the Law and the Prophets in his discourse with two doubting disciples on the road to Emmaus. His words of rebuke to them show clearly His confidence in the inerrant authority of the Scriptures: “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25–27).1
In addition to believing in the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament, Jesus believed in the clarity of its teachings, as well. He did not see the Old Testament as an ambiguous book written in some mystical code, complicated, obscure and difficult to decipher. On the contrary, Jesus believed in the essential clarity of the Scriptures. That is why, many times when he was discussing a point of doctrine or ethics with the religious leaders of Israel, he expressed his astonishment at their ignorance of the truth by saying, “Have you not read?” It is an expression Jesus used on more than one occasion (Matthew 12: 3, 5; 19:4; 21:16, 42; 22:31), and it shows that He believed in the essential clarity and comprehensibility of the Old Testament. The Bible does not have to remain a closed book to anyone. It is clear in its fundamental teachings, so clear, in fact, that if anyone seeks to understand it by studying it with diligence, using the ordinary means, and comparing passage with passage, he can arrive at a deep understanding of its contents.
For example, when the Pharisees asked Jesus about God’s attitude toward divorce, he responded by reminding them of the divine purpose for marriage revealed in Genesis 2: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4–6). At the outset of His answer to their question, Jesus says, “Have you not read?” He is saying that the Bible’s teaching on God's purpose for marriage is quite clear if one takes the time to read what the Bible says on the subject. The teaching is so clear, in fact, it leaves no room for doubt. What God says in Genesis 2 about marriage is so easy to understand that no one could possibly miss it if they only read the Bible. There is nothing ambiguous in the text; everything is clear, straightforward and simple. God created the first man and the first woman. He brought them together to be united as “one flesh.” Thereby, He established the institution of marriage, and what He did in Eden set a pattern for all mankind to follow to the end of the world.
The interesting thing is that the passage that Jesus quotes is from the second chapter of Genesis. It seems obvious, from what Jesus says, that He saw the events recorded in Genesis 2 (and by implication, all the early chapters of Genesis) as real events that took place in the historical past. I say this because of the way Jesus grounds those events on the timeline of history with the expression “from the beginning”. “From the beginning [God] made them male and female.” “Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8). From the beginning of what? From the beginning of Genesis as a work of literature? No; from the beginning of history itself: or as Jesus says in Mark 10:6, “from the beginning of creation”; i.e. “from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’ ”—see Jesus on the age of the earth. (Incidentally, that statement shows that God ordained two and only two gender identities, male and female). So Jesus did not consider the story of the first marriage recorded in Genesis 2 as a parable, allegory, fable or myth; He regarded it as the reliable record of a real historical event that occurred at the beginning of the world. God created Adam; afterwards, He created Eve; then after that, He gave Eve to Adam as a wife.
Likewise, when Jesus speaks of Abel's death in Luke’s Gospel, he sees that death as a real historical event. In Luke 11:50–51, he places Abel, the first martyr of history, in the same category with Zechariah, the last martyr mentioned in the Old Testament; and He tells His Jewish contemporaries that, by rejecting the Son of God, “the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation.” Jesus did not see Abel as a legendary figure born of human imagination, but as a real historical figure—a prophet, in fact—who lived at the dawn of history and who turned out to be the first martyr whose blood was shed in the world as a testimony to his righteous character. And Jesus not only saw Abel as a historical figure; He also saw Noah, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and Jonah in the same way—as people every bit as real as you or me. In fact, He even conversed with two of them, Moses and Elijah, on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–3). This leads us to an important conclusion: that Jesus did not distinguish between the historicity of the early chapters of Genesis and the rest of Genesis, or the rest of the Old Testament. He regarded the events recorded in the early chapters of the Bible as every bit as real and historical as the events that took place in the lives of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph—clearly Jesus believed Genesis.
Now if we regard Jesus as our Lord and Master, then it follows (does it not?) that how He viewed Genesis must determine how we view Genesis. If we truly accept the magisterial authority of Christ as our infallible teacher, we have every right on that basis alone to see and receive the teaching of the first eleven chapters of Genesis as a faithful record of real historical events. These chapters provide us with very important information about what happened at the dawn of history, information that is quite necessary to understand the world as we find it today. These chapters shed light on God’s purpose for human life and His plan for history. We do not have to see the events recorded here as an elaborate allegory that communicates a purely ‘spiritual’ message having nothing to do with the material origin of the world and mankind. According to Jesus, these chapters tell us what really took place in space and time at the beginning of the world.4
Part 3: What Genesis tells us about the beginning of the world
In parts 1 and 2, we sought to show how Christ’s resurrection casts light on the whole system of Christian doctrine by virtue of the corollaries that flow from that event. If Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead, that one event confirms His identity as the Son of God and His infallible authority as a Teacher. Logically, that authority must extend to what He taught about the Old Testament. From his debate with the Jews, it is clear that Jesus regarded the teaching of Genesis on the origin of marriage as a straightforward account of real historical events. The Jews had no excuse for any confusion regarding God’s design for marriage in light of His dealings with Adam and Eve at the outset of history. Consequently, if Jesus viewed Genesis 2 as both authoritative and clear in its teaching as an historical record, the implication is that he viewed the rest of the creation narrative in Genesis in like manner. That leads us to one further question which we now deal with: What do we learn from the book of Genesis about what took place at the beginning of the world?
If we view the Genesis record as Jesus did, as an inspired, true, and clear account of events that took place at the “beginning of creation”, we can surely draw the following conclusions about what it teaches:
- First, we learn that everything that exists was made by the infinite power of God, who created the world and all things that are in it within the space of six days of light and darkness.
This is how each creation day is defined according to Genesis 1:5, as a period of time composed of two shorter periods, a period of light called “day” and a period of darkness called “night”. The combination of these two periods, one of light (Day) and one of darkness (Night), involving evening and morning, constitutes one creation day. And in the space of six days, thus defined, God created the world.
It is true that there are mysteries associated with these days. For example, we cannot determine what the source of light was during the first three days of creation. Clearly these were days of light and darkness, just like the other days, but they were not days governed by the sun, because the sun, moon and stars were not formed and placed in the sky as “light bearers” until the fourth day. This is quite mysterious, and makes us wonder, how can there be light without luminaries? There is mystery here; however, the mystery does not allow us to justify identifying the creation days with long geological periods of history encompassing countless days and nights. Rather, if we are going to stick to the text, we need to conceive of these days as six sequential periods of rotating light and darkness, during which God created the world and everything in it, giving it form and filling it with all kinds of living things. It seems completely unwarranted to regard these days as a mere literary device. We also know this because, in Exodus 20, when God gave the Sabbath to the Jews and commanded them to keep it, He pointed to His own example in making the world as the basis of the commandment. The Jews had to work six days and rest the seventh in order to imitate God, since God Himself followed this same pattern when He created the world. He worked six days, completed His work, then entered into repose on the seventh day—Scripture records that God himself said this.
- Second, we learn that creation when it came forth from God's hand was very good.
We read in Genesis 1:31 that after finishing the work of the sixth day, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” The expression “very good” suggests that the world as it came forth from God’s hand was originally free from those things that the Bible associates with the entrance of sin into the world—things like violent death, widespread carnivorous activity, and terrible diseases such as cancer, etc. It is true that the scientific consensus today asserts that all these natural evils have been present in the world from the beginning. They believe that no significant change has been introduced into the natural order since unicellular life first appeared on the earth millions of years ago. According to the Darwinian theory, the preservation of life on earth has always involved a violent struggle between competing organisms, and the fruit of this interminable struggle is the survival of the fittest. If man is now the dominant species on earth, that is owing to his superior ability as a cunning and intelligent predator; in this way, he has come to reign over the other species, leaving behind him a long path of bloodshed that goes back to the beginning.
However, this Darwinian picture does not mesh at all with the words of Genesis 1:31, “God saw everything that he had made, and it was very good.” There seems to be a contradiction here between the biblical teaching and the present ‘scientific’ consensus regarding the question of how man came to possess dominion over other creatures. Darwinian theory says that it was by his cunning as a predator that he gained dominion for himself (as ‘the fittest’ he was ‘the survivor’); the Bible says that it was by the work of God in crowning man as his vice-regent on earth that man was called to exercise a benevolent dominion over the plant and animal kingdoms. This brings us to the third thing we learn from Genesis about the origin of the world.
- Third, we learn that God originally ordained a vegetarian diet for mankind.
This can be determined from the teaching of Genesis 1:29–30, which says that after creating the man and the woman in His image, and after commissioning them to rule over every living being, God told them about the diet that He had ordained for them to eat for their strengthening. By implication, this precluded their interpreting “dominion” as a license to kill and eat animals for He had ordained for them to eat a diet in keeping with the character of the garden as a place of peace. “And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food’” (Genesis 1:29). In the next verse, God commands the same diet for the animals themselves: “And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food” (Genesis 1:30). Later in history, after the Flood, God adds meat to man’s diet. In Genesis 9:3, God says to Noah, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything” (Genesis 9:3). The post-flood diet that God ordains for Noah and his sons stands in clear contrast to the original diet He ordained for men, which was in keeping with the general picture we have in Genesis of the newly created earth as an idyllic place of symbiotic harmony in which God’s creatures dwelt together in peace. Obviously, this teaching of Genesis does not fit with the Darwinian view of man as a highly evolved animal that came to dominate other animals by virtue of his superiority as a predator.
- Fourth, we learn that the human race began with a single human couple created by a miraculous act of God; and that it was through them, and through the man in particular, that sin entered the world.
The man was created first, and the woman was created afterwards from the physical substance of the man. Perhaps this is one of the clearest contrasts between the teaching of Genesis and the scientific consensus now taught in secular academies of science. The Bible clearly teaches that the human race began with a single human couple who were created by a supernatural act of God. From this first human pair all the human beings who live on earth today have descended. The Apostle Paul explicitly affirmed the biological unity of the human race in Acts 17:26, when he told the Athenians that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.”
Racism is excluded from the Christian worldview given the fact that we have all descended from the same parents. There is only one race in the eyes of God, the human race. In addition, we know that Adam and Eve were aware of their identity as the first human couple, because Adam gave his wife the name Eve, which means ‘living’ or ‘life’, “because she was the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20). We also learn from Scripture that the man was created first, before the woman, and that God formed the body of Adam of inanimate matter, and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, making him a living being. He then created Eve from the physical substance of Adam, and gave her to Adam so that the two could unite in a permanent marriage bond. Thus God ordained marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution, and commanded that couples engage in sexual intercourse only within the holy bonds of marriage.
It is very clear that both Jesus and Paul understood the teaching of Genesis 2 and 3 as a faithful account of real historical events. This is seen in many New Testament texts. For example, Paul teaches in Romans 5:12–19 that it was by the sin of Adam that the whole human race fell into sin, and death entered the world. In Romans 8:21, Paul teaches that the creation itself is currently in a state of “bondage to corruption,” apparently because of Adam's sin. That is, because of the sin of the first man, the world is now in a disordered and chaotic state. No matter where we look, we see death, violence, disease, and misery reigning in the world. The Scriptures seem emphatic in saying that man’s sin has affected all of creation, producing dramatic changes in the earth itself, in the animal kingdom, in the reproductive process, in human labour, and in human life (Genesis 3:14–19).
So starting from the principle that the first chapters of Genesis constitute a faithful record of historical events—an assumption based on Jesus’ own view of these chapters—we can draw several conclusions about what Jesus calls “the beginning of creation”:
- Everything that exists was made by the infinite power of God, who created the world and all that is in the world in the space of six ordinary days of light and darkness (morning and evening).
- The creation when it came forth from the hand of God was very good, free of those features now associated with the entrance of sin into the world.
- God originally commanded men to eat a vegetarian diet.
- The human race began with a single human couple who were created by a miraculous act of God; the man was created first, and the woman afterwards, from the physical substance of man. Through these two, and the man in particular, sin entered into the world, together with death and the fall of all creation into a state of corruption.
How have we come to these conclusions? Based on what the current ‘scientific consensus’ says in the great academies of science? No, we have not started with what scientists say, not because scientists have no authority at all, but because their authority is limited and never on a par with the teaching of Scripture. As Dr Richard Land has pointed out, science is written in erasable ink; the Bible is not, owing to its divine inspiration.5 Moreover, when it comes to the question of origins, the present ‘scientific consensus’ is clearly unreliable owing to the limitation that scientists place on themselves when they leave God out of their thoughts and the formulation of theories about the origin of the universe, the world and mankind. You cannot embrace atheistic or deistic assumptions about the relationship of the material creation to God and hope to arrive at an accurate picture of natural history.
If Christians do not rely upon science when studying the origin of the world, it is not because we are anti-scientific, however, but because we recognize a higher authority than man’s authority when it comes to the issue of how the world got started. We rest, ultimately, on the infallible authority of the Word of God, and of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Since Jesus is God’s Son, sent from heaven with infallible teaching authority, we can rely on what He says about the origin of the world, because He came with this purpose into the world—to reveal to us with complete accuracy the truth about God, Himself, mankind, and the world in which we live. It is Jesus Himself who assures us that the Old Testament is infallible in its authority, and essentially clear and straightforward in its teachings.
Back to the resurrection
Why is such unwavering trust in Jesus justified? For one thing, because He fulfilled everything He said He would do. He said beforehand that he would die on the cross, be buried by men, and rise again on the third day; and that is precisely what He did. The resurrection is the ultimate proof of everything. It shows us that Jesus is the Son of God and that He possesses infallible teaching authority. It shows us, therefore, that what Jesus thinks about the Old Testament must be true. He Himself has shown us how we should interpret the book of Genesis. When He said to His fellow Jews, “Have you not read?” He was assuring them that the Old Testament is not like any other book. It is a book that speaks with absolute divine authority and a book that is essentially clear in its teachings. It is a book we can trust—this is The issue of issues. The big question, then, is whether we will put greater confidence in what God says about the origin of the world, or what men say based on viewing the world through lenses of materialistic naturalism.
If one attempts to eat a bowl of soup by grasping the spoon at the wrong end, one will end up with an empty stomach, no matter how many times one tries to scoop up the soup with the spoon. Likewise, if in the study of origins, one starts with the wrong assumptions about God’s relationship to the material creation (atheistic or even deistic assumptions), one will end up with a mind devoid of truth, no matter how diligently one tries to ‘scoop up’ the truth through study. Those who abandon faith in the resurrection and the corollaries flowing from the resurrection as the starting point for all their thinking about everything—including the subject of origins (see The Resurrection and Genesis)—will gradually lose touch with truth and sink into a slough of agnosticism. Why? Because, by holding the spoon at the wrong end—starting with the wrong set of presuppositions—they allow their minds to become captive to the fallible philosophies of men. For my part, I prefer to stick with the infallible truth that Christ has revealed as Lord of heaven and earth. That includes what He has taught us about Genesis and the beginning of creation. Let us hold fast to Him and the truth that He reveals, and we will continue to grasp the spoon of intellectual endeavour and investigation at the right end.
References and notes
- A point that an evangelical minister once used in successfully confounding a liberal minister who had denied that Moses wrote the Pentateuch on the grounds that Christ was not infallible; see: Bell, P., Evolution and the Christian Faith: Theistic evolution in the light of Scripture, Day One Publications, pp. 81–82, 2018. Return to text.
- Houdman, S.M. (Ed.), Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ important? gotquestions.org/resurrection-Christ-important.html; accessed 30 April 2018. Return to text.
- Schaeffer, F.A., Escape from Reason, IVP, Downer's Grove, 1968, pp. 36–37. Return to text.
- The question of trusting Jesus’ testimony on Genesis is explored in detail in chapters 3 and 4 of Evolution and the Christian Faith, ref. 1. Return to text.
- Bumpas, B., Contest for preaching on scientific findings requires caution, onenewsnow.com, 7 December 2015; Land is president of Southern Evangelical Seminary. Return to text.