The importance of biblical creation
Joel Tay chats with seminary professor Rick Griffith
The Reverend Dr Rick Griffith, B.S. (Hons), Th.M., Ph.D., has qualifications in business, marketing, pastoral ministry, and Bible exposition. He is Director of the Doctor of Ministry program and Associate Professor in Biblical Studies at Singapore Bible College (SBC), and an adjunct seminary professor in 12 other Asian countries. Among his many ministry roles and achievements are directorships of various Bible study translation ventures and mission bodies as well as a strong background in Christian school planting, and he serves as pastor-teacher at Crossroads International Church, Singapore, which he co-planted. Dr Griffith also hosts a website providing thousands of PowerPoint presentations free to Bible students and teachers worldwide; it gives special emphasis to biblical creation, with Bible materials in 44 languages.1
Dr Griffith was born in Tokyo to US Navy parents. In 1991 he became a professor at Singapore Bible College—specifically, to train Asian pastors in God’s Word. A guest speaker for CMI at a major CMI conference in Singapore, he frequently teaches on biblical creation. He told me:
No matter what issues of significance I talk about with people, even if just for a short time, the subject inevitably comes down to one of origins. Are we really simply the result of random accidents, or the product of design? Creation is the foundation of any course I teach, whether Old Testament or New Testament, theology or practical ministry. God could have begun His Word any way He desired, but it’s no surprise that He started the Bible, from the first verse, with creation. In Genesis 1–3 God gives answers to four of life’s most fundamental questions: (1) Identity: Who am I? (2) Origin: Where did I come from? (3) Problem: How did the world get so messed up? (4) Destiny: Where will it all end up? These constantly come up when I teach or preach, even if I’m not doing a series specifically on origins.
I asked Dr Griffith, “Why not just teach ‘Intelligent Design’?”
On its own, ‘ID’ actually makes God look bad as one who intelligently created the world but messed up in many ways, resulting in disease, deformities, earthquakes, etc. It doesn’t tell us our sin problem that messed up God’s perfect creation, so we need Genesis 2–3 also to teach people the full story. I regularly and usually refer back to Genesis 1–3 in my preaching, teaching, and counselling.
Order and design
A highly organized person himself, he dismisses the suggestion that this ordered world could have made itself, saying:
When does order of the type seen in living things2 ever come about without someone first designing it and expending directed energy to bring it into being? One never sees self-directed chaos getting its act together. Evolutionists must assume that all the order (and often beauty) in living things is the great exception to all that we observe, since they suppose it came from millions of ultimately random events.3
This ordered complexity is apparent at a macro and micro scale. There is the amazingly designed solar system with predictable planetary orbits. Then, on the micro level, the cell is astonishingly designed. Scientists have proven that there exists no such thing as a ‘simple cell’, as it is incredibly complex. How else can we explain these things except that there is a Creator? Paul identified Him as none other than Jesus Himself (Colossians 1:15–17).
“What about your own college years?” I asked.
My studies in university only confirmed that this highly systematized world must have had a designer. My psychology professors told me there was no absolute right and wrong (they were absolutely sure they were right!). They ridiculed my faith in Christ. But I just studied the issue at hand, and God gave me a heart for them, and opportunities to give a reasoned response.
Pressure to ‘reinterpret’ Scripture
We got into why Genesis should be understood plainly, as real history. He told me that a few years back he had forwarded something to his SBC academic colleagues:
It indicated I was a biblical, ‘young-Earth’ creationist. A fellow professor took me out for coffee and said, “I just want you to know that I care for you. That article you shared implied that you think Genesis 1 has literal days. I don’t want you looking bad before our faculty.” I asked, “Why don’t you think you can take the creation account in its normal sense? Is there anything in the text that indicates anything other than a 24-hour view of the creation days?” “Well,” he replied, “Not in the chapter itself, but science tells us that the world is billions of years old … ”.
I responded, “When I have to choose between the Bible and the ever-changing views of scientists, I’ll go with the Bible. It doesn’t change and is written by the Eyewitness (i.e., God). One other thing is death. If each day in Genesis 1 is a long era, do you think death came before Adam or do you think animals and humans just multiplied for thousands of years without death?”
“I never thought about death preceding the Fall”, he confessed. I suggested it was a good thing to think about, as Scripture says (e.g., Romans 5:12) that death came as a result of Adam’s sin.
You know, after serving as a seminary professor for 26 years, I used to think other pastoral trainers like me would hold God’s Word above the anti-God academic consensus. Yet now it saddens me to see Bible professors blindly accept secular dates for origins without expecting these scientists to prove their points.
Dr Griffith said that in his teaching, he often asks his class how many were taught evolution in school:
Typically only a few hands go up. “So the rest of you were taught creation?” The answer is predictable (for this region, at least): “No, we were taught neither creation nor evolution. Our teachers avoided the subject of origins.”
“But how many of you were taught that the world is billions of years old?” Nearly every hand rises. In fact, most Christians today believe in death preceding Adam, but they have never thought how problematic this is to the Gospel.
Dr Griffith is convinced that the issue of origins is the chief reason why so few young people continue in the faith past their teens.
Young minds get convinced that scientists know more than God. It’s really an issue of authority.
Hot topic hits at Gospel foundation
We talked about his ‘other hat’ as a pastor. He said:
Most of my fellow pastors know how controversial creation is, so they just avoid it, even as they do other debated issues, e.g. women’s role in the church, spiritual gifts, etc. I find, though, that the hot topics are the ones people are thinking about the most, so I tend to instead gravitate towards them. Though some have probably labelled me ‘divisive’ or ‘narrow’, my congregation keeps telling me they’ve never heard what the Bible says about such things. I regularly teach on Genesis 1; when I preached a whole series on creation, it was the first time my people had ever heard a biblical view of the age of the earth, dinosaurs, etc. My duty as a pastor is to faithfully preach what the Bible says—not what is popular. The result is that I pastor a small church with people of depth rather than a large church that constantly seeks the lowest common denominator.
Dr Griffith believes we find purpose (not meaninglessness) in our origin as the climax of creation (not the result of millions of mutations), made in the image of God (not so-called apemen). In fact, he said:
Everything we are and say and do goes back to Genesis 1,
so I see Creation as the most foundational doctrine in the Bible. If we mess up the foundation, anything built upon it is doomed to fail. If we can’t trust the first chapter of the Bible, how can we trust any of the later ones? Jesus and Adam stand or fall together. If, as some professedly evangelical scholars are starting to say, there was no literal Adam, how can we trust that there was a literal Jesus? Why would He have had to die? Romans 5:15b says it well, “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.” The Gospel has its roots in Genesis. Destroy a belief in Genesis and you destroy the basis of the Gospel.
In closing, I asked if there was anything else Dr Griffith would like to share with our readers. He said:
In my early years as a Christian, I read Creation magazine regularly. It helped establish me solidly in God’s Word, providing a foundation that eventually led me to see the value of becoming a biblical scholar. I am encouraged that your readers do not see creation as a peripheral issue. It affects everything we are and do.
References and notes
- BibleStudyDownloads.org. Return to text.
- I.e. specified complexity, as distinguished from the simple, repeating (periodic) order seen in crystals; see creation.com/crystals. Return to text.
- It is commonly objected that natural selection makes the idea of evolution ‘non-random’. But as Darwin’s successors keep reminding us, it is totally unguided; the raw material on which selection is supposed to work comprises random genetic copying mistakes—mutations. Return to text.