Should we trust ministries that don’t support biblical creation?
Published: 16 September 2012 (GMT+10)
Many Christians who disagree with biblical creation have many good things to say, but the Scriptures must always be our ultimate guide by which we measure teaching. Paul S. from Canada writes:
Thank you so much for your ministry! I have a question, and I feel a little embarrassed because this is my second question I am asking your ministry in one week. I sincerely hope I am not abusing the privilege. My question is…….Although I am a biblical creationist, and believe the earth is young; is it improper to watch videos or read materials by ministries who believe the universe and the earth is billions of years old. I am confused on this point, since I am aware of ministries that are compromised in this way, who, non-the-less have very good insights into the resurrection of Jesus, or, to use another example, provide great evidences for the reliability of the New Testament. Darn it, I didn’t search your website before asking this question! So in conclusion, although Christians who hold to an old universe belief are compromised on Genesis history, should their ministries be avoided totally? Also, I find it frustrating, that most often there is no way to know for sure what position many ministries hold regarding Genesis history, since these same ministries are ambiguous on the topic. God bless. Paul S.
CMI’s Calvin Smith responds:
Hi Paul, thanks for writing in. Your questions are ones that I’m sure many Christians struggle with, which basically arrive at two points:
- “How can a Christian know whether to trust the Bible teaching of an individual or ministry?” (even when trying to decide what church to attend when moving to a new area for example).
- “Should you trust the teachings of an individual or ministry that does not hold to the biblical creationist position?”
In order to answer those questions let me begin by clarifying what CMI believes and is really all about in a big picture sense. Many Christians believe that CMI is a polemic type of ministry that argues about ‘science and Bible’ issues. Some never really understand why we would have a ministry dedicated to such a ‘narrow’ focus and employ scientists full time etc.
But in a big picture sense what CMI is promoting is this: Christians should submit themselves in every way (intellectually, emotionally and in all activities) to the authority of God and His revealed word, and in order to understand what God’s word says (so they can conform to His will) they should adhere to the literal, historical-grammatical (LHG) method of biblical interpretation. This doesn’t mean that we interpret everything literally (for instance, when the Psalmist asks God to hide him “in the shadow of your wings” (17:8), we don’t think that God has feathers)—LHG simply means that we do our best to interpret the text the way the author intended, as indicated by the context. See Why do you take the Bible literally?
Another way of saying this is that Christians should sanctify the Lord in their hearts (1 Peter 3:15), live, think and feel the way God says to (supported by His strength and wisdom) and in order to understand how to do that they should read their Bible and take it as plainly written.
We are told clearly not to lean on our own understanding and to trust the Lord with all of our hearts (Proverbs 3:5).
These are standard hermeneutical guidelines espoused (at least in principle) in most conservative evangelical colleges and seminaries and the rules of interpretation that by far the majority of church fathers and certainly the Reformers held to. Why?
We must remember that the first sin ever committed was not the eating of the fruit (that was an outward demonstration of the sin already committed) but the mental decision to act against God’s command. The first sin was the abandoning of God as the ultimate authority and source of wisdom and knowledge and attempting to become an autonomous being that can operate without God and not have to obey His commands (In effect, becoming our own god (Genesis 3:5).
It was rebellion, a questioning of God’s clear command (“Did God really say … ?” Genesis 3:1) and teaching resulting in a decision against God’s commandment that led to the Fall of man. Whenever man puts his own understanding against the pronouncements of God he is sinning. All other methods of interpretation put man’s fallible interpretations above God’s word.
Once a Christian has come to that position you can easily see why the creation/evolution debate is such a sticking point. One could hardly point to an area where what the world teaches contradicts God’s word more! However Christians are under massive pressure to conform the Bible to what the world is teaching in the area of origins, and so what CMI does is to help Christians understand that there is no conflict between what God’s word says and what God’s world shows.
Now, having said all that, back to the questions. The answer to question number one then is to seek Bible teachers that abide by the correct rules of Bible interpretation. If they do not profess belief in the LHG method to understand and expound on God’s word I would be hesitant to accept their teaching because ultimately they have an authority other than Scripture itself.
Now of course you may see from time to time different Bible teachers that both hold to the same correct method of interpretation come to different conclusions about a certain Bible topic (the differences between having different interpretations and different authorities is discussed in End-times and Early-times). After all, the Bible is a huge piece of work, some of the subjects covered in it are quite sophisticated, one person may have more knowledge or understanding of the original languages etc. And we must not forget that we are sinful creatures, prone to error even with the best of intentions after all. Nonetheless, if a Bible teacher (who scripture says will be judged more harshly) abides by that method of interpretation and is humbly seeking God’s wisdom in teaching God’s word I would feel comfortable learning from them.
The answer to the second question follows directly from the first. In this case if you know that the Bible teacher does not hold to the biblical creationist viewpoint then they automatically do not consistently hold to the LHG method of interpretation. Every compromise position on Genesis is held ultimately because of secular interpretations of science, not because of the plain reading of the Bible.
However you will find many excellent Bible teachers that do profess belief in the LHG method of interpreting scripture that do not hold to a biblical creationist viewpoint. These people may not have looked deeply into the issue and perhaps do not understand the presuppositional nature of the creation/evolution debate. They may have been exposed to some arguments that they think perhaps justify old earth or evolutionary beliefs in a biblical framework etc.
These people may be fantastic Bible expositors and true men of deep faith and a love for God and His word and so can be powerfully used by God to feed His sheep. However, a word of caution. Many times we have seen where a compromise in Genesis leads to a compromise in the rest of Scripture as well: see The slippery slope.
The bottom line is that for the person that has accepted a method of interpretation that makes extrabiblical information the final court of appeal and so conforms Scripture to that understanding in one area there is no logical reason not to apply that method of interpretation to other areas of the Bible as well.
One of the goals that CMI has is to equip Christians to be able to develop biblical discernment for themselves. In this way the mature Christian can be exposed to all manner of teaching (secular or Christian based) and discern whether such teaching is built on a sound foundation.
Even logging on to creation.com on a weekly basis to see how we deal with feedback from sceptics and fellow Christians who do not hold to our views is a great way to see how we deal with the flaws in their position.
I hope this helps.
Creation Ministries International