Tag Archives: Genesis

What’s At Stake in Creation

There was a debate recently between Bill Nye and Ken Ham regarding creation. I didn’t watch it. I have no plans to. Because frankly I just don’t care what either one has to say. However this debate will probably generate discussion amongst people, so I figured I would at the very least contribute my thoughts on the matter of origins as a Christian.

Everything you need to know regarding the Christian position on origins can be found in the first verse of the first book of the Bible:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
(Genesis 1.1 ESV)

Specifically it’s the words “God created” that are the position. They tell us two important things, 1) the universe was created and had a beginning, and 2) God brought about the beginning. If you put this in the form of a doctrinal statement it would look something like, “We believe that all things were created and God is the creator.”

As far as Christians are concerned there isn’t much dispute over what I’ve said so far. Where things start getting testy are the verses that follow after Genesis 1.1. Some hold the position that the “days” described are literal 24 hour days (this is Ham’s position). Others hold that the “days” described are long periods of time, more like ages than 24 hour days. Still others hold that the rest of chapter 1 is simply praising God for His creative work in creation and that the “days” are simply serving a literary or poetic function.

At first glance it seems as though there could be no real issue here since they all affirm “God created,” even though they have different understandings as to how “God created.” Issues arise though when details are so focused on and disputed that sight is lost of the big picture. This is, I think, what has happened regarding the origins question in Christianity. Certain Christian groups (most of the time it seems to be the literal 24-hour day types based on my experience) have so forced their particular view of creation that they have caused people to believe that their view is the only valid view and unless you agree with them you are deceived or a heretic.

There’s been such a focus on the details of creation that we’ve forgotten how they fit into the big picture and so instead have made the details the big picture. This mindset of making the details the big picture is not only problematic for the creation debate, but also for all of Western Christianity. We need to begin to recognize again the big picture that unites all of us as Christians, not just in regards to origins, but in other areas of doctrine as well.

As Christians we need to clearly recognize that the only thing at stake in the creation debate is whether or not God created. We should only be arguing with those who say God did not create, and even then we should only be arguing for “God created,” not how “God created.”

Additionally, John H. Walton has a rather interesting perspective on interpreting Genesis 1 in The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. The book is written at the popular level and anyone should be able to understand his basic argument. I have not read the second part where he discusses science education in schools, but the first was quite interesting and thought provoking. Anyone interested in what the Bible says about origins would do well to seriously consider his argument, I think. And just to be clear, I am not endorsing Walton’s view, just saying that it was interesting, thought provoking, and bears consideration.

There is certainly much more that could be said regarding origins. However I will stop here for now as I have made my point.

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The Biblical Storyline

In the previous post the Apostle Peter referenced a promise God gave to Abraham (who was then known as Abram):

Now the Lord said to Abram,

“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

This quotation comes from Genesis 12.1-3. Genesis is the first book in the Bible and is the book of beginnings. Not so much the beginnings of the Earth and mankind (though these are briefly mentioned), but the beginnings of the rest of the story contained in the Bible. Understanding the events of Genesis is critical to understanding the events in the rest of the Bible; without this understanding the events of the Bible will seem like one big disjointed mess that doesn’t make a bit of sense. So before we can understand this promise to Abram in Genesis 12, we first must go back to the beginning of Genesis and understand the events that transpired earlier in the book.

The Bible has a protagonist (the central character) and an antagonist (the opposition to the central character). The protagonist in the Bible is God and is introduced in the opening sentence of the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.” The antagonist is Satan and is introduced in Genesis 3.1, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.”

In the opening chapters of Genesis the actions of the protagonist, God, are to create a world and establish man and woman to rule over it (Gen. 1.26-28). The antagonist, Satan, opposes God by corrupting this established order and causing humanity to be ruled over by creation (Gen. 3.1-7). In response to Satan’s actions God promises to destroy Satan and redeem humanity (see Gen 3.15, especially: “…He shall bruise you on the head…”). The rest of the Biblical story develops along this line: God’s plan to crush Satan and redeem humanity, and Satan’s opposition to God’s plan.

With Noah humanity is wiped out and the anticipation is that Noah is the promised deliverer, the Messiah, promised in Gen. 3.15. However Noah allows himself to be ruled by creation as well (Gen. 9.21), thus demonstrating that he is not the Messiah. When we arrive at Abram (Abraham) God reveals that it is through Abraham’s descendants that the Messiah will come (Gen. 12.1-3, especially vv. 2b-3a), then specifically through Isaac (Gen. 21.12), then Jacob (Gen. 28.10-15, esp. vv. 13-15 which reiterate the promise to Abraham in 12.1-3), then David (2 Samuel 7.4-17).

This is why Matthew begins his Gospel by tracing Jesus’ genealogy: his audience was primarily Jewish, and they believed that the Messiah would come from David’s descendants, thus it was important to establish this fact right away. Luke also affirms Jesus’ descent from David in his genealogy as well (Luke 3.23-38).*

So when we come to Peter’s statement in Acts 3, “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” what Peter is saying is that the Messiah that was promised by God who was to come from the nation of Israel has come! Since this was promised to you, and this promise has been fulfilled, accept it so that you and the rest of humanity may be redeemed!

For a more in-depth discussion of the biblical storyline see Dr. Charles Baylis’ videos. It is from his work that I drew the majority of this post from also. You can find the videos here: http://biblicalstory.org/home

Next up, Acts 4.

*Yes the genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 have variances in them. No I’m not going to discuss them in this post as it is off topic.