Is Biblical Creation a Distraction to Evangelism?
by James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D. *
The Institute for Creation Research and other biblical creation ministries are sometimes criticized as distractions from the ministry of evangelism. The alleged concern is that the promotion of biblical creation as taught in Genesis creates controversy by derailing the evangelism process—distracting people from learning about who Jesus is and trusting Him as their Savior.
Does teaching biblical creation truth interfere with a proper presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior? Before that question can be squarely answered, consider the context of the controversy. Dr. John Morris addressed this issue:
A student once asked, “In your debates, have you ever known of somebody who was saved as a result of the debate?” My father [Dr. Henry Morris] and Dr. [Duane] Gish had several hundred debates. One time we ran a request in Acts & Facts to respond to a survey regarding the debates. One question was a salvation question. Many people responded, saying it was a very instrumental point in their journey to Christ.1
Some would argue Dr. Morris was alluding to favorable anecdotal evidence—that he offered no realistic allowance for the individuals who were “turned off” from seeking God because they were alienated by creation-versus-evolution polemics. Others might fault his report as being too vague. They might say he failed to provide any meaningful qualification regarding how to teach creation. They may question whether teaching about creation “in the beginning” helps or hurts a seeker’s journey, his ability to learn about God, and his willingness to come into God’s eternal sheepfold through His only begotten Son.
Clarification about who our Creator God is helps us appreciate Jesus and how He can rescue human souls as the uniquely all-sufficient kinsman-redeemer of Adam’s fallen race.
What about the value of rescuing one sheep?
Certainly for the one lost sheep who comes to the Good Shepherd, statistics are irrelevant (John 10:1-16; Luke 15:3-7). That truth fits one classroom example, which began with a Christian student’s desire to show a biblical creation movie in the main auditorium of a North Carolina state university’s law school.2 The university granted permission to show the movie on campus, but the student was inept at using the media equipment provided. Providentially, his best friend and study partner was mechanically adept, and he agreed to run the film projector for the event. Ironically, the technically talented friend was a doubter—unconvinced that the Christian faith was truly reliable. The creation movie was packed with scientific information and analysis, proving how purposefully living creatures and their indispensably necessary submicroscopic components—such as DNA and RNA—are designed and constructed and how they operate.
In the movie, the creation scientist Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith explained the material and informational importance of chiral molecules (e.g., the left-handed amino acids needed to build the hardware of life), as well as the mind-boggling complexity and details of human chromosomes.3 A moderated and emotionally spirited discussion followed the showing, with audience viewpoints voiced by both evolutionists and creationists, several of whom were faithful ICR supporters.
But, at the end of the evening, the creation movie’s message was not truly over because the helpful student who ran the projector began thinking about how all of his scientific doubts and excuses were resolved. That conclusion was more than academic—it had logical implications, including some big questions such as: What do I do with the Creator who has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that He is God—the Creator whom Dr. Wilder-Smith declared “became my Redeemer” in the Person of Jesus Christ?
After a time of wrestling with pride and receiving more encouragement to believe in Christ, the mechanically gifted student became a thoroughly convinced believer in the Lord Jesus. The creation apologetics movie was helpful in eliminating excuses that were once barriers to saving faith for that former skeptic—through viewing the movie, he was guided toward becoming a fully persuaded sheep.
Does teaching creation help or hinder evangelism?
Individual experiences may be exceptional cases.4 So the question remains: Does teaching biblical creation with an emphasis on “in the beginning” routinely help gospel evangelism?
Yes—teaching about how God created in the beginning helps us introduce the saving gospel of Christ. In fact, objective evidences in the Bible demonstrate that biblical creation truth is one of the underlying theological foundations for evangelizing unbelievers. For example, consider the role model of Paul’s apostolic ministry. Paul began evangelizing Gentiles with an introductory declaration of God as the Creator (Acts 14:15-17; 17:19-34). But there is even a stronger proof of this point in the introduction of John’s gospel, the only book of the Bible that is explicitly written for an evangelistic purpose:
In the beginning. It is significant that the Apostle John began his gospel with the words: “In the beginning.” He obviously intended that his record should start with the same words as Genesis, that is, with creation. Since his explicit purpose in writing was to win his readers to Christ as Son of God and Savior (see John 20:30-31), he realized the foundational importance of prior belief in special creation of all things by God. People need to know Jesus Christ as offended Creator before they can believe with understanding on Him as sin-bearing Savior and Redeemer. A foundation of true creationism as the only meaningful context for true evangelism is thus revealed through John, under divine inspiration.5
John did not “distract” his readers by beginning with creation (John 1:1-3; 1:10-12). Rather, his gospel authoritatively presents the evangelistic gospel message by introducing Jesus as the incarnate Creator God apart from whom nothing was made that was made (John 1:3; see also John 20:30-31). Therefore, biblical creation truth is the proper theological foundation for evangelism—for explaining how Christ became our Messianic Savior whom we should believe in.
God chose to first introduce Himself to us as our Creator—that same Creator God who, as Dr. Wilder-Smith gratefully acknowledged, “became my Redeemer” (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1).2 And that is how we should introduce Him to others. When was the last time you showed or gave away a creation movie such as God of Wonders?6 This can be a very nonthreatening way to witness. DVDs like this help us appreciate the glory of our Creator, and they can help us evangelize lost sheep who need to be brought into the fold.
- Morris, J. D. The Genesis Flood, Lesson 2, page 30. A transcribed lecture from the Institute of Creation Research’s School of Biblical Apologetics (SOBA). To learn more about ICR’s SOBA (which offers degree programs for M.C.Ed., B.C.Ed., and A.C.Ed.), visit icr.edu.
- The law school illustration alludes to the use of a biblical creation movie that focuses mostly on explaining creation science rather than providing a gospel presentation. See Wilder-Smith, A. E. 1983. Origins: How the World Came to Be. Origins video series, volume 3. Mesa, AZ: Films for Christ. The movie’s content matches much of what appears in A. E. Wilder-Smith’s book The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution (Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today Publishers, 1981; translated from the original German by Petra Wilder-Smith).
- The creation science movie featured Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith, a European young-earth creationist inventor who earned three doctorates in the overlapping sciences of biology, chemistry, and pharmacology. See Wilder-Smith, A. E. and B. Wilder-Smith. 1998. Fulfilled Journey: The Wilder-Smith Memoirs. Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today Publishers.
- Exceptional results may illustrate God producing good results from not-so-good circumstances, or even from human misbehavior (Genesis 50:20; Numbers 22-24).
- See the editorial footnote by Henry M. Morris for John 1:1 in Morris, H. M. 2006. The New Defender’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: World Publishing, 1563.
- God of Wonders DVD, available through the ICR online store (icr.org/store).
* Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Johnson, J. J. S. 2013. Is Biblical Creation a Distraction to Evangelism? Acts & Facts. 42 (8): 18-19.