For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who has established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the LORD, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:18)
The opening words of Scripture are fairly simple: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Why is there often pushback on this truth among Christians? It’s not surprising in the academic world, where anything that resembles “God” is denigrated out-of-hand. It’s also relatively easy to understand why those Christian denominations that have long been influenced by secular and political pragmatism would slowly slide away from the reality of an omnipotent and omniscient Creator to whom they must one day answer.
But what about evangelical churches? Many insist that they believe the Bible and yet either avoid dealing with the foundational message of a recent creation or brush the topic away like a pesky doctrine that doesn’t matter. Even some pastors resist identifying the Lord Jesus as the Creator (as the Scriptures absolutely and very clearly insist) while demanding that the gospel be boldly declared.
Why must we interpret the Genesis narrative literally? Those who ask this question believe science proved long ago that the early chapters of Genesis aren’t real history. After all, everybody knows that Earth is billions of years old and that natural selection caused life to evolve as we know it—right?
Many believers don’t see why the creation account is so important. They would rather enjoy the beauty of a creation allegory and focus on the God who loves us and sent His Son to die so we might live with Him forever. Does the way we interpret Genesis really make a difference?
Ideas Have Consequences
If the world’s philosophers have agreed on anything, it is that what one believes determines how one thinks. Millions of words have been written on this truth. The ideas that a person embraces in their belief system—their worldview—will dominate their thinking process so completely that the outflow of reasoning will be a seamless consequence of those beliefs.
What you believe controls how you think!
In other words, your belief system dominates the way you reason. So, your conclusions are bound to be in agreement with what you believe. However sophisticated a counterargument may be expressed, once you embrace a worldview, no amount of reasoning will shift your conclusions away from the core idea. And actions follow in harmony with the conclusions.
What you think controls what you do!
The more often an action is repeated, the more automatic it becomes. Activity patterns, also known as habits, develop with ease! Certain behavior becomes comfortable and pleasurable. And soon we find rational justification for our habits from the association of like-minded friends who have either been drawn to us or us to them by that very behavior.
What you do controls your lifestyle!
Now we have an endless loop. Our belief system controls reasoning and mental imagery; the mental concepts generate activity in harmony with the core belief; then the activity becomes engrained as habitual behavior. Finally, the motivational encouragement of those with similar ideas reinforces and enriches our belief system.
To Believe or Not to Believe?
Many believers think creation is an irrelevant issue, but the opposite is true. There are few things more important to our faith, because if you believe the Genesis account is not true, then nothing in Scripture is dependable. Once you embrace the idea that the early chapters of Genesis are not historically accurate, then everything in the Bible is subject to personal preference. If God’s Word is not a God-inspired record of God’s words, then it’s nothing more than man’s words—and, therefore, just as viable as a Hollywood movie script, a New York Times bestseller, or a gossip piece on the evening news.
If, on the other hand, “every word of God is pure” (Proverbs 30:5), then “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Either Scripture is completely accurate and authoritative, or it is not. Even if we were to assign certain passages to a “suspicious” category that questions either the accuracy of the words or the historicity of the account, how would we determine which selections to accept and which to abort? Whose criteria would suffice for us to use as the standard of approval?
If Genesis is not true, then the rest of Scripture becomes an unworkable contradiction.
How we view Genesis impacts our belief system. The first three chapters clearly insist that an omnipotent and omniscient Creator brought a “very good” universe into existence by His word (Genesis 1:31; 2 Peter 3:5), set Adam and Eve as stewards over that creation (Genesis 1:26; Psalm 8:5-8), and then passed judgment on that creation when Adam rebelled against the Creator’s authority (Genesis 3:17-19; 1 Timothy 2:14). That historical framework helps us understand all of human history and our desperate need for Christ’s redemption.
- Adam’s sin is the cause of God’s judgment (Genesis 3:17).
- Death is the end result for every human (Romans 5:12; Hebrews 9:27).
- Death impacts all of creation (Romans 8:22).
- Death is the last enemy to be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26).
On the other hand, if death has been around for millions of years, then sin is not the cause for death, and death becomes a part of the regular process that brings about the “better” good because it’s the mechanism that enables the “fit” to survive. In the Bible, death is an intrusion—a judgment. If, however, the Bible is wrong and death is nothing more than the means by which the inferior are weeded out, then
- Death cannot be the payment for sin.
- The death of Christ was unnecessary.
- The gospel is both foolish and irrelevant.
The entire gospel message stands or falls on the historicity and accuracy of Genesis. This book of beginnings lays the foundation for the rest of Scripture. If you destroy the Bible’s credibility, then it is easy to deny the Bible’s Creator.
The creation enables us to clearly see God’s eternal power and His divine nature (Romans 1:20). God is the owner; we are the stewards. God is the source of all power; we only use or adapt what we are given. God is the only holy One; all creation and all created beings are under the curse of sin. God is the omniscient One; we are finite and inferior.
Genesis and the Complete Gospel
The gospel message depends on who Jesus is as much as what He did. The world began when He created it (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-2). Through His work on the cross and subsequent burial and resurrection, the Lord Jesus opened the way through which fallen humanity can be redeemed (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). And His work will finally be consummated when He returns to claim His own and “every knee [will] bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue…confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11).
It is the responsibility of all twice-born to present the complete gospel message. If we neglect the creation, then we negate the omnipotence of God and nullify His omniscience. If we neglect the cross, then we eliminate the sinless substitution of the only righteous man who can satisfy the holiness of God and administer the justice of the only One able to justify. If we neglect the consummation promised by the Creator who died in our stead on the cross, then there is no hope of eternal life in absolute righteousness.
We are back to Genesis. It all starts there. If Genesis is true, then we can trust the rest of Scripture that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
* Dr. Morris is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Creation Research. He holds four earned degrees, including a D.Min. from Luther Rice Seminary and an MBA from Pepperdine University.