Christian Word Games

Pastors face a temptation of preaching to the specks. Every pastor knows certain things that will rattle the cages and rally the troops. They are cards kept up the sleeve to be pulled out when an “amen!” or “‘atta boy” are needed. I tried to avoid those when I was pastoring. When the text I was preaching did mention the speck I tried to draw attention to the beam. Getting to the point: when the Bible spoke against homosexuality, I also tried to remind them what else was included in such a prohibition. And what was to be embraced in its stead.

Conservative Christians have done much to muzzle and belittle the authority of God’s word. On The Gospel Coalition Thomas Kidd has written that Christians “be charitable to those in the church (and outside the church) with whom we disagree on [the] most contentious topic [of the 6 days of creation].” The article follows what has become the standard conservative evangelical argument for not taking the days of Genesis 1 literally. Geology, silence of Scripture, no uniform church tradition, etc. all give reason to allow that the days of Genesis 1 are not 24 hour days.

No doubt, the same website will sooner or later post or link to an article about homosexuality and/or marriage and/or gender issues and quote Genesis 1:27 and 2:24:

 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

The argument will made having already surrendered any linguistic, logical, or exegetical high ground. If “there was evening and there was morning, the first day…there was evening and there was morning, the second day…there was evening and there was morning, the third day…there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day…there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day…there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day…” does not mean 6 24-hour days, how can you dogmatically argue that “male” and “female” refer to a human born with certain X and Y chromosomes?

If we have already surrendered the meaning of words to each other; on what grounds can we fight for their meaning against unbelievers?

Does the Bible teach that Noah’s flood was universal?

 I must emphasize that I am not (at the moment) interested in whether or not Noah’s flood actually covered the earth. I am instead focusing on whether the Bible teaches Noah’s flood covered the earth. These are two separate issues that I would like to keep divided for the time being.

The Bible talks about the flood in these terms:

Genesis 6:13  And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

Genesis 6:17  For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.

Genesis 7:4  For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.”

Genesis 7:19  And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered.

Genesis 7:21  And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind.

Genesis 7:22  Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.

Genesis 7:23  He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.

Genesis 9:15  I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

According to Genesis 6-9 the flood annihilated
all flesh,
all flesh,
everything,
every living thing,
under the whole heaven,
all flesh,
all swarming creatures,
all mankind,
everything,
every living thing,
every living creature of all flesh,
all flesh.
After the flood, “only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.”

Being the good Calvinist that I am- perhaps I should look for reasons why “all” does not mean “all.” When God speaks of “all flesh” he means everything breathing under the sky (6:17 cf. 7:22). This would be good news for any one visiting the moon or vacationing in the space station, but for anyone on earth this does not seem to be very reassuring.

When God says he intends to destroy “every living thing” he is speaking specifically of those living things he had made (7:4). This is certainly good news for any life forms that arose by evolution; and I guess any Artificial Intelligence life forms would have rested easy too.

So we do have some wiggle room. According to the Bible, only those things that lived on earth, under the sky, breathing air, created by God, were destroyed. Any creature fitting those qualifications was wiped out, except Noah and those who were with him on the ark.

If you can cut through the sarcasm, you likely see that the Bible pretty clearly teaches that the flood of Noah was “universal;” though a better term would be global.

Once again, I am only asking what the Bible teaches about Noah’s flood. I am only concentrating on what the Bible intends for its readers to believe about the flood. If words mean anything, and I believe they do, the Bible teaches that the flood was global. The flood destroyed all God-created, land-dwelling creatures that breathe: except for the ones on the ark. This is the conclusion an unbiased reading of the Bible leads to.

The waters of Noah’s flood covered the entire earth: the Bible teaches this; the Bible intends its readers to believe this.

So what?

I enjoy a good argument as much as the next guy…which is to say, probably more than I should. But a “good argument” should also be a “fair fight.” I do not really enjoy arguing with someone who is making things up as they go along. Such an exercise is pointless.

For example, the other week I came across a Romanist radio program. The speaker was talking about the Roman Mass and as a committed Protestant I thoroughly enjoyed it! I thoroughly enjoyed it because the speaker spoke as a committed Romanist. He asserted that Rome believed the Eucharistic Host (the bread, the wafer) was God Himself and should be worshipped as such. If Rome is right, Protestants are refusing to worship God. If Protestants are right, Romanists are committing idolatry. His assertions were explicit, direct, and absolutely correct. Even though his belief is wrong, he was at least being honest with the ramifications of that belief. Good arguments grow in this fertile soil: men who are honest in their disagreement.

So do not tell me the Bible does not teach a global flood. Just be honest and tell me that you do not believe what the Bible teaches. That is where our discussion must begin.

Does it really matter what you believe about God’s Creation?

God of the ages-
You have seen fit to bless us with the coming of a new year.
May you receive the offering of our joy for it.
Even as your Spirit offers us the sobriety
Of knowing this day may be our last.

In this new year I have again reset my Bible reading odometer. Once again, I am reading one chapter from 10 different books. On day one, as I read the first chapters of Genesis, John, and Romans, I was impressed at the importance of creation.

The Bible begins with an explanation of man’s existence- not God’s. God is not “properly” introduced, or explained: he is simply there. God is presented as the one who by his Word (Genesis 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24) and through his Spirit (Genesis 1:2) brings all things into being. The existence of the universe, and man who inhabits it, is attributed to a God able to bring said universe into existence.

If such a God is powerful enough to create all that exists, do you suppose he would also be intelligent enough to communicate to others how he brought all things into being? Is he so powerful that he is unable to communicate simply? If such a God really exists; and if he did what Genesis 1 says he did; can Genesis 1 be trusted to tell us how he did it? Is God powerful enough to create all things instantaneously?

If God used, or needed, billions of years to accomplish creation I can only come to one of these conclusions: God is not as powerful as his word seems to indicate; or God is not a very good communicator.

John 1 brings the Trinitarian allusions in Genesis 1 into sharper focus. The Word through whom all things were made is Jesus (John 1:3). You cannot keep your doctrine of creation and your doctrine of Christ separate. For better or worse, whatever you say and believe about God’s creation in Genesis is going to affect what you say and believe about Jesus. Did Jesus make a man named Adam? Did that Adam’s sin bring death into the world? Did Jesus enter into his creation to obliterate the results of that Adam’s sin?

Does it really matter how I answer these questions? According to Romans 1 it does: at least, eventually. The exit ramp for the road to perdition is clearly marked: “Deny Creation.” Man takes his first step away from God by denying the testimony of creation (Rom. 1:20). Thinking of previous questions, should we take anything from the assertion that those who deny God’s power in creation are “without excuse”? Does Romans 1:20 indicate anything about the understandability of Genesis 1? Does Genesis 1 have a meaning that God hid from his people for over 6,000 years? Was mankind in the dark about Genesis 1 until Darwin came along and shed his light on the matter? If so, how could pre-Darwinian man be “without excuse”?

Does your understanding of creation matter? I guess only if your understanding of Christ matters. I guess only if eternal salvation matters.

Otto Weber and John Calvin on Roman Hubris (and me on Evangelical Insolence)

According to the Roman Catholic view, Jesus is the Lord in the Church and through the Church, but not over the Church in the sense that he alone defines the word of the Church through the apostolic witness and makes this word secondary to that witness.

Otto Weber, Foundation of Dogmatics, vol. 1, p. 40

It is easy to simplify things and state that all the differences between Rome and Christianity come down to authority. Nevertheless, all differences must at the very least start there. Until this issue is resolved, there can be no meaningful rapprochement with Rome.  Rome says that what the Church says about the Apostolic witness is more important than the witness itself. Jesus may help and guide the Church in her dogmatic decrees, but her decrees always take precedence over whatever Jesus or the apostles have decreed.

This should not be taken as an assertion that Protestants have it all together. We may have a better creed, but for many it is little more than that: “I believe,” but not “I do.” Sola Scriptura and Regula Fidei are nice slogans to sling around, but they have little bearing on how we relate to God, society, or one another. The arrogance of Roman autonomy is little better than Evangelical insolence.

 …in mysteries of the faith common sense is not our adviser, but with quiet teachableness and the spirit of gentleness (which James commends) we receive the doctrine given from heaven.

John Calvin, Institutes, 4.17.25

Helmut Thielicke on the Seduction of Truth

Truth seduces us very easily into a kind of joy of possession: I have comprehended this and that, learned it, understood it. Knowledge is power. I am therefore more than the other man who does not know this and that. I have greater possibilities and also greater temptations. Anyone who deals with truth—as we theologians certainly do—succumb all too easily to the psychology of the possessor. But love is the opposite of the will to possess. It is self giving. It boasteth not itself, but humbleth itself. . . . This disdain is a real spiritual disease. It lies in the conflict between truth and love. This conflict is precisely the disease of theologians.

Helmut Thielicke, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1962), 16, 17.

A Little Exercise is a book that should probably be required reading for every Bible college student and should certainly be required for every seminary student.

One thing I appreciated about my time in Bible college was the requirement to be involved in a local church ministry. This at least provided an opportunity to hinder the outbreak of the disease Thielicke discusses. It is certainly possible to be learning Monday through Friday and be an arrogant, pompous, know-it-all while serving on Sunday. But the great thing about 6 year olds is that they are not too easily impressed with all of your theological learnin’. I am thankful that I was not allowed to just go off and sit in judgment of some pastor who spent 70 hours caring for a flock and didn’t have the same three weeks I did to come up with an exegetical outline of Ezekiel 25.

“Knowledge is power.” Which is why it is so dangerous. Men like power and some find that knowledge is their best avenue to gaining it. These men are the most dangerous of the power-hungry. They seek to control people not through brute force—which can always be overcome by bruter force—but through a more insidious control of mind and will. Men like Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Jack Schaap tread the winepress of destruction with far greater effectiveness than any despot. Their body counts may be lower, but that is only because their victims live even while dead.

And you see how easily it is to put off this threat. Thielicke is not talking about cult leaders and despots. He is talking about pastors and professors. He is talking about men who love truth. But who love it too much. So here, if anywhere, is where all truth ceases to be God’s truth. When my grasp of the truth becomes the clutching of a bludgeon I have lost the very truth I pursue. For the wisdom from above is first peaceable…

Authority: The most important thing Graeme Goldsworthy has ever written?

Graeme Goldsworthy is not a name that is well-known by those in the pews, nor even by those in the pulpits. He is better known by those who train the men in the pulpits. He is influential in the renaissance, resurgence, continuation of the field of biblical theology. He emphasizes seeing the Bible as one story and seeing Christ as the point of that story. Which, if you want to be biblical about studying the Bible, is not too bad of an emphasis to have.

I have had his introduction to biblical theology, According to Plan, sitting on my shelf for a couple years. At a recent conference I picked up his successive works, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, and Christ-Centered Biblical Theology. Now having four books by the man I thought it might be a good time to get started actually reading them.

So far, the journey has been rewarding. In the third chapter of According to Plan, Goldsworthy offers up a couple paragraphs that I wish every Christian would grapple with:

 Presuppositions, then, are the assumptions we make in order to be able to hold some fact to be true. We cannot go on indefinitely saying, “I know this is true because…” In the end we must come to that which we accept as the final authority. By definition a final authority cannot be proven as an authority on the basis of some higher authority. The highest authority must be self-attesting. Only God is such an authority. [Emphasis mine]
The presuppositions we must make in doing biblical theology are those of Christian theism. The alternative to this is to accept the presuppositions of some form of humanism. Either we work on the basis of a sovereign, self-proving God who speaks to us by a word that we accept as true simply because it is his word, or we work on the basis that man is the final judge of all truth. The Christian position, to be consistent, accepts that the Bible is God’s Word, and that it says what God wants it to say in exactly the way he wants to say it.[1]

If I had the words to express how crucial the above declarations are, I would probably be writing books instead of reading them. The issue of authority is the spring from which a thousand streams flow.

If God is the final authority his Word must be given the same respect because it is the expression of his authority, the declaration of his will. Once a person sees what the Bible says, understands what the Bible says, and proceeds to say, “Yeah but…” he demonstrates that the Bible is not his final authority. The attempt to re-define, re-imagine, or re-interpret the plain statements of Scripture, is simply the rebellion of man against the authority of God. When Scripture is seen as out-of-date or unenlightened, it is simply the exaltation of man’s desires over God’s will.

When a church decides that women can be pastors, against the clear teaching of Scripture, there is really no reason to forbid a homosexual from being a pastor either: other than it would just gross some people out.

When the church decides that Adam and Eve were not really the first humans and that sin and death did not really enter creation through their sin in Eden, then there is really no reason to see Jesus as the Christ promised to deliver men from sin and death.

When the church starts parsing out which parts of the Bible to believe and practice, it is only cutting itself to pieces. If you are going to decide which parts to believe, why believe any of it? I can think of quite a few ways I would rather spend my Sundays.


[1] Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan (Downers Grove: InterVarstiy Press, 2002), 44.

Fundamentalism: The way forward

Can Fundamentalism survive? Even those who answer in the affirmative recognize that it will not happen if things continue as they are. What are some of the things that must change for Fundamentalism to survive, or, even thrive?

First, the name will have to be abandoned. The term “fundamentalist” is poisoned by Islamists and Christians alike. Whether the fundamentalist has explosives strapped to his chest and is preaching on the evils of the great Satan; or has a KJV in hand preaching on the evils of pants on women; one thing the world knows is that fundamentalists are nut jobs.

This seems like a bitter pill: how can fundamentalism survive if it is not even known as fundamentalism? But the biblical fundamentalist should be committed first and foremost to truth, not the labels that are applied to truth. This is not to say that we can simply call evil “good” and good “evil.” Names, labels, terms are important, but unless designated as such by Scripture they are not inerrant or eternal.

Secondly, there must be a greater emphasis on obedience to Scripture than interpretation of Scripture.  Fundamentalism has been a house built on sacred cows and shibboleths. All this was well and good when the surrounding culture still held to more-or-less the same values. Such externalism is no longer sustainable, and that is a good thing. No longer should spirituality be measured by the length of hair or hem. No longer should a drink of alcohol be condemned while frequent visits to Old Country Buffet are ignored.

This in no way denigrates the importance of believing right doctrine. Quite the opposite, this sharpens the focus on right doctrine. Fundamentalists would never go along with the argument of Christopher Hitchens that one can be devoted to the pursuit of truth, but never have a claim on it. Yet they must realize that belief in an infinite God demands that truth can only be apprehended, not comprehended. Dispensationalism is not a fundamental of the faith. Which is more biblically necessary: the belief that Jesus will rapture the church before a seven-year tribulation; or the pursuit of personal holiness in the light of Christ’s return? There are plenty who seek the second while having nothing to do with the first. But who is more likely to accepted in a fundamentalist church: a worldly pre-tribulationist or a spiritually growing post-millennialist?

Third, the independent church model must be radically overhauled. Christ did not die for a bunch of little churches each with her own peculiarities. He died for only one church. All the churches were to obey the decision of the Jerusalem counsel (Acts 15). The Corinthians were admonished to consider the custom of the whole church (1 Cor. 11:16). What Paul (Col. 4:16) and John (Rev. 2-3) wrote to one church was good for all. Fundamentalism has sacrificed the nurture and accountability of true ecclesiastical fellowship so that each church can have her own voice. As a result fundamentalism has no voice. What can fundamental churches and pastors do when other self-professed fundamentalists teach deviant doctrine or practice sexual predation? Nothing, except say we are not like them, we just call ourselves the same thing. As a result, the group is judged and known by its most vulgar species. Why can 20/20 lump together Hyles fundamentalism and BJU fundamentalism? Because they both claim to be fundamentalists.

Fourth, effectual change must be led by pastors. Christ has not promised to build his college, university, or seminary. Christ has not promised to build his missionary board or evangelistic crusade. Christ has promised to build his church. For fundamentalism to survive it must do so as a church movement led by the leaders Christ has ordained for his church.

In each of these things, the one needed thing is a focus upon biblical truth. I have written these things as an outsider. Yet as an outsider who wants to see biblical fundamentalism reform and thrive. I did not grow up in a church that identified itself within the fundamentalist movement. I do not pastor a church that identifies itself in the fundamentalist movement. To some, this serves as a disqualification for such judgments. I understand the sentiment. Yet I went to college and seminary at two of fundamentalism’s flagship institutions. Why? I did so in part because I wanted to learn the Bible in places that at least claimed to honor the Bible as God’s infallible word to mankind. In many ways, or at least in the most important ones, the survival of fundamentalism is as simple as just living up to what the name represents: belief and practice of what the Bible explicitly commands and teaches.

 

 

King’s Way: Does Rick Warren believe Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

Rick Warren has again caused a stir in certain circles of the blogosphere. The newest occasion of controversy is the announcement of an agreement with a Muslim organization. The original article, Christian bloggers, and Islamic bloggers all understand the agreement to say that Christians and Muslims believe in the same God. Warren has answered that the agreement only states Muslims and Christians believe in one God. A few observations…

First, I find it particularly interesting that there are certain places that are saying nothing about this issue. In the past few months there has been considerable fallout about James MacDonald and his Elephant Room conversation with T.D. Jakes. MacDonald and the Gospel Coalition parted ways as members of the Coalition simultaneously equivocated (Justin Taylor) and criticized (Carson, Keller, Anyabwile) MacDonald’s conversation. At issue, supposedly, was the Trinity. There was never really a clear pronouncement on whether or not MacDonald was a heretic for hosting a heretic, but there was plenty of discussion. Now, in an even clearer example of someone who supposedly believes in the Trinity dialoging with people who have a clear denial of the Trinity there is nothing. Nothing from the Gospel Coalition or the men at Reformation21…why is this? Is it because of the past engagements of Warren and John Piper? As long as there is silence the void will only be filled by supposition.

Secondly, does Rick Warren believe Christians and Muslims worship the same God? I have tried to find the actual document in question and I have not been able to. Therefore, I can only take Rick Warren at his word that the statement agreed upon was that Christians and Muslims believe in “one” God and not the “same” God. There are still numerous problems with such a statement.

In the context of an interfaith agreement the statement seems to be rhetorically useless as it is parsed by Warren. A rough outline of the document’s three main points are: 1) We believe in one God; 2) We love God and our neighbor; 3) We will not seek to proselytize each other. In this context, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Muslims and Christians believe in the same God.

There is no logical necessity that flows from believing in one God to loving your neighbor. What if someone believes in the Hindu god of destruction?

If we both believe in one God and we agree not to proselytize one another there are only two options. We both believe in the same “one God” so there is no need to proselytize. Or we do not believe that our “one God” is the “only God;” thereby implying that there is in fact no such being as “one God.” In either of these two options Warren is surrendering the farm. In an interfaith agreement you cannot say “one God” without meaning “same God.” If you protest this, then you should have agreed that you believe in “a God.”

That this argument is correct demonstrated by the common reaction to the agreement. Once again, an impartial journalist, Christian bloggers, and Muslim bloggers, have all understood this to an agreement that Christians and Muslims believe in the same God. When representatives from these diverse groups agree on this implication, can Rick Warren really say they have all misunderstood the meaning?

Rick Warren has built his life on communication. He has sold millions of books. He is the pastor of one of the largest churches in the world. He knows how to speak and write clearly and persuasively. For him to protest that everyone has misunderstood his meaning is rather remarkable.

Warren’s assertion that Muslims and Christian’s believe in “one God” but not the same God violates the intended meaning of the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6: “For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”– yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

Warren’s interpretation of the joint statement makes him unbiblical. Everyone else’s interpretation makes him heretical. Neither option seems particularly appealing.

******UPDATE: 3/3/12 7:30 A.M.*******

Rick Warren has offered a rebuttal to the reports. Transcript of interview may be found by clicking here

A few observations:

  1. Everything he says to a member of the Christian media seems orthodox. But that doesn’t really address the issue at hand. All he has to do is make publicly available the text of the King’s Way agreement. My three year-old can tell me one thing and tell my wife something completely different, the question is what really happened?
  2. I praise the Lord for any and all souls saved as a result of Warren’s ministry. But evangelism is not a sign of orthodoxy- Matthew 23:15.
  3. Again, the simplest way to make this stop is to make public the King’s Way agreement. I find it interesting that the reporter who supposedly has or has seen the agreement has not changed his story. This is even after Warren accused him of false reporting. Why would the reporter continue to stand by what to him probably seemed a rather insignificant story?
  4. So Rick Warren has told Christians he believes in the Trinity and that Jesus is God. Great, but what has he told his Muslim friends and “brothers”?

Creation: How Does the Bible Interpret Genesis 1?

As we consider the debate between those who hold to believe in some form of evolution and those who believe in the traditional Christian belief in direct creation by God over the course of six 24-hour days; one question that has to be answered is “What does the Bible say about the creation of the universe.” In other words, it does not really matter what the traditional Christian belief is. The central question is, “What does the Bible, in fact, teach?” Or, to put it more humbly, “What does the Bible seem to teach?” As we consider texts that speak directly about the creation of the universe, what is the picture they paint?

Genesis 1 is obviously an important place to start. Several aspects demand our attention. First, there are the repeated “let there be” statements followed by “and there was;” “and it was so;” or “God made.” It is hard to escape the immediacy that these statements imply. Furthermore there are the repeated “there was evening, and there was morning, the first [second/third/fourth etc.] day.” In any other discourse if someone talked like this there would be little chance of being misunderstood. If someone made an appointment and said, “After three evening and mornings, after three days, I will meet you.” It would be, or should be, pretty clear when the meeting was supposed to happen. Granted, there are some biblical contexts in which “day” does not mean a 24-hour time period. But our basic methodology is not to ask what a word can possibly mean from other contexts, but what a word most likely means in its present context. We must investigate how the Bible speaks about creation and its days in other contexts that speak of creation; not how it speaks about “days” in contexts that have nothing to do with creation.

This leads to a consideration of Exodus 20:8-11 a context that speaks of days and creation. The Israelites were commanded to work 6 days of the week and cease from their labor on the seventh day of the week. There is no ambiguity here and all interpreters can only assert that such a command was understood and practiced with a literal understanding of the words. The Israelites worked Sunday through Friday and ceased labors on Saturday. Even now, nearly 4,000 years later, the Jewish people practice this. Verse 11 appears to be equally unambiguous: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” The six days of labor for the Israelites match the six days of labor of the Lord. What indication is there in the text that anyone should take verses 8-10 literally, but not verse 11? Indeed, the very basis for a literal interpretation for verses 8-10 is a literal interpretation of verse 11. When the Bible speaks of days and creation, the Bible seems to interpret the event literally.

But what about the act of creation? How does the Bible present the act of creation outside of Genesis? Consider the following texts:

 Psalm 33:6-9  By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

Psalm 148:1-5- Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created.

Isaiah 45:12, 18- I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host. For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Romans 4:17  as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”–in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

2Peter 3:5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God,

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Again, what is the impression that these verses leave the reader with. It certainly seems that the Bible wants its reader to believe that everything that came into existence came into existence because of the command of the Lord. It appears that the Psalmist, Isaiah, Paul, Peter, and author of Hebrews all understood Genesis chapter one in a “literal” manner.

A common method of contrarians is to atomize the Bible. They seek to separate texts off from one another and explain away details through using irrelevant data. It is certainly important to know the lexical meanings a word can have: even the word day.[1] But the safest way of interpretation is to seek what a word means in its own context and in contexts that are closest in content. If you want to know what “day” means in Genesis 1, look for how the Bible speaks about creation.

When the Bible talks about creation it constantly does so in a way that reinforces a literal interpretation of Genesis 1. Maybe that is why the church has believed it for 2,000 years.


[1] Basil the Great makes a forceful point: “It is the opposite of day which was called night, and it did not receive its name until after day. Thus were created the evening and the morning, Scripture means the space of a day and a night, but calls them both under the name of the more important: a custom which you will find throughout Scripture, Everywhere the measure of time is counted by days, without mention of nights. ‘The days of our years,’ says the Psalmist. ‘Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been,’ said Jacob, and elsewhere ‘all the days of my life.’ Thus under the form of history the law is laid down for what is to follow.” (Hexaemeron, Homily 2). Critics debate over what the word “day” means all the while ignoring that God himself define is in the the text: evening and morning.

The Presbyterian & Reformed on Creation: Slouching toward Evolution

I am neither Presbyterian nor Reformed, but I continue to gain much and have much of my thinking shaped by those who are. But there is a current of thinking swelling up that I hope to fall into. Certain people with a platform continue to dismiss the historical reliability of Genesis 1-11. They continue to question the Church’s traditional, literal, young-earth, interpretation. As this post links too, William B. Evans is another who has laid his cards on the table. Men like Evans make intellectual appeal to science and ancient literature and tell us that our interpretation must take these things into account.

Carlton Wynne eviscerates such thinking:

The need of the hour, it seems to me, whether we are discussing the relative merits of competing creation views, confessional subscription and interpretation, or any other related issue, is to state as clearly and as boldly as we can that the authoritative nexus of meaning–the divinely sanctioned access point for the meaning of a biblical text–lies within the canon of Scripture itself and not in reference to anything extra-biblical, especially apparent similarities with ANE literature. This is an indispensable corollary to Scripture’s authority and sufficiency that we lose to our epistemological and hermeneutical peril. On a related note, however informative ANE literature may be for studying isolated texts, we cannot allow it to norm our reading of Scripture nor determine what Scripture, as a whole, is. The book of Hebrews alone, with the scant authorial and extra-biblical contextual evidence available to us today, ought to check our dependence on background studies for interpreting the Scriptures and lead us to read it, and every other biblical text, ultimately in light of its canonical perspective and place in the unfolding organism of special revelation.

The denial of the plain meaning of Genesis 1-11, the denial of the Church’s historical understanding of Genesis 1-11, is a denial of sola Scriptura. I am not sure how Wickipedia can understand sola Scriptura- “Sola scriptura is the teaching that the Bible is the only inspired and authoritative word of God, is the only source for Christian doctrine, and is accessible to all—that is, it is perspicuous and self-interpreting“- and men like Meredith Kline, Bruce Waltke, Tremper Longman, and William B. Evans cannot. Is the Bible able to stand on its own? Can the Bible offer its own authoritative interpretation? That is the question here.

Evans and his cohorts say Moses was only using faulty ancient tradition. Evans and his cohorts say the Westminster divines were relying on faulty science. I heard the exact same thing in 2009 when I was involved in a reading group of Calvin’s Institutes: passages in which Calvin clearly demonstrated a belief in a young-earth, 6-day creation, were acknowledged with the comment that Calvin was only depending on the science of his day. Apparently Moses was proficient enough to write Scripture, but not truth. Apparently Calvin was discerning enough to see errors in Rome, but not the “science of his day.” The Westminster Assembly was able enough to set creedal standards that guided a denomination for 350 years, but not able to know what they were really talking about.

So the problem with Moses, Calvin, the Westminster Assembly et al. was that they all were held captive to the thinking of their day. None of them were able to penetrate the fog of their own age’s ignorance. They were all slaves to the thought of their contemporaries. Am I the only one on whom this irony is not lost? Evans charges the ancients with communal ignorance as he embraces the wisdom of this world.

Zeitgeist is not all it is cracked up to be.