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?

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Despised Mothers of the Church

Commentators often give special attention to two women listed in the genealogy of Jesus: one a Canaanite prostitute, the other a cursed Moabite: “and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse” (Matthew 1:5).

But Rahab is far from the first despised woman in Jesus’ heritage.

 Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”
…So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years. When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.
…And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing.
Genesis 29:16-18, 30-31, 35

Leah, Rahab, and Ruth are of the blessed despised. They are mothers of the church. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

God chooses the foolish of the world, like Ruth. A young widow leaving her homeland to follow a mother-in-law to a foreign land where there would be no hope of finding a husband. Except the God of all hope…

God chooses what is weak in the world, like Leah. Poor weak-eyed Leah and her beautiful sister Rachel: how great the shame of knowing her husband was duped into marrying her. Her husband resents her and her sister mocks her. But God settles the solitary in a home…

God chooses the low and despised in the world, like Rahab. A cursed people, a surrounded city, a forbidden occupation. Darkness is her future. But the Lord reveals his righteousness in the sight of the nations…

Are you a child of God? Then “in the world” you will be foolish, weak, low and despised. Despair not. So was your mother.

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.

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.

John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God Sermon 2

In sermon 2 Chrysostom does not leave any doubt about his feelings toward the Anomoeans. In the previous sermon they were seen as guilty of madness, obstinacy, and folly.  In the very first sentence of the second address they are described as “unbelieving and infidel.” Chrysostom goes on to say they are guilty of dishonoring the faith and disgracing themselves (1)[1]. Yet even with such harsh words, Chrysostom insists he is acting gently. He encourages his hearers to treat the Anomoeans “as you would treat people who have suffered a mental illness and lost their wits” (51). Indeed, the claim to be able to comprehend God is one of insanity.

The preacher rightly identifies one of the consequences of this false belief: the elimination of faith (6). If God can be known completely; known for who he is in his essence; what room is there for faith? For mystery? For wonder? As mentioned in yesterday’s post, one of the underlying questions in the debate about the knowability of God is, “What kind of God is God?” Again, if God can be comprehended, is he that much of a god?

Unlike the first sermon, Chrysostom does not base this address on a single passage of Scripture. Rather, he uses multiple Scriptures to prove his point. In his first sermon, the preacher demonstrated the incomprehensibility of God by focusing on the Scriptural teachings of his attributes. The Bible consistently says that even God’s individual attributes are incomprehensible, so how much more sure is it that God himself is incomprehensible? In this sermon Chrysostom turns from the attributes of God to his actions. If what God does cannot be understood, how can God himself be understood? He will also turn attention to the nature of man. How can the finite grasp the infinite?

Chrysostom’s first example is the angelic announcement of John’s conception to his father Zechariah (9-16). While the preacher makes a few historically inaccurate statements[2], his treatment of the substance of the Scripture is sound and supportive of his thesis. Zechariah was judged by God because he was not content to take God at his word and wanted to know how God was going to accomplish the sign spoken of. The Anomoeans display the same lack of faith and sense. Not content to trust the word of God, the press on to find out the unknowable.

Before treating even more Scripture, Chrysostom mentions the summary of the Anomoeans’ error (17). He describes it as a destructive force and root of all their evils. The claim of the Anomoeans is: “I know God as God himself knows himself.” It is hard to disagree with the preacher’s statement that the mere repetition of this belief demonstrates its folly (18). If such an affirmation were indeed true, the Anomoeans are rightly called godless. Since it is clearly untrue, they are certainly guilty of “unpardonable madness, a new kind of impiety and godlessness.”

Chrysostom then changes track and concentrates on the nature of man (19-22). The preacher ransacks Scripture to describe man as “dust and ashes, flesh and blood, grass and the flower of grass, a shadow and smoke and vanity…” And just in case anything is left out “…and whatever is weaker and more worthless than these.” These attributes are shown in stark contrast to the nature of God who simply looks at the earth and it trembles.

This leads the preacher into a lengthy meditation on the smallness of man in nature (23-31; 49-50). The heavens have stood gloriously for 5,000 years.[3] The mountains and seas of earth dwarf man. Yet all these are accounted as nothing before their Maker: no wider than his hand; dust on the scales; drops in the palms. Man does not even know his home, but has the audacity to claim full knowledge of its Maker?

Following this, there is argument from the book of Romans (32-39). Chrysostom reminds his hearers that they are but clay in the potter’s hand. As such, they have no foundation from which to question the work of God. In Paul’s hypothetical dialogue, the question was not over God’s nature, but his decisions of judgment and mercy. If man has no way of knowing the mysteries of God’s sovereign decrees, what hope has he of knowing the essence of God himself?

 When Paul did not permit the Romans to meddle in these matters, what about you Anomoeans? Do you not think that you deserve to be seared with ten thousand thunderbolts? You are being meddlesome and pretending to know that blesses essence which manages all the universe. Is this not a mark of ultimate madness?[4]

Chrysostom spends the rest of the sermon bringing up other Pauline statements of ignorance. Devoting most of the discussion to Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended…” and the surrounding context. If the apostle Paul could only claim informed ignorance, who can dare say he knows God as God knows himself?

As in the first sermon, Chrysostom concludes by exhorting his hearers to be gentle but direct when dealing with those “blasphemers” (55). Yet their interaction must be guarded. Weaker believers in the truth should flee the heretics and have nothing to do with them. Indeed, all the faithful should “avoid any association with them” but instead

 …only pray for them and beseech the loving-kindness of God, who wishes all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, to free them from this deceit and snare of the devil, and to lead them back to the light of knowledge, that is, to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in union with the all holy Spirit, the giver of life, to whom be glory and power now and forever, world without end. Amen.[5]


[1] All parenthetical references refer to chapter divisions in Paul W. Harkins, St John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1984).

[2] i.e. that Zechariah was high priest and was in the holy of holies.

[3] An indication that John Chrysostom understood Genesis 1-11 literally.

[4] §39 pg. 86

[5] §55 pg. 93-94.

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.

Why do I read the church fathers?

Why do I read the church fathers? Why, after thousands of years do I prefer their voice to that of my contemporaries? One reason is that they were not limp wristed theological pansies. The fathers are bold, assertive, certain: yes, even when they might be wrong. This is not only a reason why I read them, it is a reason they are read at all by anyone. Who really wants to toil through 2,000 year old pacifist theology? What is the point of reading men who are afraid to disagree with others and take a stand on the true meaning of Scripture? Rodney King is good drunk, but a lousy theologian. No, we can’t just all get along.

We are told that God did not really create the world in six days. We need to be open and charitable to those who have other view points. Genesis 1-11 did not really happen it is just a picture or symbol to explain the world we are in. Peace, peace. There are more important things then whether God really created the world and everything in it in the space of six days. Is it really a big deal to believe that God could not, or did not, create the world and everything in it in 6 24-hour days? Couldn’t God have used time, evolution, etc. over thousands of years?

This manner of speech may perhaps be plausible or persuasive to those who know not God, and who liken Him to needy human beings, and to those who cannot immediately and without assistance form anything, but require many instrumentalities to produce what they intend. But it will not be regarded as at all probable by those who know that God stands in need of nothing, and that He created and made all things by His Word, while He neither required angels to assist Him in the production of those things which are made, nor of any power greatly inferior to Himself, and ignorant of the Father, nor of any defect or ignorance, in order that he who should know Him might become man. But He Himself in Himself, after a fashion which we can neither describe nor conceive, predestinating all things, formed them as He pleased, bestowing harmony on all things, and assigning them their own place, and the beginning of their creation. Whom, therefore, shall we believe as to the creation of the world — these heretics who have been mentioned that prate so foolishly and inconsistently on the subject, or the disciples of the Lord, and Moses, who was both a faithful servant of God and a prophet? (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, II.ii.4,5)

Like a breath of fresh air.

Irenaeus identifies what it really comes down to: who are we going to believe? PhDs or prophets? Scientists or apostles? If denying the plain meaning of Scripture is the price for acceptance and respectability it is too high for me. I welcome and embrace the label of narrow-minded literalist. I will stick with the Bible and the men who defended it against all enemies. I have no compulsion to reconcile what Scripture says with what man thinks.

 It is therefore better and more profitable to belong to the simple and unlettered class, and by means of love to attain to nearness to God, than, by imagining ourselves learned and skilful, to be found [among those who are] blasphemous against their own God, inasmuch as they conjure up another God as the Father. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, II.xxvi.1)

The only one can give an authoritative statement about the creation of the universe is the One who was there. He has, and I’ll take him at his word.

 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
Psalm 33:6

 

 

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones Comments on the introductory essays to Genesis in the ESV Study Bible

The introductory articles to Genesis in the ESV Study Bible, “Genesis and History” and “Genesis and Science”, are nothing short of disastrous. That may be putting it too kindly.

We are told that Genesis 1-11 “intended to record history.” We are told that history should not be conceived of as things that actually happened but only events that the author “believes to have happened.” Just in case that is not wishy-washy enough, we are told that the author recorded “real events albeit theologically interpreted.” [Emphasis mine in all quotes.]

In the following quote, D.M. Lloyd-Joes is addressing the Canon Criticism and Biblical Theology movement spearheaded by Brevard Childs, but his words are an apt commentary on the ESV Study Bible’s introductory material on Genesis:

Now we must come back to the Bible. But what they really mean is that we must come back to what they call the ‘message’ of the Old Testament. . . . They reject many of the facts of the Old Testament – they do not accept the early chapters of Genesis as history, they reject the story of the flood, they do not believe the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. They cannot believe such things as these, for their scientific knowledge makes it impossible. But they tell us there is a kind of religious value in it all and that they are willing to take hold of the religious principle and teaching, while they reject the facts as such and regard them as myth. . . . Christian people, in other words, are called upon to adopt an attitude and position that to the world seems utterly ridiculous. To believe these things today is as monstrous to the natural man as it was to the unbelievers of Noah’s day. And yet if we accept the Bible as the Word of God if we believe in this revelation, we must believe that it is an essential part of the teaching. . . . We must not bring natural reason to this; we must accept the Bible as the Word of God, the revelation of God, and live a life of conformity with it. The pure mind, not the scoffing, mocking mind of natural man who rejects the revelation of God, is what we need. God grant that our minds may thus be pure, and utterly free from all modern suggestions and teachings which would have us reject the clear teaching of the revelation of God in His Holy Word. (Expository Sermons on 2 Peter, 171, 174)

The Bible does not need to be excused or explained in words that have no meaning.

It just needs to be believed.

Did Early Church Fathers Believe in a Literal Six Day Creation?

It is noted by some that the early church included nothing about the nature of the days of creation in any of her early creeds. This is interpreted to mean that there was no established teaching and that latitude was given to different interpretations. This attitude is based on a deficient recognition of the nature and genesis of the church’s creeds. The earliest creeds were meant as outlines of the faith and their specificity was directly tied to doctrines under attack. The Creed of Nicaea says little about the Father and the Spirit, but much about the Son. Why? Because heretics were attacking the truth about Jesus. The creeds do not mention the nature of the days of creation. Why? Because the issue was never under dispute.

This is not to say that there was necessarily absolute unanimity in the church about the time of creation. It is only to say that a lack of inclusion in creedal statements is more likely to indicate lack of dispute than license to believe multiple things.

Did the early church consider the 6 days of Genesis 1-2 literally or in some figurative/spiritual/allegorical way? Consider the following statements:

 The Sabbath is mentioned at the beginning of the creation [thus]: “And God made in six days the works of His hands, and made an end on the seventh day, and rested on it, and sanctified it.” Attend, my children, to the meaning of this expression, “He finished in six days.” This implies that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a thousand years. And He Himself testifies, saying, “Behold, to-day will be as a thousand years” (Psa. 90:4; 2Pe. 3:8). Therefore, my children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be finished. “And He rested on the seventh day.” This means: when His Son, coming [again], shall destroy the time of the wicked man, and judge the ungodly, and change the sun, and the moon, and the stars, then shall He truly rest on the seventh day. (Epistle of Barnabas, II.15)

 For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded. And for this reason the Scripture says: “Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their adornment. And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that He had made; and God rested upon the seventh day from all His works” (Gen. 2:2). This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years (2 Pe. 3:8); and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, V.28.3)

But that we may not leave our subject at this point undemonstrated, we are obliged to discuss the matter of the times, of which a man should not speak hastily, because they are a light to him. For as the times are noted from the foundation of the world, and reckoned from Adam, they set clearly before us the matter with which our inquiry deals. For the first appearance of our Lord in the flesh took place in Bethlehem, under Augustus, in the year 5500; and He suffered in the thirty-third year. And 6,000 years must be accomplished, in order that the Sabbath may come, the rest, the holy day “on which God rested from all His works.” For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they “shall reign with Christ,” when He comes from heaven, as John says in his Apocalypse: for “a day with the Lord is as a thousand years” (Psa. 90:4). Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that 6,000 years must be fulfilled. And they are not yet fulfilled, as John says: “five are fallen; one is,” that is, the sixth; “the other is not yet come” (Rev. 17:10). (Hippolytus, Exegetical Fragments on Daniel, II.4)

 For since in six days God made the heaven and the earth, and finished the whole world, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He had made, and blessed the seventh day and sanctified it (Gen. 2:1), so by a figure in the seventh month, when the fruits of the earth have been gathered in, we are commanded to keep the feast to the Lord, which signifies that, when this world shall be terminated at the seventh thousand years, when God shall have completed the world, He shall rejoice in us (Psa. 104:31). (Methodius, The Banquet of the Ten Virgins, IV.9)

 Therefore let the philosophers, who enumerate thousands of ages from the beginning of the world, know that the six thousandth year is not yet completed, and that when this number is completed the consummation must take place, and the condition of human affairs be remodeled for the better, the proof of which must first be related, that the matter itself may be plain. God completed the world and this admirable work of nature in the space of six days, as is contained in the secrets of Holy Scripture, and consecrated the seventh day, on which He had rested from His works. But this is the Sabbath-day, which in the language of the Hebrews received its name from the number, whence the seventh is the legitimate and complete number. For there are seven days, by the revolutions of which in order the circles of years are made up; and there are seven stars which do not set, and seven luminaries which are called planets,whose differing and unequal movements are believed to cause the varieties of circumstances and times. (Lactantius, Divine Institutes, VII.14)

 To me, as I meditate and consider in my mind concerning the creation of this world in which we are kept enclosed, even such is the rapidity of that creation; as is contained in the book of Moses, which he wrote about its creation, and which is called Genesis. God produced that entire mass for the adornment of His majesty in six days; on the seventh to which He consecrated it . . . with a blessing. For this reason, therefore, because in the septenary number of days both heavenly and earthly things are ordered, in place of the beginning I will consider of this seventh day after the principle of all matters pertaining to the number of seven; and as far as I shall be able, I will endeavor to portray the day of the divine power to that consummation. . . . And in Matthew we read, that it is written Isaiah also and the rest of his colleagues broke the Sabbath (Mat. 12:5) – that that true and just Sabbath should be observed in the seventh millenary of years. Wherefore to those seven days the Lord attributed to each a thousand years; for thus went the warning: “In Thine eyes, O Lord, a thousand years are as one day” (Psa. 90:4). Therefore in the eyes of the Lord each thousand of years is ordained, for I find that the Lord’s eyes are seven (Zec. 4:10). Wherefore, as I have narrated, that true Sabbath will be in the seventh millenary of years, when Christ with His elect shall reign. Moreover, the seven heavens agree with those days; for thus we are warned: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the powers of them by the spirit of His mouth. (Victorinus, On the Creation of the World)

 Each of these men believed the world was created in six days. “Days” meaning what it means pretty much everywhere except, according to some, in Genesis chapters one and two: 24 hours. You say, “But wait a minute! All of those guys said the history of the world would be 6,000 years. What kind of exegesis is that!?!”

Indeed, I could provide quotations that do not use such disputable interpretive techniques. But the above quotations only strengthen the assertion that the church understood the days of Genesis 1-2 literally: as six, consecutive, 24-hour periods. Their interpretation was so literal that it carried over to their interpretation of Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8. In the minds of the fathers, Peter is not just waxing poetically on the long-suffering patience of God but is giving a literal time-table for the Lord’s return. The foundation for such an expectation was a literal interpretation of the creation days of Genesis 1-2.

Whether or not the fathers were right in their interpretation of 2 Peter 3:8, they were united in their understanding of Genesis 1-2. The first seven days were just like all those that followed them: 24 hours.