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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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.

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.

Bavinck on Believing what Special Revelation Teaches about General Revelation. Or, why I believe God created all things in six days.

Bavinck begins his discussion of revelation with the accurate observation that all religion is built upon revelation. There is no religion without revelation. Biblical religion is built upon two forms of revelation, generally identified as general and special revelation. General revelation is what is “clearly seen” by all men—God’s eternal power and divine nature demonstrated in creation and history (Rom. 1:20). Nature tells us that God is God. It does not, however, tell us how we are to be reconciled to God. For that man is in need of God’s special revelation. Special revelation “is that conscious act of God, by which he, in the way of a historical complex of special means (theophany, prophecy, and miracle) that are concentrated in the person of Christ, makes himself known” (p. 350). This special revelation continues today through Scripture.

What I particularly enjoyed about Bavinck’s treatment of general and special revelation was the connection he drew between the two. For the past century biblical Christianity has been under rather constant pressure to abandon belief in a 6-day creation by the word God. While mainline denominations quickly acquiesced, conservative Christians sought more creative ways to incorporate Darwin into Genesis. Prominent among these innovations was the gap theory popularized by the Scofield reference Bible. Other popular alternatives to the traditional interpretation of Genesis are the day-age theory and the literary framework theory.

Bavinck does an excellent job of addressing the importance of accepting the biblical account of creation:

The work of God outward began with the creation. The creation is the first revelation of God, the beginning and foundation off all subsequent revelation. The biblical concept of revelation is rooted in that of creation. God first appeared outwardly before his creatures in the creation and revealed himself to them. In creating the world by his word and making it come alive by his Spirit, God already delineated the basic contours of all subsequent revelation. But immediately linking up with the event of creation is the action of providence. This, too, is an omnipotent and everywhere-present power and act of God. All that happens is, in a real sense, a work of God and to the devout a revelation of his attributes and perfections.

Any plain reading of Scripture gives the clear impression that God creates the universe and all that is in it instantly by his powerful word (Gen. 1:1-2:1; Ps. 33:6, 9; 148:1-5; Heb. 11:3; 2 Pet. 3:5, that he did so in six days (Gen 1:1-2:1; Ex. 20:11; 31:17; Heb. 4:3-4), and that it was not millions of years ago. In his treatment of creation and our understanding of it, Bavinck is doing the same thing the author of Hebrews does in chapter 11 of his work.

Hebrews 11, of course, is the great chapter of faith: the word is used 26 times in 40 verses. What should not be missed in Hebrews 11 is the organic nature of faith. The faith that draws near to God is the same faith that believes he made everything by his word is the same faith that invigorates obedience is the same faith that leads to inheritance of eternal reward. Faith does these things and it does all these things.

So what fossil that you see is so stunning that it that is causes you to question a conviction of things not seen?

What theory or argument or explanation is so persuasive that it causes you to lose the assurance of things hoped for?

What does Scripture teach about God that causes you to believe he could not have created all things instantly by his word 6-10 thousand years ago? Is he not powerful enough? Not wise enough? Not good enough? “Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (Jer. 32:17). Is it just too hard to believe that God could have done what the Bible appears to teach he did and what the church for centuries taught that he did? Is this too hard for God?

Indeed, creation is “the beginning and foundation of all subsequent revelation.” So when you deny that Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, and Hebrews mean what they say, do not be surprised when your children deny that the Gospels and Romans mean what they say. Do not be surprised when your grandchildren deny any meaning to Scripture. By faith the people of old received their commendation (Heb. 11:2). By lack of faith people of today receive their condemnation.