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Should We Take Genesis Literally?

13 Sep

As a theologian and scholar, I find myself strong in certain areas of theology, while weaker in others.  This doesn't mean that I reject what I am not scholastically solid on, but rather differ to my peers and trust God's Word to be true.  One such area that I currently am not strong in is the area of Creation Science.  Though I am firmly convinced that the world was created in six literal days, I confess that my field of studies do not fall in geology, biology, nor any other -ology that would qualify me as an expert.  Yet, this fact does not negate me from having strong opinions on the matter, nor does it disqualify me from writing about it.

Recently a pseudo-Christian [1] organization has become more visible on the Internet.  They call themselves The BioLogos Foundation, and it's purpose is to legitimatize their beliefs in syncretizing [2] Scripture with the model of Evolution.

Tonight, I had the opportunity to watch a video put out by the BioLogos Foundation in an attempt to ordain their belief that the creation stories in Genesis should not be taken literally.  If this is true, then their organization would have a reasonable base.  They invited a popular liberal scholar NT Wright Bishop of Durham in the Church of England, and asked the question,

If you take Genesis in a non-literal fashion like the creation stories, why then take anything else literally?

NT Wright then spends the next three minutes explaining how he is able to believe the Gospels without believing the creation stories in Genesis.

Allow me to include the video:

 

 

Here is an analysis of the video:

[0:45-0:58]  NT Wright is asked the question, "If you take Genesis in a non-literal fashion like the creation stories, why then take anything else literally?"

[0:58-1:54] Wright changes the usage of the word "literally" to the word "concrete".  What this does is shift the question from a faith-based issue to an empirical issue.  Because he finds the word "literal" confusing, he redefines it, and then forces the use of the word "concrete" to replace it.  This is not necessary.  The word "literal" means without interpretation or embellishment; "a literal depiction of the scene before him."  It also carries the definition of being limited to the explicit meaning of a word or text; "a literal translation."   When this is completed, he then shifts the creation stories over as an "abstract" being equivalent to the parables Jesus taught in the Gospels.  When all is said and done, he shows that he believes the Genesis is nothing more than an abstract of ideas that are used to teach moral stories. 

So, what should the God-fearing, Bible-believing Christian do?  The answer is, remember what God's Word says about these wolves:

Colossians 2:8
8  Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Ephesians 5:6
6  Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

 

Because I cannot explain it any better than those who specialize in the area of Creation Science, I am bringing in a short article to wrap up my post. 

A very important question we must ask is, “What was Jesus’ view of the days of creation? Did He say that He created in six literal days?” 

When confronted with such a question, most Christians would automatically go to the New Testament to read the recorded words of Jesus to see if such a statement occurs.

Now, when we search the New Testament Scriptures, we certainly find many interesting statements Jesus made that relate to this issue. Mark 10:6 says, “But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’” From this passage, we see that Jesus clearly taught that the creation was young, for Adam and Eve existed “from the beginning,” not billions of years after the universe and earth came into existence. Jesus made a similar statement in Mark 13:19 indicating that man’s sufferings started very near the beginning of creation. The parallel phrases of “from the foundation of the world” and “from the blood of Abel” in Luke 11:50–51 also indicate that Jesus placed Abel very close to the beginning of creation, not billions of years after the beginning. His Jewish listeners would have assumed this meaning in Jesus’ words, for the first-century Jewish historian Josephus indicates that the Jews of his day believed that both the first day of creation and Adam’s creation were about 5,000 years before Christ.[3]

In John 5:45–47, Jesus says,

John 5:45-47
45  Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
46  For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.
47  But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

In this passage, Jesus makes it clear that one must believe what Moses wrote. And one of the passages in the writings of Moses in Exodus 20:11 states: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” This, of course, is the basis for our seven-day week—six days of work and one day of rest. Obviously, this passage was meant to be taken as speaking of a total of seven literal days based on the Creation Week of six literal days of work and one literal day of rest.

In fact, in Luke 13:14, in his response to Jesus healing a person on the Sabbath, the ruler of the synagogue, who knew the law of Moses, obviously referred to this passage when he said, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” The sabbath day here was considered an ordinary day, and the six days of work were considered ordinary days. This teaching is based on the Law of Moses as recorded in Exodus 20, where we find the Ten Commandments—the six-day Creation Week being the basis for the Fourth Commandment.

We should also note the way Jesus treated as historical fact the accounts in the Old Testament, which religious and atheistic skeptics think are unbelievable mythology. These historical accounts include Adam and Eve as the first married couple (Matthew 19:3–6; Mark 10:3–9), Abel as the first prophet who was killed (Luke 11:50–51), Noah and the Flood (Matthew 24:38–39), Moses and the serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14), Moses and the manna from heaven to feed the Israelites in the wilderness (John 6:32–33, 49), the experiences of Lot and his wife (Luke 17:28–32), the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matthew 10:15), the miracles of Elijah (Luke 4:25–27), and Jonah and the big fish (Matthew 12:40– 41). As New Testament scholar John Wenham has compellingly argued, Jesus did not allegorize these accounts but took them as straightforward history, describing events that actually happened just as the Old Testament describes.[4]  Jesus used these accounts to teach His disciples that the events of His death, Resurrection, and Second Coming would likewise certainly happen in time-space reality.

These passages taken together strongly imply that Jesus took Genesis 1 as literal history describing creation in six 24-hour days. But are there any more explicit passages?

I believe there are. However, one has to approach this issue in a slightly different manner. We are not limited to the New Testament when we try to find out if Jesus stated He created in six days; we can also search the Old Testament. After all, Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity and therefore has always existed.

First, Colossians makes it clear that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was the one who created all things: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16–17).

We are also told elsewhere in Scripture how Jesus created: “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.  For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6, 9). We see the meaning of this when we consider the miracles of Jesus during His earthly ministry. All the miracles occurred instantly—at His Word. He instantly turned water into wine in His very first miracle, which revealed His glory as the Creator (John 2:1–11; John 1:1–3, 14, 18). It was the instant calming of the wind and the waves that convinced His disciples that He was no mere man. So it was with all His miracles (Mark 4:35–41). He did not speak and wait for days, weeks, months, or years for things to happen. He spoke and it was done. So, when He said, “Let there be . . .” in Genesis 1, it did not take long ages for things to come into existence.

We also know that Jesus is in fact called the Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1–3).

Jesus, who is the Word, created everything by simply speaking things into existence.

Now, consider Exodus 20:1: “And God spoke all these words, saying . . . .” Because Jesus is the Word, this must be a reference to the preincarnate Christ speaking to Moses. As we know, there are a number of appearances of Christ (theophanies) in the Old Testament. John 1:18 states: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” There is no doubt, with rare exception, that the preincarnate Christ did the speaking to Adam, Noah, the patriarchs, Moses, etc. Now, when the Creator God spoke as recorded in Exodus 20:1, what did He (Jesus) say? As we read on, we find this statement: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11).

Yes, Jesus did explicitly say He created in six days.[5]  Not only this, but the one who spoke the words “six days” also wrote them down for Moses: “Then the Lord delivered to me two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words which the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly” (Deuteronomy 9:10).

Jesus said clearly that He created in six days. And He even did something He didn’t do with most of Scripture—He wrote it down Himself. How clearer and more authoritative can you get than that?

 

 

 

[1]  Pseudo-Christianity is anything that claims to be Christian while in direct conflict with God's Word.  The BioLogos Foundation seeks to combine Christianity with non-Biblical Evolution.  Though it is not questioned that the organization might contain Christians within their circle, the foundation itself cannot be considered Christian since it contradict's Scripture.

[2]  Syncretism is the act of combining two philosophies or religions, in order to create a third.  Many members of the early church period (Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Augustine) sought to combine Greek Philosophy and Christianity together, which ultimately resulted in the Roman Catholic Church.

[3]  See William Whiston, transl., The Works of Josephus, Hendrickson, Peabody, Massachusetts, p. 850, 1987, and Paul James-Griffiths, “Creation days and Orthodox Jewish Tradition,” Creation 26(2): 53–55, www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v26/i2/tradition.asp.

[4]  John Wenham, Christ and the Bible, IVPress, Downers Grove, Illinois, pp. 11–37, 1973.

[5]  Even if someone is convinced that God the Father was the speaker in Exodus 20:11, the Father and Son would never disagree. Jesus said in John 10:30: “I and my Father are one” [neuter—one in the essence of deity, not one in personality]. He also said, “I speak these things as the Father taught me,” and “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:28–29).

* Original article can be found on AnswersinGenesis.org and was edited by John Calvin Hall.

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2 Comments

Posted by on 13-September-2010 in Uncategorized

 

2 responses to “Should We Take Genesis Literally?

  1. Jeffrey Brown

    13-September-2010 at 11:42 AM

    Hello,
    Good day to you! We serve a MIGHTY God, in whom there is no darkness but only inexpressable light!
    I was at first dismayed when I just LOOKED at this post.. That was before I read it though, sorry!
    I am a litteral six-day creationist and I believe that God's Word fully supports this, as it is TRUTH. I am however dismayed by this group that feels that evolution is part of the story, which is, in my opinion, rubbish.
    I have a friend who is a Sothern Baptist Pastor, and who formed the Mendocino County Jail Ministry in Ukiah. He has done a TON of research into the language of the Bible, (Hebrew/Greek) and has found some surprising nuggets of truth in them that have been nuisunderstood for centuries. If you could, we ask that you visit http://www.burneyfam.com and check out his website and tell us what you think. We also have our Battle Vlog up and running where you can get in touch with Pastor Gerry… the URL for this is http://www.battlebuddiesunited.com  These Websites exisit to exault the name f God Almighty, through the Lord Jesus Christ! To Him be all power & glory forever, amen!
    Please write back!

     
  2. Don Lambirth

    19-April-2011 at 3:18 PM

    I am an old earth creationist. Not totally in tune with Hugh Ross but
    Appreciate John Sailhammer’s views in Genesis Unbound.
    I have often wondered/speculated about the literalness of Adam and
    Eve or whether it was an allegorical tale of a much larger truth.
    I debate this in my mind often. I mean it plays out like
    ALlegory. A fruit; two trees one of life and the other of
    Knowledge; a talking serpent. But then again I see the genealogies and the
    Importance of such and then conclude on that that it is historical. But I
    Don’t know for sure. The one thing I am sure of and as long as we
    Agree is the Bigger Point and theology. God is creator; man was
    Meant to be in relationship with Him; man fell and was
    Separated in this relationship and man and creation is in need of
    Redemption. Wheterr M Whether Adam is represented as one man or humanity;
    Whether man really ate a literal fruit as the means to the fall I don’t know.
    I und argument that these are the smaller details in
    A much bigger story.

     

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