I ran into this thoughtful video clip from an interview with John Piper, in which he was asked, “What Should We Teach About Creation?”
Truly, this is one of those topics that almost assuredly has some people running for cover, cowering in corners, and waving a white flag. It has others putting on battle armor and hoisting the cannons. In reality, even with many other hot-topic issues in today’s “Christian Argument Tumbler,” ‘Creationism’ is still a rally cry to throw down, put on gloves, and step in the ring. Without fail.
Here are some of my thoughts:
First, Piper speaks truth when he comments on the, “-ism” at the end of creation. Whenever we begin a discussion about “creation[ism]” we’re talking about an issue rooted in argument, discussion, strong feeling, theory, and most of all — agenda. As Christians, the topic we need to discuss is, ‘creation,’ which is different than ‘creationism.’
Creation is the reality of a creator God, and a created world, which leads discussions to talks of moral correctness and inherent goodness. Creationism is an invitation to argue semantics, hermeneutics and science, and has no evangelical impetus. It is a doorway to “vain argument and empty discussions.”
We must steer away from, “creationism” and run towards, “creation.”
Secondly, ‘six literal days of creation’ has explicit hermeneutical implications, and implicit theological implications. That is to say, how you view the issue of “day,” in regards to the creation of the world in Genesis 1–2 affects first how you read Scripture, and therefore only implicitly affects theology. You can still be a gospel person while agreeing with day-age literary readings of Genesis 1–2.
But, how you view the creation of man has extreme, explicit theological implications. Man, in Genesis 2, is created separated from creation, and above creation, in the specific image of God, and with God’s breath specifically in his nostrils. He is created good — as is the rest of creation. Adam is used throughout Scripture as a typological representation of humanity, and viewed throughout Scripture as a true, real individual. Adam and Eve are key to the fall, and in no sense, ever, can we jettison a theology which holds to the Historical Fall of Man. Without the Fall, we have no good creation, no sinless existance, and no perfection to which we could return. Without the Fall, God created humanity sinful. To what, then, would He redeem us? You cannot be a gospel person while denying the specific creation of Adam, Eve, and the historical reality of the Fall.
Thirdly, we must affirm above all that God is true. We must affirm that God has spoken truthfully, that God desires us to know Him, and that His truth is preserved and maintained throughout His revelation. This is not as simple of a topic as some might lead us to believe.
We hold to a doctrine of not just ‘specific,’ but also of ‘general’ revelation. That is, God didn’t simply reveal himself through Scripture, but he also reveals himself through His creation. His fingerprints are throughout the created world, and we can learn of Him by what His hands have made.
Carbon dating, geology, and other scientific studies have show the earth to be billions of years old. These sciences are not perfect, and we should never hold these sciences above God’s specific Word. But, they investigate the reality and continuity of God’s creation — ie. if what we see to be true in nature today has been true for the entire existence of the world, then their extrapolations must be viewed with a certain amount of credibility. We cannot simply ignore scientific evidence because it facevalue contradicts Scripture. Conversely, we should never twist or distort Scripture because an extra-Scriptural source contradicts it.
In the end, we are seeking to continually affirm God’s truthfulness in creation, and in the multiple accounts of creation. Creation — the act — is itself, in Scripture, a theological issue and historical fact. Ancient Near Eastern studies have shown that the Mediterranean cultures were never concerned with the reality of origin — it’s reality is quickly affirmed by looking outside! No, they were concerned with the theology of origin — we are created, but why? It is this question that I see Genesis 1–2 answering.
Genesis 1–2 sets the stage for a Creator God creating a world which reflect Himself — His glory and majesty. Genesis 3 shows creation rebelling. The remainder of Scripture shows the Creator wooing back His creation, through love, diligence and ultimately, sacrifice.
And this is my great fear with the issues surrounding the debate of Genesis 1–2. In our eager battle to preserve the truthfulness of Scripture, we are often ignoring or slighting theological realities in order to promote historical realities. The battle for a six-day creation is a battle for a conservative, evangelical reading of Genesis 1–2 — very little more!
How many discussions of creation have begun, continued, and ended without any mention of Christ, grace, or salvation? When we promote God’s six-day creation apart from humanities’ one-day fall, and Jesus’s three day victory, we leave the gospel behind! We as Christians have become eager to discuss creation — but we leave it at that.
Perhaps my title is a little misleading. Creation-ism is not solved in this article. If anything, the dichotomy between the plain words of Scripture — six days — and the plain discoveries of science — billions of years — are highlighted and left to stand bare in these paragraphs. But the reality is that the greatest issue of creation — that it was broken — has been solved: by Christ on the cross. When we allow carbon-dating, or elaborate theories of flood, or obscure readings of the Word of God to cloud away the clarity and precision of the gospel, we find ourselves reading and preaching only two chapters of a very, very long story. A very long story whose beginning, ultimately, pales vastly in comparison to it’s glorious, hope-filled ending!
So, let us prioritize a return to the gospel — to the story of salvation — whenever we might begin a discussion of Genesis 1–2; let us pray God’s truth be known, sinner’s souls be saved, and God be glorified!