What Really Matters In The Creation / Evolution Debate

The Creation of Man by Michelangelo Sistine Chapel

The age old creation versus evolution debate has been getting some press recently. The press is the result of Bill Nye (as in “Bill Nye the Science Guy”) announcing he would be debating Ken Ham, the president and CEO of Answers in Genesis.

To be honest, I don’t particularly care about the outcome of this debate. Creationists and evolutionists have been debating for a long time, and I don’t expect this debate to solve any significant issues. But generally speaking, I think it’s important for us as Christians to think through what really does and does not matter when it comes to this debate. We Christians need to wrestle with what Scripture really does and doesn’t say about the creation of the world.

So what are the non-negotiables and where is there room for flexibility?

FLEXIBILITY:

  • I wish that Christians would stop insisting the earth is 6,000 years old, given that this particular number was calculated by Bishop Ussher based on a poor interpretation of the chronologies in the Bible. The chronologies in Scripture are primarily theological, not historical. An example of this is Matthew’s chronology of Jesus. Matthew’s point is to illustrate that Jesus is truly descended from Abraham and David. In doing so, he skips over numerous generations. To dogmatically hold to a particular number of years regarding the age of the earth does not do justice to the theological reasons for most of the biblical chronologies.
  • There is room for flexibility in regard to the literal six day creation of the earth. The creation account in Genesis 1 suggests that the earth was?probably?created by God in six literal days. However, the creation account is organized according to a very particular literary device. Days 1-3 show God organizing the chaos into organized “spheres” (land, ocean, sky, etc.). Days 4-6 show God populating each of these spheres with plants, fish, animals, and birds. Because the author uses this intentional literary device to demonstrate God bringing order out of chaos, I don’t think we can dogmatically insist that God absolutely, without a doubt, created the world in six literal days. Like I said, the creation account indicates God?probably created the earth in six days.

NON-NEGOTIABLES:

  • There is one non-negotiable in the creation account, and that is the unique creation of Adam by God. We must hold fast to the doctrine of Adam being created uniquely in the image of God, apart from the entire animal kingdom. Adam was not the result of divine evolution. Why is this non-negotiable? Because the doctrine of justification by faith alone hinges on Adam being a real historical person created uniquely by God in God’s image. As God’s image bearer, Adam was responsible to bring God’s rule to the earth. When Adam sinned, he failed in his divine mandate. Adam was the representative for the entire human race, and as our representative, he colossaly failed.
  • Jesus succeeded in every way Adam failed. Paul says in Romans 5:18, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” Adam was a real man who sinned against God. When he sinned against God he plunged all of humanity into sin and darkness. Jesus was also a real man. Through his perfect obedience to God he secured righteousness for all who would believe in him.

If Adam was not a real person created uniquely in God’s image, the doctrine of justification begins to fall apart. Paul clearly understood that Adam was the first representative of the human race, and that Jesus was a second representative of the human race. Adam cannot be merely a theological idea. He must be a real person because Jesus was a real person.

There is room for flexibility on a number of issues related to the creation of the world. However, we must hold fast to the doctrine of the historical Adam. Justification hinges on a historical Adam, and I’m not willing to budge on that doctrine.

The Strangeness of the Biggest Loser

Sometimes when I really want to serve Jen I’ll watch The Biggest Loser with her.

The concept of the show is a good one. I like the idea of helping those who are morbidly obese and in danger of a young death. It’s incredible to see the total body transformation that takes place in each of the contestants, and I see a lot of God’s common grace in the show. Sometimes, however, the drama, the crying, and the action movie music during the weigh-ins gets to be a little too much for me. I mean, come on folks, this is a weight loss competition. No one is defusing a nuclear bomb or interrogating a terrorist. Let’s leave the intense music to Jack Bauer.

But it’s not even the music or the drama or the crying that seems odd to me. What really strikes me as odd is the mixture of Christian and post-modern values.

The concept of the show is thoroughly Christian. It’s all about the strong helping the weak, the healthy helping the sick, and the loved helping the unloved. These are all wonderful, God-honoring concepts, and I think they are what give the show its enormous popularity. After all, how can you not be moved when you see someone on the edge of death be given a new, vibrant life? God loves to meet the needy, the poor, and the broken, which, in some ways, is what the show is all about.

But just when everything is reaching it’s climax, and everybody is crying and hugging and winning lots of money, the show goes all therapeutic on me. The most common refrain throughout the show seems to be something along the lines of, “I’m doing this for myself. I’ve finally discovered my self-worth and now I’m going to live the life I was always made for.”

There is no acknowledgment of God or gratefulness to God. Ultimately everything circles back on the self. I think this is why I get so frustrated when I watch the show. I see God blessing these people in incredible ways and yet they never once acknowledge it. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not condemning them. I would be the same way apart from Christ. It simply is an indicator of the culture that we live in.

Our culture celebrates some Christian values, but these values don’t ultimately connect to and point us to God. In our culture all these values connect to and point us to ourselves. I find this quote by David Wells to be insightful (read it slowly):

Modernity obliges us to turn inward, to relocate the sources of our satisfaction and fulfillment from these connections in the outer world to sources within ourselves…the Enlightenment posits ultimate authority in the self, and modernity severs the self from any meaningful connections outside itself. (No Place for Truth, pages 142, 143)

In other words, when we turn away from the truth of God and his word, we will be forced to look inward for satisfaction and fulfillment. Our culture thrives on the idea of self-satisfaction, self-fulfillment, and self-expression. As Christians we need to be aware of this tendency and stand firm against it. Our ultimate authority and satisfaction comes from something completely outside ourselves.

A Year Without Toilet Paper

toilet paper

Could you go for a year without using toilet paper?

Colin Beavan did.

The AP reports a story about Beavan and his family, who for the past year have sought to make zero impact on the environment around them.

They shut off the electricity to their apartment. They refused to use anything disposable, and they wouldn’t buy anything that was new. They traveled by bicycle, only bought fresh food from farmers, put away their television, and even gave up toilet paper. They didn’t want to leave a single fingerprint on the earth.

I admire Beavan and his family for their desire to preserve the Earth. But as I thought about Beavan and his year-long experiment, I couldn’t help but think of Genesis 1:28, where God says to Adam and Eve:

?Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.?

Based on Genesis 1:28 it would seem that Colin Beavan’s desire to make zero impact on the earth is unbiblical. God has given humanity a mandate to subdue the earth and to have dominion over it. We don’t exist on an equal plane with the rest of creation. The earth exists so that we might subdue it, and make it useful to us, and receive benefit from it. To make no impact on the earth is to ignore the mandate given to us by God.

In his book Business for the Glory of God, Wayne Grudem comments:

God’s command to “subdue” the earth implies doing productive work to make the resources of the earth useful for themselves [Adam and Eve] and others. This is what he wanted Adam and Eve to do, and that is one of the things he wants us to do as well.

We’re called to be stewards of the earth. Yes, it’s possible to sinfully destroy and harm the environment, instead of stewarding it. But it’s also possible to try and preserve the environment too much. God created the earth so that we might use it for our good.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going out to purchase some toilet paper.

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+photo by Andrei!