Adapted from a John MacArthur article in The Master’s Seminary Journal
Scripture, not science, is the ultimate test of all truth. And the further evangelicalism gets from that conviction, the less evangelical and more humanistic it becomes.
Scripture cautions against false “knowledge” (1 Tim 6:20) — particularly so-called “scientific” knowledge that opposes the truth of Scripture. When what is being passed off as “science” turns out to be nothing more than a faith-based worldview that is hostile to the truth of Scripture, our duty to be on guard is magnified. And when naturalistic and atheistic presuppositions are being aggressively peddled as if they were established scientific fact, Christians ought to expose such lies for what they are and oppose them all the more vigorously. The abandonment of a biblical view of creation has already borne abundant evil fruit in modern society. Now is no time for the church to retreat or compromise on these issues. To weaken our commitment to the biblical view of creation would start a chain of disastrous moral, spiritual, and theological ramifications in the church that will greatly exacerbate the terrible moral chaos that already has begun the unraveling of secular society.
With that in mind I undertook an earnest study of Genesis a couple of years ago. Although the bulk of my ministry has been devoted to a verse-by-verse exposition of the whole New Testament, I recently turned to the Old Testament and began preaching a series on Genesis in our church. This article is part of the fruit of any research and teaching in Genesis 1–3. We find there the foundation of every doctrine that is essential to the Christian faith. And the more carefully I have studied those opening chapters of Scripture, the more I have seen that they are the vital foundation for everything we believe as Christians.
Sadly, it is a foundation that is being systematically undermined by the very institutions that should be most vigorously defending it. More and more Christian educational institutions, apologists, and theologians are abandoning faith in the literal truth of Genesis 1–3. I recall reading a survey a few years ago which revealed that in one of America’s leading evangelical accrediting associations, whose membership boasted scores of evangelical Bible colleges and universities, only five or six college-level schools remain solidly opposed to the old-earth view of creation. The rest are open to a reinterpretation of Genesis 1–3 that accommodates evolutionary theories. Scores of well-known Bible teachers and apologists see the whole question as moot, and some even aggressively argue that a literal approach to Genesis is detrimental to the credibility of Christianity. They have given up the battle — or worse, joined the attack against biblical creationism.
I am thankful for those who are still faithfully resisting the trend — organizations like Answers in Genesis, the Creation Research Society, and the Institute for Creation Research. These organizations and others like them involve many expert scientists who challenge the presuppositions of evolutionists on technical and scientific grounds. They clearly demonstrate that scientific proficiency is not incompatible with faith in the literal truth of Scripture — and that the battle for the beginning is ultimately a battle between two mutually exclusive faiths — faith in Scripture versus faith in hypotheses opposed to the God of the Bible. It is not really a battle between science and the Bible.
My aim in this article is to examine what Scripture teaches about creation. Although I am convinced that the truth of Scripture has scientific integrity, for the most part I intend to leave the scientific defense of creationism to those who have the most expertise in science. My purpose is chiefly to examine what Scripture teaches about the origin of the universe, and to show why it is incompatible with the naturalists’ beliefs and the evolutionists’ theories.
As Christians, we believe the Bible is truth revealed by God, who is the true Creator of the universe. That belief is the basic foundation of all genuine Christianity. It is utterly incompatible with the speculative presuppositions of the naturalists.
In Scripture the Creator Himself has revealed to us everything essential for life and godliness. And it starts with an account of creation. If the biblical creation account is in any degree unreliable, the rest of Scripture stands on a shaky foundation.
But the foundation is not shaky. The more I understand what God has revealed to us about our origin, the more I see clearly that the foundation stands firm. I agree with those who say it is time for the people of God to take a fresh look at the biblical account of creation. But I disagree with those who think that calls for any degree of capitulation to the transient theories of naturalism. Only an honest look at Scripture, with sound principles of hermeneutics, will yield the right understanding of the creation and fall of our race.
The Bible gives a clear and cogent account of the beginnings of the cosmos and humanity. There is absolutely no reason for an intelligent mind to balk at accepting it as a literal account of the origin of our universe. Although the biblical account clashes at many points with naturalistic and evolutionary hypotheses, it is not in conflict with a single scientific fact. Indeed, all the geological, astronomical, and scientific data can be easily reconciled with the biblical account. The conflict is not between science and Scripture, but between the Biblicist’s confident faith and the naturalist’s willful skepticism.
To many, having been indoctrinated in schools where the line between hypothesis and fact is systematically and deliberately being blurred, that may sound naive or unsophisticated, but it is nonetheless a fact. Again, science has never disproved one word of Scripture, and it never will. On the other hand, evolutionary theory has always been in conflict with Scripture and always will be. But the notion that the universe evolved through a series of natural processes remains an unproven and untestable hypothesis, and therefore it is not “science” There is no proof whatsoever that the universe evolved naturally. Evolution is a mere theory — and a questionable, constantly-changing one at that. Ultimately, if accepted at all, it must be taken by sheer faith.
How much better to base our faith on the sure foundation of God’s Word! There is no ground of knowledge equal to or superior to Scripture. Unlike scientific theory, it is eternally unchanging. Unlike the opinions of man, its truth is revealed by the Creator Himself! It is not, as many suppose, at odds with science. True science has always affirmed the teaching of Scripture. Archaeology, for instance, has demonstrated the truthfulness of the biblical record time and time again. Wherever Scripture’s record of history may be examined and either proved or disproved by archaeological evidence or reliable independent documentary evidence, the biblical record has always been verified. There is no valid reason whatsoever to doubt or distrust the biblical record of creation, and there is certainly no need to adjust the biblical account to try to make it fit the latest fads in evolutionary theory.
Therefore my approach in this article will be simply to examine what the biblical text teaches about creation. My goal is not to write a polemic against current evolutionary thinking. I do not intend to probe in-depth scientific arguments related to the origin of the universe. Where scientific fact intersects with the biblical record, I will highlight that. But my chief aim is to examine what the Bible teaches about the origin of the universe, and then look at the moral, spiritual, and eternal ramifications of biblical creationism to see what it has to do with people in today’s world.
I am indebted to several authors who have treated this subject before and whose works were very helpful in framing my own thoughts on these matters. Chief among them would be Douglas F. Kelly,10 John Ankerberg and John Weldon,11 Phillip E. Johnson,12 Henry Morris,13 and Ken Ham.14
Again, a biblical understanding of the creation and fall of humanity establishes the necessary foundation for the Christian worldview. Everything Scripture teaches about sin and redemption assumes the literal truth of the first three chapters of Genesis. If we wobble to any degree on the truth of this passage, we undermine the very foundations of our faith.
If Genesis 1–3 does not tell us the truth, why should we believe anything else in the Bible? Without a right understanding of our origin, we have no way to understand anything about our spiritual existence. We cannot know our purpose, and we cannot be certain of our destiny. After all, if God is not the Creator, then maybe He is not the Redeemer. If we cannot believe the opening chapters of Scripture, how can we be certain of anything the Bible says?
Much depends, therefore, on a right understanding of these early chapters of Genesis. These chapters are too often mishandled by people whose real aim is not to understand what the text actually teaches but who want to adjust it to fit a scientific theory. The approach is all wrong. Since creation cannot be observed or replicated in a laboratory, science is not a trustworthy place to seek answers about the origin and fall of humanity. Ultimately, the only reliable source of truth about our origin is what has been revealed by the Creator himself. That means the biblical text should be our starting place.
I am convinced the correct interpretation of Genesis 1–3 is the one that comes naturally from a straightforward reading of the text. It teaches us that the universe is relatively young, albeit with an appearance of age and maturity — and that all of creation was accomplished in the span of six literal days.
To those who will inevitably complain that such a view is credulous and unsophisticated, my reply is that it is certainly superior to the irrational notion that an ordered and incomprehensibly complex universe sprung by accident from nothingness and emerged by chance into the marvel that it is.
Scripture offers the only accurate explanations that can be found anywhere about how our race began, where our moral sense originated, why we cannot seem to do what our own consciences tells us is right, and how we can be redeemed from this hopeless situation.
Scripture is not merely the best of several possible explanations. It is the Word of God. And my prayer for everyone who studies the opening chapters of the Bible is that he will believe what God has spoken.
Creation: Believe It or Not (Genesis 1:1)
It is hard to imagine anything more absurd than the naturalist’s formula for the origin of the universe: Nobody times nothing equals everything. There is no Creator; there was no design or purpose. Everything we see simply emerged and evolved by pure chance from a total void.
Ask the typical naturalist what he believes about the beginning of all things, and you are likely to hear about the Big Bang theory — the notion that the universe is the product of an immense explosion. As if an utterly violent and chaotic beginning could result in all the synergy and order we observe in the cosmos around us. But what was the catalyst that touched off that Big Bang in the first place? (And what, in turn, was the catalyst for that?) Something incredibly large had to fuel the original explosion. Where did that “something” originate? A Big Bang out of nowhere quite simply could not have been the beginning of all things.
Is the material universe itself eternal, as some claim? And if it is, why has it not wound down? For that matter, what set it in motion to begin with? What is the source of the energy that keeps it going? Why has entropy not caused it to devolve into a state of inertia and chaos, rather than (as the evolutionist must hypothesize) apparently developing into a more orderly and increasingly sophisticated system as the Big Bang expands?
The vast array of insurmountable problems for the naturalist begins at the most basic level. What was the First Cause that caused everything else? Where did matter come from? Where did energy come from? What holds everything together and what keeps everything going? How could life, self-consciousness, and rationality evolve from inanimate, inorganic matter? Who designed the many complex and interdependent organisms and sophisticated ecosystems we observe? Where did intelligence originate? Are we to think of the universe as a massive perpetual-motion apparatus with some sort of impersonal “intelligence” of its own? Or is there, after all, a personal, intelligent Designer who created everything and set it all in motion?
Those are vital metaphysical questions that must be answered if we are to understand the meaning and value of life itself. Philosophical naturalism, because of its materialistic and anti-supernatural presuppositions, is utterly incapable of offering any answers to those questions. In fact, the most basic dogma of naturalism is that everything happens by natural processes; nothing is supernatural; and therefore there can be no personal Creator. That means there can be no design and no purpose for anything. Naturalism therefore can provide no philosophical basis for believing that human life is particularly valuable or in any way significant.
On the contrary, the naturalist, if he is true to his principles, must ultimately conclude that humanity is a freak accident without any purpose or real importance. Naturalism is therefore a formula for futility and meaninglessness, erasing the image of God from our race’s collective self-image, depreciating the value of human life, undermining human dignity, and subverting morality.
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