Adapted from a John MacArthur article in The Master’s Seminary Journal
The record of creation is found in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” It would be hard to state an answer to the great cosmic question any more simply or directly than that.
The words of Genesis 1:1 are precise and concise beyond mere human composition. They account for everything evolution cannot explain. Evolutionary philosopher Herbert Spencer, one of Darwin’s earliest and most enthusiastic advocates, outlined five “ultimate scientific ideas”: time, force, action, space, and matter.25 These are categories that (according to Spencer) comprise everything that is susceptible to scientific examination. That simple taxonomy, Spencer believed, encompasses all that truly exists in the universe. Everything that can be known or observed by science fits into one of those categories, Spencer claimed, and nothing can be truly said to “exist” outside of them.
Spencer’s materialistic worldview is immediately evident in the fact that his categories leave room for nothing spiritual. But set aside for a moment the rather obvious fact that something as obvious as human intellect and emotion do not quite fit into any of Spencer’s categories.26 A moment’s reflection will reveal that evolutionary principles still cannot account for the actual origin of any of Spencer’s categories. The evolutionist must practically assume the eternality of time, force, action, space, and matter (or at least one of these27) — and then he or she proceeds from there to hypothesize about how things have developed out of an originally chaotic state.
But Gen 1:1 accounts for all of Spencer’s categories. “In the beginning”—that’s time. “God”—that’s force.28 “Created” — that’s action. “The heavens” — that’s space. “And the earth” — that’s matter. In the first verse of the Bible God laid out plainly what no scientist or philosopher ever cataloged until the nineteenth century. Moreover, what evolution still cannot possibly explain — the actual origin of everything that science can observe — the Bible explains in a few succinct words in the very first verse of Genesis.
About the uniqueness of the Bible’s approach to creation, Henry Morris writes,
Genesis 1:1 is unique in all literature, science, and philosophy. Every other system of cosmogony, whether in ancient religious myths or modern scientific models, starts with eternal matter or energy in some form, from which other entities were supposedly gradually derived by some process. Only the Book of Genesis even attempts to account for the ultimate origin of matter, space, and time; and it does so uniquely in terms of special creation.29
And thus in that very first verse of Scripture, each reader is faced with a simple choice: Either you believe God did create the heavens and the earth, or you believe He did not. If He did not, He does not exist at all; nothing has any purpose; and nothing makes any sense. If on the other hand there is a creative intelligence — if there is a God — then creation is understandable. It is possible. It is plausible. It is rational.
Ultimately, those are the options every reader of Genesis is faced with. Either the vast array of complex organisms and intelligence we observe reflect the wisdom and power of a personal Creator (and specifically, the God who has revealed Himself in Scripture), or all these marvels somehow evolved spontaneously from inanimate matter, and no real sense can be made of anything.
Even among the best scientists who have left their mark on the scientific world, those who think honestly and make honest confessions about origins will admit that there must be a creative intelligence. (Einstein himself firmly believed that a “Cosmic Intelligence” must have designed the universe, though like many others today who accept the notion of “intelligent design,” he avoided the obvious conclusion that if there’s a “Cosmic Intelligence” powerful enough to design and create the universe, that “Intelligence” is by definition Lord and God over all). And although the scientific and academic communities often mercilessly attempt to silence such opinions, there are nonetheless many men of integrity in the scientific community who embrace the God of Scripture and the biblical creation account.30
God did create the heavens and the earth. And there is only one document that credibly claims to be a divinely-revealed record of that creation: the book of Genesis. Unless we have a creator who left us with no information about where we came from or what our purpose is, the text of Genesis 1–2 stands for all practical purposes unchallenged as the only divinely-revealed description of creation. In other words, if there is a God who created the heavens and the earth, and if He revealed to humanity any record of that creation, Genesis is that record. If the God of Scripture did not create the heavens and the earth, then we have no real answers to anything that is truly important. Everything boils down to those two simple options.
So whether we believe the Genesis record or not makes all the difference in the world. Douglas Kelly, professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, has written on this subject with great insight. He says, “Essentially, mankind has only two choices. Either we have evolved out of the slime and can be explained only in a materialistic sense, meaning that we are made of nothing but the material, or we have been made on a heavenly pattern.”31
He is right. Those are ultimately the only two options. We can either believe what Genesis says, or not. If Gen 1:1 is true, then the universe and everything in it was created by a loving and personal God, and His purposes are clearly revealed to us in Scripture. Further, if the Genesis account is true, then we bear the stamp of God and are loved by Him — and because we are made in His image, human beings have a dignity, value, and obligation that transcends that of all other creatures. Moreover, if Genesis is true, then we not only have God’s own answers to the questions of what we are here for and how we got where we are, but we also have the promise of salvation from our sin.
If Genesis is not true, however, we have no reliable answer to anything. Throw out Genesis and the authority of all Scripture is fatally compromised. That would ultimately mean that the God of the Bible simply does not exist. And if some other kind of creator-god does exist, he evidently does not care enough about his creation to provide any revelation about himself, his plan for creation, or his will for his creatures.
There are, of course, several extrabiblical accounts of creation from pagan sacred writings. But they are all mythical, fanciful, and frivolous accounts, featuring hideously ungodly gods. Those who imagine such deities exist would have to conclude that they have left us without any reason for hope, without any clear principles by which to live, without any accountability, without any answers to our most basic questions, and (most troubling of all) without any explanation or solution for the dilemma of evil.
Therefore if Genesis is untrue, we might as well assume that no God exists at all. That is precisely the assumption behind modern evolutionary theory. If true, it means that impersonal matter is the ultimate reality. Human personality and human intelligence are simply meaningless accidents produced at random by the natural processes of evolution. We have no moral accountability to any higher Being. All morality — indeed, all truth itself — is ultimately relative. In fact, truth, falsehood, goodness, and evil are all merely theoretical notions with no real meaning or significance. Nothing really matters in the vast immensity of an infinite, impersonal universe.
So if Genesis is false, nihilism is the next best option. Utter irrationality becomes the only “rational” choice.
Obviously, the ramifications of our views on these things are immense. Our view of creation is the necessary starting point for our entire worldview. In fact, so vital is the issue that Francis Schaeffer once remarked that if he had only an hour to spend with an unbeliever, he would spend the first fifty-five minutes talking about creation and what it means for humanity to bear the image of God—and then he would use the last five minutes to explain the way of salvation.32
The starting point for Christianity is not Matthew 1:1 but Genesis 1:1. Tamper With the book of Genesis and you undermine the very foundation of Christianity. You cannot treat Genesis 1 as a fable or a mere poetic saga without severe implications to the rest of Scripture. The creation account is where God starts His account of history. It is impossible to alter the beginning without impacting the rest of the story — not to mention the ending. If Genesis 1 is not accurate, then there is no way to be certain that the rest of Scripture tells the truth. If the starting point is wrong, the Bible itself is built on a foundation of falsehood.
In other words, if you reject the creation account in Genesis, you have no basis for believing the Bible at all. If you doubt or explain away the Bible’s account of the six days of creation, where do you put the reins on your skepticism? Do you start with Genesis 3, which explains the origin of sin, and believe everything from chapter 3 on? Or maybe you do not sign on until sometime after chapter 6, because the Flood is invariably questioned by scientists, too. Or perhaps you find the Tower of Babel too hard to reconcile with the linguists’ theories about how languages originated and evolved. So maybe you start taking the Bible as literal history beginning with the life of Abraham. But when you get to Moses’ plagues against Egypt, will you deny those, too? What about the miracles of the NT? Is there any reason to regard any of the supernatural elements of biblical history as anything but poetic symbolism?
After all, the notion that the universe is billions of years old is based on naturalistic presuppositions that (if held consistently) would rule out all miracles. If we are worried about appearing “unscientific” in the eyes of naturalists, we’re going to have to reject a lot more than Genesis 1–3.
Once rationalism sets in and you start adapting the Word of God to fit scientific theories based on naturalistic beliefs, the process has no end. If you have qualms about the historicity of the creation account, you are on the road to utter Sadducees — skepticism and outright unbelief about all the supernatural elements of Scripture. Why should we doubt the literal sense of Genesis 1–3 unless we are also prepared to deny that Elisa made an axe-head float, or that Peter walked on water, or that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead? And what about the greatest miracle of all — the resurrection of Christ? If we are going to shape Scripture to fit the beliefs of naturalistic scientists, why stop at all? Why is one miracle any more difficult to accept than another?
And what are we going to believe about the end of history as it is foretold in Scripture? All of redemptive history ends, according to 2 Peter 3:10–12, when the Lord uncrates the universe. The elements melt with fervent heat, and everything that exists in the material realm will be dissolved at the atomic level, in some sort of unprecedented and unimaginable nuclear meltdown. Moreover, according to Revelation 21:1–5, God will immediately create a new heaven and a new earth (cf. Isaiah 65:17). Do we really believe He can do that, or will it take another umpteen billion years of evolutionary processes to get the new heaven and the new earth in working order? If we really believe He can destroy this universe in a split second and immediately create a whole new one, what is the problem with believing the Genesis account of a six-day creation in the first place? If He can do it at the end of the age, why is it so hard to believe the biblical account of what happened in the beginning?
So the question of whether we interpret the Creation account as fact or fiction has huge implications for every aspect of our faith. These implications become even more clear as the Bible recounts Adam’s fall and subsequent events of human history. The place to hold the line firmly is at Genesis 1:1.
And that is no over-simplification. Frankly, believing in a supernatural creative God who made everything is the only possible rational explanation for the universe and for life itself. It is also the only basis for believing we have any purpose or destiny.
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