Why We Hold to a Literal Reading of the Genesis Record

It’s no secret that we at CARE Ministries Winnipeg take the Genesis account of creation to be literally true. That is, we believe that God created the entire universe over a period of six, 24-hour days, somewhere around 6,000 years ago. We believe, as a straightforward reading of the text would indicate, that what God created was initially “very good”, with no death, bloodshed, disease etc. This very good world, according to the biblical record was ruined when God’s appointed head of creation, Adam, rebelled against his Creator, and introduced sin into the world. As a result, death also entered as the just consequence of such rebellion. A plain reading of the text also indicates that wickedness of men grew to such proportions that God destroyed the entire planet in a catastrophic flood that lasted a whole year. The only survivors of this deluge were Noah and 7 of his family members, who’s survival depended upon their obedience to the Lord in building an ark to His requires specifications. They were also commanded to take 2 pairs of every kind of air breathing, land dwelling animal, which would later become the ancestors to all such animal kinds living today. Finally, we believe that after the flood, the animals migrated all over the earth while humans congregated in Mesopotamia, where, several hundred years later, another collective rebellion against God was staged. This time, God responded by supernaturally changing the language. That is, the human race went from communicating via a single spoken language, into many fractured groups speaking distinct languages. The result was mutual suspicion and hostility amongst these groups, which caused multiple migratory waves of people in all directions. This, we believe, was the birth of the various nations, cultures and people groups worldwide. Of course we judge all this worthy of belief as actual history, not because it feels particularly nice to do so, but because the evidence, we feel, absolutely demands such a verdict.

Today many professing Christians, even otherwise proficient Christian apologists, have opted to take a liberal approach to the Genesis record. Presumably, this is done in hope of showing as much agreement as possible with the assumptions and interpretations of secular science, which views earth history as being billions of years in duration. The idea, I’m sure, is to establish as much “common ground” as possible in order to effectively present the Gospel. But this is precisely the problem. The Gospel is the center of the Christian worldview, which is based upon the clear premises found in the Bible. In other words, when erecting and defending a Christian worldview, the believer appeals to the Bible (or ought to) as the final authority. This authority appears very clear in its account of origins.  Strangely however, there are many that would have us believe that the Genesis record permits all manner of interpretation. Two questions immediately come to the fore. First, what would be the point in God giving us a record that permits all manner of interpretation? It would amount to the same as if He had given us no record at all. Secondly and most importantly, how can we expect people to believe the Bible where it speaks of Jesus in historic narrative, when we’ve chosen (for apparently no good reason) to reject the plain teaching of the Genesis record, which appears no less historic?
When attempts are made to reinterpret the Genesis record in order to have it harmonize with currently popular human opinion, a plethora of doctrinal problems arise. Below are 10 points that are meant to illustrate some such problems.

  1. No part of the Bible can be fully trusted. For millennia, the Genesis record as been found by the vast majority of its readers – from the young and unlearned to the most scholarly – to be perfectly understandable. If this portion of the Bible (Genesis chapters 1-11) is not to be understood as literal historic narrative when it clearly appears to be written that way, then it is difficult to understand how any portion of the Bible can be trusted. Instead of giving light and understanding, the Bible would actually leave us in hopeless ignorance.
  2. God is needlessly cruel. Hutton and Lyell were the first modern scientists to seriously challenge the Genesis record of earth history based upon the geological data. On their view, the rock layers and the fossils they contain were the products of endless ages of time preceding the advent of humanity on planet earth. The problem of course is that fossils are the remains of animals that died in a multiplicity of horrendous ways. If this view is married to the Bible, then we must conclude that God created a world filled with suffering and death eons before anyone had done anything contrary to His will. How incongruent with the plain reading of the Scriptures, which indicate that death entered the world only after humanity rebelled against their maker.
  3. Adam’s strange dominion. According to the Bible, Adam was given dominion over the animal kingdom. This included completing that task of naming animals (systematic taxonomy). How strange it is to think that God (on this view and contrary to the plain meaning of the text) in reality made Adam the superintendent of a vast cemetery filled with the remains of countless life forms he would never see alive. Strange dominion indeed!
  4. The flood was only local. Recall that it was the uniformatarian doctrine proposed by Hutton and Lyell that first seriously called the Genesis record into question among academicians. On this view, the earth’s geological features were seen as largely the result of normal, everyday processes operating over long periods of time. This is a direct contradiction to the plain teaching of the biblical record, which states unequivocally that the Noachian flood (Genesis 6-9) was in fact global in extent and catastrophic in nature. On this view, the earth’s geological features are largely the result of this deluge. We are forced to make a choice. Either the earth is young (<10,000 years) and the Genesis flood was global, or the earth is old (billions of years) and the flood was only local. The Christian must decide where to place his trust: the infallible word of God, or the changing opinions of man.
  5. The Order of Creation is all wrong. Lyell and those that followed him erected the so-called “geological column” which proposes that as one descends downward through the rock layers they are, in effect, travelling backward in time. As we move upward from the lowest layers, according to the theoretical column, the fossil life forms progress from simple to complex. Apart from the fact that no such column actually exists, the proposed order of events according to the column are in direct conflict with the order of God’s creation as outlined in the Genesis record. For instance, according to the old earth view, based as it is upon the column, whales evolved from, or at least preceded, the advent of land mammals. According to a straightforward reading of the Genesis record however, the whales were created a whole day before the land animals. A similar conflict exists between these view concerning the advent of reptiles and birds. Those that trust in the geological column as accurate believe that reptiles preceded birds, whereas the Genesis record is unequivocal in its teaching that birds were created a day before the reptiles.
  6. Christ’s work nullified. The Bible clearly states that death is the penalty for sin. This explains why Christ died on the cross: He was paying for the sins of the world. On the “old earth” view however, recall that death was occurring for eons of time before the advent of sin into God’s “very good” universe. Such a view seriously calls into question the significance of Christ’s death upon the cross, the very center of the Christian message.
  7. Death in our future. The Bible promises that at Christ’s return to planet earth He will restore the world. This is good news indeed if we accept the literal interpretation of the Genesis record. On the other hand, if we accept the “old earth” view, which holds that death has always been a part of the universe, it is difficult to see how such restoration preaching could be considered “good news.”
  8. Is God deceptive? This hardly makes sense. There are explicit claims throughout the Bible attesting to its truthfulness. If the God of the Bible did not create the world as described in the Genesis record, He cannot be the Greatest Conceivable Being (a traditional definition of God). In such a case, a Greater Being must exist which exemplifies moral perfection (a great-making property), which intuitively we understand to include honesty.
  9. Was God incapable of communicating the truth of creation? This is ludicrous on the face of it. Surely the Greatest Conceivable Being would be capable of making Himself understood by His intelligent creatures. To suggest otherwise is to again relegate God to a category of less than maximally great.
  10. Is the creation account entirely mythological? This was the view of the professors at CMU. Again, the text doesn’t read as mythology. Furthermore, none of the biblical writers of the Old or New Testaments regarded the text in this manner either. Ought we to assume that the writers of these other biblical texts were “in error”?

Conclusion:

While we understand the desire to achieve common ground with those we are trying to evangelize, the great damaging effect that compromise of Genesis has on the very message we are trying to communicate cannot be overlooked. Compromise of the Genesis record creates confusion regarding other biblical doctrines and, ultimately, erodes the precious faith Christians seek (or should seek) to defend.

 

By John Feakes

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