Opinions on faith and life

Genesis and the Gospel

2007-01-01

Many people would be surprised to learn that not all who reject evolution’s long ages are Christians; many are agnostics. But among Christians, there is a growing trend toward long ages, even though they still believe God started the process. There are several variations on how to try and meld Genesis and long ages. But many more Christians are now saying the whole issue of the days of creation is irrelevant, that the Bible is all about “who, not how” and is just meant to be some sort of poetic story.

But whether it’s long ages or none at all, it has a major impact on the gospel itself. Because if Genesis is not literal, then there was no Adam, no sin, and no curse. And if none of that happened, then there is no need for a Savior. After all, if sin is just a way to help people deal with suffering, then salvation is just a pipe dream and a vague hope that things will get better. It offers no reason to hope, no assurance, no explanations. As such it is no different than any other religion, theistic or not.

As Paul put it,

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all others. (1 Corinthians 15:13-19 TNIV)
The substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the gospel. Without all of that, there is no Christianity. And why did Jesus have to die at all? Paul continues in verses 20-27:
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But in this order: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
And in Romans 5:12-19:
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— to be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

It should be obvious that the world needed a Savior because Adam sinned. And if sin and Adam are not literal, then neither is Jesus’ substitutionary death and physical resurrection. No literal Adam means no literal Jesus.

How, in the light of all that, can anyone justify rejecting a literal Genesis but accepting a literal New Testament? And how can anyone justify the existence of death before sin? The whole reason there is death and decay in the world is because of sin! So death before sin, the alleged “pre-Adamic” races, negates the whole Bible.

For those who believe in long ages but a literal Adam and sin, the problems with it undermining the gospel seem solved. But if the creation days are not literal, then we can ignore context and literary genre anywhere in the Bible we want. That being the case, we can then throw out any part of it we want. And we still have a lot of inconsistency. Why accept Adam as literal but not creation week? Why accept sin as literal but not the Flood? All those accounts are written as literal historical record. It is not poetry or allegory or parable. So if the Bible is to be treated as something like Play Doh then there’s no reason to believe in anything it says.

Now don’t go accusing me of doing the same thing by saying some parts of the Bible are clearly allegory or poetry. The rules of grammar and language apply exactly the same to the Bible as they do to any other literature. You can tell by reading the context whether any given passage of any given document is meant as history, allegory, poetry, etc. That’s not inconsistency but simply the rules of grammar, syntax, and language. I highly recommend the L/H/G link here for a definition and defense of what is called the literal/grammatical/historical method.

So those believers who reject a literal Genesis in whole or in part have a choice to make. Is the Bible the measure of all things, or is it putty in our hands? Is it our guide and authority, or is it our magic wand? Does God tell us what he did, or do we tell him what he did? I’ll let Him have the last word:

Job 38-40 1 Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: 2 “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? 3 Prepare to defend yourself; I will question you, and you shall answer me. 4 Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? 8 Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, 9 when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, 10 when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, 11 when I said, ’This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’? ” ...

1 The LORD said to Job: 2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”