Every Thumb's Width

Repentance-Seeing Sin for What It Is

We have been tasked to change the world.

As men and women made in the image of God, we’ve been tasked to take dominion on the earth. As Christian men and women, being formed into the image of Christ, we’ve been tasked to make disciples of all nations. These are no small opportunities or responsibilities; both dominion-taking and disciple-making involve changing the world.

Rightly so, Christians are often on the front lines of these cultural and spiritual campaigns, making plans and throwing resources like time and energy and money to reach their communities as well as foreign countries. No effort is held back, no expense spared to reach people for Christ and change the world.

But for all the attention and energy we give, for all the flash web sites we’ve made and contextualized clothing we wear and language we’ve embraced, for all the slick marketing brochures we pass out and “Christian” rock music we produce and play, for all the “relevant” and timely sermon series and Christian celebrity appearances, for all the cool Christian t-shirts, for all the gentle conversations we engage in, for all the evangelism programs and English translations and focused study Bibles/Biblezines, for all the WWJD and Livestrong bracelets, for all the Christian Facebook groups, it really doesn’t seem like we are changing the world at all. In fact, if anything, it seems like the world is changing us, conforming us into its image. We are far from being accused of “turning the world upside down” like the early church (cf. Acts 17:1-9, especially verse 6).

That’s what I want. I want to be a part of making disciples of all nations, starting right here, and turning the whole world upside down. So how do we do that?

The answer is simpler than we might think. It doesn’t require any money. It has nothing to do with web sites or worship styles. It doesn’t depend on knowing the culture, or being culturally relevant.

Becoming and being a disciple, as well as working to make disciples, starts with one thing. If we want to change the world, to turn it upside down, we’ve got to start at the beginning, with REPENTANCE.

Repentance is a change of mind, a turning about and away from sin. It is a recognition and lamentation and confession of unrighteousness, that results in new affection for, and a new direction toward, righteousness. Repentance is where new life starts. Repentance is where disciple-making begins.

Remember, Christ didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:29-32)

Religious people are often some of the most arrogant people. They have an inflated view of themselves and they look down on others. Religious people sometimes give the impression that God should be happy to have them on His team, like He needs their innovations and influence. Instead, what He needs first is their repentance.

Today’s feel-good-about-yourself philosophy keeps us from Christ and salvation and spiritual health. We need to see how sick in sin we are, not how super we are.

I believe one of the primary reasons we as Christians are so worldly in our living and so ineffective in our mission is because we have forgotten about personal repentance and about proclaiming repentance.

When was the last time you gave lip to your mom, or lied to a friend, or lusted in your heart, or wasted your time, and then confessed your sin, asked forgiveness for your sin, and turned away in repentance from your sin? When was the last time you told a friend that the reason for their joylessness, may be because of their failure to repent?

In order to start at the beginning, this year’s Snow Retreat will focus on REPENTANCE: Seeing Sin for What It Is.

And to help us do that, we’re going to also consider one of the oldest and most influential figures in church history since the New Testament, a man on whose shoulders Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon all stood: St. Augustine.

Through Augustine’s pastoral work of preaching and writing and defending the faith and caring for his sheep, he changed not only his community and his era, in many ways he changed Western Civilization. He is a man through whom God was pleased to change the world. And I intend to make the case at the 09SR, that it was Augustine’s confessions, his seeing sin for what it is and repenting, that was the beginning of both his personal affections for God and his usefulness on God’s behalf.

Augustine turned the world upside down by turning away from sin. So can we.

Rightly Dividing

Night and Day

All six bullets I’ve mentioned come from observation of the biblical story itself. In light of how obviously they refute theistic evolution, let alone naturalistic, I wonder if Darwin didn’t concoct his theory by sitting down with Genesis one in front of him and consciously writing an anti-Genesis story. Since he grew up in a professing Christian home, I think it’s reasonable to suppose he knew exactly the truth he was rejecting. What a shame that so many believers try to squeeze his anti-God scheme into Scripture.

And while we’re wondering out loud, could Moses have written the story in any other way that would have been more beyond doubt that he was referring to six 24 hour days? Henry Morris put it this way:

If the reader asks himself this question: “Suppose the writer of Genesis wished to teach his readers that all things were created and made in six literal days, then what words would he use to best convey this thought?” he would have to answer that the writer would have used the actual words in Genesis 1. If he wished to convey the idea of long geological ages, however, he surely could have done it far more clearly and effectively in other words than those in which he selected. (The Genesis Record, 54)

If the assignment was to leave open the possibility of evolution in chapter one, then Moses failed.

No matter how a person might attempt to fit evolution into Genesis by saying that God is responsible for it, he still must deny the Bible on some level. Either Scripture or “science” is wrong. We cannot eat evolution cake with Genesis one icing.

Finally, let me acknowledge that our belief in a literal six-day creation is built and framed by revelation. But belief in God’s Word is not the same thing as belief based on never seen, never proven guesswork. Beliefs in evolution are blind beliefs, nothing better than stabs in the dark. God’s Word, on the other hand, is light in the darkness. The biblical account of creation is night and day from theistic evolution.

Rightly Dividing

Bullet Six – Bad Good

At multiple points throughout week one, God declared His work “good.” When He gathered the waters together to make dry land, God saw that it was good (verse 10). When He made plants and trees yielding seed and bearing fruit, God saw that it was good (verse 12). When He set the sun and moon to rule the day and night, God saw that it was good (verse 18). When He created fish and fowl, God saw that it was good (verse 21). When He made livestock and insects, God saw that it was good (verse 25).

As He prepared the earth for life, specifically life for His image-bearers, God pronounced His own approving evaluation of creation’s goodness. That is, God declared creation’s beauty and quality and acceptability and desirability. (As a side note, setting up the earth for life is not the same as making little-life and causing it to mutate into more complex life.)

Then, God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good (verse 31). There was nothing about His creation that was deficient or defective or hurtful. So here’s the question: if killing and death prevailed on the planet, with weak and mutant and in-between-stages creatures, as evolution requires, how could God claim “everything was very good”? Theistic evolution must imply that death is an acceptable good, that as long as the fittest survive and overall progress is being made, everything is okay. But in biblical terms, that is a very bad kind of good, and really no good at all.

Rightly Dividing

Bullet Five – Breeding Boundaries

This shoots as big a hole in theistic evolution as any of the previous bullets. Everything that reproduces, every plant, every animal, every fish, every bird, every insect, (even every human in a similar way), all reproduce according to their kinds.

On day three (verses 11-12), God created vegetation (remember that in the evolutionary timeline plants are not the first sort of organic life), and the phrase according to its kind is repeated three times. Apple trees produce apple seeds that grow into little apple trees. Orange trees produce orange seed that don’t grow into oak trees.

On day five (verses 20-23), God established that each individual type of water creature would reproduce according to their kinds (demonstrating that there were multiple kinds in the water), and every winged bird multiplied according to its kind.

Then on day six (verses 24-25), God established that livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth all would multiply according to their kinds. God made them distinct, and made them to reproduce keeping those distinctions. Humans may have successfully bred a cocker spaniel and poodle into a cockapoo, but it’s still a dog. We’ve never mated mosquitos with goldfish or squirrels into mosquish or squirritos.

And even though the phrase “according to their kind” isn’t included when God made men and women, they were the only creatures fashioned in the likeness of God’s image. Men are of a different kind altogether.

No kind jumps out its kind, there is no mutating across breeds or progression up the food chain. God placed limits and boundaries on the light and darkness, on the sea and the seashores, and on living creatures breeding according to their kinds. Fish belong in the water; flying is for the birds; men and animals were made for land. God creates, God separates, God distinguishes and defines and sets boundaries.

Comments (copied)

Philip de Oliveira said October 27, 2008 at 3:47 pm:

I really like the things you’re pointing out, and I appreciate your heavy use of Scripture, as “we” over here are no less than brutalized by your bullets. I just wanted to point out that your language can be a bit presumptuous at times, in that you don’t even seem to take the opposing side seriously. I realize that Calvinists are bred to make no apologies as they topple the walls of everyone else’s false doctrine, but I think next time you might consider your audience as you write these. (Of course, I anticipate you might draw from my previous comments to highlight my own presumptuous behavior, which I readily confess, but please know that in the context of this comment I’m sincerely trying to be helpful.)

SKH said October 27, 2008 at 4:43 pm:

Hi, Phil. I was wondering if/when you’d get enough time in your schedule for more interaction. Good to see you again.

Thanks for your (more or less) gracious encouragement and I do appreciate your concern for my presumptuousness. But honestly, I must be so presumptuous that I’m blind to what language I’ve used that sounds presumptuous.

I stated in the introductory post to this short series that my aim was to “shoot” at theistic evolution with the Genesis one account itself. Therefore, I hope my case includes more than just a “heavy use of Scripture”; I’m basing it entirely on Scripture. If Scripture is errant, I’m finished. But my “audience” are those who believe the Bible is God’s Word, and therefore inerrant and authoritative.

That said, perhaps my interpretation of Genesis one is wrong. I do not want to be presumptuous in my attempts to interpret God’s Word. So please, really, please, point out wrong interpretation. I’m not taking a “side,” I’m solely interested in the author/Author’s intent. I believe Moses made his case clearly (a point which I’ll mention in the conclusion post to the series), and therefore, the proper interpretation (again, granting that I may or may not have it) does indeed “make no apologies,” even if scientific claims are toppled in the process.

I am glad that you’re reading. I’m glad that you’re interacting. But perhaps you shouldn’t presume that you are my audience, especially if you believe that we must give science equal authority to Scripture. If that’s the case, there’s very little possibility of me pleasing you, since I believe Scripture’s distinctions between light and dark, true and false, right and wrong are not presumptuous at all.

SKH said October 27, 2008 at 4:49 pm:

While we’re on the subject, would you say that this quote is presumptuous?

Philip de Oliveira said October 27, 2008 at 7:22 pm:

There’s always some apprehension that I’ll come across as selectively belligerent, especially when I haven’t commented for a while, so thanks for the welcome.

As I read over your reply, I’m thinking that maybe the issue is more about Scriptural exposition than it is about evolution. I guess my problem could be summed up in that I get the impression that you are equating your interpretation of Scripture with Scripture itself. No doubt you are extremely qualified, both academically and spiritually, to interpret and communicate the Word (as I’ve been fortunate to experience myself the past few summers). What I’m after is some acknowledgment that your interpretation of Genesis, regardless of its scholarly support, is still one of many perhaps not equal but still valid models.

Since my reasons for keeping the door open to theistic evolution won’t really do too well in a comment box, I’m thinking maybe I should present those on my own blog. I certainly don’t want to shoot any bullets: I’d prefer that anyone who disagrees be conscious enough to make their point. If I do find the time to write, I’d be thrilled to have some scholarly feedback as opposed to my primitive fist-flinging.

Trinian said October 28, 2008 at 3:54 pm:

I look forward to reading your upcoming blog post, Phil. I hope that it contains either an actual textual criticism of SKH’s interpretation or a sound expository advancement of the competing viewpoint. Arguments that question the tone of an argument or simply laud the virtues of doubt and uncertainty ring rather hollow when placed opposite a clear viewpoint into the unrelenting perspicuity of Scripture. Again, you’ve said that your real argument cannot be contained by this meta, so I will await your post.

SKH said October 28, 2008 at 6:51 pm:

Phil, I like the phrase, “selectively belligerent.” Can I use that?

I’m very happy to make the issue entirely about Scriptural exposition (which, by the way, means that while I’ll eagerly await your posts about theistic evolution, I’m likely to be less interested if they don’t have to do with interpretation of Genesis one itself).

As for your newest concern that I’m proud, not just presumptuous, I really thought I went out of my way in my reply above to say, “perhaps my interpretation of Genesis one is wrong,” in addition to, “the proper interpretation (again, granting that I may or may not have it).” It seems like that is an acknowledgement of at least some sort. In fact, I explicitly requested exegetical critique.

But perhaps you could give me the benefit of the doubt about my attitude, at least for the sake of the discussion, and deal with the issue. It seems like you agree that the proper interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture. However, it also seems like you think it’s impossible for us to actually know the proper interpretation. Does that mean God revealed words but hid His meaning? Or, if you think it is possible to know what God meant by what He said, how so? And if we can/do know, how do you suppose God recognizes “many…valid models”?

Leila said November 5, 2008 at 11:46 am:

Apart from scriptural exposition, this brings up a fascinating contention in current evangelical circles. It’s this: no one can be right. We must always hedge our bets so that we don’t offend anyone. It’s the awful influence of post-modern tolerance that screams tolerance = acceptance, and no one can ever be right because there are no absolutes.


Because John the Baptist did not say this to the Pharisees:

“I totally understand we’re all Israelites, and I genuinely appreciate your desire to serve the Lord. Now, I can’t judge your hearts, your motives, your beliefs, or your interpretations of scripture, but might I offer you a suggestion? You’re coming across a little strong. I think you’re misinterpreting some scriptures, though your reading is equally as valid as my own. In my desire for us all to love one another, can we talk about this some time over, say, dinner?”

I think it went something more like:

“Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’…He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (matt 4:7-12).

This is a matter of God’s Word – of defending TRUTH. Our example is the greatest prophet after Christ, in the likeness of Elijah. He pulled NO punches when shooting down false doctrine and ideas/beliefs/teachings that would cause people to stumble or send them to Hell. Nor should we when we are standing upon the truth of Scripture.

Rightly Dividing

Bullet Four – Defined Days

The hope of theistic evolutionists hinges on the word “day.” In order for evolution to fit in Genesis one, “day” must represent long periods of undefined time, more than likely covering millions of years.

The Hebrew word for “day” is yom. The question is, does yom ever refer to a period of time other than 24 hours? The answer is yes. Even in the first two chapters of Genesis, “day” is used at least three different ways.

  1. “God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.” (1:5) Here, Moses uses yom to indicate a 12-ish hour period.
  2. “God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years” (1:14). Here, Moses uses yom to indicate 24-hour days as they make up years.
  3. “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens” (2:4). Here, Moses uses yom in reference to the entire creative week.

But note first of all, that even though there are different definitions, none of them involve ages or eons.

(Outside of Genesis 1, yom + ordinal number (used 410 times) always indicates an ordinary day, i.e. a 24-hour period. The words “evening”” and “morning” together (38 times) always indicate an ordinary day. Yom + “evening” or “morning” (23 times each) always indicates an ordinary day. Yom + “night” (52 times) always indicates an ordinary day. See Ken Ham’s study guide on “yom.”)

Second, the context establishes how long a day is in Genesis one. Every single day in the chapter is defined. It starts in verses 3-5, God creates light, separates it from darkness, calls the light Day and the darkness Night. And there was evening and there was morning the first day. The light/darkness, evening/morning, the [ X ] day formula is repeated for each of the first six days (verses 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31).

Third, there is no reason to take day in a figurative way, that is, as a metaphor or symbol of something else. Nothing else in the chapter is figurative. If “day” doesn’t mean “day,” why does “earth” mean “earth”? Why doesn’t “vegetation” represent something else? How can “man” mean “man”? It is strange, and inconsistent to suggest “day” means something other than what it typically does.

How do theistic evolutionists answer this?

According to young earth theory, the Sun was not created until Day Four, thus there could be no sunrise or sunset for the first three days of creation. However, God uses the terms evening and morning for those first three days. Therefore, they cannot be actual evenings and mornings. We are left with only one option. The words for Evening and Morning can only represent the beginning and ending of the creative period, and not actual sunrise and sunsets. (See Answers in Creation)

As if God could not create light or establish light/dark cycles apart from the sun, they simply ignore Moses’ account and force their assumptions into Genesis one.

Days are defined as solar days, 24 hour days as we know them today. It wasn’t millions of light/dark transitions in verse five that made the first “day.” Saying that a “day” represents long ages casts suspicion on every word in the account. The only reason to even suggest a day isn’t a day is because of presuppositions outside the text, and is the worst kind of eisegesis. Theistic evolution’s definition for “day” in Genesis one is perhaps one of the most fallacious and deplorable examples of reading into the text in all of Scripture.

Rightly Dividing

Bullet Three – Immediate Fulfillment

Seven of the eight creative acts in Genesis one include a follow up phrase of immediate fulfillment.

  • Verse three, And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
  • Verse six, And God said, “Let there be an expanse….” And it was so (verse seven).
  • Verse nine, And God said…and it was so.
  • Verse eleven, and it was so.
  • Verse fourteen, and it was so.
  • Verse twenty-four, and it was so.
  • Verse thirty, and it was so.

God said it, and it was done. No time passes. No development or evolution discussed. God commanded by His word and the creation was completed without interval. The repetition of and it was so is a rhetoric device that demonstrates God’s power to create instantaneously, and rules out small, gradual adaptations over indefinite ages.

Rightly Dividing

Bullet Two – Chronological Sequence

Every verse in Genesis chapter one (except for verse 1) begins with the conjunction “and.” Here is one example where the ESV sacrifices for the sake of readability, translating many of the verses in chapter one with “and” or “then” or “so,” but not all of them. The NASB goes back and forth between “and” and “then,” but is at least consistent in recognizing the repetition of the conjunction. For the curious, the Hebrew conjunction is the same vav (or waw) that begins each verse.

Moses doesn’t skip through the story, he moves step-by-step, directly from one work to the next and from one day to the next. Not only are his readers intended to feel the immediacy of the progression, Moses leaves no empty space for long, indefinite periods of time. We go to bed, so to speak, and there’s more creative work by God the very next morning.

The immediacy of movement is one piece of evidence, but perhaps even more conclusive is that the sequence of evolution conflicts with the order of creation in Genesis one. For example, Moses reports the creation of vegetation on the third day (the third “age” according to most progressive creationists), the creation of birds and fish on the fifth day, and the creation of animals and insects on the sixth day. Evolution, however, supposes that the sequence started with simple cells (3 billion or so years ago), that gradually developed into to complex cells (2 billion years ago), then into multicellular life (1 billion years ago), to simple animals (600 million years ago), to ancestors of insects (570 million years ago), to complex animals (550 million years ago), to fish (500 million years ago), and then to land plants. This rough timeline is according to the Wikipedia entry which may or may not be every evolutionists’ preferred arrangement.

That means even if God did use evolution to form and fill the earth, the sequence of development is off. Maybe Moses jumped around, but that seems unlikely in light of the genre and the flow of thought. The crux of the matter is that the creation account, as it’s told in Genesis, can’t be made to correspond with the evolutionary chronology.

Rightly Dividing

Bullet One – Narrative Genre

The bulk of the book of Genesis is in the narrative genre. “Narratives are stories, purposeful stores retelling the historical events of the past, that are intended for a given people in the present” (Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 90). Moses is telling a story, but it is a non-fiction story, an historical record of actual events at specific times in particular places with real characters.

Nothing in Genesis smacks of myth or fable, with fanciful, fictional events. There are no potions, no princesses, and no magical golden coins. Instead, this is a matter of fact account. Even if Genesis one were considered poetry, as a few current scholars suggest, that wouldn’t change its truthfulness. Though I think Genesis one is prose anyway, it wouldn’t make an exegetical difference, since the Psalms aren’t make-believe.

If Genesis one does not describe real events and real days, when does the pretend story stop? If chapter one is figurative, then reality can’t materialize until at least after chapter three, after the story of the fall, of Adam’s sin, and the coming of death. Evolution demands death, the “survival of the fittest,” creatures evolving in order to survive harsh environments and predators, which means that for evolution to take place, death must have also been occurring during those millions of years. So at least the first three chapters of Genesis are untrustworthy. When can we start depending on the straight stuff? If Moses isn’t (always) reporting actuality, and since he gives no indication of switching back and forth between what’s figurative and what’s fact, then he is a great deceiver, and by implication, none of Scripture can be trusted. The truth is, theistic evolution doesn’t stand in light of the narrative genre.

Rightly Dividing

Shooting Down Theistic Evolution

According to Genesis 1:1, the universe was launched in an instant, due to the initiating, intelligent, omnipotent, creative work of Elohim. In the first verse of the Bible our beliefs are framed about God, the one God, the only eternal God, the God who is distinct from, yet involved with His creation. He created time, space, and substance out of nothing. And as quickly as the second verse in the Bible, amidst this new and vast universe, God focuses His work on the earth. Genesis 1:2 describes the earth’s early condition, setting the scene for a week’s worth of forming and filling so that man could live on His planet.

Not only was this the first week ever, it was the original W.O.W. Week (“week of wow” week). There was nothing except for God before “wow” week. In that week, all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1).

I emphasize the word week because it seems that a very small minority believe there was only one, 24-7 week in Genesis chapter one, and the majority I’m concerned about are not those who reject the Bible altogether. A person who doesn’t believe in God and who has no commitment to Scripture certainly won’t hitch their wagon to the creation account. Naturalistic evolution, that is, the development of life apart from God, presumably the result of a big bang, using the formula “nothing times no one equals everything,” is not the problem (besides the fact that it is clearly ruled out by Genesis 1:1). It seems most scientists don’t even cling to that theory any longer.

But I am concerned with those who desire to reconcile Scripture with science, specifically those who desperately want to squeeze the millions of years required by the evolutionary theory into the Genesis one story. The problem is with professing Christians, those who believe in God, those who claim allegiance to the Bible, who struggle to cram a version of evolution into creation.

Most who desire to reconcile science (granting for the sake of argument that evolution can even be considered “science”) with Scripture call themselves theistic evolutionists or progressive creationists, but both of those approaches make a similar scrambled mess of exegesis. Two other attempts to stuff millions of years into Genesis one include the Revelation Theory and the Gap Theory. But theistic evolution seems to be the prevailing shot in the dark. Those persons want to keep both science and the Bible, so they look for ways to fit evolution into God’s design. They believe God worked through minute mutations and gradual development.

I don’t remember this being a popular position when I went to public high school. Back in the day, you were on one side or the other. You either believed God and the Bible and creation, or there was no god at all and the Bible was stupid and evolution was scientific fact.

Yet theistic evolution appears to be the common, Christian way of thinking today. By far, the majority of Genesis commentaries I’ve read presume theistic evolution to be the proper interpretation of the chapter. Even a loyal reader of the Void wants to “leave the door open” for God’s work through evolution, and suggested that theistic evolution gives God more glory.

So how do you answer that? What can you say to those who want God as the evolution mover? There are at least six bullets from Genesis chapter one alone that shoot down any notion of evolution, over six days or over millions of years, and prove it unbiblical. There are other biblical and scientific evidences available to the Christian apologist. But mathematical formulas about DNA strands or cracks in the fossil record are not as convenient or authoritative as a well-reading of the story itself. I want believers to be able to take anyone to Genesis one and show that God Himself says He didn’t create via evolution. Over the next six days I’ll post the biblical bullets. And so there’s no confusion, by saying “six days,” I’m referring to the next six, sequential, 24-hour days, as defined by the cycle of light and darkness.

UPDATE [9:55AM October 23, 2008]:

I received a comment on the above post with language in it that is not suitable for approval. The gist was that I am a total waste of time because I questioned the science of evolution and, as they said, evolution “is the most important concept in biology” and “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

To be clear, I wasn’t sniping when I said:

granting for the sake of argument that evolution can even be considered “science”

I simply meant to point out, that according to the definition of science, evolution has never been observed nor has it been demonstrated or repeated through experiment, and therefore, evolution is more accurately outlined as a theory, not a fact.

Enjoying the Process

Breaking News

Many of you already know that Mo is scheduled for a C-section on Wednesday morning since Hallie is breech. However, her water broke around 10PM tonight (Sunday) which a trip to triage confirmed. From here on out you can check any news on my Twitter page, as it’s easier for me to update.