I bit the bait and clicked an inflammatory link a while back that permanently burned my brain. A straightforward tweet asked: What is the most offensive verse in the Bible? and promised an answer behind a click. The answer surprised me, stirred me, and settled for me so much of our cultural, and even Christian and Christian cultural, woes.
The most offensive verse in the Bible is Genesis 1:1. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
If that verse is true–and I believe it without hedging or hesitation, without a wink or crossed fingers behind the back–then God must be acknowledged as Creator, thanked as Maker, and obeyed as Lord by all. This God who created the world rules the world and He makes the rules for the world. He does not need anyone’s counsel, nor does He ask for it or take it. He did not create in order to disclaim His authority but rather to demonstrate it.
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
What is good for man requires man to submit to God. What is this strange word, “submit”? It means to do what someone else says.
As the t-shirt so memorably exhorts: There is a God, and you’re not Him. Resistance is futile, like clay pots throwing pieces of themselves at the Potter, destroying themselves in the process.
We would do well to take the posture and pray in a way similar as Jesus did, “Not my world, but Yours be done.”
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus told His disciples that the cup poured out for them was the new covenant in His blood (Luke 22:20). It is the sign of the promise revealed in Ezekiel 36 and Jeremiah 31. The Lord committed to Israel that He would cleanse their sins, take away their hearts of stone, give them hearts of flesh, and cause each of them to know Him. This covenant stands out because it depends wholly on the Lord. As it’s been observed, no man can give himself a heart transplant.
Not only is this promise unconditional, it is also as reliable as the sunrise. Jeremiah explains what would need to happen before this promise could fail.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Thus says the LORD,
who gives the sun for light by day
and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the LORD of hosts is his name:
“If this fixed order departs
from before me, declares the LORD,
then shall the offspring of Israel cease
from being a nation before me forever.”
God established the light and seasons of the sun to teach us about His strength and faithfulness. Through these God also shows His joy. As Chesterton speculated in his book Orthodoxy, “It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun.” He does not get tired of calling the sun into place, and He does not tire of keeping His promises.
We Gentiles partake as the overflow of the new covenant life. There is a season when God is grafting in those who had no promise to receive the salvation, and even this is part of God’s plan to finally save Israel (Romans 11:25-27).
As we eat and drink communion week by week, as we cross off days on the calendar until the Son comes, as we take it for granted when our weather apps say the sun will come up tomorrow, then we have reason to trust God in all His good words to us.
What sort of behavior belongs with the God who created heaven and earth? When we receive His revelation about His effective word that brought about being in blankness, what other kinds of conduct would be characteristic? What else does a sovereign God do that fits His demeanor?
World leaders enter meetings with elaborate ceremonies and fanfare. What about the world Maker? World leaders travel with security and command armies? What about the world Maker? World leaders allot meeting times in five minute increments and control that time to show who has the power. What about the world Maker?
The author of Hebrews reveals what fits with our God.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10)
The magnificent, matchless God does not hoard glory, He intends to share it. He is “bringing many sons to glory.” He gives life to children and then invests in our inheritance. The transcendent, incomparable God also does not stay aloof. He sent His Son and wrote His story as one of suffering. He came down to our level and endured pain at the hands of His own rather than pageantry. This is the world Maker. This fits Him.
We are saved and we are being sanctified by the power of a transcendent Creator of the universe. And it is also true that it is fitting for the incarnate Son to call us “brothers.” I say all of this because we ought both to fear God and to know that He is glad with us in Christ. It is fitting for Him to receive us. When we confess our sins, we need to remember to whom we confess.
Why did God create an unformed and unfilled mass of earth first (Genesis 1:1-2)? Why was Stage One at the beginning of day one a watery wilderness and wasteland? Why not create it all with one word, heaven and earth and creatures and man? For that matter, why create with only one man and woman? He created forests of trees and swarms of birds, why not create with a full population with full cell coverage and free smart phones for all?
One reason we can observe in Genesis 1 and from 6,000 years or so of history is that God enjoys the process. The process is His idea. He invented helpless babies. It is a selling point, not a glitch, that they have to grow up into maturity, physical and spiritual. He thought organizing should take a while, more Snow White whistling while working and less Mary Poppins snapping to make the work magically disappear. He instituted seeds and photosynthesis and buds budding and fruit fruiting and doing it all over again next year. Not only did He declare these things to be good, He decided that these things were the best for showing His glory.
Seeds grew into grain for bread and grapes for wine. But it doesn’t stop there. As we eat and drink at the communion table by faith, we are being refined. He is growing us, increasing our love for Him and likeness to His Son. He continues, week by week, to make us less of a mess. We were unformed and unfilled. Now He put His law in our hearts and sheds His love abroad in there, too. It’s a God work of new creation, and by His Spirit He is making us into something the world can use.
The only thing required to be guilty before God is to do nothing. Men transgress God’s law on purpose more than the evening news has time to report. But they can and do sin before getting out of bed in the morning and when they crawl under the covers after a day of ignoring God.
One of the scariest paragraphs in the Bible covers a legal ramification of creation. While the author of Hebrews acknowledges that we only understand that God made the world by faith, Paul warns that every man who doesn’t praise God for making the world is guilty in his unbelief.
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:19–21)
God can be and is known by everyone at some level. His invisible attributes, at least in His power and divine personhood, have been clearly perceived in the visible world. Every man who breathes has an airtight case against him. All he has to do to deserve wrath is nothing, to fail to honor God or give Him thanks. Many men talk a good game about their earthly knowledge and give one another honorary PhDs, but “claiming to be wise, they become fools.”
How much more ought Christians, a people of faith, a people alive to God, a people who serve righteousness, to live godly and righteous in the present age by honoring and thanking God? This is part of what it means for us to live by faith. We cannot be satisfied doing nothing, and our confidence in six day creation and our apologetics against evolution will not please God if we don’t worship Him.
When the Word created grain and grapes on day three, was He thinking about the glorious purpose that He would give bread and wine around a table some 4000 years later? When the Logos created man on day six, breathing life into his flesh and blood, did the He consider then how He would soon (in light of eternity) take on flesh Himself and spill His own blood for sinful men?
The apostle John not only wrote about the Logos and creation (John 1:1-4), he also wrote about the “book of life” that was “written before the foundation of the world” concerning “the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:8). That means that the cross, and our remembrance of it at communion, was not an after-creation thought for the Logos-Lamb. As good as God declared creation was before the Fall, as much as the Logos and the Spirit and Father enjoyed what they had made, the Trinity knew what was coming.
While we chew over the eternal place of the cross and even the communion elements, let us remember that the Logos was with God, and by His body and blood, we who believe can also be with God. Jesus prayed that we may be with Him, to see the Son’s glory given to Him by the Father because the Father loved Him before the foundation of the world (John 17:24). The glory that He had with His Father before creation is the glory He shares with those who share in the communion meal by faith.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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”?
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.
I’m just curious – WHERE DOES IT SAY THAT IN SCRIPTURE?
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.2
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.”↩
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.↩