Creation is a topic that I have been keenly interested in for most of my life. Over the last few years though I have been going back and reexamining everything that I had believed about creation, so that I could see what exactly lines up with Scripture, and what is more pressed into interpretations of the Bible. This post starts a series that I will be doing on this topic. At first I was thinking that I would just just do a series of posts on the different interpretations of Genesis 1 and 2. But as I began to study this topic more thoroughly I realized that the doctrine of creation is incredibly complex, and I didn’t feel like I would be doing justice to the topic if I limited myself to just various interpretations.
Another thing I wanted to address with this series is that I think an inordinate amount of importance is placed on one’s view of creation. Mark Driscoll uses a helpful analogy of closed handed issues and open handed issues. Closed handed issues are areas of theology that are of vital importance and should be fought for. These include things like the Trinity, Biblical Inspiration, the Deity of Christ, substitutionary atonement, etc. These are the issues that make or break Christianity. If you were to deny one of the doctrines in this category, you would cease to be Christian.
On the other hand, open handed issues are things we should have opinions about, but do not affect our standing and relationship with Christ. I would include in this category things like: the relationship between Israel and the Church, Calvinism vs. Arminianism, and, what I want to focus on with this series, how you interpret the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2.
A number of years ago I followed Ken Ham’s blog on Facebook. I stopped following it, however, when he posted a response to the question of whether or not belief in young earth creationism is required for salvation. His answer consisted of two parts. The first was to say that all that is required for salvation is to believe in the Bible’s testimony about Jesus Christ. He then gave Scripture to support this statement (and of course, I agree wholeheartedly with this first part).
His second answer though I had problems with. He said that if you deny a young earth, you also deny the authority and testimony of the Bible. Given the way it was presented it came across as a very backhanded way of saying that rejection of young earth creation is sufficient to call into question a person’s salvation.
This blog post was intended to just be an introduction to the topic of creation. What I wanted to emphasize was to show that this doctrine is often incorrectly overemphasized. To conclude this post I want to share something that I found a number of years ago that helped me understand this point. I was teaching a youth Sunday school class going through a survey of the Old Testament. When I was preparing the notes for the book of Genesis I was surprised by what I noticed in the outline of the book. I was using Norman Geisler’s “A Popular Survey of the Old Testament” as a basis.
To illustrate my point, ask yourself: What is the book of Genesis about? What is the purpose of Genesis? I think a look at the outline will help answer these questions.
Here is the outline I used:
I. The Origin of Nations (1-11)
A. The Creation of Man (1-2)
B. The Corruption of Man (3-5)
C. The Destruction of Man (6-9)
D. The Dispersion of Man (10-11)
II. The Election of the Chosen Nation (12-50)
A. Abraham (12-25a)
1. The Call of Abraham (12-14) – The initial promise of the Abrahamic Covenant is made.
2. The Covenant with Abraham (15-16) – The Covenant is made official.
3. The confirmation to Abram (17-21) – Isaac is born.
4. The Confidence of Abraham (22-23) – Abraham is told to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham is reminded of the covenant.
5. The Concern of Abraham (24-25a) – Abraham finds a wife for Isaac.
B. Isaac (25b-27)
1. The blessing confirmed (25b-26) – Isaac is twice reminded by God of the covenant.
2. The blessing conferred (27)
C. Jacob (38-36)
1. Jacob’s Call (28) – After wrongfully receiving the blessing meant for his brother, Jacob runs away and has a dream in which God tells him that he is the one through whom the covenantal promise would be fulfilled.
2. Jacob’s marriage (29-31)
3. Jacob’s return to Canaan (32-35)
D. Joseph (37-50)
1. Joseph as a Slave (37-40)
2. Joseph as the servant to Egypt (41-45)
3. Joseph as the savior of Israel (46-50)
There are two things that this outline shows us about the purpose of the book of Genesis. The first is that the book was written as an explanation to the origin of the nation of Israel. Moses wrote it to show the Israelites he would soon be leading out of Egypt the special place they hold with their God. The second point (which I tried to point out above using bold font) is that the book places an extremely high level of importance on the Abrahamic covenant. Once the narrative of the book focus on Abraham, every character from there until the end (minus Joseph) goes through an episode were God reaffirms the covenant with them.
These two points are the most important things to understanding the Book of Genesis. Given this information, it makes sense to say the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 were not considered the most important chapters in the Book by its author. In fact, when viewed this way, the creation account is actually closer to an afterthought than the major point in the book that many people work it up to be.
To conclude this post, I want to reiterate that the way a person interprets Genesis 1 and 2 is less important than most people make it out to be. There are certainly things that are important with this topic, things like: the existence of a God capable of creating the universe, the special place of man in creation, the fall, etc. I will be looking at these more later.