By Stephen Altrogge
The age old creation versus evolution debate has been getting some press recently. The press is the result of Bill Nye (as in “Bill Nye the Science Guy”) announcing he would be debating Ken Ham, the president and CEO of Answers in Genesis.
To be honest, I don’t particularly care about the outcome of this debate. Creationists and evolutionists have been debating for a long time, and I don’t expect this debate to solve any significant issues. But generally speaking, I think it’s important for us as Christians to think through what really does and does not matter when it comes to this debate. We Christians need to wrestle with what Scripture really does and doesn’t say about the creation of the world.
So what are the non-negotiables and where is there room for flexibility?
- I wish that Christians would stop insisting the earth is 6,000 years old, given that this particular number was calculated by Bishop Ussher based on a poor interpretation of the chronologies in the Bible. The chronologies in Scripture are primarily theological, not historical. An example of this is Matthew’s chronology of Jesus. Matthew’s point is to illustrate that Jesus is truly descended from Abraham and David. In doing so, he skips over numerous generations. To dogmatically hold to a particular number of years regarding the age of the earth does not do justice to the theological reasons for most of the biblical chronologies.
- There is room for flexibility in regard to the literal six day creation of the earth. The creation account in Genesis 1 suggests that the earth was probably created by God in six literal days. However, the creation account is organized according to a very particular literary device. Days 1-3 show God organizing the chaos into organized “spheres” (land, ocean, sky, etc.). Days 4-6 show God populating each of these spheres with plants, fish, animals, and birds. Because the author uses this intentional literary device to demonstrate God bringing order out of chaos, I don’t think we can dogmatically insist that God absolutely, without a doubt, created the world in six literal days. Like I said, the creation account indicates God probably created the earth in six days.
- There is one non-negotiable in the creation account, and that is the unique creation of Adam by God. We must hold fast to the doctrine of Adam being created uniquely in the image of God, apart from the entire animal kingdom. Adam was not the result of divine evolution. Why is this non-negotiable? Because the doctrine of justification by faith alone hinges on Adam being a real historical person created uniquely by God in God’s image. As God’s image bearer, Adam was responsible to bring God’s rule to the earth. When Adam sinned, he failed in his divine mandate. Adam was the representative for the entire human race, and as our representative, he colossaly failed.
- Jesus succeeded in every way Adam failed. Paul says in Romans 5:18, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” Adam was a real man who sinned against God. When he sinned against God he plunged all of humanity into sin and darkness. Jesus was also a real man. Through his perfect obedience to God he secured righteousness for all who would believe in him.
If Adam was not a real person created uniquely in God’s image, the doctrine of justification begins to fall apart. Paul clearly understood that Adam was the first representative of the human race, and that Jesus was a second representative of the human race. Adam cannot be merely a theological idea. He must be a real person because Jesus was a real person.
There is room for flexibility on a number of issues related to the creation of the world. However, we must hold fast to the doctrine of the historical Adam. Justification hinges on a historical Adam, and I’m not willing to budge on that doctrine.
Stephen Altrogge is author of the books Game Day For the Glory of God: A Guide For Athletes, Fans, and Wanabes and The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence. Stephen blogs at The Blazing Center.