There are three sides in the debate over the origins of the world. Naturalists believe that the world and the universe all came about by the natural processes of evolution over eons. The best explanation for where the original stuff came from that evolved into what we see today is that there was a Big Bang. What caused the Bang and where did the stuff that “went bang” come from? I’m not sure there is a good answer for that, and any answers that are given just kick the can a little further down the road where we arrive at the same questions.
On the opposite side, we have the literal interpretation of the biblical account of creation. Those who hold this view believe that God created the Earth and the universe by direct act in six literal days. While they wouldn’t deny that small changes occur within species, they would say that new species do not develop from existing species. Biblical creationists also believe in a young Earth. If God created the Earth in six literal days and evolution was not involved there is no need for billions of years. The Bible gives us fairly comprehensive genealogies from the beginning of time, therefore we can estimate the approximate age of the Earth.
The third side is comprised of Christians who believe that God used evolution to bring about His creation. They do not believe that God created the world in six days. They believe those days could be very long periods of time. They believe that God directed the process of evolution over billions of years.
It makes sense that those who do not believe in God would embrace the naturalistic view. If the world created itself, we aren’t responsible to a Creator. What seems unclear is why so many who claim to be Christians want to mix evolution and the biblical account. Perhaps because evolution has been taught as fact for so long in our schools it feels unintellectual to go against that narrative. Professors have been fired from universities for releasing research that indicates that the Earth might not be as old as previously thought. The pressure to go along with the theory of evolution is real.
Many Christians have decided to just declare this to be a secondary issue that is not central to Christianity. They believe that we can’t know for sure how everything began so it’s no big deal if some people think the Earth is millions of years old. Several great apologists that I love to listen to on almost any other topic take this approach. From an apologetics standpoint, it is easy to just focus on the evidence of the resurrection and the accuracy of the Gospels and prove that Jesus was God and died and rose again for our sins. They don’t feel that debating the origins of the universe is worth worrying about. But is that true? Here are a few reasons why holding to the biblical account of creation is important.
It is supported by Scripture
Some believe that there is a gap between Genesis 1:1-2 and 1:3. They believe that the Bible is just saying that when God created the Earth it sat here for millions of years before God started forming it into the things we see today. Therefore, they can accommodate the millions of years that the evolutionists say is a fact, and still have God as the Creator. There are a bunch of theological problems with this idea. But biblically you face problems with other passages that declare otherwise. First of all, in Exodus 20:11 God tells Moses “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (NIV)” This passage clearly says that the heavens and the Earth (Gen. 1:1-2) and everything in them (Gen. 1:3) were made in six days. There was no time period where the Earth sat for millions of years in some weird unformed mass until God began to finish creation.
Some Christians point to 2 Peter 3:8 where Peter writes that with God “a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day.” They believe that the “days” of creation could be long eons where evolution could have taken place. Again, Exodus 20:11 blows up that argument. The context of Exodus 20:11 is also important to its interpretation. God is giving the commandment that man should take a day every 7 days to rest, and in the process of giving that command, He points to the week of creation. Why would God point to figurative days that last for millions of years to explain why people should work 6 days and rest on the 7th? I sure don’t want to put in a good 6 million years of work before I get some time off! Further proof that the days are intended to be taken literally lies in the phrase, “There was evening and there was morning - the first day.” When the word for “day” is listed with a number and the description of a day (evening and morning), it never means anything but a regular day.
It is taken as history by Jesus and Paul Let’s first take a look at the things Jesus said about the beginning of time.
“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:6-9 (NIV)
Here Jesus does several important things. First, He affirms the creation account as historical and not allegorical. He uses the facts of what happened in the creation of man and woman to directly connect to how we should relate today. We will see that in other passages as well. But He also says that “at the beginning of creation God made them male and female.” So Jesus clearly didn’t think that creation began millions of years before mankind showed up on Earth.
In Luke 11:50-51 Jesus affirms the historicity of the murder of Abel as well. And in Matthew 24:38-39 Jesus affirms the historicity of Noah and the Flood. It is hard to look at the teachings of Jesus and make any case other than He supports the first eleven chapters of Genesis as historical. Yet these are the chapters that many Christians are quick to concede as allegorical in order to comply with the narrative the secular scientists have strung together.
Now let’s see how Paul treated the creation account.
For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 1 Timothy 2:13-14 (NIV)
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:22 (NIV)
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. Romans 5:14 (NIV)
The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven.1 Corinthians 15:47 (NIV)
Paul seems to believe and write (under the direction of the Holy Spirit) that Adam and Eve were real people, who were directly created by God, not evolutionary processes. He also takes the temptation and fall story seriously as well.
It is Central to the Gospel
This is the point no one ever thinks about. What is the point of finding a compromise that will allow for millions or billions of years? The point is to attempt to reconcile what the Bible says with what scientists (not necessarily science) are saying. It would take billions of years of very fortunate genetic accidents for something as complex as a human being to evolve. So if we can find a place for millions or billions of years then we should be able to fit the prevailing scientific theories into the biblical narrative, right? In the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend!” If the gap theory is correct then the Earth can be super old before man comes on the scene. But wait, there’s a problem. The very Earth that some scientists say is millions of years old is full of dead things. The very rocks that they test to prove millions of years are full of dead things. So we have accomplished nothing. The Gospel declares clearly that death is the result of sin. If there were millions of years of death before Adam and Eve showed up and sinned, then we have a serious problem. Evolutionists and atheists recognize this, even though many Christians do not. This is why a writer in American Atheist magazine said this:
“Christianity has fought, still fights, and will continue to fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the Son of God. If Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing.”1
This writer understands our theology better than many Christians. The “Long Day” theory has the exact same problem. If there was death before sin, we do not need someone to die for us to pay for our sins.
It is central to many cultural issues
If mankind came about as a result of millions of years of death and struggle (even if God directed that process) then the Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration storyline of the Bible does not make sense. Understanding that God made a perfect world and that we are created in His image, but we are fallen is essential to understanding our world correctly. Our culture has successfully removed God and the Judeo-Christian ethic from society. Now we have no objective standard by which to judge what is right and wrong. The standard we have adopted is individual feelings. Our culture believes that if you feel something it is true. If you feel that you are a different gender, that is what is true for you. If you feel oppressed, you are, no matter what the facts say. If you aren't happy in your marriage, you should listen to your heart. The foundational principle that we are missing is that we are fallen. The Bible says, apart from the transforming work of Jesus in our lives, we can’t trust our hearts at all. And even with the transforming work of Jesus, we need to continually reference God’s Word to check our motives.
The creation account also gives us God’s purpose for many important areas of our lives. It shows us how God designed the world and intends it to be. Creation shows us God’s design for marriage and family. Creation shows us why work is important for the dignity of mankind. It shows us that the Earth was created for us to enjoy and manage (If that was one of the main purposes, then why would God let it sit empty for eons before creating people?). It also shows us why God created two genders/sexes and that procreation is the expected norm. The creation account speaks to the sanctity of life and the fact that all people are image-bearers and should be treated with respect and without favoritism. It is interesting that the further we have gotten away from believing the Genesis record, the more hopeless and unfulfilled our culture has become.
You will notice I didn’t answer the scientific questions that many have. I have heard amazing lectures and data that show that the Earth is not millions of years old and that macro evolution does not have the proof required to declare it a fact. However, I’m not a scientist. I will leave the scientific facts up to organizations like ICR and AIG who have been doing amazing work in this area for decades. My goal here is to show you that compromising the literal account of creation in Genesis does not allow you to escape the cultural debate while still being true to Christianity. If you claim to be a Christian who takes the Bible seriously, any interpretation that includes the process of evolution or millions of years can’t be considered an accurate reading of the Scriptures and will always run you into a theological wall.
1 R. Bozarth 1979: 30, “The Meaning of Evolution” American Atheist Magazine,