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The Genesis Issue: Four Views

[The response to the “Is Genesis History?” film has been quite phenomenal, ranking No. 1 at the box office on the day of its release and was Fathom’s second highest grossing event of 2017. Because of this, it will be re-released in theaters on February 22. Therefore, I thought it would be of some value to talk about some of the issues that it raises. We will do this in a series of smaller chunks leading up to the release so that we don’t burn your eyes out. :) ]

When one comes to the “issues” surrounding science and the Bible, they almost always focus upon the different ways that one looks at the book of Genesis. Some ignore it as insignificant to the scientific discussion. Others feel it should be read and interpreted in the light of the conclusions of science. Another segment believes it is to be read as historical narrative and should therefore inform scientific inquiry as a valid witness to what really happened. Hence the title of the film: “Is Genesis History?”

As weak as it is to “classify” and “stereotype” people’s beliefs, it is of some value to recognize that there are fundamentally four competing views concerning the record of Genesis and therefore “origins”, for Genesis 1-11 deals primarily with the “beginning” of almost everything. Consider the list. Genesis makes claims for the beginning of all of these:

  • the origin of the universe and light,
  • the origin of the stars and their order,
  • the origin of the earth and seas and sea life,
  • the origin of plant and animal life,
  • the origin of human life and imago dei,
  • the origin of male and female, marriage and sexual order,
  • the origin of sin and death, evil and violence,
  • the origin of current geological structures and fossils,
  • and the origin of languages and major people groups.

With such ubiquitous claims regarding the origin of everything, one's view of Genesis is quite important.

The four competing views are, in their traditional labels: atheistic and theistic evolution, old earth and young earth creation. I think those titles are not completely accurate or descriptive, so I will take the liberty to rename them as follows:

1. Secular (Atheistic) Evolution – deep time, evolution through natural processes, both atheistic and agnostic (secular) view

2. Deistic (Theistic) Evolution – deep time, evolution through natural processes, God exists and may have kick-started the evolutionary process

3. Deep Time (Old Earth) Creation – deep time, cosmic evolution, but life arose through the periodic creative acts of God along the standard evolutionary timeline

4. Historic (Young Earth) Creation – near time, God created everything according to the literal, historical Genesis account in six “evening and morning” days, resting from that work on the seventh

It is true that there are nuances and variations within each of these positions and even continuums that exist between them (i.e. the Gap Theory), but most people fall clearly into one of these four. With that caveat, let’s look more closely at each:

Secular Evolution – deep time, evolution through natural processes, atheistic or agnostic view.

This is obviously the most prominent position in our culture. It is the view presented in academia, media, museums, and our national parks, etc. This position is entirely naturalistic, believing that everything in the universe, including life forms, have come about as the result of slow evolutionary processes under no guidance, no intelligence, no purposive forces. Only naturalistic causes and effects are allowed to be considered within this perspective. Deep time is absolutely necessary to maintain the evolutionary position. This view rejects any divine or historical aspect of Genesis.

Deistic Evolution – deep time, evolution through natural processes, God exists and may have kick-started the evolutionary process.

This is the growing position represented primarily by BioLogos, where both evolution and the existence of God is embraced. God’s role in all of this is vague or unknown. I have often asked this question of my theistic evolutionist friends: “What is it that you find lacking in evolution theory for which you believe God must fill the gaps?” The answer has been consistent: “Why do you think that I find anything lacking in evolution?” This often leads one to wonder what the “theistic” part plays in this position and various answers are given, from none to getting life started to “guiding evolution in the background”. That is why I believe it is better labeled, as “Deistic Evolution” for God’s role is primarily one of creating the evolutionary process, winding it up and then letting it go. I'm not saying that the people in this group are "Deists" but that the view is deistic. This group accepts Genesis, but starts first with the conclusions of science and therefore must read the text in a different genre, usually myth or metaphor. This has deep implications. Accepting deep time and evolution is increasingly leading to the textual view that Adam and Eve are non-literal, most likely a "hominid group of about 10,000) that evolved to a state where the Genesis myth metaphorically labeled them as a man and woman. This is closely followed by a “spiritualization” of the fall and viewing the additional accounts in Genesis, like the Noahic Flood and the Tower of Babel, as more pieces in the Genesis metaphor and not to be read literally.

Deep Time Creation – deep time, cosmic evolution, but life arose through the periodic creative acts of God along the standard evolutionary timeline.

This position holds that God has been the creative force in bringing about life in its basic forms as we know it today. Deep time and the evolutionary timeline are assumed to be true and it therefore normally holds to a “cosmic evolution” regarding star, sun, planet, earth and elemental development. God periodically intervenes with creation acts (i.e. every 20 millions years per Hugh Ross) and the rise of life and its various forms through God’s creative work is matched to the standard deep time framework, including man, who arose millions of years ago. Because of this, and by necessity, the Genesis account is viewed as a combination of historical and metaphor or allegory, where the order is held loosely (the sun and stars evolved earlier, marine life earlier, etc.) and the “evening and morning, day ____” phrases are not literal, but symbolic, meaning instead vast periods of time.

This position includes many who are involved in the critical and excellent work of “Intelligent Design”, which is held by both Deep Time and Historic Creation positions, arguing that the presence of complex design in the universe points to the need of an “intelligent designer”. Some Deep Time Creationists hold this position without elaborating on Who that designer might be, while others openly state that the designer is the God of Genesis. Accepting deep time, which primarily comes from the rocks, necessitates that this position view the flood as not literal nor global, but a local flood, in order to maintain the deep time in the rocks.

Historic Creation - near time, God created everything according to the literal, historical Genesis account in six “evening and morning” days, resting from that work on the seventh.

This position holds that the universe and the earth were created and completed in the literal timeframe and order given (i.e. one literal week) in Genesis. It also accepts the literal understanding of a global flood in which “all the mountains of the earth were covered” and “all the animals that had the breath of life” were destroyed. As such, it concludes that the heavens and the earth are measured in thousands of years, not billions.

Now, I can almost guarantee that there will be some who will read this high-level classification and complain that their particular position is somewhat different than I have characterized. I accept your complaint! :) I believe, however, that if you study the primary authors and formal positions of these views, that these summations accurately portray what they believe and their approach to the Genesis text and the claims of science.

Next time, we will examine more deeply the contrast among these views and the line or "dichotomy" that we addressed in the film.

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Bonaire and the Donkey of the Lord

I’ve run off to the somewhat desolate island of Bonaire. Doing some scuba diving and snorkeling. Enjoying time with new friends and old. But I’m here primarily to contemplate and wrestle.

One of the difficult passages in the Scripture is the story of Balaam. For many, it seems that God gave Balaam permission to go to King Balak when he had been summoned. But when Balaam headed out, an angel of the Lord stood in the path with a sword to strike him down because God was angry that he was going. The angel was invisible to Balaam, but not to his donkey. The donkey shied away off of the path and Balaam got angry and struck him. On the way again, the angel then stood in a narrow passageway and the donkey smashed Balaam’s foot up against the wall. The donkey received another blow. After a third time, Balaam was incensed with the donkey and struck him with his staff. The Lord then opened the donkey’s mouth and he told Balaam about the angel with a sword that had Balaam’s name on it. Balaam’s eyes were opened and he realized the donkey has spared his life.

Someday I will write about this event to seek a little clarity in what was going on.

But for now, it is sufficient to note that sometimes when impediments or obstacles arise in our life, it isn’t always clear if it is the enemy, the normal rocks and weeds of a fallen world, or the Lord’s donkey.

I think most of the time it is clear.

I remember the travails of getting the family to church on Sunday morning or the huge obstacles and waves that seemed to continually crash up against us in preparing the Truth Project. When we filmed “Who Is Jesus?” we lost all of my audio and it had to be redone with ADR… a grueling process. In most of those cases it was clear that we were dealing with the curse of the Fall or the enemy. But sometimes something hits you out of the blue with such force that you just don’t know if it might be the Lord.

It is in those moments that we are driven to do what the Lord modeled for us: go off to a quiet place and pray.

So here I am in Bonaire… a rocky, desert-like island contemplating where to go from here. What is abundantly clear from these contemplations is the Lord’s call to do “the Engagement”. I am increasingly assured of the urgency of its teaching. And, I am assured, after seven days, that He is going to open the last big door and we will be on the final leg.

My encouragement to you is that you turn to Him often and quickly. It is easy to scoff at Balaam who was angry because the events in his life were not going according to his script and yet fail to see our own reflection. When this happens it is even easier to lash out at those around you, even those, like Balaam’s donkey, who had been graciously carrying Balaam around for most of his life.

Find a “Bonaire” where you can withdraw. Pray diligently. Seek His face. God does not hide His will from His children. But He reveals it through His ordained means of faith, which include prayer, the Word and Godly counsel.

Don’t despise the Lord’s donkey, for when he smashes your foot against the wall or lies down underneath you, there is a divine reason for it. Don't kick him.

Soli Deo Gloria!

P.S. Coincidentally, Bonaire is know for its wild donkeys that roam the island.


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Christmas - Offensive to the gods


The day we call “Christmas” is a celebration of one of, if not equal to, the greatest events in the history of man. It was the culmination of a promise made thousands of years ago in the Gardern of Eden that God would graciously send the “Seed” to crush the head of the evil one and begin the process of making all things right again.

Paul tags this moment this way:

“But in the fullness of time, God sent forth His son, born of a woman…“ Galatians 4:4

Earlier he said,

“Why then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the “seed” to whom the promise referred had come.” Gal 3:19

Even earlier, Paul states this Seed is Jesus Christ, who miraculously came to earth in the form of a man. The King of Kings set aside all riches and put on the robes of a pauper, entering the world in the normal, base process of human gestation, so that we might be reconciled to God once again, brought to life from death, clothed with righteous, made a child of God, a recipient of eternal life through faith in Christ.

What riches we gained from his sacrifice.!

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

Yet, in the midst of this most gracious, most kind, most truly loving act of God, the gods of the earth were offended and bent on destroying the Child and all He represented. Herod slaughtered the young in Bethlehem to eliminate Him; the Pharisees and church rulers conspired to kill Him and be rid of Him; Satan tried everything to crush Him.

Nothing has changed, really.

Today, our culture believes we are gods… equal gods, of course, so that we can all reign in a strange “co-regency”. We do this under the “covenant of tolerance” where each covenants to not impose upon the other’s “god-hood”:

“I won’t tell you that what you are doing is wrong, if you don’t tell me that what I am doing is wrong.”

In this world of godlings, we therefore can reign without guilt or condemnation or restraint. In this world, any offense of a fellow god is repulsive and tantamount to a capital crime, to be met with the most vicious and heated attacks.

In this world, no one god is allowed to reign above another: "There is no one God!" That is horribly offensive and will not be tolerated.

So, the celebration of “Christmas” to pay honor and praise to the One true God and His most remarkable act of coming to earth that we might be reconciled to Him, is offensive to all the gods.

This year, a memo was circulated around the University of Minnesota from the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office stating any celebration that even included green or red was offensive because they represented colors that traditionally were used to point to Christ. Of course, no angels or nativity scenes, bells, doves, or anything else that might offend a god somewhere, someway, somehow.

These seem silly to many, yet it is part of the whole of our culture that finds offense almost anywhere. It is why the traditional Bible on a POW table has been removed and why the symbol of the cross and references to anything of Christ are being taken out of crests, flags, mottos, laws, policies, platforms and any other public forum.

Nothing is new, brothers and sisters, except that we have now become a remnant in the Land, and must begin to act as a Remnant.

And remember... when Harrod and the Pharisees and Satan, tried to wipe Him out…

He prevailed.

And He prevails today, regardless of what the world will want you or me to think.

Take heart, body of Christ! As we celebrate today the coming of our Savior, we will one day celebrate His return and the restoration of all things.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Have a blessed Christmas!

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We Lost a Giant and a Friend - RC Sproul

We just lost a giant in the Faith.

RC Sproul was a unique individual whose contributions to the kingdom are immeasurably understood only in heaven.

He was instrumental in developing in me the understanding that it was all about God. It was all about who God IS… His nature, His character, His attributes. And if you could glimpse, as best as God would allow, the reality of God’s nature, then you would better understand everything that God did or said. For His truth, His Word, His creative and providential acts were all driven by, and consistent with, the essence of who God really was.

We are to be holy, for He is holy. We are to be perfect, for He is perfect. We are to be compassionate because He is compassionate. The commandments of God are not capricious, but reflect His nature. God’s truth is not illogical or irrational because God is not illogical or irrational.

RC was the master of linking the logical to the nature of God and showing how the irrational was in direct contradiction to God’s character.

When we were in the planning stages of creating the Truth Project, I asked RC if he would be willing to give us an hour of his insight and wisdom, which he graciously provided. When I thanked him for that he merely brushed it aside and said, “Any wisdom we have, anything that appears to be insightful, and truly is, does not come from us, but only from God. We are but a mere messenger, are we not?”

Indeed, that is all we are.

And now that great messenger has returned to the Message. It seems to me that there has to be a lot of rejoicing in heaven over the race he ran.

But I’m sure RC would say this, and so I will as well. When God prunes us, as He just has by taking away RC, it is for the purpose that others will then begin to grow and flourish… not to take his place, but to simply build upon what he has left behind. And that is a lot.

Thank you, RC, for your faithful and effective ministry to all of us. You will be sorely missed.

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Is My Thanksgiving Focused Inward or Outward?

As I began to think through all the things I am thankful for, a troubling pattern began to emerge. It was all the stuff that somehow made me happy or content or at least brought some sense of self-pleasure. This, I realized was somewhat selfish, if not downright selfish. And so, I began to ponder whether “thanksgiving” was inherently just a plain self-centered action.

So, that took back to the Scriptures, and it became clear from the beginning that I had gotten my “thanksgiving” backwards… or rather inwards.

A search of “thanks” got me about a hundred hits, nine of which are in the Chronicles where most are about giving thanks to God because “He is good; His love endures forever” or giving thanks to God for His “holy name”.

In Psalm 7:17, “I will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness…

In Psalm 9:1, “I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

In the rest of the Psalms, thanks is given to “praise the Lord”, to “extol Him”, to “glorify Him”, to “give thanks and praise His name”, to “give thanks to your holy name”, and even, “give thanks for your righteous laws”.

And then again, repeatedly, in the Psalms and elsewhere, the familiar “give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever”.

In the Gospel, the giving of “thanks”, with one exception, is confined to Jesus giving thanks for food: bread, fish, wine. In the rest of the New Testament, thanks is primarily for Christ’s work in our salvation or for what the Lord is doing in God’s people or the enjoinment to “give thanks in all things”.

This last one demands some more attention.

Paul tells the Colossians that he rejoices in what he was suffering for them and James calls us to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds. If we are to give thanks “in all things” then that includes those things that probably are not giving me a great deal of pleasure at the moment.

All of this should make us realize that our thanksgiving is primarily to be based upon who God is and for the larger story that He is working out around us… in me, my family, my neighbors, in my fellowship… in the Kingdom of God.

All of this, of course, is a far cry from my petty little list of stuff that brings me pleasure.

I’m not saying that it is “wrong” to give thanks for the stuff in our life… our cell phones, the delicious turkey, the dog or cat or my new TV.

But… when we look at the pattern in Scripture for giving thanks, it sure seems to me that my thanksgiving has increasingly turned away from Him and has become more about me. Oh, sure, I’m thanking God for all this stuff, but I’m only thanking Him because all this stuff is bringing me some sort of pleasure.

Which is actually pretty lame.

When we gather at the table tomorrow, maybe it would be good to spend some of our “giving thanks” time on expressing thanks to God just for who He is. Thank Him for His goodness, not because He gives me stuff, but just because He is “good”… that His love endures forever.

It is my practice on Saturdays, in my prayer time, to thank and praise God for His attributes, which I go through in alphabetical order. Maybe that would be an interesting exercise for your family tomorrow. See how many you can name.

May this be a true day of giving thanks as we look less inward and more Outward.

Soli Deo Gloria!




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