Why defend Genesis when so many people don’t even believe in Jesus? Why not concentrate on defending the big issues, like the Gospel and the deity of Christ? Considering all the problems we have in society, should we really be focused on apologetics, rather than trying to change our culture? It takes time and effort to learn to defend biblical creation. Wouldn’t that time be better spent defending the important Christian doctrines, and fighting abortion, “gay marriage”, racism, and other social ills?
Many Christians pose these questions. The debate over origins seems like such a secondary and academic issue compared to the real-life problems we face every day. But what if our failure to defend Genesis is linked to many of these social ills? Is it possible that the problems of our culture stem from the fact that people have rejected the Bible, beginning in Genesis? If so, then defending biblical creation may be the key to resolving these cultural issues.
Genesis and Social Decay
What is the cause of social problems? Theft, murder, racism, and so on all stem from breaking God’s law. Even issues such as mass poverty can result when people fail to apply biblical principles to their finances. That doesn’t mean that one individual always suffers because of his own sins, but he may suffer from the sins of another. When our elected officials enact laws that are contrary to biblical principles, we all endure difficulty as a result. Really, every social problem can be traced back in one way or another to a broken law of God. Therefore, the problems in our society stem from the fact that people refuse to do what the Bible says.
So, why do people refuse to follow the Bible? Most people do not really believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. And where does this doubt begin? What part of the Bible is most mocked by the critics? Genesis. The creation account is ridiculed more than any other, and this naturally leads people to doubt the rest of Scripture. If the opening chapters of the Bible are wrong, then why trust that the later sections are right? If the Bible authors didn’t get the details right on creation, then can their words really be inspired by God?
We opened this article by asking, “Why defend Genesis when so many people don’t even believe in Jesus?” But the same Bible that teaches about Jesus also teaches about the creation of universe. If the Bible cannot be trusted on one matter, why trust it on another? Doubt about the veracity of Genesis will inevitably lead to doubt about the person and history of Jesus. After all, if God didn’t get the details right in Genesis, how can we trust that He got the details right about how to inherit eternal life? It is an issue of biblical authority. The question before us is this: is the Bible trustworthy? As our culture increasingly rejects Genesis, it will inevitably increasingly reject biblical principles and Jesus. The social problems we see around us are caused by sin, which stems from doubt in the Bible, which starts in Genesis.
Genesis and Christian Doctrines
Christians recognize the importance of the essential Christian doctrines: the Gospel, the deity of Jesus Christ, His atoning death, His resurrection. And we understand the importance of obedience to biblical laws and the morality codified in the Bible. We want to defend life against murder including abortion. We want to defend marriage as the God-ordained union of one man and one woman for life. We promote laws that defend against biblically-defined crimes, such as theft and rape. And we should defend these things. But few people realize that all these biblical principles stem from the literal history of Genesis.
Yes, we should defend marriage against adultery and homosexual perversion. But where does the idea of marriage come from? When God created Adam, He then made Eve from Adam’s side as the perfect helper for the man – the first marriage. God instituted marriage in Genesis 1-2. When the religious leaders (who should have known better) tested Jesus by asking Him about divorce, Jesus explained that marriage is a creation ordinance (Mark 10:6). He quoted from Genesis 1 and 2 and then explained that God’s way of creating the first two people is the reason, the historical basis, for marriage (Mark 10:6-9).
So, if Genesis were not real history, if it were just a fairytale, then marriage would be merely a cultural trend that naturally evolves as the culture does. Those people who want to redefine marriage must reject Genesis. This is exactly what we are seeing in our culture.
What about abortion? The murder of an unborn human being is an atrocity. But why? Human life has value because people are made in the image of God – after His character or likeness. And where do we learn that people are made in God’s image? We find the answer in Genesis 1:26-27. God created Adam and Eve in His image. But if evolution were true, then there would be no historical basis for this important doctrine. Indeed, if we are just animals, why not dispose of unwanted children just like we might euthanize unwanted cats. The Christian doctrine that humans have more value than animals since we are made in God’s image is a Genesis doctrine.
What about racism? If you believe in the literal history of Genesis, you cannot rationally be a racist. This is because Genesis teaches that there is only one race: the human race. All people are descended from Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:20). Therefore, all people are equally made in the image of God and as such they have dignity and deserve respect. But if evolution were true, then humans would merely be chemical accidents that have evolved from lower animals. And some humans would therefore be more evolved than others. It would be natural for the more evolved “races” to dominate and subjugate the less evolved “races,” just as Darwin taught. We can see how a belief in evolution would fuel racism, but a correct understand of biblical creation is incompatible with racism.
We asked, “Wouldn’t that time be better spent defending the important Christian doctrines, and fighting abortion, “gay marriage”, racism, and other social ills?” Now we have the answer. These social ills are fueled by a belief in evolution and the rejection of the history of Genesis. We cannot rationally defend the sanctity of life or biblical marriage without the literal history of Genesis.
Genesis and the Gospel
Even the Gospel itself has its foundation in Genesis. The word ‘Gospel’ means “good news.” The good news is that Jesus provides salvation to all who place their faith in Him. His death on the cross pays for our sins. But this good news presupposes that we understand the bad news: that we comprehend what sin is (rebellion against God), what the penalty for sin is (death), and that all people deserve this penalty. And where is this bad news found? Of course, it is in Genesis that we learn about the first sin of man, and that the penalty for such high treason is death (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:6, 17-19). In Genesis, God sacrifices an animal or animals to provide skins of clothing for Adam and Eve to cover their shame (Genesis 3:21), perhaps a foreshadow of the Redeemer who would come and actually pay for their sins. In Genesis, God promises that a descendent of the woman would crush the power of Satan, thereby redeeming all who trust in Him. Yet, only God Himself can pay the infinite penalty associated with sin. The Redeemer would have to be both God and man; this is exactly who Jesus is. The Gospel culminates in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but it begins in Genesis.
In Genesis we learn about redemption – the concept of buying back that which was lost (Genesis 48:16). When a person has accumulated more debt than he can possibly repay, he can become a slave (Leviticus 25:39). Yet, a blood relative can pay his debt and redeem him (Leviticus 25:47-49). We all have sinned and cannot repay our debt to God; we have become slaves to sin (John 8:34). Only a blood-relative can redeem us by paying our penalty. The problem is that all our blood relatives (except Jesus) are also slaves to sin (Romans 3:23). This is why Jesus entered the world as a human being so that His shed blood can pay our penalty. In Genesis we learn that the Redeemer will be our blood relative – a descendant of Eve (Genesis 3:15).
Apart from the history of Genesis, how would the Gospel make any sense? Why do we need salvation? What is sin? Why did Jesus die on the cross? Why don’t animal sacrifices actually pay for sin? Why do we need to have faith in Christ? None of these questions are rationally answerable in an evolution-based worldview. So it is hardly surprising that people who reject the history of Genesis will be likely to reject the Christ of the Gospels.
The biblical doctrines that Christians rightly want to defend are all founded directly or indirectly in Genesis. They cannot be defended in an evolution-based worldview. We asked in the first paragraph, “Why not concentrate on defending the big issues, like the Gospel and the deity of Christ?” Now we have the answer. The big issues have their foundation in Genesis. They cannot be defended apart from the history of biblical creation.
The creation account in Genesis is not popular today. Most people have been taught that all life arose by evolution over millions of years. This is said to be the scientific position, and we all respect the success of science. So it will be very tempting for Christians to compromise: to believe in evolution and to try to read the Bible in such a way as to accommodate it. But Genesis teaches special creation – that God made animals according to their kinds. A “kind” seems to represent the reproductive limit of an organism since two of each kind was brought aboard Noah’s ark. That is, animals always reproduce the same kind of animal. This of course is contrary to evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense.
Therefore, Christians who believe in particles-to-people evolution cannot accept Genesis as a literal historical account since it contradicts evolution. They might say that Genesis is merely a metaphor, containing spiritual truth. They might say that Genesis is not literal history, but a parable: a short story illustrating a spiritual principle. Or they might say that Genesis is non-literal because it is poetic in nature, like the Psalms. But each of these positions is simply not consistent with the text.
For one, Genesis is not written as a metaphor, but as literal history. With a metaphor, one thing represents something else. But in Genesis, we read about real people and the things they did in history. This is not symbolic of something else. Poetic imagery often uses metaphors. But Genesis is not written as poetry, but rather as history. More on this below.
Nor can Genesis be a parable. A parable illustrates a spiritual truth by making an analogy with a common everyday physical occurrence. For example, we have experience with planting seeds and watching them grow. So Jesus compares this common example to the way the Gospel grows in the heart of a person. The parable works because we are very familiar with how plants grow from seeds. But is the creation of the universe a common, everyday occurrence that we could use as an analogy for a kingdom principle? Clearly not. And so Genesis cannot be a parable.
Furthermore, parables rarely mention specific names or dates. Instead, they are very general, (e.g. “there was a landowner…. a man who sowed good… a king…” (Matthew 21:33, 13:24, 22:2). Yet Genesis lists the names and birth years of many of the ancient patriarchs (e.g. Genesis 5). That is not the way parables are written. Rather, these seemingly boring details are recorded for the sake of preserving history.
Nor can Genesis be poetic in nature. Hebrew poetry is easy to recognize because it is quite different from English poetry. We tend to focus on rhyme and meter. But Hebrew poetry was not based on such things. Rather, it was based on parallelism. Parallelism is when the same thing (or the flip side) is stated using different words. Consider Psalm 19:1. The first phrase is “The heavens declare the glory of God.” The second phrase has basically the same meaning, but uses different words to express it: “The skies proclaim the work of His hands.” This is the key distinguishing feature of Hebrew poetry. When the two phrases say basically the same thing, this is called synonymous parallelism.
Sometimes the second phrase is the flipside of the first rather than a restatement of it. For example, consider Proverbs 1:7. The first phrase entails the positive benefits of submitting to God’s instruction, namely knowledge: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” However, the second phrase gives the flipside: the negative consequences of rejecting God’s instructions and the foolishness that follows. “But fools despise wisdom and instruction.” This is called antithetical parallelism.
Such parallelism is ubiquitous throughout the Psalms and Proverbs, as well as the other wisdom literature in the Old Testament and even in prophetic books. But do we find such parallelism in Genesis? No. Genesis is devoid of such phrasing. Instead, it simply states what happened in a very straightforward, literal way.
Furthermore, Genesis makes frequent use of a Hebrew grammatical form called a “waw-consecutive.” This occurs when a sentence starts with the word “and” followed by a verb (in the original Hebrew word order, which is not always the same as English). One example is Genesis 1:3, “And said God…” (in the original word order). Many people wonder why so many passages in Genesis begin with “And.” It is poor English, but great Hebrew. Waw-consecutive is the Hebrew way of recording a literal, historical, sequence of events. “And this happened, and that happened,” and so on.
On the other hand, poetic sections of the Bible do not use long sequences of waw-consecutives. They might have one or two in a passage, but they never have a long sequence such as is found in Genesis chapter 1. This is proof positive that Genesis is not poetic in nature. It lacks all the key distinctives of Hebrew poetry, and instead has all the key markers of literal historical narrative. There can be no doubt that the author of Genesis intended the book to be a recording of literal historical events.
There is another critical reason why we must defend the literal history of Genesis if we are to be faithful Christians. We will address this in the next article.