Not by Chance: “Maker of Heaven and Earth”
Evolution was in the news this week.
Actually the word “evolution” was in the news. The Georgia state school superintendent has proposed taking the word “evolution” out the biology curriculum. That’s not as radical as it might sound since schools would still be required to teach evolution; they just wouldn’t use the word. Former President Jimmy Carter weighed in with his opposition to the proposal. He said he was embarrassed by the proposal, which he called an attempt to censor and distort the education of Georgia students. High school graduates would face a serious handicap and Georgia schools would face “nationwide ridicule.” Newspapers across the nation covered the controversy.
Please note the important point: This is not a dispute about evolution per se; it’s only about the word “evolution.” The powers-that-be are so frightened by any challenge to the status quo that they get apoplectic if anyone dares to suggest another way. It’s not enough that evolution is taught; the word itself must be used. They defend their turf with what might be called religious zeal.
We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God.
In a related story, World magazine recently named Phillip Johnson, law professor at the University of California, as its “Daniel of the Year” for his work dismantling the Darwinist empire that dominates American culture. In 1991 he sparked enormous controversy by publishing Darwin on Trial (InterVarsity Press). Taking Darwinists on their own terms, he concluded that the arguments they put forward lacked sufficient evidence to back up their sweeping conclusions. In the years since then he continued his attack on Darwinism through a steady stream of articles, books, speeches, debates, and other public appearances. He notes that many Christian leaders think the creation-evolution debate doesn’t really matter. But they are wrong—and not just wrong, but terribly misguided. “The fundamental question is whether God is real or imaginary. The entire way of thinking that underlies Darwinian evolution assumes that God is out of the picture.” He goes on to say that his greatest frustration comes not from dealing with the secular scientists (who are mostly, but not entirely, hostile to his arguments), but from Christian leaders who believe evolution and the Christian faith are ultimately compatible.
The more frustrating (thing) I think has been the Christian leaders and pastors, even very good pastors, especially Christian college and seminary professors. And there the problem is not just convincing them that the theory is wrong, but that it makes a difference. That it’s important whether it’s right or wrong. They would prefer to think, ‘Well, it’s just one of those things that scientists argue about and we’ll leave that to the biologists to sort out as best they can.’ Whereas what is really at stake is not just the first chapter of Genesis, but the whole Bible from beginning to end, the first word to last … (All quotes taken from the World magazine weblog).
Professor Johnson is right on all points. What should we learn from this ongoing controversy?
1) This is a clash of competing worldviews.
The debate is not about dinosaurs and DNA. It is really a debate between competing worldviews. Evolution at its heart views the world through a lens that is entirely naturalistic. It proposes to explain the entire universe without reference to God. As Johnson says, the evolutionist assumes that God is out of the picture. Either he doesn’t exist or he doesn’t matter. To say it that way means that this controversy is somewhat more important than finding the precise location of Noah’s Ark or explaining the fossil layers in the Grand Canyon. The scientific issues serve as a kind of stalking-horse for the real metaphysical issues of ultimate truth. That’s not a small thing since in evolutionary thinking, there is no such thing as ultimate truth—only an endless series of theories first believed, then doubted, then discarded. Evangelical theologian Al Mohler offers this explanation:
For over a hundred years, the dominant scientific establishment has been moving toward an enforced orthodoxy of naturalism, materialism, and secularism. According to this worldview, the universe is a closed box that can be understood only on its own terms—with everything inside the box explained only by other matter and processes within the same box. The box itself is explained as a cosmic accident, and naturalistic science allows no place for a designer or a design in the entire cosmos. (From his weblog, January 30, 2004)
Evolution as a worldview leaves God out. Either he doesn’t matter or he doesn’t exist. That’s why compromise positions such as theistic evolution never work. They attempt to join two things—creation and evolution—that are fundamentally incompatible. I realize there are many Christians—including some who hold to a high view of Scripture—who believe in evolution as the best explanation of the origin of the human race. At best, they are inconsistent in their faith. At worst, they have undermined the authority of the Bible by accommodating a contrary worldview.
Everything starts with the God who created us. Start anywhere else and you will be perpetually confused.
2) The Christian worldview rests upon the truth that God created all things.
“We created god in our own image and likeness!” Comedian George Carlin said that, and he’s right but not in the way he meant it. We didn’t “create” God, but we did “create” a god just like us, and that’s the basic problem of the human race. It’s also why the Creed puts the doctrine of creation in the second line. The Christian worldview stands 180 degrees removed from the evolutionary worldview. The biblical writers repeatedly ascribed all of creation to the work of God:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3).
Genesis 1 tells us something important about how God created. Repeatedly the text says, “And God said.” First there was God’s creative word. He spoke, and light appeared. Then the waters were separated. Then there was dry ground. Then vegetation. Then the sun, moon and stars were formed. Then came the fish and the birds. Then the land animals. And finally, Adam and Eve. Eight times the phrase is repeated in Genesis 1—"And God said.” He spoke and light shined through the darkness. He spoke and the waters receded from the earth. He spoke and dry land appeared. He spoke and vegetation appeared. He spoke and the sun filled the sky by day and millions of stars twinkled by night. He spoke and the sea teemed with fish and birds began to fly. He spoke and cattle grazed, squirrels gathered hickory nuts, otters frolicked in the streams, and the kangaroo began hopping across the outback. Finally, he spoke again and created Adam. He breathed into him the breath of life and Adam became a living soul. When Adam got lonely, God took a rib from his side and created Eve. Thus did the human race begin.
The Bible tells us plainly that the universe exists by God’s command. He spoke and it came into being. The Bible emphasizes this truth in a number of places:
Psalm 33:6 (KJV) “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.”
Psalm 33:9 (KJV) “For he spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.”
Psalm 148:5 (KJV) “For he commanded and they were created.”
2 Peter 3:5 (KJV) “For by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in water.”
This week I’ve been meditating on Revelation 4:11. In heaven the 24 elders (who represent the redeemed of all the ages) cast their crowns before the throne of God and worship him. This is what they say: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” A few verses later in Revelation 5, you discover that these same elders fall down and worship the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, for the redemption he purchased with his own blood: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (v. 9). Note that creation comes first, then redemption. The 24 elders first worship God because he is the Creator. Then they worship Christ because he is the Redeemer. If we lose the doctrine of creation, we will eventually lose the doctrine of redemption. Many evangelicals seem to have missed this fact. The story of creation leads to the reality of the fall. Genesis 1-2 tells us where we came from. Genesis 3 explains how sin entered the human race and why we need a Savior. Take away the factual reality of the first three chapters of the Bible and the rest cannot be trusted. That’s what Phillip Johnson meant when he said what is at stake is not just the first chapters of Genesis, but every word of the Bible, from the first to the last. No wonder the elders first praise God for his work in creation. Without creation there would be no redemption, no Christ dying on the cross, no forgiveness for our sins, no heaven, and no hope of eternal life.
If we lose the doctrine of creation, we will eventually lose the doctrine of redemption.
But there is something else we should notice from Revelation 4:11. God created all things by his own will. The King James Version says he did it for his own pleasure. He created the universe because he wanted to—not because he needed to. Sometimes it is said that God created us because he was lonely in heaven so he created humans so he would have someone to talk to. That’s a sentimental notion that has no basis in fact. God didn’t create you and me because he was lonely. We worship a God who exists eternally as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One God, three Persons. The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit fellowship together. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. The Father loves the Spirit and the Spirit loves the Father. Do not ever say that God created the world because of some lack in himself. He created us by an act of his own will—for his own pleasure. This is a high view of God’s sovereignty—and it puts us in our proper position—face down in the dust, humbled before our mighty Creator.
3) You will never properly understand the universe until you know the God who created it.
If you leave God out, you’ve missed the fundamental truth about the universe! That means that in order to understand human origins and the true history of the universe, we must begin-not with the vain speculations of science-but with God’s understanding as he has revealed it to us in His Word. Start there and you start on firm ground. Start anywhere else and you sink into the quicksand of humanistic unbelief.
Take away the factual reality of the first three chapters of the Bible and the rest cannot be trusted.
We have to start with God. That’s why the Apostles’ Creed begins with this phrase: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” When we put God at the center of all things, then everything else finds its proper place. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10). This touches on the need for a truly Christian education. No one can know the universe and the answers to the great questions of life without also knowing God. There are three great questions of life:
Where did I come from?
Why am I here?
Where am I going?
The first question is the most fundamental. Until you answer it, you cannot answer the last two properly. If you think that you evolved up from the slime, if you believe that you arrived on the earth by chance as the result of blind evolution over millions and billions of years, if you believe that you are the product of an evolutionary stream that was started when a bolt of lightning hit the primordial soup in the dim reaches of the distant past, if that is what you believe about yourself, then truly you don’t know where you came from or why you are here or where you are going.
When God made you, he broke the mold.
Three words summarize the biblical teaching regarding where we come from: created, not evolved. Teach that simple statement to your children. “Created, not evolved.” Write it in big letters so they can read it easily. Make sure they know what it means. Let them learn that they were created and that they did not evolve. Then when they are older and are exposed to evolutionary ideas in the school system, tell them to give the required answers on the biology test and then write at the bottom of the paper “created, not evolved.” Our children need to know this before they are exposed to evolutionary teaching. And they need it long before they go to high school or college. Nothing is more fundamental than that our young people should be fortified with the majestic biblical truth that they were created by God and are not the products of blind evolution. In his first public address, Pope Benedict XVI addressed this very issue: “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”
When God put the world together, he put me in it, just the way I am, just where I am, just who I am. He fashioned my arms, molded my bones, and knitted me together in my mother’s womb. He made me nearsighted, left-handed, long-legged, with blue eyes, brown hair, illegible handwriting, and a Southern accent. He put inside me a passionate love for pepperoni pizza, chocolate pie, and chicken-fried steak. He called me to preach, gave me a love for writing, and blessed me beyond anything I deserve with a wonderful wife and three fine sons. I take two showers a day, I don’t care for Brussels sprouts, I’m an Internet junkie, I ride my bike almost every day, and what they say is true, I can’t jump. I don’t dance very well and I’m not much of a singer. In short, God made me just the way I am. I’m a designer original, one of a kind, a limited edition of one, as unique as any snowflake that ever fell to the earth. God made me just the way I am, with all my quirks-and they are many.
God made you just the way you are. You are a designer original, a limited edition of one. What we say about others is true of us also. When God made you, he broke the mold. He made you with all your quirks-which are many. Because God made you, you fit in. You belong here. Think about this way: You are here because God wanted you here. It doesn’t matter if you were a surprise to your parents. You weren’t a surprise to God. We belong to God, he made us the way we are, and we couldn’t escape him even if we tried. We won’t be happy until we know him intimately. He put a God-shaped vacuum inside your heart that only he can fill. He made you, he loves you in spite of your sin, and he sent his Son to die on the cross and rise from the dead so that you could go to heaven. Your Creator has become your Savior. That’s how much God loves you.
Everything starts with the God who created us. Start anywhere else and you will be perpetually confused. You’ll never know who you are until you know who he is. That’s why the Creed calls him “God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”
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The Apostles’ Creed
» SEE SERMONS IN THIS SERIES
Back to Basics John 7:16-17
Not by Chance: “Maker of Heaven and Earth” Revelation 4:11
The Incomparable Christ: “Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord” Philippians 2:9-11
Why the Virgin Birth Matters: “Conceived of the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary” Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38
The Day God Died: “Crucified, Died” Hebrews 9-10
God’s Scapegoat: “Buried” Leviticus 16
The Strangest Part of the Creed: He Descended into Hell I Peter 3:18-19
Going All In: “The Third Day He Rose from the Dead” I Corinthians 15:17-19
The Up and Coming Christ: “He Will Come Again to Judge the Living and the Dead” John 14:1-3; II Peter 3:3-10
When God Comes Near: “I Believe in the Holy Spirit” John 7:37-39
All One Body We: “The Communion of Saints” Hebrews 12:1
The Hardest Doctrine to Believe: “The Resurrection of the Body” I Corinthians 15
Always Springtime in Heaven: I Believe in Life Everlasting II Corinthians 5:8» Index for this sermon series