What About Creation and Evolution?
November 9, 1997
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
First sentences matter. Every writer knows that the very first words he puts on paper set the tone for everything else that follows. In fact most writers work for hours trying to come up with just the right combination of words that will properly introduce their subject and at the same time entice the reader to keep reading. There are very few rules for good first sentences. They may be short or long, complex or simple, descriptive or declarative, but above all else, a good first sentence invites the reader into the story with a promise of good things to follow.
The Bible begins with a wonderful first sentence. In fact, it is one of the greatest first sentences in all of literature. It contains only ten words in English and seven in Hebrew. Seven of the ten English words contain one syllable. One contains two syllables and two contain three syllables. None of the words are difficult, ornate or unusual in any way. There are no subordinate clauses, no pronouns, and only one preposition. I dare say you would be hard pressed to find or write a simpler sentence yourself.
Genesis 1:1 is entirely straightforward and easy to understand. This is where the Bible begins and in truth this is where everything begins. You may recall the famous scene from The Sound of Music where Julie Andrews (playing Maria) is trying to teach the children to sing. “Let’s start at the very beginning,” she says, “A very good place to start.”
Indeed it is. This morning we have before us the very beginning of the Bible. This is the first sentence of the first chapter of the first book. Everything that will follow flows from this declaration.
This is the first great truth God wants us to know. Know this and the universe makes sense. Doubt this or deny this or ignore this and you have missed the central reality of life.
Genesis 1:1 is sublime in its simplicity. It is at one and the same time majestic, overpowering and mysterious. It is also complete in itself. Here we have moved far beyond the battlefield of science to a realm the laboratory can never touch.
He Can Make a Donkey Talk
I would call your attention to the setting of this verse. It tells us in a simple declarative fashion how everything that is came into being. It is the divine answer to the question, “Where did all this come from?” Everything that exists in heaven and on earth, everything that might be found in the farthest reaches of the most remote galaxy, and all that might be discovered in the minutest particles of the subatomic region, all of it comes from God and all of it belongs to God because he created all that is and was and ever will be.
Therefore, I think it is useful to point out that the Bible begins with a declaration, not with an argument. God never bothers trying to prove his existence. Better a giant should prove himself to an earthworm than that Almighty God should prove himself to us. Furthermore, there is no explanation given for why God created the universe. For that matter, there is no definition of God at all. In the words of Sergeant Joe Friday of Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.” Genesis 1:1 brings us face to face with the ultimate truth: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
I said earlier that everything in the Bible flows from this truth. There’s another way of saying that. If you can accept Genesis 1:1, you won’t have any trouble with the rest of the Bible. People who have trouble accepting the miracles of the Bible almost always doubt the truth of Genesis as well. But if God created everything-and if he did it by the word of his power, if he spoke and everything came into being-if that’s true then why should we doubt that he can also work miracles? If he can make the rules, he can break them or suspend them or change them any time he wants to. If he can speak and call forth the stars in the sky, then certainly he can cause one of those stars to lead the wise men to Bethlehem. If he can create a furry donkey, he can make that donkey talk. If he can cause a virgin to conceive and give birth to the Son of God, he can also raise his Son from the dead. Miracles are no problem for those who truly believe the first verse of the Bible. But for those who doubt the first verse, everything in the Bible will come as a struggle. Therefore, I urge you to rest your faith on the firm foundation of the very first verse of the Bible. If you can believe that, then you can believe everything else you read in the Bible.
With that as a background, I turn now to consider the following question: If Genesis 1:1 is true, then what other things must also be true and what things cannot be true? Let’s begin with the negative.
I. These Things Cannot Be True
First of all, if Genesis 1:1 is true, then atheism is impossible for our text clearly states “In the beginning God created.” Here is a fundamental fact, or axiom if you will, of the spiritual life. There is a God who created all things. But some people refuse to believe in God. They flatly deny his existence. Such people have existed in every age and will always be found. Just know this: Atheism is not a philosophy but a religious statement. It is also a denial of reality. It is the supreme folly because it ignores the central reality of the universe. It disregards God and degrades man to the level of a mere brute. It is also the most unnatural philosophy in the world. No one is born an atheist. We are all born with an inner awareness of a Higher Power (see Romans 1:18-21), and even though we suppress that truth through sin, the divine imprint remains within us.
Since atheism is unnatural, it is a hard position to hold. Since every flower testifies to God and every star proclaims his power, you must be willfully blind to the evidence to maintain your atheism. That’s why Psalm 14:1 tells us that only a fool would say, “There is no God.”
Second, if Genesis 1:1 is true, then materialism is not true. Materialism is that philosophy which declares that matter is eternal and has always existed. But the Bible says, “In the beginning.” That means the universe had a birthday.
Third, if Genesis 1:1 is true, then polytheism is not true. Polytheism means “many gods,” but Genesis 1:1 declares that the universe was created by God and God alone. This must have come as a shock to the nations surrounding Israel in the time of Moses-the Hivites, the Girgashites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and later the Moabites, the Philistines, and still later the Assyrians and the Babylonians. In one simple sentence the foundation is removed from every pagan religion.
Fourth, if Genesis 1:1 is true, then humanism is not true. Humanism declares that man is the center of all things and the measure of all things. It is the polluted fountain from which we get situation ethics, relativism, and the postmodern denial of absolute truth. But the Bible tells us that God-not man-created all things. Almighty God stands at the center of the universe and all creation must answer to him.
Fifth, if Genesis 1:1 is true, then fatalism cannot be true. This philosophy suggests that there is no intelligent being who guides all things and that we are here strictly by chance. We come from nowhere, we have no reason to be here, and we are going nowhere in particular when we die. But the Bible declares that God created us, and if God created us, then we have a purpose-to live for his glory.
Sixth, if Genesis 1:1 is true, then pantheism cannot be true. Pantheism is the root philosophy of all Eastern religion and of the New Age movement. It suggests that the universe is simply an extension of some great cosmic power. All things are part of God and God is part of all things. To the contrary, God created the heavens and the earth. He created them and he inhabits them, but he is not the universe and the universe is not God.
Seventh, if Genesis 1:1 is true, then evolution cannot possibly be true. Here I speak not of change and variation within species and the biblical kinds, which we may all see with our eyes (such as changes to peppered moths and fruit flies and the development of new varieties of dogs through selective breeding). I am referring to naturalistic evolution-the theory that the universe came into being billions of years ago from some primordial explosion and that all things have slowly evolved over the eons from the simpler to the more complex, including all life forms on earth and including man himself. Such a viewpoint is flatly ruled out by the very first verse of the Bible. Instead of the impersonal hand of evolution with its unending ages of time, chance, struggle and death, we have the simple and majestic statement that God created all things.
Let us not be coy about what this really means. Evolution as a worldview is diametrically opposed to biblical faith. It is pagan at its root and evil in its fruit.
Here, then, are seven prevalent philosophies that fail the test of the very first verse of the Bible. It is an impressive list: Atheism, materialism, polytheism, humanism, fatalism, pantheism, and evolution. Millions of people-no, hundreds of millions of people, perhaps billions of people-around the world have followed these empty philosophies to their eternal detriment. They could have been saved from their error if only they had considered Genesis 1:1.
II. These Things Must Be True
We turn now to consider the other side of coin. What things must be true if Genesis 1:1 is true?
First, if this verse is true, then the God of the Bible must be truly awesome. If we had only Genesis 1:1 and nothing else, we would know that God is all-powerful, all-wise, a God of enormous creativity and variety, a God of purposeful action, and a God of sovereign authority. We know that he must be eternal for nothing can never bring forth something. He must always have existed. He must be beyond the limits of time and space because he created time and space and they would not exist without him. We would also infer from creation that his purposes are good and not evil because he created the universe to bring glory to himself.
Second, if this verse is true, then science can never give us final answers to the most important questions of life. Science can tell us many things, but it cannot tell us everything we would like to know about where we came from, who created us, how we got here, or precisely what methods God used to create the universe. Some things are simply hidden in the mind and counsel of God. This means that after all our arguing and debating is over, there will still be many things we simply don’t understand. I say that because Genesis 1:1 takes us beyond the seen to the unseen. It transports us from the material to the spiritual, from the passing to the permanent, from the temporal to the eternal, from the natural to the supernatural. It moves into a realm where science simply cannot go.
This truth humbles all of us because it means that we must look to God for the answers to the ultimate questions of life. Hebrews 11:3 tells us that faith in God is a prerequisite to properly understanding questions of ultimate origin: “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.” Theologians have a word for this. They call it creation ex nihilo. That means “creation out of nothing.” God spoke and the universe came into being. That’s why Genesis 1 repeats the phrase “and God said” … “and God said” … “and God said.” God spoke and the continents formed. He spoke and the stars took their places in the heavens. He spoke and the fish began to swim. He spoke and the birds began to fly. He spoke and the coyote began to howl. He spoke and the lion roared. Finally, he spoke and Adam came into being. Adam went to sleep and God took a rib and fashioned Eve.
That’s how God does things. When he wants to create something, he speaks and it happens. He says, “Ant be,” and there’s an ant. He says, “Universe be,” and there’s a universe. It’s like the slogan I see on some Christian T-shirts: “I believe in the Big Bang. God said it, and Bang! It happened.”
When God created the universe, he didn’t use pre-existing materials and he didn’t create piecemeal. He spoke and the universe came into being in exactly the manner recorded in Genesis 1.
Third, if Genesis 1:1 is true, then we don’t need the help of evolution to understand the universe around us. By making that statement, I don’t mean to imply that the Bible tells us everything we would like to know about the universe. It is often said that the Bible is not a textbook on science. That is a dangerous half-truth because it can lead us to a “two-compartment” theory of life, where we put our faith on one shelf and our science on the other shelf and never mix the two. While it is true that the Bible is not a textbook on science, I would argue that it is literally true in all its details-and that includes the details of Genesis 1-11.
Most of you know that this week we hosted an excellent seminar on Creation and Evolution with Dr. Gary Parker from the Answers in Genesis ministry. In one of his talks he commented that many Christians secretly believe that the Bible and science are mortal enemies. But it’s not true. He said that science rightly understood is the Christian’s best friend. The only conflict comes when we take the unproven theories of science-such as naturalistic evolution-and use them as our starting point for interpreting the Bible. That always leads you away from truth and ultimately away from God.
Fourth, if Genesis 1:1 is true, then any attempt to understand the universe apart from God is doomed to failure. Proverbs 1:7 reminds us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” When you leave God out of education, then what you have is a system that produces intellectual giants and moral pygmies. When you leave God out of government, what you get is leaders without character. When you leave God out of public debate, you get a gay registry in Oak Park. When you leave God out of families, you get broken homes and latchkey kids. When you leave God out of science, you get naturalistic evolution.
Because Genesis 1:1 is true, we must say clearly that nothing makes sense in the universe if we leave God out. The Bible begins by putting God at the center of everything. To say it another way, he is number one. And there is no number two.
Fifth, if Genesis 1:1 is true, then all our debating about creation and evolution should begin with this question, “What does the Bible say?” I think this is where so many Christians get into trouble. Having been brainwashed into believing that evolution must be true, they feel intimidated by those who say the universe must be billions and billions of years old and that God created life on earth through a process of slow development over millions and millions of years. May I simply say that you would never-underline the word never-come to such a thought simply by reading the Bible. People who say such things didn’t get their ideas from the Bible. They got them somewhere else and imported them into the biblical text.
I know there’s great debate these days over the age of the earth. If you ask me how old the earth is, I’m going to say I don’t know because the Bible doesn’t give us a precise date. I do believe there is room for reasonable discussion on this issue. However, I don’t think the world is necessarily as old as some people say it is. God could easily have created the whole world a few thousand years ago if he wanted to do it that way. He could have created a mature universe, fully functioning, from the very first moment. There is absolutely no problem with that concept.
To make myself clearer, I wish to go on record as saying that I believe the “days” of Genesis 1 were literal 24 hours days and that the most natural reading of the text is to understand it as teaching a recent creation of the earth in six 24 hour days.
Could God have done it in millions and billions of years? Sure. He’s God, he can do what he wants. But listen to what I’m about to say because it’s a critical point. Christians who believe the Bible can have as much time or as little as they need for God to create. If you think God created the universe ten billion years ago, you can say that because God could have done it that way. And I can say he did it a few thousand years ago because that’s no problem for God either. But the evolutionist has no choice. He must have millions and billions of years. If you leave God out of the picture, the evolutionist has nothing left but time, chance, struggle and death. In fact, for the naturalistic evolutionist, time becomes his god. He is forced to believe that anything is possible given enough time. That’s why the evolutionist can give up anything else except the time issue. He has to have millions and billions of years or else his theory (which is really his religion) falls to the ground.
My point is, we Christians don’t need millions and billions of years in the universe. We can have it if we want it but we don’t need it. We’ve got God who can do whatever he wants whenever he wants to. The evolutionist worships at the altar of time because that’s his only hope.
Sixth, if Genesis 1:1 is true, we Christians should stand our ground with a cheerful spirit. I know that we sometimes tend to get agitated over these things and sometimes we like to argue among ourselves. Sometimes we get angry at the evolutionary brainwashing that goes on in the larger culture. But I am reminded of what my theology professor, Dr. Robert Lightner, used to say. He told us not to get angry because when you leave God out, evolution is the best you can do. I think he’s right.
Maker of Heaven and Earth
The Apostles’ Creed begins with these words: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” The creed begins there because the Bible begins there. Everything else we believe rests on the truth that the universe is a direct creation of the Lord. In the end it takes far more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in creation.
Genesis 1:1 gives us a firm foundation for our faith. It tells us that this universe had a definite beginning and that we are here by God’s creation, not by some random mutation of purposeless evolution. Everything in the universe is here because God wanted it to be here. And we ourselves-we are his stuff, the clay in his hands. We belong to God, he made us the way we are, we couldn’t escape him even if we tried. And 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.
Sometimes God has to shake us to get our attention and sometimes he has to put us in the hospital or in divorce court or in jail or in some other kind of trouble to get our full attention. When people ask me how God speaks to them, I always tell them not to worry. God’s got your number and he can ring your phone any time he wants.
The hymn writer said, “All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.” After listing many parts of God’s creation, he summed up the truth in his final verse: “He gave us eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell, how great is God Almighty, who has made all things well.”
Indeed he did. And may the Lord give us eyes to see what he has made and lips to tell of God our Creator and Jesus Christ His Son, our eternal Savior. Amen.