The creation – evolution debate. It is controversial and intriguing. It evokes strong emotions and reactions. It can be polarising. However, I have found when handled with a lot of care and thoroughness many, from all sides, are surprised about what the Bible does and does not say.
In many ways the ‘how’ or science of our creation is peripheral to the scriptures message and focus. It has much more urgent things to deal with. These are the focus of the message below from a very qualified fellow Lutheran Church of Australia Pastor. It is an important read and deals with important messages that get buried under or obscured due to our modern obsession with what is the quite marginal, emotive debate over the how of our origins. However, because of this modern environment we are do have questions regarding what the Bible does actually say about the how of our origins. This is particularly the case as some of the most prevalent and prominent perspectives online offer very simplistic, shallow, distorted and often unhelpful responses.
Because of the interest in this subject and because it is too frequently not handled in a thorough and balanced way that stands up to scrutiny in the popular arena (there are numerous academic works and a number of more popular sites where it is handled with the required depth and sophistication), I prepared and delivered a 35 minute sermon on the subject. This is quite exceptional as I rarely preach beyond 15 minutes these days, but the subject matter demanded such length if it were to be handled comprehensively and responsibly. I recommend a very careful listening. It is not all that can be said on this subject and the Scriptures do say plenty more elsewhere, but it should be enough of an introduction to wet the appetite. I believe that both ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’, Christians and non Christian may be surprised by what Genesis 1 actually does say and have many false misconceptions and stereotypes removed. Following the link to the sermon is the message from my peer (used and slightly tweaked with permission) that highlights the really important things that Genesis 1-3 does address but which are so often obscured by other controversies. Here is the video:
The whole topic regarding Genesis 1 to 3 has been on my mind for a long time. I would like to add a few things to the Genesis discussion, for whatever they are worth. I think that the whole “how long it took” discussion has distracted us from more important elements of the Genesis 1 - 3 message.
Genesis is the first book in the Bible. Genesis 1 to 3 are the very first chapters in God’s own revelation to humanity. No one was there to witness the events described in Genesis 1. The same goes with most of events described in Genesis 2 and 3 also.
What it means is that this is God’s own revelation to us, His human creatures. It means that this is how He in His divine wisdom has decided to present to us the beginning of our story. Surely this is the message of the Holy Spirit, and surely it is inerrant according to His own intentions.
In these few chapters our God gives us the most important information regarding our reality, regarding our world. These chapters are written in simple language that relates to our experiences, and that is great, for it means that every human being can understand it, not just some highly educated scientists.
But far from being simplistic and naïve, Genesis 1 to 3 is the very opposite. I would argue that it doesn’t give us answers to many of the questions which we can answer on our own using our God given reason. And this is actually part of His first great commission – “subdue the earth and rule over it”. How else would we do it, but through exploring and understanding God’s creation?
What our great God does reveal in Genesis 1 - 3 are things which we couldn’t discover on our own, by our reason. There are many of them. And it is my conviction that these are the really important elements of God’s message in Genesis 1 to 3. I believe that these are the insights (revealed truths) that we too should be emphasising more. What are they, or at least some of them?
The Universe has a beginning, a cause. It is a benevolent and almighty cause – a Personal being. This would be a shocking statement in almost any age and worldview.
Everything is created and ordered – and the ordering is a really important insight – done by this Personal being. But there were also different modes of creation. God spoke directly (Gen 1:3), God commanded His creation to do something (Gen 1:11) and then finally He got His hands dirty (Gen 1:27, 2:7).
Creation is good, very good. And it is orderly. We can explore and understand it. And we are commanded to do that. This insight enabled the birth of contemporary science. It is no coincidence that modern science in many ways grew out of a Christian world view and that many of the early scientist were Christian. Many scientist today still have a faith.
Human beings. We are actually created to be God’s representatives, His regents over His creation. We are created, each one of us, with infinite value and dignity, to continue the work of our Creator in cooperation with and in dependence upon Him. To be fruitful and multiply, to responsibly use, respect, preserve and care for this wonderful creation. This view of humanity, according to many historians, is responsible for the emergence, shape and wonderful values of our Western civilization which we so often take for granted and which are increasingly coming under threat.
We are created for intimate fellowship with our Creator (Gen 2:7, 3:8) and are accountable to Him.
We are created for the great responsibilities of marriage and family (although the Bible does affirm singleness as a high vocation also), of work and business. And we are created to enjoy our rest. We are not an accident or mutation. Our lives have meanings intended by our Creator.
The unique value of human beings, the wonderful and wise design for our most important vocations, all of that is revealed in Genesis 1 and 2. By whom? Yes, by our Creator and Redeemer Himself.
Genesis 3 gives us also the best explanation to the dark mystery of this world. It explains what is wrong with us. We don’t trust our God, we don’t want listen to Him, we trust other things in creation more that the Creator, we want to be like gods, we want to be wise apart from His revelation in His Word. In short, we need saving from ourselves to be the selves God intended!
We could continue this list of very important revelations. It wouldn’t be that hard to argue that these may as well be three of the most important chapters in the Bible. They reveal to us almost everything that is truly significant to know, – our God, His attitude towards us, His self-sacrificial nature (Gen 3:15), His plan to redeem us and to restore the goodness of His creation (eg our need for Christ to whom the whole of the Scriptures point to and the urgently needed forgiveness of sins that He offers and the enteral life which flows from that). Also, the most important things about what it means to be human, – our identity, our worth, our purpose, different roles for men and women, God’s design for our lives. etc.
All of these revelations or answers are so contrary to every other worldview known, ancient or modern. They are surpassingly beautiful and harmonious. They also provide the best guidelines for humanity and the best explanations about the world and people around us. And many of these revealed Biblical truths are confirmed by means of our reason (research).
Too many people come to Genesis 1-3 with the wrongs questions. I use the following example. Imagine you have never seen a mobile phone. Now you see one for the first time. What questions are you going to ask first? People usually suggest: “What is this? What does it do? What is its purpose or function?” They don’t ask: “I wonder how long it took to make it?” It doesn’t seem to be the most pressing issue. Similarly, with Genesis 1 - 3. This is the first time that the Triune God reveals Himself to the world and to we, his special creatures. What questions would we ask? What answers would He provide?
The point I am trying to make, and this is how I speak about Genesis 1 - 3 when asked, is that the many things that I mentioned above are a part and parcel of God’s revelation in Genesis 1 - 3, and that the age of the earth and the length of creation is only one element among many. All these many elements, all these many revelations come as one package, harmonious and consistent, beautiful and actually good, very good, for human flourishing.
If I had to list the most important messages of Genesis 1 - 3, then it probably would begin with God’s identity and character, the uniqueness of human beings, the God given purpose for our lives and His design for our relationships, the mystery of sin, along with the goodness and orderly nature of creation… and only somewhere after all these things could come the age of the earth and the length of creation.
We should invite people to compare every other worldview with Genesis 1 - 3, examining all these different aspects and their practical and tangible consequences for our lives as individuals and communities, so that they can see for themselves which worldview (which world) they would like to inhabit, which of them seems to be true and good and beautiful.
I would hate to think that the “how long” discussion may lead people away from something more important, from something less contentious, from something that everyone can easily relate to and appreciate, something beautiful and true which provides us with meaning, namely why and for whom we are here, the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus, the value given to every human being, the ordering of creation, our lives and relationships, our responsibilities towards creation and the ultimate destiny of creation as it is renewed and transformed by King Jesus who will rule over it in perfect peace, love and justice forever. He invites us to be a part of that eternity by being united to our Heavenly Father though Him by faith.
Blessings for you all,
Pastor Mike Steicke
The aim of this Page is to be a safe place to explore the ultimate questions of meaning and purpose and to enquire about and discuss the Christian faith from a Lutheran perspective.
A Little About Me
I am Pastor Michael Steicke, often referred to as Pastor Mike. I have been a Lutheran Pastor for over 30 years, having served Parishes in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, before moving to Tasmania to be the Pastor of St Peters Lutheran Parish in Hobart at the beginning of 2016.