A literal interpretation of Genesis is foundational to the gospel. Every major Christian doctrine is rooted in the historical facts of Genesis, directly or indirectly. And these historical facts must be real, in just the same way that the bodily resurrection of Jesus and other historical events in the Bible must be real.
Romans 5:12-17, with 1 Corinthians 15: 20-22, 45-49, grounds the meaning of Jesus’ bodily death and resurrection in the real history of Genesis. A real man, Adam, brought physical death (“to dust you shall return,” Genesis 3:19) and corruption into God’s “very good” world by his sin. Likewise, a real man, the God-Man from heaven, came to undo the work of the first man, the federal head of the human race. Just as one man brought death to all who are in him, so one perfect man brings life to all who are in him.
The early chapters of Genesis give us vital information about God, about us and our relationship with him, about the Fall and its consequences, and the world and universe. They are the basis of Christian teaching about, for example, the Sabbath, the sanctity of human life, the unity of the human race, man’s stewardship of creation, the reason for moral and physical evil in the world, sex, and marriage.
Molecules-to-monkeys evolution with its millions-of-years of earth history is a direct attack on these foundations, and the consequences are apparent—not only in society but also in the church. Acceptance of these ideas involves the denial of the clear teaching of Scripture and sooner or later leads to other kinds of compromise. If we deny the truth of Scripture on one point, what is there to stop us denying it on other aspects?
The fact that the Biblical account of creation is foundational to the gospel is relevant to the task of missions. When the gospel goes to people who do not know about Christianity or Judaism, like the culture in America today, it is necessary to start in the beginning before jumping in with the gospel. The foundations need to be laid first. This was Paul’s method with the pagan Greeks in Athens. If the missionary does not believe that the early chapters of Genesis can be trusted to mean what they say, a difficult task is made even more difficult. Why would his/her hearers believe any other part of the Bible?
This is true of both the developing world and the secular West. Most people do not know who the Christian God is, who we are, where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going.They do not know the true origin and meaning of sin and death. They need to understand these things before they can understand the gospel.
God has given us the answers to these questions in the early chapters of Genesis. Still, many in the church have scrapped Genesis as real history. The awful truth is that the church itself has contributed to its downfall in the culture by helping to destroy the very foundation of the gospel. It has done so by capitulating to secular science’s version of history, rather than believing and teaching God’s Word as written.1
“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”John 3:12
References and Notes
- Gurney, Robert M. Six-Day Creation: Does It Matter What You Believe? Day One Publications, 2007.