We are continuing with our foundations series. These are topics that drive our church's vision and can really be said to be foundational. We have wanted people to be introduced to what makes us unique. And our literal view of Genesis 1-11 would have to be one of those foundations. I'm just going to deal with Creationism, and I'm going to take two weeks to develop this topic. Today, I want to look at the subject of Creation and God's Authority. And next week I want to look at the subject of six day Creationism. I think at some point I would like to preach through the whole book of Genesis.
I do not think that it is possible to overstate how important the book of Genesis is. Various writers have pointed out how every Biblical doctrine has its roots in this fantastic book. Even distinctively New Covenant sacraments like the Lord's Supper and Baptism are connected to Genesis by the New Testament itself. Certainly the doctrines of marriage, male/female roles, justification by faith, predestination, eschatology, covenant theology and other doctrines are traced by Paul and other writers to the book of Genesis. None of those doctrines is complete if this first book is ignored. And I find it very exciting to study doctrine in the light of Genesis.
But Henry Morris also delights in pointing out that it is the foundation for every discipline: for education, science, economics. I think one of the best books on economics that Gary North has written is his economic commentary on Genesis. He has written a lot of fabulous books on Biblical economics, but that one is particularly interesting. Genesis is absolutely key to properly understanding geology. Gordon Clark wrote a book on the philosophy of linguistics and the bankruptcy of the humanistic approaches. Apart from Genesis, language is a mystery. Without Genesis, the disciplines are led down blind alleys and false turns. Genesis shows the origin for the universe, order and complexity, life, marriage, sin, clothing – yeah, why do we wear clothes? Genesis tells us, and even helps us to define what kinds of clothes are modest. Genesis gives fascinating insights on the study of language, government, culture, nations, and so many other things. To me it is a tragedy when missionaries translate the New Testament without first translating the book of Genesis. When you begin to realize how much is at stake in this book, you can see why Genesis has come under more attack than any other book of the Bible.
Liberals have tried in many different ways to discredit its Mosaic authorship. Unfortunately, there are professors at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia who have questioned whether Moses really wrote the Pentateuch. The church is living at a crossroads with respect to belief in the Bible and the Genesis debate is absolutely key.
And that is why I think it is ever so important for people to study this book, and to be able to defend this book against the attacks of men and Satan. I will not be dealing with the doctrine of six day creation today. I'm going to leave that for next week. But I do want to at least look at the first two verses. The outline is going to be fairly simple. Under the first point I want to look at eight heresies that are confronted immediately by God. These are eight types of unbelief. Then under the second point I want to look at three ways in which these verses inspire faith and trust in God's goodness.
A Verse That Confronts Unbelief
First, Genesis 1 is a chapter that confronts unbelief. Actually, unbelief is confronted in the first verse of this chapter, and you don't have to go much beyond verse 1 for this whole sermon. When Moses recorded God's words in this book he was recording something that was diametrically opposed to the wisdom he had learned in Egypt. These words were revolutionary words then and they are revolutionary words now because they leave no other option but submitting to the Lordship of the God of Scripture and His plan for history.
This Verse Confronts Atheism because it declares that God created all things
The first thing it confronts is atheism, because it declares that God created all things. Have you noticed how the Bible does not begin by proving that God exists. It assumes that God exists and assumes that you know that God exists. It starts with an assertion: in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth... Have you ever wondered why God didn't start with a bunch of proofs of His existence? Its because the Bible assures us that men don't need proof that God exists. It is written on their hearts and the whole universe testifies to it. God's existence is so clear, that unbelief proves that men are depraved, not that they are ignorant. They repress the knowledge of God and try to get it out of their minds because it makes them so uncomfortable. It is a willful unbelief and that is why the Bible says they need reproof. That's why the Bible's message to unbelievers is "repent." I think it is so cool that God has shut men up to one two starting points: either man's mind is the measure of truth and the source of meaning or God is the measure of truth and the source of meaning. You have to either start with man's mind or with God's mind. There are no other logical alternatives.
But if you start with man's mind, then it is impossible to derive any universals that make sense of the universe since man's mind is not infinite. To prove anything, men must start with axioms, and this first verse drives the Christian to posit God and His revelation as the axiom or presupposition for life. If you don't presuppose that God exists, then ethics is impossible. On what basis can an atheist declare something to be wrong? If God does not exist, then man's mind must determine what is right and wrong. But if an atheist tells you that it is wrong to steal, to kill or to commit adultery, one what basis will he do it? It's his opinion against the criminal's opinion. He can't talk of natural law because there is no basis for nature having meaning. He can't talk about the survival of the species, because who is to say that it is good for the species of man to exist. There are radical environmentalists who think we ought not to exist. Without God, there is no basis for ethics, for logic, for philosophy, for government or for any other endeavor. When an atheist asks you to prove God's existence you can simply respond that of the two starting points in life, the Bible's presupposition of God's existence is the only one that can make sense of life. We prove the truth of Scripture by demonstrating the impossibility of the opposite. Moses was presuppositional. He didn't try to prove God's existence. He assumes it. He knows that God has put the sense of God in every man's heart, and that apart from God, it is impossible to make sense out of life. And so this verse confronts atheism.
This verse confronts Pantheism
But secondly, this verse confronts pantheism. It was in vogue in the 18th - 19th centuries to be a pantheist. That is the belief that there is no personal God, but that God is another way of speaking of the amazing laws and order in this universe. They would often say that God is everything and everything is God. Due to the influence of Eastern religions in America pantheism is on the rise. Your next door neighbor may be a pantheist. Transcendental Meditation is pantheistic. Many of the New Agers are pantheists. God in this verse gives a resounding "No!" to Pantheism.
Let me explain how. He declares Himself to be prior to everything else, to be the creator of everything else and therefore independent of everything else. There is an absolute distinction between the creator and the creature. Now I do not have time to outline the profound ramifications of that belief, but Western civilization was built upon that distinction between the Creator and Creature. It affects ethics, because for the Christian, man does not determine ethics. God alone does. It affects government. Pantheism inevitably leads to the deification of the state and tyranny. But this verse points out that in any beginning to have been begun, God was already there. And God created all things out of nothing. The word for create is bara, the word from which we get the doctrine of creation ex nihilo (creation out of nothing). Hebrews 11 says, By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
This verse confronts Polytheism
Third, this verse also confronts polytheism. Poly means many, theos means God. So polytheism is the belief in many gods. You might think, "Who in the world is a polytheist today? Well, there are polytheists all throughout Asia. We get international students who are polytheists all the time. But even in America, Mormons are really polytheists. They believe that there are many, many gods and that the God who made the world is just one god among billions. But Moses uses the singular article to describe God. There is one God, and only one.
This verse confronts Unitarianism
But this verse also confronts Unitarianism. Unitarians deny that there are three persons in the God head. At the very time that this passage affirms God's unity and that there is only one God, it uses a plural form elohim to describe this one God. The article is singular which means that it is the one God, but within this God there is a plurality. We have another hint in verse 2 where you have distinctions in the Godhead that are beginning to be articulated. It says, And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Another hint is in verse 26: Then God said, "Let Us [Notice the plural there. This is Father, Son and Holy Spirit speaking with each other; covenanting with each other. "Let Us"] make man in Our image, according to Our likeness… There is a plurality in the Godhead, yet there are not three gods, but one God. The Trinity is already articulated in the first chapter of the Bible. There are a plural of persons speaking in verse 26, yet verse 27 shows only one God. Verse 27 says,, So God [not "gods", but "God"] created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them… God is one being; one essence; one God; yet there is a plurality in personality that can work together, speak together and plan together. Those are actions of personality. The doctrine of the Trinity is not just a New Testament doctrine. It is clearly articulated in the Old Testament. And if you want a huge amount of evidence for the Trinity in the Old Testament, read the Jewish scholar David Cooper who does a masterful job in his multi volume set on the Messiah. There isn't any doctrine in the New Testament that you do not find in seed form in the Old Testament. In fact, one of the rules of Biblical interpretation that you may have heard is the one that says, "The New is in the Old Concealed; the Old is in the New Revealed." And so, here are hints already of the Trinity. This chapter confronts Unitarianism.
This verse confronts Materialism
This verse also confronts materialism which is so much a part of modern atheistic science. Materialism is the belief that matter is the only reality and that everything including our thoughts, our will and our emotions can be explained in terms of the forces of matter. B.F. Skinner applied that to psychology. Marx applied materialism to economics and history. Spencer applied it to all the disciplines through his evolutionary model. But materialism is clearly wrong since all matter is said to have a beginning. Materialists believe matter is eternal – that it has always been around. But the words "In the beginning" show that there was a beginning for the space, mass time continuum. And the word "created," which means to make out of nothing, also shows that matter is not eternal. Romans 4:17 says God "calls those things which do not exist as though they did." Hebrews 11:3 says that "the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible." Material did not come from material. God made all things out of nothing by the energy of His Word.
It confronts the notion of Dualism
This verse also confronts the notion of dualism. Dualism is the belief that evil and good are both eternally existent. One particularly noxious form of dualism says that Satan never had a beginning, and that He was always evil and that God was always good. You might wonder who in the world would believe that. But it is a temptation that many evangelicals have had in order to explain the entrance of evil into the universe. How could a good God create something that could fall? And more to the point, how could a God who forknew all things, allow evil to come into existence? That's the problem they are wrestling with. Because they have difficulty with the doctrine of God's sovereignty, they prefer to affirm that evil is just as eternal as God is. Even a good guy like Geoffrey Bull wrote that the potential for good or evil was always inherent in God, and He passed that on to His creation. That's a different form of dualism. But no form of dualism is Orthodox. It is not Biblical. And as much as that is an easy way to explain the entrance of evil into the universe, it is not a good one.
First, it is not a good explanation because verse 31 says, Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. Everything that He had made, at this point was still good. Some dualists try to wriggle out of this dilemma by saying that Satan either wasn't made in this seven day period, or to say that Satan was eternal, and God didn't make him. But Ezekiel 28 says twice that Satan was created, and that he was created perfect. It says, You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created till iniquity was found in you, (Ezek. 28:15). And by the way, that passage also says that Satan was still sinless and good when God first created the garden of Eden. Evil had a start, and Satan had a start. Genesis 2:1 says, Thus [meaning, in this way. "Thus"] the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. Every host that inhabited the heavens was finished in this seven day period.
And again, we have a hint of this all the way back in Genesis 1:1. Notice the phrase in verse 1 that says, "God created the heavens and the earth" The heavens (plural) are created first, then the earth. Which heavens was this? It was not the first heaven (air space – that's the heaven that the birds fly in) because that was made on the second day. I believe there are two heavens created on day one: the second heaven which is space (because earth had to be placed into space), and the third heaven which is God's throne room, and the place where God's angels reside. This verse hints then that God made the third heaven with all the angels on the first day, when He created the earth (not as a finished product) but the earth as a foundation upon which much else would be laid. This interpretation is confirmed by two other Scriptures. God asked Job, Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? That verse indicates that when the first step in earth's creation was made, all angels shouted for joy. They were not yet fallen. In fact, Ezekiel and Isaiah indicate that Satan did not fall until sometime after the Garden of Eden was finished by God. He was walking to and fro in the Garden of Eden.
Another verse that indicates the same thing is Psalm 104:4-5. It says, Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers flames of fire. You who laid the foundations of the earth, so that it should not be moved forever. The angels created first, then the earth's beginnings or foundations started.
So chapter 1 at least hints that dualism is not an acceptable explanation of evil. There was a beginning to evil, and since all angels were created by God, and all that God had made was declared to be good on day six, that evil was introduced into the universe after that.
It confronts Humanism
Seventh, it confronts humanism. Humanism is the belief that man is the measure of all truth and that nothing is true until it can be demonstrated by reason to be true. But this verse affirms that God existed and that truth existed long before man existed. In fact, five days before man was created, God was already investing this universe with meaning. It doesn't make rational sense to say that I can't believe something unless it can be filtered through my puny brain. People talk about truth for you and truth for me. But truth is not subjective. It is a standard that existed long before man was created and continues to be defined by God, not man. When a person says there is no God because his mind has not discovered God, He is acting as God. In order to be able to make a statement like that he would have to be all knowing. To say that God does not exist you would have had to travel trillions of light years and painstakingly studied all the information in every galaxy and solar system. A universal negative is impossible to prove unless you are omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. And yet humanists make universal negatives all the time. They have to in order to affirm that man's mind is the measure of all things. Scripture calls us to let God be God, and we should in humility learn from God and be blessed by God.
It confronts Evolution
Now we could point out how this chapter confronts feminism, chauvinism and many other evils, but I've got to stop somewhere. So I want to give one more negative before we move to Roman numeral II. The eighth thing that this Scripture confronts is evolution. This chapter does not say that God oversaw the gradual development of creatures from the slime. It says that He created all things. Further, He created them out of nothing as we have already seen.
And by the way, evolution is not something new. It was taught by most of the cultures in the days of Moses. Some religions say that the gods formed the world by working on the materials that were in existence. Others say that there were world parents that produced the universe by their union. Others have postulated a giant egg out of which life came and produced other life. It is interesting that modern evolution in its desription of the big bang theory often calls the mass out of which the big bang occured a cosmic egg. And so we have a modern type egg theory though of course much more complex in its description.
I have often thought while growing up that it takes much more faith to believe in evolution than it does in the God who has revealed Himself to us in Scripture. Edwin Conklin has said that the probability of life originating by chance is like the probability of an unabridged dictionary resulting from an explosion in a print shop. The great German astronomer Johannes Kepler was troubled that one of his friends so strongly denied the existence of God. In order to try to convince his friend, Kepler made an intricate model of the sun with the planets circling around it. Let me read you the conversation that took place.
When his friend came to the observatory and saw the beautiful model, he exclaimed with delight, "How beautiful it is! Who made it?" And Kepler carelessly answered, "No one made it: it made itself." His friend looked at him and said, "Nonsense, tell me who made it." Kepler then replied, "Friend, you say that this little toy could not make itself. It is but a very weak imitation of this great universe which, I understood, you believe did make itself."
And so this verse sets the tone for the whole Bible by confronting unbelief. But it also sets the tone by bringing hope and inspiring trust in three areas: a trust in God's authority, a trust in God's control and a trust in God's presence.
A Verse that inspires Trust
In God's Authority
The first one is something that every human heart struggles with until they are changed by God's grace. It is a trust in God's authority. I'm going to mention two sides to God's authority that we tend to struggle with. The first is the authority of commandments. In this chapter, immediately God gives commandments to everything showing His authority over everything. The second aspect of authority is expertise.
Authority implies first, the right to rule or to give commands. If you look down through this chapter you will see that God gives commands to creation on every day of the creation week, and he gives special commands to mankind. You would think that the God who created all things would know what He is doing when he makes commands. Creation implies authority, and every disobedience to Scripture is an attack on the doctrine of creation by being an attack on God's authority. Whether Adam and Eve thought that God's commands were arbitrary, silly or unfair, we are not told, but their disobedience evidenced a lack of trust.
There may be a command in Scripture that you are struggling with right now. Maybe you are justifying your disobedience by saying, "But Dad, everybody's doing it." Then that means that your authority is peer pressure; it's not God. Or maybe you justify disobedience by appealing to comfort ("It's just too hard!"). Or maybe you appeal to pragmatism ("I've tried it and it doesn't work!"). Or maybe you've appealed to government authority. Some authority over you says that it's OK to disobey God's Word. Or maybe lyou appeal just to the authority of your own mind. You won't obey God unless you can understand it. Unless you treat God as the Potter and yourself as the clay; unless you acknowledge His right to command you to do anything, you have set up another authority. That's rebellion against your role as a creature.
But the second side of authority requires faith as well. This is the aspect of authority that means expertise, or what Webster's Dictionary defines as "weight of testimony or credibility." In other words, when you have a brain tumor you don't go to your barber for a medical opinion because his opinion is not as credible as a brain surgeon's would be. He is not an authority on the subject. God is an authority in this sense in all areas of life since He has made all of life.
Many Christians unfortunately have less confidence in the Bible's solutions to the problems they face than they do in the non-Christian solutions that keep coming up a dime a dozen. You see, if God is the Creator of all things, and thus the expert on all things, then newer does not mean better. Yet how few Christians study His Word as being authoritative on anything beyond salvation and personal happiness? Some Christians put their trust in humanism far more readily than they put their trust in the Bible. They put their trust in secular biologists or geologists far more readily than they do in God's statements about origins. The six day creation debate is a trust issue of who is the expert: the geologist or God?
Many scientific discoveries of the past were made possible because Christians had a profound trust in the Bible. Many people slander Galileo and say that he was opposing the Bible. Nothing could be further from the truth. He was convinced from the bible and from observation that the Aristotelians were wrong, and unfortunately the church of his day bought into Greek Aritotelian thought as the unquestioned science of the day just like modern day agers are doing. They adopted the humanistic science of their day and tried to force the Scripture to conform. The church raised Aristotle as an authority and Galileo raised the bible as an authority. The same was true of Christopher Columbus and many other greater discoveries. They knew that the bible won't let you down.
Your history books have expunged these facts but many many scientists in the past have credited their discoveries to a confidence in the guidelines that Scripture has given to them in their field. I saw a documentary on the history of oil that totally neglected the reason why one oil explorer refused to give up digging in Egypt after many unsuccesful wells and after everyone had said there was no oil in Egypt. He was a Christian who was convinced that there was oil in that location since Scripture spoke of tar pits in the area. He had confidence in Scripture when his freinds scoffed. And his perseverence payed off. He struck oil in a big way after spending almost every dime that he owned. When Scripture speaks about any area of life we can follow its instructions with confidence since the God who gave us Scripture is the God who created all things. When Christians treat other authorities as superior to Biblical authority, it is a direct attack against the doctrine of creation. On the other hand, confidence in the creation account can give us confidence that the Bible is authoritative.
In God's Control
A second thing that the doctrine of creation can inspire trust in is God's ongoing control. Man is constantly trying to control and manipulate life. Scripture tells us that is impossible. If God created all things, the natural implication is that He controls all things. He knows how to handle this world. Scripture indicates that unless God continued to hold everything together and make it function it could not exist. Colossians says, "all things have been created by Him and for Him . . . and in Him all things hold together." Hebrews 1:3 also connects Creation with God's ongoing control. It speaks of the "Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; . . . and upholding all things by the word of His power." Acts 17:26-28 says that God created all men of one blood and then goes on to say that God's continuing control is the natural outcome of that "for in Him we live and move and have our being."
This means that tyrants who try to control the lives of the people could not so much as breathe, let alone function without God's upholding them and using them to His own ends. This should bring great comfort to the one who is a child of God. Because God controls all things in heaven and on earth He can guarantee in the words of Romans 8:28, that "…all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." His control of all things gives us confidence that God will never put us into a position that is too difficult for us to handle (1 Cor. 10:13). Because of God's control, you will never find an aspect of creation that will keep you from being able to do your duty of submitting to God's authority. God has made the environment as well as giving us His word and the two fit together like hand and glove. It is only when we neglect our duty to God that we find we are coming up against brick walls in creation and where the promise of God that all things work together for good is not true of us. The doctrine of creation inspires a trust in God's control.
In God's Presence
Lastly, the doctrine of creation inspires a trust in God's presence. God's presence is something that is seen all through these early chapters. The bible does not present God in a deistic way where God winds things up and leaves. Verse 2 indicates that the Holy Spirit was hovering over the waters. And His presence is seen throughout the six days of creation until man was formed in a special way. And after the creation of man God placed man in a garden, made them to have fellowship, provided and cared for them in every way. It was not until man fell into sin that the presence of God brought fear to man. The Spirit of God that was breathed into Adam and Eve left them and they ran from God's presence as recorded in chapter 3 of Genesis. But while man forsook God, God did not forsake man. The whole purpose of His creation was not destroyed by Satan's rebellion nor by Adam's rebellion. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians, the very God who commanded the light to come out of darkness gives His command to human hearts today and brings the light of the gospel in darkened hearts and renews the fellowship for which we were created. And so the last book of the Bible is full of images from the creation week and from the Garden of Eden to demonstrate that God's purposes in Creation can never be frustrated. You and I may be frustrated if we do not line up with God and His purpose, but God, never. The God who created all thins in the space of six days is a God who is worthy of worship, trust and obedience. And I call upon you to do so, and to pray that other Christian hearts would be stirred up to return to the doctrines of Creation. Amen.