"Of making many books there is no end" (Eccl. 12:12). This is especially true of religious books. The Bhagavad-Gita of Hinduism, the Qur'an of Islam, the Humanist Manifestos I-III of secular Humanism, and the Christian Bible all line up side by side on bookshelves. But among all of these books the Bible stands alone, apart and above.
Binding the Bible together as the ultimate and only expression of God's will is the golden web of inspiration. Many books are written by insightful human influences, but only the Bible has been written by the direct influence of God. As Paul said, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (II Tim. 3:16). Bound and woven together by divine authorship, believers are obliged to receive scripture "as what it is in truth, the word of God" (1 Thess. 2:13).
So far, so good.
Taking the Bible off of the bookshelf and placing it confidently in our heart is easy, as long as we stand apart from the "settled science" of our age. Challenged by Evolution, however, our confidence in scripture sputters and suffers. How can we accommodate God's description and conflicting scientific descriptions of "In the beginning?" This article is written to discuss inspiration and its consequences.
"Given by inspiration," the Bible comes from the very breath of God. Many Bible versions substitute "God-breathed" or "breathed out by God" for "inspiration" (ESV, NIV, and etc.). Just as God breathed "the breath of life" into Adam (Gen. 2:7), God breathed "the word of life" (Phil. 2:16) into the world through the Bible's books, chapters, and verses. In contrast to all other writings, God's inspired word possesses the unique "sacred writing" quality to "train us in righteousness," make us "complete," and "equip us for every good work" (II Tim. 3:15-17).
Writing about II Timothy 3:16-17 and inspiration John Calvin said,
This is a principle which distinguishes our religion from all others, that we know that God hath spoken to us, and are fully convinced that (Bible writers)...being organs of the Holy Spirit, only uttered what they had been commissioned from heaven to declare. Whoever then wishes to profit in the Scriptures, let him first of all, lay down this as a settled point, that (the Bible is) not a doctrine delivered according to the will and pleasure of men, but dictated by the Holy Spirit.
II Timothy 3:16-17 is not the only Bible verse that speaks of the Bible's inspiration. Consider the following.
• "The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me; his word is on my tongue." (II Sam. 23:2-3).
• "For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak" (Jn. 12:49)
• "Know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (II Pet. 1:20-21).
• "The mystery of Christ... has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit" (Eph. 3:4).
• Jesus gave the add-on promise that, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away" (Mt. 24:35).
Summarizing the above, Peter explained inspiration by saying, "The "Sovereign Lord... through the mouth of our father David...said by the Holy Spirit..." (Acts 4:24-25). Uninspired religious writers have not been so brief. They have used three descriptive words in sequence plus addendums to explain God's authorship of the Bible as (i) verbal (ii) plenary (iii) inspiration.
Seeking to reject the Bible or greatly reduce its impact, some have argued that the Bible is only a nice book written by smart men and that smart men today have just as much right, maybe even more right to say-so. Others argue more critically that the quality of scripture is hit or miss, that some passages can be accepted at face value while others can be discarded as quaint little white lies. The impact of these half-beliefs in scripture is to fully accommodate Evolution, materialistic or theistic, and dispose of the first chapters of Genesis as empty myth.
Verbal Plenary Inspiration does not allow us to toss all of scripture or any scripture aside. The doctrine of Verbal Plenary Inspiration asserts that (i) the words and word choices of scripture (verbal), (ii) every one of them (plenary) are (iii) the direct product of God (inspiration). In other words, God objectively, accurately, and exactly conveyed what He wished to say.
There is nothing new about this great confidence in the golden web of inspiration. Polycarp (69-155 A.D.), a disciple of John, said, "The scriptures are perfect, inasmuch as they are uttered by the Word of God and His Spirit." Following the Belgaic Confession of 1561, early Protestants believed that just as "He Himself wrote with His own finger the two tables of the law...God...commanded His servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit His revealed word to writing." This view, known as the "High View," of scripture has dominated 2,000 years of Church history.
Holding the High view of scripture distinguishes churches of Christ from most other religious leanings. Pagans, of course,adherents of Eastern Religions, and Humanists reject the Bible out of hand. Islam accepts some of the stories of the Bible but only insofar as they correspond with the Qur'an. Roman Catholicism insists that scripture is subservient to their traditions and to their authoritative bureaucracy. Much of contemporary Protestantism has been swept away with the "Low View" of scripture advocated by religious progressivism, while Protestant Fundamentalism has adopted the hyper-literalism of Premillennialism and the extreme of KJV-only. Today there is only minority acceptance, by a few conservative Protestant groups, of the Bible as "not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit" (I Cor. 2:13).
Regarding the High and Low Views of scripture, what did Jesus accept?
Writings, Words and John 5:47
Mindful of the golden web of inspiration, Jesus held a very High View of scripture. "He believed the Old Testament was spoken by God Himself, or written by the Holy Spirit's inspiration, even though the pen was held by men (Mat. 19:4, 5; 22:31, 32, (43); Mk. 12:26; Lk. 20:37)." Expecting further instances of inspiration Jesus also taught that the Holy Spirit would "teach (the apostles) all things and bring to (their) remembrance all that (he) said to (them)" (Jn. 14:26). Furthermore,
He believed the Old Testament was historical fact. This is very clear, even though from the Creation (cf. Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:4, 5) onward, much of what He believed has long been under fire by critics, as being mere fiction (David Livingston).
Other examples of Genesis facts confirmed by Jesus and the Gospels include Adam as a real individual (Lk. 3:38) as was Able (Lk. 11:51). He asserted that Abraham (Jn. 8:56-58) Isaac and Jacob (Mt. 8:11), Noah and the Flood (Mt. 24:37-39) and Sodom and Gomorrah (Lk. 10:12) were all factual and historical. These assurances are completely consistent with His assertion that what Moses had written God had written (Mk. 12:26).
John 5:47 is a nexus passage connecting Jesus with Moses and with inspiration. Asking, "If you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?" Jesus inexorable linked the authority of God, His own authority, the authority of Moses and the authority of scripture. According to Albert Barnes,
The Savior acknowledged the truth of the writings of Moses, built his religion upon them, appealed to them to prove that he was the Messiah, and commanded men to search them. We have the testimony of Jesus, therefore, that the Old Testament is a revelation from God. He that rejects his testimony on this subject must reject his authority altogether; and it is vain for any man to profess to believe in the New Testament, or in the Lord Jesus, without also acknowledging the authority of the Old Testament and of Moses.
In His day, Jesus confronted the Pharisees and the Scribes saying, "In vain do you worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mt. 15:9). With John 5:47, gathering Himself and Moses and the Old and New Testaments in the golden web of inspiration, Jesus confronts skeptics of this day who have sought shelter in the strong tower of settled science. But how can we accommodate God's description and conflicting scientific descriptions of "In the beginning?"
"In the Beginning": 2 ½ Views
(Almost) three competing views explain Creation. One view is biblical, the Genesis account as conventionally understood. Another view, Materialistic Evolution, has been championed by many scientists since the late 1800s. A third view, a half view, Theistic Evolution, is "Neither good science nor good theology."
We need to set something aside before we go any farther. Yes, evolution can simply mean change, and all things change - so we really do believe in Evolution, right? Not so fast. Simple change is not the change that Evolution envisions. In On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin laid the groundwork for Evolution as a zillion-year process beginning with one-celled critters, and all the way through amphibians and apes, and ultimately to you and yo mama.
The Genesis Account
Depending on the authorship of Moses and the inspiration of scripture, the Creation story is easy to tell. Within six 24-hour periods with "evening and...morning" (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, and 21) and bounded by celestial markers for "seasons, and for days and years" (Gen. 1:14), God "made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them" (Acts 4:24). David added detail saying, "He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm" (Ps. 33:6-9).
Other Bible writers confirmed these details and affirmed their belief in them. John wrote, "In the beginning was the Word.... All things were made through him" (Jn. 1:1-3). Paul echoes the involvement of Jesus in Creation saying, "For by him all things were created" (Col. 1:16), "Through (Christ) also (God) created the world" (Heb. 1:2), and "By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God" (Heb. 11:3).
Jesus as the Word, our faith, and His Lordship are intertwined within the biblical Creation story. As the song says, "He is Lord of Creation and Lord of my life." Is it so hard to believe that the Lord who raised Lazarus (Jn. 11:43), who walked on water (Mt. 14:22-23), who "cast out many demons" (Mk. 1:34), who silenced the wind and the waves (Mk. 4:39), who performed many other miracles (Jn. 20:30-31), and who was Himself resurrected from the dead (Acts 1:22) could also "create heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it" (Rev. 10:6) in the manner described in Genesis 1?
Closely associated with the work of Darwin (1809-1882), the story of the Theory of Evolution is also easy to tell. Borrowing from Wikipedia,
Darwin was the first to formulate a scientific argument for the theory of evolution by means of natural selection... All life on Earth is descended from a universal ancestor that lived approximately 3.8 billion years ago... Evolutionary processes have since given rise to diversity at every level of biological organization, including species.
The materialistic in Materialistic Evolution refers to the companion belief that "Matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all emergent phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions." What does that mean? Materialism is the belief that only those things that can be grasped through our five senses are real and that the scientific method of observation and experimentation is the only means of grasping all truth. Materialism is also the belief that you and I are big dummies for believing in God and in the spiritual world beyond the physical.
Materialism, complete dependence on science, and acceptance of Evolution has an awful impact on the Bible and on faith. Here is a "top-ten" list of Christian beliefs other than Creation that have been thrown under the politically correct bus by skeptics:
1. God – no way.
2. The Bible – a foolish crutch for the emotionally unsophisticated.
3. Heaven and hell – nope, like rover we'll just be dead all over.
4. Christ's Resurrection – are you kidding?
5. The Virgin Birth – no way, no how.
6. Crossing the Red Sea – only in the movies with that NRA guy Charlton Hesston.
7. Noah and the Flood – maybe (just maybe) an over dramatization of a much smaller local "rain event" with Noah as a Russell Crowe stand-in.
8. Adam and Eve – archetypical (see there, I kin' use them big ole words two) representations of the collective unconscious.
9. Creation – a mythical representation of beginnings written by ancient men who just didn't know any better.
10. Belief itself – you sad, sad, stupid, stupid person.
And yet, for some odd reason, some Christian people think that they can cling to the good graces of contemporary thought with Theistic Evolution.
A camel, it is said, is a horse designed by a committee. This proverb highlights the awkwardness of throwing things together that do not belong together. And, awkwardly, Theistic Evolution is "Neither good science nor good theology."
With few exceptions, no Evolutionary scientist is going to say, "Sure, God controlled the mechanisms of Evolution and used Evolution to create man." Why? Remember the materialism in Materialist Evolution. For many contemporary scientists matter and not spirit explains everything. There is no place in their holy house of settled science for god, and no place there for you either if you believe in him (it, she, them, whatever).
Now imagine grabbing a camel by its nose and by its hind legs. Watch out for the spit as you begin to pull, and pull, and pull and pull. One of two things is about to happen. Either the camel will bust apart as you keep pulling or you and your committee will get busted up by an angry camel busting loose.
Stretching a camel is easier than stretching the six days of Genesis 1 into zillions of years. This is the "Day/Age" theory necessary for Theistic Evolution, that the days of Genesis are not actual days at all but are figurative depictions of long, long ages. By today's estimates of the age of the earth (454 billion years) each one of those "days" must be 71,833,333,333 years long. No conventional approach to biblical interpretation can possibly stretch Genesis that far.
II Peter 3:8 is sometimes used as the rack to stretch Genesis 1, "With the Lord one day is as a thousand years." Is this verse really an interpretive device for Genesis? If so, why does II Peter 3:8 not also stretch other biblical days (like three days in the tomb, 150 days after the water abated, eight days prior to circumcision, five days to Troas, and etc.)? Peter is not speaking of Creation and its days or any other literal days. He is speaking of God's extended "patien(ce) toward you (extending the time to Judgment – another biblical "myth" - and) not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (II Pet. 3:9).
The half choice of Theistic Evolution is a desperate attempt to bridge the Genesis account and Materialistic Evolution. Incompatible, the biblical and Darwinian explanations are two forced choices. Inspiration allows for only one.
Twenty-first Century Christians face a lot of challenges, not the least of which is the bind between what the Bible says and being "tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Eph. 4:14). In resisting today's experts, we should have each other's sympathy and support. For Bible believers, however, Creation as described by the standard interpretation of Genesis 1, stands alone, apart and above. Here is the argument:
1. The Bible, including Genesis, possesses the golden web of inspiration.
2. Genesis speaks of Creation in six literal days.
3. Creation took place, accurately and exactly, just as God has said.
Writing as a "Bible guy," my scientific knowledge is limited. Fortunately, there are many Christian "science guys" (not Bill Nye!) who are able to wrestle with the claims of Materialistic Evolution. I recommend the following for those whose interest trends toward scientific debate.
• www.apologeticspress.org is a great organization dedicated to defending the Bible against all skeptical attacks, especially against attacks from Materialistic and Theistic Evolution.
• www.creationism.org will wear you out with more material than you can possibly digest.
• www.answersingenesis.org is the home page of Ken Ham, the Creation scientist who recently debated Bill Nye.
• www.creationistidiocy.blogspot.com is an example of thoughtful and respectful musings from the other side.