Creation & the Enlightenment – Sermon Four

Introduction

BioLogos is an organization whose expressed purpose is to help the evangelical church “come to peace with the scientific data which shows unequivocally that the universe is very old and that all of life, including humankind, has been created through a gradual process that has been taking place over the past few billion years.”  They are funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation and they have recently gone on the attack against those who hold to biblical creation, including some stalwarts of the Southern Baptist Convention. 

BioLogos claims to be an evangelical organization and they warn that conservative Christians will lose their credibility and their ability to effectively share the Gospel if they do not shed their “anti-intellectualism” and embrace the theory of evolution.  Of course, without man in the image of God, the fall, the promise of the Messiah, and the reliability of Scripture, I’m not sure we have a Gospel left once we accept evolution.  But, there we are.  We have indeed reached a point where people are surprised to meet Christians who really believe the Bible

Background & Context

Today, we continue looking into the greatest issue of our day – evolution.  It is the greatest because one’s theory of origins is, by definition, a beginning point.  They approach man’s beginnings either from belief or unbelief, with God as the authority or man as the authority.  And, as we saw last week, there are those who attempt to combine the two, Genesis and Darwin.  The end result of that is always the loss of Genesis. 

  1. Creation & Evolution – Alternative Theories

My sermon last week was overly ambitious, so I was not able to get through what I had on the outline, in spite of the sermon being quite a bit longer than usual.  So, today, we pick up with the “alternative” theories that have been proposed within the Christian community. 

Gap Theory

The Gap Theory is somewhat similar to the Day-Age Theory we discussed last week in that it centers mainly on the dating of the earth.  As I mentioned last week, Darwinian evolution must have millions or billions of years in order to work.  And, because of that, several theories have developed which attempt to combine evolutionary dating (millions or billions of years) with Genesis.  Genesis speaks of “days” and evolution speaks of billions, so the theories are quite creative.

The Day-Age theory, which we covered last week, suggests that the “days” were actually just periods of time, perhaps millions of years, and not literal 24-hour days.  The Gap Theory is a bit different.  Adherents of the Gap Theory suggest that, indeed, the “days” of Genesis 1 are normal, 24-hour days, but they were not sequential days.  In other words, God would create for a day and then there would be a long gap until He created again, millions of years perhaps. 

There are several issues to address here.  First, we should note that the Gap theorists at least understand that the wording of Genesis does not allow for anything other than 24-hour days.  That is to their credit.  However, they insert these gaps with no foundation for doing so other than the dating that evolutionary theory requires.  There is no indication in the text that these gaps were there.  There is no evidence for it in Scripture at large either. 

The Gap Theory requires reading something into the text simply because evolutionary thinking requires it.  But, again, that makes us lords over the Scripture rather than the other way around.  It requires us to be rationalists (the idea that man’s thinking can explain and/or solve all of life’s problems and mysteries), finding a “natural” explanation for what the Bible says.  After all, it’s not like God could create everything that quickly, right?

Theistic Evolution

Theistic Evolution is also called Progressive Creationism and the basic idea is that God created the heavens and the earth and then put the process of evolution in place to complete the work.  In other words, God simply used the process of evolution to create all things.

This suffers from all the same problems.  On what authority is this claim made?  This is simply making man the authority over all things; taking the theory of man and imposing it upon God and upon the Scriptures.  Not only that, it mangles the theory of evolution and removes it from its agnostic or atheistic assumptions.  In other words, while theories like this try to make a happy marriage of evolution and Genesis, neither one of them wants to take the vows – it requires evolution and Genesis to give up everything that makes them what they are.  If you believe in evolution or in the Bible, theistic evolution isn’t going to make you very happy.

Framework Hypothesis

Now, this final theory hits quite close to home.  It was made popular by men like Dr. Meredith Kline, a graduate of Westminster Seminary and a professor at Westminster in Philadelphia and California, as well as Reformed Theological Seminary.  In other words, it has come from the Reformed world and is still quite popular among Reformed theologians and pastors.

The basic idea of the Framework Hypothesis is that Genesis 1 was not intended to indicate time at all; it is simply trying to reinforce the Sabbath commandment and to demonstrate that God created all things in an orderly fashion.  In other words, the days of Genesis 1 are simply a literary structure used by the author to tell the story of creation.  It is not meant to be taken literally. 

The argument is that, if you look at the text, there seems to be a parallel literary structure to it.  Days 1 and 4 coincide – the creation of light; days 2 and 5 coincide – dealing with the waters and the sky; and days 3 and 6 coincide – dealing with the land and the creatures/man which would inhabit the land.  So, it is a poetic structure not chronological.

So, what are we to make of this?  First of all, this theory is interesting because the structure is there, but it does not follow that because the structure is there it is only poetic and not chronological.  After all, Moses is using chronological terms in the text and they are terms which are quite clear, the typical terms used to refer to normal days.

Second, if this is simply a poetic/literary structure, then when does it stop?  The advocates of the Framework Hypothesis arbitrarily stop their theory after the creation week, but why?  There is no difference in the text itself, no reason not to apply the same theory to the fall, the flood, the Tower of Babel, the Patriarchs, etc.  The idea that literary structures mean things did not literally happen could be applied to absolutely any part of Scripture, so why do they stop here?  I do not think it coincidence that the same people who argue for the Framework Hypothesis also make up a good bit of the theistic evolution camp; in other words, they have made up their minds that evolution is true but they don’t want to give up Genesis; so they find a way to read Genesis in a way that suits them.

Finally, it does leave us wondering about Moses’ reference to Genesis 1 in Exodus 20:8-11.  There, Moses speaks of the creation week and applies it directly to our regular week.  In other words, he takes it farther than a mere literary structure and makes a literal application of it to our regular week.

Now, we quickly went through these alternative theories and I do not mean to indicate that we have “covered” them.  Many books have been written in discussion of these things and I would encourage you to continue learning and I will give you some recommendations for that later.  Next time, I am going to go a bit more on the offensive and point out some more direct problems with the theory of evolution. 

But, let me end by pointing out the common thread in all these theories.  The reason this all relates back directly to the Enlightenment is that it really is an issue of authority.  The Enlightenment was a revolution of authority, a rejection of all traditional authority, of any authority beyond man.  These theories, though the proponents may not realize it, do the same thing.  Evolution is the rejection of God and God’s authority, plain and simple; so making concessions for it is inconceivable for the people of God.  These theories require us to place ourselves over the Scriptures rather than submitting to them. 

Concluding Applications

1. These “Alternative” Theories dominate the modern Church

Every one of these theories assumes, at least in part, that evolutionary theory is true; yet these theories dominate the evangelical Church.  Those who believe in 6-day creation are a minority in Christian colleges, seminaries, and even in pulpits. 

It is frightening to say it, but it is true that more evangelicals place the theories of man over the text than submitting man’s ideas to the text.  This leads me to the second application:

2. Do not underestimate the importance of the creation vs. evolution debate

Resources for further reading: Creation in Six Days by James Jordan, Creation and Change by Douglas Kelly, Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe.  Even the movie Expelled is interesting in revealing the very obvious agenda behind evolution.

Everything else rises and falls here.  Once a church compromises on this, it is never long until other things fall and this is borne out historically – authority and inspiration of Scripture goes next, then women elders, homosexual elders, and the entire gamut of biblical theology goes along.  This has been shown time after time to occur in that order.  Do not miss the fact that the debate over creation is essentially the foundation of every problem in the modern Church.  If we proceed on a foundation of doubt as to God’s own Word, then it should not surprise us when we see that His Word is ignored, contradicted, or maligned.

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