In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth (Gen. 1:1). So opens the most popular book in the world. The first verse also opens the book of Genesis, the record of man’s beginnings. One might think that such a book would open with a reasoned defense of why man should believe in God. It does not. Rather, it assumes the existence of God and begins with an account of creation. The creation narrative cannot be separated from the Bible without undermining its foundation. Rejecting the creation narrative would undermine the following doctrines: • A belief in God as the Creator. Derivatives of the word “create” occur 106 times in the Bible (create — 54; creation — 6; Creator — 5; creature — 41). God’s authority over man is tied to his being man’s creator. John said, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11). • The divine origin of the soul of man. Not only does man have a soul, but he also possesses free will — a will that can be subjected to the Devil’s temptations and choose to obey or disobey God. • The origin of sin. The book of Genesis reveals to us what sin is and what are its consequences. • The role of man and woman. Paul ties the headship of man to the order of God’s creating male and female (1 Tim. 2:13-14). • The institution of marriage. Jesus related God’s original plan for husband and wife to have a lifelong commitment to each other to creation (Matt. 19:1-12). • The scheme of redemption is tied to the creation narrative of Genesis 1-3. The role of the serpent, the great tempter of man, is revealed in this account. The origin of sin and what its consequences are for mankind are revealed in this narrative. Man’s hopelessness because of his sin reveals man’s need for a Savior who is the “seed of woman” and who crushes the head of that serpent (Gen. 3:15). This interpretation of Genesis 3:15 is confirmed by Romans 16:20 — “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20). • The week as a division of ordered time is derived from the creation week. This list could probably be much extended, but this suffices to establish this point: Genesis lays the foundation on which the whole Bible and God’s work of human redemption is built. If one starts tampering with this foundation, he undermines the whole scheme of human redemption. Under a different metaphor, the story of human redemption is a garment woven from one thread. If one unravels a single thread of that garment, he unravels it all! The book of Genesis is one of the most important books in the Bible because it forms the basis of all revelation. It is necessary to account for the moral condition of man and his consequent need of redemption by Christ. The book of Genesis is the root whose trunk extends through all Scripture. Therefore, one must treat with utmost seriousness any attacks on the creation narrative.
The Interpretation of Genesis 1
In recent times, liberal Bible scholars (modernists) have addressed Genesis 1 as a cosmogony of the same order as non-inspired cosmogonies, such as the Enuma Elish of the Babylonians or those of the Grecian mythologies. The usual approach is to say that the author of the Genesis narrative (whether the E document of Gen. 1 or the J document of Gen. 2) borrowed from and revised these cosmogonies to write a revised version consistent with monotheism. Not believing the book of Genesis to be the work of the historical Moses, the creation narrative is usually thought to have been produced by some unknown author of the 8-7th century B.C. and pawned off as the work of Moses. The rejection of the Genesis narrative as history results in treating the creation narrative, the flood, and other miraculous things in Genesis as myth.
Another group of scholars, usually described as “harmonists,” try to harmonize the Bible account of creation with the latest pronouncements of late twentieth century geology, paleontology, and other scientific disciplines that have accepted evolution and its old earth (thought to be over 4.5 billion years old). The harmonists disagree on what things they will try to harmonize (the age of the earth, a universal or local flood, the Tower of Babel, etc.), but all of them start from the same place. They have more confidence in the pronouncements of science than in the historicity of the Genesis narrative when given its most natural meaning. So, Genesis must be made to harmonize with late twentieth century science, rather than allowing the theories of science to be judged by the Genesis narrative.
I am among those Bible students who believe the Genesis narrative is an historical account of God’s creating the world in six days. I believe that this is the most obvious meaning that the language of Scripture communicates to the average man. The modernists make no effort to re-interpret the Genesis narrative; they believe that it contradicts modern science, that it cannot be harmonized with science, and that science is right and Moses was wrong. Modernists join hands with those who believe in the literal account of creation in telling the “harmonists” that they are twisting and perverting the text of Genesis in an obvious effort to bring it into harmony with science and to the distortion of the obvious meaning of the words of the Bible.
Genesis 1:1 Answers Many
The very opening verse of Genesis denies a number of philosophies and theologies that are presently being taught. Consider the following: 1. Genesis 1:1 denies atheism and humanism. The Scripture begins, “In the beginning God . . . .” The Bible accepts the existence of a divine creator, the being of God. Any philosophy that excludes God is contrary to revelation and wrong.
2. Genesis 1:1 denies polytheism. The statement of Scripture is that God created the heavens and the earth. This stands in stark contrast to the pagan accounts of creation. The Enuma Elish, for example, relates that the body of Tiamat was torn into two pieces by Marduk for the creation of the heaven and earth. The Grecian mythologies depict a pantheon. The opening verse of Genesis affirms the oneness of God.
3. Genesis 1:1 denies materialism. The philosophy of materialism believes that matter is eternal and that there is no operation on matter by an outside force such as God. But the creation account denies the eternity of matter.
4. Genesis 1:1 denies pantheism. The doctrine of pantheism makes all of creation a part of God; the tree and the mouse are divine, as a part of God’s being. But Genesis 1:1 separates God from his creation. God exists independently of his creation.
5. Genesis 1:1 denies fatalism. Fatalism believes that the world is not operated by the unguided and chance collisions of the molecules of atoms. The Scriptures teach that the world is directed by an omnipotent and omniscient God.
One’s beliefs about Genesis 1 reflect to a great degree his belief about the inspiration and authority of the Bible. The doctrine of Bible inspiration declares that God supernaturally revealed to its authors the very words of God himself (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Because the Bible is God’s inspired revelation, it has authority over man. What it speaks on creation carries greater weight than the pronouncements of the educated of any age, including our own and those in the future. When men begin allowing the pronouncements of scientists to have greater weight than the inspired word of God, they have crossed a significant bridge in their thinking which takes them down a road away from God. The one who crosses such a bridge will never be the same again until he repents and retraces his steps. His continued journey may lead him to re-interpret Genesis as a local flood, the Tower of Babel as a myth, and to who knows where else.
If we believe in the inspiration of Scripture, let us accept whatever it teaches. This is not to imply that we should not examine every word in that text to see what its meaning is; indeed, the belief in the inspiration of Scripture forces us to work to understand what that revelation is saying. But, when those words are clearly understood, they must be accepted as the truth, without regard to what modern philosophers and scientists may assert.