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Understand the difference between naturalism and creationism, and know the four approaches to Genesis.
I. Naturalism vs. Creationism
II. Four Approaches to Genesis
A. Recent Creation
B. Historical Creation
C. Framework Interpretation
D. Theistic Evolution
Course: A Guide to Christian Theology
This is the 12th lecture in the online series of lectures on a Guide to Christian Theology by Dr Breshears. Recommended Reading includes: Biblical References from the Course and Study Guides 1 – 39.
(Any slides, photos, study guides or outlines that the lecturer refers to should be down loaded separately. If they are not available, you may be able to find something similar using the Google© search engine.)
I. God Created the Heavens and Earth and All Things
Part of the Apostles Creed; I believe in the Father almighty, marker of heaven and earth. God created heaven and earth and all things is one of the foundational beliefs of our theology. This teaching is all throughout the Scriptures. For example, it’s in Hebrews 11:3, ‘by faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.’ This statement is at the beginning of Hebrews 11, a testimony of faith. The universe was created by the Word of God. Psalm 33:6 says the same kind of thing, ‘by the word of the LORD the heavens were made.’ 1st Corinthians 8 talks about this in verse 6: ‘for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.’ It is just everywhere.
II. The Naturalist View of Creation – There is No God
In Genesis 1 begins with a powerful phrase, ‘in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.’ No matter how you interpret this, God created everything. It is a beginning. One of my interests in regards to my studies was math and astrophysics. A hundred years ago in most universities, people would have said that the universe is about like it is now. This was called the steady state universe. I scientist by the name of Einstein came up with his general theory of relativity with amazing equations that predicted an expanding universe with a cosmological constant so that the universe would be steady, that is about the same all through eternity. So then, everyone except those who believed in the Bible, said that the universe was always been the way it is. That changed when the Hubble Telescope was put into space and discovered that everything is moving away from us. Thus it had to come from a single point of creation which they now call the Big Bang. In the 1960’s an astronomer by the name of Fred Hall declared that the universe had a beginning, a revolutionary change for scientists. People didn’t like this because it sounded like Biblical creation. So several decades following this, the idea of an oscillating universe where it expanses and then shrunk and then expanse and then shrunk thus people were able again to say it had no beginning. One of the problems with this, there isn’t enough matter to pull the universe back together. This conclusion came about in the mid 90’s and media talked about the dying universe. Now the current theory is called multiverse, not universe. There are many universes and our particular universe is emerging out of the sea of universes. This universe has developed to a point of being fine-tuned to the point we have life within it. But there is no evidence for any of this. Nothing whatsoever! People go in this direction because they don’t like the idea of a universe having a beginning. A beginning says creation and creation says God.
So the issue is evolution which is a form of naturalism with no God, no purpose, and no design and thus it is where everything can be explained by random application of presently operating natural law. This is the principle foundation of naturalism; those who deny God. But this just doesn’t work; there are endless problems associated with this. This is the opponent to Christianity; it is a scientism or an evolutionary idea which is really a world view and not a science. And so in naturalism, there is no God, there is not purpose, there is not design and everything is explained in terms of material interaction of random application of present operating natural law.
III. Different Views
A. Pantheism and the Organic World
Another view that is coming out of pantheism, an organic world view that states that this world is a living being and nothing is controlled by natural law. The earth is a living thing. But the Bible says that this universe is the creation of God that is based on mass energy, the laws of nature and had a beginning and it God who created it all. In the Doctrine of Creation, the universe had a beginning and this is foundational to Christianity and also to Judaism and Islam. Interestingly, science has come to a strong divide because of the facts. The creation of the universe is a product of God’s work and he is present in that creation, but creation is not God. This is evangelical theology.
B The Meaning of Days in Scripture
What are the days of Genesis chapter 1? There are major differences within evangelical theology over this. These are people who are committed to the inspiration of Scripture, committed to Jesus as Savior. But many disagree about the length of the day in Genesis and the age of the universe. The key issue outside the church should be on the fact of creation, not on the date of creation. Wherever you go: the school systems, university, public meetings, focus on the fact of creation verses naturalism or pantheism. It is easy to get sucked off into the arena in regards to the date of creation and any arguments we have, we will lose because the sources of authority are different. The fact of creation is the fundamental basis by which we can gain ground. This is the Apostles Creed, ‘I believe in the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. I think that the date is a lower level of importance.
IV. Four Approaches to Genesis
A. Recent Creation
One approach is called recent creation and the idea is that the days of Genesis 1 are twenty-four hours long, sequential days in which God began with nothing and ended up with humans on an earth and stars and moons and sunshine. All of this happened in six literal days and in looking closely at the Biblical ages it works out to be somewhere between 6,000 to 10,000 years ago or perhaps a little longer but not billions of years; thus we have a very young earth. The Bible clearly says, the evening and mornings which sound like twenty-four hours of which there are six of them and Adam and Even is the result of this. Those who believe in recent creation say to others that they are denying the authority of Scripture. This has to do with sin coming into the world with Adam and Eve who was supposed to live long lives but instead through this sin, death was created. The original earth was supposed to have been perfect but everything changes when sin came into the world.
B. Historical Creation
Another view classed as historical creationism is the idea that Genesis 1 is talking about God who created everything; who comes to an earth that is uninhabited and uncultivated and on the surface of the planet he created Eden for human habitation and he does this preparation in six literal sequential twenty-four hour days. There are already animals on this earth, already stars and moons in the heavens and that happens prior to verse 1 of Genesis, ‘in the beginning.’ Eden ends up a kind of temple where we worship and serve God.
C. The Literary Day Model
There is a third view is described in terms of a literary day model. It looks at Genesis as one and sees the six days as a framework and the Sabbath as a narrative way of telling the story of creation. The six days are just a literary framework; they are not a sequence of creation. So you have the heavens created and the stars and moon and the seas, fish and earth and then animals and humans. It is a narrative way of saying that God created things and he is the creator. It is neither a scientific statement nor a sequential statement. It is an image to see how God works.
D. Theistic Evolutionary View
A fourth view, what is called an old earth view and sometimes called theistic evolution which is an explosive term. The idea is the days are long periods of time, more or less sequential but not tied. Genesis is looked at more as a poetic statement than a narrative statement. It just refers to the fact that God did this with long days and used processes and not instant work or miracles and is often tied into the geological formations, stellar formations and biological evolutionary, but not naturalism. According to the lecturer, this is a creationist view but it gives more credence to science of origins and such, not science in the experimental sense. It would see the universe as being very old, some 13 billion years old, etc. There are many who hold this view.
V. In Conclusion
To sum this up: there are four basic views: recent creation, historic creation, literary framework creation and then old earth or theistic evolutionary creation. There are huge amounts of debate around all of these views. Currently this lecturer agrees with the idea of historical creation and thinks that this is a good way to look at it. There is more consistency with word meanings throughout the chapter that leads him to this conclusion. The days are sequential 24 hours days but the earth has already been created with animals already on it and stars and moon already in the heavens. It is the forming of Eden but not the forming of the universe that covers these six days.
The argument he is putting forward is that we should not crucify each other over this. The young earth enthusiasts think everyone is committing heresy in not believing that God created everything at the same time: Eden, Adam and Eve, the animals, plants etc. The Theistic Evolutionists think that the Young Earth Enthusiasts are crazy in their stand on a young earth.
1. What arguments does Dr. Breshears use against naturalism?
2. What approach to Genesis do you hold and why?
3. How do you treat other believers who hold to a different view of creation than you do?
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