"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." The first words of Genesis make no bones about the writer's beliefs on the origins of everything. Various Christian denominations over the centuries, however, have superimposed their own interpretations on this basic Biblical text. The result is a cacophony of Christian beliefs on creation and the Creator that divides the church into competing camps of literalists, who believe in the absolute inerrancy of the Biblical record, and progressives or liberals, who allow for a more metaphorical interpretation and mesh the Genesis creation with evolutionary claims in many different ways.
Although most Christian churches agree on the commonality of God as the ultimate causal agent in the origins of Earth, the universe and everything in it, the Institute for Creation Research points out that the consistency of a Christian's worldview regarding matters of faith and life depends heavily on what the person believes about creation. "Are we here as God's stewards of life and the Earth, with the ministry of pointing mankind back to Him?" Or, "Are we the mere products of nature, with only personal satisfaction, survival and reproduction mattering?"
An honest assessment of Christian beliefs on creation and the Creator must recognize that the Christian worldview rests on the assumption of God as the author of creation and the Genesis account as an accurate record of how He did it. Foundational to the Christian faith is that God existed in the beginning and is the cause and source of everything. Christians' assurance of this truth comes from a conviction that He has told them so in His Word, the Bible. Christians hold that an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, ever-present, good and perfect God is the source of all the information in the Bible and therefore consider it reliable, accurate and trustworthy in all that it records.
For Christians, what the Bible says is true because it comes from the Creator Himself, who cannot lie, although adherents of different interpretations of Biblical facts argue whether the recorded truth is literal or symbolic or a combination of both. Nonetheless, on these assumptions rest the logic of every other doctrine of the faith.
The Creator of Genesis
Although Genesis does not explicitly teach the doctrine of the Trinity of God, which is found in the creed of most Christian churches, an examination of the connotations of the original Hebrew text shows that it lays a foundation for what would later be revealed about the nature of God. Christians believe that Moses wrote the account of Genesis under divine inspiration, accounting for understandings of the text that were beyond the knowledge of the time. He refers to God as "Elohim," a plural noun in the Hebrew that refers to singular things, implying that the person is simultaneously one but more than one, a mystery not fully understood even by Christians.
Creation Ministries International explains that the use of this term for God shows that God defines Himself as containing "a plurality of powers, attributes and personhood." Genesis 1 recounts God creating everything by the spoken word. John 1:1 reveals that this Word [Logos] was Jesus, placing Jesus present at the moment of creation in equality with God. Colossians 1:16 confirms that "by Him [Jesus Christ, the Son of God] all things were created." Furthermore, Genesis 1:2 records, "the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters," which places the Holy Spirit into the mix of those present at, and overseeing, the orderly establishment and control of creation.
Age of the Earth
Christians debate amongst themselves and with scientists over the question of a young or old Earth. According to Answers in Genesis, not many before the 1700s believed in an old Earth and most Christian and secular calculations dated the origins of Earth at approximately between 3,600 to 5,500 B.C. Old Earth theories arose from the work of those such as Comte de Buffon, Pièrre LaPlace, Jean Lamarck and others who dated Earth at anywhere from an indefinite period of "long ages" to 75,000 years to Lord Kelvin's theory of perhaps up to 100 million years.
One key question in the debate is just how long a "'day" in Genesis was. Young Earth proponents tend to adhere to a strictly literal 24-hour day, while Old Earthers defend the idea that a "day" represents an age of time, perhaps thousands or millions of years, to account for evolutionary processes. Creation Ministries International explains that the Hebrew word for "day" used in the text is "yôm," defined in Genesis 1:5 as one cycle of night and day. They point out that if God had intended to indicate longer time periods, there are other Hebrew constructions that would better have served this purpose. Since He did not, they argue, He meant a single 24-hour period, which in conjunction with the genealogies and date clues listed in Genesis and throughout the Old and New Testaments limit the age of Earth to around 6,000 years.
Why It Matters to Christians
Creation Ministries International asserts that the only place to fit in "millions of years" is before the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2, but that this creates an untenable conflict with the account in Genesis 1. The problem arises because the fossil record is a record of death, suffering and disease, which in the "long ages" theory had to occur before Adam and Eve sinned and had to be present when God declared His creation "good." The Bible clearly teaches in Romans 5:12,"through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." So Christians believe that a good and perfect God would not look at all that death and destruction and call it, "very good." (Genesis 1:31)
The Institute for Creation Research points out that if death preceded sin, then death cannot be the penalty for sin, as Christians believe (Hebrews 9:22), and if you negate the penalty, then Jesus' death was not necessary and there is no forgiveness of sin nor necessity of salvation and no state of perfection to return to when Jesus returns as the Bible promises Christians that He will. So, for Christians, the importance of their beliefs about creation and their Creator is no trivial matter, but the foundation of every major doctrine of the faith, which in the words of Creation Ministries International "are like rivers that become deeper and broader as they flow from the initial watershed of Genesis."
- Bible Gateway: Genesis 1
- Creation Ministries International: Genesis Verse-by-Verse
- Creation Ministries International: The Missing Piece of the Puzzle
- Creation Ministries International: Genesis -- The Seedbed of All Christian Doctrine
- Answers in Genesis: New Answers Book 2
- Institute for Creation Research: Why Should a Christian Believe in Creation?
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