Does Your Church Pass the Genesis Litmus Test?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Compromise on Genesis cuts the ground from beneath the Gospel.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

This article continues our answer to the question, "Is the doctrine of creation a litmus test of a church's attitude toward the Bible?"

The controversy over the interpretation of Genesis chapter one cannot be swept aside in order that the church may "get on with its work of proclaiming the Gospel," as some say must be the case. Compromise on Genesis cuts the ground from beneath the Gospel.1

Creation Is a Litmus Test

In previous articles we: 1.) established the principles of interpretation that Christians must use to establish the meaning of Genesis chapter one; 2.) established the only possible meaning that can be derived from the text by applying those principles; 3.) gave a brief overview of the sell-out to Darwinism that has occurred in many conservative churches. Having placed it in its proper setting, we now return to the main question: Is the doctrine of creation a litmus test of a church's attitude toward the Bible?

As we observed in an earlier article, many Evangelicals wonder why - or if - the meaning of the word "day" in Genesis chapter one should be a matter of such deep controversy. Are there not, they ask, far more vital issues at stake? Can we not overlook this one to keep the peace? Isn't this controversy an obstacle to the accomplishment of the church's real work, the preaching of the Gospel?

Those who ask such questions reveal that they do not understand what is at stake: the foundations of the Gospel. Evangelicalism's increasingly dismissive attitude toward grammatical-historical interpretation of the Bible endangers much more than the doctrine of creation. It endangers accurate proclamation of the Gospel itself. In fact, it endangers proper understanding of the entire system of Bible doctrine.

Inconsistent Christians

Some readers will dismiss the last paragraph as a set of unfounded sweeping statements. But the Bible will not let you off the hook so easily.

It is true that it is not necessary to believe in creation of the heavens and the Earth, out of nothing, in six contiguous 24-hour days, in order to become a Christian. But if you do profess faith in Christ and still don't believe that, you are a grossly inconsistent Christian. We have demonstrated that the doctrine of creation is a key test case revealing the attitudes of individuals and churches toward the authority of Scripture and the proper approach to its interpretation. In our last article we cited examples of the sell-out to Darwinism from the last 120 years of church history.

The evidence points us to an easily demonstrated, very disturbing conclusion: If Christians follow the lead of many respected pastors and teachers who have applied flawed methods of interpretation to Genesis, and Christians apply those methods to the Bible as a whole, then no doctrine is safe from radical revision.

The doctrine that is always the first to fall prey to such revisionism is the Gospel itself.

A Simple Test for Every Believer

The doctrine of creation is a litmus test. The test is simple: Will you believe what God has written in its plainly-understood sense, or will you say, with the serpent in the Garden, "Has God really said?" Will you believe the Word of God, and bring every thought captive to it, or must you first pass God's Word through man-made filters - principally the judgment of unbelievers whose theories about origins reflect, at their core, an unwillingness to acknowledge God as Creator and thus open the door to His claims upon them as His creatures? In John 5:40, Jesus said to the Jews what is also true of these unbelievers: "But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life."

In that same passage, Jesus tells them: "If you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?" The issue at that moment in the Gospel account was not the doctrine of creation, but the principle Jesus stated still applies. We are grossly inconsistent if we say that we believe the words of God the Son in the New Testament, but do not believe the words of His inspired penmen in the Old. If we do not trust Moses' words in Genesis given under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, how can we say that we trust the words of God made flesh? Where do we draw such a dividing line, and who gives us the right to draw it? Many post-Darwinian Evangelicals presume to have that right, but the God of the Bible does not grant it to them.

A Rigorous Test for the Pastor-Teacher

For the pastor or teacher, the test posed by the doctrine of creation is more rigorous: Will you be consistent in your attitude toward the Word of God from beginning to end, or will you lead those under your care into the swamp of equivocation? Are you willing to take a stand that is contrary to the false wisdom of this world, and thus be identified with the One who said in the same passage we cited above, "I do not receive honor from men"? Are you willing to be such an example to the people of God, by exposing yourself to the criticism of the world? And, have you armed yourself to answer such criticism? Sadly, many contemporary pastors and teachers will not and do not. And what is the result? They and their churches fail to bear a clear testimony to the authority of the Word of God, both to their own members and to the outside world, and compromise of the Gospel begins.

Compromise on the doctrine of creation is a surrender to the presuppositions of the Darwinian mindset, and a surrender to un-Biblical (and therefore invalid) principles for interpreting Scripture. The controversy over the interpretation of Genesis chapter one cannot be swept aside in order that the church may get on with its work of proclaiming the Gospel, as some say must be the case. Compromise on Genesis cuts the ground from beneath the Gospel. It undermines any attempt to proclaim the Bible as the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God; man as fallen and in need of redemption; and Christ as the only Savior from sin. A consistently naturalistic approach makes it impossible to believe in Jesus' and therefore the believer's resurrection - and that is where the thinking of so many has ended up. The doctrine of creation is not only a litmus test of a church's attitude toward the Bible. It is a litmus test of a church's ability to credibly proclaim the one true Gospel.

Does your church - do you personally - pass the test?

Next - Needed: A Change of Mind


1. Some of the material in this article is adapted from Christianity and Neo-Liberalism (Unicoi, Tennessee: The Trinity Foundation, 2004) by TeachingTheWord president Paul M. Elliott.


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