LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–God’s truth is a unified and comprehensive unity, testifying to God as the Author of all truth. These truths — revealed in the Bible and through nature itself — are neither at odds with each other nor incapable of being understood as God intended.
Questions related to the how of God’s work of creation are still shrouded in mystery. How can something be made out of nothing? This question demonstrates the limitation of human understanding, but of this we can be certain: There is a complete and wholesome harmony between scriptural truth and the truths of creation, properly understood. All truth is God’s truth.
An urgent consideration enters the picture at this point. To cut to the chase, historicity now becomes the major player in this interpretive game. Meaning what? Meaning that if theologians or scientists deny the historical truth of the Genesis creation account, then human speculation assumes the position of authority.
In essence, those who deny the historicity of the biblical creation account assert that the Scriptures aren’t clear enough about particular creation matters, or worse, that they aren’t accurate in all they assert. To borrow from the apostle Paul — may it never be!
Make no mistake about it, the creation narrative of Genesis is both factual and reliable. There is no compromise of historical integrity in its claims of history nor its representation of the physical world. Nevertheless, Moses’ elegant description of creation isn’t linked directly either to the methodologies utilized by secular historians or to the experimental method prized by scientists. Nevertheless, claims to space-time history are sufficiently and factually sketched out for us both in terms of accuracy and quantity of detail.
Those who would deny the historical integrity of the biblical account reclassify the biblical texts as myth, saga, fable, legend or some other literary form. All of these conjured descriptions are thoroughly insufficient as ways to approach the character of Genesis as the Word of God. Furthermore, we must trace the impact of such biblical subversions upon the scope of redemptive history.
When this point of view becomes one’s operative assumption, the clarity and trustworthiness of the creation account is seen as crucial to the proper understanding and interpretation of Genesis 3-11. While descriptions of these events suffer at the hands of skeptical thinkers and moderate-to-liberal interpreters, the long history of Genesis studies numbers legions of followers advocating a “they-really-happened” approach as well. This is where the faithful church is found.
Were Adam and Eve specially created as the first human pair? Absolutely. The text of Genesis 1:26-28 clearly upholds this interpretation. Imagine for a moment when Adam, then Eve next, each opened their eyes to existence itself for the first time. What kinds of thoughts and feelings would have been rushing through them? It’s impossible to know, but no other human beings have ever experienced such an awesome state of affairs.
The unity of the human race — all the progeny of Adam and Eve — is unequivocally taught in Acts 17:26, Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. And it almost goes without saying that to posit a direct creation of Adam and Eve is to reject outright any conception of theistic evolution.
Was there a literal historical fall, a fall caused by the disobedience of Adam and Eve to God’s command not to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Yes, because to interpret the meaning of Genesis 3 allegorically, as opposed to historically, is to disregard the very entrance of sin into the world by means of human culpability. And the rest of the story, as we know, tells us how the entire human race was plunged into sin and ruin by our first parents’ mutual sin against God.
If you picture our world as it is now with all its cultural and technological trappings stripped from our immediate presence, then it’s not so difficult to picture, in contrast, a sinless pre-fall world wherein sinless existence was the order of the day — sheer existence in God’s presence with a simple test of obedience facing Adam and Eve; a test they failed willfully despite the tempting wiles of Satan.
A global flood wrought by God as punishment for a world wicked beyond imagining, with only eight persons surviving the floodwaters by living on a gargantuan ark for roughly a year? A tower built to reach the heavens, its construction interrupted permanently by a God who transformed a postdiluvian world’s single language into many to scatter them across the face of the globe? Abram, son of Terah, chosen by God to bless every nation and family of the earth through the Messiah to come? Each and every one a historical event.
As John MacArthur puts it, “All sorts of theological mischief ensues when we reject or compromise the literal truth of the biblical account of creation and the fall of Adam.” As a true statement, MacArthur’s insight serves ably as the historical starting point for true and responsible creationist theologies.
Ostrander is associate dean and associate professor of Christian theology at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.