Why is Creation so Important to Creationists?

Why is the battle of creationists against evolutionists so intense? One might think it easy enough to accept that the Genesis creation accounts were written by an ancient, pre-scientific society as a poetical expression or as a reflection on the question: Why are things as they are?

But creationists take the historical integrity of the creation accounts quite seriously and defend them with enormous energy and tenacity. What explains such determination?

Michelangelo - Creation

Michelangelo – Creation

Inerrancy of the Bible

Inerrancy is a key concept in evangelicalism. This is not just the idea that the Bible is authoritative but that it is historically and scientifically accurate in every detail; any archaic, symbolic, or metaphorical understanding is unacceptable.

Genesis describes the creation of the earth and humanity in some detail, and the first man was created directly by God from the dirt. The most vocal creationists insist that the entire universe was created in six literal 24-hour days, as stated in Genesis.

The Uniqueness of Man and the Image of God

If the creation passages are not historical accounts, where does this leave humanity? We think of ourselves as unique—different from all the animals, but if we evolved from lower animals, then how are we different from them? This is disturbing to many Christians.

Genesis chapter 1 says,

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Genesis says we were specially created in God’s image so that we can rule over the animals. How can this be if we are nothing more than animals ourselves? How can we claim to be made in God’s image if there was no Adam?

Paul and Original Sin

These are both important issues to creationists, but I think the primary issue, eclipsing all others, is how the authority of Apostle Paul and the doctrine of original sin are affected if the Genesis accounts are not historical.

Paul wrote in Romans chapter 5,

If, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!…For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Paul seems to think that Adam was historical and that his disobedience caused the sinful ‘fall’ of humanity.  The doctrine of original sin is based on this passage, and it is of extreme importance to the entire doctrinal structure of many evangelicals.

If Adam was not a historical person, it calls into question Paul’s authority in this and everything else he says. It also destroys the basis for the doctrine of original sin and all the theology built around it.

This is no small thing. In fact, it was this very issue that brought on my spiritual crisis and my grieving the loss of God for more than a year.

What are the Consequences of Evolution for Christians?

The overwhelming evidence for evolution means that we need to realize that the Genesis accounts are not historical and reconsider what it means to be in God’s image and whether our doctrine of original sin is valid. However, it does not mean that our faith in Jesus is in jeopardy; I and many other Christians who have struggled with this issue can attest to that!

Next time we will consider whether an evolutionary Adam provides a middle way between creationism and evolution.

Your observations and comments are welcome below.
If you enjoyed this or found it helpful, please sign up for updates in the column to the right (email, RSS, Facebook, or Twitter) so that you don’t miss future posts. Also consider sharing this post using the buttons below. Have a great day! ~Tim
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21 Responses to Why is Creation so Important to Creationists?

  1. Marc says:

    A few points for consideration Tim. First of all, marcro-evolution is not supported by the overwhelming evidence as you suggest. The weight of the scientific evidence available to us supports the old earth creation model much better. Second point is in regards to the creation of ever more complex life forms culminating in the creation of human beings. It is a revelation of our relationship to God. We create in a process of continuing refinement just like the One in whose image we are made. The last point would be to remember that human beings are tripartite, having a spirit, soul, and body. A hominid without a spirit is an animal that cannot transcend between the material and spiritual realms. Science cannot determine at what point God created Homo sapiens with a spirit, so historical Adam and Eve remain a reasonable probability.

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  2. Hi Marc, I know we disagree on macro-evolution; I think the evidence is persuasive and you do not. But can you clarify your understanding of old-earth creationism?

    There are two forms with which I am most familiar. The first is that there were creatures in the deep past, associated with the chaos of Genesis 1:2, that perhaps included dinosaurs; verse 3 then describes a new creation. The second suggests that God created each kind individually but did so over a long period of time, thus accounting for the progressive fossil record (this was my perspective for many years). Do either of these represent your old-earth view?

    You reference to the tri-partite constitution of humans involves the image of God, and I address that in the next two blog posts. I look forward to your comments there. Thanks!

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  3. Marc says:

    Hi Tim, The old earth creation model that I am familiar with accepts the scientific findings of astronomy, cosmology, geology, and paleontology. It accepts the date of the cosmos as c13.7 billion years, and the earth as c4.6 billions years. It accepts the creative sequence of Genesis, but views the days of creation as figurative times relative to the creative activities of God. A couple of good websites that articulate this model quite well are: reasons.org and godandscience.org.

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  4. I would challenge your assumption that there is “overwhelming evidence for evolution”. There is a lot of data and a lot of evidence but its interpretation is what is in question. There are many qualified scientists who believe that the evidence can equally (if not more accurately) be interpreted for creationism rather than evolution. If we know anything from the history of science is that many of the things we believe from science today we will be disbelieving in 100 years from now. Also, I wonder at your decision not to believe Paul, other than he does not concur with your beliefs. Personally I prefer to believe those who were closer to the primary source of the divine message, Jesus, rather than people of a later period. Paul claimed to have received his message directly from Jesus and his message was confirmed by the other apostles at that time. What is it about Paul that casts doubt in your mind? David

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    • Hi David,

      Thanks for your challenge. First of all, I agree with you that scientific consensus changes as new information and insights occur, so I am not married to the details of the evolutionary model. However, I cannot imagine that further information and insight will lead to the embrace of a creationist model patterned after the Genesis accounts.

      The reason I abandoned old-earth creationist interpretations of Genesis had nothing to do with evolution. Instead, I came to the conclusion that the Genesis creation accounts were not historical descriptions. I adopted evolution some time later as the most likely alternative based on the evidence. A third alternative would involve extra-terrestrial involvement, but that seems unlikely.

      My respect for Paul is enormous! However, I do Paul a disservice if I consider him infallible in every comment he makes. He does claim a direct encounter from Jesus, but I doubt that Jesus shared with him the intricacies of all truth. Paul was a man ahead of his time, but he was also a man of his time. He engaged the recent Jesus event and discovered profound ramifications that others seem to have missed. However, it would be unfair to burden Paul with the responsibility of 100% accuracy in every statement and opinion.

      You said, “There are many qualified scientists who believe that the evidence can equally (if not more accurately) be interpreted for creationism rather than evolution.” What are the major items you had in mind?

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  5. Pingback: Does an Evolutionary Adam Provide a Compromise between Evolution and Creation? | Jesus Without Baggage

  6. There are many aspects of the data that can appeal to alternate forms of explanation. For example, the information problem: how does information get added to the DNA to form a brand new creature. While we do see specialization and adaptation, it is not by the addition of data to the DNA but by the loss of information. The question is by what mechanism could such information be added to produce a man from a fish. There is also the fossil record where we see no transitional forms. We see animals just like we see today except for some culling of DNA data in the form of adaptation and specialization. We can also point to some biological structures that have high degree of dependency on each other and it is questionable how they could have all evolved separately yet together when being dependent on each other.

    The whole point is that both evolution and creationism are scientific theories and not facts. It seems wrong to me to judge the divine message based on a theory, especially a theory that searches for a solution to the data the explicitly excludes God. If we believe in God then why should we give credence to theories that seek to exclude him.

    Also, in regards to Paul, I do not mean to paint him as inerrant or possessing all knowledge, but when he speaks of the “full counsel of God” I believe that he received it directly from Jesus; a claim none of the other apostles challenged.

    Finally, if God did not create us then we truly have no purpose or destiny; we are the mere result of random chance and in now way imbued with divine rights and purposes by our creation. If God did not create us then why should we obey and love him?. We are not his and he has no right to demand our love and obedience. If God did not create us the why should we hope in a resurrection. Why should I trust in a god who could not, or cared not, to create us? Why should I trust him to provide us eternal life. If he did not create and breath life into us why should he, after hundreds of million years of silence and seeming inattention, all of a sudden appear claiming to someday animate our dead decayed bodies back to life?

    No, a God who did not create me is not a God I wish to love and to follow.

    David

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Hi David,

      Thanks for your response. You said, “It seems wrong to me to judge the divine message based on a theory, especially a theory that searches for a solution to the data that explicitly excludes God. If we believe in God then why should we give credence to theories that seek to exclude him?”

      Though there are those who think evolution replaces the need for God, this is not a necessary conclusion. In fact, since Darwin’s work there have always been believers, including leaders, who believed that God worked through evolution to create us as we are. Today, there are increasing numbers of them.

      Even so, I do not believe in God or love God because I think he created me. Rather, it is because Jesus tells me such wonderful things about the Father and his love. And I believe in the resurrection because of the fact of Jesus’ own resurrection. This is a sufficient indication to me that he can and will bring about our own resurrection. So I trust him. My entire faith is based on Jesus and not what the ancient Hebrews thought and wrote.

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  7. Pingback: Is the Bible Inerrant? | Jesus Without Baggage

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  10. Joy Felix says:

    It’s funny – it was while I was in China that I let this doctrine go. I was talking with a friend – a wonderful Christian guy who wanted to be a pastor and was surprised to discover he had never even considered the Creation narrative might be true. He seemed baffled that I would. He told me that it was obvious from the style that it must be poetry.

    I was a bit confused by that – but my knowledge of the characters wasn’t good enough to follow what he was referring to – as an Eastern Literature major, he had become a Christian through reading the Bible and had previously considered it Eastern Literature. “We tell stories like this all the time – the meaning is important not whether or not it is factual,” he told me, “I think you Americans are so busy trying to ‘prove’ Christianity that you miss the heart of it.”

    That resonated. For the next few years in China, I slowly stopped trying to prove Christianity and instead learned what it meant to be a Christian.

    The interesting thing was when I came back to the States briefly before we moved to Japan. This was again a big issue – people would immediately start trying to disprove the latest scientific evidence that came out – Ken Ham was huge and somehow…….I just never worried about it again. I understood that whether or not it was true didn’t really matter – the story and the meaning was the whole point. And that was freeing.

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    • Hi Joy, this is such a lovely story! It is wonderful what happens when we allow ourselves to see beyond our traditional thinking. I can really identify with your statement: “I slowly stopped trying to prove Christianity and instead learned what it meant to be a Christian.”

      Good for you! And good for all of us who have made a similar transition.

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  11. Laraine says:

    I think biblical inerrantists are so afraid to admit that certain parts of the bible may not be literal because if they do, then they are required to do some critical thinking which would probably lead them to a very frightening place that they are not ready to go to. In other worlds, it would take them out of their ‘comfort zone’ which we know can be very uncomfortable.

    As far as the part of Genesis about man having dominion over nature, my personal belief is that man was meant to have ‘power with’ instead of ‘power over’ the earth. In other words, we were meant to live in harmony with the creation. The ‘power over’ model, in my opinion, has led to man doing much harm and mistreatment to our world. No wonder the Indians were so angry with the white man trying to ‘conquer the land’ when they immigrated to America.

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  12. Laraine, I think you are absolutely right. If inerrantist were to admit to something inconsistent with their inerrancy, then they WILL have to think–and that is frightening. And uncomfortable (at first).

    If the Bible is God’s truth, then all we have to do is read it and understand what it means (though even inerrantist come up with a host of different understandings). Without an inerrant Bible, our certainties are shattered and we have to do real work with considerably ambiguous sources.

    I like your take on dominion over the earth! Thanks for your contribution.

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  13. Tiffani says:

    I just stumbled across your blog after you commented on RHE’s blog. You have a great set-up here, posts like this one tease me with a tough question (if evolution is true, what about the doctrine of original sin?) that you propose to answer in another post! Keeps me hooked. 🙂

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  14. Pingback: Adam and Eve vs. Adam and Steve | Jesus Without Baggage

  15. Pingback: What is the Significance of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection? | Jesus Without Baggage

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