Here we are embarking on a sermon series on Genesis 1 through 11, which we hope to complete by Advent, of this year preferably, and of course we begin where the Bible begins, the Creation story. This first chapter is a source of great controversy and even greater discussion within Church circles, so much being said and written on the themes of creation and evolution, and here I am to say and write more. But because the Canadian landscape is inundated with evolutionary theory and because we see the Bible as the Word of God we do need to figure out what to think and how to move forward as people of faith in an often zealously secular world. To make my task easier (and the sermon shorter) I have decided to form the sermon based on one question: “If I had a limited amount of time, such as the length of a sermon, er, rather the ideal length of a sermon, to tell my three boys all I can about creation, evolution, and Genesis 1, what would I tell them?” This is an important question as my boys will be facing much promotion of evolution in the education system in the years to come even as their parents nurture them in the Christian faith. Furthermore, the day may come when they go on to further education, travelling further into fields of expertise I have never wandered into, and moving further away from our presence than my wife and I would like. What would a concerned father teach his children in short time on such an important topic that will help them navigate such a secular world with faith intact?
First, approaching things from the educational standpoint, I would tell them that it is important to define what is meant by evolution. If by evolution we mean a belief system, a conviction that things are evolving by chance or some mindless movement with ‘survival of the fittest’ as the dogma, then evolutionary theory is a contradiction to our faith and the education system is biased and in error if it presents such theory as fact. Even if I were not a Christian, I would find the ‘survival of the species’ quirky as we all know that our existence depends not just on our own survival as a species, but on the survival of entire systems.
But do I want to send my children to school with a distrust of science? Absolutely not. Thankfully I don’t need to. If, by evolution we mean a process, well the Christian can hold an open, yet skeptical mind toward it, as any scientist might. Put another way, the Christian will never speak of animals adapting to their environment (as if by magic or their own will), but could conceivably speak of animals being adapted, or created for their environment, and not necessarily all at once. Many Christians hold to God creating through some process of evolution, and there are many versions of how that might look. I’d want my boys to feel free to hold an open mind to such, while also remembering that the theory of evolution is just that, a theory, and one with many holes in it to boot (go read Lee Strobel’s Case for a Creator boys!)
But what about what the Bible teaches about evolution? Approaching things from the faith standpoint, I’d tell my boys to read Genesis 1 for the purpose for which it was written, for theology. There are two primary ways of reading Genesis 1. You can visualise God as writing up the account of creation as an observer to what He had done, so basically an end-of-week report. Or you can visualise God writing up the account in a creative way so as to condense an incredible amount of information, most of which most people in most times and places could not comprehend (including ours methinks) into something that expresses what is most important for us to know, so basically a poem. And let us keep in mind that the most important thing to know is not ‘how it all came about’, but rather ‘to whom is our worship due’.
Now someone is going to jump up and down (hopefully not during the sermon!) and say “but if Genesis 1 is more poem than report, then it is not historical and shakes our faith in Biblical truth”. On this thought let me share a poem I wrote for an earlier blog about Genesis (which you can read in its entirety here):
In the beginning, my wife and I were single and didn’t know each other. Now my heart was formless and empty, but I met a girl.
And I said, “wow she’s cute” – the first day.
And she said . . . well, nothing, because she didn’t notice me – the second day.
I bought pens I didn’t need (she worked in a stationary store) – the third day.
And I said, “wanna go out?” and she gave me her number – the fourth day.
I picked her up, she fell for me – the fifth day.
We were married – the sixth day.
We now have three boys, a dog, two geckos and a house – the seventh day – and hardly a day of rest since!
This is a poem (though I confess it may not be a good one – I’m no poet), but the historical facts are clear. And the historical facts really happened though not in six literal days – but you likely figured that out. We sometimes think we either get historical truth or poetry, but sometimes in the Bible we get historical truth through poetry. And we should not forget that in the Bible we also often get historical truth through historical account and so shouldn’t go treating everything as poetry, the Scriptures are wonderfully convoluted! Which brings me back to the point of reading Genesis 1 for theology: no matter your take on Genesis 1, your theology will end up being the same. Whether you believe everything was created in six literal days, or that there was a long complex process that has been (thankfully!) condensed creatively for us, you end up learning the same truths about God, you end up with the same theology. This is why Genesis 1 exists, to teach us theology. To teach us that there is one God who is the Creator God, and who is a God of order, not chaos, and who is powerful, who exists outside of creation, and on and on we can go (sort of like my sermons).
As I think about my boys being nurtured with a faith in the Creator, a faith which they learn at home and through the church family, and what they will learn about scientific discoveries and theories at school, I hope they have open and active minds that will be able grow in all kinds of knowledge, but especially in their knowledge of their Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Far more important to me than whether they turn out to believe God created everything in six literal days, or through some sort of long drawn out process (that may or may not resemble today’s idea of what evolution looks like), is that they know they are loved by their father who watched their birth, and their Heavenly Father who presided over the birth of all that is.