Several of my young adult friends have messaged me recently with comments like, “I consider myself a Creationist because I believe that God created the earth. Why does it matter if He created it in seven literal contiguous 24-hour periods, or over millions of years? Either way, He created.”
It’s a good question and deserves a thoughtful answer.
1. The character of God
My first point has to do with the character of the God we worship. Some time ago, someone dear to me said she thought “severe” and” stern” were characteristics of God. I said to her, “I could never worship such a God. My God, though combining the attributes of justice and mercy, is never severe and stern.” And I could have added, “is never cruel.” What kind of a god would create through means of predation over millions of years? Surely not the God who notes the falling of a sparrow!
Romans 5:12 says that death entered our world through sin. The entrance of sin into Planet Earth is described in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and subsequently suffered its penalty—death. Now, instead of the clear biblical teaching that death was a result of humanity’s sin, revisionists are presenting death as a means through which God creates! Sounds like Satan, who is ever trying to misrepresent the character of God, has accomplished a double-whammy with this deception: 1. God creates through means of suffering, violence, catastrophe, and death; 2. Death is not the result of sin, but rather the means for an upward evolutionary trajectory. (It is unclear to me how evolutionists—theistic or otherwise—fit entropy into this allegedly upward trajectory.)
Before we begin the second point, let’s think about the character of God in terms of “creative process.” Suppose God did indeed create over millions of years. At what point in the process did moral consciousness evolve? At what point was humanity deemed morally responsible? And at what point in primordial history did God let us know that He is a God who cares and can be trusted? And even if we could establish a point in time when God “got around” to communicating His love to minds which could respond, whatever took Him so long? Again, the character of God is severely maligned in “deep time” theories.
2. The death of Jesus Christ
If humanity evolved through millennia and is ever improving, why would we need a Savior? There would be no need for a substitutionary atonement, alluded to in Genesis 3:15 and developed through the Old Testament, culminating with Christ’s death on the cross. If sin does not bring death (Romans 6:23) then we don’t need a Savior to take the death that should have been ours as a consequence of our sin. Accordingly, Christ’s death becomes nothing more than a mere moral influence, an example of love, rather than “the wages of sin.” The death of Christ on the cross is a Divine transaction; thus, it is the reconciliation accomplished by One outside of the stream of human history that saves us.
3. The sanctity of the Sabbath
If the Sabbath was not the seventh day of a literal creation week, what is the point of our observance of a literal anniversary of the creation event? If the creation week were not literal, the particular day we choose to observe as sacred time would be largely irrelevant.
4. The reliability of God’s word
Point four relates to how God acts in our world. If God cannot, or would not, “speak and it was so” (Psalm 33:9), why should I believe anything else He is said to have done, or will do? Can I trust that there is now a time of investigative judgment, followed by a millennial and executive phase of judgment? If God’s initial creative process is up for grabs, a process both John and Paul corroborate (1Timothy 2:13; John 1:1-3, 10), then I could, with consistently, also question a global flood, the virgin birth, and a literal resurrection.
5. The second coming of Jesus
The actual advent of our Lord, known as the Second Coming of Jesus. In Scripture, the historical events of Creation, a global flood, and the imminent return of Jesus are closely linked (2 Peter 3:3-5; Matthew 24:37-39). Under the evolutionary model, all things are progressing; in some evolutionary models, God is already within us—we need only find the god in ourselves. What would be the need of preparing for the advent of one who already resides as us? Additionally, if life is improving, why not just “wait it out”—why would we anticipate heaven? (Indeed, many Christians have already jettisoned the idea of God interrupting history with an imminent visible return in favor of humanistic efforts to improve society, thus emphasizing the present kingdom of grace over an increasingly de-emphasized kingdom of glory.)
6. The sanctity of marriage
Marriage! If God did not create the first man and woman, if God did not bless their partnership as companions and lovers and parents, then who’s to say what constitutes a marriage? Marriage then becomes whatever society currently declares it to be. It has no origins with God or with His initiating the institution and thus establishing a model (Matthew 19:4-5).
7. The three angels’ messages of revelation 14
The foundation of Seventh-day Adventism—the Three Angels’ Messages of Revelation 14. Revelation 14:7 gives us compelling reason to worship God: He is Creator of heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water. Notice the parallels between the language of the message of the first angel and the language of the fourth commandment. Thus God reminds a neo-Darwinian world that the seventh day Sabbath, the final judgment message, and a recent creation are inextricably linked.
I think the bottom line comes to this: Is the Bible the authoritative Word of God, or is it merely mythical, metaphorical poetry, or a text to be approached with reader-response criticism? Are Genesis 1-2; Exodus 20:8-11; Psalm 19:1-6; 33:6, 9; 104, and Hebrews 11:3 to be taken as literal accounts of God’s brief, recent, compassionate Creation work? Or do we “demythologize” Scripture simply because we cannot explain every mystery of God?
Back to the question, does it matter whether we believe that God created in the literal way described in Genesis 1-2, or whether He created in the way accommodationists reinterpret Genesis 1-2?
I submit that it makes all the difference in the universe!
I choose to enter a relationship with the One Who created me for fellowship (Ephesians 3:9), who is worthy of my respect and worship (Revelation 4:11), and in Whose very image I have been created (Genesis 1:27). This God has been with me every moment of my life. By faith, I sense His presence continually. How could I love, or enter a relationship with, a distant God Who allowed my ancestors to suffer through multiplied millennia of primeval ages?
The biblical doctrine of Creation (first things) and the biblical doctrine of Eschatology (last things) are the bookends that anchor the central (or “the center of”) biblical doctrine, Christology. With either bookend missing, the grand doctrine of soteriology (how we are saved) falls, and with it Adventism as a biblically-driven movement.
Cindy Tutsch is currently an Associate Director of the Ellen G. White Estate at the General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists in Silver Spring, MD. Her position includes promoting an enthusiasm and understanding for Ellen White among youth and young adults worldwide. She has been a featured speaker at cross-generational convocations in 61 countries on five continents. Dr. Tutsch has authored scores of articles and several books, including Ellen White on Leadership: Guidance for Those Who Influence Others. She is also the editor for Visionary, an on-line magazine for kids, and the author of 41 Bible Studies for Teens.