I just returned from a filming trip with Dr. Marcus Ross. We met at the 50-acre Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tennessee. If you ever find yourself near there, it would be worth visiting. Although there are exhibits in many different areas, our interest was in the natural history section with full skeletons of very diverse creatures from T-Rex to Apatosaurus, from Pterosaurs to the Woolly Mammoth and Saber-Toothed Tigers.
Dr. Ross is a paleontologist who has focused his research on dinosaurs. So our purpose for this part of the documentary (Is Genesis History?) was to learn more about that fascinating world…a world that no longer exists. Peter refers to the pre-flood earth as “the world that then existed perished” (2 Peter 3:6) and that God “did not spare the ancient world” (2 Peter 2:5). Clearly, the world that existed before the Flood was very different form the world we live in today. As Dr. Steve Austin and Dr. Kurt Wise explained in earlier filming segments, our common Christian understanding that the Flood simply soaked the earth is all wrong. The crust of the earth broke open and with enormous magma eruptions and tsunami forces of unimaginable size, God essentially remade the surface of the earth…and most probably the atmosphere as well.
The old world was filled with huge creatures; strange creatures. They swam in the ocean, walked the earth, and flew in the skies. The Megalodon shark had a jaw opening of nearly 100 square feet and teeth that were 7 inches long. The “Loch Ness” monster of that world was the Mauisaurus with a neck that was 49 feet long. On land, the Apatosaurus had a tail that was 50 feet long and was likely used as a defense mechanism, not physically threatening, but it could be “cracked” like a bullwhip and create a deafening boom like a cannon. In the air flew the Pterosaurs. This was the exhibit that fascinated me the most, I guess because of my love for flying. The Pterosaur could fold its wings, somewhat like the F-18 on a carrier, but the pterosaur had hands at this bend, so on the ground they were a quadruped, walking on four “legs”. The conventional paradigm would say that they evolved from land dwellers, somehow growing wings and taking flight. Dr. Ross explained how the pterosaur, like every flying creature, had to have a special hollow bone structure and body and organ design in order to fly. This isn’t a land creature that evolved wings; it was built to fly from the ground up (pun intended).
We talked about the fossil record, how each “layer” has been used to show the evolution of life, but it can just as well show the order of communities of creatures that were swept up in the catastrophe of the flood, beginning with the low-lying marine creatures, and subsequently deposited in the enormous sedimentary layers that we find all over the earth…some layers, like the Redwall Limestone, are up to 800 feet thick. All of these layers are filled with the remains of creatures that were destroyed in the Flood. We walk on top of a literal grave yard. Everywhere.
But, of all we talked about, the complexity of the creatures from the bottom to the top, the grand diversity of life throughout the layers, the lack of evidence for evolutionary development…it was the reason for the destruction of life that ended up being the focus of our interview.
Dr. Ross pointed out that the evidence we have from that world is that is was an extremely violent one. We often think of the violence that seems to be escalating in our current world, but it was nothing to what the ancient world experienced. I had mistakenly thought that God destroyed the world because of the evil of man, and that is true. But Dr. Ross pointed out something very important.
So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them. Genesis 6:7
God didn’t just destroy man, but animals as well. Why did He do that?
We know that the Fall dropped the entire universe into a world of decay, but we are most familiar with the sin and evil that infected the human race. Indeed, it appears to have been rife:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5
But we also know that something happened to the animals. They were created herbivorous, but after the fall were carnivorous. The future hope is that the lion will lie down with the lamb and the cobra will not strike. This is a picture of the way animals were supposed to be. But just as the whole universe fell with Adam and is now groaning in its decay, so, too, did the animal kingdom. Ferocious creatures roamed the earth and swam in the oceans and flew in the skies. Dr. Ross talked about the teeth marks that are found on dinosaur bones.
It was a world and environment that allowed both plants and animals to live long and grow large, but they were infected with the savage disease of the Fall.
It was a world filled with abundant violence…both in man and beast.
And therefore God “wiped them all out”.
Understanding this is critical. Ignoring it is perilous. Peter refers to those who scoff at it, those who close their eyes to the evidence that is obvious...those who "willfully un-see". But he puts it in the context of judgment. If you ignore the judgment of God in the past, when He destroyed the world that then was, then you might think you can ignore the judgment that is coming. Peter mentions that the world was cleansed before with water and it will, in the future, be cleansed with fire.
In between, it was cleansed with blood…the blood of the Lamb.
If one ignores the judgments of God, one will not only ignore the notion of sin, but miss the entire “good news” of the Redemption and the Restoration.
All of this has been preserved for us in the bones...in the earth’s graveyard.
Look at them with wisdom and understanding.
“M ZEHS’F QJVNTAF NO MS E JXIMTMVNH ZED, QNF M QXIMXLX FAXJX’H HVUXFAMST VNF FAXJX FAEF IVVWH EKFXJ DVN. CELMC QXGWAEU”
“I WASN’T BROUGHT UP IN A RELIGIOUS WAY, BUT I BELIEVE THERE’S SOMETHING OUT THERE THAT LOOKS AFTER YOU.” DAVID BECKHAM
When I first read this quote from David Beckham, my thoughts went to how easy it is to be self-centered in everything. Even when something within us knows there is a God, we turn Him into someone who “looks after me”… a kind of “Genie-With-a-Beard” or a “Mommy-Divine”.
But as I pondered it further, I realized that there are many people in our culture who are no longer raised in a “religious way”. Yet, despite this, they still have that inward voice that knows the material world is not all there is. This is quite remarkable given that our culture is inundated with a science paradigm rooted deeply in naturalism, in which no evidence, no matter how strong, can ever point to anything outside of the natural box. And since academia, media, entertainment and the state are now also wedded to the same worldview philosophy, it is a testimony to the truth of Scripture that man still “knows” there is a God. Paul writes that it is “plain” to all men because God has “made it plain” to them through what He has made.
This is why David Beckham “knows” there is “something out there”.
But just “knowing” there is a God sits an infinite distance from “knowing Him”.
This is what Paul ran into while in Athens. They had lots of gods, but they had made an altar to one they labeled as “unknown”. This is where David Beckham is and millions of others in our culture. They know there is a God (though they may not admit it) but He is unknown to them.
And just as Paul took the time to get engaged with the Athenians so he might reveal to them this unknown God, so we, too, have a culture before us who knows but doesn’t.
We must build relationships with the David Beckhams around us and begin the delightful process of telling and showing them who the true God is.
I tremble writing this devotion of gazing upon the face of God, for I sense it could be the most important of all. J. I. Packer writes that the whole of the New Testament could be summed up under the heading “the Fatherhood of God” and that it is in this name that we find the “climax of the Bible”.
I fear my words are not capable of doing justice to this aspect of God’s nature. My prayer is that His spirit will make up for all that is lacking here.
When God introduced Himself to Moses, He gave him the name by which those under the Old Covenant were to primarily know Him: “the great I Am”… “Yahweh”. Appropriately, this Name focused our eyes upon the self-existence of God, his majesty and sovereignty, His holiness and purity, His utter transcendence and the absolute separation that existed between God and man. Nothing illustrated this more than the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest was allowed to enter once a year and then only after a thorough ritual cleansing. Moses was not permitted to see the face of God lest he die and was told to take off his sandals, for while Yahweh was present he was walking on holy ground. The Law, therefore, became central in the Old Covenant—a revelation and daily reminder of man’s inability to sufficiently purify himself before this Holy, Transcendent Yahweh. A personal relationship with God was not primarily in view here.
But under the New Covenant, something radically changed. God did not change, but because of the work of Christ, the relationship with God changed and the New now revealed what the Old held in the shadows. Not only is Christ unveiled, but through His propitiation, God has acted to make us His children and He, our Father. This title has become the primary name of God for those who are now in Christ Jesus.
In fact, under the Old Covenant, the Jews considered it blasphemous to call God “Father”. They wanted to kill Jesus for saying such. But now, under the New Covenant, the Scripture explodes with this name of God. Jesus teaches us to pray, addressing God as our ‘Father’: “Our Father, who is in heaven, holy is your name.” Notice that God has not changed. He is still “Holy”. But because of Christ, our relationship to Him has changed… radically.
The veil has been torn!
As we read in Hebrews, we have been granted to enter the holy place, through the veil, because of the work of Christ. But this is not just getting to go in to the holy place… we walk in there because we are a son or daughter of the great I AM.
We are even enjoined to come boldly before Him!
… and call Him Daddy!
And this is not because of anything we have done, but because of the grace of God and His act of adoption whereby we are now declared to be His children.
My daughter and her husband have adopted two special needs children from China. It was totally their doing, under the providence of God, of course. But the point is that adoption is not a mutual selection process. It was initiated by the parents-to-be, paid for by the parents-to-be (with the gracious help of others, I must add), the children were chosen by the parents-to-be, the parents-to-be went a long distance to take them to themselves, etc. There was nothing my now grandchildren did that was necessary in this process. They didn’t sign any papers, they weren’t consulted, they didn’t choose their parents-to-be, they didn’t pay anything—no down payment, no closing costs, no co-pay… they didn’t even have to say “I do”.
So too, is God’s sole action to adopt us into His family… given rights as sons and daughters… now a child who has the privilege to call the holy, transcendent, I Am, our Father.
By the way, have you ever noticed just how “family” all of this is? We now call Him Abba, Daddy, Father. He calls us “sons”, children. Jesus is not only called our brother, but He is also called the Bridegroom and we are called the Bride. These are “family” names… and that is what we are now.
Maybe there is a clue here as to why the enemy is so fiercely dedicated to destroy the family on earth: he is determined to destroy any relational meaning behind these precious words.
When we contemplate the immensity of what it means to have God as our Father, the implications are profound. We are rightly in awe of the grace extended to us for our salvation—the justification that comes to us through Christ’s sacrifice. But we too often fail to realize that the grace of God did not stop there, for He then extended that grace in His adoption of us. I suppose one could imagine that it might be possible to be justified but not adopted. This, unfortunately, is the unattainable lot of those who are trying to be justified by their own works. Not only do they fail to reach that level of holiness before God, but they are left with no way to then force their adoption. The Scripture makes it clear that adoption only comes to those who are justified through Christ… and Christ alone:
“No one comes to the Father, except through me.” (John 14;6)
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 3:26)
“But as many received Him [Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
“… God sent forth His Son… in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
“He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.” (Ephesians 1:5)
So if we try to justify ourselves, we not only fall short in that justification, but we are also left without the means of adoption to become God’s child… and He our Father. This is why, for those under Islam, there is nothing beyond the Law… no sense or assurance of any real relationship with God.
But the truth is that the grace of God both justifies and adopts. And it will be the grace of God that will one day restore us in the last resurrection.
So, we contemplate the unfathomable reality that God has made us His children and that He is therefore now our Father. This truth provokes within us our deep desire to now please Him in all we think and say and do. Not because of some “quid pro quo” or obligation to earn something from Him, but simply out of love for Him in response to what He lavished upon us.
“See how great a love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.” 1 John 3: 1
There is an extremely radical difference between the obedience of a child to their Father and the obedience of someone seeking to gain acceptance or even salvation by their works. The former is motivated by their deep love for the Father and carried out in the safety of His love for them; the latter is motivated by a fear of ultimate rejection and carried outside of the security of a “family” relationship with God.
How often do we fail to walk as a child of the King? How often do we take for granted the right that He has graciously given to us? Are our minds and hearts continually filled with an awe of this deep relationship that has been freely given to us? Are our thoughts and words and actions motivated by our eternal family position?
If we really believed that God was truly our Father, and we were really and truly His child… would it change our prayer life? Our Christian walk? Our attitudes?
May we, the “children of God”, come to an ever-deeper understanding and reverence of what it truly means to be given the right to call Him Abba, Father.
Verses to contemplate throughout the week:
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1
God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, Ephesians 1:5
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, John 1:12
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil… Hebrews 10:19-20
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26
For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.” And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. Hebrews 12:18-24
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, Galatians 1:3
Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Galatians 4:6
After the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked, “What have you given us?” His famous response was, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Most focus on the fact that the Founders had established a Republic—a point that needs to be continuously made. But seldom do we ponder seriously his wise admonition that it must be “kept”, for the reality is that in a fallen world, it requires toil and sweat to grow and maintain both crops and Republics. Just as weeds will take over an untended garden, so will the relentless tide of political and societal weeds destroy our liberty and freedom if we are not diligent to tend our Republican garden.
If one were to step back and assess the health of our nation today, it would be easy to bemoan what appears to be a loss of rational civility—witness the recent call by a congresswoman to personally and publicly harass anyone in the current administration. That call was immediately carried out as an administration’s family was harassed and refused service in a public restaurant. Personally, I am increasingly fearful of the unchecked hatred that is openly seething in the left—with absolutely no accountability from the blue media.
These are tenuous times for the Republic.
So what do we do to “keep” it?
Well, other than the obvious: prayer, which the Scripture calls us to, the number one task that we have is to insure that our children are well schooled in the principles of liberty and freedom, which I believe are biblical principles—God’s design for the state. And, we have a responsibility to speak of them to our neighbors.
“These are the things that you shall do: speak the truth to your neighbor...” Zecharaiah 8:16
And third, we need to speak of them in the public square. When you can, write an attractively winsome letter to the editor or use some other public forum to graciously speak the truth. There was a time when most of the nation understood these principles—but now they are no longer taught in our schools. Instead, political and societal weeds are sown in our children’s minds throughout all academia. Those weeds are sown continuously from every quarter as well—especially from the media and the morass of entertainment—the fountain from which teens consume 9 hours/day and adults six.
That’s a lot of weed seed.
Teach and promote the foundations. Resist the false notion that the “keepers” are the elected officials or the cleric.
We are the keepers of the Republic... if we can.
P.S! addendum. Facebook refused to let me "boost" this post (Facebook doesn't release posts to all followers of a page, charging a fee to "boost" it to more followers). They refused because it was "political". Here we are, ironically on the 4th of July, facing the increased hostility towards those who express opinions from a biblical or conservative perspective. I believe Facebook has the right to refuse service to anyone, but if they censor this one, which is so benign, what will they do when I speak directly against things I believe are biblically wrong? Take note, we are going to have to find other means to communicate with each other as Internet companies like Facebook and Google use their worldview leanings to only allow postings favorable to their worldview.
[The response to the “Is Genesis History?” film has been quite phenomenal, ranking No. 1 at the box office on the day of its release and was Fathom’s second highest grossing event of 2017. Because of this, it will be re-released in theaters on February 22. Therefore, I thought it would be of some value to talk about some of the issues that it raises. We will do this in a series of smaller chunks leading up to the release so that we don’t burn your eyes out. :) ]
When one comes to the “issues” surrounding science and the Bible, they almost always focus upon the different ways that one looks at the book of Genesis. Some ignore it as insignificant to the scientific discussion. Others feel it should be read and interpreted in the light of the conclusions of science. Another segment believes it is to be read as historical narrative and should therefore inform scientific inquiry as a valid witness to what really happened. Hence the title of the film: “Is Genesis History?”
As weak as it is to “classify” and “stereotype” people’s beliefs, it is of some value to recognize that there are fundamentally four competing views concerning the record of Genesis and therefore “origins”, for Genesis 1-11 deals primarily with the “beginning” of almost everything. Consider the list. Genesis makes claims for the beginning of all of these:
With such ubiquitous claims regarding the origin of everything, one's view of Genesis is quite important.
The four competing views are, in their traditional labels: atheistic and theistic evolution, old earth and young earth creation. I think those titles are not completely accurate or descriptive, so I will take the liberty to rename them as follows:
1. Secular (Atheistic) Evolution – deep time, evolution through natural processes, both atheistic and agnostic (secular) view
2. Deistic (Theistic) Evolution – deep time, evolution through natural processes, God exists and may have kick-started the evolutionary process
3. Deep Time (Old Earth) Creation – deep time, cosmic evolution, but life arose through the periodic creative acts of God along the standard evolutionary timeline
4. Historic (Young Earth) Creation – near time, God created everything according to the literal, historical Genesis account in six “evening and morning” days, resting from that work on the seventh
It is true that there are nuances and variations within each of these positions and even continuums that exist between them (i.e. the Gap Theory), but most people fall clearly into one of these four. With that caveat, let’s look more closely at each:
Secular Evolution – deep time, evolution through natural processes, atheistic or agnostic view.
This is obviously the most prominent position in our culture. It is the view presented in academia, media, museums, and our national parks, etc. This position is entirely naturalistic, believing that everything in the universe, including life forms, have come about as the result of slow evolutionary processes under no guidance, no intelligence, no purposive forces. Only naturalistic causes and effects are allowed to be considered within this perspective. Deep time is absolutely necessary to maintain the evolutionary position. This view rejects any divine or historical aspect of Genesis.
Deistic Evolution – deep time, evolution through natural processes, God exists and may have kick-started the evolutionary process.
This is the growing position represented primarily by BioLogos, where both evolution and the existence of God is embraced. God’s role in all of this is vague or unknown. I have often asked this question of my theistic evolutionist friends: “What is it that you find lacking in evolution theory for which you believe God must fill the gaps?” The answer has been consistent: “Why do you think that I find anything lacking in evolution?” This often leads one to wonder what the “theistic” part plays in this position and various answers are given, from none to getting life started to “guiding evolution in the background”. That is why I believe it is better labeled, as “Deistic Evolution” for God’s role is primarily one of creating the evolutionary process, winding it up and then letting it go. I'm not saying that the people in this group are "Deists" but that the view is deistic. This group accepts Genesis, but starts first with the conclusions of science and therefore must read the text in a different genre, usually myth or metaphor. This has deep implications. Accepting deep time and evolution is increasingly leading to the textual view that Adam and Eve are non-literal, most likely a "hominid group of about 10,000) that evolved to a state where the Genesis myth metaphorically labeled them as a man and woman. This is closely followed by a “spiritualization” of the fall and viewing the additional accounts in Genesis, like the Noahic Flood and the Tower of Babel, as more pieces in the Genesis metaphor and not to be read literally.
Deep Time Creation – deep time, cosmic evolution, but life arose through the periodic creative acts of God along the standard evolutionary timeline.
This position holds that God has been the creative force in bringing about life in its basic forms as we know it today. Deep time and the evolutionary timeline are assumed to be true and it therefore normally holds to a “cosmic evolution” regarding star, sun, planet, earth and elemental development. God periodically intervenes with creation acts (i.e. every 20 millions years per Hugh Ross) and the rise of life and its various forms through God’s creative work is matched to the standard deep time framework, including man, who arose millions of years ago. Because of this, and by necessity, the Genesis account is viewed as a combination of historical and metaphor or allegory, where the order is held loosely (the sun and stars evolved earlier, marine life earlier, etc.) and the “evening and morning, day ____” phrases are not literal, but symbolic, meaning instead vast periods of time.
This position includes many who are involved in the critical and excellent work of “Intelligent Design”, which is held by both Deep Time and Historic Creation positions, arguing that the presence of complex design in the universe points to the need of an “intelligent designer”. Some Deep Time Creationists hold this position without elaborating on Who that designer might be, while others openly state that the designer is the God of Genesis. Accepting deep time, which primarily comes from the rocks, necessitates that this position view the flood as not literal nor global, but a local flood, in order to maintain the deep time in the rocks.
Historic Creation - near time, God created everything according to the literal, historical Genesis account in six “evening and morning” days, resting from that work on the seventh.
This position holds that the universe and the earth were created and completed in the literal timeframe and order given (i.e. one literal week) in Genesis. It also accepts the literal understanding of a global flood in which “all the mountains of the earth were covered” and “all the animals that had the breath of life” were destroyed. As such, it concludes that the heavens and the earth are measured in thousands of years, not billions.
Now, I can almost guarantee that there will be some who will read this high-level classification and complain that their particular position is somewhat different than I have characterized. I accept your complaint! :) I believe, however, that if you study the primary authors and formal positions of these views, that these summations accurately portray what they believe and their approach to the Genesis text and the claims of science.
Next time, we will examine more deeply the contrast among these views and the line or "dichotomy" that we addressed in the film.