Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part I: In the Beginning
January 3, 2010
Main Point(s) of sermon:
· God created everything out of nothing and is not part of creation.
· He made it “good.”
· He made us in his image.
Objectives of sermon:
· Exult God as the sovereign creator of all things.
For further reading:
· Peralandra: A perspective on dominion
· Gen. 1-3
· Kyle’s commentary, Who was Adam?, Driscoll at -25:30
Scripture reading: Genesis 1:1-5
As we begin reading through your Word, help us find you and fall more in love with you. Help us find the hope that comes from the fact that you created us, and share that hope with others.
· Be with Aaron as he moves to Japan.
Q How has your Bible reading gone?
We have read through the first 5 chapters of Genesis, from the creation to the Fall to Cain and Able.
· Each week I will only focus on a part of the reading, this week the creation, Genesis 1.
This is arguably the most controversial chapter in the Bible. It may be the greatest stumbling block in modern times, to both naive Christians and skeptics
We look at it and ask questions like “How old is the earth? The Bible says God created the earth in 6 days, but science says the earth is 4.5 billion years old.” And, “Are science and religion compatible?” How reliable is the Bible?”
The ironic thing is these are not the questions in the original audience mind. These were the early Jews – they had grown up surrounded by Egyptian Gods and were largely ignorant about God.
· They had an entirely different question in mind: “Who is God? What is he like?”
Here is a key hermeneutical hint (I will try to give these as we go along): Try to read through their eyes.
· This passage is far more about the nature of God than the age of the earth.
Genesis was not written as a scientific book, but a theological on. As Galileo said, it was written not to tell us “how the heavens go but how to go to heaven.”
Yet if God has inspired the Bible, we would expect it to be accurate in everything it addresses. If the Bible is patently false in anything it diminishes the reliability of everything.
· We’ll try to answer the questions the Bible is answering while answering our own questions as well.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
This opening verse was controversial when it was written and still is today. All ancient Mediterranean cosmogonies start with verse two “the earth was void and formless” (a primordial chaos) and the gods arise out of chaos spontaneously.
· To my knowledge, this is the first place we begin with God and nothing else.
From this we have the doctrine of creation “ex nihilo,” creation out of nothing. In fact, the word “created” (Heb: bara’) in v.1 is important because it denotes making out of nothing.
In most places in Genesis, it says yasar, which means to shape from preexisting materials (NIV: make vrs. create). It is only used here at the beginning, when he creates living creatures, and when he creates humans.
· Ironically, this is less controversial now than 50 years ago: until the Big Bang theory, the universe was thought eternal.
God is outside of creation
Here in the first verse, we have several profound statements about who God is:
1. He exists: Denies atheism and that all this “just happened.”
2. He is not part of creation: Denies pantheism, that God is in and part of everything. He created it, so it bears his fingerprint, but he is separate from it.
3. There is one God: Denies polytheism, not a team of gods creating and fighting. Yet, in the next verse and John 1:3 we see the Trinitarian nature of God.
Who made God?
Let’s dabble in philosophy – Sarah has already asked me “who made God?” and people still ask that question. The ancients said, “They appeared” and moderns say “He is a myth.”
· The Bible says “He has always been, he is the uncaused cause and preexisting.”
The question betrays our lack of perspective. We look at the universe as our starting point. Actually, God is the starting point.
Don’t try to imagine what may have been before God, but imagine God as the entirety of everything. Then think of creation as almost an intrusion upon that reality, like a bottle adrift in the Pacific Ocean.
This universe and its entire history from start to finish is a blip is the eternal radiant glory of God that has always been and will always be. There’s your philosophy for the morning.
Yeah, but how old is the universe?
As we continue to verse 2, things only get more interesting, and controversial:
Genesis 1:2 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Regardless of the concerns of original audience, we are very much interested in how old the earth and the universe are. Among Christians, there are basically three perspective on how long God took creating the earth and how old the universe is:
1. Young-earth Creationism: The entire creation took a literal six days. They see Genesis 1:1 is a summary of the entire creation event in chapter 1. The universe is between 6,000-10,000 years old.
2. Old-earth Creationism: Genesis 1:1 explains events prior to the rest of chapter 1, meaning that the universe and earth were already quite old (about 14 billion years) by Genesis 1:2. There are two different types of OEC:
a. The days of 1:2-31 took a literal six days.
b. The days of 1:2-31 are in some manner figurative (longer or shorter), yet still a miraculous creation.
3. Theistic evolution: Genesis 1 is largely figurative and evolution is the process God used for creating everything.
Which of these is church’s position? “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” We don’t have an official position on how and when.
A variety of opinions are held by the elders, yet of each take the Bible very seriously and also believe that God could do any of them. We disagree on which one he did.
· This may come as a real shock to some – I saw a couple leave my last church because it wouldn’t take the YEC position.
Why? Because it is thought that these other views devalue Scripture. They may be so accustomed to the YEC perspective that they cannot imagine how the OEC could be Scriptural.
I myself lean towards #2b, but I could be wrong. Yet I could demonstrate why I believe this position to be very Biblically sound. But I won’t because I believe it is a big distraction.
· There are “open-handed issues” that we may disagree on and “close-handed issues” that we fight for; this is open handed.
Line in the sand
The age of the earth and God’s method for creating is a really bad place to draw our line in the sand, like the “Galileo Incident” when the Catholic Church made the sun circling the earth its issue. Christendom never recovered its credibility.
· It is certainly not the line Paul chose – he said that if Christ was not raised, then our faith is useless.
If you could irrefutably prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead (which you can’t because he did), I would give all this up and become a bar tender.
· If you were to irrefutably prove that macro evolution is true, I’d say, “That’s interesting” and keep preaching the Gospel.
What the Genesis count refutes is not evolution per se, but naturalistic evolution – the idea that everything came from nothing. This kind of evolution is more philosophy than science.
· It is flat out wrong to term it faith vrs. fact – there is little proof of macroevolution.
Micro-evolution (change within a type) is well accepted but there’s scant evidence for change from one thing to another.
· The “Long-term E. Coli experiment” has seen 40,000 generations (cf. 1.2 million years for humans), but they’re still E. Coli.
The spontaneous generate life has never been demonstrated. The fossil record contains few “transitional forms,”, as famous evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould admitted:
“The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.”
· My point isn’t to disprove macroevolution, but that it’s based on faith as well the belief in God as creator.
What we reject, as Christians is not science (nor are we afraid of it), but naturalistic, atheistic evolution. We reject naturalism, not science. We reject the idea that:
1. Nothing made everything
2. Chaos makes order
3. No designer designed this highly tuned universe
4. Impersonal matter make personal beings
But more than that, we reject the hopelessness of this faith system. If we were made by no one and have no purpose, then life has no meaning, just random pointlessness. Atheist Bertrand Russell said this:
[Our ideals are that man’s] origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave;
That all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction...
Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built. (A Free Man’s Worship by Bertrand Russell, paragraph 5)
Q Is this what you want your life built upon?
If we reject our Creator, who is good and made us in his image and for his purpose, the Russell is right – we are only left with the “foundation of unyielding disappear.”
· In answer to that, Genesis 1 teaches two important things:
1. God made man and woman in his image.
Genesis 1:26-28 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”
We have an identity – we are made in God’s image. We are special, unique from everything else. We have meaning and great worth to God.
We have a unique relationship with God – we walked with God and talked with him in the Garden. Through the rest of the Bible we will see God trying to reestablish that relationship.
We have a purpose – he’s given us something to do: be stewards of his creation and serve others as he has served us.
2. God made everything good (repeated seven times).
Genesis 1:31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning-- the sixth day.
· We’ll find out next week what went wrong.
So the four main “take home point” from Genesis 1:
1. God created everything from nothing.
2. God created humans in his image.
3. God made everything good.
4. This gives us great hope.
Q & A
Next week, you’ll be reading about the Flood, the Tower of Babel, and you’ll meet Abraham. The sermon will talk about God’s wrath, and how that is a good thing.
 Stephen Jay Gould, “Evolution’s Erratic Pace,” Natural History 86 (May 1987): 14.