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Norm Baker Named 2019 Alumnus of the Year

Norm Baker Named 2019 Alumnus of the Year

“It was all for God’s glory!”

Norm Baker, adjunct faculty member in the Bible and Theology Department, was given the Calvary University (CU) Alumnus of the Year Award at the 2019 Commencement ceremony on May 11.

“It was all for God’s glory,” said Baker as he accepted the honor.

“You are what we all want to be,” said Dr. Christopher Cone, President of CU. “You have been trustworthy in the classroom, you have taught the word faithfully, and that’s all any of us are after. So, thank you for your example. Thank you for serving the Lord.”

Unfortunately for the students of CU, Baker has decided to retire. However, he will continue to serve the CU community with a pen.

“He has his next assignment,” said Dr. Cone, “which is to write for Calvary University Press and we’re very excited about that.”

CU Press is a new venture being developed this year. Dr. Mike Dodds will be stepping away from his familiar roles as Dean of the College and Department Chair for Ministry Studies, to become the first director of CU Press. He will continue to teach as a Professor of Ministry Studies. Baker has been asked to be a regular contributor to CU Press.

Baker was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1950. Soon after, his family moved across the country to upstate New York. As a young boy he enjoyed riding on trains with his father and grandfather who worked for the New York Central Railroad. His uncle owned a Christian book store, and Baker enjoyed browsing while having a popsicle. He speculates that this is where he first developed a love for books.

After his family moved to Aurora, Colorado, a few year later, Baker attended Aurora Central High School. His sister started going to the youth group at Aurora Bible Church. When she told him some cute girls were there, he decided to go with her. It was there that Baker heard the gospel message preached and received Christ as his personal Savior. Shortly after that, his parents rededicated their lives to Christ, and the Bakers started attending church as a family.

While in high school, Baker often heard evangelists and missionaries speak of the need to reach the lost for Christ. He dedicated his life to serve wherever God called him. His teachers encouraged him to go into an acting career because he loved drama. However, Baker sensed God leading him in a different direction, and after graduating from high school in 1967, he went to Frontier School of the Bible to prepare for overseas ministry.

During his time at Frontier, Baker heard about the work in Africa from missionaries with Gospel Missionary Union (now Avant Ministries). In 1971, he was accepted as a missionary with GMU to go to Mali, West Africa. During the missionary candidate training he met his future wife, Mary Alice, and they were married on September 18, 1971.

After raising support, they left for Switzerland to study French in April 1972 and then headed to Mali in July 1973. The next couple of years were spent learning the Bambara language and the culture. Baker particularly enjoyed hearing the Malian proverbs and stories that had been passed down verbally for many generations. He quickly developed a love and deep respect for the Bambara people.

Norm and Mary Alice served with Gospel Missionary Union for fifteen years. They raised their family of three sons and one daughter while living in the bush. Baker helped with church planting and discipleship training. He translated discipleship materials and assisted with a new revision of the Bambara Bible. During their last few years in Mali, Baker taught at the Mana Bible Institute, training Malian pastors and church leaders.

In 1986, Baker received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Calvary Bible College (CBC). He then served as the Missionary in Residence there from 1986 to 1987. He became the pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church where he served from 1987 to 1991. During that time Baker received his Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Theological Seminary. The Baker family then moved to Dallas, Texas, where Norm attended Dallas Theological Seminary and graduated with a Master of Theology degree in 1998. He also became the pastor of Stanley Bible Church in Overland Park, Kansas, in 1998, where he served for ten years.

In addition to pastoring, Baker taught Bible & Theology classes at Calvary from 2001 to 2005. He returned as an adjunct professor in January 2012, a total of twelve and a half years of service at Calvary. He has also enjoyed supporting CU’s theatre department as well as attending athletic events.

On the CU campus, Baker is fondly referred to as “Stormin’ Norman.” His love for studying and teaching the Word of God has been his life-long passion. He has had a sincere love for his students, as evidenced in his one-on-one interactions with them as he continues to disciple and prepare others for ministry. And, his students have returned that love. At Baker’s retirement party, student after student shared how much he has influenced their lives.

“Each one of these students,” Baker said, “helped me be a better teacher by their attitude in the classroom. That’s all I can say.”

The Alumnus of the Year award is given annually to a CU graduate who has shown faithfulness in ministry and has maintained a strong connection with the school in the years since graduation.

_____________________

Special thanks to Sara Klassen for compiling the biographical data for this article.

The Alumni of the Year Award was presented to Norm Baker at the 2019 Commencement ceremony on May 11. The award is given annually to a CU graduate who has shown faithfulness in ministry and has maintained a strong connection with the school in the years since graduation.

Norm Baker (top right) played a part in the 2018 Calvary University theatre production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Baker has enjoyed supporting the CU theatre department and attending athletic events in addition to his service in Calvary classrooms. 

“It was all for God’s glory,” said Norm Baker as he accepted the Alumni of the Year Award at the 2019 Commencement ceremony on May 11. 

The Theological Significance of a Literal Creation Account, Part 4

The Theological Significance of a Literal Creation Account, Part 4

How important is a literal creation account for one’s theology? If the creation account were not literally true, it was either just Moses’ conjecture or it was a myth he repeated. If what we read in Genesis 1–11 were not literally true, what difference would it make for us a Bible-believing Christians?

 

Other Doctrines 

Other doctrines under assault today, either through denial or distortion, are mentioned in the Creation account. For example, a literal Creation account is essential for an orthodox understanding of Angelology/Demonology – what we understand about Satan and his influence on people today.

  • Genesis 3:1a – “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said . . . ?”

Is there a literal enemy of our souls? The creation account says there is. He was a deceiver then and the other Scriptural authors and orthodox Christianity acknowledge the Creation account that “Satan is [still] alive and well on planet earth”—to use the title of a book by Hal Lindsey (Lindsey 1972).

  • John 8:44a – [Speaking to the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus says,] “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. . . .”
  • 2 Corinthians 11:3a – “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness . . . .”
  • Revelation 12:9a – “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world . . . .”

While there are many today who claim to be Christians but their actions demonstrate that they most likely are not, there are many who will fall to Satan’s deceptions today—true believers being deceived by Satan or people thinking they are practicing true Christianity but are merely following “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). For example, an Australia-based group, Christalignment, was in the news this year because of its marketing of “Destiny Cards”—tarot-like cards for “Christians.” On a website advertising their events they say . . . .

  • The Christalignment team, based in Melbourne, Australia are trained spiritual consultants, gifted in various modalities. We practice [sic] a form of supernatural healing that flows from the universal presence of the Christ spirit. We draw from the same divine energy of Christ, as ancient followers did and operate only out of the Third Heaven realm to gain insight and revelation (Christalignment 2019).

We must also acknowledge that a literal Creation account is essential for an orthodox understanding of three doctrines essential to our understanding of the Gospel: Hamartiology, Christology, and Soteriology – what we understand about Sin, the Savior, and Salvation—the Gospel message.

  • Genesis 3:4 – “The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”
  • Genesis 3:7 – “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.”
  • Genesis 3:15 – To the Serpent God said, “‘And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.’”
  • Genesis 3:21 – “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.”

With these three doctrines we have definitely moved beyond the 6-Days account of Creation, but we must briefly affirm that our conclusions concerning these areas of truth are grounded in a literal understanding of the Genesis record.

What Christianity has taught in these areas has been built upon the Genesis account. First, sin is real and a real person, Adam, committed the first sin which has forever poisoned all people from him on.

  • Romans 5:12–15 – “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.”

Not only does Genesis teach us about sin and its consequences, it also points us to the solution: a “seed” of the woman who will defeat Satan and the effect brought about by Satan’s deception of the humans. Throughout Scripture the emphasis upon the necessity for and the prophecy about another, literal “man” who will provide the solution to the human condition is affirmed with Creation account wording.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:21–22 – “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:45 – “So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”

In the last verse Paul is quoting from Gen 2:7. Man, people, have a problem which only another man, a perfect man—Jesus—can solve! Time hinders us from looking at the many other passages which quote and allude to the Creation account when speaking of these issues. And the discussion of these passages are predicated upon a literal understanding of Genesis.

There is so much more we could talk about but do not have the time. For example, we must include the Creation account when we seek to understand Pneumatology: what we understand about the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2 – the “Spirit God moving over the surface of the deep”).

We must study the Creation account when we want to think more fully about Soteriology/Sanctification specifically: what it means to “rest in the Lord” with a “Sabbath Rest” principle.

  • Exodus 20:8–11 – “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God . . . . For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.”
  • Hebrews 4:1, 5 – “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. . . . For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: ‘And God rested on the seventh day from all His works’”). 

And that leads us to a final area of doctrine to which the Creation account speaks: Eschatology—what we believe about what is to happen in the future.

  • Revelation 22:1–3 – “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him.”

The “new heaven and new earth” in eternity will be an Eden-like existence. But should this all be understood to be figurative or literal? Will the “tree of life” be literal? Will the “healing of the nations” be literal? Will our eternal bodies and Jesus all be literal? How we understand the Genesis account—literal or figurative—influences our conclusions about Eschatology.

Conclusion

So what’s the problem, theologically speaking, if the creation account were not literally true? Orthodox theological beliefs are predicated on a literal creation account.

I believe that Christians must ask and have a good answer for why they so readily believe and hold to a literal Creation account in some areas of their theology yet hesitate or totally disregard a literal account in other areas? And if the rejection of a literal Creation account has led us to some significant problems in other doctrines, when and how long will it take for a move away from a literal understanding affect all areas of theology? We are constantly being pressured by the enemies of our souls with the deception he used in the beginning: “Indeed, has God said . . . ?” (Genesis 3:1).

A literal Genesis needs to be preached—and all the theology it contains.

The younger generations especially are not believing in a literal Genesis, and this has great implications for the Church! May we preach and teach the Creation account as God communicated it to us—as a literal account of truth.

(This is a 4-Part series. See Parts 1, 2, & 3 here and here and here.)

Reference List

  • Christalignment. 2019. “Christalignment Readings.” Spiritual Events & Directory. Accessed February 7, 2019. https://spiritualeventsdirectory.com/listing/christalignment/.
  • Lindsey, Hal and Carole C. Carlson. 1972. Satan Is Alive and Well on Planet Earth. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

 

The Theological Significance of a Literal Creation Account, Part 3

The Theological Significance of a Literal Creation Account, Part 3

How important is a literal creation account for one’s theology? If the creation account were not literally true, it was either just Moses’ conjecture or it was a myth he repeated. If what we read in Genesis 1–11 were not literally true, what difference would it make for us a Bible-believing Christians?

 

Anthropology (Part 2)

 Next, God through Moses says that by creation men and women are designed to relate in unique ways. By creation our different sexual identities entail inherent destinies: men as males were created to relate (act) in the world and in relationships in ways unique from how God designed women to relate (act) in the world.

Of man, God said,

  • Genesis 2:15 – “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.
  • Genesis 2:18–19 – “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.”
  •  Genesis 2:23 – “The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’”
  •  Genesis 3:20 – “Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.”

 Man was created to initiate, oversee, order, and lead the accomplishment of God’s will in the world. Even after the Fall, Adam continued to bear the responsibility and authority in human relationships: “naming” rights indicate inherent authority over that which is named. And God created the woman to support and compete the man—she was not designed to be a “clone” of the man: doing all the same things man was designed to do. Rather, as the “suitable” “helper” woman was created to complement the man by doing different things that complemented the man and completed the image of God in people.

We are aware that many even in the Evangelical Church dismiss the Old Testament and the created ordering of human relationships described in Genesis 1–2 as a reflection of how people lived in a decidedly different world than ours. But even then one must wonder where the relational differences seen throughout history and all over the world came from—men and women in all cultures and all times have consistently related as described in Genesis 1—2.

As we look at other biblical authors writing in different times, we observe that they continued to affirm the Created intent for male—female relationships as described in Genesis 1–2.

  •  1 Corinthians 11:3, 7–9 – “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. . . . For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.”

 While the specific meaning of these verses is debated, it is obvious that Paul is basing his argument on a literal Creation account. And if those verses are not difficult enough, Paul clearly argues in 1 Timothy 2 for the unique relationships between men and women in the Church Age because of what he reads in the Creation account in Genesis.

  • 1 Timothy 2:12–14 – “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”

 The discussion in the church today about these verses in 1 Timothy seeks to understand Paul’s meaning by looking at the context of the church at Ephesus, at the culture of the Greco-Roman world, at the experiences of giftedness and “calling” that women claim to have for teaching and leadership, even at Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:28 (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”) as if those considerations should guide the understanding of what Paul was saying in 1 Timothy 2—how God wants men and women to relate together. But in employing this methodology for discovering Paul’s meaning here, they are using the same methodology as the Theistic Evolutionists do with scientific worldview and the Genesis account: reading and understanding what is says in the Bible through the “gird” of the current conclusions of science—the conclusions in contemporary culture. But Paul argues his position concerning proper male—female relationships in the Church from the understanding of a literal Creation account—to know how man and women should be relating in the Body of Christ, look to Genesis 1 and 2.

In 1 Timothy 2 Paul is arguing that the Genesis account taken literally reveals the proper ways for men and women to relate to each other in the Body of Christ. And when we depart from that understanding, we depart from an orthodox Anthropology.

Another significant area of anthropology we must observe from the Creation account in Genesis is that of marriage. While we could talk about the issue of same-sex marriage—and we must and can—I want to raise another topic which is not spoken of much anymore—because this is an issue the Church has long since moved away from the teaching of a literal Creation account. I am thinking of the nature of marriage: it is to be life-long; divorce was never a part of the Creation intent.

We read in Genesis 1 & 2 of a perfect relationship between men and women, and specifically, men and women in the child-producing relationship of marriage (meaning, “be fruitful and multiply”). By Creation, God intends husbands and wives to live a totally transparent relationship.

  • Genesis 2:24–25 – “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

While we debate Moses’ “decree of divorce” in Deuteronomy 24, it is obvious that Jesus saw in the Genesis 2 account God’s created intension of the life-long permanence to the marriage relationship. Matthew records that Jesus’ response to the question of the religious leaders concerning divorce went right to the Creation account; Mark’s account

  • Matthew 19:3–6 – “Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?’ And He answered and said, ‘Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.’”
  • Mark 10:2–9 – “Some Pharisees came up to Jesus, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. And He answered and said to them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.’ But Jesus said to them, Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.’”

In other words, Jesus is saying, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it for me. No need to even have a discussion of what Moses’ decree and the Jewish ‘exception’ means! It is all irrelevant to the question, for God ‘said’ in Creation that marriage should be life-long with no divorce.” I fear that the majority of Christians no longer hold to a literal understanding of the Genesis account on this point. Instead we lay our cultural context alongside the Bible and come out with less than what God said literally about the nature of marriage in the Creation account.

Before we leave Anthropology, we must think about “the elephant in the room” today—gender issues in light of the Creation account. A non-literal interpretation of what the text means when it says, “male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27) has led many “Christians” to flirt with acceptance of homosexuality, transgenderism, and any self-identification other than male or female. One example of this theological drift now moving into the Evangelical Church is the now annual “Revoice” conference held in St. Louis at a PCA Church with faculty from Covenant Seminary as some of the presenters. The purpose statement on the website for this year’s conference reads (Revoice 2019):

Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other gender and sexual minority Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.

  • Genesis 1:27 says that God created mankind as male and female—as only two different personhoods. To be created means to be inherently designed for a unique purpose. From cellular biology we learn that males and females are different not just by reproductive systems but all the way down to the cellular level—every cell in the body operates as a male or a female, and there are only two options for one’s sex and they cannot be changed by surgery.

In Genesis 2 and then affirmed throughout the rest of Scripture, God explains the unique roles / purposes that males and females were designed to accomplish as they image God in His Creation. It is “moronic” thinking to imagine that you could “exchange” your sex (cf. Romans 1:22–24).

Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man . . . . Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.

As Grudem has rightly observed in his book Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism? (2006), once you start changing the biblical roles of manhood and womanhood you are on the path to a gender-confused society—first feminism and emasculation, then homosexuality and transgenderism, then any perceived permutation of gender imaginable.

This is exactly what is happening in our world at an alarming speed. If pastors fail to teach the Creation truth that males and females are different—designed for different roles in Creation—then even the conservative church will, in time join the broader culture in this practical outworking of the rejection of a literal Creation account. When we fail to take the Creation account literally, our understanding of Anthropology becomes heterodox.

(This is a 4-Part series. See Parts 1, 2, & 4 here and here and here.)

Reference List

 Grudem, Wayne A. 2006. Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism? Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

 Revoice. 2019. “Revoice 2019.” Accessed February 7. 2019. https://revoice.us/.

 

Torah Scroll Given to Calvary University

Torah Scroll Given to Calvary University

Dr. Teddy Bitner, Chief Academic Officer of Calvary University (far left), and Dr. Gary Gromacki, Director of the PhD Program in Bible and Theology at CU (far right), holding the Torah scroll gifted to CU by Ken & Barb Larson (middle) of God’s Ancient Library, based in Minneapolis, MN. 

Pasul Torah scroll given to Calvary University by Ken and Barb Larson and God’s Ancient Library

On April 10, 2019, Dr. Teddy Bitner and Dr. Gary Gromacki from Calvary University received the gift of a pasul Torah scroll from Ken and Barb Larson and God’s Ancient Library. The word pasul means that the Torah is disqualified for use in the synagogue.

The Torah scroll is identified as written by Ashkenazi Jews which originated from Eastern Europe around 1900. It survived the Holocaust along with the Jews who brought it to Israel.

A blue stamp on the back of the last Deuteronomy panel discovered by Dr. Gromacki indicates that the Torah may have gone to Kiryat Shmonah (a town in northern Israel next to the Lebanon border). From there the Torah scroll went to the house of ben David in Jerusalem.

The scroll was purchased by Ken and Barb Larson and brought to the United States, and is now located at Calvary University in Kansas City.

Dr. Scott Carroll of the Manuscript Research Group gave several lectures about the Torah in Minneapolis, MN, during the gifting event.

Each Torah is written in unpointed Hebrew letters by a sofer on kosher animal skins (like calf or goat).  The sofer uses a quill from a kosher bird (either goose or turkey) and writes with black ink made from a special recipe.

There are 304,805 letters in a Torah. None of the Hebrew letters are permitted to touch. The words of every Torah are identical because they are copied exactly. Elongated Hebrew letters are used to justify the left margins in the columns.

Some stylistic ways of writing Hebrew in the Torah are found in the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15), the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4), the curses read from Mt. Ebal (Deuteronomy 27), and the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32).

The Torah given to CU is 97 feet long and 19 and a half inches high. It contains 52 panels with 196 columns. It was written by two individuals as indicated by a change of hand found at Leviticus 10:16b. The Torah will be used to help students learn Biblical Hebrew.

Other schools that received a gift of a Torah from the Larsons included: Cedarville University, Midwestern Seminary and Kuyper College.

The Torah scroll donated to CU last week was written by Ashkenazi Jews which originated from Eastern Europe around 1900. The Torah scroll survived the Holocaust along with the Jews who brought it to Israel.

Dr. Gary Gromacki, Director of the PhD Program in Bible and Theology at Calvary University, with Dr. Scott Carroll of the Manuscript Research Group. Dr. Carroll gave several lectures about the Torah during a Torah gifting event in Minneapolis, MN, last week. 

Drs. Teddy Bitner and Gary Gromacki, of Calvary University, examined several Torah scrolls last week when they traveled to Minneapolis, MN, to receive one of those scrolls as a gift to be housed permanently at CU. 

Calvary students got a first look at the scroll in the Bible and Theology assembly this week with Dr. Gary Gromacki, Director of the PhD Program in Bible and Theology at Calvary University. Dr. Gromacki said, “This scroll will not just sit in a glass case somewhere. It will be used to help students learn Biblical Hebrew.”

The Torah is written in unpointed Hebrew letters by a sofer on kosher animal skins (like calf or goat).  The sofer uses a quill from a kosher bird (either goose or turkey) and writes with black ink made from a special recipe.

The Theological Significance of a Literal Creation Account, Part 2

The Theological Significance of a Literal Creation Account, Part 2

How important is a literal creation account for one’s theology? If the creation account were not literally true, it was either just Moses’ conjecture or it was a myth he repeated. If what we read in Genesis 1–11 were not literally true, what difference would it make for us a Bible-believing Christians?

 

Theology Proper

Next, a literal Creation account is essential for an orthodox understanding of Theology Proper – what we understand about God.

  • Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

While the Bible reveals many things about God, it clearly reveals Him as the Creator, the direct causative agent that brought it all into existence.

  • Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”—and all the accompanying assertions that God was directly involved at each point of that activity listed in this chapter.
  • Genesis 2:4 – “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heaven.”
  • Genesis 14:19 – “and he blessed Abram, saying, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.’”
  • Genesis 14:22 – “But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath.”
  • Psalms 139:-13-14- “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.
  • Isaiah 40:26 – “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
  • Isaiah 40:28 – “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”
  • Isaiah 42:5 – “This is what God the LORD says—he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it.”
  • Isaiah 45:12 – “It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.”
  • Matthew 19:4 – “‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creatormade them male and female.”’”
  • 1Timothy 4:3–4 – “They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.”
  • Revelation 4:11 – “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
  • Revelation 10:6 – “And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, ‘There will be no more delay!’”

A straightforward reading of these verses indicates that the God of the Bible, the true “author” of all Scripture, actively created—He did not just create all matter with inherent properties to naturally develop on their own (deism-like); nor did He merely insert Himself at needed moments into the developing elements to ensure that it all continued toward the end He intended (theistic evolution). If God did not create it all, then someone is not telling us the whole truth: either the God who inspired the Bible or the authors who wrote the Bible.

These people talk as if Moses was substituting the word “God” for something he did not understand but knew that he should attribute all things to—God and His sovereignty. Sort of what people do when a cataclysmic event happens which we cannot explain—like an earthquake, tornado, or unexplainable event: “an act of God.” In this way of taking the wording “God created,” the word “God” is a euphemism for “natural evolutional processes” maybe created by God but He did not have direct involvement with—at least not much.

Constable (2019, 46) says in his commentary on Genesis 1 that . . .

 “Theistic evolution” attempts to blend Scripture and scientific theories. It holds that God ordered and directed the evolutionary process. This view fails to explain specific statements in the text of Scripture adequately; it accommodates the text to scientific theory.

 Anyone who believes that the words “God created” do not really mean what they say—that GOD created—are really believing on one level or another that to truly understand what the Bible means you have to lay the conclusions of science alongside the Bible in order to understand the true meaning of the text—exegete the Scriptures through the grid of scientific conclusion.

Were we to approach any other passage with the same method of interpretation, what would be the theological result? This methodology of interpretation yields doctrinal aberration.

The Bible says that God is the Creator of all that exists—that He spoke it into existence. The God of the Bible is the direct Creator of everything in the universe. And only a literal understanding of the Creation account yields orthodox Theology Proper. If God is not our creator, are we responsible to Him for how we live, for our choices? Are the new heavens and new earth be created by God or evolve into existence? When we pray, who or what do we hope will answer, will effect the supernatural change we seek? In fact, why pray if God did not really act at the beginning—why do we think He would act now?

 Anthropology (Part 1)

Third, a literal Creation account is essential for an orthodox understanding of Anthropology – what we understand about People.

  •  Genesis 1:26 – “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”

With the doctrine of Anthropology, we move onto one of the major battlefields today. And a person’s understanding of the information communicated in Genesis 1 affects their views of personhood, sexuality and gender, marriage, and the relationships between people.

To begin, God through Moses says that people are created unique from the rest of Creation—that people are special in God’s purposes. And the other authors of Scripture consistently echo mankind’s created uniqueness.

  • Genesis 9:1–7 –“And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man. As for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.”
  • James 3:8–10 – “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”

I am speaking to the choir here: we take highly and literally this aspect of God’s Creation—that people are unique by creation and must be treated that way, from conception (“creation”) to natural death. We argue for the sanctity of life in the debates about abortion and euthanasia precisely because we hold to a literal understanding of Creation.

And yet we are influenced by a world which has cast off this understanding of humans and human life. Even in the church, environmentalism is creeping in, especially among the young. People are considered to be equal in worth to the animals, and among radical environmentalists, people are lower than animals.

 Were the earth’s resources created to be stewarded by people or animals?

  • Genesis 2:10–15 “Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.  The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. . . . . Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.

God created us to be to be the good stewards of the earth’s resources. And God created man to use the earth’s resources to build a culture that would glorify God—the Creator.

In the development of his argument that the entire world is guilty of sin before God, the Apostle Paul in Romans 1 describes the world’s rejection of the God of Creation and the created truths about the uniqueness of people.

  • Romans 1:18–25 – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

Paul is arguing that the sinfulness of people is revealed when they reject the created uniqueness in their person—their imaging of God “bodily”—and they lower themselves to a mere “creature” level. As animal rights activist and PETA co-founder, Ingrid Newkirk, said, “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy” (1989). If humans are equal to animals, then we have no special right to rule and subdue creation for God’s glory.

Clearly Paul, in Romans 1:23, is echoing the wording of Genesis 1:26. He says that people in their rejection of truth “exchange” (to replace one thing for another) the glory of the incorruptible God for an “image” in the “form” of that which does not reflect God, even lowering themselves to the level of animals. The two Greek words Paul used here for “image” and “form” are the same two words in the LXX to describe the creation of people in the “image” and “likeness” of God. And the two words Paul used for God (“incorruptible,” afqartos) and man (”corruptible,” fqeirw), contrast “immortality” (the character of God, eternal) and mortality (earth-bound, existence-limited) (NIDNTT, s.v. “Destroy, fqeirw”).

The evolutionary, naturalistic understanding of people—an unbiblical anthropology which has “exchanged” the Genesis understanding with an earth and time-bound understanding—leads to personal ruin and God’s judgement. When we get worn down or otherwise discouraged from standing for a Creation-based anthropology, we will not only see the world’s values take hold more and more in the world, we will also see people in the church flirting more and more with worldly decisions about abortion, euthanasia, infanticide, and a naturalistic environmentalism.

The Genesis account taken literally reveals the unique place and role of people in God’s creation. When we depart from that understanding, we depart from an orthodox Anthropology.

(This is a 4-Part series. See Parts 1, 3, & 4 here and here and here.)

Reference List

Constable, Thomas L. 2019. Notes on Genesis 2019 Edition. Accessed January 31, 2019. https://planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/pdf/genesis.pdf.

Merkel, Friedmann. 1975. S.v. “Destroy, fqeirw.” The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 1. edited by Colin Brown, 467–470. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Newkirk, Ingrid. 1989. Quoted in Vogue, September 1, 1989. Accessed February 7, 2019. https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Ingrid_Newkirk.

The Theological Significance of a Literal Creation Account, Part 1

The Theological Significance of a Literal Creation Account, Part 1

How important is a literal creation account for one’s theology? If the creation account were not literally true, it was either just Moses’ conjecture or it was a myth he repeated. If what we read in Genesis 1–11 were not literally true, what difference would it make for us a Bible-believing Christians?

Self-professed evangelicals are increasingly saying, “It matters very little to the central tenants of the faith whether it is literally true or not.” While all evangelicals assert that God is the “Creator,” a surprising number of theologians downplay the theological significance of the Genesis creation account (Dunham, 2018).

For example, while agreeing that the biblical data favors young-earth creationism, Wayne Grudem argues that “both ‘Old Earth’ and ‘Young Earth’ theories are valid options for Christians who believe the Bible today” (Grudem 2000, 297). Another conservative theologian likewise suggests in his Systematic Theology that evangelicals need only affirm the truthfulness of Genesis 1–2 but are well-advised not to hold tightly to a position on the age of the earth (Culver 2013, 163). And Canadian astrophysicist and founder of the old-earth creationist organization Reasons to Believe, Hugh Ross, warningly insists that “many skeptics [i.e. unbelievers] who need solid evidence to resolve their doubts [i.e. about Christianity] remain untouched by the claims of Christ” because they see evangelical Christians as “nonthinkers or even as antiscience or anti-rational” (Ross 2015. 16–17). He means that those who hold to a literal understanding of the Creation account are keeping people from coming to faith in Christ because of that belief.

Is belief in a literal creation account all that important? So what’s the problem, theologically speaking, if the creation account were not literally true? What fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith stand or fall with a literal creation account?

Very coincidentally, Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL is conducting a conference that started on Wednesday and ends today entitled “The Doctrine of Creation: Theological Significance and Implications.” In an introductory blogpost about the conference, one of the leaders in the EFCA writes, “Specifically, we consider how affirming the truth of God’s creation affects us, human beings created in the imago Dei, the image of God, who are the culmination of God’s creation. The doctrine of creation is foundational not just for beginnings, but also for endings, and additionally for everything in between” (Strand 2019). As Ken Ham states it, “Genesis teaches us more than mere history, but not less than history. And the literal history is critical to what it teaches us about God, man, sin, marriage, etc. We must let God speak to us and not in any way allow fallible man’s ideas to be imposed on Scripture” (Ham 2014).

In a very summary fashion, I want to argue that belief in a literal Creation account is essential to our theological conclusions in several significant ways. Orthodox theological beliefs are predicated on a literal creation account. While I cannot touch on all the theological implications of the Creation account, I will touch on several categories of systematic theology which are affected by one’s understanding of the information recorded in the Genesis account of Creation. If we get our belief about Creation wrong, our fundamental beliefs in other areas will be seriously undermined.

 

Bibliology

 

First, a literal Creation account is essential for an orthodox understanding of Bibliology – what we understand about God’s Word.

2 Peter 1:20–21 (NASBU) – But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” [All Bible quotations are taken from the NASB-U]

We know that our understanding of Bibliology is the fundamental issue that will inform and guide all of our discussions on all aspects of truth. But my focus today is not upon the accuracy of the Manuscripts, questions about our definitions of Revelation and Inspiration, or even questions about what God did as described in the Creation account in Genesis. I speak on the assumption of the accuracy, inerrancy, and inspiration of God’s Word. If we do not begin with that approach to this (and indeed all) portion of God’s Word, then we “open doubt about the rest of the Word of God” (Ham 2014).

I want to focus upon the implications of a literal reading of the text of the Creation account. Peter’s words in 2 Peter 1 (“men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God”) declare that what God inspired the human authors to write about Creation is what God actually said happened. And this assertion applies first to Moses as he recorded the Creation account and then to the other authors in Scripture as they referred back to the Creation account.

To begin, Genesis 1, the recording of what God said to Moses about how creation happened, says that God created everything. And most particularly, it says that God created by speaking—God, through Moses, says that all that came into existence did so because He spoke and it appeared.

  • Genesis 1:3 – “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”
  • Genesis 1:6–7 – “Then God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, . . . and it was so.”
  • Genesis 1:9 – “Then God said, ‘Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear’; and it was so.”
  • Genesis 1:14–15 – “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, . . . and it was so.”
  • Genesis 1:20 – “Then God said, ‘Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth . . . .”
  • Genesis 1:24 – “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: . . . and it was so.”
  • Genesis 1:26, 30 – “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; . . . and it was so.”

I understand that some people want to insert great amounts of time between “God said” and the clause “and it was so.” But can we set that question aside for a moment and appreciate the import of the statement of the text? Did God “speak” and Creation occurred? Did Creation happen by divine decree—by fiat—or is the statement “then God said” just a euphemism Moses used to mean that God is sovereign over the processes of natural selection and genetic drift, for example?

To answer that question we can look at what the other Bible authors wrote. For example, the Psalmist (the Septuagint translators say it was David) praised God for His creative acts in nature (Constable 2019, 160) and said, “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:9).

The writer to the Hebrews (11:3) wrote, “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible”—meaning, out of matter.

We have expressions like “His word is as good as gold.” By this we mean that once some people say they will do something, we can count it as having been done—it will happen. In the Bible God asserts something even better: when He “says” something will happen, it IS done—right when He says it.

The Apostle Peter, writing of skeptics in his day who denied what the Christians had been asserting: that the resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus promised to return and that when He returned the prophesied judgments would occur. In his response to this skepticism, Peter declared that although world conditions do not seem to fit what people think they should be if Jesus were about to come back right now, God can make Jesus’ return happen in an instant, for just like He brought the universe into existence in an instant so too He can end it all in an instant: judgment will come when He just says the word.

For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:5–7).

The Apostle John writes in his Gospel account (1:1–3), “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” Why did John refer to Jesus as the “Word”? And why begin his Gospel with an obvious reference to creation: “In the beginning . . . “?

Ross helps us to understand the connection between Jesus being referred to in John 1 as “the Word” and the creation account (1988, 108). Writing of Genesis 1:3, Ross says, . . .

At the beginning of the account [of creation] the reader learns that the means of creation is the Word of God. The first verb [in verse 3], “and he said,” sets the tone for the emphasis throughout the chapter and the rest of the biblical revelation (Ps. 33:9; John 1:1–3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16). What God said in his creative decree makes the point more striking: “Let there be . . . and there was.” The verbs use here (yehî . . . wahî) are related to the holy name Yahweh, the great I Am. The use of these words suggests a significant word play: God, who in Exodus 3:14 is known as “I Am” (‘ehyeh explains Yahweh), says, “Let there be (ye), “and there was” (wayhî). It is not surprising, then, that John records that Jesus Christ is the Word of God, who created everything (John 1:3).

John is writing an account of the life of Jesus to demonstrate without a doubt that He was Yahweh of the Old Testament—The Creator of Genesis 1. This is important for Jesus as the Creator also spoke life into existence in the New Testament in His miracles.

For example, in John 4, John records the miracle of healing a “royal official’s” son who was close to death. The father asks Jesus to “come down and heal his son”—come back to his house in Capernaum where his son is. But instead of going with the father to heal the son, Jesus tells the father to “Go; your son lives” (4:49). By faith in Jesus’s promise, the father leaves to go home, and on the way he encounters one of his servants who had come to tell him that his son had gotten better. The text of John records that the father quickly asked the servant when the boy had shown signs of getting better—at what time. When the servant told him the time of day that the boy got better, John recorded, So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives; . . . “ (6:53). Being God, all Jesus needed to do to create life in that young boy was to speak and it existed—that’s John’s point! Believe that when Jesus, God incarnate, says something will happen, then it happens—with no time delay!

In fact, all of Jesus’ miracles were instantaneous—they happened when He spoke. None included a process of change over time.

Moses and other writers of Scripture believed that God created by “speaking” it into existence. That is the only conclusion that can be made using a normative hermeneutic as we read Genesis 1. To believe that another mechanism for how creation happened—other than by the fiat and instantaneous decree of God—is to deny the plain statements of Scripture.

If the plain, literal meaning of “God said . . . and it was so” is not what Moses meant, then how can we trust what Moses wrote about other things he recorded in Genesis? And even more importantly, how can we trust that what God said to any of the authors of Scripture is literally true if what He said to Moses here is not to be taken literally? Our understanding concerning Bibliology—what we understand about God’s Word—stands strong or totters and falls if what Moses wrote is not literally true.

Note: This is Part 1 of a 4-Part series. Presented to the Christian Leaders’ Conference at Calvary University, February 8, 2019, by Dr. Michel L. Dodds

 

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Reference List

Christalignment. 2019. “Christalignment Readings.” Spiritual Events & Directory. Accessed February 7, 2019. https://spiritualeventsdirectory.com/listing/christalignment/.

Constable, Thomas L. 2019. Notes on Psalms 2019 Edition. Accessed January 31, 2019. https://planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/pdf/psalms.pdf.

Culver, Robert Duncan. 2013. Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical. Fearn, Tain, Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications.

Dunham, Kyle. 2018. “The Importance of Biblical Creationism for Theology.” DBTS Blog, 28 Nov 2018. Accessed 19 January 2019. http://www.dbts.edu/2018/11/28/the-importance-of-biblical-creationism-for-theology/.

Grudem, Wayne A. 2000. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI Zondervan.

Ham, Ken. 2014. “The Ultimate Motivation of This Prominent Theologian?” Answers in Genesis, February 14, 2014. Accessed 26 January 2019. https://answersingenesis.org/creationism/old-earth/the-ultimate-motivation-of-this-prominent-theologian/.

Ross, Allen P. 1988. Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Ross, Hugh. 2015. A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy, 2md Expanded Edition. Covina, CA: RTB Press.

Strand, Greg. 2019. “The Doctrine of Creation: Theological Significance and Implications, Part 1.” EFCA Blog. January 4, 2019. Accessed 23 January 2019. https://www.efca.org/blog/understanding-scripture/doctrine-creation-theological-significance-and-implications-part-1.