As we begin a new year I am reminded of the very first beginning - year 1! Does the Bible have anything to say about it? The first book of the Bible is called "Genesis" from a Greek word for "birth", "origin", or "beginning". It opens with the famous words: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…" We have just finished celebrating the first Advent of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The Apostle John commences his Gospel with the words, "In the beginning was the Word…" and then tells us "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…" (John 1:1, 14), thus connecting the creation of all things by the Word in the beginning to the later time when that same Word became a creature to save us from sin.
Let me be plain about this. I believe that what the Bible teaches about the beginning of the world is very important. If Genesis, chapters 1-11 are legendary, mythological or merely poetic, then, logically, so is the gospel. I realize that many Christians who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ still have some reservations about taking the opening chapters of the Bible as completely historical. One of my favorite Christian authors is C. S. Lewis. Yet Lewis did not think that everything in Genesis 1-11 was historical. My impression is that he did take Adam and Eve as real characters who disobeyed God and plunged our race into sin and alienation from God but he accepted the general outline of natural history assumed by the proponents of Evolution. That is, he accepted that the world is on the order of billions of years old and that life developed slowly through a process of small, random changes and natural selection. Many Christians today assume God used the process of Evolution to develop life on earth. After all, Evolution has become the "scientific consensus" and who can argue with that?
So how does this supposedly scientific view affect the gospel? There are a number of ways it does so, and all adversely. The good news is founded, ultimately, upon the goodness of God. The Father sent the Son into the world to demonstrate God's love for us, even though we are sinners (Romans 5:6-8). If, however, life developed through a very long process of random mutations and extinctions of the "less fit", then God's goodness is very much brought into question. It flatly contradicts Genesis 1 which repeatedly says of God's creative acts that they were "good" and "very good". How can a process that involved untold suffering and death to countless organisms, including all the creatures that led to the origin of mankind possibly be called "good"? Moreover, the gospel tells us that suffering and death were introduced into the world by the sin of Adam (Genesis 3; Romans 5:12-14; 8:18-23; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). The theory of Evolution reverses that and says that suffering and death resulted in Adam! From being our "enemy" according to the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:26), Evolution transforms death into the source of all the good things we now enjoy: life, consciousness, intelligence, our own species' survival, etc. In fact, instead of God being the Creator, Evolution teaches that death is the creator of all the forms of life, for without death biological life would not have developed beyond the first simple organism.
The gospel says that the Creator became a creature and by so doing saved us from our sins. If, however, that Creator used a process to create us that involved hundreds of millions of years of suffering and death, that He went to all the trouble to create millions of species that He allowed to be wiped out by climate change, disease, disasters and the competition of other species, what confidence can we have in His ability, let alone His willingness, to save us?! In fact, the value of human beings in general and especially of individuals is completely undermined by the modern myth of Evolutionary history. According to this story the human race is just another animal species bound for ultimate extinction. What happens to any individual member of our species is of even less importance.
There is so much more that the belief in long ages of Evolution takes away from the gospel but I will conclude with this one: It denies what Jesus Himself affirmed, namely, that the beginning of the world and the beginning of man occurred at the same time. Jesus, speaking of those who were plotting to kill Him, said, "I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some of them they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah…" Jesus clearly teaches that murder began, not billions of years later, but from the very foundation of the world. Jesus, referring to Genesis 1:1, 26 said, "But from 'the beginning' of creation God 'made them male and female'. (Mark 10:6) According to the evolutionary story, even the remote ancestors of man came into existence long, long after the beginning of the universe in the "Big Bang" 14 billion years ago, or the beginning of the earth 4.5 billion years ago. If Jesus is mistaken concerning our origin then how can we trust Him as to our eternal destiny?
So does that mean we should accept, for instance, that the earth is only thousands and not billions of years old? I think so. It is the straight-forward testimony of Scripture affirmed by our Lord Himself. But why do so many Christians stumble over this? It is because they think that the Evolutionists have, in this instance, all the facts of science behind them. But these "facts" are interpretations of the evidence, evidence that actually is better explained by what the Bible reveals. I will close with just a couple of these evidences. Believers in long ages once pointed to the slowness by which sedimentary layers are laid down by the erosion of the continents. But now we know that these layers are best explained by catastrophic processes that can lay down many layers in a very short time - such as during a world-wide flood. In fact, if we assume the principle of uniformitarianism, so beloved by Evolutionists, that the past is to be interpreted by the present, the evidence of erosion demonstrates a young earth. For instance, if we assume the present rates of erosion, even taking into account the effects of human activity and geological uplift, the continent of North America would have been eroded away in around 10 million years. Yet the Evolutionists tell us that the continents are at least 2-3 billion years old! All the sediments on the ocean floor, using present rates which are quite slow, would still accumulate in just 12 million years. This places an upward limit on the age of those sediments, but if the Bible is true then most of these sediments would have been deposited in an even shorter time during the Flood and its aftermath a few thousand years ago.
The gospel of Jesus Christ begins at the beginning. It is about the Creator who made all things, in the beginning, "very good" but that because of man's sin He placed the world under a curse, promising that He would send the "seed of the woman" (Genesis 3:15), the Messiah, to save man from sin and restore the world to what God intended from the beginning. It is a comprehensive and thorough-going answer to the deepest longings of our heart and the surest intuitions of our soul. Only the gospel gives us true dignity and worth while addressing our great brokenness as fallen creatures. However, when the foundation of the gospel is removed, namely, the historical truth of the originally good creation followed by the Fall, the Curse and the Promise of the Messiah, it calls into question both the reliability and relevance of the Incarnation, Atonement and Resurrection of Christ who fulfills the Promise and restores the world to its original and even greater glory. Let us begin our gospel where God begins it - "in the beginning".