What i'll be responding to is the audio transcript found in the blog, as linked above. However, you can watch/download the AUDIO or VIDEO if you like.
How far should we go in teaching creationism in the church? How important or unimportant is it?
I assume the "-ism" on the end of creation has an agenda in terms of the age of the earth or the age of man or whatever.
Let me just say a few general things.
1) We should teach without any qualification that God created the universe and everything in it. It wasn't always here. It didn't spontaneously emerge from a big bang alone, however God did it. God did it. That's clear, and everybody who believes the Word should preach that.
2) Secondly, I think we should preach that he made it good. There was no sin in it, when he first made it.
3) Thirdly, I think we should preach that he created Adam and Eve directly, that he made them of the dust of the ground, and he took out of man a woman. I think we should teach that. I know there are people who don't, who think it's all imagery for evolution or whatever.
And we should teach that man had his beginning not millions of years ago but within the scope of the biblical genealogies. Those genealogies are tight at about 6,000 years and loose at maybe 10 or 15,000. So I think we should honor those genealogies and not say that you can play fast and loose with the origin of man.
That's not the age of the earth issue there. That's the origin of what is a human being, when did that human being come into existence. I think we should say he came into existence by God's direct action and that it wasn't millions of years ago. That was within the scope of these genealogies.
Now, when it comes to the more controversial issues of how to construe Genesis 1-2 about how God did it and how long it took him to do it, there I'm totally sympathetic with a pastor who is going to lay his view down, having studied it, and is going to say to his people, "Here is my understanding of those chapters. These six days can't be anything other than six literal days, and so that's how long God took to do it. And this universe is about 10 or 15,000 years old. Though it looks old, that's the way God made it. He made it to look old," or something like that.
Here is where the wheels start to fall off the truck. "The evidence says X, but i'm going to just believe Y." I am very unsympathetic to such a view. As those who claim to believe the truth, as Christians, we should never advocate or support any position that holds to "faith" in opposition to the evidence. That is not what biblical faith is:
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Is biblical faith blind? Of course not. Biblical faith can only work in compliance with "assurance." And what is our assurance based on? The past. For instance, everyone wakes up in the morning and gets out of the bed with the assurance that we will not float to the ceiling. Instead, we expect that our feet will hit the floor based on the norm of past experience. Thus, we have a sense of assurance based on our past experience.
Biblical faith has always been in compliance with the evidence. The resurrection would never have been proclaimed if there were no evidence. Their faith in the future resurrection was based on the fact of Christ's resurrection. Their faith was firmly planted in solid ground. To advocate faith in opposition to the evidence would have been to expect the Jews to believe in the resurrection when, in fact, Christ never died and was walking around in their midst. I can't see "believe Genesis in spite of the evidence" being any different. In other words, "believe the earth is young, even though all evidence proves that it is old."
Or he might take another view that these days are ages.
Its hard for me to describe a disagreement as "sympathetic." But Piper seems to be suggesting this because he hasn't come to a strong conclusion on this matter. That is understandable, as I am sympathetic to post-millenialism, even though i'm a bit more convinced that a-millenialism makes more sense. However, I say that only in being indecisive on the issue.
But what is interesting to me is that Piper is quite decisive on other Creation issues. For instance, he is certain that man's origin is only thousands, not millions of years old. And he bases this on what? Biblical exegesis. However, I find it odd that Piper would be so sure about this, but not on the origin of the universe? To me, its far easier to say, "Yeah, looks like creation only took 6 days!" as opposed to, "after spending a lot of time sifting through the genealogies in Genesis, I finally calculated that there are only 6-15 thousand years worth."
But what if you are convinced of the "scientific evidence" for human evolution? Consider the parallel:
1. "Though it looks old, that's the way God made it. He made it to look old."
2. "Though it looks like humans evolved from apelike ancestors millions of years ago, that's the way God made it. He made it look that way."
In other words, you could believe that the evidence clearly proves an old earth and human evolution, but you could discard that evidence and just believe what the Bible teaches.
Or he might take Sailhamer's view, which is where I feel at home. His view is that what's going on here is that all of creation happened to prepare the land for man.
Admittedly, I have not read Sailhamer's book on this topic, but i'm a bit familiar with it. However, I have to question whether Piper is holding this view for exegetical reasons, or "scientific" reasons? In other words, does Piper exegete the text in already being convinced that the universe is old? Or would Piper hold his position, even if (just pretend for a moment) the majority of scientists were convinced that the universe is young?
In verse 1, "In the beginning he made the heavens and the earth," he makes everything. And then you go day by day and he's preparing the land. He's not bringing new things into existence; he's preparing the land and causing things to grow and separating out water and earth. And then, when it's all set and prepared, he creates and puts man there.
I realize that Piper is just summarizing his view and not necessarily presenting the evidence. But I can't even pretend to read Genesis 1 in this way. Perhaps this is a result of not looking into Sailhamer's view, but I can't help but conclude that he is trying to make the text "fit in" with the old earth view.
So that has the advantage of saying that the earth is billions of years old if it wants to be—whatever science says it is, it is—but man is young, and he was good and he sinned. He was a real historical person, because Romans 5 says so, and so does the rest of the Bible.
By why stop there? In other words, "do whatever you want with the text to make it fit with an old earth, but when you get to the origin of man, make sure you start doing good biblical exegesis."
That's where I am, and I think every pastor should go ahead and say what he believes. But how do you define who gets on your eldership, for example? Who gets a teaching office in your church? I'm inclined to not draw that too narrowly.
One wonders how far Piper would be willing to go. Would Piper allow an elder who is a theistic evolutionist?
But I could be wrong about that, you know. I'm 63 years old, and I've never preached through Genesis yet. And I'd like to! I'm going to finish John, and then maybe the next thing I'll turn to, if the elders let me stay around that long, would be Genesis.
We need to give our people help in this.
I must commend Piper for his humility. But it just doesn't register in my mind as to how a theologically competent scholar like Dr. Piper could remain undecided on what Genesis teaches. However, if you remain convinced that evolutionists are the beholders of truth in the area of the age of the earth (and then neglect them with biological evolution for some reason), then I suppose I can understand how one might wrestle with this. For me, I just don't see the need to wrestle. The Bible is our worldview, and as such, we view the world through that lens. And so the question is, why does that worldview lens crack when we get to the issue of the age of the earth?