Leading a Discussion on Genesis 1

Are you ready to lead a discussion on Genesis 1? The answer to that question should depend on your goals. If you are prepared to integrate the best scientific knowledge concerning origins and the best biblical interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis, please come teach at my house. I have been studying that myself for more than a decade and only sort of now feel like I have a basic knowledge that might be able to keep me from immediately embarrassing myself. But, the meaning and purpose of Genesis 1 in the unfolding revelation of God in the Scriptures is not particularly difficult.

Here are some suggestions for the discussion:

  1. Say up front that this isn’t a science and faith discussion– but don’t insinuate that integrating science and faith isn’t important.
  2. Focus on the points in the study guide – that’s why we have a study guide
  3. Don’t miss-portray our doctrine.
    1. Our doctrinal statement: “creation. We believe that human beings were created in the image of God and by an immediate act of God and not by a process of evolution; that the purpose of our creation is to glorify God; possessing the character of Christ likeness, humanity was endowed with the power of rational and responsible choice between good and evil.”
    2. Note:
      1. This takes no position on the Earth’s age
      2. This takes no position on the evolution of life (though it is likely those who wrote it didn’t believe evolution was a sufficient cause for life’s existence and diversity)
      3. This does affirm a historical Adam and Eve, and the direct creation of humanity.
    3. What to say: “High Point doctrine does affirm a historical and Eve.”
      1. Do your best not to let the discussion devolve into an argument about creation versus evolution. It is very unlikely anybody is going to be persuaded about that one way or the other during your small group discussion. The most important thing for this study is to focus on the unfolding story of salvation and what we are meant to learn about God and ourselves at this part of the story.
      2. Namely:
        1. God’s absolute power and authority over creation
        2. God’s pleasure in his creation declaring all things good
        3. The inherent and complete goodness of the original creation
        4. God’s desire to be glorified by human beings
        5. God revealing his nature through the creation of human relationships
  4. What to do if people really want to argue about creation and evolution:
    1. prepare beforehand – explicitly tell people that you are going to interrupt and stop arguments specifically related to creation and evolution from either side of the debate.
    2. Interrupt them- go back to what you said beforehand and come back on task. Use the study.
    3. Don’t minimize the importance of the issue – questions related to science, evolution and faith are difficult and complicated, that they are also very important and do have serious implications for all of us. Don’t minimize the importance of that question for anyone, whether they believe in a younger earth, and all the earth, that evolution is wrong, or that evolution is right, or some combination of the four.

Remember, the point here is that we are studying the gospel through the Bible. We are looking for God’s unfolding plan of salvation for all of creation. We are looking for the way God is good to us and glorifies himself simultaneously in the plan that he has chosen that culminates in Jesus Christ.

For those of you who want to know what I think, I’m not really sure, but here are some of the thoughts I am working from:

  1. I am persuaded that the Earth is very old
  2. That evolution has trouble accounting for a number of things in the development of life, troubles I am not sure it can overcome
  3. I believe in a historical Adam and Eve – that these were to real people.
  4. I believe that the style of Genesis chapter 1 is difficult to be sure about. It has some elements of poetry but isn’t poem. It has some elements of narrative but seems too paralleled in lyrical to be mere narrative.
  5. I don’t believe the word day refers to 24 hour periods.
  6. I don’t know exactly what to do with the phrase “and there was evening and there was morning” – since that seems to point to 24 hour days.
  7. I don’t know what to do with the fact that the lights were created on the fourth day – which seems to point against 24 hour days.
  8. I don’t think we should try to humiliate people we don’t agree with on this
  9. Theistic evolution (evolution directed by God) seems to create a problem with biblical authority. I have a hard time reconciling the idea that evolution provides for all of life’s existence in diversity, including human, and that the early chapters of Genesis have significant true narrative historical content.

That leaves me with this view:

God created the earth by speaking some existence into creation that may have naturally developed according to physical laws into the universe we now inhabit. God engaged in one or more creations of life in succession of unspecified biological diversity (ex. The Cambrian explosion). Evolutionary processes may have eliminated some of that biological diversity, or perhaps increased that biological diversity. Some of that biological diversity included bipedal primates that were not human beings. In the last of these successive creations of life God created humans by creating a historical Adam and Eve.

I’m not saying that view is right. I doubt everything in it is right. But that’s the best synthesis I’ve got right now based on how I’m interpreting Scripture and understanding science.

I have heard some fairly persuasive arguments for a young earth. I have heard even more persuasive arguments for an older.

I have heard some very persuasive arguments for evolution. I’ve also heard some very persuasive arguments against evolution, especially in its present form of neo-Darwinism. I won’t get into this now.

The point is, I think within biblical authority and Christian orthodoxy there is room for a number of different views from young earth creationism to some forms of theistic evolution that have caveats related to human creation. I have a very hard time with views that don’t believe in a historical Adam and Eve. And I have a hard time taking the statement that Adam was created from the dust of the earth in a nonliteral way. Although in some sense one could argue that could be a reference to the evolutionary process, it is inconceivable that the original author intended it to be taken that way.

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