Over recent weeks I've been preaching, for the second time, through the opening verses of the Book of Genesis. Last Lord's Day I delivered my first sermon on the first day. In my second point, I was defending the Mosaic account from the error of the 'Framework Hypothesis.' In doing so, for the very first time, I felt with intense force, both the folly and falsehood of adopting such an erroneous position (attractive though it may seem for those who want to dodge the bullet of the creation-science debate).
There surely is little doubt, like most dangerous half-truths, that Moses presents the material of the original Creation in a highly structured, schematized way. Yet, on his part, that neither implies the unhistorical nature of the account, or that the details of each day, or the times the bible allots to them, do not correspond precisely to the truth or order of the facts. In reality, quite the opposite is the case: the Holy Spirit, through Moses, has important lessons to teach us, in the material contained in Genesis 1, about the nature and character of God, and the methods by which He has worked and still works.
Chief among these is that God the Creator has a perfect, predetermined, plan, which, aiming at His own glory, led to the regular, systematic, detailed, unfolding of the events of 'Creation Week.' Far superior, infinitely more detailed, than for example the Blueprints for the Hoover Dam or Brooklyn Bridge or the Empire State Building - taking every miniscule detail of this process into account, by the sovereign umbrella government of the assembling of every object, element, molecule, atom, proton & quark - God makes Himself known, as the God of Order, who brings light from darkness, and emptiness to fulness, with the sequential expanses formation and their population with creatures.
This jaw-dropping, mind-marvelling scheme, was unfolded, not, as it might have been, with a single, miraculous, stroke of the artist's brush on the canvas of creation. From before time this plan was so decreed, to occur in the orderly fashion and duration of six days. God in His most glorious, wonderful, sovereign, holy wisdom, determined that His own 'creative genius' would best be beheld by the creature, if the actual works of the world, were structured in this way. This was more than skeletal framework but also sumptuous fulness - six whole days, structured beautifully and logically, that both the most eminent scholar and wide-eyed infant, might grasp something of the glory of the Most Wise God who made it all, by the Word of His power.
Slow Down! You Move To Fast!
We are not, you see, meant to jet past the days of Genesis at high-speed, pointing out some of the sights, without having time to stop the vehicle, get out, pause and reflect. The first time I preached a series on Genesis (which was in fact my very first series in my first charge), I felt this compulsion to give only, just one, mere, single thirty minute sermon to the entire six-day period, with a separate sermon slot assigned to the creation of Man in the Image of God. I can still remember the sense of constraint, not to waste too much time, or bore the congregation with the details of the earth's crust and mantle, the ocean's volume or purpose, or behemoths, birds and beasts. That, I suspect, is the sort thing might conceivably be taught to some seminarians in the preaching class on 'How to preach the opening chapters of Genesis'. Now a little older and wiser (I trust, and by God's grace), I think that this impulse was not of the Spirit, but rather of the flesh (even though I could still think up three of four arguments for dividing up the series in roughly the same way that I did).
We are actually, in truth, and this is really the whole thrust, message and point of the Mosaic six-day framework, intended to survey each of the separate six days of creation as individual, majestic, glorious periods in which specific works of God were performed. Every one of these days is described in order to teach us something more and marvellous about the greatness, genius and grandeur of our Maker. We are meant, like connoisseurs of some vintage wine or expensive cheese, to take small sips or bites of this segmented history, piece-by-piece, until the dish is clean, while savouring with delight. Moses intends that we bid farewell to Genesis chapter 1 not just stunned, but also singing, extolling and exulting in the excellencies of our God. I was heartened to see that Calvin had also drawn the same conclusion:
"For it is too violent a cavil to contend that Moses distributes the work of God which God perfected at once into six days, for the mere purpose of conveying instruction [he torpedoes the Framework Hypothesis below the waterline] ...Let us rather conclude that God Himself took the space of six days, for the purpose of accommodating his works to the capacity of men. We slightingly pass over the infinite glory of God, which here shines forth; whence arises this but from our excessive dulness in considering His greatness? In the meantime, the vanity of our minds carries us away elsewhere. For the correction of this fault, God applied the most suitable remedy when he distributed the creation of the world into successive portions, that he might fix our attention, and compel us, as if He had laid His hand upon us, to pause and reflect" (John Calvin, Genesis [Baker], p.78).
Time to Own Up
God forbid that we should rush over a vital part in the 'syllabus for saints'! Let us confess with broken hearts that we are guilty-as-charged of 'excessive dullness in considering His greatness'!
The Need to Press On
There are, if we take this seriously, a number of practical lessons, which flow logically from this truth:
When you are reading Genesis in your own devotions, to your family (if you have one), in your class, or to your congregation, you are meant to linger, on each of God's works, so that you leave the account, not filled with arguments against atheists, but bowed down on hands and knees in the praise of your Creator, having had a scripture 'face-to-face' encounter with the majesty of God. Sermons preparation on Genesis 1 should be stirring stuff!
When you preach Creation to you children, class or congregation, you are meant to do so, not by glossing over the days in some whistle-stop tour of the top tourist spots of the Cosmos, but by opening the text, teasing the days out, to unpack the wisdom, beauty, glory and excellence of God's work. Would you not spend a fortune on a vacation which took in the Louvre of Paris if you loved art, or visit the Colosseum in Rome if you loved classics - and then take several minutes at each exhibit, in order to ponder and wonder on the artistry and at the grandeur? You are meant to watch the adults stopped in their tracks and rebuked for unbelief; to see young people emboldened with a fresh courage to believe the truth in spite of ridicule in their schools; and to see the precious sparkling eyes of our little ones growing wide, with excited, confident, knowledge that their very big God is very good and great. Are you tempted to arrest, mid-flow, your sermon series until your juices of thanksgiving start to flow and their songs of praise to their Maker can barely be constrained? Don't!
When planning sermon series we must not fall into the trap of setting aside one sermon for the whole of 'days one to six'. Perhaps, at first, our elders may object. Certainly, to start, church members may shuffle in pews or grow impatient as they listen. The Devil is very active and keen to foster the ancient error, as Calvin describes, "to carry our minds elsewhere". We have been given a gift-wrapped present and are not meant to just admire the box! Unpack the goods, unfold the glory, let the greatness of the Maker shine like sun. Do this with much prayer for light and heat, before both preparation and preaching.
Pray for unction upon your words as your preach the 'Glory of God' in the 'Mosaic Creation Week'. The way to counteract the darkness, blindness, fairytale-errors of macroevolution, is not by apologetics (of course this has a place), not by building an Ark (if we will be able to do such things, to build a full-size replica of Noah's ark, with his advice of course, is high up on my 'bucket list' for the first age of glory!). What we have missed, I believed, in some portions of the Reformed and Evangelical Church, is that the proper antidote for the poisonous theory of evolution, is to teach creation slowly, clearly, properly, fully, warmly, in a worshipful manner, in the power of the Spirit. This, in fact, is a point which we should not have missed - in Genesis 1, God's very first act, was to speak. The point Moses makes by the Spirit is clear - God the Creator whose Word is mighty, powerful, effective, irresistible, miraculous, will most certainly accomplish, by divine fait, according to Isaiah, whatever he intends: it is for this very purpose for which He sends it forth (Isaiah 55.11): for man this is impossible, with God cast-iron certainty!
Deal with each day and become engrossed and absorbed in the marvel of the facts. Tomorrow I am going to preach on the creation of light. I will speak of the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible to the human eye. There will be a moment in the sermon to think of the beauty of all the colours of the rainbow, the individual components of the electromagnetic spectrum. Imagine a world without blue sea, a sunset without the pinks, yellows, reds. How tense a world without the shimmering swaying of the green grass, or the sight of a forest in fall with the russets, browns and reds. I will mention, if I've time, how terrible it would be if the world was always dark - like the arctic regions with no summer: you could never catch some sunbeams, never glimpse a twinkling star, never look into a mirror or be able to reverse your automobile. There would be no panoramic vistas of ripe golden grain or snow-capped peaks. You could never read a book, cook a meal, marvel at the architecture of the Whitehouse or Westminster, or delineate the sign of Hollywood or Presidential faces on Mount Rushmore. The Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam would be a figment or description of a hard-to-verify imagination. I simply won't have time to talk about the fact that light behaves both as particles and waves; or the space to say that plants have been created with the pigment chlorophyll to absorb packets of light (quanta), by which are manufactured virtually all known digestible energy, through the assembling of complex carbohydrates in their leaves; if only I could mention the design of the back of the human eye (retina), whose highly specialised, ten-layered structure, contain cells called 'rods' and 'cones' - these cells contain chemicals which when impacted upon by incident quanta of light, change their chemical structures, which eventually result in an electrical impulse being given off, along the optic never, which then registers, consciously, as visible sight in the brain!
I must, however, take time to mention what the Psalmist says, in Psalm 104.1-2, about the Creator who dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6.16), who commanded the creation of light, other than Himself, yet which adorns Him like a garment. We can never know God in the light that He is in His essential being, but God created light to illumine His world, that we might come to know Him, in all the Glory of His beauty, goodness, righteousness, holiness and power. Or to phrase it in other words, when we look at His handiwork, in which He clothes Himself, by which He manifests His glory, we see in clear detail, what can be known of God, as Creator and Maker.
You Cannot Be Serious!
I know what you're thinking - that is going to be a very lengthy sermon! What I'm trying to encourage and spur you on to attempt, is a long, slow, sermon series that leads to prayer and praise (I'm sure you can do it much better than I have illustrated). There are many themes, like light, which, by extrapolating to Christ, will lead us revel in our redemption (John 8.12, 2 Corinthians 4.6, Revelation 21.22-25). Yet, it is the Glory of the Creator which is an essential first port of call if we, by God's grace, are to breed brimming hearts of confident thanksgiving in the people of God (Psalm 8, Psalm 19.1-6, Psalm 104.24, Psalm 145, Psalm 148). After all, is it not the power of the ever-watchful guardian God, 'who slumbers not nor sleeps,' 'the Maker of Heaven and Earth', that grounds our confidence in the sure perseverance of Christian pilgrims to the glory of Mount Zion, in Psalm 121? Creation believed is not only confirming but also deeply comforting.
The Appointed Means of Grace - Faith Comes By Hearing and Hearing By the Word of Christ.
The Antidote to Evolution? It would be a grave mistake, like some in previous generations, to avoid Old Testament preaching, and skip the accounts of Genesis, for fear people in our age of science won't take the Mosaic literature seriously - that is nothing but yellow-belied capitulation, and as we have seen the poison of evolution has deadly consequences on souls - Sagan and Dawkins will not vacate the battlefield unless we fight with truth. It would also be an error to try to argue our case with the most up-to-date creation science or the latest, cleverest apologist - fideism is but a replica of faith: we will never argue anyone into the Kingdom except by chosen means! The path of true religion is different - reception of revelation! Remember, brother believers, this very text of Genesis 1 was given, at first, in order to dispel myths and lies of Satan who had blinded the minds of pagans - inscripturated by God, to teach the truth or origins to the Church in the Wilderness, that had become confused or clueless after 430 years in Egypt. This Word of Creation is the means God has chosen, above all other revelation and information this side of glory, to persuade the hearts of His elect, for whom the Logos of Creation made-flesh died, that Yahweh made the Creation in the space of six days and all very good. Here is the tool to get the job done of instilling faith in the hearts of His own, perfectly suited, tailored and designed, to nuclear blast away the lies of the evolutionary fables of the Hiroshima of Hell! You have this text with all its mighty power. You need nothing else but prayed down unction and illumination of hearts. All scripture is God-breathed, 'so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,' (2 Timothy 3.16-17).
Go on godly brothers - draw the poison of evolution with the pure Word of God! In the end this Word of Creation draws hearts to the fuller revelation of Glory in Jesus (John 1.1-16).
"In the beginning was the Word ...All things were made through Him ...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory ...No-one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, has made Him known."