Salvation: In Light of Genesis

Must one believe in a literal Genesis to be saved?

Recently, in an online forum, which as we know, is not a good place to find conversation; it came upon us that most of these lay (not all) young-earth creationists believe you must be a young-earth creationist, non-evolutionist and literal genesis reader to be saved. We will examine this today.

The claim rests on the ideology that Young Earth Creationism is tied directly to the Gospel. Let us examine a few verses that discuss how the New Testament relays the information to be saved and what is involved.

First verse,

Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes and is justified, and with the mouth, one confesses and is saved (Romans 10:9-10).

This verse found in Romans which means the context is set in Rome in the year 57 AD. That means the people receiving this message are people who would have no access or understanding of Genesis. In fact, According to the Theogony, Chaos, the dark, silent abyss from which all things were created, first produced Gaia, or Earth. Gaia (also spelled Ge) brought forth Ouranos or the Heavens. The offspring of Gaia and Ouranos are divided loosely into two generations of "Titans."  The first generation of Titans were twelve in number: six of whom were male and six female. The second generation of Titans consisted of the offspring of Hyperion (from the first generation) and included Eos (Dawn), Helios (Sun), and Selene (Moon); and the offspring of Iapetus (also from the first generation), which included Atlas, Prometheus, and Epimetheus—among others. These Titans mated with each other and produced a multitude of gods and goddesses. 

Cronus, the youngest of the Titans, and his sister Rhea were parents of six of the twelve Olympians. Cronus, fearing that one of his offspring would depose him, consumed the first five of his children as they were born. Rhea begged her parents to help her save her next child, and they answered her plea by spiriting her away to Crete, where Zeus was born. Rhea hid Zeus in a cave, then returned to Cronus and tricked him into thinking he was consuming Zeus by feeding him a stone wrapped in a blanket. Zeus remained in Crete, and when he grew to manhood, he returned to Mount Olympus to wage war on Cronus. He forced Cronus to disgorge the children he had swallowed, and they, together with Zeus, fought against Cronus and his allies, the other Titans. The Titans were defeated and exiled, and Zeus became the ruler of the Olympians and god of the sky.

Does Paul attack this view? No, because it’s not essential for salvation, but the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is essential. The essential outcome is that when someone confesses Christ, they abandon that of any other god and the power of that god over their life. They submit to Christ in their life and refuse to live in light of the fake gods any longer. Origins of the universe could not be a more distant thought or conversation in this context.

An objection to this maybe something along the lines: “But we have the Old Testament and to deny the literal genesis is to deny the Old Testament” and for this, I will respond in a few paragraphs.

Verse 2,

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30-31).

Once again, we’re in Rome, with a Roman soldier, whose life duty and life are surrounded by honoring Rome and the guard. He has no grasp of Genesis's origins, evolutionary thought, care about who created what, the only focus on his mind is Paul’s ministry and words of Jesus’ salvation. Paul’s response is not to correct his roman origin thought, which he surely had, but rather to BELIEVE in Jesus as His savior and be baptized into a new life with Christ.

Belief in an origins account, will not save you. There are many non-messianic Jews who hold to a genesis read literally, are they saved in this? nein, they are no more saved than any other unbeliever. Once again, these cult-like Young Earth Creationists are asserting things they cannot bear in irony or reverse examination.

Now to the objection raised earlier. This objection seems like it has steam, to begin with, but we will find out why it does not. Right away, upon studying (not googling) the Early Church Fathers, we get an array of different interpretations of Genesis. We have Augustine, Origen and Alex Glyphra all varying in their theology, in their view and concept of Genesis. Therefore, who would this group of (the sect that believes this) Young-Earth Creationist claim is saved? All claim to have been saved by Christ and do ministry in His name. Let us add another, the great Justin Martyr, he held to a non-literal view of Genesis. Shall then we say he too was not saved?

By no means, and surely you see how ridiculous this view and scope of salvation truly is to begin with. A correct view of salvation and atonement does not impart the necessity of origin specifics to be saved. Anyone who attempts to say that it does would be in danger of adding to salvation and the Gospel of Jesus. You know, a cult?

The views on Genesis very strongly today. All from a believer’s standpoint, without any notion of unbelief. For example, in Genre variation:

• Brueggeman emphasizes the role of the text as theological affirmation.

“Genesis 1:1–2:4” Interpretation: Genesis

• Gowan gives a concise overview of the problem of genre and evaluates the options, emphasizing that Gen 1 has no true parallel in ancient literature.

“Genesis 1:1–2:4a” International Theological Commentary: From Eden to Babel: A Commentary on the Book of Genesis 1–11

• McKeown specifically addresses the way readers’ expectations affect how they understand the text.

“Reader Expectations” The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary: Genesis

• Rogerson discusses the issue of myth and whether the Israelites understood the primeval history as mythical or historical.

“Myth” T&T Clark Study Guides: Genesis 1–11

• Waltke offers a lengthy excursus on the genre of Gen 1. He also addresses the issue of the literary genre of Genesis as a whole, emphasizing the historicity of the book.

“Excursus: The Literary Genre of the Creation Account” Genesis: A Commentary

“Historicity and Literary Genre” Genesis: A Commentary

• Wenham provides a lengthy discussion of the form or genre of Gen 1 that surveys most current theories.

“Genesis 1:1” Word Biblical Commentary: Genesis 1–15

• Westermann discusses the narrative function of Gen 1 and compares it with Babylonian creation stories.

“Literary Form” Continental Commentary Series: Genesis 1–11

What about the days of Genesis?

• Robert Gurney offers a defense of the young earth creationist interpretation, taking the days of creation as six literal 24-hour days.

“Does It Matter?” Six Day Creation: Does It Matter What You Believe?

• Victor Hamilton’s commentary carefully explains the three major interpretive options: the literal 24-hour day, the day-age theory, and the literary framework theory. Hamilton’s preference is a literary reading of Gen 1 with an analogical understanding of the days of creation.

“The ‘Days’ of Genesis 1” The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17

• R. Kent Hughes lists six different possible interpretations of the days of creation. He admits only one can be correct but cautions against letting the issue become a point of division among believers. He argues for the analogical view—that the days are God’s workdays, which are analogous with earth days but not necessarily the same as literal 24-hour days.

“Genesis 1:3–13” Preaching the Word: Genesis—Beginning and Blessing

• John Lennox has an old earth creationist perspective but discusses the options for understanding the days of creation as literal 24-hour days, as undefined lengths of time (day-age), or as a literary framework. His conclusion is a form of the punctuated activity view, in which long spans of time separate the literal 24-hour days of creation.

“But Is It Old? The Days of Creation” Seven Days that Divide the World: The Beginning according to Genesis and Science

• Hugh Ross believes in an old earth and that “days” represent ages or epochs of time. He explains how this view is not incompatible with Genesis.

“Introduction: The Dawn of a New Day” A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy

• John Walton accepts that the days of creation could be 24-hour days, but he argues that God is creating functions not matter during the week of creation. By the end of the week, He takes up residence in His cosmic temple.

“Gen 1:1–31” The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis

What about the creation of men?

• Cassuto takes the traditional critical position that the account of man’s creation in Gen 1 and Gen 2 are two different and conflicting accounts. He also emphasizes the potter and clay imagery.

“Genesis 2:5–7” A Commentary on the Book of Genesis: Part I, From Adam to Noah (Genesis I–VI 8)

• Gowan mentions the connection between the creation of the human and working the soil. He also discusses the possible contradictions resulting from the weaving together of separate creation traditions.

“Genesis 2:4b–7” International Theological Commentary: From Eden to Babel: A Commentary on the Book of Genesis 1–11

• Hamilton is skeptical of the connection between the creation of man in Gen 2 and the potter and clay metaphor, primarily because a potter works with clay (chomer) and not dust (aphar).

“Genesis 2:4–7” The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17

• Kidner stresses how the personal intimacy of the act of creating man is coupled with God’s sovereignty. He makes several thematic connections to the NT.

“Genesis 2:7” Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary

• Mathews also follows the line of interpretation that this scene depicts God as an “artisan” and notes the parallels with Egyptian and Mesopotamian texts.

“Genesis 2:4–7” The New American Commentary: Genesis 1–11:26

• Sailhamer focuses on the implications of describing man as made “from the dust of the ground” instead of “in the image of God” as in Gen 1:27. He believes the distinction in Gen 2 emphasizes that even though man is special when compared to the animals, he is still a natural creature.

“Genesis 2:4–7” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 2: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers

• Sarna points out that Gen 1:27 doesn’t address the topic of “the substance from which man was created.” He also discusses the potter and clay motif and the ancient Near Eastern parallels.

“Genesis 2:7” The JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis

• Skinner accepts the basic divisions of the Documentary Hypothesis and highlights that the verb yatsar used for “forming” man in Gen 2:7 is not used in the Gen 1 creation account ascribed to P. He also discusses OT anthropology and whether it makes a distinction between body, soul, and spirit.

“Genesis 2:4–7” International Critical Commentary: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis

• Wenham discusses man’s relationship with the land and the wordplay between adam and adamah. He thinks the image of the potter shaping clay is likely in view here despite “dust” (aphar) not typically being used to describe the potter’s material.

“Genesis 2:7” Word Biblical Commentary: Genesis 1–15

• Westermann provides a detailed excursus on “Adam,” and focuses especially on the etymology of the word adam, or “man.” He also points out that God is the subject of yatsar in two-thirds of the occurrences in the Hebrew Bible. He is skeptical of the association between the work of a potter with clay and God’s work of forming man from dust.

“Genesis 2:7” Continental Commentary Series: Genesis 1–

And I can go on and on with these topical variants of Scholars and believers. We must maintain unity within the church, though we will vary in theology because we have not a full knowledge yet. Nor will we, until Christ returns.

What about evolutionary views? What about theistic evolution? I’ve written on why I believe that the evolutionary view is in great error, not a salvific error, but a great theological error nonetheless. You can read about in my article titled: “Imago Dei Theology” where I make a case against evolution from a theological standpoint.