Why special creation matters
By John T. Baldwin, Leonard R. Brand, Arthur Chadwick,
and Randall W. Younker
Charles Darwin famously con-cluded that the Old Testament contains a “manifestly false history of the world” and therefore the Bible is “no more to be trusted than … the beliefs of any barbarian.”1 Members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church live in a world that takes evolution for granted and generally follows Darwin’s logic. Furthermore, an increasing number of Christian scholars and scientists conclude that since the account of the beginnings is not to be trusted, other “truths” of the Bible cannot be accepted at face value.2 However, Adventists continue to cherish the biblical teaching of special creation (that is, a recent creation week). Why?
This article considers why the doctrine of special creation still mat-ters so deeply, by addressing first its scriptural basis as recently endorsed by the General Conference Executive Committee,3 which will be followed by a closer look at the impact of the doctrine of special creation to four key doctrines.
Special Creation in Scripture
The biblical teaching of special creation is based on seven key biblical passages regarding special creation, namely Genesis 1; 2; Exodus 20:8-11; Psalms 19:1-6; 33:6, 9; 104; and Hebrews 11:3, which need to be linked to Revelation 14:6, 7.
The listing of Genesis 1 and 2 is important. These two complementary chapters intentionally teach the acc-ount of earth’s history and of the origin of the first life forms on this planet.4 Exodus 20:8-11, written by the finger of God, reminds us of the central place of the seventh-day Sabbath as the memorial of creation. The fourth commandment only makes sense if creation week was a literal seven-day event and clearly refers back to the Genesis accounts. It unambiguously describes God’s creation in terms of a short period. His work culminated with creatures bearing God’s own image and charged with the responsibility to care for the world.
Adventists have generally endorsed the view that these historical days of Creation were neither mythical, meta-phorical days, nor so-called literal divine days in which each of the six days allegedly translates into multimillions of earth years, amounting to a few billion years.5 The days of Creation were days like our own, comprising 24 literal hours.
Additionally, the chronological material in Genesis 4, 5, and Matthew 1 are only compatible with a time since creation of a few thousand years, not millions of years (deep time). But why does it matter how long ago it was? Why do we care about time? It matters a great deal, and the reason involves our response to modern scientific interpretations of geologic time and what it says about the nature of God and of the Bible. Deep time and the theory of the evolution of all creatures go hand in hand. Our choice is between deep time plus evolution of life forms, or a recent biblical creation week.
The concept of a recent creation is important. It guards against the concept of theistic evolution, or progressive creation, which seems to creep into some Adventists’ understanding of special creation.
Revelation 14:6, 7 highlights the importance of the doctrine of special creation in the context of today’s post-modern culture. The specific language of God’s last message to the world is such that it earnestly calls all people to worship God because He created by the brief, peaceful, compassionate method of six days alluded to in Exodus 20:11. It reaffirms a special creation worldview in the end-time. In a neo-Darwinian world, God is thereby shown to be wholly worthy of worship because of the brief, recent temporal method He used in Creation.
As the climax of Creation, God rested on, blessed, and sanctified the seventh day, thereby instituting for all humanity (Mark 2:27) the creation-based, seventh-day Sabbath, the day called Saturday in our current calendars. The Sabbath serves as an unchangeable memorial of a completed Creation in six days, and as a sign of the sanctifying relationship existing between the Creator and the beings created in His image.
When Creation was finished, God declared His creation works as “very good” (Gen. 1:31). The later author of Psalm 19 echoes this divine approval and excitement by linking Creation to God’s glory (Ps. 19:1-6).
Special Creation and Other Biblical Doctrines
Four key reasons combine to show why belief in a recent historical creation matters. First, special creation is indissolubly linked with the authority and inspiration of Scripture. If a literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2 cannot be trusted, who or what will be the guide to indicate “trustworthy” or “doubtful” parts of Scripture?
Second, the alternate worldview of theistic evolution and progressive creation produces intractable problems involving the biblical teaching of the loving character of the Creator (1 John 4:8). If one would accept theistic evolution as the supposed intentional divine method of creation, one would have to harmonize more than 3.8 billion years of trauma (predation), disease, death, mass extinctions, suffering, countless regional geologic catastrophes of all sorts, and other natural evils with the biblical image of a loving and caring God.6 Scientist David Hull agrees by saying that the God implied by evolutionary theory is neither loving, nor a God to whom one would be inclined to pray, but is nearly diabolical.7 This is definitely not the God who sees every sparrow that falls (Matt. 10:29-31).
Third, the millions-of-years creation worldview necessarily requires the denial of a historical, literal Fall, a global flood, and a historical Adam through whom sin and death passed to all humanity, and ultimately involves the denial of the need to accept Jesus as Savior through His life and death on the Cross (Gen. 2:9, 17; Rom. 5:12, 14; 6:23; 8:20, 21; 1 Cor. 15:26). In this view death in the animal realm, including protohumans, appears millions of years before sin, thereby undermining the atonement and redemption.
Fourth, a historical special creation confirms the divine rationale for observing the Sabbath. Consider some implications if, as some suggest, God, in the Sabbath commandment of Exodus 20:11, is only using language humans can understand and is not telling us the actual way in which He created life forms on earth in six literal days. If so, God Himself bears prohibited false witness at least twice in the Sabbath commandment. Contrary to its claims, read literally, He neither created in six days, nor rested on the seventh day. (Did He even bless the seventh day?) If the commandment is understood in this nonhistorical sense, God grounds the divine rationale for worshipping on the seventh day on events that never happened. In so doing it would seem that God would impeach His own wisdom and trustworthiness.
Bringing It All Together
Special creation preserves the integrity of Scripture, safeguards the loving, praiseworthy character of God, establishes the reality of the atonement and redemption, and the soundness of the seventh-day Sabbath. These reasons, and more, show why a special creation worldview matters so deeply to the Adventist message and mission.
1Nora Barlow, ed., The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882 (New York: Norton, 1958), p. 85.
2Langdon Gilkey, Religion and the Scientific Future: Reflections on Myth, Science and Theology (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1970), p. 9.
3Due to the importance of special creation, the Adventist Church recently sponsored two International Faith & Science Conferences on Creation (2002 and 2004) and encouraged regional conferences throughout the world in 2003. A consensus document emerged at the Denver International Faith & Science Conference (2004) entitled, “An Affirmation of Creation,” which was forwarded to the General Conference Executive Committee at its 2004 Annual Council. This 353-member General Conference body discussed and accepted the report from Denver and voted a historic reply called: “A Response to an Affirmation of Creation.” This document, published, among other printing channels, by the NAD edition of the Adventist Review, August 4, 2005, p. 11, affirmed a recent, literal, historical creation week composed of days like our own, along with a global flood. The word global was significantly used for the first time in a voted General Conference statement on Creation.
4Randall W. Younker, “Genesis 2: A Second Creation Account?” in Creation, Catastrophe & Calvary, ed. John T. Baldwin (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald, 2000), pp. 40-68.
5This view is formulated by Gerald L. Schroeder, The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom (New York: Free Press, 1997).
6See Thane Hutcherson Ury, “The Evolving Face of God as Creator: Early Nineteenth-Century Traditionalist and Accommodationist Theodical Responses in British Religious Thought to Paleonatural Evil in the Fossil Record,” (Ph.D. diss., Andrews University, 2001).
7David L. Hull, “The God of the Galápagos,” Nature, vol. 352, No. 6335 (Aug. 8, 1991), p. 486.