Oversimplifying the Christian calling
A person who read the article “The Days of creation” wrote to me the other day with this response:
I have read your article and have seen all these arguments before. Both young and old earth Christians rob themselves of the treasures revealed by God about himself and the world that are in Genesis 1 & 2 when they focus on the argument of the age of the earth… Young earth or old earth, isn't the question. The question that has to be faced by all is "Is Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Savior?" Their answer to this question and not the age of the earth will determine their eternal destiny. Many men of the 18th and 19th Century were God fearers who would have believed in a 6 day creation but these men were in no way Christian.
The reader has a vital point — nobody's salvation depends on having the right reading of Genesis One with respect to what it says about the method or duration of creation. Would a merciful, loving God deny salvation to any person simply because they are incapable of really grasping the real meaning of any biblical text? Yes, the first stepping stone towards salvation — justification — is put within reach of those who put their faith in the grace of God shown in the work of His Son, Jesus Christ, not of those who can properly read the Hebrew text of Genesis One or any other passage.
Now for the “yeh, but…”. Yeh, but knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior won't save one, either. Not if it isn't followed up with a lifelong quest to know the Mind and Will of God. I'm not suggesting the reader is guilty of oversimplifying the Christian calling, but his comments, taken on their own, do reflect a tendency in Christendom today to do just that. Just as some scientists are seeking the “theory of everything” that will explain the whole of creation in a simple formula, many Christians seem to have found their spiritual version of the theory of everything in the slogan, “Jesus saves”, or one of its numerous variations. Indeed He does. He is Lord and Savior. Where I depart
from the reader's comments is from the implication that knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior is all one needs to know. This concept fails to recognize that this noblest of truths is merely the starting point of our Christian pilgrimage. Once we have begun the journey (please forgive the hackneyed metaphor) we have a lot of territory to cover before we reach our “heavenly country”. Paul put it this way:
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:2).
Our minds must be constantly renewed and our thoughts daily transformed into godly thoughts. In sum, the goal of the Christian calling is to put on the Mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5), which means to come to love the things He loves and hate the things He hates — to love love and hate hate, for instance. The book of Proverbs tells us that those who love God (and by extension His Son Jesus Christ) will embark on a “frantic” attempt to grow in grace and knowledge, to seek wisdom and understanding — another way of saying putting on the mind of Christ. Believers are to love knowledge (Prov. 12:1); it is dangerous to think that merely clinging for dear life to the cross is all one needs to do. The covering of sin made possible by the cross is for the purpose of enabling the newly justified sinner to go on and overcome sin and the world. To do that requires knowledge of God and His will.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that the Christian pilgrim must systematically work his way through a checklist of doctrines. And I'm certainly not saying that nutting out the meaning of Genesis One is the key to a successful pilgrimage. But surely anything God has deemed worthy of telling us about in His written word should be a matter of great interest and concern. I haven't yet mastered the book of Proverbs by a long shot. Much in there puzzles me. But I keep trying to understand. Ditto for the history of Israel's kings; the pages of Kings and Chronicles reflect the mind of God, and are therefore good food for the hungry soul. Every page of God's Word is worthy of prolonged and thoughtful study. That includes the tricky bits, such as Genesis One.