15 January 2013

If you're going to snip, you should snip this verse

by Dan Phillips

Folks at war with God have always snipped out the parts of the Bible that they didn't like. Rationalist critics in the 19th-21st centuries have turned Biblical authorship claims into pious lies at best, rationalized prophecies and miracles to remove, well, prophecy and miracles. Anything that offended their rival philosophy was discarded by one elaborate contrivance or another.

Some are less artful. A well-known actor, whom I won't name in the post for my wife's sake, tries to ameliorate his guilt over pursuing his slavery to unnatural desires by snipping out unwelcome passages from Gideon's Bibles in motel rooms. This is vandalism as therapy, evidently yet another pursuit of the idle rich.

It has occurred to me, however, that every one of these folks could save themselves a lot of trouble. Just one snip is all it would take.

Snip out Genesis 1:1.

Among the things the decades have brought to me is a deepening appreciation of the opening chapters of Genesis, and particularly of the first verse. As S. Lewis Johnson once remarked, if you believe Genesis 1:1, nothing in all the rest of the Bible is incredible. Reject it, and all goes with it.

If some poor soul with endless time on his hands were to survey my sermons and writings for allusions to Bible chapters in, say, the last decade, I'm guessing the opening chapters of Genesis would be 'way up there. My first book starts in the first chapters of Genesis, and camps there a good long while before even trying to assail the rest of the Bible's narrative. My sermons and studies at least touch base there very frequently. Last Sunday I was in Titus 1:15-16, but opening those verses led us back to Genesis 1, 2 and 3.

In Genesis 1:1 we find a sovereign, self-existing, timeless, omniscient God creating the universe by fiat. Simply because He wants it to exist, because He wills it to exist, it comes to exist. There is none of the struggle and bloodshed of contemporary myths. Simply one God, creating all things the way He wants to create them, simply because He wants to for His own glorious reasons.

Much follows from this simple fact, this simple act. Because He pre-existed everything, God is independent of everything, and everything is dependent on Him. Because all that is exists as a reflection of His will, the universe is neither undefined nor self-defining. It is pre-defined. Scrooge isn't wrong when he says "An ant is what it is and a grasshopper is what it is" (though he is wrong about Christmas). He just didn't go far enough, and add that the ant and the grasshopper are what they are as created and defined by a sovereign God.

And so is man. So while the emergent and the PoMo alike gaze inward to the endless morass of their own subjectivity, and while the immoral pursue their cravings, and while the materialistic pretends to acknowledge nothing beyond "molecules in motion," their pursuit is a charade. It reminds us of the riddle:
Question: if we call a tail a "leg," how many legs does a dog have? 
Answer: four. It doesn't matter what you call it, a tail is a tail.
And so with ourselves. We can self-realize and self-actualize and self-affirm and self-love all we like, but we are creatures of a sovereign God. Our choices are only two: believe Him and think accordingly; or to come up with a diverting ruse.

But the ruse will always be a lie, and its pursuit will always be a doomed and damned enterprise.

As Genesis 1:1 reminds us. It reminds us by what it says about the beginning; but it also does that by its very use of the word, "beginning." Because just as the word "black" makes one think of "white," and "up" brings to mind "down," what does the word "beginning" suggest?

"End."

And this was Moses' very intent in writing the word. For as he brought this first movement of his narrative to a conclusion, what he wanted to write about was the "end of the days" (Genesis 49:1, literal Hebrew). That "end" would be a time when the He who had the right to rule would come with His scepter, and would reign over all the peoples (Gen. 49:10). Rebellion would be ended, prosperity would arise.

And as Genesis ends, so ends the Bible, with a vision of all rebellion defeated, Christ made head over all (cf. Eph. 1:10 Gk.), and God and His people reconciled forever in a glorious new Eden (Rev. 21—22).

Genesis 1:1 is the first sign-post, pointing to that inevitable resolution.

Which is why it should really be the first to go.

Dan Phillips's signature


21 comments:

Andy Morrison said...

Yup. If you can't believe that God isn't powerful enough to speak the universe into being of his own will, why believe anything else about Him?

When people give up on believing in Genesis it seems to be one of the signs that you're on your way to liberalism

Tom Chantry said...

One of the great sermons I heard as a child was on the first four words of that verse. The premise was that you can't find anything in the Bible that makes the least bit of sense without it, but that if you believe it, you must believe the rest.

Stephen said...

But, but, 'male' and 'female' are just sociological constructs and we should be able to discard them whenever we feel like! They don't have any outside, objective grounding!


Good stuff, thanks Dan.

Frank Turk said...

Pastor: you are on quite a riff regarding the most important sentence in the whole Bible.

Robert said...

This is definitely the basic building block for any person's presuppositions. Sadly, many people don't really bother thinking about the implications of not believing Genesis 1:1. How else do we wind up with so much liberalism under the guise of Christianity?

I think any professing Christian would be well-served to read "How Should We Then Live", by Francis Schaeffer. At least they could catch a glimpse into where materialism leads. There are plenty of ruined lives from the past to exemplify the folly of that line of thinking.

Dave said...

Comment, the first:

While reading your little green book (TM), I felt a tad impatient as you methodically worked through the creation and fall, in making your argument. But at the same time, I knew it was for a good reason, and was glad of it.

Just so happens, I was reading Gen 1 last night. And even having read it countless times, I never slowed down long enough to recognize the logical "beginning/ending" implication. Thanks for that.

Funny thing is, the argument works the other way, too. People ask, "Do you REALLY believe in a young-earth creation story?" I respond, "I believe that the eternal God of the Universe, who parted seas, rained fire from heaven, and did all manner of miraculous works throughout the Old Testament, then entered into human history as Jesus the Christ, dying on the cross for the sins of all who would believe, and resurrecting on the third day. If I believe all the miraculous language in the rest of the Bible, why not Genesis 1?" In my mind, that's the only consistent way to read it.

Dave said...

Comment the second:

Not to get too far afield, but your paragraph about redefinition reminded me of a conversation I had last week with a liberal-minded friend, sparked by the Louie Giglio situation.

What it boiled down to was, she said that homosexuality couldn't be sin because sin is something that hurts us. Her argument was that God put His law in place to keep us from hurting ourselves and others. I then countered that the Law was given as a reflection of God's character, and how we are to relate to Him. She dismissed this, saying she doesn't see the question of law and sin as top-down, but bottom-up.

I thought that was incredibly telling. What I realized is, when you start redefining "sin" as "anything that hurts people" (in the context of God's first concern in giving His Law being that humanity is loved/cared-for/protected), you can then change the conversation about things like homosexuality. If it isn't "harmful," then it must not be "sinful."

Calling a tail a leg, in other words.

DJP said...

Re. comment the first:

At the risk of sounding like a Pakled, I want to be nothing if not methodical.

Eric said...

Dan,

Thanks for the good word. It is my first inclination to also (not physically, but mentally) snip certain passages that I find run up against my pet justifiable sins. Re-aligning ourselves with God's will begins by going back to the beginning and understanding who God is and what he has done. That's a reminder that I need often. If we get the question of who God is wrong, then we tend to get all that follows wrong as well, including the definition of sin. Thanks again for the encouraging word.

The Blainemonster said...

Why else would Gen 1:1 be under such attack? Why else would it be so deeply questioned and hotly debated? It's the linchpin.

Jeri Tanner said...

Love it, Dan. Thanks.

Kerry James Allen said...

If I might add an "e" to Dan's good words, what about the otherwise Bible believing people who wouldn't snip it but snipe at Genesis 1:1 by trying to reconcile it with evolution and denying a literal Adam and Eve?

Michael Coughlin said...

I thought the post was about a magician

Casey Miller said...

I am a political junkie. I love to listen to debates, hear each side go after each other, and listen to arguments about all kinds of socially popular ideas. I Love Jesus also. He has given me a reason to have no reason to fear death, because, for me, there is no death. Just eternity with him. I also love Genesis. Genesis is God in a nutshell. God created the world. God Created you. God can take you out of this world. Should you be unhappy with that? No you should not. You should be happy to be a created being and happy to have the chance to relate to God through Jesus. If you found Jesus, then your life is perfect. Read Genesis if you want. It's great. It explains everything about our world. But in the end, you have to know Jesus. Know Jesus and you will enough. God Bless.

Casey Miller said...

I am a political junkie. I love to listen to debates, hear each side go after each other, and listen to arguments about all kinds of socially popular ideas. I Love Jesus also. He has given me a reason to have no reason to fear death, because, for me, there is no death. Just eternity with him. I also love Genesis. Genesis is God in a nutshell. God created the world. God Created you. God can take you out of this world. Should you be unhappy with that? No you should not. You should be happy to be a created being and happy to have the chance to relate to God through Jesus. If you found Jesus, then your life is perfect. Read Genesis if you want. It's great. It explains everything about our world. But in the end, you have to know Jesus. Know Jesus and you will enough. God Bless.

Casey Miller said...

I am a political junkie. I love to listen to debates, hear each side go after each other, and listen to arguments about all kinds of socially popular ideas. I Love Jesus also. He has given me a reason to have no reason to fear death, because, for me, there is no death. Just eternity with him. I also love Genesis. Genesis is God in a nutshell. God created the world. God Created you. God can take you out of this world. Should you be unhappy with that? No you should not. You should be happy to be a created being and happy to have the chance to relate to God through Jesus. If you found Jesus, then your life is perfect. Read Genesis if you want. It's great. It explains everything about our world. But in the end, you have to know Jesus. Know Jesus and you will enough. God Bless.

Terry Rayburn said...

Dan, excellent!

I had a wonderful Professor, Dr. Charles Butrin, who taught Genesis using Henry Morris' textbook on Genesis, precisely because creation is so foundational to the truth about God and His Word. (Morris was a creation scientist).

Nostalgia Sidenote: I'm saying this from memory, not knowing any Hebrew to speak of, but "without form" and "void" are the words "tohu" and "bohu" (or something like that).

When asked in class by Dr. Butrin what "tohu" and "bohu" meant, I raised my hand and said, "Adam's German Shepherds?" The delightful ol' Prof cracked up, which bonded us straightaway. When my home church lost its Pastor, Mr. Butrin became our interim Pastor for several months.

Dear Mr. Butrin went to be with the Lord this last Spring at the age of 93 :)

Robert said...

Terry,

Morris (I think) helped found The Institute for Creation Research. My son loves the material they put out and wants to be a creation scientist when he grows up. All because Genesis is so important.

SamWise said...

It is not just Genesis (Moses)! This is the viewpoint taken by the Psalmist also!

Example 1: Psalm 89:11
"The heavens are Yours; the earth also is Yours;"

Why is it Yours LORD? Psalm 89:12
"The world and all that is in it, You have founded them."


Example 2: Psalm 90:2

How Long Has the LORD been God?

"Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting You are God."

Example 3: Psalm 33:8-9

Why should people fear and have awe of the LORD?

"Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him!
For He spoke, and it came to be;
He commanded, and it stood firm."

So it is more than just Genesis 1:1which is Dan's Point!

In fact, he could probably remembre many Proverbs that say the same! :)

Sonja said...

Bravo Dan! I read this early today and again was grateful for a timely reminder for what the Pyros have done for me. I was perfectly happy being lazy and unchallenged in trusting in that gap theory nonsense. Turk demolished it with his letters to Biologos along with the comments.

The repentance -- if I didn't believe Gen. 1, how could I believe the rest of His Word? Pyro was a conduit to that teaching.

I'm grateful for this ministry in ways beyond that little story. I'm surely not alone. So ... thank you Pyros!

DJP said...

Thanks, Sonja. Amen, Samwise.

Boy, the one-star haters really hated this one.