From the Editors

Creation and the Cults. What is missing in the current practice of Christianity to cause bizarre groups to flourish?

by the editors of Ministry.
In our first segment on this subject, we examined the current proliferation of bizarre cults, and the potentially negative reaction to religion in general caused by such atrocities as Jonestown. We dealt with three major characteristics that should distinguish authentic historical Christianity from the cults motivation by love rather than force, reliance on the authority of Scripture, and acceptance of the centrality and deity of Christ.

In this article, we focus our attention on just one major doctrine of Christianity that makes the church a bulwark of strength and stability when believed and taught. A major question raised by the episode at Jonestown is that of the existence of evil and the companion question of evolutionism versus creationism. Current liberal thinking, based on the inevitable results of belief in evolution, is that there is no such thing as sin and certainly no father of sin, or devil. Just leave man alone and let him revert to natural goodness, and everything will be all right, we've been told. But at Jonestown it didn't work that way—the evil and the devil came through in a tragic demonstration of what is wrong with a philosophy of life that displaces the Creator as the originator and sustainer of man's existence.

Until the past hundred years or so, Christianity was virtually in complete agreement on man's origin. Almost without exception, they held that the opening chapters of Genesis presented a literal account of God, through divine fiat, creating our world and man. Human beings, made in the image of God, were seen as the most noble example of His creative power. However, by the mid-nineteenth century, emerging science dazzled the public mind and began playing an increasingly important role in influencing society. As the evolutionary theory developed, Christianity's desire to maintain intellectual respectability gradually led to a patchwork of varying accommodations between Scripture and evolutionary theory. Many felt that the Biblical doctrine of Creation could not stand against the impressive array of charts, diagrams, fossils, and reasonings that seemed to teach otherwise.

Today, not only the cults but major segments of Christianity are diluting and compromising the Creation doctrine by believing that man owes his existence, not to the spoken word of a divine Creator, but to a God-inspired and/or God-directed random act of cosmic chance. Theistic evolution, deistic evolution, and progressive creationism are examples of the various creation models that are believed and promoted by some Christian thinkers and groups.

Since a person's philosophy and belief regarding the origin of the earth and man directly influences his value system and life style, the doctrine of Creation, as taught by the Scriptures, is of ultimate importance. The moment a person gives up the concept of a supernatural Being who brought man into existence by supernatural means, he is robbed of a personal sense of belonging and security, and is left to drift blindly along the path way of doubt and confusion. Martin Marty, professor of religious history at the University of Chicago, is quite correct in attributing the growth of cults to the frustrations of rootless people. This age truly is a rootless age, desperately searching for its "roots." People every where seem to be without a sense of direction or responsibility, and are turning to authoritarian and senseless dogmas and cultism in a desperate at tempt to find some security and release from fear.

God at least must have thought the scriptural doctrine of origins basic to man's security and stability, for He started the Bible with the words "In the beginning God created ..." The first two chapters of Genesis are not where they are by accident. The Designer placed them there for a purpose. Destroy this concept, this majestic truth of creation, and multitudes are led to believe that desire is the highest law, license is liberty, and man's accountability is only to himself.

We believe that the greatest single reason for our world's present chaotic condition is man's failure to sense his responsibility to God. And what system of belief, which is taught in nearly every public school from Tokyo to Tallahassee, has done more than the evolutionary theory to bring about this attitude?

After all, if man exists on earth as the result of an inexplicable process of accidental events—that is, if he just happened—then life really doesn't have ultimate meaning. It is, as Shakespeare expressed it, "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." If such a world view is correct, is it any wonder that freakish violence has be come increasingly commonplace, that survival by fair means or foul (whether in business or on the freeway or in politics) has become the name of the game? Is it any wonder that conventional standards of morality are increasingly flouted? Why not, if there is no rational foundation for value judgments?

Nor is it any wonder that in such a climate, cults offering stability within the group have flourished. Insulated by the subculture of the cult from the meaninglessness of the world at large, followers find their longing for a sense of purpose fulfilled in the authority and goals of the organization. Unfortunately, most simply trade one form of unreality for an other, and mindless tragedies such as Jonestown are the result.

The historic position of the church is that back of man's existence is the divine Creator. Man is not a pawn of capricious events beyond his control. Instead, he is part and parcel of a grand design—temporarily flawed, but ultimately triumphant. Far from being an orphan in the vast reaches of an uncaring universe, he is the special object of God's redemptive love and concern. What meaning and purpose this concept gives to life! What an answer to the cults and to the emptiness of society! God made man and has a plan for his life!

The doctrine of Creation is the foundation principle of all life, physical and spiritual. It is the foundation stone upon which all else is built. Note carefully the first chapter of Genesis, where the action of God is emphasized. There is no hint of any evolutionary processes. There is no allusion to any elements of the heavens or the earth that came into existence by accident and continued to evolve by some unknown, unsponsored means. Verse after verse in this first chapter declares that "God created," "the spirit of God moved," "God said," "God divided," "God called," "God blessed," and "God saw." How significant it is that the opening chapters of Scripture reveal God taking action. It is God who is creating; it is God who is making; it is God who is doing. God wanted man never to forget that important principle.

It seems significant to us that the same chapters of Genesis that bring so clearly to light God's creative activity in producing man also speak of the Sabbath as a sacred day commemorating the Creatorship of God. Centuries later God saw fit to remind man again of this important connection. In the heart of His ten-commandment law He instructed, "Re member the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shall thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: . . . for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it" (Ex. 20:8-11).

Is it a coincidence that the same society that has so largely turned from God as Creator has likewise largely forgotten the day He ordained to fasten their attention weekly on His creative power? We think not.

As one reads through Scripture, he will note that the significant difference between the true God and all the false gods is His creative power. The argument for God's supremacy is consistently based upon His creative power. "To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things" (Isa. 40:25, 26). In considering the similarities between God and His creatures, His capacity to create stands out as unique and different. Science discovers; it never creates! Man may reason, develop, invent, and accomplish amazing feats, but these are only shadows of God's image. Man may be able to split an atom, but he cannot create one. To command into existence something from nothing is one ability that God has never shared. For man to explain how God produced even a one-cell amoeba would be a thousand times more difficult than for an ant to solve the secrets of the atomic bomb. All man can do is accept God's power and creative ability by faith. What a tragedy, then, that man, in his rebellious state, boldly takes a blasphemous attitude that the Bible is incomprehensible, and proceeds to fill libraries with books describing how life began, leaving God completely out of the picture.

God is the source not only of man's physical existence but of his spiritual life as well. To restore the image of God in man through the new-birth experience is a work of creation. The apostle Paul recognized that David's words, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Ps. 51:10), were more than mere poetry. Paul him self echoed David's thought in 2 Corinthians 5:17: "If any one is in Christ, he is anew creation" (R.S.V.). This is a work that no finite man can do. Only the God who formed man of the dust of the ground can say, "I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh" (Eze. 36:26).

The Bible opens with the proclamation of God's creative power at the beginning of the earth. The predictive words of Revelation 14:7 give evidence likewise that in the final days of earth's history a sweeping announcement will go "to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (verse 6) to "fear God, and give glory to him; . . . and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." This command is designed to counteract the prevailing conditions on earth so vividly described by Paul in Romans 1:21-28: "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. . . . [They] changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator. . . . And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind."

What a marvelous thing it would be if churches could recapture their former unity on this basic doctrine of Creation, and give a clear, concerted call to the world's inhabitants to worship God as the Creator! If the churches would unite solidly on this one grand doctrine, what a force for stability it would prove to be! What tremendous improvement we would see in the aimless social conditions so prevalent in our world!

(To be continued.)


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by the editors of Ministry.

March 1979

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