Creation, a pillar of the faith

The Called Church series has been designed to highlight some of the unique aspects of Seventh-day Adventist theology and to demonstrate how each position is faithful to Scripture. Many churches incorporate creationism into their teachings, but few are the churches that still hold to a literal creation occupying six twenty-four-hour days. The author, who is an accomplished scientist, explains why creationism is still fundamental to Adventism.

Ariel A. Roth, Ph.D., is director of Geoscience Research Institute, located on the campus of Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California.

In 1859 Charles Darwin published his famous book on the origin of species. This treatise proposed both a general theory and specific mechanisms for the evolution of life. While the controversial idea of development of advanced life-forms from simple forms was initially challenged by both scientists and theologians, it was only a few decades later that evolution gained wide acceptance by the academic community in the Western world. Likewise many Christian churches condoned, accepted, and even endorsed this theory that stands in stark contrast to the account of beginnings given in Genesis. While evolution was gaining popularity, the incipient Seventh-day Adventist Church was spreading a message with strong emphasis on the truthfulness of God's Word. Although there is no compelling evidence, it is intriguing to consider the possibility that this message came into being specifically to counteract the resulting spread of secularism. Regard less of this, the rational approach of Adventism to the Bible and the study of nature has been a meaningful argumentation to counteract the strong emphasis on evolution prevalent in contemporary intellectual circles.

To Adventism, Creation is more than a deterrent to evolution, important as that role may be. It is also the basis of some of the most fundamental and unique beliefs of the church. Our acceptance of the seventh-day Sabbath and our belief in the inspiration of Scripture and of Ellen G. White are intimately associated with the concept of Creation. The authority of God, including His authority in the three angels' messages of Revelation 14, has its basis in creatorship. Creation is an integral part of the message of the called church.

Creatorship as a sign of God's authority

Many factors can engender respect for authority. These may include physical strength, intellectual ability, self-control, possessions, or even such less awesome qualities as compassion and beauty. In the Bible, God's authority is claimed at a higher level. He is not just operating parts of a universe; He made all of it. He is the Creator of all, and no one else can claim this. For Adventists the teaching of Creation has more than academic significance. It emphasizes respect for God's authority.

Many passages in the Bible inform us that God is Creator of all, e.g., Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 33:6; 146:6; Acts 4:24; and Revelation 14:7. Other passages deserve special mention. Foremost is the account of beginnings in Genesis \ and 2. Here God creates all this world and the life it supports, including man in six days. The Decalogue contains a record of words written by God Himself explaining His reason for asking us to keep the Sabbath holy. It commemorates His unique creative acts that He accomplished in six days. His creation was "very good," and He rested on the seventh day (see Ex. 20:ll; 31:17).

The conversation between Job and God as recorded in Job 38 to 41 contains probably the most magnificent description of God's creatorship. God asks Job such provocative questions as where he was when the foundations of the earth were laid, and if he could loose the bands of Orion. Isaiah 40 again stresses God's incomparableness, presenting Him as the Creator in verses 12 and 28. Verses 25 and 26 further emphasize the link between God's importance and His being the Creator: "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, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth."

The Seventh-day Adventist Church believes that it has been especially called to give the three angels' messages of Revelation 14 "to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (verse 6). In this final message to the world God's authority is based on His creatorship. We are enjoined to "worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters" (verse 7).

Because the Bible emphasizes creatorship as the sign of God's authority, it would seem that Creation would be important to any church that wishes to place a proper perspective on God's greatness. To the Seventh-day Adventist Church, He is the Creator of all and He alone can claim this basis for authority.

The Sabbath and Creation

The observance of the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath is a distinctive pillar of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The inclusion of "Seventhday" in its name testifies to the importance of this doctrine. The mandate for Sabbath observance comes primarily from the Decalogue. However, the Sabbath is more than a memorial of God's Creation week. Mark 2:27 states that it was made for man, which implies that it has some usefulness. As Ezekiel 20 emphasizes, it provides a day to remember the Creator and rest from secular duties. Both verses 12 and 20 label the Sabbath as a sign that mankind might know that "I am the Lord." This chapter also points out that the desecration of the Sabbath (verses 13 and 16) was one of the factors that delayed Israel from entering the promised land (verse 15).

Many deny the historicity of the Creation account in Genesis. One can not do this without bringing into question the reliability of the most important authorities in Scripture, since they refer to the Genesis account of beginnings as fact. These include God (Ex. 20:11 and 31:17), Christ (Matt. 19:4-6), Paul (Rom. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 15:45; 2 Cor. 11:3), and Peter (2 Peter 3:3-6). To deny the validity of the Genesis creation account tends to challenge the reliability of Scripture as a whole.

Alternatives to the Creation account

A number of alternative concepts to the Creation account of Genesis have been suggested. Most propose a long period for the gradual development of life on earth, thus accommodating to evolutionary thought. Many of these concepts also include a form of God's participation, preserving the concept of a God capable of being active in nature. Three examples will serve to illustrate: (1) progressive creation proposes that God's creative acts occurred in successive episodes, usually distributed over millions of years; (2) theistic evolution proposes a God who helps in the gradual progression of a continuous evolutionary process; (3) a third model proposes that God started simple life, which then developed into advanced forms by the purely naturalistic processes of evolution.

Many major Christian denominations accept or tolerate these or similar alter natives. In this context the Genesis account is considered allegorical, simply conveying the message that God is Creator with metaphorical details having no factual significance. While one can choose to believe the message of an allegory, it would seem that conclusions based upon facts have more authority. Belief in God as Creator is strengthened when based upon an actual account of His creation rather than an allegory. The Seventh-day Adventist Church fulfills a special mission in strengthening belief in the Creator through its belief in the truthfulness of the Genesis account of a literal six-day creation. Truth concerning God's creatorship is not based on myth or metaphor.

I have difficulty relegating the Genesis account of Creation to an allegory, not only because many leading Biblical personalities refer to it as factual, but also because: 1. The Bible is highly authenticated. The Creation account has not been verified scientifically; however, one's confidence in the historical reality of the rest of the Bible can logically be extrapolated to the Creation account. It is neither presented nor interpreted in the Bible in any other way. 2. The Bible authorities who refer to the Creation account were men of integrity willing to risk their own lives for what they believed to be true. Their personal integrity lends confidence to their witness for the Creation account. 3. The present denial of a literal six-day creation was predicted in the Bible almost two millennia ago in 2 Peter 3:3-5. This suggests that the Bible is no ordinary book. Peter could have predicted a thousand other ideas that would be denied in the last days. He mentions specifically Creation and the Flood the two main Biblical concepts that are now vigorously denied by modern scientific interpretations—a remarkable fulfillment of his predictions.

Ellen G. White and the Creation concept

God's messenger Ellen G. White made some direct statements supporting the Creation account. While she does give some details regarding Creation that are not found in the Bible, her numerous references, descriptions, and inferences agree with a direct reading of Scripture. In addition to agreeing with the Biblical account of Creation, Ellen G. White gives special warning regarding any deviation from that account, especially the common practice of reinterpreting the amount of time for Creation. She states, "But the assumption that the events of the first week required thou sands upon thousands of years, strikes directly at the foundation of the fourth commandment. It represents the Cre ator as commanding men to observe the week of literal days in commemoration of vast, indefinite periods. This is unlike His method of dealing with His creatures. It makes indefinite and obscure that which He has made very plain. It is infidelity in its most insidious and hence most dangerous form; its real character is so disguised that it is held and taught by many who profess to believe the Bible."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 111.

People seldom appreciate that one of Ellen G. White's major contributions to the philosophy of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is a wholistic approach to reality. This is manifest in many concepts including the unity of the soul and the body, the effect of mind on physiology, and the agreement of Bible and science. She states, "AH truth, whether in nature or in revelation, is consistent with itself in all its manifestations."—Ibid., p. 114. This wholistic approach to truth is not as manifest in traditional scholarly disciplines where the limitations of specialization and dissonance are more acceptable. Our wholistic view demands that the Bible and science agree. Ellen G. White does not allow for a dichotomy of thought here. She states, "Since the book of nature and the book of revelation bear the impress of the same master mind, they cannot but speak in harmony." —Education, p. 128.

the Creation account and scientific Inference

Many contemporary scientific interpretations disagree with the Genesis account of Creation. While space does not permit elaboration of details, which have filled many volumes, a few points must be emphasized. In my opinion the strongest scientific evidence supporting the idea of Creation lies in the evidence for intelligent design. To demand that the numerous complex integrated physical, physiological, and biochemical systems of living forms developed spontaneously seems almost beyond belief. The concept of Creation provides a plausible alternative.

Some scientific interpretations that include God as the originator and maintainer of the universe disagree with the Biblical specifications, especially in the area of time relationships. These interpretations, as is the case with most broad scientific concepts, are challenged on scientific grounds.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church with its wholistic approach to truth has taken cognizance of the controversy between some scientific information and Genesis and has established the Geoscience Research Institute that consists of a small group of scientists pursuing research in the questions posed by a broad approach to the study of origins. While working for this institute, my personal experience with the study of science has strengthened my belief in Creation as well as the Genesis account of a worldwide flood. Not all questions that scientific interpretations pose to Genesis are answered, and I am sympathetic to those who see a real conflict between some scientific conclusions and Genesis. Because of this conflict, many individuals recommend that the factual details of the Genesis creation account be discarded, but I do not believe that recognition of points of apparent dissonance is sufficient ground for denying the Biblical account. Before discarding Genesis one must take a comprehensive view and come up with an alternative that is more reliable and has greater explanatory value. Until this challenge is met, it seems reasonable to believe the Biblical account of origins because it explains more.

Conclusion

The called church believes that it has a special message for the world at this time. A fundamental pillar of this message is the account of Creation as given in the book of Genesis. Creation serves as a basis for God's authority and power. Creation is important to a belief in the reliability of the Bible as a whole and is the main basis for keeping the seventh-day Sabbath. For the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Creation is a most fundamental belief.


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Ariel A. Roth, Ph.D., is director of Geoscience Research Institute, located on the campus of Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California.

August 1984

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