Genesis 1-11: Myth or History? No Compromise! *

* This editorial is part of a longer article on the subject that appears in the spring 2001 issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal.

There may be no compromise with the denial of the historicity of Genesis 1-11. But the evolutionary theory of origins necessarily involves the dismissal of the opening chapters as non-historical. Among many others, David Lack, himself an ardent proponent of Darwinian evolution, has stated this bluntly:

While Darwinism was widely supposed to contradict the accuracy of the Bible, what it actually challenges is the literal rendering of the first three chapters of Genesis, and if these are properly to be regarded as allegorical, no conflict need arise.

Lack is urging Christians to give up the view that these chapters are “literally true” for the view required by evolutionary science, namely, that they are “allegorical.” Lack is honest (Evolutionary Theory and Christian Belief: The Unresolved Conflict, London, 1957, p. 68).

There may be no compromise, therefore, with the evolutionary theory of origins. None.

Benjamin B. Warfield’s surrender of the historicity of the biblical account of creation to Darwinian evolutionary theory was shameful. Warfield made epochs of the days of Genesis 1, allowed for what today is known as the theistic evolution of all the forms and species other than man, and found acceptable the biological development of man from the apes as regards the body. So far would Warfield go with Darwin. Only the soul of man could not have derived from the beasts. This, God had to slip into brutish Adam as a kind of aboriginal deus ex machina.

If under the directing hand of God a human body is formed at a leap by propagation from brutish parents, it would be quite consonant with the fitness of things that it should be provided by His creative energy with a truly human soul (Critical Reviews, New York, 1932, p. 138).

As regards the biblical account of the creation of Eve, which cannot be harmonized with theistic evolutionary theory and which is virtually impervious to exegetical manipulation, Warfield, though he recognized the difficulty, suggested that the creation of Eve from a rib of Adam could somehow be explained away so as to allow for the evolutionary development also of the body of the woman.

I am free to say, for myself, that I do not think that there is any general statement in the Bible or any part of the account of creation, either as given in

Genesis 1

and 2 or elsewhere alluded to, that need be opposed to evolution. The sole passage which appears to bar the way is the very detailed account of the creation of Eve. It is possible that this may be held to be a miracle (as Dr. Woodrow holds), or else that the narrative may be held to be partial and taken like the very partial descriptions of the formation of the individual in Job and the Psalms; that is, it teaches only the general fact that Eve came of Adam’s flesh and bone (see “Evolution or Development,” in Evolution, Scripture, and Science, ed. Mark A. Noll and David N. Livingstone, Grand Rapids, 2000, p. 130).

At the end of his consideration of the life of Charles Darwin, self-confessed unbeliever and enemy of the Christian faith, Warfield could write: “We stand at the deathbed of a man whom, in common with all the world, we most deeply honor” (Studies in Theology, New York, 1932, p. 580).

Warfield refused to oppose the evolutionary theory of origins with its concomitant reduction of the opening chapters of Genesis to myth. Instead, he approved it. Thus, Warfield contributed greatly to the destruction of his Presbyterian Church as a Christian body. Warfield’s error is now doing grave damage to conservative evangelical, Reformed, and Presbyterian churches on a wide front. In almost all the conservative churches and seminaries, the theologians are appealing to the great Princetonian in defense of their own acceptance of evolution and rejection of the historicity of Genesis 1 and 2. Instances of this widespread appeal to Warfield include Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders (Grand Rapids, 1987) and the book edited by Noll and Livingstone mentioned above.

This appeal to Warfield is not without its value. It indicates how far those who make the appeal have gone in their own thinking and how far they are willing to have their churches go. Usually, these theologians are quite reticent about their own views, contenting themselves with striking out against the “fundamentalism” and “anti-intellectualism” of those who insist on a literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2 as history. By appealing to Warfield, these men show, at the very least, that they are open to epochs of millions of years, theistic evolution as the explanation of all the forms and species other than man, the biological descent of man from the beasts as regards his body, and even “Adam’s” begetting of “Eve’s” body from a primate. How such thinking answers the question, “Genesis 1-11: Myth or History?” is plain to all.

What explains the vulnerability of Warfield and other otherwise orthodox men of his day to the pressures of evolutionary scientific theory? The explanation is fourfold. First, the assault on the doctrine of creation and on the inspiration of Genesis 1-11 by the enemy of the Christian faith and its God in these last days is powerful and crafty.

Second, Warfield was mistaken in his thinking about general revelation. He supposed that general revelation and Scripture are two equal authorities for Christians. Indeed, in practice Scripture must give way to general revelation. Warfield then naively identified the latest scientific theory with general revelation. Worse still, Warfield thought that God’s revelation of Himself in creation to unbelievers, for example, Charles Darwin, resulted in right knowledge of God as Creator, so that the Christian church is required to yield to Darwin’s proclamation of the truth of God. Darwin is virtually a herald of God in the world! Warfield confused general revelation with natural theology.

Romans 1:18ff. teaches that the ungodly, including ungodly scientists (probably ungodly scientists especially), immediately hold under the knowledge of God that they have from creation, changing the truth of God, for instance, the truth of God as Creator, into a lie. This is all that they can do as totally depraved sinners. God’s sole purpose with general revelation for the ungodly is to render them without excuse.

Third, Warfield was not sufficiently impressed with the total depravity of the mind, or reason, of the ungodly. This is also a fundamental error in Warfield’s apologetics. Ungodly scientists, for example, Charles Darwin and Thomas (“Dr. Beelzebub”) Huxley, do not think neutrally, much less favorably, about God and His Word on the basis of raw data. They theorize in enmity against God and His Word. Their scientific theories are the weapons of their warfare against the church.

Fourth, Warfield’s attitude toward the culture of the world of the ungodly, especially the culture of the universities, learning, and science, was not antithetical. It was not the attitude of spiritual separation and warfare. Relations between the Presbyterian Church and its colleges, on the one hand, and the surrounding culture, on the other hand, were friendly. The world would bless the church through its learning, and the church would Christianize the world with its theology. No doubt, the theory of common grace helped to frame this attitude.

Whatever the reasons, by his concessions and compromise, Warfield sold out the historicity of Genesis 1-11.

There may be no compromise with Darwinian, or any other, evolutionary theory of origins. History has abundantly proved the truth of Darwin’s own confidence, that the slightest concession to his theory invariably will result in complete surrender.

It early became a maxim with Darwin that those who went a little way toward his doctrine would eventually go much farther, and that those who went a great way, would eventually become converts (William Irvine, Apes, Angels, & Victorians: The Story of Darwin, Huxley, and Evolution, New York, 1963, p.174).

On the contrary, faithful churches, with their seminaries, must nail their colors to the mast on this issue. The Protestant Reformed Churches require all candidates for the ministry to believe from the heart and to confess the historicity ofGenesis 1-11, particularly the historicity of Genesis 1 and 2, that is, the seven days of creation and rest. The ministerial candidates must promise that they will not tolerate but oppose every form of the lie of the mythical nature of the opening chapters of the Bible. All members of the churches are required to believe the historicity of Genesis 1-11.

“Suffer the Little Children”

To us, the issue, “Genesis 1-11: Myth or History?” is not intellectual and academic.

In the Protestant Reformed Churches, the covenant children begin their catechism instruction at the age of five or six. These are the questions and answers that they learn in the first lessons of the first book:

“Who is your Creator? God.”

“Did God create all things? Yes, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

“How do we know about this creation? God tells us about it in His Word, the Bible.”

“Who are our first parents? Adam and Eve.”

“How did Satan come to Eve? He used the serpent to talk to Eve.”

“What did God promise? A Savior, to save us from our sin.”

We want these little children to go to heaven. If they come to doubt all these answers as myth, they will go to hell as unbelievers. Whoever is responsible—parent, preacher, school-teacher, theologian, or synod—it were better for them that a millstone were hanged about their neck and that they were drowned in the depth of the sea.

These little ones, who cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand, must believe a historical Genesis 1-11.

The theologians are called, and privileged, to lead the way.

— DJE