I read it again today online somewhere. Someone asserted that the doctrine of creation is not a primary issue. Instead, it is of secondary, or even tertiary, importance. Oftentimes this will be appended with a claim that what you believe about creation has no bearing on the gospel. This claim needs to be addressed.
Dr. Martin Williams is a professor at the Reformed Theological College in Melbourne. He did a presentation a few years ago entitled “Is Creation a Secondary Issue? The Importance of Genesis to the Gospel.” Williams began by pointing out that the Bible does speak in 1 Cor. 15:3-4 about things of “first importance,” implying that there are other things of less importance. That question is: where does the biblical account of creation fit?
Williams argued that creation is a primary issue because:
- It is clearly taught in Scripture;
- The biblical account of creation is therefore foundational to the Christian worldview;
- It is therefore crucial for the correct understanding of the saving significance of the death of Jesus;
- Thus rejecting the biblical account of creation radically changes the answer to the question: why did Jesus die?
That’s the outline of Williams’ argument. Let’s now follow his reasoning more closely.
Why Do People Die?
Before anything else, we need to ask the question: why do people die? According to Darwin, death is permanent, natural, and necessary. Carl Sagan asserted that “the secrets of evolution are time and death.” Theistic evolutionist Denis Alexander claims that death and disease are normal and natural parts of life on this planet. But this is contrary to what Scripture says. The Bible tells us that death is the result of sin, not creation.
According to Romans 5:12, Adam brought death to the human race. The verse says:
- Sin came into the world
- It was introduced through one man
- Death came through sin
- Death then spread to all men
Death is an unnatural intruder. 1 Corinthians 15:26 says death is an enemy. Human beings die because of sin, not because of how we were made.
Why Did Jesus Die?
Martin Williams adduces four reasons for the death of Christ.
First, Jesus died to bear our sins and consequently our death. 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…” His suffering was bodily and vicarious/substitutionary. He suffered bodily so that he might die in our place. But then, Williams asks: why did Jesus suffer the penalty of death if death isn’t a penalty? From a biblical perspective, death is abnormal, conditional, unnatural, and bad. That’s true of both physical and spiritual death. But following the logic of theistic evolutionists, Christ’s death is redundant and senseless. It achieves nothing. Their view leads to a sort of Gnosticism where people are being saved from nature.
Second, Jesus died to bear our sicknesses. Matthew quotes from Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Mt. 8:17). Illness is rooted in death. Via the quote from Isaiah 53, Matthew links Jesus’ healing of physical illnesses to his substitutionary death for sinners. But evolution says that disease is normal, always present, and natural. If that’s correct, why did Jesus suffer to bear our illnesses and diseases? Did Jesus die because we are evolving? The Bible tells us that illness and disease are part of God’s judgment on sin. The problem with theistic evolution is that it posits long ages (a.k.a. deep time) before any sin. But then, someone will ask, what about animal death?
Third, Jesus died to redeem all creation. Williams refers to Hosea 4:2-3. In verse 2, the LORD speaks of the sin of his people. Then in verse 3, he speaks of the consequences for creation, also for animals: “Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away.” The animal world experiences death because of human sin. This is why Romans 8:19-21 speaks of the creation waiting, as it continues in its bondage to corruption. The fall didn’t just affect humanity – it had a cosmic scope. But Christ’s redemption also has a cosmic scope. According to Col. 1:20, he is going to reconcile all things. So, by Jesus’ atoning death, we are saved along with nature. If theistic evolution is correct, why did Jesus suffer and die for creation, if the fall had no effect on creation?
Williams says that theistic evolution and biblical creation understand the fall differently, therefore, if followed to their logical conclusions, they should have a different view of the cross. He summarizes with this chart:
Did Jesus die to bear the consequences of our creation or our sin? Theistic evolutionists would be logically led to answer the former. And that has two consequences: 1) Creation is not good, but bad. 2) Sin isn’t the original reason for Christ’s death; Christ had to die because of creation. So, according to theistic evolution, God redeemed his creation because of the way he made it.
I find Martin’s argument biblically sound and logically compelling. In fact, this is the clearest presentation I’ve heard of why creation matters for the gospel. The only thing I would add is that, thankfully, many theistic evolutionists don’t follow their own logic through. There may be theistic evolutionists who are inconsistent – they haven’t thought it through. But once they do, it’s open season on the gospel. Creation is indeed of first importance. We can’t afford to tolerate theistic evolution because the price of doing so is the gospel.