The Lost Wor(l)d

William Van Doodewaard, author of The Quest for the Historical Adam (RHB, 2015), has written a critical review over at Reformation21 of another book published in 2015 by John Walton. We highly recommend that you read the review.

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Walton’s book, The Lost World of Adam and Eve explains his views on Genesis 2 and 3 whereas his earlier book, The Lost World of Genesis One, lays out his interpretation of Genesis 1. If you’re not familiar with Walton’s views, Van Doodewaard’s review will help as might this interview, but don’t be surprised if it feels a bit mind-bending, for Walton’s approach truly is unique.

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After reading J. Richard Middleton’s blog last September, I attended a conference on September 18–19, 2015 entitled “Genesis Recast: The War with Science is Over” where Walton gave two lengthy speeches, one representing each book. The event was hosted by an evangelical megachurch in New York State and sponsored by Biologos and other organizations. Walton opened the first evening and was first up to speak the next day. His role was to try and open the minds of the evangelical audience to the idea that perhaps we have been misunderstanding Genesis 1, 2, and 3 for centuries, if not millennia. He kept emphasizing that all he was doing was reading the text for what it is; he didn’t have an agenda to make room for evolution or some other theory. The audience could have been forgiven for doubting this, for one of the presentations that followed Walton’s was by Stephen Schaffner, a Christian physicist. He opened by asking what genetics tells us about where humans come from? His short answer: Through evolutionary biology. We were then shown branches of the evolutionary “tree of life” in which all living organisms have their place, beginning with the simplest life forms and evolving to homo sapiens over aeons of time. In Schaffner’s view the number of people on the earth has never been smaller than about 5000 and all people of European ancestry have at least 2% Neanderthal DNA.

So much for a historical, literal Adam and Eve as the one human pair from whom all humans descend.

I have neither the expertise nor the time to critique Schaffner’s presentation (you could look here, however). My point is just to make clear that Walton’s views fit into a context and are being used—whether designed for this purpose or not—to open the way for acceptance among Christians of most or all of the theory of evolution.

Schaffner ended with a quotation from the Russian Orthodox biologist Theodosius Dobzhandsky,

It is wrong to hold creation and evolution as mutually exclusive alternatives. I am a creationist and an evolutionist . . . Creation is not an event that happened in 4003 BC; it is a process that began 10 billion years ago and is still underway.

Dobzhandsky is, of course, merely applying the definition of the word “evolution” to “creation.”

The conference included a special lunch reserved for persons in ministry which I attended and which allowed us to ask Walton some questions. The first question was, “How would you teach this to children in Sunday School?” Walton responded that he would emphasize the positive aspects of the account: general things like God is the Creator and the one who gives order. But children, of course, will want to know whether the things described in Genesis actually happened the way they are described. Telling them there really is a Santa Claus but adding that his handwritten note from the North Pole doesn’t mean what you think it does, will leave them puzzled, unsatisfied, and uninterested in Santa Claus.

The advertising for the conference highlighted the idea that the war with science is over; Scripture, the Christian faith, and science are all in agreement. The conference made clear that this meant a wholesale reinterpretation of Genesis with virtually no challenge asserted against modern scientific theories and interpretations. Christians are hearing this more often, and can rest assured that the message is going to be repeated frequently. Walton was on a circuit, giving his speeches at many different venues. Other organizations such as this one (as well as a few evangelical universities and seminaries) have also written successful grant proposals to the Templeton Foundation, Biologos, the Faraday Institute, etc. and will be hiring personnel, putting on local seminars, creating brochures, establishing student scholarships, etc. They are out to change the mind of the church regarding God’s miracle of creation in six days.

The work that Van Doodewaard has done in his 2015 book and in the review we’ve introduced here will truly help equip us to stand firm upon the Word of God.

Free Book! Foundations by Rev. Peter Holtvlüwer

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Today we’re pleased to present a free electronic copy of Foundations: Sermons on Genesis 1-3.  This book by Rev. Peter Holtvlüwer has been out of print for a while and he’s now generously given us permission to make it available on Creation Without Compromise.  You can download it here — it can also be found under our “Books” tab above.   Enjoy!

Below you can find my review of Foundations, first published in Clarion in 2011.

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Foundations: Sermons on Genesis 1-3, Peter H. Holtvlüwer, Tintern: Little Angels Press, 2010.  Paperback, 163 pages, $15.00.

Attacks on the truths of God’s Word never stop.  This is also obviously true for the first three chapters of the Bible.  Outside the church there are voices that outrightly deny what the Bible says about our creation and fall.  Sadly, even inside the church there are voices that undermine what Scripture says about these things.  We can be thankful to God for faithful preachers of the Word like Peter Holtvlüwer, minister of the Spring Creek Canadian Reformed Church in Tintern, Ontario.

This book contains a series of sermons he preached to his previous congregation in Carman, Manitoba.  There are 13 sermons and they cover almost every verse of Genesis 1-3.  The sermons retain the style of sermons and they include the sort of references that one might expect from a pastor addressing a rural congregation.

There are three reasons why I’m going to recommend this book to you.  First, the author takes the biblical text seriously as a record of historical events.  There is no capitulation here to Darwinism, theistic evolution, or anything of the sort.  Second, Holtvlüwer constantly brings everything to a focus on Jesus Christ.  These sermons are Christ-centered and therefore edifying and God-glorifying.  Third, Foundations features clearly written prose.  The author explains Scripture in a direct and easy-to-understand fashion.

Preachers who review other preachers’ sermons are in an awkward position.  We all have our own ideas of what should be left in a sermon and what should be left out.  In this instance, too, there are some things that I would have liked to seen included.  As an example, especially in the light of some current discussions with our URC brothers, it would be good to see a reason why Holtvlüwer regards the covenant in Genesis 3 as a renewal of the covenant from Genesis 2.  He appears to assume that this is an obvious fact.  Or in chapter 12, he writes that “we often must learn to forgive ourselves too.”  Where does Scripture teach that?  Again, this seems to be assumed rather than established.

Overall, this is a valuable contribution to our Reformed community.  Holtvlüwer’s book could be used in public worship for reading sermons – song selections, etc. are included in an appendix.  It could also be used with profit for personal devotional reading.  Moreover, the author has generously decided to use all the proceeds for this book to support a worthy cause in Brazil.  The Reformed Reading Room in Recife is part of Canadian Reformed mission efforts in north-eastern Brazil.  God has used it in a fantastic way for the spread of the biblical gospel.  Your purchase of this book will contribute to the ongoing dissemination of the good news of Jesus Christ.

 

Evangelism Begins with Genesis One, Two, Three

Where to begin?

Many Christians witnessing for Christ have wondered what to say first. Many pastors have likewise wondered what curriculum to use in their new members courses. Where do you start when the person you’re speaking with knows absolutely nothing about the Christian faith? Some suggest the gospel of Mark, others the gospel of John, still others the Belgic Confession, but one of the most successful starting points has actually been Genesis 1, 2, and 3.

Presenting the gospel? Many Reformed churches have held training sessions for their members using Two Ways to Live, a course developed by Philip Jensen, an Evangelical (Reformed) Anglican from Australia, and marketed by Matthias Media. This course begins with the truth of the good creation.

God is the loving Ruler of the world. He made the world. He made us rulers of the world under him. “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, because you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being” (Rev. 4:11).

Starting with “Jesus saves” begs the question what he saves us from. Starting with sin begs the question whether God is responsible for it. But starting with the loving Ruler creating a good world gets matters off on the right track.

Teaching new members? I’ve used Genesis 1 through 12 at least twice in a new members course, in two different congregations, with good fruit. It’s really quite amazing how, by journeying through the narrative of the good creation of Genesis 1, the blessed provisions of Genesis 2, and the disastrous rebellion of Genesis 3, one finds all the major topics of Christian doctrine covered: God as almighty, loving, and wise; the world as distinct from God, dependent on him, and all very good; humans made in God’s image, exalted, and made responsible; Satan seeking to destroy God’s creation by bringing down its rulers; God holding humans responsible, starting with the man; God bringing a curse upon us and creation so as to punish us and draw us to him; and, finally, God promising salvation by severing our tie to Satan and speaking of a single Descendant who would put Satan out of commission. There may be other ways to get at these teachings, such as following the outline of the Belgic Confession, but it’s certainly important to erect these teachings as biblical pillars early on in one’s journey of faith.

Mr. Antoon Breen, support officer of the John Calvin Schools in Australia, has kindly sent us a short, entry-level, meditative-style booklet that he recently published in the Reformed Guardian series. Readers will enjoy his reflections on the text of Genesis one through three. His title suggests that the gospel itself begins with these chapters. I couldn’t agree more.

You’ll appreciate his story about asking a question in front of a crowd of 750 people at an ACER Conference on learning back in 2013. He writes (pp. 28–9),

I’m thankful that I got the opportunity, before an audience of 750 or so people, to challenge one of the keynote speakers on his appeal to scientific method. I told him that I respected the call to be scientific in our approaches to linking neuroscience to education. “But earlier in your address,” I continued, “you mentioned the developments that had taken place in relation to the human brain some 400 million years ago; that’s not science, that’s metaphysical. In this respect I would like to offer an alternative view. What if the human brain did not come about by the processes of evolution, but that it was created by a transcendent and immanent God, for the purpose that it should be used by mankind to return to Him glory and honour for His great and awesome works? I offer that as an alternative perspective”.

The applause told me that there were many more who didn’t bow their knees to the modern Baal.

You can read the rest of this edifying 73 page booklet here (you’ll notice we’ve added a new category: books).