by Leron Heath, DMin, adjunct professor at A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary
Questions of Creation and science are sure to bring “arguments and quarrels” (Titus 3:9). Can we discuss such contentious issues in “faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord” (2 Timothy 2:22, emphasis added)?
With the help of the founder of our denomination, A. B. Simpson, I propose a way to discuss the contentious issues of Creationism within the sphere of “faith, love and peace.”
Writing in 1889 on Creation and science, Simpson develops in his The Christ in the Bible Commentary on Genesis, three affirmations:
- The Bible is not a book of science.
- The Bible is a book about Christ.
- Nevertheless, the Bible affirms the goodness of our natural world.
I would like to consider these three Simpson affirmations and see if they can free us to engage in diverse Creationist views today with “faith, love and peace.”
1. The Bible is not a book of science.
“The Bible,” Simpson writes, “is not directly intended to be a revelation of natural science.”
Recently, I read a story about how our little planet Pluto lost its planetary status leaving our solar system with eight planets instead of nine. I didn’t learn about our ninth, or once ninth planet, from the Bible. The Bible does not reveal anything about Pluto. It does speak of “wandering stars” (Jude v. 13).
However, if I want to learn something about the physical composition of these “wandering stars,” I’ll look to science where I discover that these wandering stars aren’t actually stars but large heavenly bodies that reflect light from our star, the sun. As Simpson tells us, it is not the intention of the Bible to reveal such things.
2. The Bible reveals Christ.
“He was,” Simpson again writes, “the Word which God spoke when He said, ‘Let there be light.’”
Simpson interprets the first three chapters of Genesis, as with all of Scripture, in a relentless Christ-centered way. According to Simpson, “the story of Creation is a figure and type of . . . the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Some think Simpson overstates “Christ in the Bible,” finding Him in questionable places. Maybe so. But his interpretive instincts are sound. Simpson seeks to be obedient to Christ who teaches us that Moses “wrote about me” (John 5:46). Our risen Lord claimed all Scripture for Himself: “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44). After the Emmaus couple heard Jesus Himself interpret Scripture in this way, they exclaimed, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32). Such Spirit-filled, Christ-centered teaching of Scripture causes our hearts to burn. That’s how Simpson interprets Scripture. Creation has to do with Christ in whom “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).
3. Nevertheless, the Bible affirms the goodness of our natural world.
The Bible is, as Simpson puts it, “in real accord with the constitution of nature.”
The physical world is good and worthy of our investigation. It was said of Solomon that he “described plant life. . . . He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish” (1 Kings 4:33). There is something of the natural sciences in Solomon’s wisdom. It has to do with plant life (botany) and animal life (biology). We could add all the wonders of the heavens above and the waters below. Such wonders are worthy of our investigation. There is wisdom in scientific discovery.
Where Simpson’s Approach Leads Us
Once we settle into Christ as the center and inner logic of Scripture, we are free to wonder about how this Christ-centered, biblical revelation relates to the “constitution of nature.” Simpson had his own ideas. He saw the seven days of Creation as seven epics of God’s creative work culminating in the seventh day Sabbath rest, which “is still running its course . . . in which we now live,” Simpson writes.
One can question how Simpson works with science. We might question his conclusions. But it seems to me, we can’t question his freedom to engage with science. Since Simpson wrote these words, science has expanded its story to include trillions of galaxies, an expanding universe with a beginning and an end, and strange things like black holes with their event horizon. Science teaches us that the universe is not less but more wondrous than we could ever imagine. It expands our vision of God and the wonders of His Creation.
I’ve had the opportunity to try Simpson’s approach with my own congregation. Being close to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, our church has always had its share of scientists. Some years ago, we did a series of Sunday evening studies on three views of Creation: “Young Earth,” “Old Earth,” and “Theistic Evolution.” We had one rule: “You must treat those with a different view from your own as your brother and sister in Christ.” It was a hard rule for some. But we did it. No one left the church. The Center held.
“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command” (Hebrews 11:3). When we view the universe from the Center where Christ dwells, we can’t help but end up in a place of “faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord” (2 Timothy 2:22, emphasis added).