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The Text Is Too Strong

by Scott Diekmann

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“The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be. ...We know we are approaching the grandest of mysteries. The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding, lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home, the earth. For the first time we have the power to decide the fate of our planet and ourselves. This is a time of great danger. But our species is young and curious and brave. It shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos, and our place within it. I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this Cosmos, in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky."1
 
Recognize those words? They’re from the opening of Dr. Carl Sagan’s 1980 TV series “Cosmos.” Contrast his words with these:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
Recognize those words? They comprise the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed. The words “The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be” are also a creed. Each of these creeds form the foundation for the beliefs of those individual’s who confess them, and they stand in direct opposition to one another. They can’t both be true. The cosmos has not always existed. Before God created the world, there was no time, no space, no matter – there was only the Trinity. God created the universe ex nihilo – out of nothing.

A generation of Americans grew up on a steady diet of Dr. Sagan’s ideas, and the ideas of others like him. You may recall Dr. Sagan’s almost mystical-sounding voice explaining to each of us the mysteries of the universe and how life began. His TV series “Cosmos” won the Emmy and Peabody Awards, and his book by the same name became the best-selling English science book of all time. The Science Channel recently said “He stole our minds and hearts with this groundbreaking series,” and in large part, they’re correct. In a nation that was predominantly Christian at the time, how could this be? The Apostles’ Creed, which stands in contradistinction to Dr. Sagan’s ideas, has been confessed nearly since the beginning of Christianity. Rewind one-hundred and fifty years.

When Charles Darwin postulated his theory of evolution in 1859, mankind was already well on its way to divorcing God. It had found a new love, in the form of science. Man has always wondered aloud how the world was created, and the theory of evolution answered that riddle at a time when a naturalistic world view was filling the horizon.

Naturalism is the belief that the physical world is all that exists, and all phenomena can be explained by it. Life itself is a random byproduct of nature, and man is just another animal in the evolutionary spectrum. There is no supernatural agent in the universe. The survival of the fittest (or the group that spawns the most offspring) is the rule. While Darwin’s ideas on natural selection and evolution remain unproven, and discredited by at least a handful of intrepid scientists, they have been irreparably cast into the amalgam of our society. For those who buy into naturalism, the “theory of evolution” posited by Darwin fills the void left by a Godless universe. It is their holy grail. While many components of the current version of how the universe was formed and man came to be are nothing more than wild guesses advanced to plug another leak in the dike, they’re hanging onto the overall theory tighter than the lioness hangs on to her kill. And as you might expect, Darwin’s ideas have encouraged animalistic behavior in its human proponents. Well over 100 million people have been murdered by those who have espoused Darwin’s theory, killed at the hands of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung. Yet that number pales in comparison to the 42 million fetuses aborted annually worldwide, killed at the hands of their own mothers.2 These crimes are the predictable result of a naturalistic worldview.
 
There are plenty of modern-day naturalist apologists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchins, and Sam Harris. While it might seem that Christians would not be foolish enough to buy into such a worldview, many do. Through a continuous Darwinian indoctrination via the public schools and the media, a belief that we have arisen from the primordial slime is nearly a given, even among some Christians. Many support such ideas as an “old earth,” abortion, and assisted suicide. A prevalent notion among Christians is that God created the earth, but did it over billions of years (theistic evolution). The big bang theory is another favorite – the universe was formed by the rapid expansion of a tiny “singularity,” an idea that seems rather absurd and beyond natural laws. (In complete honesty, I will have to admit to holding to a variant of the big bang theory called the BSBB theory, or bumper sticker big bang theory, which I saw on the back bumper of a car: “The Big Bang Theory – God spoke and ‘bang,’ it happened.”)

An example of a Christian who buys into the big bang theory is Dr. Hugh Ross. His book The Creator and the Cosmos is a well read book, popular with many Christians. He cites Bible verses in his book, and offers cosmological evidence for God as creator, yet at the same time he contradicts Scripture by teaching that God created the earth over a period of billions of years and untold generations. When a Christian makes such an argument, he has abandoned Sola Scriptura, and is sawing off the limb to which he is tenuously clinging.

When the creation account, that the earth was created out of nothing by God in six literal days, is denied, you argue in the face of God. Those who do so argue to their eternal peril, and their musings may resemble the conversation Job had with the LORD:
"Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements--surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:2-7

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: "Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his? Job 40:6-9
At times we all follow in Job’s footsteps, and we should all answer the LORD with words similar to Job’s: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5-6 ESV).

Man, in his arrogance, often chooses a path other than a Biblical one, refusing to acknowledge the Bible as our sole source and norm. Let’s face it, believing in a six-day creation sounds a bit daft on its surface. Luther states that “the article of the creation of all things out of nothing is harder to believe than the article of the incarnation.”3 Yet that is what God’s Word says. The Hebrew word for “day” in the Genesis account can only be reasonably interpreted as a 24-hour period. There are those who label the creation account, and other events that are recorded in the Bible, as either allegory or myth. But Jesus Himself believed in the creation story (Mark 10:2-9), the flood (Matt. 24:36-39), the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 10:15), and Jonah’s three day sojourn inside the belly of the fish (Matt. 12:39-40). Regarding those who wish to change the time frame of creation, Luther points out:
When Moses writes that God created heaven and earth and whatever is in them in six days, then let this period continue to have been six days, and do not venture to devise any comment according to which six days were one day. But if you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are. For you are to deal with Scripture in such a way that you bear in mind that God Himself says what is written. But since God is speaking, it is not fitting for you wantonly to turn His Word in the direction you wish to go.4
Peter warns us about such thinkers:
Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.  2 Peter 3:3-7
Notice that Peter points out that these scoffers “deliberately forget.” “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:19-21 ESV).

It may not seem like a big deal whether or not a Christian holds to a literal six-day creation. Luther addresses their lax position:
O Lord God, anybody who can’t believe that Christ is in the bread, in the grain of wheat, will believe the creation even less! That all of creation was made from nothing is a higher article of faith. Much less will he believe that God became man, and least of all that there are three persons in one substance. Reason lets this alone. It’s an easy thing for me to believe that the body of Christ is in the bread, but it’s hard to believe that so many excellent bodies in heaven and on earth should have come from nothing. I can’t comprehend this. It’s impossible for me. Much less can I comprehend that the Son was born of the Virgin Mary and that the other two persons [of the Trinity] did not become incarnate. If people are offended by this article, if they don’t learn the ABC’s, how will they learn their Donatus? The article of creation is a lofty thing which no man can comprehend. So the Holy Scriptures remain hidden to the clever and the wise, as St. Paul said. If they don’t believe this, the consequence will quickly follow.”5 (brackets in original)
To believe in some form of theistic evolution, that Adam and Eve came into being through billions of years of (God directed) evolution, presupposes that multiple generations of organisms died prior to Adam and Eve. Yet the Bible is clear that death was brought into the world by sin: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned...” (Rom. 5:12 ESV). If death was already in the world before Adam and Eve, then the Bible is incorrect, and God is a liar. We no longer need a Savior. While sin may be conquered on the cross, death wouldn’t be. The list of cascading theological problems that theistic evolution creates is endless - the guaranteed consequence of ignoring the clear words of Scripture.

It is no coincidence that the Apostle John begins his Gospel in the same fashion that Moses begins Genesis. Creation and redemption go together. They cannot be separated any more than can Christ’s human nature be separated from his divine nature, or than can the wine in the chalice be separated from the blood. The teaching of Christ is not one of multiple doctrines that can be chosen or bypassed cafeteria-style, but a single doctrine that comprises a whole. Take away any single article of faith from the catholic doctrine and the whole thing falls apart.

Creation and redemption go together:
But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”  Isaiah 43:1

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:6
The world does not evolve in an unending, aimless cycle of evolution. God did not walk away from His good creation. He continues to sustain it by causing the rain to fall and granting us fruitful seasons and good government. He continues to create. He creates new life with which to feed the world. He blesses us with children. Most importantly, He sent His Son Jesus Christ to enter into His creation, God made flesh, to create new life in us.
Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.  2 Timothy 1:9-10
He creates new life in us through the elements of creation – through the spoken Word, through the waters of Baptism, and through the bread/body and wine/blood of the Eucharist. Jesus takes us, who were dead in our sins, and makes us alive in Him – again creating out of nothing. And unlike the bleak future that evolution offers for our universe, with the universe ultimately suffering heat death, Christ promises to make all things new. In Christ, creation and redemption are tied together. All things are created by Him and for Him, and in Him all things are held together. He daily creates in us a clean heart, and renews a right spirit within us.

Perhaps the question we must ask is not “How did we get here,” but “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth” (Luke 18:8)? The issue of creation is not a complicated one. When Martin Luther debated Ulrich Zwingli at the Marburg Colloquy on the question of Christ’s real presence in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, (Zwingli didn’t believe in the real presence), Luther wrote with chalk on the table the words “This is my body,” and covered them up with the velvet tablecloth. Later in the debate Zwingli said to Luther, “It would be a shame to hold, teach, and defend such an important article without being able or willing to give a proof from Scripture.” At that point Dr. Luther uncovered the words he had scrawled on the table top and said to Zwingli “This is our Scripture passage. You have not yet taken it from us, as you promised to do. ‘This is my body.’ I cannot pass over the text of my Lord Jesus Christ, but I must confess and believe that the body of Christ is there.” Luther’s actions caused Zwingli to jump to his feet. Zwingli could not allow the simple words of Scripture to overcome his own fallible human reason. Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse commented on Luther’s position: “We must believe Luther when he repeatedly assures us that he was well aware of the difficulties presented by a literal understanding, and how much easier it would be for human reason to accept Zwingli’s view. [Luther said,] ‘But the text is too strong for me.’”6 (brackets added)

The text must be too strong for us as well. Human reason and science cannot be allowed to rule over Scripture – Sola Scriptura, whether it relates to Communion, creation, or any other article of faith.
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.  Hebrews 11:3
Carl Sagan was certainly right about one thing. He was correct when he said “We know we are approaching the grandest of mysteries.” It was his starting point that was all wrong.

“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith-- to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Romans 16:25-27 ESV).



Endnotes

1.    Carl Sagan, “The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean, Part 1,” YouTube, 20 Sep 2009 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lqsG9_ughU>.

2. "Abortion Facts," The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, 20 Sep 2009 <http://www.abortionno.org/Resources/fastfacts.html>.

3.    Ewald M. Plass, compiler, What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian, (St. Louis: CPH, 1959) §4934, 1523.

4.    Plass, §4935, 1523.

5.    Martin Luther, Luther's Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut Lehmann. Vol. 54, Table Talk, CD-ROM (Saint Louis: CPH, 1999).

6.    Hermann Sasse, This is My Body: Luther’s Contention for the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar, (Adelaide, South Australia: Openbook Publishers, 1959) 286.