Anyone who works in creation ministry will hear, at some point or another, someone say to them, “The creation/evolution and age of the earth issue doesn’t matter. All that matters is the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Now, of course, the gospel is paramount to any Christian and should always be the focal point (1 Corinthians 2:2), but does this mean that questions about Genesis are inconsequential or irrelevant? Not at all because the gospel itself is founded in Genesis! It is only because there was no death before sin, a literal Fall, and a literal Adam and Eve that the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, came to earth to die a literal death to take the penalty for sin—death—upon Himself. Without a literal Genesis there is no gospel! So what someone believes about Genesis is not irrelevant because the gospel springs from Genesis.
It also matters what you believe about Genesis because it is an issue of authority. Is man the ultimate decider of truth or is God and His Word the measure of truth? If man’s ideas of millions of years and evolution are exalted above the clear meaning of the biblical text, then man becomes the authority. And if man is the authority in Genesis then where else is man the ultimate authority? Suddenly, the Bible is not the measure of truth—fallible, sinful human beings are!
It’s also a question of authority because changing God’s clear words in Genesis opens the door for more compromise throughout the Bible. After all, if God got it wrong in Genesis then where else did He get it wrong? Doubting Genesis opens the door to doubt the rest of Scripture. The life of Charles Templeton illustrates how important this is. Indeed, his testimony shows that souls are indeed at stake as a result of this issue.
Charles Templeton was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1915, professed faith in Christ and became an evangelist in 1936, and became an associate of Billy Graham in 1945. His evangelistic ministry boomed with thousands professing faith in Christ after hearing his preaching. A small church he began in Toronto was soon a church home to hundreds. The National Association of Evangelicals named Templeton one of the men “best used by God.” Clearly this young man was going places—but not places that anyone expected. Templeton, despite his passionate preaching to teeming crowds, was quickly losing faith in God’s Word. An except from his book, Farewell to God, includes a conversation with Billy Graham that explains the shift that occurred just before he began studying at Princeton Theological Seminary,
“But, Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation. The world was not created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years. It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s a demonstrable fact.”
Templeton began questioning God’s words in Genesis. When he rejected the biblical account of creation and instead accepted man’s words of evolution and millions of years, his trust in the rest of the Bible began to slide too. He realized the inconsistency of rejecting Genesis and accepting the rest of Scripture. Sadly, no one was there with answers for his questions about Genesis. No one told him that he could, for biblical and scientific reasons, reject evolution and millions of years without committing “intellectual suicide.” In the end, Templeton left the ministry and the faith and was a professed agnostic until he died in 2001.
Templeton’s tragic story highlights why it is so important to accept Genesis as written. Indeed, if God got it wrong in Genesis then how does anyone know He didn’t get it wrong in Exodus or Matthew or John? This leads to a slippery slide of unbelief that can have tragic consequences.
As Christians, we need to start our thinking with God’s Word and stand on it’s authority. Rather than accepting the fallible, changing opinions of man, we need to boldly proclaim the truth of God’s Word from the very first verse. Indeed, “Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17) from the very beginning.