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The Church Needs A Diagnostic: A Deep Dive Into The Deterioration Of Biblical Authority

Calvin Smith

Let’s face facts. The vast majority of church leaders and laypersons realize the once-Christianized Western world is in a free fall, becoming “less Christian” every day.

The long-hoped-for revival many older saints have been praying for seems more distant than ever, as the citizens from nations once built upon biblical foundations are observing their leaders and educational institutions encouraging the collapse of godly values in culture—and most Christians feel powerless to stop it.

So-called “progressive values,” woke ideology, atheism, humanism, communism, new age and occult practices, etc. are all being promoted vigorously to children in our schools and the media. And many of the adults society has produced act more like spoiled children, demanding the nanny state provide them with everything while rejecting the biblical imperative given in 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

And let’s not fool ourselves into thinking this is just a matter of a lack of industry and labor on the part of ministry leaders. It’s not as if there hasn’t been a lot of effort put forth by countless faithful pastors and teachers. As a matter of fact, most church leaders are busier than ever, implementing programs, doing counselling, and trying to shepherd their people—but it always seems like something’s missing.

With so many things for the church to deal with, we need to ask ourselves: how do we make a real difference? I believe the church needs to do a diagnostic, to figure out where to focus their efforts. Because the situation we find ourselves in didn’t happen by chance—there’s a much deeper issue. It’s like a gigantic, overwhelming puzzle, and the church can’t seem to find the “missing piece.”

Back to Basics

As the adage commonly used in both sports and business goes: when things are falling apart, you need to go back to basics. Because without a strong foundation, any structure will eventually erode and collapse over time. Psalm 11:3 says, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

And although written in a certain context, this verse should cause us to realize that perhaps we need to examine our foundations, which could lead us to realize why we’re facing these issues. So let’s move to the core teaching of virtually all evangelical churches (regardless of denomination).

And to do so, I’d like to use the imagery of a huge “worldview” puzzle and imagine us placing several of the most essential pieces together to form the big picture of what Scripture teaches from beginning to end. To start, let’s figure out what the center piece would be.

The Cross

I think every Christian would agree that the key piece of the Christian worldview is the message of the cross. The Bible says that our Savior, Jesus Christ, became the “last Adam,” died on a cross for the sins of the world, and paid the penalty that we justly deserve so that on judgment day we won’t suffer eternal separation from God in hell. But what else comes with the message of the cross?

Virgin Conception

Well, traditions like Christmas arose from the event of the Messiah’s (Jesus’) birth, which was foretold in the Old Testament. Christ was born of a virgin—the sinless Son of God, unblemished and perfect in every way so that he was able to take on the sins of the world as the only suitable sacrifice. And what rounds out the message of the cross?

Resurrection

Well, it’s the really good news that Jesus rose from the dead! And in doing so, he conquered sin and death. Which is why Christians celebrate Easter Sunday, the observation of Jesus’ resurrection.

These key events are vital to the Christian worldview because they are the reason we can be saved. And they were all real, historical events—not spiritual narratives or metaphors. The Bible makes it clear that if these events didn’t actually occur, we are still lost in our sins, our faith is in vain, and we are to be pitied above everyone.

Jesus acknowledged this link between earthly, “real” time/space events and spiritual truths when he spoke to Nicodemus about being born again: “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12).

But have you ever wondered why Jesus needed to die the way he did? Was the crucifixion really necessary? Why did Jesus have to suffer such a horrible death? Couldn’t he have only died a “spiritual” death?

To understand these events fully, we must return to the foundations of our faith, rooted in the full authority of the Old Testament, and specifically the book of beginnings—Genesis (in particular, Genesis 1–11).

Jesus acknowledged the authority of the Old Testament each time he said, “It is written,” or “Have you not read,” and he referenced Genesis as real history, so Christians should do the same.

Foundational Knowledge—Transforming Power—Hope

You see, the book of Genesis gives us a clear understanding for the whole reason Jesus came as the “last Adam,” fulfilled his mission on the cross, and rose from the dead. It was to fix the problem caused by the first Adam—the first man God created—the head of the human race.

So, starting from Genesis, let’s work all the way through the Bible toward the occurrences surrounding the cross. In doing so we’ll see some key concepts displayed that are linked to specific events along the way, and this will help us get a fuller understanding of what the Bible teaches.

Creation

The Bible describes God’s creation of a perfect world, a paradise where everything was “very good.” Genesis 1:29 says the world was so good that man and animals ate plants (there were no carnivores and therefore no bloodshed). There was no sin, corruption, or death. Those things only occurred after the most tragic event in human history, which was . . .

The Fall

As a test of his loyalty to him and his word, God gave Adam one negative command—that he should not eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil—and told him up front that death would be the consequence should he do so. Unfortunately, Adam chose to exercise his free will in clear rebellion against God.

As a result, God cursed the earth, and suffering and death entered the world. Because Adam was the head of the human race, his sin nature was passed on to all his descendants. As Romans 5:12 says, “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.”

And it was because of this event that mankind is now separated from God, not just able to die physically, but already spiritually dead as well. Which is why judgment falls on all men, because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And although many understand there is a coming worldwide judgment, we must understand God judged the entire world in the past as well.

Judgment

In Genesis 6, we begin reading of how God judged the wicked in a global flood where “all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered” (Genesis 7:19). This judgment was sent specifically to destroy everything living on land, except for righteous Noah, his family, and representative kinds of land animals onboard the great ark.

This parallel to the coming judgment is spoken of in 2 Peter 3:6–7.

2 Peter 3:6-7 KJV – “Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”

This judgment (which is a perfect cause-and-effect explanation of the fossil record—the billions of dead things buried in sedimentary rock all over the earth) wasn’t arbitrary. It was based on the fact that there are moral absolutes that emanate from who God is. Because God is holy and righteous, he determines what is right and what is wrong. Which is why we see the giving of the law to God’s people a little later in Scripture.

The Law

God established the law through Moses, which taught (among other things) what was right or wrong and social doctrines. Although this encompassing law was specifically given to the Israelites, in a big picture sense, God’s moral law—which relates to all of humankind—defined the morality and ethical standards the West was largely founded upon and previously clung to.

Most importantly, it showed that mankind could never reach God’s standard through their own works, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” as Romans 3:23 states.

Indeed, the Apostle Paul taught, “I would not have known what sin was except through the law” (Romans 7:7). Indeed, God’s moral laws are an essential spiritual diagnostic. The knowledge of sin and judgment leads people to seek mercy at the foot of the cross of Christ.

And that brings us to when Jesus performed his earthly ministry, the events of the rest of the New Testament, and up to where we are today. But the Bible, being the revelation from the all-knowing Creator God, even contains information about upcoming events.

Restoration

The final piece of the Christian worldview is, of course, what the future will be like. And although there are differing opinions among theologians about timing of events and other factors, the hope for all believers that the Bible clearly expresses is that there will be a time after God’s coming judgment when he will restore the earth to a similar state as what it was in the beginning, as far as sin and death is concerned.

Revelation 21:4 KJV – “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

We will get new, incorruptible bodies and the last enemy—death—will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Foundational Knowledge—Transforming Power—Hope

A good creation, marred by sin and in need of a Savior, returned to glory. Perfection, corruption, judgment, salvation, and restoration. This “big picture” history of the world and humanity was taught and accepted by the Christian church for almost 2,000 years. And up until around 200 years ago in the Western world, even most non-Christians accepted this as history to varying degrees.

So what changed? And does this have any bearing on the struggles the church is facing? Well, yes it does, and here’s the problem.

Like I did, most children in the West go to public schools. And what they and I learned is a completely different story than what I just outlined above. In fact, it is diametrically opposed to what the Bible teaches. We were taught the story of evolution, which, briefly stated, embraces the following:

Cosmic Evolution

In the beginning there was . . . a big bang! Billions of years ago, time, matter, and energy came into existence as the result of a cosmic explosion. Hydrogen began to coalesce, and over billions of years, the stars, planets, and galaxies formed—all by themselves through natural processes. And where did earth come from?

Geological Evolution

The earth started as a hot molten orb, slowly cooling down enough for water to condense and fill the oceans. Eventually, the rock layers containing dead things (fossils) within them would be part of this “geological evolution.” However, to have dead things you would first need live things, so where did they come from in the story?

Chemical Evolution

After quite some time, the first self-replicating life form spontaneously generated from non-living chemicals. But from where then did all of the biodiversity come from?

Biological Evolution

Easy enough, or so the story says. This simple organism became more and more complex over millions of years via genetic mutation and natural selection, ultimately producing all of the various life forms that have ever existed on our planet.

Human Evolution

And that would include us! Eventually, apelike creatures developed higher brain functions, and humans evolved, forming primitive societies and later cultures that developed laws, religions, and even social institutions like marriage. And what does the future hold according to this story?

Heat death

Well, because the entire universe is subject to the laws of entropy, our ultimate future is “heat death.” All the available energy in the universe is winding down, so eventually, there will be no more. And at that point, no life will exist, and perhaps everything will collapse and just begin all over again.

The New View of Life

Today, this long-age “history” of the world is promoted by virtually all public educational centers. And even many Christians have adopted portions of this “history” and attempted to reconcile it with the Bible.

However, despite many wondering if millions of years of evolutionary processes are compatible with the teaching of Scripture, even a cursory examination comparing this narrative taught in public education against what the Bible teaches reveals they are in complete opposition to one another.

A Clash of Worldviews

Let’s look at just one aspect of the evolutionary story and see how it impacts the main tenet of Christian theology—the message of the cross—through the introduction of the idea of supposed millions of years of earth history.

You see, many Christians who may not believe in the evolution of animals into man still believe in millions of years of earth history. But the idea of millions of years came mainly from an interpretation of the sedimentary rock layers all over the world, which are assumed to have been deposited slowly and which contain fossils, as mentioned.

But the question for Christians is: where do you fit the millions of years in the Bible?

Where Do You Fit Deep Time in Scripture?

Virtually no one attempts to fit these supposed millions of years of history after the account of Adam and Eve. Rather, they try to fit it into the Bible before Adam and Eve appear on the scene—somewhere before or during the six days of creation.

But if that’s true, then we must reconcile the fossil record, which is a record of death! And paleontologists have even discovered carnivorous activity, cancerous tumors, and thorns in the fossil record. But wouldn’t that necessitate death and disease occurring before Adam even arrived on the scene?

This has massive theological implications. When we accept and add the idea of millions of years of earth history in the rocks, we are saying that there were millions of years of death, disease, and bloodshed before Adam sinned. But this contradicts the clear teaching of the Bible that God pronounced his completed creation “very good” and that death only occurred after and because of the event of Adam sinning.

Death Before Sin Affects the Gospel

When we put millions of years of time into the Bible like this, suddenly many portions of Scripture don’t make a lot of sense. For example, Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death. . . .” But if death occurred before Adam sinned, what are the wages of sin?

Even more specifically, Romans 5:12 states, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin. . . .” But death couldn’t have entered the world because of Adam’s sin if it was there already!

People might try to deflect and say these passages are only discussing spiritual death, but why then did God originally warn that Adam would return to the dust he’d been made from (physically die) when discussing his punishment in Genesis 3:19? And why did Jesus die a physical death on the cross as well as endure separation from God when paying the penalty for sin?

And what about Hebrews 9:22: “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”? What would the shedding of blood have to do with forgiveness of sin if bloodshed had supposedly been occurring for millions of years prior to forgiveness being needed?

Affecting Past, Present, and Future

This idea directly affects the gospel message because Jesus was sent to repay the debt that Adam’s sin brought. Jesus died a physical death, shed his blood, conquered sin and death, and promised to return again and restore the world similar to the way it was in the beginning with no death or suffering.

So it was not only the creation account affected by this concept; rather, it’s the entire eschatological landscape of Scripture. If millions of years of bloodshed occurred prior to man’s sin, what will God’s restoration of the world in the future look like? Will we even be able to tell the difference if it looks similar to all the death and suffering we see in the world today?

If the world really is millions of years old then the creation account seems more like mythology than history, but this is very inconsistent with Jesus’ teaching. Jesus quoted Genesis 1 and 2 verbatim to the Pharisees when he gave his defense of biblical marriage in Mathew 19:4–5.

Matthew 19:4-5 KJV – “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?”

He also gave a direct endorsement to the writings of Moses (and a warning against disbelieving them) in John 5:46–47 when he said, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Believing Moses—Believing Jesus

Of course, most non-believers today deny the writings of Moses outright and so reject the teaching of Christ. Unfortunately, even many Christians have downgraded their historicity as well and do not take them as describing real events. For both believer and non-believer then, biblical authority is downgraded.

So creation is now thought of in more evolutionary terms, making sin seem not that bad and often thought of as “something fun.” The law is no longer a standard defining “right and wrong” but more like “guidelines,” really whatever you decide. And the belief in events like the global flood (which explains “earthly things” like the fossil record) is almost universally rejected.

For Christians, denying the writings of Moses while clinging to the teachings of Jesus is obviously inconsistent thinking. Unfortunately, atheists seem to understand these inconsistencies more than most Christians, and they of course capitalize on them when trying to undermine the Christian worldview and promote their own.

Just look at the following quote published in the American Atheist magazine from atheist Richard Bozarth.

It becomes clear now that the whole justification of Jesus’ life and death is predicated on the existence of Adam and the forbidden fruit he and Eve ate. Without the original sin, who needs to be redeemed? Without Adam’s fall into a life of constant sin terminated by death, what purpose is there to Christianity? None. What all this means is that Christianity cannot lose the Genesis account of creation . . . Christianity is fighting for its very life.

Biblical Authority Is the Key Issue

Far from being a side issue, the creation/evolution debate is at the forefront of the assault on the Christian worldview because peeking behind the curtain of controversy surrounding it is the real issue—the concept of biblical authority. And that much deeper concept comes down to a single question in people’s minds: can the Bible be trusted as plainly written?

Most Christians have questions about science and the Bible, and many struggle with their faith because the world is constantly pushing against the boundaries of biblical authority through these types of questions.

How do you even know if God exists? What about evolution? Where did Cain get his wife? Could Noah get all the animals on the ark? What about dinosaurs? How do you explain Noah’s flood? Was it global? What about radiometric dating methods? Hasn’t science disproven the Bible?

On top of that, without answers, witnessing can be difficult because many Christians feel ill-equipped. Gospel witness has crawled to a halt for many, as it becomes very hard to share the gospel of Jesus because of the questions that Bible skeptics pose relating to the books of Moses.

Science vs Faith

Evolution vs creation is sometimes misrepresented as “science vs faith.” This is untrue because evolution is a worldview that is also based on faith. In fact, evolutionists and creationists have the exact same scientific facts to examine, and there isn’t a scientific observation that a creationist would disagree with an evolutionist about. What creationists do disagree with evolutionists about is the conclusions they pose regarding the facts, because we do not agree with their starting presuppositions.

The real difference is that of the world history that each group believes in by faith. And why do I say by faith? Because neither can travel back in time to see the first life-form evolve or observe God create the universe, so our understanding of what happened in the past is ultimately accepted by things we believe but haven’t seen, which is the definition of faith.

Hebrews 11:1 KJV – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Of course, we can use the scientific method to observe facts in the present and interpret those facts as evidence in support of a particular history. But ultimately, each person must then make an assessment of which history they believe is best supported by that evidence.

It Isn’t a Side Issue—It’s the Issue!

Many Christians unfortunately believe the creation/evolution issue to be a side issue, an unprofitable area on which to focus. To many, it just seems divisive, and they believe it has little relation to proclaiming the gospel. However, they couldn’t be further from the truth.

Many say God may have used evolution, and that we can somehow make millions of years of evolutionary processes compatible with the teaching of Scripture. Others feel that science and religion are two separate areas of thought, and that the Bible is simply full of spiritual ideas that have no bearing on the earthly, “real-world” topics like biology, geology, anthropology, etc.

Many simply believe it’s a side issue because they don’t see its connection to the bigger issue that the world recognizes instinctively—biblical authority. No matter how you try to dress it up or explain things away, the average person understands that if you can’t take the Bible as plainly written in one area, why should it be believed in any area at all?

Although there are many battlefronts, and numerous causes we must be fighting for (and against) in these perilous and ungodly times, what the church needs to do is restore the foundation of biblical authority and the seedbed of all Christian doctrines—the book of Genesis. And teach, defend, and proclaim the authority of God’s Word from the very first verse.

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