When the new book by Hank Hanegraaff titled The Creation Answer Book was published recently, I asked one of our research team, Steve Golden, to review it for me. It was so disappointing to see such a respected Christian leader take the stand he has on Genesis. Here is the review for your consideration:
Hank Hanegraaff (Christian Research Institute) recently released his new Creation Answer Book. Unfortunately, Hanegraaff raises more questions for readers than he answers—and his embrace of millions of years, death before the Fall, and a non-literal interpretation of Genesis is apparent.
Hanegraaff supports his belief in millions of years by appealing not to the Bible but to the “book of nature” (i.e., to what uniformitarian scientists say is true of the world around us). This error is becoming all too common among believers; interpreting Scripture in the light of evolutionary ideas elevates fallible man’s ideas above God’s Word.
Of course, Hanegraaff denies that biological evolutionary ideas are accurate, but he has no problem with cosmological evolutionary ideas. The “book of nature,” according to Hanegraaff, shows through the measure of star light and other points in cosmology that the universe came into existence “somewhere between 10 and 20 billion years ago” (p. 103). He claims, based on the layers in ice cores, that the earth “is at least hundreds of times older than the age presumed by young-earth creationists” (p. 101).
What are Hanegraaff’s particular views on Genesis and the creation account then? Hanegraaff believes the framework hypothesis, a view that claims the days of Genesis are a literary device and not literal days. (Dr. Bob McCabe and Tim Chaffey refuted the framework hypothesis in an article available on the Answers in Genesis website. See also McCabe’s fuller treatment in chapter 8 of Coming to Grips with Genesis and his even longer treatment in his two-part seminary journal article—see part one and part two.) Hanegraaff writes, “given the sophistication of the literary genres employed in Genesis, one is immediately alerted to a deeper purpose within the narrative. Rather than mining Genesis for all its wealth, fundamentalist fervor seems bent on forcing the language into a literalistic labyrinth from which nothing but nonsense can emerge” (p. 65).
A literal reading of the creation account amounts to “nothing but nonsense”? Professor Stephen Boyd has shown overwhelmingly that Genesis 1:1–2:4 is a historical narrative and must be interpreted accordingly—and such a reading fits with how the rest of Scripture treats Genesis 1–11. (For a layman’s summary of Dr. Boyd’s research, see Don DeYoung, Thousands . . . Not Billions, Green Forest, Arkansas: Master Books, 2005, pp. 158–170 and for Boyd’s own research see his more technical chapter 6 in Coming to Grips with Genesis.)
And with a belief in millions of years comes death before the Fall—or does it? Hanegraaff claims in one chapter that he “cannot abide animal death prior to the fall as consistent with a ‘very good’ creation” (p. 105). And yet, just a short while later, following William Dembski’s book, The End of Christianity, Hanegraaff uses the idea of two allegedly different types of time (God’s time and man’s time) to argue in favor of death before the Fall! He writes, “There is little difficulty conceiving of a transcendent God who predestines natural evil to precede the fall even though the fall is the necessary cause of the evils that precede it” (p. 128). In other words, Adam and Eve were living out the consequences of sin before they had committed any sin! See Dr. Terry Mortenson’s critique (PDF) of William Dembski’s attempt to wed millions of years of natural evil with the Fall.
Hanegraaff also addresses the issue of dinosaurs, claiming that Behemoth and Leviathan were not dinosaurs at all but “personifications that illustrate a metaphysical reality”—or symbols of the spiritual world. And what other notable figure is merely a symbol to Hanegraaff? The serpent in the Garden of Eden. According to Hanegraaff, the devil did not manifest himself at all:
In short, Eve was not deceived by a talking snake. Rather Moses used the symbol of a snake to communicate the wiles of the evil one who deceived Eve through mind-to-mind communication—precisely as he seeks to deceive you and me today. (p. 64, emphasis mine)
There are at least three problems with Hanegraaff’s argument:
- There is no indication in Genesis that the serpent is a symbol. The symbol idea comes from a belief that Genesis was influenced by ancient Near Eastern myths—as Hanegraaff explains in his book.
- If Satan was not in the garden as a serpent tempting Eve, then what did God curse in Genesis 3?
- If the serpent was merely symbolic, then why did Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:3 and John in Revelation 12:9 treat the serpent as part of literal history and identify it with Satan?
Amidst all the inconsistencies and theological problems in The Creation Answer Book—which are too many to cover here—Hanegraaff also denies the global Flood, arguing instead for a local Flood. Beliefs like these are the direct result of allowing man’s word (e.g., evolutionary ideas) to become the authority over God’s Word. When we deny a literal historical reading of Genesis 1–11, the text loses its meaning entirely, and one can reinterpret it to support any idea one wants rather than discovering what the Holy Spirit intended for us to learn from His words. We also imply that Jesus and the apostles were wrong when they clearly took Genesis 1–11 as literal history and as foundational to the gospel, the biblical view of marriage, and the final redemptive work of Christ at His second coming. And those are serious matters that every Christian should be concerned about!
I certainly agree with our reviewer—these are serious matters indeed. I pray many Christians will engage Hank regarding this matter for the sake of biblical authority. Also, you may be interested in this article where we examined the Christian Research Journal issue on origins, which previewed this book.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,