Pentecostal Views on Origins

Recently I came across a web article by a biology professor and a chemistry professor from an Assembly of God university. They gave a “Brief Overview of Pentecostal Views on Origins.” Several things in the article are worthy of comment.

First, they tell us that since the Pentecostal movement was born at the beginning of the 20th century until the late 1900s, Pentecostals almost universally rejected evolution and most also rejected the millions of years. They believed that Genesis is a scientifically accurate historical narrative.

But times have changed. Today, based on their survey of faculty and students at AoG institutions of higher learning, these two professors say that only 35% hold to the young-earth creationist view, 31% favor one of the old-earth views that accept millions of years but reject evolution, and 16% are embracing theistic evolution. (They don’t say what the other 18% believe.) Why the change? They tell state the following:

. . . today many people who are technologically savvy and immersed in the popular media’s representation of science are members of our congregations. Many of them are uncomfortable rejecting out-of-hand the findings of science that seem to conflict with traditional interpretations of the Genesis creation account. They are increasingly interested in fostering an integrated view of Christian faith and natural sciences.

But here we encounter problems. It is not the “findings of science” that seem to contradict “traditional interpretations” of Genesis 1–11. Science has not found anything that contradicts the straightforward, literal understanding of Genesis, and it is remarkable that a Christian chemist and biologist would say that science has. Science has not found a living cell spontaneously evolving into existence by chance from non-living matter, as evolutionists claim has happened 3.5 billion years ago. Science has not found transitional forms between different kinds of plants and animals, either living or in the fossil record, to support evolutionist claims that all life is descended from a common ancestor—the first living cell.  And science has not found millions of years of time in the rocks or a gas cloud collapsing to form a star. None of those things has ever been observed by any scientist, so they are not findings of science.

Rather, evolutionary scientists using anti-biblical (naturalistic and uniformitarian) assumptions and imagination have interpreted some of the observations of the natural world (while ignoring other observations) to invent a story about the past that contradicts the time-tested, historically orthodox and exegetically sound interpretation of God’s inerrant Word. It is not a conflict between the “findings of science” and “traditional interpretations” of the Bible. It is rather the conflict between the atheistic and deistic interpretations of God’s creation by people who are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18–20) versus the sound interpretation of God’s Word by godly leaders and pastors in the church down through history.

Furthermore, “technologically savvy” people should realize that if the technologies that they enjoy using (cell phones, ipods, computers, telescopes, MRI machines, etc.) are the result of intelligent design, it is the height of absurdity to think that the almost infinitely more complex living and reproducing bacteria, plants and animals came into existence by time and chance and the laws of nature. That these Christians don’t see this absurdity shows that they indeed have been “immersed in [i.e., brainwashed by] the popular media’s representation of science,” which fails to distinguish between operation science and origin science and deceives people by propagating the evolutionists’ “smoke and mirrors” arguments, such as equating natural selection with evolution or discussing beneficial mutations as an explanation for the origin of genetic information.

But there is one more example of faulty thinking in this article, which sadly is widespread in the church today. The authors state the following:

As science teachers, we believe pastors need to seek coherence between these two realms and provide ways for their congregations to see truth in both the general revelation (the world) and the special revelation (the Word). Pastors can use the origins debate to help people more thoroughly integrate these two divine revelations.

The Bible nowhere teaches that by studying the creation (while ignoring God’s special revelation, the Bible) man can work out the history and origin of the creation. As Dr. Richard Mayhue has so thoroughly demonstrated in his chapter in Coming to Grips with Genesis, what the Bible says is that the creation clearly reveals the existence and nature of the Creator (Romans 1:18-20), the very thing that most evolutionists vehemently deny. What these two professors are calling “general revelation” is simply the evolutionists’ stories about the unobserved past. That is not “the world” or “the creation” that God says reveals Himself to us. The only way to accurately interpret the creation for understanding of our past is to do so with the starting-point assumptions of the Biblical worldview, which is grounded in the literal truth of Genesis 1–11.

These AoG scientists end their article this way:

In conclusion, we find conservative, Bible-believing, Pentecostal Christians (including Assemblies of God adherents) in all three theistic camps (YEC, OEC, EC). With this in mind, we think our attitude needs to reflect the Reformation “Peace Statement” (often erroneously attributed to St. Augustine): “In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In all things, love.”

But we must object that Christians who accept evolution and/or millions of years are not “Bible-believing” when it comes to Genesis 1–11 and all the other passages of Scripture in the OT and NT that confirm the literal truth of Genesis. They are instead believing the faulty interpretations of God’s creation by people who in their sinful rebellion against God are suppressing the truth, rather than believing God’s Word. The authority of the Word of God over the words of men is what is at stake here.

And since Genesis is absolutely foundational to the Bible’s teaching on death, the character of God and the redemptive work of Christ, then the truth of Genesis 1–11 falls in the category of “essentials,” not “nonessentials.” Certainly, we must be loving as we confront error in the church, but we simply cannot “just agree to disagree.” The spiritual health of the church, the lost souls of people, and the glory of God are at stake. We must believe Genesis to be faithful to God and His Word.

Terry

P.S. As an endnote, the authors of the article appear to be out of touch with recent YEC literature. In their list of “origin resources” they point to recent works by atheists and compromised Christians, but under “young-earth creation” they cite only Morris and Whitcomb’s The Genesis Flood (1961) and a section of a 1999 debate-format book written by two men who are not mainstream YECs, and in their section of the book do not adequately represent the YEC position. Much stronger scientific and biblical YEC arguments have been published in recent years: Earth’s Catastrophic Past (2008), The Great Turning Point (2004), Coming to Grips with Genesis (2008), Evolution: the Grand Experiment (2007), Genetic Entropy (2005), Creation: Facts of Life (2006), The Fossil Record (2010).