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James Boice Sermon: Genesis Part 13 – “The Seventh Day”

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 13

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. - Genesis 2:1-3

What does it mean, God rested on the seventh day? It does not mean that God closed his eyes and went to sleep. He did not take a nap. It does not mean that God rested in the sense that he became indifferent to what the man and woman were doing. We know God was not indifferent because when Adam and Eve sinned he was immediately there in the garden calling them to an accounting. He pronounced judgment and held out hope of a Redeemer to come. Rest is not to be understood in either of those ways.

What is involved here is what St. Augustine had in mind when, with his magnificent use of words, he contrasted the rest of God with our restlessness. He said, “Thou has made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Augustine was thinking of the turmoil of the human heart. He was saying that our true destiny is to find the rest that is found in God only.

Is it not the case that what is involved here is this kind of rest? God, having completed his work of creation, rests, as if to say, “This is the destiny of those who are my people; to rest as I rest, to rest in me.”

Rest and Restlessness

One thing that makes our lives restless is the pace of change. I wonder how many people have had the experience of watching a population clock. I did at the first of the world congresses on evangelism in Berlin in 1966 and can report that it is a very disturbing experience. In the Congress Halle in Berlin, where the meetings took place, there was a population clock display. It was a printout of numbers that kept increasing at the rate of the increase of the population of this planet. The numbers went by very rapidly. They were literally flipping by in front of our eyes—ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred, two hundred, three hundred, a thousand, two thousand, three thousand. … That is the way they went. As I stood watching this clock, I was overwhelmed by the rapid pace of change. On this occasion even the clock was overwhelmed, because the mechanism was unable to keep up with the increase of the population and the poor thing began to slow down. Toward the end of the assembly someone had to announce from the platform that the clock was not keeping up with the population and if you wanted to know what it was, you had to upgrade the numbers by a certain amount.

If we fail to recognize how disturbing this is, we need to think of this further fact: not only are the numbers increasing, indicating that time is quickly marching on, but even the rate of increase is increasing. The population increases are accelerating. Instead of slowing down, the clock should have been speeding up. The speed at which it was going back in 1966 for the World Congress on Evangelism was much slower than it would have to be if it were keeping pace with the increase of the world’s population today.

Moreover, the problem is not just the increase in population. That would not be such a bad thing in itself. It is that everything is changing. This is why Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock speaks of a pending monumental breakdown of people who live in industrialized lands. It is not a case, as some have said, of our choices being increasingly eliminated and industry forcing us into greater and greater uniformity. Rather, our options are increasing and at an ever faster rate of speed. People cannot keep up with the choices they are compelled to make. We look at such things and conclude, rightly and inescapably, that this is an age of great distress and restlessness.

However, we still have not come to the real cause of restlessness. If we were to go back in history before what we regard as the modern age and the quickly accelerating pace of modern life, we would still find people having the kind of restlessness about which St. Augustine wrote. He lived in an age of change. But if we could have asked him, “Augustine, how can it be that you, living back in what we regard as the early periods of western history, can speak of restlessness? We see our problem as having to do with the fast pace of modern life.” Augustine would have said, “It’s not the fast pace of modern life or the slow pace of life that is your problem; the basic problem is sin, which brings turmoil to the heart.” Perhaps he would have pointed us to those words of Scripture that speak of the wicked having lives that are like the churning sea that never rests. That is what sin causes.

The devil was the first one to sin, and he has as one of his names, Diabolos, which means “the disrupter.” The word diabolos is based on two Greek words: dia, which means “through” or “among,” and ballō, which means “to throw.” We get our word “bowling” from it. Together the words describe one who is always throwing something into the middle of things. He is the one who throws the monkey wrench into the machinery. He disrupts. And so does sin! If we were sinless, we would have the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ within. But because we do not, we are at odds with God (who has become our enemy), with others (with whom we are in constant conflict), and ourselves. Even when we sit by ourselves we are unable to be at peace. An author once said, “The greatest problem with men and women is that they do not know how to sit and be still.”

Sabbath Rest

What is the cure for restlessness? It is interesting that these verses in Genesis are picked up by the author of Hebrews in a chapter that is entirely given over to this subject. He begins in chapter 3, but it is really in chapter 4 that he talks about what he calls “Sabbath-rest” (v. 9). He calls attention to the fact that although God has created rest for his people, we are not at rest. He points out that when God led Israel out of Egypt into the wilderness in their days of wandering, he had as a goal to bring them into the Promised Land. It was to be a place where they would find rest from their wandering. It was a symbol of heaven. But the people rebelled, as we do, and God judged that generation. The author quotes Psalm 95:11 in which God says, “I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” The author asks how this can be. Here is God, who creates a day of rest and promises rest and yet swears that his people will never enter into that rest. He replies that we do not enter into rest because we will not come to God at that point at which rest may be found, namely, in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The author exhorts the people of his day. He says, in effect, “Don’t go on as those people did who perished in the wilderness, about whom these things were said. Rather strive to enter into God’s rest. Cast off sin. Cast off everything that keeps you from Christ. Come in the fullness of faith to rest in him.”

Jesus himself made that offer. Before his crucifixion when he was with his disciples in the upper room, he recognized that they were bothered by what was happening. They had heard his prophecies of his death, and although they did not understand them fully they knew that things were going to change. They were troubled, but he said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1). He went on to talk about heaven and the giving of the Holy Spirit and the privilege of prayer, and when he got to the end he gave them something that can rightly be regarded as his legacy: peace. He said, “My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (v. 27).

How does that come about? It is by finding Christ who has done what we need. Sin is the basic cause of restlessness, and sin is the problem with which we must deal. We cannot handle it. We are the sinners. But the Lord Jesus Christ not only can, he does. He comes; he dies; he pays the penalty for our sin. He opens the door into the presence of God for all who believe in him. Then God, on the basis of the death of Christ, pronounces the believing one justified. That one now stands before the presence of God clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

As long as we live we will be troubled by sin. But we can begin to enter into God’s rest now and can look forward to that day when we will be made like Jesus and stand before God in holiness.

Holiness and Sin

That leads to the second point. God not only promises rest in these verses, he promises holiness as well. Holiness means to be set apart. So God sets the Sabbath day apart to teach that we are to enter not only into rest but also into holiness.

The two go together, because holiness is the opposite of sin, and sin is what makes us restless. Why is it that when we go out into the world with the gospel the world is not willing to respond to Christ’s teaching? Why is it that when we talk about rest, the world, which is restless, does not rush with open arms to embrace the gospel? The answer is that rest is connected with holiness and the world does not want holiness.

The attributes of God are always an offense to men and women. God is sovereign. That is offensive because we want to be our own sovereign. We want to be lords of our lives. We want to say, as one of the poets did, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”

God is also omniscient. He knows everything. This is troublesome, too, because it means that God knows us. We do not want to be known, certainly not well. We want to be noticed. We want to be praised, built up. But we do not want to be known as we are because we are ashamed of what we are. Yet God knows us as no other man or woman will ever know us, and to be exposed in the sight of a holy God is frightening.

The most troublesome of all the attributes of God is holiness. God is absolutely holy. He has no place for sin. There is not a sinful thought, not a sinful wish, not a sinful deed or emotion in God. Yet everything we do is marred by sin. It says a little later in the Book of Genesis that the thoughts of people had become “only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5). We may resist the judgment of God and say that this is not true, but this is the way God sees it. We tend to minimize sin. We say, “Of course, there are times when I do not do everything I should, but generally I’m pretty good.” God says, “Even those good times are so infused with sin that, if you could see as I see, you would abhor yourself in ashes.”

Men and women do not like God for his holiness, and it is this that makes the gospel so hard to preach. People need rest, yes. But they need it in the way it is to be found: by having sin’s penalty removed through the work of Christ; sin’s power broken through the power of the Holy Spirit; sin’s presence eradicated by Christ’s return, when those who believe on him shall be made like him in all his perfections.

For believers there is a sense in which the seventh day is fulfilled in us now. We enter by degrees into the rest and holiness Christ provides. But the ultimate realization of the Sabbath is to be at Christ’s return when we go to be with him and rest with him in holiness forever.

To the Work

In spite of the promise of the seventh day, it is nevertheless the case that the seventh day is succeeded by the first day, which also has importance for us. Donald Grey Barnhouse in his devotional study of the Book of Genesis has an interesting word at this point. Each segment of Genesis is followed by a devotional comment, and at this point, after the words “on the seventh day God finished the work which he had done and rested,” Barnhouse remarks, “But not for long.” Sin entered, and God was soon at work again in Christ to bring redemption. Jesus said, “The Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” That work is still going on. So if God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are working, then we had better be working too, because there is much work to be done.

It is significant that the Christian day of worship is not the Sabbath day of rest (characteristic of the Old Testament period) but the first day of the week, Sunday, which is a day of joy, activity, and expectation. Why is it a day of joy? Because we see the culmination of the gospel in Jesus Christ. Before, God’s people lived in expectation. They looked for the coming of the Messiah. Now the Messiah has come, and we rejoice in him. Christ’s first word to the women after his resurrection was “Rejoice.” They were to rejoice because there was much to rejoice about.

Then let us be done with the long faces and solemn demeanors that so often characterize the people of God on the Lord’s Day. And let us be done with the type of worshiper who comes to church only to go home. If you do not enjoy the worship of God and the fellowship of God’s people, if you do not enjoy the preaching of the Word and the response of the congregation in word and song, stay home! In the early days of the church the apostles did not have to go around ringing doorbells to get people to come out to the service. They did not have to maintain every-member visitation plans to renew flagging interest. In fact, the opposite was true. We read in the second chapter in Acts that the Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. … Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (vv. 42, 46–47).

These were happy Christians. Other people liked to be with them, perhaps most of all because they were happy. Friendships developed. Then on the basis of these friendships the Lord moved and added to the church daily those who were being saved.

The second characteristic of the Lord’s Day is activity. The first Lord’s Day was a day of activity: the women on the way to the tomb, the appearances of Jesus, the return to Jerusalem of the Emmaus disciples, the sharing of experiences, communion, the Lord’s commission. It is possible that if you have been working hard for the other six days of the week, Sunday might have to be a “day of rest” for you. But this is not an integral part of the Lord’s Day. The Sabbath was the day of rest. If you need to rest, try resting on Saturday. The Lord’s Day should be a day of activity.

This does not mean that just any old activity will reflect the fullest significance of the day. You may mow your grass, if you wish. You are not under law. But this does not have much to do with Christ, nor does it help to express your joy in his resurrection.

Worship is significant. It may strike some persons as strange to speak of worship as an activity; for in many minds worship is conceived in a passive sense, that is, sitting in a pew and letting the words of the day run through one’s head like water. But this is a travesty of real worship. The Lord said that real worship is done “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Truth involves content. So worship is above all else an active, rational activity.

Why do we have Scripture readings in the speech of the people instead of in Hebrew, Greek, or Latin? Why are the words of music in common speech? Why does a sermon stand at the heart of each service? The answer is: to engage our minds.

“We must therefore beware of all forms of emotional, aesthetic or ecstatic worship in which the mind is not fully engaged, and especially of those which even claim that they are superior forms of worship,” writes John R. W. Stott, retired rector of All Souls Church in London. “The only worship pleasing to God is heart-worship, and heart-worship is rational worship. It is the worship of a rational God who has made us rational beings and given us a rational revelation so that we may worship Him rationally, even ‘with all our mind’ ” (John R.W. Stott. Christ the Controversialist. Downers Grove: IL.: IVP, 1978, 165).

Another activity that ought to characterize the Lord’s Day is witness. Jesus revealed this characteristic when he instructed the women, “Go tell my brethren,” and later informed the disciples that they were to carry the good news of his life, death, and resurrection into all the world. You can do that on any day, of course. It is of the essence of our day that anything done on Sunday can also be done (and perhaps should be done) on other days also. But do you at least bear witness on Sunday? This is a day on which to invite your friends to go with you to hear God’s Word. At the very least it is a day on which you should teach what you know about Christ to your children.

There is one thing more: the first day should be characterized by expectation. I love Sunday, and one of the reasons why I love Sunday is that I never know in advance what will happen. As I leave my house on the way to church I never know precisely whom I will meet. I never know who will be present in church or who will respond to the preaching. I never plan messages to preach at problems that I imagine to be present in the congregation, yet it is often the case that what I say is used of the Lord to speak precisely to some problem. Lives are changed. Not infrequently, the day is the turning point in someone’s entire spiritual experience.

We who know the reality of the rest and holiness of God should of all people be most joyful, active, and expectant as we take the gospel’s glorious message to a world that knows neither rest nor holiness, but needs them desperately.

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 13 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Source: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

James Montgomery Boice’s Books:

1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

SOURCE: from the Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, website

 

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James Boice Sermon: “Man, God’s Regent” – Genesis 1:28-31

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 12

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. - Genesis 1:28-31

In looking at the account of the creation of man by God in Genesis 1, we have already seen two points that are emphasized. First, man is created. This is repeated three times in verse 27, obviously for emphasis. Second, man is created in God’s image. This is repeated four times in verses 26 and 27. Following this clue to what are the most important ideas, we come next to the teaching that man was to rule over creation as God’s regent. This is mentioned twice, in verses 26 and 28.

Who is this who is to rule God’s creation? What is he like? What are his gifts? To whom is he responsible?

For the purpose of this study I want to follow the substance of an address given by Dr. John H. Gerstner, a former professor of church history at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, to the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology in 1977. His address considered five things about man as God made him. First, man was created, and he still is. Second, man was created male and female, and he still is. Third, man was created body and soul, and he still is. Fourth, man was created dominant over the animals, and he still is. Fifth, man was created holy, and he still is—not.

Created by God

We have already seen that man’s being created in the image of God involves his having a personality, a sense of morality and spirituality. But in relation to his rule over the animals, to which we have now come, man’s creation involves responsibility as well. If man were his own creator, he would be responsible to no one. But he is not his own creator. He is created by God, and this means that he is responsible to God for what he does in every area of his life and particularly for how he carries out the mandate to rule over creation. These verses record God as saying, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (v. 26). To man he says, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (v. 28). Dominion of any kind, but particularly dominion of this scope, implies responsibility.

Today in the western world there is a tendency to deny man’s moral responsibility on the basis of some kind of determinism. It usually takes one of two forms. It may be a physical, mechanical determinism (“man is the product of his genes and body chemistry”), or it may be a psychological determinism (“man is the product of his environment and of the earlier things that have happened to him”). In either case the individual is excused from responsibility for what he or she does. Thus, we have gone through a period in which criminal behavior was termed a sickness and the criminal was regarded more as a victim of his environment than as the victimizer. (Recently there is a tendency at least to reconsider this matter.) Less blatant but nevertheless morally reprehensible acts are excused with, “I suppose he just couldn’t help it.”

The biblical view of man could hardly be more different. As Francis Schaeffer correctly notes, “Since God has made man in his own image, man is not caught in the wheels of determinism. Rather man is so great that he can influence history for himself and for others, for this life and the life to come.” Man is fallen. But even in his fallen state he is responsible. He can do great things, or he can do things that are terrible.

God created the man and woman and gave them dominion over the created order. Consequently, they were responsible to him for what they did. When man sins, as the Genesis account goes on to show that he does, it is God who requires a reckoning: “Where are you? … Who told you that you were naked? … What is this you have done?” (Gen. 3:9, 11, 13). In the thousands of years since Eden many have convinced themselves that they are not responsible. But the testimony of Scripture is that this area of responsibility still stands and that all will one day answer to God at the judgment. “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (Rev. 20:12).

People are also responsible for their acts toward others. This is the reason for those biblical statements instituting capital punishment as a proper response to murder; for instance, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed” (Gen. 9:6). These verses are not in the Bible as relics of a more barbarous age or because in the biblical outlook man is not valuable. They are there for precisely the opposite reason: Man is too valuable to be wantonly destroyed. Thus, the harshest penalties are reserved for such destruction. In a related way, James 3:9–10 forbid the use of the tongue to curse others because these others are also made in God’s image: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. … This should not be.” In these texts murder of another and cursing of another are forbidden on the grounds that the other person (even after the fall) retains something of God’s image and is therefore to be valued by us, as God also values him.

Male and Female

Second, man was created male and female, and it is still so. In our day many say that there are no essential differences between men and women, or that whatever differences there are, are accidental. This is understandable from those who think that mindless evolution is the means by which we have become what we are. But it is entirely incomprehensible from the standpoint of the Bible, which tells us that nothing is an accident and that sexuality in particular is the result of the creative act of God. Maleness and femaleness are therefore good and meaningful, just as other aspects of God’s creation are good and meaningful. Men are not women. Women are not men. One of the saddest things in the universe is a man who tries to be a woman or a woman who tries to be a man. “But who is superior?” someone asks. I answer: A man is absolutely superior to a woman—at being a man; a woman is absolutely superior to a man—at being a woman. But let a woman try to be a man or a man try to be a woman, and you have a monstrosity.

This is thought to deny equality before God, as if equality means indistinguishability. But this thought is neither biblical nor rational. The man and the woman are equal before God, but they are not indistinguishable. In the economy of the family (and the church), the man is to lead, protect, care for, cherish, act upon, and initiate. The woman is to respond, receive, be acted upon, bear, nurture, follow. In this the human family is a deliberate parallelism to the Trinity. We say in theology that within the Trinity the three persons are “one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.” But there are also distinctions according to which the second person of the Godhead, the Son, voluntarily subordinates himself to carry out the wishes of the Father in redemption, and the third person, the Holy Spirit, voluntarily subordinates himself to the united wills of the Father and Son.

The subordination of the woman to the man in marriage is a voluntary submission. As Gerstner writes, “No woman need accept the proposal of any man. But when she enters voluntarily into holy matrimony with that man, she becomes as 1 Peter 3 demands, ‘submissive’ and ‘obedient’ to her husband.” In the same way, children are under the divine command to “obey” and “honor” their fathers and mothers. “We know from sorry experience that many of them choose not to do so, but if they do (as they are under a divine mandate to do), they must do so voluntarily. So there is in the economy of the human family, which God made in his own image, a replica of the divine Trinity itself, in which there is a proper and voluntary subordination.”

Body and Soul

Third, God made man body and soul, and he still does. There is a debate at this point between those who believe in a three-part construction of man’s being and those who believe in a two-part construction (the position Gerstner takes in the address I am following). But the debate is not as significant as it sometimes seems. All parties recognize that the human being consists at least of the physical part that dies and needs to be resurrected and the immaterial part that lives beyond death. The only question is whether this immaterial part can be further distinguished as containing, on the one hand, a soul or personality and, on the other hand, a spirit that alone relates us to God.

Here the linguistic data should be determinative, but unfortunately it is not as clear as one could wish. Sometimes, particularly in the earlier parts of the Old Testament, soul (nephesh) and spirit (ruach) are used interchangeably. But in other places, particularly in the later parts of the Old Testament, ruach increasingly comes to designate that element by which men and women relate to God, in distinction from nephesh, which then meant merely the life principle. In conformity to this outlook, “soul” is used in reference to animals, while “spirit” is not. Conversely, the prophets, who heard the voice of God and communed with him in a special sense, are always said to be animated by the “spirit” (but not the “soul”) of God. In the New Testament the linguistic data is similar. While soul (psyche) and spirit (pneuma) are sometimes freely exchanged for one another, as in the Old Testament, pneuma nevertheless also expresses that particular capacity for relating to God that is the redeemed man’s glory as opposed to mere psyche, which even the unsaved man possesses (1 Cor. 2:9–16).

In this area the particular words are possibly less important than the truths they convey. Those who insist on the unity of man, nevertheless believe that he is more than mere matter. If they adhere to a two-part scheme, they recognize that there is that about him that sets him off from animals.

The body is the part we see, the part that possesses physical life. We have a body in common with every living thing.

The soul is the part of the person we call personality or self-identity. This is not a simple matter to talk about. The soul is related to the body through the brain, a part of the body. It is also related to the qualities we associate with spirit. Nevertheless, in general terms soul refers to what makes an individual unique. We might say that the soul centers in the mind and includes all likes and dislikes, special abilities or weaknesses, emotions, aspirations, and anything else that makes the individual different from all others of his species. It is because we have souls that we are able to have fellowship, love, and communication with one another.

But man does not only have fellowship, love, and communication with others of his species. He also has love and communion with God, and for this he needs a spirit. The spirit is that part of human nature that communes with God and partakes in some measure of God’s essence. God is nowhere said to be body or soul. But God is defined as spirit. “God is spirit,” said Jesus; therefore, “his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Because man is spirit (or comes to possess a spirit by means of the new birth) he can have fellowship with God and worship him.

In speaking of soul and body, Gerstner has a good insight. He notes that “the quirk of human nature in its present state, unlike its original condition, is that we have a tendency to recognize that the other person is a conscious, rational and moral soul, but that we treat ourselves as if we were merely a combination of chemicals and reactions. A boy once said to his mother, ‘Mother, why is it that whenever I do anything bad it’s because I am a bad boy, but whenever you do anything bad it’s because you are nervous?’ That is the principle. When the boy does something bad the mother recognizes that he is a spirit. He is a morally responsible individual who can be properly reprimanded for his misbehavior. But when she does the same thing … she reminds her son that she is a body of nerves and should somehow not be responsible.”

But we are responsible. The soul does have dominion over the body. Consequently, whatever our weaknesses may be, we are responsible to subordinate our fleshly desires and live for God.

Dominion Over the Animals

Fourth, man was created dominant over the animals—the point particularly stressed in these verses. Martin Luther wrote in his lectures on Genesis that in his opinion Adam in his original state was superior to the animals even in those points where they were strong. “I am fully convinced,” he said, “that before Adam’s sin his eyes were so sharp and clear that they surpassed those of the lynx and eagle. He was stronger than the lions and the bears, whose strength is very great; and he handled them the way we handle puppies.” Later on, as he begins to think of Adam’s intellectual powers, he says, “If … we are looking for an outstanding philosopher, let us not overlook our first parents while they were still free from sin.” It was with such capacities that man ruled creation.

At the present time we have this horrible situation. In his sin man either tends to dominate and thus violate the creation, subjecting it to his own selfish ends, or else he tends to fall down and worship the creation, not realizing that his debasement is brought about in the process. As the Bible describes them, the man and the woman were made “a little lower than the heavenly beings” (Ps. 8:5); that is, they were placed between the highest and lowest beings, between angels and beasts. But it is significant that man is described as being slightly lower than the angels rather than being slightly higher than the beasts. That is, man’s privilege is that he is to be a mediating figure, but he is also to be one who looks up rather than down. The unfortunate thing is that when man severs the tie that binds him to God and tries to cast off God’s rule, he does not rise up to take God’s place, as he desires to do, but rather sinks to a more bestial level. In fact, he comes to think of himself as a beast (“the naked ape”) or, even worse, a machine.

Holy and Still is—Not

This brings us to the last point: God created man holy, and now he is—not. The other items we have considered remain, though they are distorted by sin in each case. Man is still a created being, though weak and destined to die. He is still male and female. He is still body and soul. He is still dominant over the animals. But man was also created holy as God is holy, and of this original righteousness not a vestige remains. Rather, as the Scriptures say, “Every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5).

This is why man needs a Savior. God made man upright, but he sought out his own devices. In turning each to his or her own way man brought ruin on the race. Now, not only is no one holy, none is capable even of regaining that holiness. Before the fall, to use Augustine’s phrase, man was posse non peccare (“able not to sin”). But he was also, as Augustine also faithfully declared in accordance with the Bible’s teaching, posse peccare (“able to sin”), which choice he exploited. Now he is non posse non peccare (“not able not to sin”). It is as though he jumped into a pit where he is now trapped. He must remain in that pit until God by grace through the work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit lifts him out.

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 12 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Source: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

James Montgomery Boice’s Books:

1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

SOURCE: from the Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, website

 

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SUNDAY OT SERMON: James Montgomery Boice on Genesis 1:1-2 “VIEWS OF CREATIONISM: SIX-DAY CREATIONISM”

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 8

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. - Genesis 1:1-2

In recent years the gap theory of creation, so popuplar with the early fundamentalists, has been replaced by a school of thought known as six-day creationism or flood geology. This theory views the Genesis account as involving six literal days, posits a relatively young earth (maximum age twelve thousand years), and explains the fossil record as having been formed by the great flood in Genesis 6 conceived as having been universal and of immensely destructive proportions. This theory is biblical, but it does not base its interpretation of Genesis on unusual schemes of thought, as the gap theorists do. True, its geology may be unusual (perhaps even forced, as some would claim). But because it is biblical, as well as scientific, creationism deserves the most serious consideration by Christian people.

Two organizations have been effective in advancing the creationists’ viewpoint: the Creation Research Society of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the Institute for Creation Research of San Diego, California. The first of these was founded in 1963 with Dr. Walter E. Lammerts as its first president. It has a current membership of five hundred scientists, who have the right to vote, and sixteen hundred nonscientists, who do not have the right to vote. The society issues a quarterly journal and in 1970 published a school textbook entitled Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity. It has produced several other volumes. As indicated by the name, the members of the Creation Research Society engage largely in research relating to creation matters.

The second organization has been more active and is therefore better known. It is a division of Christian Heritage College, also of San Diego, and has as its leaders Dr. Duane T. Gish, who serves on the board of directors of the Christian Research Society, and Dr. Henry M. Morris, the institute’s director. This organization sponsors frequent debates on evolution. The results of these debates, sometimes attended by many thousands of people, are printed, along with other items and articles in support of scientific creationism, in a monthly newsletter known as Acts & Facts. In the last ten years the institute has published more than thirty books on creationism, most of them written by Gish and Morris, though the best-known work, The Genesis Flood, was coauthored by Morris and Dr. John C. Whitcomb, former professor of Old Testament at Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana.

These organizations have offered a powerful challenge to prevailing evolutionary theory and have carried their challenge into the public sphere as evidenced by the California biology textbook controversy, which began in November 1969, and other recent court cases.

The Creationists’ Message

The message of the creationists, whether in debate or in their publications, is that evolution is impossible and that the facts (as we know them) best fit the creationist model.

Here is a lengthy but valuable summation of the creationists’ position from the Whitcomb and Morris volume: “Although there may be considerable latitude of opinion about details, the Biblical record does provide a basic outline of earth history, within which all the scientific data ought to be interpreted. It describes an initial Creation, accomplished by processes which no longer are in operation and which, therefore, cannot possibly be understood in terms of present physical or biological mechanisms. It describes the entrance into this initial Creation of the supervening principle of decay and deterioration: the ‘curse’ pronounced by God on the ‘whole creation,’ resulting from the sin and rebellion of man, the intended master of the terrestrial economy, against his Creator.

“The record of the great Flood plainly asserts that it was so universal and cataclysmic in its cause, scope, and results that it also marked a profound hiatus in terrestrial history. Thus the Creation, the Fall, and the Flood constitute the truly basic facts, to which all the other details of early historical data must be referred…It seems most reasonable to attribute the formations of the crystalline basement rocks, and perhaps some of the Pre-Cambrian non-fossiliferous sedimentaries, to the Creation period, enough later substantially modified by the tectonic upheavals of the Deluge period. The fossil-bearing strata were apparently laid down in large measure during the Flood, with the apparent sequences attributed not to evolution but rather to hydrodynamic selectivity, ecologic habitats, and differential mobility and strength of the various creatures.”

So far as evolution is concerned, Whitcomb and Morris write that “evolution is the great ‘escape mechanism’ of modern man. This is the pervasive philosophic principle by which man either consciously or sub-consciously seeks intellectual justification for escape from personal responsibility to his Creator and escape from the ‘way of the Cross’ as the necessary and sufficient means of his personal redemption. … The decision between alternative theories does not therefore depend only on the scientific data but is ultimately a moral and emotional decision. … We therefore urge the reader to face up to the fact that the actual data of geology can be interpreted in such a way as to harmonize quite effectively with a literal interpretation of the Biblical records and then also to recognize the spiritual implications and consequences of this fact” (John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris, The Geneisis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Applications. Philadelphia: P&R, 1961, 327-30).

A Detailed Message

There are several points in this summary that ought to guide us in an evaluation of the theory. First, there is a concern for biblical teaching. More than this, creationists want to make biblical teaching determinative. This is the point at which the summary begins, for it seeks to make an initial creation, the fall, and the flood the three great points around which everything else is to be interpreted.

We have to admit here that the exegetical basis of the creationists is strong. They take the creation account of Genesis as literally as possible, arguing that the Hebrew word for “day” (yom) must refer to an actual twenty-four-hour day unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. They do not deny that yom can refer to an indefinite period, in which case it might be more properly translated “age,” but they consider this usage to be relatively rare. Moreover, even where it does mean an indefinite period, this can hardly be stretched to include the billions of years that uniformitarian geology would assign to periods represented by the “days” of Genesis. Besides, in Genesis 1 the days are each said to have an evening and a morning. Whitcomb and Morris say, “Since God’s revealed Word describes this Creation as taking place in six ‘days’ and since there apparently is no contextual basis for understanding these days in any sort of symbolic sense, it is an act of both faith and reason to accept them, literally, as real days (Ibid, 228).”

The perspicuity of Scripture has bearing here. True, not all Scripture is equally clear, but the creationist would argue that it is very clear at this point. “Suppose the creation did take place in six twenty-four-hour days,” he might say. “How could God possibly tell us that more clearly or directly than by the language we have in Genesis?”

Second, the summary shows the weaknesses and perhaps even the ultimate failure of evolution, the “great escape mechanism” of modern man. Where does evolution fail? In addition to its failure to provide adequate supporting data from the fossil record, which I have already alluded to, Whitcomb and Morris lay particular stress on the problem evolution has with the first and second laws of thermodynamics. The first law of thermodynamics is energy conservation. It says that energy is neither created nor lost. It is simply changed from one form to another. The second law states that in spite of this conservation the energy available for useful work does decrease so that the universe can properly be said to be “running down.” To give just one illustration, the energy of the sun is not being destroyed by the combustion going on on its surface—the energy latent in the sun’s matter is being converted to heat—but the heat largely dissipates into space and becomes useless.

A consequence of this second law is that in any closed system order tends to move in the direction of disorder or disarrangement. Take the example that Robert Kofahl and Kelly Segraves give in their book, The Creation Explanation. They ask us to imagine an orderly pile of ping-pong balls resting at the head of a flight of stairs. For the sake of the illustration they also ask us to imagine that the balls are perfectly resilient so that they are capable of bouncing forever without losing their original energy. Imagine that someone jars the balls so that the pile collapses and the balls begin to roll down over the first step and then bounce on down to the bottom of the stairs and so on around the room. What will happen? The balls will continue bouncing but in increasing disorder. They will not bounce back up into their original position and assemble themselves on the upper step, even though they continue bouncing for billions of years. There is a mathematical possibility of that happening, but it is a practical impossibility, which is to say: It does not happen. Yet evolution would have us believe that the complex order of the universe has come about from just such random happenings (Robert E. Kofahl and Kelly L. Segraves, The Creation Explanation: A Scientific Alternative to Evolution. Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1975, 33-35).

Whitcomb and Morris conclude, “The plain facts of the situation, therefore, are that evolution has been simply assumed as the universal principle of change in nature, despite the fact that there is no experimental evidence supporting it and despite the still more amazing fact that universal experience and experimentation have demonstrated this universal principle of change to be its very opposite: namely, that of deterioration” (Whitcomb and Morris, The Genesis Flood, 227).

But if the earth is young (only twelve thousand years or so) and if it is the result of God’s special acts of creation taking place within the short period of only six literal twenty-four-hour days, where did the various strata of the earth’s crust come from? Even more important, where did the various fossil-bearing strata come from? Didn’t these require long periods of time, hundreds of thousands if not billions of years in time, for their formation? The creationists’ answer is that although the strata may have been laid down in various epochs—at the time of the initial creation (by fiat), during the work of the six literal days, or in our own relatively modern period—the significant, fossil-bearing strata are largely the result of the flood.

The idea here is that a flood of worldwide proportions would be immensely destructive. It would require huge amounts of water pushed up from beneath and precipitated from above, presumably by the condensation of a vapor or cloud cover, with cataclysmic effects on the earth’s crust. The amount of water necessary to cover the earth would carry virtually all soil with it into the oceans by erosion, where it would pile up in strata. Various creatures would be buried in those strata, the simpler and smaller on the bottom, the larger and more vigorous on top—hence, the appearance of various ages in which life developed from simpler to more complex forms. After the flood new land masses would have emerged, and some of these newly formed strata would have been exposed.

Creationists believe that their views are reinforced by additional considerations:

1. Present-day conditions are forming very few potential fossil deposits, and most of these are unusual. Nothing comparable to the known fossil beds of ancient times is being formed today, which makes us think that some past catastrophe was necessary to produce them.

2. The facts of geology do not support the view of essentially harmonious strata with the older levels on the bottom and the most recent on the top. There is a tendency in this direction, but the facts reflect a far more unruly situation. A universal flood accounts for these facts more adequately than the theory of lengthy geological ages and slow evolutionary development.

3. The existence of huge fossil deposits containing thousands of large, complex species, such as the mammoth deposits in Siberia, is best explained either by the flood or by the abnormal weather conditions that must have followed it.

After presenting this and other evidence, Kofahl and Segraves conclude, “The foregoing features of the fossil and geological records all seem to be in agreement more with the catastrophic than with the uniformitatrion concept of geological processes of the past. Thus, in this respect, fossils corroborate the structural data given previously and lend themselves readily to the framework of biblical catastrophism.”

How Old is the Earth?

In spite of the careful biblical and scientific research that has accumulated in support of the creationists’ view, there are problems that make the theory wrong to most (including many evangelical) scientists. We conclude by listing the most important.

Data from various disciplines point to a very old earth and an even older universe. Some of the conclusions from this data, as well as some of the data itself, were presented in earlier chapters. There is astronomical data. One line of astronomical data concerns the speed of light. Light travels in a vacuum at a speed of 186,000 miles per second. Therefore, 1) if the speed of light is constant, and 2) the light we observe coming from the stars actually comes from those stars, and 3) if our distance measurements for these stars are substantially accurate, then the universe is at least as old as the light-travel-time coming to us from the most distant objects. The most distant objects we are able to observe are quasars. The travel time for light coming from these objects is more than 10 billion years. Therefore, the age of the universe by this mode of reckoning is at least more than that. A second line of data is based on the apparent expansion of the universe. All parts of the universe are retreating from us and from one another at enormous speeds, the most distant observable galaxies at speeds in excess of 100 million miles per hour. by working backward from their present position and speed to the initial “big bang,” the origin of the universe can be set at between 15 and 20 billion years ago. A third line of astronomical data concerns the nature and normal life of stars. Stars are of various ages, having been formed over the whole history of the universe from 15 to 20 billion years ago until today. Our own Milky Way galaxy is about as old as the universe. Our sun is considerably younger, about 5 to 10 billion years old.

The point of combining this data is that, although it is related in some ways, it is based on different approaches to the problem of age and on different assumptions. Yet it gives a roughly consistent picture. According to these methods, the universe would be about 15 to 20 billion years old, the sun about 5 to 10 billion years old, and our solar system about 5 billion years old.

Second, there is the evidence of radioactive methods of dating earth (or moon) rocks. This method is based on the observation that certain kinds of unstable or radioactive elements decay from an unstable to a stable form at measurable rates. By measuring the amount of the original element and the amount of the derivative or “daughter” element in any given sample, an approximate age of the sample may be given. This is an admittedly uncertain method. Many criticisms have been given. But valid or not, the data it gives points to an earth that is about 4.55 billion years old, which is in line with the astrological evidence. Even allowing for large percentages of error, this is still a long way from an earth that is only a few thousand years old.

Third, there is the evidence of nonradiometric dating. Types of data available in this category are: carbonate deposits, sediments, deposits of evaporites, the development of coral reefs, seafloor spreading, and other matters. These all suggest an earth older than that allowed by the creationist model.

We must say, as we summarize this first problem with the creationist view, that the creationists have given answers to each of these lines of evidence for an old earth and an even older universe. They have spoken of a lack of uniformity of scientific laws in past ages; of a universe created “in motion,” as it were, with light already in progress from a distant point; of radioactive dating methods as unreliable, sometimes giving wildly conflicting data, and so on. But when everything is considered, it seems to many persons (myself included) that the creationists are running against too many lines of more or less independent evidence against their case on behalf of a young earth. Therefore, whatever else may be true about their viewpoint, it is hard to believe that the creation of the earth and universe was recent.

Remaining Problems

A second problem, which bothers most geologists and some other people as well, is the use of the flood to explain the various strata of the earth’s outer crust, particularly those that contain fossils. Let us assume that the flood was universal and immensely destructive. Let us also assume that the flood carried most of the earth’s soil and millions of dead or soon-to-be drowned organisms before it. Let us even assume that the simpler and less mobile organisms were buried first (and are therefore found in the lower layers of sedimentary rocks) and that the larger and more mobile creatures survived longer but were eventually overcome and buried in higher layers of rock. Assuming all of that—and some of it is questionable—how is it that plants, which are not mobile, show the same general distribution from the less complex to the more complex forms, or that fish (which the Bible does not say were killed and need not have been) are nevertheless included in the same general fossil distribution?

L. Duane Thuman raises these questions and asks, “How did the plants survive such a destructive flood and become re-established so quickly that the dove could bring back an olive leaf? A worldwide flood which buried both plants and animals under sediment sometimes thousands of feet deep makes this highly improbable.”

A third and final problem, which we have not discussed up to now but that is very important to the creationists’ view of Genesis 1, is the appearance of age. Since the universe is extremely complex, it gives the impression of having gotten to its present form through changes taking place over a long period of time. For example, a tree possessing hundreds of rings in its trunk gives the impression of its having reached that form by growing taller and thicker bit by bit over a period of many years. But according to the creationists, everything we see (including the original tree) was brought into being within six literal days. Therefore, it was either brought to a mature state extremely quickly, within minutes or hours, or else was created to look as if it had gone through a long and complex history. To Adam, newly created, the Garden of Eden may have seemed to have been around for years, but in reality it had been created for him in a mature form or was quickly brought to a mature form only three days previously. In the same way, say the creationists, the universe does indeed appear to have had a beginning 15 to 20 billion years ago, but it was created in motion and is actually only 10 or 15 thousand years old. The same approach can be applied to the age of rocks, coral reefs, and other apparent evidence for an older earth or universe.

At this point it is possible to ridicule the six-day creationism theory. Some have! But this should not be done too quickly, particularly not by those who believe in the createdness of Adam. How old was Adam when he was created? There is no need to think of him as a baby. From whom would he have come? Presumably he was created fully grown. But if that is so, then it is not impossible to think that God might have created the rest of the universe “fully grown” also, according to the same pattern.

“But that would mean that God is deceiving us,” object some, “and God cannot do that and be good.” Whitcomb and Morris hit this objection head-on, claiming that God cannot be accused of deceit inasmuch as he has given a revelation in the Bible of how things have actually been created. “If God reveals how and when he created the universe and its inhabitants, then to charge God with falsehood in creating ‘apparent age’ is preposterous in the extreme—even blasphemous. It is not God who has lied, but rather man who has called him a liar, through rejection of his revelation of Creation as given in Genesis and verified by the Lord Jesus Christ!”

It is a shrewd point—yet not entirely convincing. Although God may have had to create Adam as a mature individual, and presumably did so, there is no reason to think on that basis that he therefore also needed to do so in other areas. Why would God make the tree look old rather than merely giving it time to grow old? What was the hurry? Or again, even if God did create the magnificent universe we know just thousands of years ago, why make it look as if it is much older? Why make the quasars look 10 billion years old? We cannot even see them. What possible point would such a creation have?

None of this is to suggest that God could not have done things in this fashion if he chose to do so. Nor is it to say that the creationists have not made a very good case for their position. But there are problems and questions, and it is because of these that the quest for an explanation by believing scientists goes on.

What About Science?

There is one last point. The possibility of doing science in our day or any other day is undergirded by the assumption of certain laws of nature, operating in the past and continuing to operate on into the future. But according to the creationists, those laws were not operating or else were entirely different during the period of creation itself, and therefore any scientific investigation of creation is both impossible and illegitimate. Is that what our knowledge of God’s ways leads us to expect? Are we given minds that can reason, only to be told that at the point of creation the data they perceive and the basis on which they would reason are an illusion? If so, it is the end of science, at least in this area, and it may be the end of other thinking also.

If the earth and the universe look old when they actually are not, why should any of our observations be trusted? True, the Bible tells us much, and it can be trusted. But the Bible does not tell us everything. It does not even tell me that I exist. Perhaps I do not. Perhaps appearances in this area too are deceiving. Taken to its extreme, the idea of “apparent age” (or “apparent” anything) leads to skepticism, and we are not to be skeptics. We are to know and know we know—by the Word of God and by that limited but nevertheless extensive and extremely wonderful revelation of God in nature, perceived and understood by reason.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE AGE OF THE EARTH CLICK ON THIS LINK:  http://creation.com/how-old-is-the-earth

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 8 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Sources: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

Boice’s Books:

from the Tenth Presbyterian Church website
Books
1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

 

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SUNDAY OT SERMON: “Views of Creation: Theistic Evolution” by Dr. James Montgomery Boice

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 6

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. – Genesis 1:1-2

Atheistic evolution is no possible view of creation for Christians. It is ruled out simply because it is atheistic. But this does not mean that an evolutionary model must in itself be ruled out. Some who would retain belief in evolution while nevertheless identifying themselves as Christians are the theistic evolutionists.

Theistic evolution is the view of those who are committed to the theory of evolution and who retain it in full except at those few points where, as it seems to them, it is not entirely compatible with Christianity. They are theists because they believe in the Christian God. They believe that he has revealed himself in Scripture. But they are also evolutionists because they think that evolution is right. That is, they believe that everything has evolved through long periods of time from primitive to more complex forms. They believe that life has evolved from nonlife. They believe that man has evolved from the lower animals. Generally they accept the scientific data urged in support of evolution. The main difference between the theistic evolutionists and the atheistic evolutionists is that the former believe that God, specifically the God of the Bible, is providentially guiding the evolutionary process, while the latter attribute the identical developments to chance.

Another way of putting it would be to say that the God of theistic evolution is the God of the gaps. In the last message we pointed out four major problems with atheistic evolution: it cannot explain the origin of matter, the form of matter, the emergence of life, or the appearance of personality or God-consciousness in man. The theistic evolutionist would bring in God at these points. God creates matter and life. But aside from that the theistic evolutionist would view things as having happened precisely as his nonbelieving counterpart views them.

A Possibility

What are we to say to this view? The first thing we must say is that it is at least a possibility. We may put it like this. There is no reason for the Christian to deny that one form of fish may have evolved from another form or even that one form of land animal may have evolved from a sea creature. We may not believe that this has actually happened, for the reasons set forth in our last message. But in itself this view of creation is not biblically impossible.

The Hebrew word translated by our word “let,” which occurs throughout the creation account, allows for this. It does not specify a method by which God caused most things to come into being. However, there are three points at which even the Genesis narrative seems to require something different. These are the points at which the powerful Hebrew word baraʾ, rendered “created,” rather than the word “let” occurs. Baraʾ means to create out of nothing. It is used in verse 1, which speaks of the creation of the original substance of the universe out of nothing; verse 21, which speaks of the creation of conscious life (that is, of animals as opposed to plants); and verse 27, which speaks of the creation of man in God’s image. At these points there is an obvious introduction into creation of something strikingly new, something that did not and could not have evolved from things in existence previously. So long as the evolutionist speaks of the Christian God as the one who has introduced these new elements and has guided the evolutionary development at other points also (so that the result is not the mere product of chance but rather the unfolding of God’s own wise and perfect will), most Christians would say that, thus far at least, the approach of the theistic evolutionist is possible.

Some important Christian thinkers have said exactly this. No less weighty a scholar than B. B. Warfield, in an essay, “On the Antiquity and the Unity of the Human Race,” said that although evolution “cannot act as a substitute for creation,” it can supply “a theory of the method of the divine providence” (B.B. Warfield, Biblical and Theological Studies, P&R, 1968, 238).

Another example is the great Scottish divine of the last century, James Orr. In the years 1890–91, Orr gave the well-known Kerr lectures on the subject “The Christian View of God and the World,” in the course of which he defended evolution. “In reality, the facts of evolution do not weaken the proof from design, but rather immensely enlarge it by showing all things to be bound together in a vaster, grander plan than had been formerly conceived. … On the general hypothesis of evolution, as applied to the organic world, I have nothing to say, except that, within certain limits, it seems to me extremely probable, and supported by a large body of evidence” (James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World as Centering in the Incarnation. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1960, 90).

 Even more significant is the essay published by Orr in that collection of conservative writings that appeared at the beginning of this century, The Fundamentals, from which the term “fundamentalist” came. In it Orr defends theistic evolution as propounded by R. Otto in Naturalism and Religion. He says at one point, “ ‘Evolution,’ in short, is coming to be recognized as but a new name for ‘creation,’ only that the creative power now works within, instead of, as in the old conception, in an external, plastic fashion” (Orr, “Science and Christian Faith,” The Fundamentals, vol. 1, ed. R.A. Torrey, A.C. Dixon, and others. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972, 346. Original edition 1917).

Neither of these men was himself a theistic evolutionist, though Orr comes very close to endorsing the position. The point is simply that in the judgment of these cautious and eminently biblical spokesmen, theistic evolution is a possible theory and therefore should not be rejected out of hand by Christian people.

Points in Favor

Possibility is not certainty, however, and it is only fair to say that for what they consider to be very good reasons other Christians reject this approach entirely. One of them is Davis A. Young, whose own position is progressive creationism. (To be discussed in a future sermon – Genesis – Part 9) He writes against theistic evolution saying that it “leads logically and ultimately to the death of genuinely biblical religion.” In the heading of the chapter in which theistic evolution is specifically studied he calls this view “a house built upon sand” (Davis A. Young, Creation and the Flood: An Alternative to Flood Geology and Theistic Evolution. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977, 18, 23ff.).

What are we to think of theistic evolution? Positively, we may say that it has two important points in its favor. First, truth is truth wherever it is found. So if evolution is true, as evolutionists certainly believe, and if the Bible is also true, then something like the view of the theistic evolutionists must be reality. Again, this does not mean that evolution is true. But it does mean that we must at least ask whether it is true or not, and if it is true, we must learn from it. We must remember at this point that many theories of science were once declared to be anti-Christian but are now held by Christians and non-Christians alike with no apparent ill effects to Christianity.

One example is Copernican astronomy. Copernicus discovered that the earth was not the physical center of the universe. This was immediately assailed by those who felt that the Bible taught differently. Today we recognize that biblical language that was thought to imply a central earth is merely phenomenal. That is, it describes things as they appear to an earthbound observer (for whom indeed the Bible is written) and not as things actually are from a scientific standpoint. But in Copernicus’s day this was not seen, and Galileo, who held to the Copernican astronomy, was eventually compelled by irate churchmen to recant. Similarly, in the past there have been Christians who have opposed most advances in medicine—pain killers, anesthetics, operations—feeling that these wrongly oppose God’s decrees. Others have opposed such scientific devices as lightning rods, arguing that lightning was from God and that if God chose to strike a building it was sinful on our part to oppose it. In all these cases the terrible warnings made in support of the “Christian” position did not materialize and truth prevailed.

The second argument in favor of theistic evolution is that God seems to work according to this pattern in other areas. Theistic evolution posits a universe that operates according to fixed, universal laws into which, however, God sometimes intrudes, as in the creation of life from nonlife or the implanting of God-consciousness in man. “Isn’t this exactly what we see in life generally or, for that matter, in the history recorded for us in the Bible?” the theistic evolutionist might say. “For the most part the history of Israel and the church flows along naturally. Leaders arise, do their thing, and then die giving place to other rulers. It is only occasionally that God intervenes miraculously. To see this pattern at work in evolution is biblical. It is what we should expect on the basis of what we know of Christian history.”

A House on Sand

Then Christians should all be theistic evolutionists? Not necessarily! There are also important weaknesses in this view to which none should be blind.

First, there is a problem with the supposed truthfulness of evolution itself. The theistic evolutionist believes in evolution, as we have seen. But evolution is not necessarily true, as we have also seen. Indeed, there are important reasons for discounting it. One main reason for rejecting evolution is the lack of fossil evidence. To be sure, the evolutionist reads the fossil record differently, seeing in it a sketchy but adequate history of the development of higher forms of life from lower forms. But the record is at best incomplete and may, as creationists hold, actually provide better evidence for the creationist’s view than for the evolutionist’s. As we said in the last message, it is not merely a question of a few missing links. There are hundreds of missing links. It is questionable whether there is any evidence for the development of one species from a lower species. What the fossil evidence actually shows—even granting the alleged antiquity of the earth and the accepted sequence of fossils and rock strata—is the sudden appearance of major groups of species. If evolution is true, we should expect to find a finely graded and continuous development. Since we do not, we can honestly object to the theistic evolutionist’s first argument in support of his theory, namely, that evolution is true and that the Christian should not be afraid to acknowledge it.

Again, we must emphasize the fact that certain forms of evolutionary development may be true. But the creationist may well ask the theistic evolutionist whether he does not hold his position, not so much because of the scientific evidence for it, but only because it is the accepted (and only acceptable) theory in his field of work.

The second objection corresponds to the theist’s second argument, just as the creationist’s first objection corresponds to his first. The theistic evolutionist might appeal to the Bible as suggesting a pattern of God’s dealings with the human race, which he also sees in evolution—general development according to fixed laws with only an occasional supernatural intervention. But we must ask whether this is really the biblical picture. According to evolution, the development of life on earth has proceeded over a period of several billion years with at best two or three divine interventions. Is this the pattern we find in Scripture? It is true that in biblical history miracles are not everyday occurrences, but they are not all that infrequent either. Hundreds of supernatural interventions by God are recorded. And as for the development of the rest of history along the lines of natural law, would it not be more accurate to say that all history is in God’s hand and that it is being directed by him in intricate detail according to his own perfect plans?

The theistic evolutionist would say that in his view God has directed evolution just as he has directed the history of Israel. But if God has directed evolution according to that pattern, it is not quite the kind of evolution real evolutionists talk about. According to them, evolution is a long, slow, wasteful, crude, inefficient, and mistake-ridden process. The God of the Bible hardly fits those categories. If evolution is made to conform to his nature—efficient, wise, good, and error-free—it is hardly evolution, and the theistic evolutionist who is really a biblical theist has become a creationist though he does not actually describe himself by that word.

Third, we may ask whether the method of creation viewed by the theistic evolutionist does justice to the biblical record. Since the method of God’s creating the animals, birds, and fish is not given in Genesis 1, it may be that God effected this segment of his creation according to an evolutionary model. But in the case of man there does seem to be something of a method, at least in Genesis 2: “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (v. 7). This suggests that in the creation of man God began, as it were, de novo. That is, he started with inorganic matter into which he then breathed life. It does not suggest that man developed from the lesser animals.

We could always say that man is made of dust even though the actual steps of his creation involved a lengthy development through lesser species. But we run into further difficulties when we get to the case of Eve, for Eve is said to have been created from Adam. This does not correspond to any evolutionary theory.

Again, there is the problem of the singularity of Adam. In Romans 5:12–21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22–23 and 45, comparisons are made between Adam and the Lord Jesus Christ. It is basic to this comparison that Adam was an individual whose act affected his progeny. Does this fit in with evolutionary theory? In evolution the basic unit is population, not an individual. At what point did Adam appear? Or did he appear? If God chose one individual from a population of prehuman but manlike beings and made him man, what happened to the rest? Questions like these make questionable whether the theistic evolutionist can defend his position on biblical grounds.

Death of Biblical Religion

This leads us to our last criticism, the one Davis Young alludes to when he says that theistic evolution leads “logically and ultimately to the death of biblical religion.” There is an unbiblical view of the Bible that Young feels to be characteristic of these men.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is perhaps the best known and best read of the theistic evolutionists. He is French and is a Roman Catholic priest, which should speak well for his Christian commitment. He has a concern for the immaterial or spiritual as well as the material. He can even chide science: “Has science ever troubled to look at the world other than from without?” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man. New York: Harper & Row, 1959, 52). But he is also an evolutionist of the most convinced stripe, and this determines his theology in the final analysis.

For de Chardin there is no question that evolution on the grandest scale has taken place. Therefore, if our understanding of Scripture seems to be in conflict with evolutionary views, it is our views of Scripture or even Scripture itself that must give way before science. He writes: “It may be said that the problem of transformism no longer exists. The question is settled once and for all. To shake our belief now in the reality of biogenesis, it would be necessary to uproot the tree of life and undermine the entire structure of the world. … One might well become impatient or lose heart at the sight of so many minds (and not mediocre ones either) remaining today still closed to the idea of evolution, if the whole of history were not there to pledge to us that a truth once seen, even by a single mind, always ends up by imposing itself on the totality of human consciousness. … Is evolution a theory, a system or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforward if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow.”

His thought is his own, of course. We do not suggest that all theistic evolutionists share it. Yet it is evident from these quotations why Young calls this view ultimately destructive. Biblical religion must by its very definition start with the Bible and make all other theories subordinate to that. In de Chardin’s case, everything has become subject to evolution, and an ability to hear the reforming, correcting Word of God in Scripture has been lost. We must ask whether such a tendency is not present in all theistic evolution.

What should the Christian’s proper position be? An openness to all truth certainly, but not the kind of openness that allows scientific theory or any other theory to sit in judgment on the truthfulness of God’s written Word. Actually, the Christian’s task is the opposite: to bring every thought into subjection to the written Word. Paul knew this. He wrote to those of his day, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4–5). We may not know the truth in any given area. But we must know that our ultimate standard for truth—whatever it is—is the written Word of God.

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 6 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Sources: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

Boice’s Books:

from the Tenth Presbyterian Church website
Books
1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

 
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SUNDAY OT SERMON: Views of Creation – Evolution – Genesis 1:1-2 by Dr. James M. Boice

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 5

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. – Genesis 1:1-2

When Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859, he received more abuse than perhaps any modern scientist. To be sure, even Einstein originally objected to Slipher’s discovery of an expanding universe. He wrote, “This circumstance irritates me” (Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, 28). Others also objected. But none of these heaped personal abuse on Slipher. Darwin, by contrast, was greeted with: “Rotten fabric of speculation. … Utterly false. … Deep in the mire of folly [and] … I laughed till my sides were sore” (Jastrow, Until the Sun Dies, 19). The remarkable thing, however, is that the theory that became the laughing stock and then eventually the battleground of the second half of the nineteenth century has now become widely accepted, not only by scientists but also by a wide variety of people from most walks of life.

This is not to say that evolution is the only theory going. It is merely the dominant view today and is therefore the one with which any discussion of the theory of origins should start. Actually, our discussion in this and the following sermons is going to take us over five competing theories: 1) atheistic evolution, 2) theistic evolution, 3) the so-called “gap theory” popularized by C. I. Scofield, 4) six-day creationism, and finally 5) progressive creationism. We are going to see what each of these theories has to commend it and then also explore its weaknesses.

Let us say at the beginning that a final answer as to how the universe came into being may not be attainable now. We may exclude some possibilities, both as Christians and as scientists. As Christians we may exclude even more. But this still falls short of a full answer to the “how.” Indeed, even taking the explanations of origins in the order proposed above does not necessarily imply that the latter positions are better than the earlier ones. They are taken in this order simply because they have appeared in this order historically.

The Evolutionary Theory

We begin by noting that in spite of the association of evolution with the name of Charles Darwin, evolution itself is nothing new. It existed among the ancient Greeks, for example. Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Epicurus, and Lucretius were all evolutionists. So also was Aristotle (384–322 b.c.), who believed in a complete gradation in nature accompanied by a perfecting principle. This was imagined to have caused gradation from the imperfect to the perfect. Man, of course, stood at the highest point of the ascent.

Again, there were evolutionists in more modern times before Darwin. Some early precursors were Francis Bacon (1561–1626), René Descartes (1596–1650), and Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). The first biologist to make a contribution to evolutionary thought was George Louis Leclerc de Buffon (1707–1788), the French naturalist. Another was Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802), the grandfather of Charles Darwin. The first fairly complete theory of evolution was by Chevalier de Lamarck (1744–1829), who became a professor in zoology at the Museum of Natural History in Paris and later popularized his views in Philosophie Zoologique.

It was Charles Darwin, however, who rightly captured the world’s attention. His theory was developed to a degree that none of the others were and, perhaps even more importantly, it was supported by an impressive array of observations collected initially on the world-encircling tour of the HMS Beagle from 1831 to 1836. Darwin’s theory may be arranged in these postulates and conclusions.

Postulate number one: variation. There are variations within individuals of the same species.

Postulate number two: overproduction. In most cases, more individuals are born to a species than can possibly survive to maturity.

Conclusion number one: struggle for existence. In order to survive individuals must compete with other members of the same species.

Postulate number three: survival of the fittest. In a competitive environment only those individuals best fitted to survive will survive.

Postulate number four: inheritance of favorable characteristics. Fit individuals pass their “good” characteristics to their descendants.

Final conclusion: New species arise by the continued survival and reproduction of the individuals best suited to their particular environment (This summary of Darwin’s theory is taken from John W. Klotz, Genes, Genesis, and Evolution. St. Louis, Concordia, 1970, 34-35).

What has happened to this theory in the one hundred or so years since the publication of Darwin’s Origin? For the most part it is still held, though much work has been done in the one area that presents a flaw in the argument. As anyone can see, the chief mechanism of evolution according to Darwin’s theory is “natural selection,” the impersonal preference given to a certain variation in a species permitting one individual rather than another to survive. This is supposed to explain how the variety of forms we know came about. But this is precisely what it does not do. Natural selection may explain how certain individuals have more offspring than others and therefore survive, or survive and have offspring while other less favored individuals do not. But it does not tell us how there came to be the various organisms or “good” characteristics of organisms in the first place.

Thomas Bethell, editor of the Washington Monthly, has written of this problem in an article for Harper’s Magazine. He observes, “There is, then, no ‘selection’ by nature at all. Nor does nature ‘act’ as it so often is said to do in biology books. One organism may indeed be ‘fitter’ than another from an evolutionary point of view, but the only event that determines this fitness is death (or infertility). This, of course, is not something which helps create the organism, but is something that terminates it” (Harper’s Magazine, February 1976, 70-75).

To deal with this problem evolutionists have come to speak of mutations as the primary source of variations. This was proposed first by a Dutch botanist, Hugo de Vries, in a work entitled Species and Varieties: Their Origin by Mutation (1905). It has since been suggested that mutations are caused by cosmic radiations, the latter being perhaps far more intense than in modern times.

The Fossil Record

What are we to say of Darwin’s theory? We must begin by noting that there is no question on the part of any informed thinker or writer that there are varieties within a given species. This is simply to say that all individuals are not alike. Some are tall, some short. Some are strong, others weak, and so on. The question is whether these acknowledged variations are sufficient to account for the development of entirely different species and, second, whether such development has in fact occurred. (The possibility of the development of species in this manner does not prove that this is the way it happened.)

At this point we have to turn to the evidence for evolution, and when we do we must acknowledge that the only true historical evidence is the evidence of fossils. There are other things that might be seen as supporting evolution: the possibility of classifying organisms from the simple to the more complex, similarities of structure in “related” species, the existence of vestigial organs (that is, organs like the human appendix for which no present function is known), similar blood types between some species. But these are all circumstantial arguments, and in some cases they are also ambiguous (See Klotz, Genes, Genesis, and Evolution, 120-73). The only truly historical evidence—evidence that evolution has actually occurred—is fossils.

The fossil remains may be evidence of evolution, but what is not adequately said today is that they do not prove evolution and are in fact highly questionable when applied to evolutionary theory. Let us begin with positive statements. First, although very fragmentary, the fossils do lend themselves to a historical sequence in which the more simple forms of life may be dated earlier (because found in older rock) and more complex forms of life may be dated later. Thus, although the very ancient dates given may be wrong, it does seem that algae, protozoa, and sponges came first. After that are fish, reptiles, and amphibians, then the land animals, including the dinosaurs. Finally, there are the animals we know today, and then man. Another positive statement is that some species have become extinct, the dinosaurs being the most notable example. The combination of these two sets of observations suggests that new forms of life develop and that others become extinct—according to Darwin.

But it is not that simple. There are problems in fitting the fossil record into an evolutionary system. Moreover, these are so great as to bring the entire theory into question.

For example, if evolution is true, what we should expect to find in the fossil record is finely graded and generally continuous development from the simplest forms to the higher forms. Although this is often claimed for the fossil record, it is not what is in fact found when we study it closely. Certainly there are simpler forms in (presumably) earlier rocks. Higher forms (like man) come relatively late. But there are no gradual developments. On the contrary, the major groups appear suddenly, and there is little or no evidence of transition. Everett C. Olson, a well-known evolutionist, mentions this difficulty: “More important, however, are the data revealed by the fossil record. There are great spatial and temporal gaps, sudden appearances of new major groups, equally sudden appearances of old, including very rapid extinctions of groups that had flourished for long periods of time. There were mass extinctions marked by equally simultaneous death of several apparently little associated groups of organisms. At the time the record first is seen with any real clarity [in Cambrian rock strata], the differentiation of phyla is virtually complete. As far as major groups are concerned, we see little clear evidence of time succession in differentiation with the simpler first and the more complex later” (Everett C. Olson, “The Role of Paleontology in the Formation of Evolutionary Thought,” Bioscience 16, 1966: 39. Quoted by L. Duane Thuman, How to Think about Evolution & Other Bible-Science Controversies (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1978, 103. Thuman discusses the problems raised by the fossil record at some length, as do also J. Kerby Anderson and Harold G. Coffin, Fossils in Focus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977).

It may be argued at this point—indeed, it is argued by evolutionists—that the fossil record is simply incomplete, that if fossils for every prior form of life existed, such gaps would be filled. But in a hundred years of study the tendency has not been this way, and it is hard to convince oneself today that this will yet happen. It is not just a question of several missing links. There are hundreds of missing links. Moreover, the grouping of major species in certain past periods of earth’s history works strongly against this argument. Christians can argue, even if they cannot fully prove, that special creation is a far better explanation.

A second major problem with the use of fossils to support evolution is the subjective nature of arranging fossil histories. It might be argued by one who has seen the difficulty just mentioned that there is nevertheless evidence for development within one of the ancient time periods, even if not from one to the other. The supposed development of the horse from the Eocene period to modern times is an oft-cited example. During 60 million or so years the horse is supposed to have increased in size, lengthened its limbs, reduced and then eventually discarded toes, and become a grazer. Many museums have skeletons or pictures that are supposed to represent this development. But the fossils do not prove this development. They may suggest it, and the development they suggest may in fact be right. But there is still no evidence that one supposed form of the horse gave place to another. In actuality the skeletons may have come from similar but otherwise unrelated animals. Moreover, even if the fossils of these horselike animals prove a development, it is still not an example of the development of new species but only of a change within a species.

Mutations

Another area of difficulty for evolution is the mechanism used to explain the emergence of significant variations in the species, chiefly mutations (sudden unexpected changes brought about by otherwise unexplained alterations in the organism’s genes). This was the solution to the problem of “newness” proposed by Hugo de Vries. De Vries did his work with the evening primrose, a weed that he found in a potato field. He bred this plant over a period of several generations in the course of which he noticed a number of abrupt changes that he called mutations. He concluded that these were developments of such magnitude that the process itself could explain the emergence of new species.

Unfortunately, the new “species” of de Vries were not new species but simply varieties within the same species. Moreover, they were not produced by mutations in the sense of that word today but rather by breeding out recessive characteristics. In other words, de Vries produced nothing that was not in the plant originally.

De Vries’s failure does not entirely discredit the theory, however, for mutations do occur and can be passed down from generation to generation. The question is whether these mutations are sufficient to account for new species. Are they? Many evolutionists would say yes at this point. But it is important to note that no one has as yet demonstrated this to be so. In fact, there is important evidence to the contrary. Walter Lammerts is a rose breeder from southern California and the author of the books Why Not Creation? and Scientific Studies in Creation. He tells of attempts to breed roses with more petals or less petals, using every imaginable technique including radiation. He acknowledges that it is possible to use radiation to create roses with a significant increase in petals. But here is the point: there is a limit beyond which the increase in petals apparently will not go. If a rose has forty-four petals, for example, it may be reduced to thirty-two or increased to fifty-six. But that is all. Moreover, if the hybrid rose is left to mix with others from that point on, it does not retain its new characteristics but soon loses them. In fact, all the hybrid roses we have would soon turn to wild roses if left to them-selves—because they are bred from the wild roses originally. And if that in itself is not enough to cast doubt on the theory, there is the fact that the “improved” roses did not attain their improved form naturally but rather through the concentrated and prolonged efforts of Lammerts and other breeders. In other words, even in so limited a matter as this there is need for a design and a designer, a planner and a plan (For a fuller discussion of mutations as a possible mechanism for evolution see Klotz, Genes, Genesis, and Evolution, 256–91).

The Crucial Areas

An essay such as this can only begin to suggest a few of the problems the theory of evolution poses. But even in such a short study, concentrating on the basic scientific evidence for and against evolution, we can hardly pass over the far greater and (from the point of view of the Christian) unsolvable problems that exist where the crucial points of evolution are concerned. There are four of them.

First, even were we to grant the truthfulness of the evolutionary system as currently put forth, we still have the problem of the origin of the matter from which the later forms sprang. Evolution implies matter by the very meaning of the word, for in order for something to evolve there must be something there in the first place to evolve, and that first something cannot evolve but rather must be either eternally present or created. Since the eternity of matter is today increasingly untenable, as we saw in a previous study, we must have God as Creator. And this obviously nudges us toward the Christian position, whatever our opinions of a greater or lesser degree of evolutionary development may be.

Second, there is the form of matter. We may speak of “mere” matter as if it were a simple irreducible entity, but we do not actually know of any such “simple” matter and cannot in fact even conceive of it. Everything we know, however simple, already has a form—generally a highly complex form. Even hydrogen, the basic building block of everything according to astrophysics, is not simple. It has a proton, neutron, and electron, all operating according to fixed laws. Where did this fixed form and laws come from? They did not evolve. They are in matter to start with.

Third, there is the emergence of life. This is a complex problem, and much has been done to develop laboratory models according to which life could have arisen on earth during the early ages of the planet. The most acceptable model is a three-stage process involving: 1) the origin of bio-organics (amino acids, sugars) from inorganic compounds (hydrogen, water, ammonia, carbon dioxide, methane); 2) the origin of biopolymers (large molecules such as proteins) from the bio-organics; and finally 3) the origin of primordial life (simple plant or algaelike cells) from the biopolymers. But this is an extremely complex process, even assuming that this is how life came about, and therefore has an extremely low level of probability. True, scientists have achieved the first two of these stages in carefully controlled laboratory experiments. But the crucial third stage is elusive. And even in the second stage, the polymers seem to deteriorate faster than they would normally be created in anything approaching a natural environment. Again, it is not a matter of a single event of low probability. It is a matter of a long series of events, each with a very small probability, so that, as one writer says, “for all practical purposes the probability of this series of events may safely be regarded as zero” (Donald England, A Christian View of Origins. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972, 97).

Two scientists, who nevertheless believe in the spontaneous generation of life, write, “The macromolecule-to-cell transition is a jump of fantastic dimensions, which lies beyond the range of testable hypothesis. In this area, all is conjecture. The available facts do not provide a basis for postulating that cells arose on this planet” (D. E. Green and R. F. Goldberg, Molecular Insights into the Living Process. New York: Academic Press, 1967, 407. Quoted by England, Christian View, 94. England discusses the problems with a theory of the spontaneous generation of life on pp. 33–100).

The fourth of the truly great problems for an atheistic theory of evolution is the emergence of personality in man, or to be more specific, the emergence of the soul, spirit, or God-consciousness. What caused non-man to become man? One writer asks, “Where did the soul of man come from? Why is it that the highest and best animals are unable to pray? They are unable to communicate in a rational way. They are unable to do the things that man is able to do. The lowest type of man upon the face of the earth is far higher than the highest of the animals, because he has the capacity to worship God and can be brought to be a child of God, able to live in the glory of God through Jesus Christ, and that is true of none of the animals.” This writer concludes, “I am not ashamed to say that I believe in the first chapter of Genesis, but I should be ashamed to say that I held to any form of evolution” (E. J. Young, In the Beginning, 56–57).

Why Evolution?

I conclude with this question. Why is it, if the theory of evolution is as weak as it seems to be, that it has the popular appeal acknowledged at the beginning of this sermon? Why is it that evolution is today’s dominant view and not one of the other views mentioned? I think there are four answers, three of which I want to put in the form of statements and one of which I want to put in the form of a question.

The statements are these.

First, according to evolution, everything—absolutely everything—is knowable, and this has obvious appeal. Everything comes from something else, and we can trace the developments back. It is a closed system. There is no need for anything outside. Above all, there is no need for God who by the very definition of that word is One who is unknowable and who does not need to give an account of himself.

Second, according to evolution, there is one explanation for everything. Everything evolves: matter, life, ideas, even religion. We can project this framework from our own small world throughout the universe.

Third, and this is perhaps the chief reason, if creation of the world by God is eliminated (as many clearly wish to do), evolution is the only other option.

On the basis of those three statements I now ask my question: Is it not possible, then, that in the last analysis the appeal of evolution is in its elimination of God and its exaltation of man? In this system man does not merely become the highest point of creation, which Christians would themselves willingly affirm. He becomes the god of creation. Consequently, to challenge evolution is to blaspheme against man, and blasphemy against man is the sin for which there is now no pardon. Algernon Charles Swinburne gives expression to this spirit in his Hymn of Man.

But God, if a God there be, is the

Substance of men which is Man.

Thou art smitten, thou God, thou art smitten;

Thy death is upon thee, O Lord.

And the love-song of earth as thou diest

Resounds through the wind of her wings—

Glory to Man in the highest!

For Man is the master of things.

Is man the master? If he is, then he can go his way and devise any theory of origins he chooses. But if he is not—if there is a God—then he is the creation of this God and owes this God allegiance.

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 5 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Sources: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

Boice’s Books:

from the Tenth Presbyterian Church website
Books
1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

SUNDAY OT SERMON: “God The Creator” by James Montgomery Boice on Genesis 1:1

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 4

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

In the message last week I referred to a question that has been thought to be profound but actually is not: Why is there something rather than nothing? This is not profound for the reason that it is not even a true question. The question seems to offer us a choice between something and nothing. But what is nothing? As soon as we answer that, saying, “Nothing is … ,” nothing ceases to be nothing and becomes something. If nothing really is nothing, nothing defies description. In fact, it defies mental conception of any kind. So the question really boils down to: Why is there something?

In this form the question is not meaningless. On the contrary, it is one of the truly big philosophical questions. It can be stated in different forms—Where did the universe come from? Who made the atom? How did everything get to be as it is?—but in essence these are the same basic questions. Something is there—an immense, intricate, and orderly something. It was there before we were, for we cannot even imagine our existence without it. But how did it get there? And how did it get to be as we detect it?

Genesis 1:1 is the answer to these questions. It tells us that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

The Christian Answer

There are other answers to the question of the origins of the universe, however, and it is these plus the Christian answer that we now want to consider. How many answers are there? Like all truly big questions, the possibilities are not numerous. In this case, there are just four.

First, there is the view that the universe had no origin. That is, there was no origin because in some form the universe always existed. Matter existed. This has been the dominant view of both ancient and modern science until relatively recent times, and it is still held by some.

Second, there is the view that everything has a beginning and that this beginning was the work of a good personal being. This is the Christian view.

Third, everything came into existence through the work of a personal being who is evil.

Fourth, there is now and there always has been a dualism. This last view takes several forms depending on whether one is thinking of a personal or impersonal, moral or immoral dualism, but the views are related. This was the outlook of the ancient cosmologies referred to earlier, of which the Babylonian Epic is an example. It is still the characteristic view of the eastern religions and mysticism.

What are we to say concerning these four possibilities? The easiest to dismiss is number three, which gives a personal but evil origin to the universe. It says, in effect, that Satan is the creator. This is easiest to dismiss because it does not give an adequate explanation of the origin of the good. Evil can be conceived as a corruption of the good—Satan can rebel against the Christian God—but it is not really possible to think of good as having emerged out of evil. In the former case, evil can be a misuse of otherwise good traits or abilities. But in the second case, there is no place for the good to come from. We may state the problem in a slightly different way. For a power to be evil it (or he) must possess the attributes of intelligence and will. But since these attributes are in themselves good, he must be getting them from a good power. And this means that the good power must have existed previously and that the evil power is therefore not the origin of all things.

The fourth possibility, a dualism, is unsatisfactory too, although this is not as quickly apparent as in number three. The reason is that, although belief in a dualism has often been quite popular and has endured for long periods of history, it does not stand up under close analysis. For having stated the dualism, we immediately want to pass behind it to some type of unity that includes the dualism. Or else we choose one part of the dualism and make it prominent over the other, in which case we are really easing into one of the other possibilities.

C. S. Lewis has written about this problem, pointing to what he calls the “catch” in the system. According to dualism, two powers (spirits or gods), one good and one evil, are supposed to be quite independent and eternal. Neither is responsible for the other, and each has an equal right to call itself God. Each presumably thinks that it is good and the other bad. But Lewis asks, What do we mean when we say, as we do in stating this dualism, that the one power is good and the other bad? Do we mean merely that we prefer the one to the other? If that is all we mean, then we must give up any real talk about good or evil, and if we do that, then the moral dimension of the universe vanishes entirely and we are left with nothing more than matter operating in certain ways. We cannot mean that and still hold to the dualism. We have fallen back to possibility number one.

But if, on the contrary, we mean that one power really is good and the other really is bad, then we are actually introducing some third thing into the universe, “some law or standard or rule of good which one of the powers conforms to and the other fails to conform to.” And this standard, rather than the other, will turn out to be the true God. Lewis concludes, “Since the two powers are judged by this standard, then this standard, or the Being who made this standard, is farther back and higher up than either of them, and he will be the real God. In fact, what we meant by calling them good and bad turns out to be that one of them is in a right relation to the real, ultimate God and the other in a wrong relation to him.”

So neither an evil origin for the universe, from which good arose, nor a dualism adequately accounts for reality as we know it. The real alternative is between the view that holds to an eternity of matter and the view that sees everything as having come into existence through the personal will of an eternal and moral God.

Let us look at Christianity’s chief competitor, materialism. The origins of this view are lost in the past, but the view is clearly very ancient. It is found in the scientism of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who taught that everything is composed of small building blocks of matter, conceived of as hard, indestructible particles. Epicurus called them atoms, which is where our word “atom” comes from. He probably derived his ideas from Democritus of Abdera who in turn was indebted to the little-known philosopher Leucippus. Leucippus may have gotten his ideas from a Phoenician philosopher named Moschus, who lived prior to 1000 b.c.

Today this view is the dominant philosophy of western civilization, although not in the form Epicurus gave to it. For one thing, we know that the atom can be divided. We have done it. Again, we have been taught by Einstein that energy and mass are interchangeable, which is mind-boggling. Knowledge of this should in itself shake the presuppositions of materialism, but for the most part it has not seriously shaken them, and the western world continues to be philosophically materialistic.

Today’s materialism usually does not deny that there is personality in the universe, but it conceives this as having arisen out of impersonal substance. It does not deny the complexity of the universe—even including such things as the intricacy of the atom—but it supposes that complexity came from that which was less complex and that in turn from something still less complex until eventually we arrive back at that which is ultimately simple, that is, to mere matter. Matter, it is supposed, always existed—because there is no further explanation. This view lies beneath most thought concerning evolution.

But this description of the origin of the universe has already introduced problems that the theory itself apparently has no means of solving. First, we have spoken of a form to matter and then of more complex forms. But where does form come from? Form means organization and perhaps purpose, too. But how can organization and purpose come from mere matter? Some would insist that organization and purpose were in the matter inherently, like genes in an egg or spermatozoa. But in addition to making nonsense of the theory—this is no longer mere matter—the basic question still remains unanswered, for the problem is how the organization and purpose even got there. At some level, either early or late, we have to account for the form; and, if this is the case, we soon find ourselves looking for the Former, Organizer, or Purposer.

Moreover, we have introduced the idea of the personal, and if we begin with an impersonal universe, there is no explanation for the emergence of personality. Francis Schaeffer writes: “The assumption of an impersonal beginning can never adequately explain the personal beings we see around us, and when men try to explain man on the basis of an original impersonal, man soon disappears.”

Genesis begins with the opposite answer. It maintains that the universe exists with form and personality because it has been brought into existence by an orderly and personal God. God was there before the universe came into existence, and he was and is personal. He created all we know, including ourselves. Consequently, the universe naturally bears the mark of his personality.

God’s Creation

But we may be missing something at this point. We are arguing for the Christian view of origins, which is not at all unimportant. But in the very act of arguing we are likely to miss (or postpone) a true wonder at God’s creation, which is what a proper contemplation of these themes should cause. Biblical writers never fall into this pit. Consequently, when they look at creation they inevitably end up praising God, and when they praise God, one of the things they praise him for is creation.

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. – Revelation 4:11

Can we not do that too? Our text tells us that God created “the heavens and the earth.” As we contemplate these great canvases of God’s work, are we not led to praise him?

How vast the heavens are! When we look up into the sky on a clear night we see perhaps 10,000 points of light. A few of these are the planets of our solar system that shine by reflected light. Thousands belong to the special grouping of stars known as the Milky Way, to which our sun belongs. Other thousands are entire galaxies, which shine as one point because they are so distant. We say 10,000 points because that is what we can see with unaided eyes. But these 10,000 are only the tiniest fraction of the existing stars. A typical galaxy contains billions of individual stars—our galaxy alone contains 200 billion stars. Its form is of a giant spiral rotating majestically in space, its glowing arms trailing behind it like the distended points of a pinwheel. Our sun is in one arm of the spiral. It makes a complete rotation in 250 million years. These figures are staggering. But this is only our galaxy. There are thousands of others visible to the naked eye and billions more within range of the 200-inch telescope on California’s Palomar Mountain.

As revealed to us by time exposure photography, these distant galaxies of stars display a seemingly unending array of beauty. Some are spirals like ours. Others are nearly spherical clusters. Others are flattened out like pancakes. Still others are irregular. All the stars in the heavens are clustered together in these intricate and beautiful groupings.

Again, the galaxies are scattered about in an irregular pattern. Between them there are vast amounts of space. The distance from one edge of an average galaxy to the other edge is approximately 600 thousand trillion miles. The average distance from one galaxy to another is 20 million trillion miles. If these numbers were to be written out in zeros, they would fill up several lines of type. So to avoid such large numbers astronomers generally use a unit of distance called the light-year, that is, the distance light travels in one year at the speed of 186,000 miles per second. A light-year is approximately 6 trillion miles. Translated into these terms, the size of an average galaxy is 100 thousand light-years, and the distance between them is 3 million light-years approximately.

The Andromeda Galaxy is the galaxy closest to our own Milky Way. It is separated from us by 2 million light-years. This means that the light coming to us now from Andromeda has taken 2 million years to get here. Put in other terms, it means that when we look at Andromeda what we see is the galaxy as it existed, not a moment ago, but 2 million years in the past.

Moreover, the galaxies are not fixed in space but rather are moving away from each other at tremendous speeds. Vesto Melvin Slipher, the first to discover this fact, found that the galaxies he could observe were moving away from the earth at several million miles per hour. His scientific followers, Milton Humason and Edwin Hubble, showed that the most distant galaxies were retreating from us at the rate of 100 million miles per hour. Moreover, everything is retreating from everything. Nothing is coming toward us, nor is anything coming toward any other galaxy. This means that the universe is expanding. By working backward from the present position of the galaxies and their known speed, astronomers have placed the origins of the universe approximately 15 to 20 billion years in the past.

We turn to the stars themselves and find equal evidence of variety, design, beauty, and mystery. Not all stars are alike, though they seem to follow a similar pattern as they are born, burn, grow old, and eventually die.

At any given moment millions of stars are being born in space. They are born as clouds of interstellar gas contract under the force of gravity acting between the atoms that compose them. As they contract the temperature rises. Finally, at the critical temperature of 20 million degrees Fahrenheit, the hydrogen within the ball of condensed gas ignites in reactions similar to those that occur in the explosion of a hydrogen bomb. The release of this energy halts any further condensing of the gas, and the star continues to burn in that fashion for many billions of years. Our sun is at this stage.

Eventually the hydrogen in the star begins to be used up. It starts to swell and redden. Such stars are called red giants. As the last of its fuel is burned off, the star begins its final collapse under the force of gravity. If it is relatively small, it condenses to a tightly compressed sphere called a white dwarf. In one of these dead stars a few cubic centimeters of matter weigh a ton. If the star is large, a different fate envelops it. Instead of compressing quietly, it blows itself up, thereby scattering its elements—now containing carbon, oxygen, iron, gold, and others—throughout the universe where they are eventually picked up by other suns or planets.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. – Psalm 19:1–4

And what of the earth? We need not consider the earth and its marvels fully at this point. We have looked at the heavens carefully since this is the last point in Genesis at which the heavens are mentioned for themselves. From this point the chapter passes on to consider God’s acts of creation on earth. (The sun, moon, and stars are mentioned only in regard to their giving light to the earth.) In a sense everything that occurs from this point on is about the earth. But we can note in passing that the marvels of the macrocosm (the world of large things) are repeated in the microcosm (the world of small things). Here we are confronted with electrons, protons, neutrons, neutrinos, and a seemingly endless variety of particles barely understood. The distances between these particles, proportionate to their size, are comparable to some of the distances involved in the solar system. If we were to take the simplest of atoms, the hydrogen atom, and blow it up billions upon billions of times to where the proton at its center would now be the size of a ten-inch soccer ball, the electron that circles this nucleus would now be the size of a golf ball and would be circling the proton at a distance of five miles. There would be nothing else within the circle!

To God Be the Glory

On the basis of the first verse of Genesis we can define God as the One who creates. We cannot create. We often use the word of human endeavors, and human beings are creative in the sense we give to that word. But if we are to be precise, we will say that at the best we only form or fashion things in imaginative ways, and even then, it is the case that we get our imagination as well as all other physical, mental, and spiritual gifts from God. Strictly speaking, we are craftsmen. We use preexisting material. But God does create, and he does so on what is to us a vast and incomprehensible scale. We do not know how God has done it. But he has willed creation, and as a result all we know, see, and are have come into being.

If God were not the Creator, he would be only a part of the world process, coming and going, waxing and waning. He could not help us. E. J. Young has written, “If he is only a little bigger than we are, if he is only a big brother and nothing more, if he is only a part of the whole, then we are all in it together, God, you and I, and then there are no standards. There is no absolute. It is every man for himself, and all modern philosophies and ideas that are being spread in our days—new morality, new theology, and so on—are all perfectly admissible if God is only a part of the world process. If it is so, it does not matter whether he is dead or alive. … Let us live for the moment, let us live for our enjoyment; there is no absolute; there us no standard of morality, for all changes. What may be right today may be wrong tomorrow; so let us get through life as best we can.”

But this is not the God of Genesis. “The Bible does not so speak. It tells us that God has created all things. That is why there is meaning in life, and why there are absolute standards that do not change. God tells us what is right and what is wrong, and that is why there is meaning in life. That is why you and I who believe in this God can very well say that our chief reason for existence is to glorify him and enjoy him forever.”

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 4 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Sources: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

Boice’s Books:

from the Tenth Presbyterian Church website
Books
1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in James Montgomery Boice, Sermons

 

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SUNDAY OT SERMON: Dr. James Montgomery Boice “In The Beginning God”

Genesis 1-11 vol 1 Boice

SERIES: GENESIS – PART 3

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

When we say that Genesis is to be understood historically—as fact rather than fiction—we do not mean that we can understand it fully just because we are historical creatures. Genesis is history, but some of it is beyond us. This is nowhere more apparent than in its first four words.

I say “four words.” But in the Hebrew the words corresponding to our phrase “In the beginning God” are just two: BerashethElohim. Yet, as the late distinguished physicist Arthur Compton once said, these words are “the most tremendous ever penned” (Quoted by Herschel H. Hobbs. The Origin of All Things: Studies in Genesis. Waco, Texas: Word, 1975, 9). Another scholar, John Gerstner, of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, has written that even if all other evidences for the doctrine were lacking, “the first four words of the Book of Genesis are sufficient proof of the Bible’s inspiration” (John Gerstner, “Man as God Made Him,” in Our Savior: Man, Christ, and the Atonement, ed. James Boice. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980, 20).  Why? It is because of the statement’s profundity. The ancient Jewish people were not scientists. They were not even profound theologians or philosophers. So the fact that a relatively primitive people have bequeathed us a book embodying the most profound wisdom—the case with these opening words, as well as other passages—should convince us at the beginning that the book has been given to us by God.

In his study of this verse, Gerstner reflects on a statement made one day in his high school physics class. The professor said, “The greatest question which has ever been asked is why there is something rather than nothing.” At the time the young student was impressed. But he gradually came to see that this is not a profound question at all. In fact, it is not even a true question. Because if nothing really is nothing, then nothing defies conception and the choice vanishes. What is “nothing”? If you think you can answer that question, you are the person least qualified to answer it. As soon as you say, “Nothing is … ,” nothing ceases to be nothing and becomes something. “Nothing is what the sleeping rocks dream of,” said Jonathan Edwards. Therefore, as Gerstner observes, “Anyone who thinks he knows what nothing is must have those rocks in his head” (Ibid).

What was “in the beginning”? If the alternative is between God and nothing, there is really no choice. For nothing is nothing, and we are left with the statement “In the beginning God.”

An Objection

We must deal with an objection. Some modern translations of Genesis begin differently from the New International Version and the King James Version, and the casual reader as well as the technical scholar might therefore ask whether everything we have said so far is wrongheaded. In some modern translations the opening words of Genesis are treated as a dependent or temporal clause rather than an independent clause, which changes the statement from an affirmation that God was in the beginning before all things to a statement that at some indefinite point in the past both God and matter existed and that God then began to form matter into the universe we know today. We see this translation in a footnote to the Revised Standard Version, which reads, “When God began to create. …” We see it in the New English Bible: “In the beginning of creation, when God made heaven and earth. …” Even the Living Bible says, “When God began creating the heavens and the earth, the earth was at first a shapeless, chaotic mass. …”

The implications of these translations are clear. Whether or not they are accurate—we will come to that question in a moment—they clearly deny (or at least overlook) an absolute creation. They make matter preexistent and therefore do not give us an absolute beginning at all.

What shall we say about this interpretation? It is a possible translation, otherwise we would not have it in even some of our Bibles. The word bereʾshith can be taken as a construct. But the fact that this is a possible translation does not mean that it is correct. In fact, when we begin to look into the matter deeply there are several reasons why the older translation should be preferred.

First, there is the normal simplicity of the Hebrew sentence. If the opening clause of Genesis 1 is dependent, then the sentence actually concludes in verse 3 where God speaks and light comes into existence. This means that the sentence is quite long, possessing not one but two subordinate parts (the second being a multiple subordinate clause), and the real flow of the sentence would be: “When God began to create the heavens and the earth—the earth being at that time formless and empty, darkness being over the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God hovering over the waters—God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” This is unlike a true Hebrew sentence, especially an introductory sentence. It is often the case in German that a series of dependent clauses will begin a sentence and the verb will come twenty or thirty words later at the end, a feature of the language that Mark Twain once described as “falling down stairs.” But this is not the case with Hebrew. Certainly there are dependent clauses. But these are not complex, and one is hard-pressed to believe that, in this case especially, a complicated initial sentence is intended to begin the simple and classically straightforward account of creation that occurs in this chapter. Julius Wellhausen was no conservative—he was, in fact, one of the key figures in the development of the documentary theory of the Pentateuch—but he called the translation we are objecting to “desperate” (E.J. Young, In The Beginning. Young discusses the translation on pages 20-25. He offers a more technical treatment in Studies in Genesis One, “An International Library of Philosophy and Theology,” Philadelphia: P&R, 1976, 1-14).

Second, as has often been shown, the word “create” (the second word of the sentence in Hebrew) is used of God alone and characteristically refers to his bringing into being something that is entirely new. Of course, God also forms things from existing material, but when that happens another word (usually “make” or “made”) is used. “Create” refers to the production of new things from nothing. It is an inappropriate word if the creation referred to in these verses is merely the formation of the earth from preexistent matter.

Third, Genesis is a book of beginnings. But in telling us of these beginnings it has clearly failed at the most crucial point if, in fact, the best it can say is that at the very start matter just happened to be around.

Why is it that so many modern scholars and even some translators prefer to subordinate the first clause? E. J. Young suggests that the real reason is that the Babylonian Epic of Creation, which I referred to in the last sermon, begins this way and that these scholars have a prejudicial desire to have the Genesis account conform to it. The Babylonian account begins: “When on high the heavens were not named, and below the earth had not a name. …” It goes on in that vein for seven lines, introduces another temporal clause, and then gets to the main clause. By subordinating the opening clauses of Genesis 1, the scholars succeed in making Genesis somewhat parallel to the Babylonian account. But, as I have argued, Genesis does not begin that way. It begins by speaking of that absolute beginning of all things, which is God, and then provides us with the most profound insight into the question of origins. It overwhelms us with the profoundly simple statement: “In the beginning God.”

A Set of Denials

The phrase also instructs us concerning the nature of God who alone is the origin of all things. It suggests some negative statements and some positive statements.

The clearest negative statement is the denial of atheism. If God was in the beginning, then there was and is a God. How can it be otherwise? To say less would be to say God is dependent on creation, being subject to the same laws, and therefore could not be at the beginning of creation as Genesis says he was.

A second denial is materialism. When the text says that God was in the beginning, before creation, it sets him apart from creation and therefore apart from the matter of which all else is made. Ours is not an entirely materialistic universe. Moreover, since God created matter, matter did not always exist, which is what a true philosophy of materialism teaches.

Finally, the opening statements of Genesis deny pantheism. Pantheism is the philosophy that God is in matter or is matter. It underlies most pagan or animalistic religions. But if God created matter, then he is separate from it and is superior to it. Any religion that worships matter is idolatrous.

These and many other false philosophies err because they begin with man or matter and work up to God, if indeed they go so far. But Genesis stands against them all when it begins with God and sets him forth as the originator of all things.

The Bible’s God

It is not only through the suggestion of these negatives about God that Genesis 1:1 instructs us. It also suggests some very important positive characteristics.

First, when Genesis begins with the words “In the beginning God,” it is telling us that God is self-existent. This is not true of anything else. Everything else depends on some other thing or person and ultimately on God. Without these prior causes, the thing would not exist. We recognize this truth when we speak of the laws of “cause and effect.” Every effect must have an adequate cause. But God is the ultimate cause and is himself uncaused. God has no origins; this means: first, that as he is in himself he is unknowable, and second, that he is answerable to no one.

Why should God’s self-existence mean he is unknowable? It is because everything we see, smell, hear, taste, or touch has origins and consequently we can hardly think of anything except in these categories. We argue that anything we observe must have a cause adequate to explain it, and we look for such causes. But if God is the cause beyond everything, then he cannot be explained or known as other objects can. Like Robert Jastrow, whom we quoted in the sermon two weeks ago, A. W. Tozer has pointed out that this is one reason why philosophy and science have not always been friendly toward the idea of God. These disciplines are dedicated to the task of accounting for things and are impatient with anything that refuses to give an account of itself. The scientist will admit that there is much he or she does not know. But it is quite another thing to admit that there is something that we can never know and which, in fact, we do not even have a technique for discovering. To avoid this the scientist may attempt to bring God down to his level, defining him as “natural law,” “evolution,” or some such principle. But God eludes him.

Perhaps, too, this is why even Bible-believing people seem to spend so little time thinking about God’s person and character. Tozer writes, “Few of us have let our hearts gaze in wonder at the I AM, the self-existent Self, back of which no creature can think. Such thoughts are too painful for us. We prefer to think where it will do more good—about how to build a better mousetrap, for instance, or how to make two blades of grass grow where one grew before. And for this we are now paying a too heavy price in the secularization of our religion and the decay of our inner lives” (A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy. New York: Harper & Row, 1961, 34).

God’s self-existence also means that he is not answerable to us, and we do not like that. We want God to give an account of himself, to defend his actions. But while he sometimes explains things to us, he does not have to and often does not. God does not have to explain himself to anyone.

Second, that God existed “in the beginning” means that he is self-sufficient. Self-existence means that God has no origins. Self-sufficiency means that God has no needs and therefore depends on no one. This is not true of us. We depend on countless other things—oxygen, for example. If our supply of oxygen is cut off, even for a few moments, we die. We are also dependent on light and heat and gravity and the laws of nature. If even one of these laws should cease to operate, we would all die immediately. But this is not true of God. These things could go—in fact, everything could go—yet God would still exist.

Here we run counter to a widespread and popular idea of God that says God cooperates with man and man with God, each thereby supplying something lacking in the other. It is imagined, for example, that God lacked glory and created us to supply it. Or again, that God needed love and therefore created us to love him. Some talk about creation as if God were lonely and created us to keep him company. But God does not need us.

God does not need worshipers. Arthur W. Pink, who writes on this theme in The Attributes of God, says, “God was under no constraint, no obligation, no necessity to create. That he chose to do so was purely a sovereign act on his part, caused by nothing outside himself, determined by nothing but his own mere good pleasure; for he ‘worketh all things after the counsel of his own good will’ (Eph. 1:11). That he did create was simply for his manifestative glory. … God is no gainer even from our worship. He was in no need of that external glory of his grace which arises from his redeemed, for he is glorious enough in himself without that. What was it [that] moved him to predestinate his elect to the praise of the glory of his grace? It was, Ephesians 1:5 tells us, ‘according to the good pleasure of his will.’ … The force of this is [that] it is impossible to bring the Almighty under obligations to the creature; God gains nothing from us” (A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God. Grand Rapids: Baker, n.d., 2-3).

Some will conclude that the value of men and women is thereby lessened, but this is not the case. It is merely located where alone it is possible to sustain our value. According to our way of thinking, we have value because of what we imagine we can do for God. This is prideful, foolish, and vain. According to the biblical perspective, we have value because God grants it to us. Our worth is according to the grace of God in creation and to his election of us to salvation.

God does not need helpers. This truth is probably harder for us to accept than almost any other, for we imagine God as a friendly, but almost pathetic grandfather figure, bustling about to see whom he can find to help him in managing the world and saving the world’s race. This is a travesty. To be sure, God has entrusted a work of management to us. He said to the original pair in Eden, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Gen. 1:28). He has given those who believe on him a commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20). But none of these aspects of God’s ordering of his creation has a necessary grounding in himself. He has chosen to do things in this way, but he did not have to. Indeed, he could have done them in any one of a million other ways. That he did choose to do things thus is solely dependent on his own free will and does not give us any inherent value to him.

God does not need defenders. We have opportunities to speak for God before those who would dishonor his name and malign his character. We ought to do so. But even if we do not, we must not think that God is deprived by it. God does not need to be defended, for he is as he is and will remain so regardless of the sinful and arrogant attacks of evil men. A God who needs to be defended is a God who can defend us only when someone is defending him. He is of no use at all. The God of the Bible is the self-existent One who is the true defender of his people.

All this is of great importance, for when we notice that God is the only truly self-sufficient One, we may begin to understand why the Bible has so much to say about the need for faith in God alone and why unbelief in God is such sin. Tozer writes: “Among all created beings, not one dare trust in itself. God alone trusts in himself; all other beings must trust in him. Unbelief is actually perverted faith, for it puts its trust not in the living God but in dying men” (Tozer, KOTH, 42). If we refuse to trust God, what we are actually saying is that either we or some other person or thing is more trustworthy. This is a slander against the character of God, and it is folly, for nothing else is all-sufficient. On the other hand, if we begin by trusting God (by believing on him), then we have a solid foundation for all of life.

Because God is sufficient, we may begin by resting in that sufficiency and so work effectively for him. God does not need us. But the joy of coming to know him is in learning that he nevertheless stoops to work in and through his children.

Third, the truth that God was “in the beginning” means that he is eternal. It means that God is, has always been, and will always be, and that he is ever the same in his eternal being. We discover this attribute of God everywhere in the Bible. Abraham knew God as “the Eternal God” (Gen. 21:33). Moses wrote, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Ps. 90:1–2). The Book of Revelation describes him as “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 21:6; cf. 1:8; 22:13). The same book tells us that the four living creatures that surround the throne of God call out day and night, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” (Rev. 4:8).

That God is eternal has two major consequences for us. First, he can be trusted to remain as he has revealed himself to be. God is unchangeable in his attributes. So we need not fear, for example, that although he has shown his love towards us once in Christ he may nevertheless somehow change his mind and cease to love us in the future. God is always love. Similarly, we must not think that although he has shown himself to be holy he may nevertheless somehow cease to be holy and therefore change his attitude toward our transgressions. Sin will always be sin, because it is “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, A. 14), who is unchangeable. We may extend this by saying that God will always be holy, wise, gracious, just, and everything else that he reveals himself to be. Nothing that we do will ever change him. Again, God is unchangeable in his eternal counsel or will. He does what he has determined beforehand to do, and his will never varies. This is a source of great comfort to God’s people. If God were like us, he could not be relied on. He would change, and as a result of that his will and promises would change. We could not depend on him. But God is not like us. He does not change. Consequently, his purposes remain fixed from generation to generation.

The second major consequence for us of God being eternal is that he is inescapable. If he were a mere man and if we did not like either him or what he was doing, we might ignore him, knowing that he might change his mind, move away from us, or die. But God does not change his mind. He does not move away. He will not die. Consequently, we cannot escape him. If we ignore him now, we must reckon with him in the life to come. If we reject him now, we must eventually face the One we have rejected and come to know his own eternal rejection of us.

The God Who is There

In this lies the profundity of the first verse in the Bible. Indeed, we can go farther and say that in some sense this verse may even be the most important verse in the Bible, for at the outset it brings us face-to-face with the God with whom we have to do. This God is not an imaginary god. He is not a god of our own inventions. He is the God who is—the One who is “infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, A. 4).

Sometimes we wish we could change him. We are like the man who was climbing up a steep mountain on his way to the summit when he began to slip. Unable to stop himself, he slid back down the treacherous incline toward a cliff that plunged a thousand feet to the canyon floor. He was sure he would be killed. But just as he was about to go over the edge he threw his hands out and managed to catch a small branch. There he hung. He had saved himself. But he could not get back onto the incline, and he knew it was just a matter of time until his grip loosened and he fell. He was not a very religious man. But this was obviously the time to become one, if ever. So he looked up to heaven and called out, “Is there anyone up there who can help me?”

He did not expect an answer. So he was greatly surprised when a deep voice came back, saying, “Yes, I am here, and I can help you. But first you are going to have to let go of that branch.”

A long pause! Then the man looked up and called out again, “Is there anybody else up there who can help me?”

There is no one else. There is only God, the One who was in the beginning and who ever shall be. But he is able to help. More than that, he is willing to help and even urges his help on us. How wonderful it is that we meet him at the beginning. Genesis 1 gives us a chance to come to terms with him and receive the help he offers, knowing that we will certainly meet him at the end.

About the Preacher

Boice JM in pulpit

James Montgomery Boice, Th.D., (July 7, 1938 – June 15, 2000) was a Reformed theologian, Bible teacher, and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia from 1968 until his death. He is heard on The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast and was a well-known author and speaker in evangelical and Reformed circles. He also served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy for over ten years and was a founding member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. James Boice was one of my favorite Bible teachers. Thankfully – many of his books and expositions of Scripture are still in print and more are becoming available. The sermon above was adapted from Chapter 3 in Genesis 1-11: An Expositional Commentaryvol. 1: Creation and Fall. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006.

Under Dr. Boice’s leadership, Tenth Presbyterian Church became a model for ministry in America’s northeastern inner cities. When he assumed the pastorate of Tenth Church there were 350 people in regular attendance. At his death the church had grown to a regular Sunday attendance in three services of more than 1,200 persons, a total membership of 1,150 persons. Under his leadership, the church established a pre-school for children ages 3-5 (now defunct), a high school known as City Center Academy, a full range of adult fellowship groups and classes, and specialized outreach ministries to international students, women with crisis pregnancies, homosexual and HIV-positive clients, and the homeless. Many of these ministries are now free-standing from the church.

Dr. Boice gave leadership to groups beyond his own organization. For ten years he served as Chairman of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, from its founding in 1977 until the completion of its work in 1988. ICBI produced three classic, creedal documents: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics” and “The Chicago Statement on the Application of the Bible to Contemporary Issues.” The organization published many books, held regional “Authority of Scripture” seminars across the country, and sponsored the large lay “Congress on the Bible I,” which met in Washington, D.C., in September 1987. He also served on the Board of Bible Study Fellowship.

He founded the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (Alliance) in 1994, initially a group of pastors and theologians who were focused on bringing the 20th and now 21st century church to a new reformation. In 1996 this group met and wrote the Cambridge Declaration. Following the Cambridge meetings, the Alliance assumed leadership of the programs and publications formerly under Evangelical Ministries, Inc. (Dr. Boice) and Christians United for Reformation (Horton) in late 1996.

Dr. Boice was a prodigious world traveler. He journeyed to more than thirty countries in most of the world’s continents, and he taught the Bible in such countries as England, France, Canada, Japan, Australia, Guatemala, Korea and Saudi Arabia. He lived in Switzerland for three years while pursuing his doctoral studies.

Dr. Boice held degrees from Harvard University (A.B.), Princeton Theological Seminary (B.D.), the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Theol.) and the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church (D.D., honorary).

A prolific author, Dr. Boice had contributed nearly forty books on a wide variety of Bible related themes. Most are in the form of expositional commentaries, growing out of his preaching: Psalms (1 volume), Romans (4 volumes), Genesis (3 volumes), Daniel, The Minor Prophets (2 volumes), The Sermon on the Mount, John (5 volumes, reissued in one), Ephesians, Phillippians and The Epistles of John. Many more popular volumes: Hearing God When You Hurt, Mind Renewal in a Mindless Christian Life, Standing on the Rock, The Parables of Jesus, The Christ of Christmas, The Christ of the Open Tomb and Christ’s Call to Discipleship. He also authored Foundations of the Christian Faith a 740-page book of theology for laypersons. Many of these books have been translated into other languages, such as: French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese and Korean.

He was married to Linda Ann Boice (born McNamara), who continues to teach at the high school they co-founded.

Sources: Taken directly from the Aliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ Website

Boice’s Books:

from the Tenth Presbyterian Church website
Books
1970 Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John (Zondervan)
1971 Philippians: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1972 The Sermon on the Mount (Zondervan)
1973 How to Live the Christian Life (Moody; originally, How to Live It Up,
Zondervan)
1974 Ordinary Men Called by God (Victor; originally, How God Can Use
Nobodies)
1974 The Last and Future World (Zondervan)
1975-79 The Gospel of John: An Expositional Commentary (5 volumes,
Zondervan; issued in one volume, 1985; 5 volumes, Baker 1999)
1976 “Galatians” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan)
1977 Can You Run Away from God? (Victor)
1977 Does Inerrancy Matter? (Tyndale)
1977 Our Sovereign God, editor (Baker)
1978 The Foundation of Biblical Authority, editor (Zondervan)
1979 The Epistles of John: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1979 Making God’s Word Plain, editor (Tenth Presbyterian Church)
1980 Our Savior God: Studies on Man, Christ and the Atonement, editor (Baker)
1982-87 Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (3 volumes, Zondervan)
1983 The Parables of Jesus (Moody)
1983 The Christ of Christmas (Moody)
1983-86 The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes,
Zondervan)
1984 Standing on the Rock (Tyndale). Reissued 1994 (Baker)
1985 The Christ of the Open Tomb (Moody)
1986 Foundations of the Christian Faith (4 volumes in one, InterVarsity
Press; original volumes issued, 1978-81)
1986 Christ’s Call to Discipleship (Moody)
1988 Transforming Our World: A Call to Action, editor (Multnomah)
1988, 98 Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1989 Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Zondervan)
1989 Joshua: We Will Serve the Lord (Revell)
1990 Nehemiah: Learning to Lead (Revell)
1992-94 Romans (4 volumes, Baker)
1992 The King Has Come (Christian Focus Publications)
1993 Amazing Grace (Tyndale)
1993 Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age (Baker)
1994-98 Psalms (3 volumes, Baker)
1994 Sure I Believe, So What! (Christian Focus Publications)
1995 Hearing God When You Hurt (Baker)
1996 Two Cities, Two Loves (InterVarsity)
1996 Here We Stand: A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, editor with
Benjamin E. Sasse (Baker)
1997 Living By the Book (Baker)
1997 Acts: An Expositional Commentary (Baker)
1999 The Heart of the Cross, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
1999 What Makes a Church Evangelical?
2000 Hymns for a Modern Reformation, with Paul S. Jones
2001 Matthew: An Expositional Commentary (2 volumes, Baker)
2001 Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Crossway)
2002 The Doctrines of Grace, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)
2002 Jesus on Trial, with Philip Graham Ryken (Crossway)

Chapters

1985 “The Future of Reformed Theology” in David F. Wells, editor,
Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development
(Eerdmans)
1986 “The Preacher and Scholarship” in Samuel T. Logan, editor, The
Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century
(Presbyterian and Reformed)
1992 “A Better Way: The Power of Word and Spirit” in Michael Scott
Horton, editor, Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
(Moody)
1994 “The Sovereignty of God” in John D. Carson and David W. Hall,
editors, To Glorify and Enjoy God: A Commemoration of the 350th
Anniversary of the Westminster Assembly (Banner of Truth Trust)


 

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