This article may be almost a decade old but it provides an excellent thing to ponder as we continue in this New Millennium.
Back in 1975, I was teaching biology and general science in an Australian public (government) school. Many older teachers were complaining that the students were harder to control, and were showing less respect and courtesy than in previous years.
At that time, most pastors still took regular religious education classes in public schools. One day, a group of these pastors shared with me their increasing frustrations in the school—the students behaved badly, and most seemed disinterested in what was being taught, unlike in years past.
What were they teaching these students? Paul’s missionary journeys, the gospel of Jesus Christ—His death and resurrection, the new heavens and earth, and other New Testament teachings. Yet it clearly wasn’t working. So these pastors asked me—how were they to reach them?
As I thought about it, it hit me like a lightning bolt. Evolution (molecules to man) was now presented as fact, and this philosophy permeated most courses, not just science. I said to these pastors:
‘Do you know what these students are being taught in most of their classes? That they’re just animals that evolved ultimately from some primeval soup millions of years ago. They are being indoctrinated to believe that evolution is scientific fact. Growing up in a world full of wonderful technology, they have a great respect for real science. They don’t realize that evolution is not observable, repeatable science.
‘So to them, the Bible is just an outdated religious book. After all, they are taught how the solar system formed by itself from a dust cloud over millions of years, that the earth is billions of years old, and the fossil record is the history of the evolution of life. They are shown pictures of ape-men, considered to be their ancestors. In history, they hear of “primitive man” going through a stone age in this onward, upward evolutionary process.’
In other words, I explained to the pastors, day after day, class after class, even without the Bible being mentioned, these students were being inoculated against believing what the Bible has to say about our origins.
So I said:
‘Pastors, here’s the problem. The students know that evolution and its teachings contradicts the Bible’s teaching about Adam and Eve. Then they come to your religion classes and hear you teach from the Bible. However, since they think that the Bible is an outdated book which has been disproved by science, why should they be interested in listening to what you have to say?’
I suggested that before they could really teach effectively about the other issues, they needed to get the students’ attention that the Bible was the infallible Word of God, and really could be trusted.
After all, if the first book in the Bible can’t be trusted in their eyes—why should any other? As one lady put it to me 20 years later:
‘When my church told me that I had to accept evolution, and that Genesis couldn’t be believed as written, I asked, when does God start telling the truth, then?’
Working with the pastors, we devised a series of lessons that showed the students that evolution was just a belief—there weren’t any ape-men—evolutionists had not proved the earth was billions of years old—there were major problems with their theories about the origin of the solar system.
When the pastors presented these lessons—they were astonished. The students sat up and listened. They were extremely interested—and they had lots of questions. ‘What about carbon dating, then? Where do dinosaurs fit in? Why don’t our teachers tell us this information?’
What a difference it made! Many of the students showed intense interest in spiritual things. Later, when the pastors began teaching about Jesus in the New Testament, they had much more success in getting these young people to listen and take note.
At the time, I didn’t realize that I was involved in developing a method of evangelism that I later came to understand as ‘Creation Evangelism.’ Not only is this based on the Bible, but it is one of the most powerful methods for reaching today’s world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What is the gospel?
The answer seems obvious—the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:1–4:
‘Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you … that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.’
However, Paul doesn’t end his explanation of the gospel here. Note carefully how he goes on in vv. 4–20. Then in the very next verse, he explains:
‘For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’ (1 Corinthians 15:21–22).
And in verse 45:
‘And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.’
Notice that in explaining why Jesus died, Paul goes to the book of Genesis, to the account of Adam and the Fall. In other words, one cannot really understand the good news in the New Testament—Jesus’ death and resurrection and thus payment for sin—until one understands the bad news in Genesis of the Fall of man, and thus the origin of sin and its penalty of death.
The only way we can define sin as rebellion is if there was a literal rebellion. The reason we are all sinners is because, as Paul clearly states, we are all descendants of the first man Adam. Because there was a literal first Adam, who was in a literal garden, with a literal tree, and took a literal fruit when tempted by a literal serpent—thus there was a literal Fall, which was a literal rebellion.
As Christians, we need to answer this question: Is it essential ultimately to believe in a literal Fall? Absolutely. If there was no literal Fall, then what is sin? Who defines it?
Paul also goes on to refer to the consummation of all things—the final victory overcoming the effects of the Fall (1 Corinthians 15:54–57).
2 Peter 3:13 tells us there will be new heavens and a new earth. There will be no more suffering, and no more death. The Curse that was imposed because of sin (as we read in Genesis 3) will be no more (Revelation 21:4, 22:3).
Thus, an understanding of these three elements of the gospel is vital.
Foundations, power and hope
- A gospel without the message of the Creator, and the origin of sin and death, is a gospel without the foundational knowledge that is necessary to understand the rest of the gospel. Without this information—who then is Jesus Christ? Why did He need to die? Where did sin come from? Why can we say that all have sinned? Why do we die?
- A gospel without the message of Christ crucified and raised from the dead is a gospel without power. As Paul said: ‘And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins’ (1 Corinthians 15:17). The only reason our personal sins can be forgiven and our relationship with our Creator be restored, is because of what Christ did on the cross. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to the gospel.
- A gospel without the message of the new heavens and earth, is a gospel without hope. What point is there to a gospel with no future sinless state? Because of sin and the judgment of the Curse, the creation is ‘groaning’ (Romans 8:22). There is death, sickness and suffering all around us. However, we need to understand that death is an intrusion. In 1 Corinthians 15:26, Paul states it this way: ‘The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.’
Evolutionary/long-age ideas totally undermine this, because they require death to have been around for millions of years before sin, part of God’s ‘very good’ creation (Genesis 1:31).
Now, recall our earlier discussion. The school students weren’t interested in the power of the gospel, or the new heavens and earth, because they had been taught that the foundation of the gospel (that God created all things and there was a first man Adam, who rebelled—thus we are all sinners condemned to death) was false.
These students were in the school system in the 1970s. The text books are even more blatantly anti-Christian as we enter our new millennium. Students by and large are told: they are just animals; there is no purpose and meaning in life. For them, pain, death, and suffering are a necessary part of life, essential to furthering the evolution of life on this planet. How, therefore, can there be a loving God? These young people are hurting, but they don’t truly understand why this is so.
Understanding the foundational aspects of the gospel is a vital key to unlocking a powerful method of evangelism to reach the world for Christ.