Genesis Chapter 1 Teaching: An Example of Doctrinal Confusion in a Church

I recently visited a church that had warm people, a wonderful communion service, inspiring worship music, and an apparently loving and engaging pastor.  Being a new year the pastor said the church was going to start on a new journey of exploration across the Bible, starting with Genesis chapter 1.

The pastor then did a sermon comparing chapters 1 and two of Genesis. A good portion of the pastor’s message centered on the fact that these chapters were two different accounts of creation. One of the things that he noted from the outset was that the order of events of creation is different in chapters 1 and two.  For example, in the chapter 1 the plants are made before man, and vice versa in the second account.  He also noted that while the first creation account (which is really chapter one plus the first three verses of chapter two) used the term God (Elohim in the Hebrew), the second account, starting in verse 4 uses the term Yahweh. He displayed charts that illustrated the differences.

The pastor’s conclusion about these two different accounts was this:

  • Genesis 2 came first
    • Genesis chapter 2 is the account that this pastor attributes to Moses and emphasizes important points like:
      • names have power
      • God wants us to be happy
      • men and women are companions
  • Genesis 1 came second, which means that this is not a single account written by one man, Moses, in the order that he penned the words.  Genesis, according to this pastor, has more than one author.
    • Genesis 1 he called a “God inspired written account from the Jews in Babylon”.
      • The pastor said the need for this account of creation was to counter the very popular Babylonian theology of the God Marduk created what we call heaven and earth in a battle with another God.
      • Therefore the chapter has important elements like:
        • God brings order out of chaos
        • God’s word has power
        • God likes us and the world that he made for us

The pastor summarily stated that while the first creation account was added in Babylon it still was God inspired and necessary for reasons stated above.  I watched the congregation as they were listening to this, and it appeared to me that more than one person was a little lost.  But the most telling insight into the church’s reception to the pastor’s message, I thought, was directly seen in the prayer by the worship leader who prayed as soon as the pastor stopped teaching. He opened his prayer by declaring to God and all that what are important to us as believers are not the details of Christian theologies, but rather the abundant blessings we have in Christ.

I reflected on his prayer with gratefulness.  This pastor’s teaching clearly reflects the challenges that face so many Christians today by the innumerable and competing theologies in interpreting the Bible reflected by the various denominations and churches.

The people that I was with later asked me my take on the pastor’s sermon. I just reiterated what I heard in the prayer, that what is important is the greatness of what we have by Christ’s example, teaching, death on the cross, and resurrection.  But silently I noted the confusion and uncertainty that came with this message.

It also reminded me why I do this website.

©copyright 2013 Mark W. Smith, all rights reserved.

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