Anyone who is a part of contemporary theological discussions and debates, knows that the material of Creation and the Flood in Genesis 1-11, is a huge controversy. I have my own little “cart,” in my office, of all of my books and materials that concern the universe and human origins. This has been a subject matter that I have been interested in, off and on, certainly since my seminary days. But I also know that I have to be very careful when talking about it, because you just do not know how today’s Messianic people are going to handle it.
Michael Brown recently talked about Creation issues on his program. Michael Brown regularly interviews supporters of both Young Earth and Old Earth Creationism. He understands the views of those who think that the universe was created in six, 24-hour days, approximately 6,000 years ago. He also understands the views of those who think that the six yamim of Genesis 1 are long periods of time, and that the universe is billions of years old. He notes that some believe that the genealogies of Genesis chs. 5 and 11 should be added up, pointing to a human history of approximately 6,000 years ago. Others think that the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 are telescoped. These are all issues which are discussed among people who do not believe in evolution, but are disagreed on the age of the human race, Planet Earth, and certainly the wider universe.
Most of the people I attended seminary with, did not believe in any Creationist model, but instead believed that Genesis 1-3 included an important story describing why human beings are here, but not how human beings got here. They instead believed that God directed evolution, to bring into existence the human race. At some point, perhaps several million years ago, God imprinted His image onto a group of hominids, which then started doing some bad things—and from that the myth of Adam and Eve arose, likely through various other Ancient Near Eastern stories before it reached Ancient Israel. If you talk to half of my extended family today, who are liberal Protestants, they would affirm that the early Genesis accounts are largely myths that the Ancient Hebrews adapted from their neighbors. They would have no problem believing that God used evolution.
Many of us in Biblical Studies are aware of the challenges that such beliefs present.
Very few of us in the Messianic community have taken into consideration how vastly important it is, for us to be able to reasonably discuss the issues and perspectives out there on Genesis 1-11, Creation and the Flood. Most of us have not consciously considered that we need to be able to discuss these issues, as mature adults, as they actually do directly affect the Messianic movement’s stated mission of Jewish outreach and evangelism. Most Jewish people in North America today, if they attend a Conservative or Reform synagogue, are of the opinion that the materials of Genesis 1-11 were Ancient Near Eastern myths that the Jewish exiles to Babylon picked up, and adapted into the Torah. They hardly believe that there was a literal Adam and Eve, or a serpent. They believe pretty much what my liberal Protestant family believes.
I thought all Jewish outreach involved was declaring Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel, and be sure that I not use offensive terms like “cross” or “baptize”…
Indeed, to recognize that the future of Jewish outreach and evangelism, might involve discussions on the cosmos, is a very stark and confounding thought. Internally as a faith community, many people we all know, actually think that the good news is: “if you confess with your mouth Yeshua as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and that the world was made in six 24-hour days 6,000 years ago, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NASU adapted). The age of the Earth and the universe, should not be placed as an unnecessary barrier to anyone receiving Yeshua—especially Jewish people. Yet, at all of the Messianic congregations I have been a part of over the years, if anyone at a Torah study or Bible study or discussion group expresses an opinion that the universe is billions of years old, or that they are wondering whether or not God might have used evolution, or that maybe the Genesis 6 Flood was only regional to the Near East—then these people are silenced, censored, and they will probably end up leaving.
I do not believe that God used evolution to create human beings. But I also do not think that it is very Jewish for people, who are searching for answers and reasoning through important issues, to be silenced and shut down. One of the great virtues of the Jewish community, is its ability to have open discussions on tough questions! (It also happens to be one of the great virtues of Protestantism.) But today’s Messianic community, when it comes to Genesis 1-11 issues, cannot easily do this.
It is my dream to one day be able to chair a discussion group of Messianic people, where everyone can say what they believe, or are currently working through in their studies, on Genesis 1-11, without fear of reprisal. If we did this, we would find that there is a much larger variance of opinions and views on Creation and the Flood, in our Messianic faith community, than we presently realize. We already know that there are people out there who believe that the Earth is flat. It probably should not also surprise us, that there are others out there who probably believe that God used evolution. And, that there are those who do not believe in evolution, but do believe that the greater universe is billions of years old. There are those who think that Genesis 1 and 2 contain some poetic imagery, not to be pressed to hard.
I do not know how we can change our current Messianic culture, so that we can facilitate such discussions. The age of the Earth and how human beings got here, is not a salvation issue. But it is a reliability of the Bible issue! And in that vein, we have to be able to talk with one another, regarding why we believe what we believe, and how we got to our beliefs—if we ever intend to foster real theological and spiritual progress among us. I do not know if this is possible today, but it has to be possible tomorrow. Young men and young women in today’s Messianic movement, need to be able to openly express their feelings and doubts on these sorts of issues, so we can have fair discussions, and so we can all see where we need to improve. If we cannot have open discussions on these sorts of issues—and instead resort to silencing and censoring people—then we will lose the next generation.