The Hermeneutical Connection Between Creation and Eschatology

As I’ve shared before, my first understanding of millennialism, Israel and prophecy was at a Reformed church that promotes preterism, amillennialism and Church Replacement Theology. Before that I had only experienced mainline Protestant churches (Presbyterian) that really didn’t say anything either way about these subjects, only teaching of the basic gospel message. The way I came to consider and learn about premillennialism and Calvinist-Dispensationalism was directly because of the local pastor’s anti-young-earth creation (Progressive Creation) view, a subject for which I understood the plain sense of language and the literal grammatical historical hermeneutic (even if I didn’t know that particular term at the time).

How ironic it is, then, to find a few modern-day professed believers who hold to dispensationalism and yet insist on an Old Earth view, specifically the Gap Theory.  Such is clearly a case of inconsistent hermeneutics, and demonstrates the same reasoning as those who hold to other ideas such as amillennialism, preterism, etc.:  abondoning the literal grammatical historical hermeneutic, along with the appeal to human authority, the otherwise respectable preachers who held to the Gap Theory.

Granted, the Gap Theory is less of a compromise than other ideas that came up later, such as Theistic Evolution and Progressive Creation.  As the first of the compromise ideas that developed in the 19th century, it makes more of an attempt to hold to true scripture, not directly saying that the six days of creation are really symbolic of indefinite, vast ages of time.  Instead it says a “gap” occurred between verses one and two, during which untold millions of years of events occurred.

Still it is a compromise, one of those ideas not thought of until relatively recent times when secular scientists said the earth was extremely old.  Spurgeon, too, at least in his earlier years, accepted what the scientists said and didn’t give the matter much thought.  When it comes to consistent application of hermeneutics, though, one might as well be trying to defend Covenant Theology, preterism, and amillennialism as defending the Gap Theory.

Some creationists at least understand the hermeneutical connection, as for instance the founders of ICR, the Institute for Creation Research.  Consider this excerpt from Ronald L. Numbers’ “The Creationists” (available through Google books):

[M]ost flood geologists (in America at least) came from churches awaiting Christ’s soon return to earth. And for Christians expecting the imminent end of the present age –whether premillenial Baptists and Adventists or amillenial Lutherans and Church of Christ members –Whitcomb and Morris offered a compelling view of earth history framed by symmetrical catastrophic events and connected by a common hermeneutic. “If you take Genesis literally,” reasoned Morris, “you’re more inclined to take Revelation literally.” Ronald L. Numbers, The Creationists, p. 339

Ironically, Answers in Genesis does not see this hermeneutical link, in their emphasis on the physical evidence for creation, as in this audio clip (1 1/2 minutes) from Ken Ham in which he makes it clear that he sees eschatology as something different than the issue of creation: because, he says, we also have the scientific physical evidence for creation, and the creation compromises came about from people responding to external ideas about evolution and old-earth. Whereas, he claims, schatology is only dealing with the words of scripture themselves, apart from any external ideas.

How wrong he is on that point, actually, and it’s likely that he is unaware of the extrabiblical (Greek philosophical) influences that brought about the ideas of non-premillennial eschatology.  Both old-earthers and amillennialists approach scripture through their extra-biblical presuppositions and human authority. Old-earthers appeal to the secular scientists’ claim to vast amounts of time (an extra-biblical presupposition) as well as to the 19th and early 20th century preachers who held to old-earth ideas (human authority).  Non-premillennialists likewise appeal to the secular presupposition of Greek philosophy and allegory (see this paper for instance), the Greek view of physical material as evil and non-physical spiritual as good; and then they appeal to the human authority of Augustine who invented amillennialism in the early 5th century.

In closing, S. Lewis Johnson’s first message in his Genesis series contains his analysis of the Gap Theory and what verses are said to support it.  As one who originally held to the Gap Theory, because he was taught it by his mentor Donald Grey Barnhouse, he well explains the appeal of the Gap Theory.  He then goes on to point out the biblical problems with it, including Exodus 20:9-11.  A brief excerpt (read the transcript for his much longer commentary on the matter):

And so they tend to say well, you can put all of that between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 and you have no problem.  But really you do have a problem.  In the first place, because geologists don’t accept the guess or cataclysmic theory, they are generally evolutionary uniformitarians, and so therefore you cannot have any ultimate harmonization with them.  In addition you have theological problems because by accepting the geological aid system the Bible scholar is thereby accepting the Bible record, which identifies these ages.  Fossils are dead things.  They speak clearly of a world in which suffering and disease and death often violent and widespread death were universal realities.  They speak of a world much like our own, a world containing sharks and jellyfish, dragonflies, cockroaches, turtles, crocodiles, beavers as someone has put it — further dinosaurs and other animals that are now extinct.

But Peter says the world that then was, perished.  If that world existed prior to this pre-Adamic cataclysm, then it existed before the sin of Satan, which brought on the cataclysm.  That is, suffering and death existed for half a billion years before the sin of Satan and the subsequent sin of Adam.  How can you explain such deaths?  Do you not see that you have theological problems with that theory too?  So, I’m persuaded in spite of the fact that, I confess, I used to be persuaded by that theory — that we are rather to read Genesis as a straightforward account of the creation in six days.

  1. January 24, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Good post Lynda. Keep up the solid content.

  2. Nico
    December 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for realizing the truth about what scripture says in context, and not letting external “un-biblical” “un-tested” views influence and corrupt the truth GOD wanted to tell us about. I was indoctrinated by a church group with this lie as I went through their “bible college” as if it were a scriptural fact. Now I do realize that that was no more, no less compromise with the lies of the devil to cause man to NOT believe in the BIBLE story and it’s originality. Because of that lie(THE GAP-Theory), many Christians today struggle with trusting in God’s word as a whole.

    • December 17, 2012 at 8:30 am

      Thanks, Nico. Such indoctrination is so common, unfortunately, in this lie as well as several other unbiblical ideas that dominate in certain church groups.

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