Creation, Chaos, and Christ
Answering more of your questions from the Genesis series Q&A with Mike Augsburger and Zach Dietrich
We weren’t able to get to all of the questions submitted during the Genesis series Q&A, so we’re answering them here!
Q: Who was the Lord referring to in Genesis 11:7 when He said, “Let us go down there and confuse their language?”
Pastor Mike: This text is much like Genesis 1:26 that says, “Let us make man in our image according to our likeness.” Given the fact that Genesis 1:26 clearly is the godhead – the Trinity, which is comprised of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – it follows that whenever this appears in Genesis (1:26, 3:22, 11:7), it is likewise the godhead conversing among the persons of the Trinity. Another viewpoint is that God is speaking to the angelic host. I lean heavily toward the godhead view.
Q: What pronouns should you use for a person who believes they are trans or gender-fluid? Obviously, that goes against everything we believe about God’s design, and as Christians, we would recognize they have a God-given gender that they cannot change. So, referring to a person by their preferred (but not God-given) pronouns goes against that and doesn’t seem right. But, referring to them by their correct God-given pronouns seems abrasive and like it would immediately burn a bridge or close a door to developing a relationship and sharing God’s love with them. How do you navigate this? Do you use the preferred pronouns or name? Even if you try to avoid pronouns and just use their name, how do you refer to someone who wants to change their name away from something that lines up with their God-given gender?
Pastor Zach: For many people today, this question has personal and financial implications. Someone’s job may be on the line. So, I’m careful not to rush to specific advice. Here are a handful of considerations.
Be willing to do the hard work of learning about the history, philosophy, and social implications of the transgender movement. Read A Strange New World by Carl Trueman (or the harder Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self) and God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew Walker. But don’t read with an ammo box at your side. Read to be the one calm voice in an otherwise bombastic world.
Be willing to listen. We as Christians ought always to be asking this question to strangers: “Would you be willing to tell me your story?” We believe all people are worthy of dignity, and dignity means giving them our time and our ears. This does not mean we will celebrate or approve, but it does mean we’re willing to know them. And perhaps no one else has shown them that honor.
Be kind and bold. I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime in the last decade someone decided those two words can’t go together. Most Christians bought that lie. Bold does not mean brash or unkind. And kindness doesn’t mean you are a pushover. A bold but kind response in some situations might be something like, “I want to respect your request, but I also must worship the God who created me, saved me, and does all things for our good and his glory. Would you be willing to discuss this sometime?”
Be connected in Christian community. Even better than blogs and podcasts are the wisdom and courage you can gain from Christian community. Ask godly friends this question over coffee.
Q: As we talk about government/worldview, naturally politics come up. As someone equally frustrated with politicians on both sides of the aisle, it’s frustrating to feel like good Christianity = voting Republican. Is that where we are at? Are corrupt “conservative” politicians pandering to Christians and let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater? I digress… #politicallyfrustrated
Pastor Mike: Let’s get this straight: there is no such thing as a “Christian” political party. Throughout U.S. history, Christians have voted in a number of different directions. There are corrupt and evil politicians on both sides of the aisle. However, in our world today, the parties have become extremely polarized and very different from one another. For Christians, the question becomes, “Which candidate and party platform best uphold a Christian worldview?” No party or candidate will live up to this 100%. However, parties will publish their platform, which is the manifesto for its worldview. A candidate is usually beholden to that platform, so when you vote for a candidate, you’re voting for a movement. This is where Genesis is acutely helpful because it essentially prioritizes the most important issues from the ground up.
Here are the building blocks in order:
- Genesis 1:1: The existence of God – Genesis assumes God’s existence. Which political party has room for God? Even lip-service is better than ignoring God. Which party would be likely to remove God’s name from the public square (on our currency, or the 10 Commandments at courthouses), and which party would tend to defend our nation’s Christian roots?
- Genesis 1:26: The sanctity of the image of God in mankind –This deals with treating life with respect and believing that taking any life is murder. Which party would tend to defend life? Which party would push legislation for legalized suicide/euthanasia and which one would oppose it?
- Genesis 1:27: The intentionality of genders – God created us male and female with palpable differences between the genders. Gender is fixed and assigned biologically and cannot be chosen. Which party would oppose the gender-fluid movement? Which party would oppose allowing biological boys in women’s sports? Which party would uphold the sanctity of men’s and women’s bathrooms and locker rooms? The party defending these issues is the one that is still influenced by a Christian worldview.
- Genesis 1:24-25: The sanctity of marriage and family – God made us male and female and established marriage between one man and one woman. This is under attack today in our world. Which party has opened the gate to redefine marriage? Which party would deny parental rights/consent for important issues like abortion and gender counseling? The political party pushing for these things is the one that has abandoned a Christian worldview.
I just listed four major building blocks of a Christian worldview. These ascend in order of importance, and there are many more to add to this list, but these are the most crucial in terms of a Christian worldview. I believe there are still quality candidates that will seek to uphold these and other important tenets of the Christian worldview.
Q: Given what was just explained about Israel turning back to the Messiah, how would you answer those who believe that we have replaced Israel in God’s plan?
Pastor Mike: I understand that many godly, Bible-believing Christians believe that the church has replaced Israel. While I believe they are mistaken, I still affirm them as orthodox Christians, siblings in Christ, and personal friends. However, I would say that their eschatology (doctrine of end times) is very thin and anemic. They will take huge swaths of biblical, prophetic text and simply say, “That’s all figurative. We’re not sure what it means.” Once you abandon a literal interpretation in these matters, it’s really up to the person to decide their own interpretation. Interestingly, those who have replaced Israel with the church have no unified interpretation on many of these great prophetic texts, including the book of Revelation. It’s every-man-for-himself. God intended the Bible to be clear and understandable so that there can be general unity between Bible interpreters. When we interpret the Scriptures literally, then Israel still has a role to play and there is cohesion and consistency in interpretation between the testaments and among Bible interpreters.
Q: What do you do when you feel like God has abandoned you?
Pastor Zach: This heartbreaking and common question reminds me of a quote and a song. Here’s the quote:
“Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be – or so it feels – welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in our time of trouble.” (C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, 1961)
C.S. Lewis offered this painfully honest observation when his wife, Joy, died of cancer. As relatable as Lewis is, we’re still uncomfortable with such honesty. Can we talk like that? Can we really say that out loud without the fear of retaliation? What Lewis says is more than honest – it reflects God’s word. So, I’m also reminded of a famous song, Psalm 22:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.”
That’s not just C.S. Lewis. That’s the Bible speaking with greater honesty than we often allow ourselves. I point out this quote and psalm just to show you that you are in good company when you feel isolated.
At the risk of being overly simplistic, let me offer three quick pieces of advice. First, speak to God about feeling forsaken. Psalm 22 is one of many psalms that teach us how to pray when we feel abandoned (also see Psalm 6, 13, 44). Put these psalms on repeat, reciting them until you mean it. Take it a step further, though. Let your internal heartcry become actual words in your mouth. Say what you think out loud.
Second, let others speak to you. When you gather with the church, let the body of Christ sing to you. Soak up the lyrics and accept Spirit-filled believers singing as one of God’s gifts of his presence.
Finally, don’t wait to speak to others. Suffering of all kinds, but especially feeling abandoned, can silence us, bending us further in upon ourselves. One of the most defiant acts you can do in the face of suffering is to serve others in faith before you feel like it. Find one person and, before you feel like it, speak encouragement to them.
Q: Can science be studied neutrally, without committing to any worldview? What’s the role of presuppositionalism in study?
Pastor Zach: I chuckle every time we have a Q&A because nearly every question we receive is worthy of a book, but we get to tackle it in a paragraph. I would argue that all people have presuppositions, whether they acknowledge them or not. As Christians, we openly keep our presuppositions up front rather than behind us. We gladly begin with “In the beginning, God.” We humbly acknowledge we have hearts and minds that are easily deceived. So, can Christians also be scientists? Yes, and good ones at that.
Q: What will our relationship with sin be like when Jesus returns? Will it be like the Garden of Eden again where we are one act of sin away from being separated from God again?
Pastor Mike: The Bible speaks of the return of Jesus as being final and eternal. Adam sinned, and, as the head of the human race, was responsible for sin spreading to everyone else (Romans 5:8). When Jesus takes the throne of the planet for eternity, he is the new head of the human race, and does not have the capability to fall into sin. Therefore, we will eternally be righteous. I Thessalonians 4:17 says when Jesus comes back that we “will always be with the Lord.” Revelation 22:3-5 says, “and there will no longer be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads…and they will reign forever and ever.” That is absolute language. The test in the garden of Eden was a one-time event, praise the Lord!
Q: During the story of Cain and Abel, God put a mark on Cain to protect him from other peoples. This means there were other people created, and we are all not descended from Adam, correct?
Pastor Mike: Adam and Eve had many more children beyond Cain, Abel and Seth. Genesis 5:4 says, “He had other sons and daughters.” The biblical narrative highlights the lives of just a few of these descendants. By the time Cain murdered Abel, they were grown men and evidently had other siblings who were also grown with families of their own. While the population was not expansive at this point, there were enough other people who could have enacted vengeance on Cain. It also anticipated Cain’s long life and the need for continued protection.
Q: How does the curse of Ham apply to the church age? Would you say that the curse of Ham is still a major influence on who accepts Christ, or did the Church Age remove the curse?
Pastor Mike: Genesis 9:25 says, “Canaan is cursed…” So, the curse on Ham is actually articulated upon Ham’s son, Canaan. This shows us that Ham had a rebellious bent, and his son, Canaan, was also manifesting a rebellious bent as well. Ham’s other son, Cush, and grandson, Nimrod, picked up on the tradition of rebelliousness that was started by Ham. All that to say, the curse on this family line is corporate in nature and not personal (dealing with nations, not individuals), and it was not due to a discriminatory attitude by God. The curse is the outplaying of sinful and rebellious choices being made generation after generation. It’s the natural consequences of sinful choices. These consequences were mostly fulfilled when Israel conquered the land of Canaan and extinguished all the Canaanites. So, in terms of the Church Age today, the applications are quite sparse. The text implies that because of these generational sinful choices, the nations descending from Ham will be alienated from the God of Abraham. Historically, that has proven to be true. Eventually, God will redeem all nations and gloriously overcome the sinful choices of every generation. Until that time, the main application for the Church Age is to be active in mission work, taking the gospel to unreached nations and people groups. Nations that descended from Ham, like numerous Asian nations, are still vast and needy mission fields. God is doing a work in places like China, but that work needs to continue, and we need to be vigilant in PRAYING and SENDING in order to reach these nations that are trapped in darkness.
Q: Last week, you referenced Revelation and the end times. You talked about a universal government and the antichrist coming out of Europe. Is the formation of the European Union an indication of moving toward that one world government, or is it unrelated?
Pastor Mike: Yes, it does seem that the coalition of 10 nations will be European in nature based upon prophecies in Daniel regarding this being a “Revived Roman Empire.” However, there are no prophecies that must be fulfilled until Jesus comes back to rapture his church. Anything we see happening today (The EU, NATO, Israel as a nation) are events which possibly set the stage, but are not direct fulfillments of any prophecy.
Q: You tied the spirit in Gen. 1:2 with the wind that causes the receding of the flood waters in Gen. 8:1. How might this logic also relate to the wind that pushes back the water at the Red Sea, the wind that afflicted Jonah, the wind at Pentecost in Acts 2, etc.?
Pastor Zach: Pastor Mike pointed out the poetic similarities between Genesis 1 and Genesis 8. Here is just one of a handful of similarities that Moses includes:
Genesis 1:2 CSB: “and the Spirit (Heb. ruach) of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”
Genesis 8:1 CSB: “A God caused a wind (Heb. ruach) to pass over the earth, and the water began to subside.”
I have been teaching and studying the Bible for decades and I never knew the clear, textual, poetic connection between the flood and creation! The poetic symmetry of Genesis 8 to Genesis 1 shows that God has not abandoned his plan and his people.
I don’t know that I currently see that same symmetry with Jonah or Acts 2, but your instincts are on the right track when you ask how the Old Testament informs our understanding of the New. For example, Acts 2 is rich with Old Testament imagery that unlocks the meaning. Read Acts 2 and go back and read Exodus 19. Never cease to be amazed by the clarity, unity, and rich poetry of God’s word!
Q: Genesis 10:25 says, “in his days the earth was divided.” What does this mean?
Pastor Mike: There are two general interpretations of this text. First, some believe this is talking about when the continents divided and moved apart. This is attractive because it helps to answer how people and animals spread on the earth post-flood. However, it falls short in terms of the extreme calamity and tumult it would cause if this were happening. If the continents were separating to that degree, the earth would be riddled with earthquakes and it would be hard for the population to survive. Therefore, this probably isn’t the plausible interpretation. Rather, it’s best to look at it as the time of the Babel judgment. It was in the days of Peleg (Shem’s great-great grandson) that the Babel judgment occurred.
Q: Compare and contrast subsidiarity with the early church sharing everything they had (Acts 4:32).
Pastor Mike: Acts 4:32 is often used as a proof text for communism. It says, “Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common.”
We don’t know exactly the extent of this; it is the only time something like this is mentioned. It is not a proof text for communism because it had nothing to do with nations or government structures. In Acts 4:33-37, the narrative continues, and we see that the reason for selling personal possessions was to help the many needy people in their church community. The need was great at this time, but later in the New Testament we see wealthy people mentioned (Philemon) and people using their homes as meeting places for the early churches. Therefore, it seems they stopped pooling their resources to this extreme extent.
Having said that, it actually demonstrates subsidiarity perfectly. Subsidiarity says that the best way to solve problems and govern is within small authority structures. Those in need in the Jerusalem church were cared for on the local level through benevolence, instead of being cared for by the federal government’s welfare program. The money came from willing donors rather than through conscripted tax dollars. That is the power of subsidiarity at work. The problem was solved locally without government interference.