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I’ve been called quite a few names in my day. I have not been able to develop the reputation of being mild-mannered, and some would suggest I can’t even be described as mannered. I’ve been publicly accused of being one who takes strong public stands on controversial issues, and that’s one accusation to which I can plead guilty. Along with that accusation, however, come the common charges that I am polemical, pugilistic, and propositionally persnickety.

It’s true I relish a good argument. And my experience has taught me at least this much—that in most arguments there are actually two arguments. First, we deal with the issue at hand. Do we baptize covenant children or don’t we? Does Jesus come back before or after the Millennium? Does Rome teach a false gospel or not? Beneath the argument itself, however, there is the second argument: How much does this matter? In our relativistic age, we often find ourselves fighting not against strong-willed opponents but against apathy. What difference does it really make? Why can’t we all just get along?

We all have different standards by which we judge something to be true, as well as different standards by which we determine how important an issue is. There are those who would write me off because I believe it is legitimate at corporate worship to sing hymns accompanied by an organ. And then there are those who can’t understand why my hackles rise when the praise band hits the Sunday morning stage. There are those who will have nothing to do with me because I don’t affirm the apologetical method of Cornelius Van Til. And then there are those who think it wise to blend relativism with the Gospel. Oftentimes I find I have more in common with those who disagree with me on the issues but agree on their relative importance than I do with those who agree with me but are unwilling to die on what I perceive to be the correct hills.

The controversy in the evangelical world that followed the 1994 release of Evangelicals and Catholics Together illustrates the point. The document made the claim, in the section “We Affirm Together,” that “Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ.” It conceded that there were important areas of disagreement between the two institutions. Most, if not all, of the evangelicals who gave their support to the document affirmed their conviction regarding the doctrine of justification by faith alone. In so doing, they affirmed that a man is saved by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ alone and denied that a man is saved by the infusion of grace whereby, assuming he cooperates with that grace, he becomes righteous in himself. They denied, however, that these differing views were significant enough to separate us. In so doing, they made manifest a division between evangelicals who say such issues do separate us from Rome and those who say they do not.

The Reformers, in trying to nail down the distinctives of the church of Jesus Christ, differentiated between truths that were necessary for the esse, or “being,” of the church, and those that were necessary merely for its bene esse, or “well-being.” Those issues in the latter category can be important, worthy of our attention and our labors, but do not separate the church from the non-church. The difficulty, again, is agreeing on what issues go in each category.

The Bible’s teaching on the Creation of the world, is, in our estimation, both neglected to our peril and elevated to a degree of importance that it does not deserve.

But there are even degrees of importance in the second category. I sincerely doubt that the most ardent exclusive psalm singer is going to argue that those of us who sing hymns will suffer eternally for it. Even a curmudgeon like me affirms that those who will not baptize covenant children not only are Christians, but possibly finer ones than I’ll ever be. The great difficulty, however, is in the emanations and implications of a doctrine.

The issue we are addressing this month, the Bible’s teaching on the Creation of the world, is, in our estimation, both neglected to our peril and elevated to a degree of importance that it does not deserve. Our ancient creeds make no mention of the issue of the age of the earth or the length of God’s days. The issue was not a point of contention during the Reformation. Why should it matter at all? It is a long walk to make a clear connection between this issue and soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. As such, there are people who make too much of a fuss over the issue. Some seem to see the affirmation of six-day Creation as the Galatians saw circumcision—to affirm that the Hebrew word yom, translated “day” in our English Bibles, might mean “eon” is damnable heresy. On its face, Ligonier does not believe it’s that kind of issue.

There is, however, cause for concern. We should study the issue because, first of all, the Bible talks about it. There is no part of the Bible that we can dismiss with a shrug of the shoulder. Last November, in our issue titled Forbidden Knowledge, we argued that where God has closed His holy lips, we must desist from inquiry. But the corollary is likewise true: When God speaks, we need to pay attention.

Second, we need to consider what motivates those who would deny a six-day Creation. In what we pray are most instances, it is done out of a sincere desire to be faithful to the text. But the concern does not then disappear. Whoever is wrong on the issue, if he comes with that sincere desire, must have a faulty understanding of how to understand the Bible. Such could, and perhaps does, affect all doctrine. We need to remember that no doctrine is discreet, hermetically sealed from the rest of God’s truth.

The greater danger is those who will not stand with six-day Creation for a less-laudable reason—because such a conviction makes us look like fools. The world laughs at those of us who affirm God’s great work of Creation in six days, who affirm a real Adam and a real Eve in a real garden, who affirm a real flood that covered the earth. No one likes to feel the scorn of the world. But all Christians are called to expect and to accept that scorn. Those who are ashamed of the Creation are likely in time to be ashamed of the Resurrection, which in turn will make them ashamed of the Gospel. And that, in turn will bring shame on the church of Jesus Christ.

We live not only coram Deo, before the face of God, but before the watching world. And Jesus told us that if we do not confess Him before men, He will not confess us before the Father.

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