Fundamental Belief #6 Versus Scripture
The Seventh-day Adventist church needs to change one of its fundamental belief statements. To keep this brief, we will not analyze every part of the statement. First, listen to a portion of the belief statement as it presently stands.
In six days the Lord made â€œthe heaven and the earth,â€ and all living things upon the earth, and rested the seventh day of that first week (Church Manual, 2005 ed., p. 10).
Place this side-by-side with the pertinent part of Exodus 20:11:
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day (KJV).
Did you notice the difference? The belief statement says that God is the Creator, that He made heaven and earth in six literal days, but limits that which He made in the six days to all living things. See the difference?
Scripture affirms that the earth and all that is in itâ€”all living matter and all non-living matterâ€”was created in six days. The fundamental belief statement can be read as affirming only that living matter was created during the six day span of creation. As is stands, the statement leaves room for persons, under cover of the fundamental beliefs, to believe that the non-living matter may have existed hanging dead in spaceâ€”before the first dayâ€”for 4.6 billion years.
If the Bible did not affirm in the Ten Commandment law that the earth â€œand all that in it isâ€ was made in six literal days, this would not be an issue. But God saw where this would go. He knew that these questions would arise, a rival paradigm would become ascendant, evolution would challenge creation, and science so-called would conflict with revelation. So, He revealed to Moses what He wished him to write, and Moses, in his own words but words nonetheless divinely guarded, wrote into Scripture a six day creation that included all the initial material of earth.
I have to believe that God knew what He was doing.
How Fundamental Belief #6 Gives Cover
Today, there are some in the church who disagree with this bold, and yes, fundamental proposition. They want to be recognized as Seventh-day Adventists, but cannot with clear conscience say that they believe that the substance of the earth is only in the range of 6,000 years old.
They plead that they cannot affirm such a belief and remain intellectually honest. And so, the present belief statement provides cover, for it fails to affirm unequivocally that the creation week includes the creation of inorganic matter. The creation of the â€œheaven and earth,â€ is immediately qualified in the same sentence by the statement that â€œall living thingsâ€ were then made.
Forceful Reasoning Destroyed
Why does this matter?
As others have already noted, the reason we are to observe Godâ€™s holy day, His Sabbath, on the seventh day appears beautiful and forceful when we understand the days of creation to be literal. But when the assumption is introduced that the events of the first weekâ€”any of those eventsâ€”required very long periods of time to be accomplished, periods of time very much longer than seven literal days, the Ten Commandments are attacked.
Why? Because the Creator is represented as commanding people to observe a definite week of literal days in commemoration of long, indefinite periods of time. God has made this matter plain in His Word. But belief in an extended creation of the earth taking very long periods of timeâ€”with significant creative activity previous to day oneâ€”undermines Godâ€™s moral law which states otherwise. It is unfaithfulness. It is remarkably insidious.
When we begin to doubt the reliability and the accuracy of the biblical record of history, we begin to doubt the reliability of any other thing that we may read in the Old or New Testament. The next step is to doubt even the existence of God.
If I cannot believe Genesis one or Genesis two, then on what basis can I believe Genesis three? The Fall of the human race, the need of a Savior, is there revealed. If the history of creation as given in Scripture is unreliable, then why would I think that the history of the Fall of our race there given is any more reliable? Not just the Sabbath, but the basis of Christianity stands or falls with our belief about the reliability of the great acts of God recorded and preserved in Genesis.
Only Part of the Commandment
Since the beginning of the Seventh-day Adventist movement, others have opposed us specifically because of our stand on the fourth commandment. They have often been willing to affirm nine of the Ten Commandments, but, when it comes to the fourth they take what God has very specifically said and reduce it to an affirmation of only part of the commandment.
They insist that the meaning is that the Christian should observe one day out of seven as a rest day. Others, seeing the clear connection of all Ten Commandments as a unit, in an attempt to maintain logical consistency, have rejected the Commandments in toto.
But now in the Church there are those among us who engage in exactly the same thing; they reject a portion of the fourth commandment, and affirm only part of it. As in the fundamental belief statement, they affirm the creation of â€œthe heaven and the earth,â€ but they deny the creation of the earthâ€™s non-living matter in six literal days. Their position is very similar in its essence of denial to the position held by Christians who reject the Sabbath.
Countdown to Explosion
Brothers and sisters, this is a ticking bomb in our midst, a weapon of mass spiritual destruction, which has been allowed to fester and tick and tick and tick. Some in responsible positions have not been faithful in dealing with this matter. And now it threatens to explode at last, perhaps even at this General Conference Session. Warnings and cries for help in the church have for years gone unheeded. Now the crisis is come.
Let me open your eyeballs a bit. Recent history has seen academics in the church, persons specifically called to positions to defend the churchâ€™s stand on creation, and who regularly affirmed with urgency their personal belief in a â€œsix day literal creation.â€ But carefully listening to their presentations demonstrates that they actually believe that only the earthâ€™s living matter was made in six literal days, and that, in fact, they believe that the earth pre-existed the â€œfirst day of creationâ€ by perhaps several billion years.
What I am talking about is a failure of integrity, a deception, a playing-with-words, or, as inspiration puts such matters, a lie. People can be fooled, but God cannot. He warns that â€œall liarsâ€ will have their part in the destruction that comes at the end of the world (Revelation 21:8). He is serious about integrity.
If you want to know what someone in the church believes about the six day literal creation of the heavens and the earth, ask them point-blank: Do you believe that any material from which the earth was made pre-existed the first 24 hour day? This is not about credentials, position, or any other supposed competency; it is about beliefâ€”or notâ€”in what the Bible says. The fundamental belief statement voted years ago encouraged certain ones, and remain and promote their views in our classrooms, and is a direct root behind the rise of evolutionary belief in certain segments of todayâ€™s church. Poor wording adopted 30 years ago is a source of present degeneration.
And All That Is In It
Our statement on creation must be changed to affirm the creation of the earth and all that is in it, in six literal days. Not only â€œall living things on the earth,â€ but all that is in the earth.
Someone will say, â€œif we push this issue, we will lose our thought leaders. We will lose our church in California.â€ We have already lost some of our thought leaders. We have already lost some in California. The worldwide witness of the church is being compromised because we persist in the fantasy that such differences can be accommodated under one big umbrella. But creation and evolution cannot co-exist in the Seventh-day Adventist Church; they are mutually exclusive. We cannot have it both ways.
An Empty Objection
Some will object that this leaves unresolved the question of how much of the heavens was created during creation week. And yet, neither is this question addressed in our present statement. The Bible is painfully clear, however, concerning how much of the planet was created during the six day creation week: the earth and all that is in it. It is not vagueness in the Bible that bothers certain ones nearly as much as God-given specificity!
A Call to Action
It is time for action. It is time to change the way our fundamental belief is stated to more accurately reflect biblical language and teaching on the question of creation. Jesus will be with us if we do what is right, and will see us through any turmoil that may ensue.
The source of this division is not the larger body of Seventh-day Adventists; but it was contributed to by the adoption in 1980 of a biblically-compromised wording on this point of belief. This opened a space of legitimacy for the misguided teaching of a very old earth which has been going on in our colleges and universities for decades. In our very own schools, our own children have had their faith undermined while we sat stupidly, trustingly, and watched it happen.
Turn the corner, O Church, in Atlanta.
Larry Kirkpatrick has served in the ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church since 1994. He is a pastor of the American West, having led churches in Nevada, Utah, California, and Idaho. His writings include the books Real Grace for Real People, and Cleanse and Close. Larry and wife Pamela presently serve in the Upper Columbia Conference, ministering to the Bonners Ferry and Clark Fork churches in the incomparable beauty of Northern Idaho.