The relevance of creationism to evangelism (part 1)
How does a belief in creation or evolution influence evangelism?
I appreciate your question and believe it is one of the most important I have ever been asked. Douglas F. Kelly, in his book Creation and Time writes about remarks made by Frances Schaeffer toward the end of his life. Schaeffer said "that if he had an hour with a person on a plane who did not know the Lord, he would spend the first fifty-five minutes talking about creation in the image of God and where that man came from, and the last five minutes on the presentation of the gospel of salvation."
Instead, in many churches in our country today, creation has become boring, irrelevant and even scary to some pastors. Afraid of appearing legalistic or being called a literalist the American pastor faces a choice--he must either reinterpret the creation message with weak theology like the gap theory or progressive creation or he can dismiss the topic as extraneous or a minor irritation. Ill-equipped, unwilling and ashamed many churches today cannot stand against the threat of evolution and "so-called" science. Compromising or dismissing Genesis seems so much easier than attacking evolution head-on with the truth of God's word. After all, they reason, evangelism is so much more important. Many have successfully grown large mega-churches by eliminating the creation issue thus thinning down the gospel in order to paint with a broad brush. They would agree that the Ten Commandments must be erased from every area of public life to make room for the one and only commandment allowed in America--"The customer is always right." Opening one's Bible and saying "It is written" or "Abhor evil and cling to what is good" is too offensive. The "seeker" must be allowed to believe whatever he wants, as long as he is sincere. He must leave church with a happy shopping experience. Certainly there is another way to interpret "In the beginning God created…" that would not cause a customer complaint. Ah, theistic evolution shall be advertised at a deep discount! This fits perfectly with the American church experience--just enough of God to make us feel comfortable in our sin.
Thus, theistic evolution and now a new-and-improved compromise called progressive creation are being bought in large, economy sizes by those unwilling to pay the high price for real truth. However, when taken home, like any cheapened version, these ideas of origin will be eventually found to have holes in them and simply will not fit the Bible. The disillusioned customer is then faced with a tough decision. Will he endure the confrontation of trying to return them to his local retail church? After all, he knows the church that sold them to him does not carry anything that fits his Bible. Perhaps he could cut certain parts of his Bible and make them fit, and then he could continue his church loyalty. Or perhaps he could just throw this whole idea of God away and promise never to visit church again. The last option seems to be a very common response for the embittered and disillusioned churchgoer. While some churches claim hundreds of thousands of decisions for Christ their membership only grows by small numbers.
While the modern gospel has degenerated into a customer-centric lie designed to increase the acceptability of Christianity to a pluralistic culture, the true message of Christ is being lost, mocked, misunderstood or not taken seriously. We live in a country now that seems to have no shame for any action, e.g. adultery, fornication, witchcraft, etc. Sadly however, many in the church are ashamed to quote a Bible verse in public to defend their beliefs out of fear of being called a literalist, fundamentalist, legalist, etc. With the unwillingness of so many Christians to use the sword of the Spirit evangelism has been redefined. Sacrificing truth, it is merely a way to increase numbers on church rolls. People are no longer responding to the good news because there is no need for a Savior. Without the law outlined in Scripture people no longer see themselves as sinners. Romans 7:7 "…I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, 'You shall not covet.'"Schaeffer had much more to say about creation and evangelism and how this influences the gospel. I will continue to address your question and will try to tie this all together in a later column.
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Originally published in the Rockdale/Newton Citizen