The relevance of creationism to evangelism (part 6)
How does a belief in creation or evolution influence evangelism?
This is the last column in a series addressing a question I received, "How does a belief in creation or evolution influence evangelism?"
It is only by understanding the recipient of the good news that we can effectively communicate the good news. As we examine the culture in which we live it is helpful to compare our culture today to two of those found in the book of Acts. In Acts chapter two Peter presented the good news of a savior to the Jews. He preached to the Jews by appealing to the Old Testament prophet Joel and the patriarch David's Psalm 16 in which he prophesied the Messiah. His audience, the Jews, understood the Law and accepted the fact of a Lawgiver and judge. They recognized their sin and need for a savior from the judgment of that sin. Thus, in Acts 2:37 they were, "pricked in their heart" and in verse 41"there were added unto them about three thousand souls."
(Please understand that as I talk about the approach of Peter and Paul that it is God that opens the heart to understanding.)
In contrast is the way Paul preached to the Greeks in Athens in Acts 17:18-34. His audience had no understanding of the Law but only entertained him out of curiosity. He did not approach them with Old Testament but rather it is here that we see, in Paul's response, the importance of creation in evangelism. First, like Paul, we must understand the mindset of the Jews and the Greeks. In 1 Corinthians 1:23, "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block and unto the Greeks foolishness." Peter, in addressing the Jews, had to address the "stumbling block" of Jesus and that His death and resurrection were necessary for salvation.
However, the Greeks had no such foundation because they had abandoned God as creator. Many people think that Charles Darwin was the first to come up with evolution and an old age for the earth. But this idea was firmly established in the minds of the Greeks in Athens at this time. Paul knew that he must first establish and build a foundation for the gospel if the Greeks were going to recognize their sin and understand the need for judgment and the assurance of salvation found in Jesus. Paul identified their sin of violating the first two Commandments as he walked through Athens and observed their many idols. Then, in case they left out one, they had made an altar to "the unknown God." Paul exposes their sin, not by appealing to Old Testament prophets, but by explaining in Acts 17:24 "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands." Thus, only by establishing God as creator could he effectively address the Greeks with the message of Christ crucified in verses "but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead."
America was once like the Jews in that we once accepted the precepts of God because we acknowledged the foundational truth of God as creator. The Ten Commandments were not only written on public buildings but they were written on the minds of the people. Today, however, it is rare for me to come across someone, even in church, that can quote the Ten Commandments. We have even had a president violating the seventh commandment "Thou shalt not commit adultery" without any apparent shame. Like the Greeks, the message of Christ crucified is therefore foolishness to our culture today. Our culture has no need for the Laws of God because the Lawgiver has no authority. By replacing creation with evolution as the reason for our existence the very first book of Scripture is discredited. If God's word can change in Genesis, then God no longer has the authority to judge because His rules can be changed.The message that God created the world in six ordinary days is more than a debate between evolution and creation. This is the critical foundation that must be laid in order for the gospel to be understood by our culture. In order to build the skyscrapers in downtown Atlanta I am told that the footings had to be drilled 100 feet into solid granite. When they built my house the footings were only about one foot deep. Unless we are willing to build a strong foundation for the gospel message by acknowledging the logical, scientific and biblical fact of a six-day creation, evangelism to our culture will be like a skyscraper built on a house foundation. In order to be effective in evangelism we must heed the warning in Psalm 11:3, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?"
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Originally published in the Rockdale/Newton Citizen