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Bad Ideas Kill

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Date June 2, 2009

Then God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ (Genesis 1:6)

Alexander Solzhenitsyn was born in 1918 at the beginning of the October Revolution that brought Communism to Russia, establishing the Soviet Union. His father died in a hunting accident six months before he was born and his mother worked as a typist. He was a gifted student, especially in mathematics but his first love was writing. He was an avowed Communist and readily enlisted in the Russian army after Hitler invaded his country in June, 1940. Solzhenitsyn became a tank commander and was on the front lines in February, 1945 as the Soviet Army bore down on Hitler’s Berlin. However Solzhenitsyn was arrested at that time and put in a series of gulags. What was his crime? He had been writing secretly to a few friends, denouncing the policies of Josef Stalin. The writings were confiscated and Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to eight years in prison, eventually ending up in a gulag in Siberia. He was suffering from cancer while there and a Jewish physician named Boris Kornfeld, who had recently become a follower of Jesus, was witnessing to Solzhenitsyn one night, telling him that neither Communism nor any other ideology made sense, that Jesus had changed his life.

The next morning Solzhenitsyn heard that someone during the night had crushed Kornfeld’s skull with a mallet. Later Solzhenitsyn too became a follower of Jesus. He was released from prison in 1953 and became a mathematics teacher in a high school, but he continued to write secretly. Eventually he published A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Remarkably Nikita Kruschev allowed the publication of this book, buying Solzhenitsyn’s claim that it was anti-Stalin, not anti-Communism. Eventually Solzhenitsyn was able to publish his greatest work The Gulag Archipelago that won him a Nobel Prize in 1970. He was deported from the Soviet Union in 1976, taking up residence in Vermont to finish his monumental writing projects. He was allowed back into the new Russia in 1994 and died just a few years ago. His 1978 commencement speech at Harvard University rocked the western world where he claimed that the west had lost her soul, that her departure from the Christian faith and embrace of materialism had weakened her beyond repair. Most dismissed his speech as the ramblings of insanity.

You may be wondering, ‘What does this have to do with Genesis 1:6?’ That’s a fair question, so here it is – bad ideas kill. At the end of the day, only two world views make sense. Either people embrace a Christian view of origin or they embrace a naturalistic one. The Christian view is creatio ex nihilo – the Triune God created all things out of nothing. I am not concerned here as to whether one believes the earth is very old or very young (I will take up the rationale for a young earth at another time); but it is vital, if one is to live with a measure of sanity in this world, that we believe the God of the Bible is the creator and sustainer of all things. Every other view is naturalism of some form, meaning that either the cosmos is eternal (the Steady State theory) or that it came into being by an accidental Big Bang, or that some impersonal being (like Allah of Islam) made all that is.

God is saying three things in Genesis 1:6-8 concerning the second day of creation. First, he is saying, ‘I created an immense gaseous ocean called the atmosphere.’ The imagery used here by Moses represents God as the divine metalworker who casts and blocks out the firmament or expanse to separate the waters above from the waters below (see Isa. 40:22; Jer. 10:12; 2 Pet. 3:5). Isaiah says that God stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. The idea clearly is that God is the creator. No other option is possible.

Second, he is saying, ‘I created a separation between the upper waters (sky and clouds) and the lower waters (rivers, lakes, oceans). The very thing God declared he would do in verse 6, ‘Let there be a firmament,’ He did in verse 7, ‘And God made the firmament.’ This completely rules out any possibility of an accidental Big Bang, Steady State, evolution, or theistic evolution. The Bible without equivocation claims God as Creator. It may be that the upper waters were a sort of canopy over the entire earth that gave everything a greenhouse effect, meaning the whole earth was a tropical paradise prior to the Great Flood.

At first, after Job has lost his children, wealth, and health he handled it pretty well saying, ‘The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’ However as time went on, especially with a little help from his friends, he grew sour and belligerent. So in Job 38:1ff God takes Job to the woodshed, as it were, asking him a series of devastating rhetorical questions,

. . . who enclosed the sea with doors when, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; when I made a cloud its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and I placed boundaries on it and set a bolt and doors, and I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther, and here shall your proud waves stop?’

The answer, of course, to these and all of God’s questions to Job was, ‘No one.’

And third, God says in verse 9 that he created the sky on day two. Psalm 19:1ff is a wonderful declaration that the heavens are telling of the glory of God, that their line goes out throughout the earth, and all its utterances to the end of the world.

So creatio ex nihilo, not naturalism, explains the origin of all things. Bad ideas, like naturalism, kill. Solzhenitsyn came to understand this. He came to see that Communism was built upon atheism which could not be substantiated by the evidence of creation. And he came to see that western materialism was also built on the notion that man is supreme over God. Because he gained a Christian view of creation and God’s dealings in the world, he was able to gain perspective on his suffering. He came to say, later in life, that his eight years in the gulag made him who he was, that he would not exchange those years for anything.

You are either a naturalist or a creationist, and even if you claim to be a creationist, you very well may be a de facto naturalist, living as though God is not Creator and Sustainer, living as though you are all alone in this world. If God is the sovereign creator and sustainer of all things, then can you not see that everything in your life has a purpose, that nothing is wasted, even your sins and failures? Jesus claims to be eternal in John 8:56ff, telling the Pharisees that before Abraham was, ‘I am.’ They understood his claim to deity. That’s why they wanted to kill Jesus and eventually succeeded. While claiming God as their creator, the Pharisees were classic de facto naturalists. Are you living as though God does not exist, as though he is not involved in your life? See things as they really – good ideas bring life, and bad ideas kill. If God is your Creator then will he not sustain you and provide for your every need?

Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.

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