Around churches you may hear the language of open and closed handed issues. Rarely will you see a list of these things, but essentially they are the stances taken on beliefs, theology, or doctrine that a certain church understands to be controversial. The church decides which debates require a firm stance (those issues that are so essential to the faith that any wavering would mean loss of salvation or falling into heresy) and those which require a loose stance (issues that the church decides not to take a firm stance on for the sake of church unity because of uncertainty of the exact answer to the issue and/or the lack of salvation implications).
The Example of Genesis 1 & 2
One of the issues that is commonly held loosely is one’s interpretative stance regarding the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2. There are even many different views that can be found around our church among the leadership, staff, and members on this (note* each of these views has a spectrum along which people fall, and there are disagreements among even the adherents of each category):
- Young Earth Creationism – This is the traditional view that God created the universe in 6 24-hour days and that the earth is roughly 6,000 – 10,000 years old.
- Old Earth Creationism – This view is more common today. Proponents of this view aren’t decided on whether the 6 days of Creation are to be taken as 24-hour days or 6 extended passages of time, but all are in agreement that the earth is probably anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of years old.
- Theistic Evolution – This is a view that says that God worked through the processes of evolution to create the universe. This would mean that the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 was written with an intent other than describing a scientifically exact account of Creation.
This debate often dissolves into an argument between whether we take the Bible “literally” or not. But in conservative evangelical circles, this is not how the debate should be defined. We all believe the Bible should be taken literally, but “literally” in the sense that it should be read in the way the original author intended it to be read. If the author was using some form of ancient poetry to simply describe God creating and ordering the universe instead of making an exact, prose narrative, then reading it “literally” would mean taking literally the meaning of the symbolic language.
Where We Won’t Budge
Many of the leaders that we look up to in the church world also fall into different camps. For example: John Piper would fall into the Old Earth camp and Tim Keller would fall into the Theistic Evolution camp. This reason partly leads us at Mercy Hill to handle the above loosely. Yet, there are many things that we all agree on, and these things are not up for debate:
- “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). God is the Creator of the universe, there is no other God but him. He created the universe out of nothing.
- Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:2, John 1:3, and 1 Corinthians 8:6 all say that Jesus was present in creation as God, the 2nd member of the Trinity.
- The universe is constantly being upheld by the word of Jesus’ power (Hebrews 1:3)
- Adam & Eve are real, historical people made in the image of God. This is demanded by the reference to Adam in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3:38 and in Paul’s references to Adam (especially in Romans 5:12-21; but also, 1 Corinthians 15:22,45; and 1 Timothy 2:13-14)
- The truth of Jesus’ resurrection proves his message and the Gospel and gives weight to the Bible as Jesus referred to it as God’s word.
- Jesus’ death proves that God is a loving, relational God that cares for his creation. This is in line with what the totality of scripture says about him. He is not a deistic God that simply has set the universe in motion and leaves it up to humans to figure out.
Mercy Hill Stands on the Gospel
When we take all of this information together, the summary is quite simple. At Mercy Hill, we fully believe that God is a loving, faithful Creator who is intimately and sovereignly involved in every aspect of the universe. He loves his creation and considered it good when he was finished. It is only a broken world because Adam’s sin brought the consequences of curse and decay upon it, and we continue in this sin. Yet, we see that the Creator God loves humankind since he gave his only son (the son through whom he created the universe), wholly innocent, to die the criminal death that we deserve in our place. He shows that he accepts this sacrifice on our behalf by having raised Jesus from the dead, and so shall we be raised. Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father as Lord of all.
Mercy Hill will never move from its strong stance on the Gospel. And as long as one’s views about the creation account do not call into question any of these important truths, we will settle for a unity among the body centralized on the Gospel.
-Alex Nolette (Equip Associate)