Q283 : Interpretation and Salvation

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Q283 : Interpretation and Salvation

Is a belief in the literal interpretation of the Bible prerequisite to salvation?

A283 : by Tony Garland

The minimalist answer is, noa: not all Christians take Genesis 1 and a six day creation literally.

A more accurate answer would be, it depends. There are some basic teachings from the bible concerning the nature of salvation and the identity of Jesus Christ which comprise the content of saving faith. “Faith” is not what saves, but “faith in Christ” — what God has revealed concerning what Jesus accomplished on our behalf. This is what constitutes the good news or gospel.

In a presentation titled, Why does the universe look so oldb, the overriding concern which Albert Mohler expresses about old-earth interpretations of Genesis is that they often result in a denial of core elements of the gospel:

  • There was no literal Adam and Eve
  • All of mankind did not descend from a single set of parents
  • There was no fall from grace — death has always been a part of God's intention for creation
When non-literal interpretation dispatches Adam and Eve, the fall, or our common ancestry from Adam and Eve, then biblical salvation is rendered meaningless. If we are not literal descendants from Adam, then we are no longer "in Adam" and do not share in the fall, nor have we inherited a sin nature, and we don't need redeeming (all contrary to Romans 5). More than that, we don't need a perfect Man (God incarnate, Jesus Christ) to bear our sin (Isaiah 53). The good news is no longer good news because there is no bad news to rectify.

The following quotes identify the core issues:

Without Adam, without the original sin, Jesus Christ is reduced to a man with a mission on the wrong planet. Sin becomes not an ugly fate due to man's disobedience, but only the struggle of instincts. Christianity has fought, still fights, and will fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the son of god. Take away the meaning of his death. If Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing! Christianity, if it is to survive, must have Adam and the original sin and the fall from grace or it cannot have Jesus the redeemer who restores to those who believe what Adam's disobedience took away.1

I live on the other side of Charles Darwin. And Charles Darwin not only made us Christians face the fact that the literal creation story cannot be quite so literal, but he also destroyed the primary myth by which we had told the Jesus story for centuries. That myth suggested that there was a finished creation from which we human beings had fallen into sin, and therefore needed a rescuing divine presence to lift us back to what God had originally created us to be. But Charles Darwin says that there was no perfect creation because it is not yet finished. It is still unfolding. And there was no perfect human life which then corrupted itself and fell into sin, there was rather a single cell that emerged slowly over 4.5 to 5 billion years, into increasing complexity, into increasing consciousness. And so the story of Jesus who comes to rescue us from the Fall becomes a nonsensical story. So how can we tell the Jesus story with integrity and with power, against the background of humanity that is not fallen but is simply unfinished?2

In relation to your question: notice the second quote made by a self-described “Christian.” Although it isn't my role to determine who is saved and who is not, it seems evident this self-professed Christian is not saved and will not be found in heaven. His non-literal "creation story" has erased Adam and Eve resulting in a nonsensical story of Jesus. Belief in a nonsensical story where mankind no longer needs saving hardly constitutes saving faith. So here's a case where a non-literal interpretation of the Bible has undermined any conviction of the need for salvation—along with gutting the means of salvation (the perfect God-man paying the penalty for our sin).


1.AA, 20:30
2.CMAG, Australian Broadcast Corporation TV Compass interview with Bishop John Shelby Spong, by Geraldine Doogue, in front of a live audience at the Eugene Groosen Hall, ABC Studies, Ultimo, Sydney, Australia, 8 July 2000. Copied from transcript at http://www.abc.net.au/compass/intervs/spong2001.htm, 6 August 2001.


AABozarth, G.R., “The Meaning of Evolution”in American Atheist 1978
CMAGCreation Magazine Vol 24 No 2 March-May 2002, p. 15

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