Doctrinal Foundations of the Bible
The first book of the Bible is aptly named, Genesis. The late Rex A. Turner says that “Genesis defies the imagination and mental capacity of any mere uninspired man” (101).
The late James D. Bales summarizes the value and importance of the book of “Genesis as an ancient book which sets forth truths and events which are far more ancient than the book itself. If the truths, which include the events and their meaning, are out of date, man is out of date. If Genesis is not relevant, man is irrelevant, since with the destruction of Genesis and its truths, man destroys his own birthright as a human being with dignity and value. (Bales 1977 13)
This essay will emphasize the importance of Genesis 1-3 as the basis for all doctrinal foundations. I will only emphasize seven obvious biblical doctrines, Theology, Anthropology, Bibliology, Harmartiology, Christology, Soteriology, and Eschatology. Each is interrelated giving consistency of thought to the whole. We have omitted, because of space restraints, other major biblical doctrines, actual or implied, found in Genesis 1-3—Angelology, Eccesiology, Pneumatology, et al.
FIRST, Theology is the study of God and its attendant doctrines. God is (Genesis 1:1). How important is God in life? Adler writes, “More consequences for thought and action follow from the affirmation or denial of God than from answering any other basic question” (2:543). Without God there would be nothing.
Religious thought categorizes God in various terms:
*Theism is the belief of the one self-existing and self-revealing God “who is essentially eternally omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free” which “explains everything else” (Swinburne 19).
*Trinity or Godhead (Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9) is the belief of the one self-existing and self-revealing God manifested in three persons (Matthew 28:19). In Genesis 1:1, God (Elohim) is plural. The New Testament teaches the existence of the Father, the Divine Son, and the Divine Holy Spirit.
* Monotheism is the belief in the one self-existing and self-revealing God who is Creator. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Swinburne--God is responsible “not merely for the existence of all other objects, but for their having the powers and liabilities they do” (11).
God’s attributes, all of which help us to understand God; are infinite and absolute. Bales writes, “We cannot completely define God, because we cannot completely understand God. . .[O]ur concept of God must be limited, for man is the finite being and God is the infinite being. . . If we cannot understand man, why should we expect to completely understand God, the eternal Spirit?” (1974 5-6).
Monotheism is taught in the first verse of Genesis, “In the beginning God” (1:1) and is consistently taught throughout the Bible. Monotheism is hostile to Polytheism. Polytheism resulted from the evolution of man’s corrupting “the glory of the incorruptible God” and worshiping the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:20-26). Oswalt writes, “[W]hat is unique about the Bible is that it maintains monotheism as the only viable principle of thought.” An inspired Bible teaches Monotheism was followed Polytheism. Henry M. Morris writes, “the people first knew the true God, then rapidly corrupted that knowledge into pantheism, polytheism, occultism, and idolatry, with all the evil practices these encourage” (263).
BUT, “IN THE BEGINNING GOD” (Genesis 1:1)! Monotheism! Theism! Trinity!
SECOND, Anthropology is the study of man involving his origin, purpose, and destiny and all attendant doctrines. Genesis 1-3 serves as the biblical foundation of all teaching regarding man. Unlike all other creatures, who apparently were created in sufficient or multiple numbers to begin populating the Earth (Genesis 1:21), God created Adam and Eve, a single pair forming divine marriage, with the command to multiply and replenish the Earth (Genesis 1:27). “For we are also His offspring” (Acts 17:28) states that man’s origin is—God!.
Near the close of the sixth day of creation, the human race was created. MacArthur’s writes: “All of creation up to this point has been merely a prelude to what would happen at the end of day six. The creation of the human race was the central object of God’s creative purpose from the beginning. In an important sense, everything else was created for humanity, and every step of creation up to this point had one main purpose: to prepare a perfect environment for Adam. The human race is still at the center of God’s purpose for the entire material universe. . . . God created man to glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever. (157)
The question of anthropology is, “What is man?” After God created all other life forms, God created man. Only of man is it said, God is “the Father of spirits” (Hebrews 12:9) and created in “the image and after the likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26-27). Leupold summarizes man as “a creature of nobility and endowed with phenomenal powers and attributes, not the type of being that by its brute imperfections is seen to be on the same level with the animal world” (92-3).
Man was created a mortal being with an inner, immortal soul. Man was created innocent, free of sin, but he was not righteous as righteousness results from obedient faith (Turner 141). Man is made in the “image of God” [with intellect and conscience] (Genesis 1:26-27). The phrases “image of God” and “likeness of God” are identical in meaning and are typical parallel expressions in Hebrew. Man “spirit and soul and body” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Man is so interwoven with God that at death his body returns to dust of the earth and his spirit to God (Genesis 2:7; Ecclesiastes 12:7). Such interrelatedness places great dignity on each individual, a point which our modern society has loss, and incurring responsibility to live accordingly with God and fellowman. Made in the image of God differentiates man from animals. Man is prohibited from taking the life of his fellowman, but is allowed to kill and eat animals (Genesis 9:1-6). This prohibition is never stated of other creatures.
Man made in the image of God gives the why God expresses an interest in and care for us. Job was puzzled why God “should magnify him” (Job 7:17) or why God considered such a weak mortal to be the object of His interest (Umbreit 156). David likewise wanted to know why God was “mindful of him” (Psalm 8:2) and took “account of him” (Psalm 144:3). Genuine believers understand the why!
After all things were created “God blessed” man (Genesis 1:28a) and gave man dominion over all creation, “but the earth has He given to the children of men” (Psalm 115:16). The Genesis account of the origin of man is Simple—it is direct, positive, immediate, and complete. The Genesis account is Sublime—man is the crown of creation with all created things designed to make the best possible life prior to eternity. The Genesis account is Sufficient—man is the result of “Adult Creation” with immediate intelligence, language, and dominion. Adult Creation does not need the theory of evolution as a vehicle for explaining man’s origin. The Genesis account of man’s dominion eliminates evolution’s theory of survival of the fittest. In addition, God made man so as “to enter into relationships . . . with responsibility and answerability” (Marshall 54). These human traits are absent in evolution. BUT, man marred his innocence with sin (see below, Harmartiology).
THIRD, Bibliology is the study of the Bible and its attendant doctrines. God spoke all things into existence out of nothing. “He spoke and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:9). The creation account is consistent with God’s nature and reflects His inherent goodness. God culminated His Creation with “every thing that He made . . . it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). God “upholds the universe by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3, ESV); i.e. God continues to function in the universe through His laws of nature.
The crowning apex of creation is man to whom God uniquely revealed Himself in the volume called “the Bible.” The Bible is from the “one lawgiver” (James 4:12) and is inspired, inerrant, and authoritative; thereby, giving man a biblical worldview designed to guide man’s life and prepare man for eternity. Since men must give an account to God (Acts 17:30-31; Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10), they “must make sense of their lives—and deaths” facing therefore “innumerable questions about how we should live” (Schaefer 40) and die.
By biblical worldview, we mean the philosophy of life shaped by God’s revelation revealing the origin, purpose, and destiny of man. “For You created all things, and for Your pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11). The biblical worldview emanates from God whose “understanding is infinite” (Psalm 17:5). Thus, the biblical worldview is the authoritative standard by which all men are amenable to God.
Immediately after the fall of man, “God began working out that plan, and revealing it gradually to man” (Deaver 91). The biblical worldview is revealed in the Bible only—sola scriptura—by which all men are to live and will be judged (John 12:48; Revelation 20:11-15). God’s biblical worldview has governed man through three progressive dispensations —Patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian—and culminates in Christianity as God’s ultimatum for all mankind (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Rejection and/or deviation from the biblical worldview results in catastrophe. The catastrophic evidence is seen in the fall of man in Genesis 3. Such rejection results in unbelief, apostasy, rebellion, atheism, etc. A worldview, distinct from the biblical worldview, is a set beliefs developed by man in various academic philosophies, sciences, and culture (Cosgrove 20). Read the article in the October 2011 issue of Sufficient Evidence in which Rolland Pack ably argues that Christian ethics “includes duties and goals set in an absolutist context sensitive to individual cases and personal choice with a foundation in human nature created in the image of God and in a reasoned account of general and special revelation” (3). “[T]he way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
FOURTH, Harmartiology is the study of sin and all its attendant doctrines. When God finished creation, He said, “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). There was no sin. In Genesis 3, sin entered the world when man violated God’s biblical worldview that began to be expressed in Genesis 2:15-17. When man sinned, “This was not the ORIGIN of sin, but the ENTRANCE of sin into our world” (Deaver 93).
What is sin? Sin is an improper relationship with God to whom we are subject. Sin has been defined as missing the mark or aiming to do something and failing to achieve it. Sin has been described as darkness, debt, disobedience, evil, error, rebellion, an unethical act, etc. The Bible defines sin as “lawlessness” (1 John 3:4), “unrighteousness” (1 John 5:17), and “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17, ESV).While sin describes the improper relationship between God and man, it describes the battle between God and Satan, Satan and man, good and evil, right and wrong, and light and darkness.
The biblical doctrine of sin is dependent on the historicity of Genesis 1-3. If we deny the historicity of Genesis 1-3, we destroy and discard how sin entering the world through Satan’s temptation and Adam’s disobedience to God. “[B]y one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). The denial of the historicity of Genesis 1-3 eliminates the amenability of man and the veracity of Scripture.
Genesis 1-2 pictures a perfect world; that is without sin. Genesis 3 pictures an imperfect world because of sin and its attendant doctrines. Genesis 3 refutes all evolutionary theories, as evolution cannot explain the origin of sin and its attendant doctrines.
The historicity of Genesis 3 is necessary as it serves as the foundation of the biblical worldview. MacArthur states, “It is the foundation of everything that comes after it. Without it, little in Scripture or in life itself would make sense” (195).
Genesis 3 sets forth the testing of Adam’s faith. As God’s gardener, Adam was commanded to enjoy fruit from every tree “except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:15-17). The violation of God’s command carried “a penalty, to be put to a violent death” (Brown 559-60). God allowed Adam and Eve to be tested by Satan, a fallen angel, known as “that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out [heaven] into the earth” (Revelation 12:9). Satan deceived Eve and Adam ate of the forbidden fruit knowingly (Genesis 3; 1 Timothy 2:14) having to chose between his wife and God. He seduced Eve and with Adam’s fall both came under the sentence of immediate death.
There were other penalties as the consequence of their sin found in (Genesis 3:16-19):
1) A continual battle between good and evil.
2) Difficulty in childbirth; woman is subject to her husband.
3) Man to labor and toil in obtaining his food.
4) The ground was cursed.
Satan’s seduction and Adam’s sin result in “enmity” “between your [Satan’s] seed [plural] and her [woman’s] seed [singular]” (Genesis 3:15). Leupold writes something we all need to understand, “God … will not suffer this enmity to die down: ‘I will put.’ God wants man to continue in undying opposition to this evil one and He rouses the enmity Himself.” How does man continue this battle with evil? Through the biblical worldview which begins to unfold the history of man and culminating in the final judgment.
God cursed the ground, for Adam’s sake, saying, “[C]ursed is the ground for your sake; in toil shall you eat of it all the days of your life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to you; and you shall eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, till dust you are, and to dust shall you return’ (Genesis 3:17-19). This text in some way states one “of the consequences of man’s transgression and fall was that God promised a curse on earth” (Bales, 1975 58). The ground was cursed causing agrarian work to be hard labor with the constant removal of thorns, thistles, weeds, etc. What is involved in the cursing of the ground (Genesis 3:17-19)? I do not know unless one’s toils, intensifies in growing crops by weeds, thorns, and thistles. (The idea of intensification is the result of a discussion with Charles C. Pugh. As with Bales, we do “not claim to know the extent of this curse, but it his [Bales and this author’s] conviction that the truth of it is confirmed by what has happened in nature.”
An additional thought has come to my mind since doing my lecture. Adam and eve were to “die” upon their disobedience. This is applicable both to physical and spiritual death. How did they understand death of a human being? Death is really is both indescribable and indefinable. I understand we have some basic clear statements, but do we fathom them totally? Consider:
When Adam had been driven from the Garden of Paradise and the penalty of labor was imposed upon him. He went out in quest of the bread that he was to earn by the sweat of his brow. In the course of labor to earn what he was to eat, some way and some how, he stumbled upon the limp form of his son, Abel. He picked up, carried to his home and laid him on the lap of his wife and Abel’s mother, Eve. They spoke to him, but Abel did not answer. He had never been so silent before. They looked into his eyes, cold and glassy, mysteriously elusive. They have never been so unresponsive before. They wondered and as they wondered, their wonder grew. Then they remembered, “for in the day you eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you shall surely die.” This was the first human death in the world, and many have died since. We have all buried our loved ones, yet the mystery of death remains. We walk humbly and reverently in the presence of death. When Christ died on Calvary, it was not a death of a man, but the death of the man. Giving us hope!
FIFTH, Christology is the study of Christ and all attendant doctrines from His pre-existence to His final state of eternality. God in Genesis 1-3 implies many Christological doctrines. For instance, Christ’s deity is implied by the plural word “God” (Elohim) (Genesis 1:1) as well as, the plural pronouns“Us” and “Our” (Genesis 1:26-27).
Genesis 3 is the pivotal chapter of what was declared as “very good” (Gen. 1:31) to the sad history of man in sin (Genesis 3).With man’s sin marring his innocence, man is doomed to the sentence of death. No sooner had man sinned than God gives a ray of hope by promising aSavior and Victor over sin and Satan (Genesis 3:15), though Genesis 3:15 is addressed to Satan.
Hope is given man in the prophecy of the Protoevanglium (the first gospel) of the Old Testament, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; It [He] shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). The battle for man’s redemption begins with the implication, confirmed by the progressive biblical worldview from both testaments of the Virgin Birth. Remove this implication and “there is no possible fulfillment of these prophecies” (Hanke 22), or any other Messianic prophecy. Genesis 3:15 gives historicity and veracity to the argument.
Genesis 3:15 is the first Messianic prophecy and involves among other doctrines the Virgin Birth, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection of Jesus. The woman’s “seed” is a singular, masculine pronoun. “He,” referring to the woman’s “seed,” would come by a woman alone, without the seed of man. The unfolding of the biblical worldview enables the identification of the “seed” as Christ. Jesus was “born of a woman [Mary]” (Galatians 4:4), who was enabled to conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:34-35) and apart from the seed of man. Mary was a virgin and progressive prophetic revelation states that God would enable “a virgin to conceive, and bear a son” (Isa. 7:14), or a “woman shall compass a man” (Jeremiah 31:22)who will give birth in Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:1). The “seed” was not of “many; but as of one . . . which is Christ’ (Galatians 3:16). Woman (Eve), tempted by Satan, brought sin into the world, but woman (Mary) also brought the Redeemer (Ramsey 209). Coffman states forcibly, “Now, the only ‘seed of woman’ ever known upon earth was and is Jesus Christ our Lord” (67).
SIXTH, Soteriology is the study of salvation and all its attendant doctrines. Salvation of man is key to understanding the biblical worldview. Sin separates man from God; salvation is the answer. Man sinned and God is the “God of salvation” ( Psalm 18:46; 38:22). With sin paralyzing man, God by His grace promised salvation to man (Genesis 3:15; Titus 2:11). God’s grace planned man salvation “before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20). Soteriology is set forth within God’s vehicle of the biblical worldview and progressively unfolds from Genesis 1 culminating in Jesus Christ in Revelation 22:21.
Genesis 3:15 sets forth the age-long conflict between Satan and Christ, “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel (ASV).” This references both the crucifixion and the resurrection. When Jesus was crucified Satan was certain he had foiled God’s soteriology for man. In the resurrection, Jesus was victorious [defeated] over Satan using the very tool that he kept men in bondage, fear, and death (Hebrews 2:14-15). Jesus rose as the Victor over “death and hades” (Revelation 1:18). Progressive revelation enlightens to the meaning of Genesis 3:15.
Interestingly, The promise of God’s grace and the defeat of Satan occur before God’s statements to Adam and Eve. First, God said to Satan, “you shall bruise His head” (Genesis 3:15), references the crucifixion. The crucifixion shows God’s holiness, justice, mercy, love, and truth; however, at the same time, the crucifixion portrays, symbolically, the horribleness of sin. At His crucifixion, there were three hours of darkness testifying to the horror of the hour (Luke 23:44-45). “Sin is blacker than hell and worse than Satan; for, had there been no sin, there would have been no hell, and there would have been no Satan. And had there been no sin there would be no Calvary” (Winkler 384).
In the crucifixion, Jesus “bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24) and“through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Jesus became our sin-offering, as God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The cross is essential, with absoluteness, for man’s victory over sin and hope of eternity with God.
Adam and Eve should have instantly died for their sin, but God’s grace is seen in His mediating life by sacrificing animals serving as a symbolic testimony of their cleansing from sin. God’s grace was manifest through the “substitutionary sacrifices of innocent animals that were slain and their blood applied as a ‘blood sacrifice’ against the sin” (Turner 145). Genesis 3:21 states:“And Jehovah God made for Adam and for his wife coats of skins, and clothed them.”Eve is representative of “the woman” whose “seed” would eventually defeat Satan and offer salvation to man.
Second, God said to Satan, “He shall bruise your head” (Genesis 3:15, ASV), references Jesus’ resurrection. It is a victory statement by God as “Man had brought sin into the world, but Man (the “seed of the woman’) would one day bring about the destruction of the Evil One” (Pfeiffer 22). God raised Jesus up and defeated Satan by the resurrection of Jesus (Romans 1:4). The New Testament exalts the resurrection as the removal of death’s sting, giving “us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57) so that “Death has no more dominion over him” (Romans 6:9). Without the resurrection of Jesus, we have no promise of our future resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). His resurrection gave us a lively hope that is incorruptible, undefiled, and fades not away (1 Peter 1:3-4). The cross and the resurrection are essentials in the content of soteriology. The resurrection of Jesus is a blow to Satan from which he can never recover (Turner 144). The virgin birth, crucifixion, and the resurrection show “what it behooved Jesus Christ to be and to do that he might save us” (Warfield 167).
Eschatology is the study of all attendant doctrines of the last things. The definition is not quite adequate as eschatology also addresses the life of man before the end). Eschatology is the biblical worldview brought to its culmination by God at the judgment and destruction of the world (2 Peter 3).
Genesis 3:15 implies a coming, final, ultimate judgment on Satan (Genesis 3:15; Revelation 20:10), man (Romans 14:10), and the earth (Genesis 3:17-19; 2 Peter 3). For those who live the biblical worldview, their end is heaven and an eternity with God; whereas, those disobedient to the biblical worldview, their end is everlasting punishment in hell and separation from the presence of God.
We have attempted to set forth seven major Bible doctrines found in Genesis 1-3. Our effort is done with brievity, while, at the same time, suggesting further study by the reader. It is the case that Genesis 1-3 serves a foundational to understanding man’s redemption.
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