Shortly before the children of Israel entered the Promised Land, Moses stood before the people and warned them that when they go into the Land and are satisfied, "Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments..." (Deut. 8:11-14). God brought them out of slavery, yet they eventually did forget God by failing to keep His commandments. They broke covenant with Him because they became proud. This kind of pride is what threatens to destroy society now. People have forgotten about God, and they have forgotten that they are people made in the image of God and are, therefore, accountable to Him. The evidence of this is found in a continued lack of respect for matters holy, alongside a lack of respect for other people. We are dying from a spiritual malady which has its cure foundationally in the first book of the Bible. Thus again Genesis matters because it informs us of who God is and who we are.
To take this a step further, we must know that Genesis matters because it is the foundation of life itself. It is here that we learn of the Creator who is all powerful and separate from the universe. He is holy and sovereign in every way. The implications of this are great. Humans are creatures, made in the image of God, yet lacking the full knowledge and power that belongs only to God. Humans are also amenable and accountable to God. What happens, then, when we reject the Creator and forget Him by failing to submit to Him?
When we forget the Creator, we lose a sense of meaning and purpose. Robert Ingersoll, at his brother's funeral, stated, "Life is a narrow veil between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry" (390-391). What a sad commentary on the way that an atheist must see life! Such despair and hopelessness flows naturally from a rejection of the Creator. When we fail to serve God, we are failing in the very purpose to which we are born. When we fail in this, we will ultimately feel that sense of purposelessness.
Life becomes irrelevant with no greater purpose than what man can dream up. Atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel wrote, "If you think about the whole thing, there seems to be no point to it at all. Looking at it from the outside, it wouldn't matter if you had never existed. And after you have gone out of existence, it won't matter that you did exist" (96). Though he tries to defend some purpose, it is in vain. "There seems to be no point." And he's right on this part: if there is no God, it won't matter if you ever existed or what you ever did. You'll go out of existence and your life will become a big "so what!" No atheist or agnostic can skirt around this consequence.
In forgetting about God, then, life will hold no greater purpose than what we create. Paul Kurtz made this very point in the Humanist Manifesto II: "But we can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species. While there is much we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves" (16-17). Genesis speaks to divine purpose. Rejecting Genesis negates divine purpose and opts for the humanist worldview. And, then, what is the point of life and why would it ultimately matter?
Forgetting about God results in values becoming warped and twisted. Another atheist and existential philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, admitted the consequences of being an atheist: "When we speak of abandonment ... we mean only to say that God does not exist, and that it is necessary to draw the consequences of his absence right to the end." Again, if there is no God, then his position is only logical. Carry out the consequences of humanism and evolutionism and see where it gets us. He further wrote, "Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself." Again, where is the line drawn? He writes, "if I have excluded God the Father, there must be somebody to invent values." (Kaufmann 345-369).
Does not all of this sound like Genesis 3:5? When Satan tempted Eve to eat of the forbidden tree, he was not simply tempting her to eat a piece of tasty fruit. It was a temptation to throw off the rule of God for self-rule. It was the humanist plea: "you don't need God telling you what to do; you can decide for yourself." And the consequences of attempts to do this have been catastrophic ever since then. People will always be at their worst when everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes without the knowledge of God (cf. Judges 17:6; Romans 1).
There is no way around this problem. If there is no Creator, then there is no greater purpose than what man dreams up; no higher standard of authority; no hope of life beyond death; no meaning to life or existence; no morals, and no reason to better ourselves. Should a humanist deny this, to what will he appeal to prove his point? Humanists cannot appeal to anything higher than a man; what one man says is no greater value than what another says. Any arguments they make will be but a human invention.
And what of Genesis? Herein is where we find our moorings. This is the bedrock of our understanding about God and man. It is where human value finds root, where morality meets stability, and where life's purpose sharpens its focus. It is not a book we can afford to give up. When Christians begin flirting with removing Genesis from its historical framework, they are indeed treading on dangerous ground.
Ingersoll, Robert. Ingersoll's Greatest Lectures. NY: Freethought Press, 1944.
Kaufmann, Walter. Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre. NY: Meridian, 1975.
Kurtz, Paul. In Defense of Secular Humanism. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1983.
Nagel, Thomas. What Does it All Mean?. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.
(Doy Moyer preaches regularly for the church in Cork, FL.
He is a professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, FL.
He has his own web site located at http://studywell.org.
You can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)