Great Stuff – President Harrison speaks out on Creation.

Found over at

Concerning the Six-Day Creation

by Matthew C. Harrison

Creation is a mystery. Just as science will forever have a problem with Jesus being God and man, with His virgin birth, or with His resurrection, so science will forever scoff at or, at best, view the creation account in Genesis as mythology. Though I’m no scientist, I’ve had challenges myself believing that the creation accounts are history. When will a talking snake appear believable to reason? How, in the face of the dominant theory of evolution, will the special creation of Adam out of dust and in a flash appear reasonable? And what of Eve from a rib? How can I possibly hold to an actual creation of all things in six natural days?

The LCMS’s classic statement on creation was made a long time ago in the Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod (1932), and it still holds today:

We teach that God has created heaven and earth, and that in the manner and in the space of time recorded in the Holy Scriptures, especially Gen. 1 and 2, namely, by His almighty creative word, and in six days. We reject every doctrine which denies or limits the work of creation as taught in Scripture. In our days it is denied or limited by those who assert, ostensibly in deference to science, that the world came into existence through a process of evolution; that is, that it has, in immense periods of time, developed more or less of itself. Since no man was present when it pleased God to create the world, we must look for a reliable account of creation to God’s own record, found in God’s own book, the Bible. We accept God’s own record with full confidence and confess with Luther’s Catechism: “I believe that God has made me and all creatures.”

Over the centuries, there have been a plethora of attempts to alleviate the “scandal” of the creation accounts and to understand them in a way that is less offensive to human reason. Although it is true that the Synod has not defined as biblical doctrine a specific age of the earth, attempts to alleviate the scandal of the creation accounts by suggesting that the earth is somehow millions or billions of years old actually compound the scandal in my view. Can we somehow stretch the meaning of a “day” in Genesis 1 into an eon or long period of time? If so, then how is it that light is created prior to the sun? How is it that vegetation is created before the sun? How is it that God creates fish and birds prior to the other animals?

You simply cannot stretch the days of Genesis 1 into eons in order to somehow accommodate science or evolutionary theory (or even some version of Old Earth Creationism based on a non-literal understanding of a “day”) in any meaningful or coherent way. Either the account in Genesis 1–2 is myth, or it is history — albeit, history written in a profoundly simple way to express profound truths. There is no middle ground. And if humankind is the result of some evolutionary process, then death was built into creation from the beginning — a view that the Scriptures categorically reject. In the end, there can be no historical Adam and Eve in a mythical Garden of Eden. So-called “Old Earth Creationism” largely runs aground.

Why do I believe that the creation accounts are historical? I believe them because I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior. And I hear in the words of Jesus that He himself believes the creation accounts are historical. (See MATT. 19:3–9.) I hear in the words of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, the voice of my Savior. And both He and the Scriptures bear witness to their absolute inerrancy and infallibility. With Luther, when I come to passages that are hard to believe, “I doff my hat to the Holy Spirit and figure that He is wiser than I am.” Or as Luther said elsewhere regarding Genesis 1: “We assert that Moses spoke in the literal sense, not allegorically or figuratively, i.e., that the world, with all its creatures, was created within six days, as the words read. If we do not comprehend the reason for this, let us remain pupils and leave the job of teacher to the Holy Spirit” (Luther’s Works, vol. 1, page 5).

What about our faithful scientists and others who struggle with these issues? There will always be a struggle between faith and reason. In matters of clear teaching of the Bible, I must hold to the Scriptures. However, there are many disciplines that operate under the category of reason, e.g., the scientific method, etc. And many Christian scientists have and will continue to make arguments based upon their best scientific inquiry to defend the historicity or the very reasonable possibility of the Bible’s accounts being true. That’s called apologetics. More power to them. As Lutherans, we are not anti-science. Nevertheless, the truths of Holy Scripture — and that includes God’s creation of everything ex nihilo (“out of nothing) — are most often well beyond human reason.

Despite scientism and evolutionary philosophy, the advances of science (far from disproving God) have only demonstrated a deeply complex and amazing universe. A recent study of the human genome concluded, by tracing markers on the male chromosome, that all human beings have one common male ancestor. That’s phenomenal to consider! Christians should not be against science, but only against philosophies which would eliminate God from creation, deny His existence or attack the veracity of His Word.

In the 1970s, some thought that if one only believed the Gospel, other issues taught by Scripture were up for grabs. In response, Synod adopted A Statement of Biblical and Confessional Principles (1973), which clarified Synod’s teaching on the Scriptures:

Since the saving work of Jesus Christ was accomplished through His personal entrance into our history and His genuinely historical life, death and resurrection, we acknowledge that the recognition of the soteriological purpose of Scripture in no sense permits us to call into question or deny the historicity or factuality of matters recorded in the Bible.

We therefore reject the following views …

That recognition of the primary purpose of Scripture makes it irrelevant whether such questions of fact as the following are answered in the affirmative: Were Adam and Eve real historical individuals? Did Israel cross the Red Sea on dry land? Did the brazen serpent miracle actually take place? Was Jesus really born of a virgin? Did Jesus perform all the miracles attributed to Him? Did Jesus’ resurrection actually involve the return to life of His dead body?

In short, I believe in the Gospel of free forgiveness, made incarnate in history — in the conception, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the God-man. Because I believe the Gospel, I recognize the words of my shepherd, Jesus, in Holy Scripture. If I reject what Scripture teaches as history about creation, why should I not then reject everything else (including the resurrection itself) that appears contrary to reason?

Even as we say “I believe; help my unbelief” (MARK 9:24), we should be very humble as we approach this mystery of creation, and humble and kind to those who struggle with the issue. It’s a cross that many of us will bear in this life, until we see Him “face to face” (1 COR. 13:12).

God help us.

– Pastor Harrison

The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison is president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.


Editor’s Notes:

Helpful backstory articles:

CSL Letter of Rebuke (including other documents involving the latest Six-Day Creation controversy)

Wyoming District President Response to CSL

Some other backstory


About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


Great Stuff – President Harrison speaks out on Creation. — 26 Comments

  1. Well, yes. Either we cling to the FAITH alone, or we do not. If we do not, the only options are fatalism, nihilism, despondency, tyranny.

  2. Wow, Matthew Harrison clearly should have the title Archbishop after his name for being the overseer of both the clergy and the laity in matters of faith and doctrine! His lucid explanation for faith in the inerrancy of Holy Scripture based on Christology is precisely the leadership all Christians need in the Church today. Bravo Archbishop Matthew Harrison. My comments about Episcopal Polity are not intended to offend churchmen who prefer a congregational polity.

  3. It amazes me how creatures that exist for just a blink of an eye can have the audacity to think they can understand things that happen in thousands of years! God is working wonders through you Pastor! Keep on reminding us of the Good News!

  4. I am thankful that Dr. Harrison has the title of assistant pastor of Village Lutheran Church, Ladue, Missouri and President of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. He is doing no less than his revered predecessor Dr. C.F.W. Walther in confessing his faith, which is the faith of the orthodox (rechtglaeubige) Evangelical Lutheran Church. In this he is trying to unify his fellow Christians directing them to the Holy Scriptures through the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is calling on all of us within the LCMS to sit down, pray, and dialogue with one another. I am thankful for his God-inspired leadership.

  5. Which is easier: saying, “Let there be light (and there was light), or, “Your sins are forgiven”, or, “Come out, Lazarus?” Jesus’s tomb was empty, and the only reasonable explanation is THE supernatural one. Same goes for creation: 10 billion years is not even enough time to have made everything randomly:
    The minimum essential DNA regions / proteins required for growth and reproduction for a basic bacterium is about 1,000. This means the possibility of any basic organism bursting forth into life and surviving is about zero. Including the required genes, gene promoters, and other DNAs, each probably averaging over 100 specified nucleotides in length, the odds of random amino acid combination for survival are 1 in 10 to 100,000th power (which is a 1 followed by 100,000 zeroes).  Anything above 1 x 10 to the 60th-to-the-80th power is a mathematical absurdity. So says Science!

  6. It was a well-written piece that highlights the theological complexities/problems that arise from an old Earth. However I would note that when he does (in what seems like an aside) address scientific observations he brings up the complexity of the universe and the unique design of humans. Both points of many intelligent design advocates. And that’s the problem with this issue for others–it’s a lot easier to scientifically demonstrate design than it is to scientifically hold to a young Earth. Evidence against DARWINIAN EVOLUTION doesn’t necessarily prove a young Earth. It is the scientific evidence for the young earth that leaves many questioning how we interpret parts of Genesis. If the only way that we can make sense of God is in the context of a young Earth then that leaves many in a bind. It isn’t that they WANT to cause theological problems it is that their intellectual integrity makes it difficult to ascribe to YEC ideas. Echo-chambers like this do a really good job of stressing how OEC ideas make it difficult for you to maintain your theological/intellectual integrity. But others live outside it and find YEC to be a position that is very hard to defend scientifically. I do think that Harrison acknowledges their struggle but I’m not sure that everyone does.

  7. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I think this is an excellent statement from President Harrison. It is theological, churchly, pastoral, reasonable, and concurs with synod’s established positions as found in our 1932 and 1973 theological statements. And he doesn’t dip into matters that are the favorite debate-topics of armchair philosophers. I hope that our pastors, parochial school teachers, college professors, and seminary professors follow President Harrison’s example in the future.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  8. As Ben Stein so powerfully showed in his documentary “Intelligence Expelled” scientists who depart from the philosophical dogmatism of the present day scientific elite, which dances to the tune of, e.g. Stephen Hawking, are black listed to keep them from teaching in colleges and universities. These black listed scientists hold to intelligent design. What ever happened to purely OBJECTIVE science that does scientific inquiry through experimentation. Such objective research jettisons theories that are not supported by empirical data, e.g. Darwinian pangeneration. While this scientific elite dismisses Christianity because it involves what they might consider to be presuppositional dogma, they are at best disingenuous in demanding a presuppositional dogma of their own: that the entire universe came into being and evolved by chance alone. That is probably a more difficult thing to believe than the biblical doctrine of Creation.

  9. “Intelligent design” as David Vik posts above is vaguer than God’s own account in His Word (Genesis 1 and 2), so I want to go on record as saying that I do not believe that simply holding to “intelligent design” is tantamount to confessing the scriptural teaching of The Brief Statement. Another mote to trouble the mind’s eye in the Jurchen article is the denial of the scriptural doctrine of a universal Flood.

  10. My objection to OEC is both theological and logical. Theologically, I agree with Pres. Harrison. Logically, OEC violates Occam’s razor. There simply is no compelling reason to require it. And frankly, I’m still not sure how OEC differs in any way from theistic–“directed” evolution. (Which is oxymoronic.)

  11. Just wondering when my post of January 11th will no longer be “awaiting moderation”–thanks!

  12. My reasons for affirming the Genesis account of creation are based on Christology. I agree with Dr. David Scaer, All Theology is Christology. Jesus turned water into vintage aged wine clearly showing signs of age in ideal time. Likewise in the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus created matter that showed signs of age and in the case of bread a baking process. The fish was not only caught but property dried for eating. We believe that the biblical accounts are true and not legends about Jesus. These miracles or signs from Jesus authenticate his claim as both God and man. Jesus had the power to create matter with the appearance of age in ideal time. We may not understand God’s ways which are always higher then our ways so we accept by faith the truth of Holy Scripture until God gives us more revelation in the life of the world to come.

  13. @Robert Placer #19
    Certainly. Adam and Eve were created as man, not an embryo or an infant. It’s the old “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” riddle. Of course, we know it was the chicken.

  14. Still wondering when my post of January 11th will no longer be “awaiting moderation”–thanks!

    <<<editor: sorry about that; I’ve re-dated your note to today so people don’t miss it and approved it. Including multiple links in a post triggers the “hold for moderation” to attempt to prevent SPAM. Somehow none of the moderators noticed your comment >>>

  15. @Rev. David R. Mueller #17

    Pastor Mueller, it seems to me that an old earth/universe actually conforms to Occam’s razor better than a young earth/universe.

    Dr. Paul Edmon has written, “From an astronomical perspective we have multiple lines of evidence that support the age of the universe being 13.7 Gyr (billion years).” The way he reconciles this with a young-earth interpretation of Scripture is to endorse the omphalos hypothesis: the universe looks old, but is really young. It is only “apparently” old.

    How can we tell “apparent” age from real age? Wouldn’t it be simpler (Occam’s razor) to just call it…age?

    Wouldn’t it be simpler (Occam’s razor) to consider that all this overwhelming evidence for an ancient cosmos means it really is old, and maybe–just maybe–we have been interpreting the Bible incorrectly? Like Luther (and Walther–and Pieper) interpreted Joshua 10:13 to mean Copernicus was wrong?

    There is “no compelling reason” to believe in an old earth? What about ? What about

    What about the simple fact that we can see light from stars billions of light years away–light that left those stars…billions of years ago?

    How does OEC differ from theistic evolution? Easy. OEC says God made the universe billions of years ago, and periodically miraculously created new kinds of living things (fish in the Devonian period, dinosaurs in the Mesozoic, flowering plants in the Cretaceous, etc.). The earth is old, but macrovevolution didn’t happen. A prime example of OEC without evolution is the group Reasons to Believe, headed by Christian astronomer Hugh Ross (see

    Theistic evolution (TE) is not a contradiction in terms (which is what I assume you mean by “oxymoronic”). Those who believe in TE simply believe that evolution is how God filled the world with living creatures.

    Interestingly, Answers in Genesis solves the problem of fitting millions of species onto Noah’s Ark by saying a few thousand pairs of Biblical “kinds” of creatures evolved at super-speed (see after the Flood in a few thousand years–much faster than conventional evolutionary theory says evolution operates!

    Of course, the folks at AiG deny this is evolution–they call it “diversification,” and claim it was all planned in advance by God. (Darwin called his theory “descent with modification”–how that is different from “diversification” is kind of a mystery to me.) And–if this “diversification” was planned by God, can we call it…theistic evolution? Theistic diversification?

    They also claim this “diversification” never, never, never includes an “increase” in genetic “information,” so that’s another reason why it’s not, you know, EVILution. But, see

    As to the “directed” part, TE’s differ as to how much direct intervention God uses to “tweak” the course of evolution. Some think God created all matter, energy, and natural law in one timeless act of omnipotence, and the normal course of events unfolds according to natural causes only (under God’s providence, of course, as normal weather has natural causes but is ultimately governed by God). Some think God miraculously created the first cell, and let things develop naturally from that point. Some think God had to periodically “intelligently design” certain living things at different points in time during the eons, but let natural selection take care of the rest (Michael Behe seems to think this–he certainly said he accepted common descent and an ancient universe in his Darwin’s Black Box!).

    I hope I have helped clarify the OEC/TE difference. I also hope that, even if you continue to disagree with both points of view based on your view of Scripture, you will see OEC and TE Christians as fellow believers (albeit in error on some things) who sincerely believe in God as the Creator, and not see OEC or TE folks as muddle-headed deists or some such.

    Have a great day!

  16. I just heard an argument on the radio from the reformed camp. For those of you so graced to have received a theological education, which I have not, it’s probably TH 101. He said and I paraphrase “creation, like the virgin birth, the resurrection, or any other miracle recorded in scripture, as such cannot be tested by science. Period.”. I think this is a succinct way of saying what I’ve been saying throughout this resurgence. Too bad they don’t apply the same principle to “This IS My body” etc.

  17. @James Gibbs #22

    > OEC says God made the universe billions of years ago, and periodically miraculously created new kinds of living things (fish in the Devonian period, dinosaurs in the Mesozoic, flowering plants in the Cretaceous, etc.). The earth is old, but macrovevolution didn’t happen.

    Would you say that such creatures commonly died during that time?

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