God is Creator of all things, and has revealed in Scripture the authentic account of His creative activity. In six days the Lord made "the heaven and the earth" and all living things upon the earth, and rested on the seventh day of that first week. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of His completed creative work. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was "very good," declaring the glory of God. (Gen. 1; 2; Ex. 20:8-11; Ps. 19:1-6; 33:6, 9; 104; Heb. 11:3.)
Many Christians state that God is responsible for planet earth, but Seventh-day Adventists have one of the most specific doctrines of Creation. The Southern Baptist Convention, in many ways more theologically and socially conservative than Adventists, does not even include a belief of Creation among its 18-part statement of The Baptist Faith and Message. And the Assemblies of God denomination has 16 Fundamental Truths, none of which address origins.
In fact, a few Seventh-day Adventists want to restrict this language even further. Here's an example of their argument:
The fundamental belief statement can be read as affirming only that living matter was created during the six day span of creation. As is stands, the statement leaves room for persons, under cover of the fundamental beliefs, to believe that the non-living matter may have existed hanging dead in space—before the first day....
And some church leaders and businessmen are trying to import even more restrictive language into the Seventh-day Adventist belief. The following definition of "hours" and "week" has been proposed as a possible General Conference action.
that the seven days of the Creation account were literal 24-hour days forming a week identical in time to what we now experience as a week; and that the Flood was global in nature.
Paradoxically, this statement includes the Flood, a time of destruction, within the Adventist statement on creation.
Many conservative Christians denominations don't have a doctrine of Creation, much less one as restrictive as ours. And that gets to the the crux of the tension within the Adventist church because we pair this very strict language with a large scientifically-trained medical community. I have many friends pursuing science and medicine who feel caught between two worlds that impact their livelihood—church family and professional career.
But if one reads the words of the fundamental belief carefully, it's clear that the proof of one's adherence lies in accepting the God-given responsibility to care for creation. ("...charged with responsibility to care for it.") In fact, it is easier to find statements on creation care than origins among many Christian organizations. That's in part because it is more practical and more theologically correct. Staying connected to God and each other in our environment is the point of the creation story. It is in creation, not about it, where daily spiritual growth occurs.
It is actually pretty easy for most Adventists to give mental assent to this belief. They don't work in a lab or read Nature or Science or even the longer articles in National Geographic. And as recent Adventist history has shown, it is easy to demonize those who express interest in intelligent design, or speciation, adaptive radiation, and descent with modification. After all, science is falsifiable; doctrine is not.
Actually, speaking of official church statements, here's one the Seventh-day Adventist Church approved in 1992:
Seventh-day Adventists are committed to respectful, cooperative relationships among all persons, recognizing our common origin and realizing our human dignity as a gift from the Creator. Since human poverty and environmental degradation are interrelated, we pledge ourselves to improve the quality of life for all people. Our goal is a sustainable development of resources while meeting human needs.
Genuine progress toward caring for our natural environment rests upon both personal and cooperative effort. We accept the challenge to work toward restoring God's overall design. Moved by faith in God, we commit ourselves to promote the healing that rises at both personal and environmental levels from integrated lives dedicated to serve God and humanity.
The Adventist scientific community is not the only one accountable to our belief. What responsibility does the Adventist business community have toward the environment? Has the denomination ever publicly analyzed its investment funds to make sure they don't contribute to the destruction of creation? It would be tragic if, while attacking scientists for their ideas about creation, church administrators were actually doing ecological damage in various parts of the world. While denominational policy forbids investments in alcohol, tobacco, casinos and pornography, there's nothing about how the church should use the money we give them to impact our environment.
Our language about origins is important, but equally so is Adventist ethical action. Those who actually obey the command of the Creator take personal and collective responsibility to care not merely for the words of creation, but for creation itself.
Image: Fred Tomaselli, Field Guides, 2003.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5331