Creation as Foundational
Genesis opens with the accounts of creation, the Fall, the flood, and the division of nations. These stories are in the text to make important theological points. They become the basis of doctrinal reasoning throughout the rest of Scripture. Genuine biblicists should plunder these chapters, not merely to refute false theories about origins, but to be able to answer the most important questions that people can ask.
When it comes to the opening chapters of Genesis, many conservative Christians spend their energy defending the text against the counter-narrative of evolution. That is right and proper: the theory of evolution entails in all its forms an utterly anti-biblical and anti-human philosophy. Nevertheless, the point of these chapters is not to contradict theories of evolution, which only became prevalent during the late Nineteenth Century. Instead, these chapters are valuable for the theological underpinning that they provide for virtually the entire system of faith and belief—including some categories that are rarely mentioned within systematic theologies.
Perhaps the most important function of the early chapters of Genesis is to introduce us to God. They show that God is Creator, and no truth of Scripture is more important than the Creator-creature distinction. Besides depicting God in terms of His power, they also show Him in His benevolence. What He makes is good, and the good is contextually understood as what is good for humans. God knows what is good, and when He knows that a good is absent (as when the man was alone), He provides it. He is also a God who blesses and, when humans sin, a God who promises a deliverer.
The early chapters of Genesis also explain both who humans are and why they were made. They are the image of God, and they were made for dominion. Within His universal kingdom, God created a world that He did not intend to govern directly. Instead, He planned for this world to be ruled mediatorially by godlike creatures. He gave them dominion, and He blessed them with authority to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth, and to subdue it. They were made to be kings and queens. They were also made to be priests, standing in the presence of God and enjoying His companionship.
These narratives also explain what went wrong with this beautiful vision. God imposed a test upon the first man and the first woman. They were forbidden to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. If they ate the fruit, they would be claiming for themselves the prerogative to determine the good. Instead, God wanted them to trust Him for the good, which He abundantly provided. Rather than trusting the Creator, however, the man and woman chose to declare independence of God, choosing what seemed good to themselves. By declaring independence of God, they necessarily separated themselves from life, for their life came from God. They passed under sentence of death, a sentence that lies heavy upon humanity until this day.