Open Letter

Response to Tom Couchman

Maurice Barnett


Editor's Note: When you have responses to responses to responses, it can get complicated. Brother Barnett does a fine job answering Tom Couchman's article found elsewhere on this site. To go to Tom Couchman's article, click here. Also, there are links to the other material located at the end of this article. This article has been posted to the Gospel Anchor Web Site, and is reprinted here by permission.


There is nothing personal about this review. I had never heard of brother Couchman before this, much less have I met him. Seeing that I was one of those who signed the Open Letter under discussion, brother Couchman necessarily included me in his criticism of the Letter. That calls for this reply. I am not interested in any personal vindication. I have no pride that's been bruised nor an injured reputation that needs salvaging. I am interested only in truth.

I care not at all what "pillars" of the past or present have said on this subject. They do not determine what truth is. The Open Letter is being tagged as a creed by its opponents and their supporters. They say this because so many men signed the letter to show their agreement with it. That is supposed to make it a creed. However, the very ones who are saying this are making up a list of "pillars" in the church, past and present, of those who are supposed to agree with them. Brother Couchman does some of that. Now, why is it that the Open Letter is a creed because it has several who signed it, but the other side's position is not a creed though they make up their list of men who agree with them? Watch your step, brethren, You're condemning yourselves. My decision to sign the Open Letter was because I, on my own, agreed with what was said. There was no collusion between the signators. I would have signed it even if no other had done so. Brother Caldwell sent a letter to all the signers of the Open Letter. He had a seven point inclosure with it titled "The President's Position On Teaching Divine Creation at Florida College." How many signatures would it have taken to make that inclosure a creed? If one other person signed it would it have been a creed, or would it have needed sixty-seven signatures to make it so? Or, just how many in between?

It is granted that Bible words, like all language, have several meanings. In some places, "day" may mean an extended period of time, but not in every place. To even imply that because "day" may mean, in some passages, an extended period of time, then it may mean that in Genesis one, is to say something that is untrue. That's just throwing up a smoke screen.

Again, the Bible must be the determining factor of our faith. As we shall see, though we don't know just how long it has been since creation, the Bible does place some limitations on what that period of time can be. And, lest anyone jump to the conclusion that I think Bishop Usshur's chronology is correct, just pass that by. Nothing definite can be determined by the genealogies of Genesis 5,11. It's the length of days of creation and the events of creation described in scripture that have a direct bearing on the age of the earth, not what some think they can see by the observation of nature.

The Faith

(1) Brother Couchman insists that this issue "has nothing to do with obedience to the gospel message, the imitation of Christ or the ministry of the New Testament church," and, "the age of the earth has nothing to do with justification, sanctification or the work of the church," and is thus of no consequence and should disturb no one; just believe what you want about the days of creation. In another place, he says,

To borrow one of his phrases, I beg to differ. As we will see shortly, there is much more to the initial steps to becoming a Christian than what he wants to admit. As we shall see, the creation account is interwoven, doctrinally, with both Old and New Testament teaching in some of the very areas brother Couchman says it has no place! He says that what we believe about creation has no bearing on our salvation. Well, I do know that what we believe is important wherever God says that it is and when God says we are to believe something, then it is important to our salvation. Look at II Timothy 2:16-18,

Our resurrection is future, coming at the time of the end. It is not a command to be obeyed but a promise of what is to come; it is a belief. Believing anything other than what the Bible says about our future resurrection is erring from the truth and departing from the faith. So, it does matter what we believe.

I Timothy 4:1-4 warns of some who would fall away from the faith. That apostasy is characterized by celibacy and vegetarianism. Paul then gives proper instruction on eating meats "which God created to be received with thanksgiving by them that believe and know the truth." Timothy is then told:

The fact that God created meats for our consumption is a part of "the faith" that Timothy was to preach. That makes the information about both creation and what food we can consume of great importance. One does not have to marry or eat flesh in order to please God, Romans 14, but they are certainly authorized and the instruction about both items is part of The Faith.

We could multiply such instances of teachings that are part and parcel of "the faith," truth, the doctrine according to godliness. Can we just believe anything we want to about such things as long as we are particular about the areas brother Couchman says are the important ones? Each area of truth has its own doctrinal importance, but all of it is the faith and the truth. The Holy Spirit guided the apostles into all the truth, John 16:13. On the one hand, this truth would make man free, John 8:32, and on the other it gave proper instruction about foods, I Timothy 4:3-4.

(2) Brother Couchman asserts that what one believes about creation has no bearing on one's salvation. I very much disagree. Whatever the Bible says one must believe at each step of the way is what one must believe before the next step is open to him.

Jesus said in John 8:24 that "except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." This is a declaration of His Godhood, the "I Am." The pronoun "he" is in italics in translations because it is not in the original text but rather has been added by the translators. It is the same double nominative as in John 8:58, where Jesus says, "Before Abraham was born, I am." That takes us back to Exodus 3:14 where God says "I AM THAT I AM...tell them I AM hath sent me unto you." The person, Jesus, was in fact identified as Jehovah and God in the Old Testament. So, Jesus said that "except ye believe that I AM, ye shall die in your sins." One must believe in the Person, the Godhood, of Jesus in order to be saved. What does that involve? Well, look at Isaiah 48:12-13,

The Revelation identifies Jesus as the first and the last, the beginning and the end as well as I AM. There is no doubt that Isaiah is referring to Him as the I AM. And He is identified as the one who created all things. In addition, notice His statement that "when I call unto them, they stand up together." While creating it to begin with, He still has control of His creation to do what He will when He wills. He destroyed the world by flood, caused the sun to stand still for Joshua and "turned" the time backward for Hezekiah. The earth not only stood still in its rotation for Joshua, but stopped and turned backward for Hezekiah with no damage to the earth or anyone! And, he did it at an instant. God and Jesus are both characterized and defined by their power as demonstrated in Creation. One must believe that Jesus is I AM but cannot know what that means without knowing about Creation. To emphasize this, look at the following:

There are many other passages in both the Old and New Testaments that can testify to the same facts. God, including Jesus, is defined by his creative power and one does not have a complete and proper view of God without knowing this. It is a part of preaching about God, a part of faith and truth. It even begins the prayer of the disciples in Acts 4:24,

But, someone may say, "If that is so important, where is creation mentioned in the sermons in Acts?" We don't have all of Peter's sermon to the Jews in Acts 2, but his sermon and Paul's in Acts 13 were to Jews who already understood and believed in God the creator. They were also familiar with Genesis 1-2. Stephen did quote an Old Testament passage that mentions it in his address to the Jews in Jerusalem in Acts 7:48-50. Paul's defence in both Acts 24 and 26 was a personal defence but was made before men who were already familiar with the God of the Jews. But, in Acts 17, to the Gentile citizens of Athens who knew nothing about God, he said,

Man had to know about God's creative power, the creation itself, in order to know the God who was reaching out to change him. This was no god as they had known gods. This was the one who created them and everything they could see. When the people of Lystra sought to make sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas as gods, they were told,

The phrase, "good tidings," is from euangelidzo, the verb form of the noun for "gospel" and means to "preach the gospel" and is so translated in Acts 14:6. The gospel that Paul brought them was that they should turn to the living God who created heaven and earth. The creation was and is a part of the gospel! It was to produce faith in God on the part of these heathens. Belief in God and Christ requires we understand their person and character and that includes the fact of being our creator, and that understanding is necessary to our salvation. Notice the following passages together,

I must conclude that one does not believe in God unless he believes in Him as our creator and one cannot even seek after Him unless he does believe that.

We also might note in passing an interesting fact on the above passages that speak of God's creating or making the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. Two verbs in one passage, Hebrews 11:3, are perfect tense indicating an act in past time with existing result. The rest of the passages have Aorist verbs that identify punctiliar or point action rather than continuous or repeated action. Since it is the creative week that is identified in these passages, it is so identified as an act or event. If the creation week was spread over four billion years, a continuing, progressive process, a different form of the verb would be required. This will become even more apparent in the next section.

(3) I have heard several times over the past nearly fifty years of preaching, someone saying something like, "I believe in Christ but I don't believe those stories in the O.T. such as the flood, Jonah and the fish, and the like." The answer to that is clear. One cannot believe in Christ and deny such things happened. You deny what Jesus said and you make Him a liar.

Jesus said that the flood happened, Matthew 24:37-41, and Noah entered the ark, just as the Old Testament records. Jesus also insisted that the story of Johah was true, Matthew 12:39-41, Luke 11:29-32. But, we must go to the Old Testament, to Genesis and Jonah, in order to understand what the story of Noah and the flood and Jonah and the fish are all about. I predict we will find out in time that some of the leaders in this Bible/evolution compromise don't believe in a world wide flood, either.

Jesus also put his stamp on the creation of Genesis 1. So much in the New Testament, The Truth, even redemption, is based on that miracle of God. Jesus said in Mark 10:6,

Brother Couchman says in regard to the point on this passage used in the Open Letter:

I'm sorry but brother Couchman has missed it; there is no contradiction. The phrase, "from the beginning of the creation" places the creation of man and woman in the creation week. Notice II Peter 3:3-6,

The phrase, "from the beginning of the creation" is exactly the same in both Greek and English as that in Mark 10:6. Here, Peter picks up with the claim of the mockers and applies it to the very first day of creation! Mark 13:19 says,

Notice how it is worded - "from the beginning of the creation which God created." That identifies creation week.

One could as well have said that from the beginning of the creation God "brought forth grass and herb yielding seed," though that was the third day of creation week. The phrase is comparable to saying, as some passages do, "the beginning" or "in the beginning." The parallel of Mark 10:6 is Matthew 19:4 that just reads "from the beginning." So, "from the beginning of creation" and "from the beginning" mean the same thing. John 1:1-3 says, "In the beginning ... all things were made through him." Day six was the beginning just as day one was the beginning. And, we have not yet exhausted the passages on this subject.

Brother Couchman's position says there could have been billions of years between the earth being compacted out of water and amidst water and the creation of man and woman; his "beginning" covers billions of years. While not telling us just how long it has been since creation, the Bible will not allow for that much time for the history of the universe. Modern evolution places the appearance of man billions of years after the formation of the universe and appearance of life on the earth; so do theistic evolutionists among us. However, the entire history of the earth, as is that of the Bible, is human history!

Seeing Jesus referred to the creation, just like His reference to Noah and Jonah, we must go to the Old Testament to find out what that means. Let's begin with Exodus 20:9-11,

The six days of the Israelite's labor corresponds exactly with the six days of creation. They are all the same length. God rested on the seventh day and gave that weekly day as the day of rest from labor for Israel. The language is clear. Genesis 2:1-3 says,

Was this "day" that God blessed and sanctified five hundred million years in length, or longer? To ask the question is to answer it. This was a twenty-four hour day that God blessed and sanctified, and so His day of rest from creation was a twenty-four hour day as well. And, that being so, the six days of creation were of the same length. Let's add to these facts, the information in Genesis 1. Verses three to five say,

Whatever this condition was, and we have no way of visualizing conditions at this stage of creation, it is presented in language we can understand. Light and dark, night and day, evening and morning are all terms that relate to a twenty-four hour day. Notice that God spoke and it happened! Here is Psalm 148:4-5.

Look at the power of God. All he had to do, which he did, was to command it to be and it was created. No wonder then that God simply said, "let there be light and there was light." Now look at Psalm 33:6-9 that brother Couchman makes light of,

Note that last sentence; it is a fact repeated several times in Genesis 1. Brother Couchman asserts that verse 7 proves that a "literal-scientific" meaning is the only possibility and that counters the fact that God spoke things into existence, immediately. Now, who is getting dogmatic? That "He gathered the waters of the sea together as a heap; he layeth up the depth in storehouses" uses a couple of figures to say the oceans were settled in their own places. The Bible says that fact more than once. Where is any indication that God spoke and then it took five hundred million years to happen? Where does it indicate that God commanded something to be done and it took a billion years to be done? In warning the people He is not to be trifled with, the I AM reminds them of His power in Isaiah 48:3,

He only had to speak ("went forth out of my mouth"). He said it and it came to pass just as He spake and it was done, and He commanded it and it stood fast, and He commanded and they were created, suddenly. Or as it is in Genesis 1, "God said" let there be and there was! Add to all this the fact that the plants were created on day three but the sun giving light onto the earth didn't appear until day four. Even "natural science" will not accept plant life thriving for millions of years without sunlight.

Add to this information on how old Adam was. On the sixth day, God created animals, beasts, creeping things. He then created man and the garden of Eden where He placed man. He then created Eve, Genesis 1:24-2:25. That was the end of God's creation and He rested. Genesis 3 records the temptation and fall of man. Adam and Eve were then cast out of the garden. Let's assume it was midday on the sixth day that man was created. If that day was millions of years in length, we find another contradiction with scripture. Genesis 5:1-2,5 says,

The most of Adam's life was spent following creation. Yet, he lived to be 930 years old. The words "day," "days," and "years" in these passages mean solar days and solar years. If Adam was created even midday of the sixth day, it would make him millions of years old instead of what the Bible says of him. There is no way that the sixth day, and seventh day, could have been billions of years long!

(4) Further, consider the important subjects noted in the New Testament that are based on Creation.

Couple these passages with all of the teaching on the nature of man and the scheme of redemption and we see the pivotal and doctrinal place that creation has in the Bible. In order to understand the place creation has in these and other important doctrines, one must go back to the creation account in Genesis to know what that means. And, we must get the account in Genesis correct.

The Evidence of Nature?

Brother Couchman reveals to us the real influence on his point of view. It isn't what the Bible says but rather trying to make the Bible more acceptable to those who want to hold on to evolution. Regardless of what final form it takes, it is looking at and interpreting the scriptures through the lens of modern evolution. The hypotheses of evolution become the determining factor in what the Bible says; the Bible must conform to evolution. Brother Couchman says,

Science has no way of determining anything about creation and the conclusion of billions of years is an assertion based solely on atheistic evolution assumptions, a belief system. All evolutionary conclusions are based on assumptions mixed with a few facts. The facts alone cannot sustain the conclusions without the assumptions. Hebrews 11:3 says,

Scientists think they can pinpoint, visually, mechanically, technologically or otherwise the origin of the Universe. They think they can see the leftovers of the cataclysm that caused it, the gasses and other matter from which our solar system and other objects came. All of this, they say, can be determined by natural sources and observation. Hebrews 11:3 says no! The words "framed" and "made" are perfect tense verbs, indicating a past act with existing results. On the other hand, the words "seen" and "appear" are present tense and mean just exactly as translated. They mean that what we observe in the universe has not been made out of things which appear to us. What is it again that Romans 1:20 says?

What we can observe in this universe about creation is the creator and his everlasting power and divinity and that's it. Natural "evidence" will tell us nothing about the process of creation and to allow a modern evolutionary hypothesis determine what we believe about the Bible puts us on dangerous ground.

Remember the old question, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" When Adam was formed from the dust of the ground and the created spirit placed within him, he was a fully functioning adult human with all of his physical organs intact. It was as though he had been taken from the womb and grew to maturity. But, he did not; he never had a childhood. I don't know if God gave him a navel or not, but he wasn't born. God created the plant life on the third day fully matured. Trees were created with fruit on the limbs. The trees were as they would have been if a seed had been planted and they had grown to that stage of maturity. They had the fruit with seed in them to produce other trees just like them. Being created mature, they had growth rings as though they had grown from a seed to maturity, Just like Adam had an adult, fully functioning physical body; Adam appeared to be much older than he was.

In the same way, when everything was put together that creation week, the universe was a fully functioning universe, which made it old in appearance only. Genesis 1:16 says,

The light from stars could be seen on earth at the time of their creation just like the sun. It did not take millions of years for the light to finally reach earth. Like Adam, like the trees, it was created as though the light had traveled millions of years to get here. It was a fully functioning universe set up for man and his future on the earth. The universe may appear to be billions of years old, but it is not.

Now, brother Couchman asks us where the danger lies in his position, and he thinks we shouldn't reject something just because of where it might lead. The first danger is in going beyond the word of God. Whenever that happens, it then opens the door to more error. I have seen firsthand many instances of people opening the wrong door and never getting it closed again. But, just on the surface of the matter, the Bible warns that "bad companions corrupt good morals," and "make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof." That involves getting into the wrong company and going places that will get one into trouble. We warn our children about these very things because we know where they will lead. Never take up with the bad companions and stay away from some places because they are very likely to lead you astray. Likewise, I have seen apostasies begin with relatively innocuous things, but it just slowly changes to more serious things until there is total apostasy. Some preachers who were sound fifty years ago are now either atheists or in full fellowship with denominationalism. Others have gone back into the world of fleshly ungodliness. They started on their road to apostasy with only small changes in the wrong direction. One does not jump from soundness to apostasy overnight. Accepting an evolutionary model for the days of creation is not only departure from the truth, it dangerously leads to other denials of the Bible. Will the virgin birth be next?

Brother Couchman thinks that a literal stand on Creation makes us look foolish to people in the world and keeps us from converting them. So, we need to compromise with evolution. Shall we compromise with homosexuality next, because they and their widespread defenders in our society think we are foolish to take a stand against their practices? How about fornication? drunkeness? When Paul preached the gospel to the Athenians in Acts 17, many ridiculed what he said. They thought he was foolish. Should he have softened the blow and compromised with pagan thought? Where will we stop if we take brother Couchman's philosophy?

In the eighteen hundreds, and before, critics of the Bible claimed the Bible was wrong because it recorded people and places that just didn't exist. They said that Pilate never existed. They thought Bible believers were ignorant and foolish people. In every instance, the critics have been proven wrong. It just took time for the evidence to appear. Ferrell Jenkins used to tell his students, and all of us, that when someone proposes a conflict between the Bible and what they think they see, stay with the literal Bible text. It has always been proven to be true. Thata was good advice.

Brother Couchman thinks that instead of spending time and effort on issues like this one, we should be converting people. He assumes that we are not doing that. But, the job of preachers goes beyond just reaching the alien sinner. Paul told Timothy, an evangelist, in II Timothy 4:1-4,

Evolution is a fable, a fiction claiming to set forth facts, which defines what a fable is. We are doing our job, brother Couchman, on all levels.

Fellowship

Brother Couchman has taken a unity in diversity position that opens the door to any position on any subject, whether he realizes that or not. He has tried to make the same distinctions that Ketcherside and others have made between "gospel" and "doctrine." Better leave that alone, brother Couchman. Start that and I know where you will wind up. There have been too many people before you who have done it. I'm convinced that when the surface is fully scratched that we will find the "new hermeneutic" is at the foundation of this present liberal tendency.

No one who signed the Open Letter is attempting to cause division, which is why articles have been written and a call made for discussion of differences. Numerous attempts were made over the past year or more to resolve these matters privately. It didn't work. This is why the route of the Open Letter was taken, to force the issue into the open so it could be discussed. I'm sure brother Couchman doesn't want to stifle discussion nor opposition to error.

I have been hearing from several witnessess that some influential men are saying that the Open Letter is just a creed, put together by men who have been opposed to FC all along and just looking for something to jump on to. That kind of slander is the first defense of those who have no defense and don't want to make one. But, it doesn't surprise me. Instead of meeting the issue and discussing it, they prefer to sit back and make false accusations and slander their brethren. If anyone is working to break fellowship, brother Couchman, you had better take a good look at these brethren.

Three articles on fellowship are now posted at www.gospelanchor.com. I will not take the space to repeat any of that here.

I urge brother Couchman to take care in what he accepts from modern so-called science. What our natural senses perceive in the universe around us can be deceptive. It has happened before. The imaginative hypotheses palmed off as science by some scientists are not only unbiblical but contrary to fact. Paul said that the "foolishness of God is wiser than men." By creating a fully functioning universe in the way He did, it appears to those who don't want to accept the Bible record that evolution must be true. But, evolution is a lie. There are only two things in this matter from which to choose, God or evolution. You can't combine both into one. Contrary to what you think, brother Couchman, this is a faith issue - faith in God and faith in His word. And, I will caution you with what Jesus said to the Sadducees in Matthew 22:29, "You err, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God." Don't fall into that trap.