Is Genesis literal? Does judgement happen on earth?

I have two questions. Which I have been asked and don’t know how to answer. I am not a quick thinker. Is genesis an allegory or is it literal?

If God is loving shouldn’t abortion be the best thing for the child, since it would go to heaven? If we live our lives then we have the chance to mess up and not choose God. What is the purpose of being on earth? If God is loving shouldn’t we end up in heaven. Why would He die on the cross for just a handful of people? Aren’t we all ready living the consequences of our sins/judgement out on earth? Why should a loving God go on punishing us? Thank you!

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Is Genesis literal?

One principle of Bible interpretation is that the simplest, most natural reading of a text should be favored over a more fantastic interpretation.

The more elaborate the explanation, the less likely the hypothesis - the more elegant the explanation, the more likely the hypothesis.

In philosophy, this principle is known as Occam’s Razor.

To take Genesis as non-literal is to open it up to endless fantastic interpretations. That is why both Jews and Christians have historically taken it as literal.

Of course, symbolic images in dreams or visions do occur within the story - but they are usually interpreted immediately in the text itself.

And events like the conflicts between Cain and Abel or Ishmael and Isaac are used in the New Testament to make even broader spiritual points. But the New Testament never suggests that the original events themselves didn’t actually happen - on the contrary, it treats their historicity as the basis for the points being made.

I hope these thoughts will help you on that issue!

As for sending aborted babies to heaven, here is a quote by Pastor John Piper to think about: “The devils would gladly send millions of babies to heaven in order to make millions of murderers on earth.”


@j_bitty_17 Great questions :slight_smile: I’ll give two very simple answers to each of your questions, but just keep in mind that there is lots of complexity underneath the surface of these answers. I’ll also give you a bit more to ponder regarding Genesis 1.

  1. Genesis 1 describes an actual creation event—we know 100% that God did create the heavens and the earth—it is not just an allegory or a myth. However, there is still debate about the genre / form Genesis 1 uses to describe that event.
  2. Just as a coin minted by Rome belonged to Rome because it had the image of the emperor on it, we belong to God because we bear His image. Our purpose is to love, honor, and trust Him through whatever this life may bring—joy or suffering. We do not have the right to take our own life because it belongs to God and we do not have the right to deprive someone else of life because they are made in God’s image. God alone has the right to give or take away life. We are not to play God.

Genesis 1

Before we can decide how to understand Genesis 1, we need to clarify our terms.

allegory: a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one
literal: taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or allegory

Very few interpreters of any ilk claim that Genesis is allegory. However, saying that it is literal does not help us much. And here is why—the “most basic sense” of the text was different for ancient Hebrews than it is for us. They lived in another culture; thousands of years ago. So before we can understand the most basic sense of the text, we must understand their culture.

If we look at both concordist and noncordists’ views, we quickly see that it is not literal vs nonliteral. Rather, the question is what the “most basic sense” of the text should actually be…

Concordist views hold that the creation actually occurs in the same order listed in Genesis 1. Non-concordist views do not require that the actual creation of the world occurred in the same order. Here is a table giving a brief summary of some of the major concordist and non-concordist interpretations.


Hi JoEllen,
This is an interesting question joining God’s love with murder. Did a friend ask this question of you? I hope you don’t mind if I break down the thoughts a little?

So this person is suggesting that the best thing for people is to not live at all and go straight to heaven? Is there a reason we can’t carry this logic to all future people on the planet? Why not enact this as a new policy now, so that all babies to go straight to heaven to avoid the possibility of not accepting Christ as Saviour.

My understanding of this person’s train of logic is

  • God is loving
  • therefore, existing humans should terminate all new human life to eliminate possible people that may not come to God

we’ve forgotten one thing in the middle of our train of thought; God’s command to not murder. And as Sean mentioned humanity is made in God’s image.

Perhaps a section of a book shared a while ago might speak to this area? I thought the second paragraph was quite interesting. Sean shared it from Phillip Yancey’s book when we were doing a book study on ‘Determined to Believe’ by John Lennox.

I have a book on my desk titled The Encyclopedia of Ignorance . Its author explains that whereas most encyclopedias compile information that we know, he will attempt to outline the areas of science that we cannot yet explain: questions of cosmology, curved space, the riddles of gravitation, the interior of the sun, human consciousness. I wonder if God has perhaps fenced of an area of knowledge, The Encyclopedia of Theological Ignorance for very good reasons. These answers remain in God’s domain, and God has not seen fit to reveal them.

Consider infant salvation. Most theologians have found enough Biblical clues to convince them that God welcomes all infants “under the age of accountability,” though the Biblical evidence is scant. What if God had made a clear pronouncement: “Thus saith the Lord, I will welcome every child under the age of ten into Heaven.” I can easily envision Crusaders of the eleventh century mounting a campaign to slaughter every child of nine or younger in order to guarantee their eternal salvation - which of course would mean that none of us would be around a millennium later to contemplate such questions. Similarly, the zealous conquistadors in Latin America might have finished off the native peoples for good if the Bible had clearly stated that God’s overlooking “the times of ignorance” applied to all who had not heard the name of Jesus.

Reading church history, not to mention reflecting on my own life, is a humbling exercise indeed. In view of the mess we have made of crystal-clear commands - the unity of the Church, love as a mark of Christians, racial and economic justice, the importance of personal purity, the dangers of wealth - I tremble to think what we would do if some of the ambiguous doctrines were less ambiguous.

Our approach to difficult issues should befit our status as finite creatures. Take the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, taught in the Bible in such a way that it stands in unresolved tension with human freedom. God’s perspective as an all-powerful being who sees all of history at once, rather than unfolding second by second, has baffled theologians and will always baffle theologians simply because that point of view is unattainable to us, even unimaginable by us. The best physicists in the world struggle to explain the multi-directional arrows of time. A humble approach accepts that differences in perspective and worships a God who transcends our limitations.

Hyper-Calvinist show what happens when we seize prerogatives that no human can bear. Thus Malthusians opposed vaccination for smallpox because, they said, it interfered with God’s sovereign will. Calvinist churches discouraged early missionaries: “Young man…when God pleases to convert the heathen, He’ll do it without your help or mine,” they told William Carey, ignoring the obvious fact that we are the ones chosen by God to carry the good news worldwide. After Calvin drew a solid line between the elect and the reprobate, his followers then inferred that we humans can discern who falls on which side of that line. The Book of Life belongs in the category of “theological ignorance,” something we cannot know and for which (thankfully) we must trust God. …More and more, I am grateful for that ignorance, and grateful that the God who revealed Himself in Jesus is the one who determines the answers.

this statement has forgotten that human’s were created with free will. To quote Ravi Zacharius here.

I position the sequence of fact and deduction in the following way: Love is the supreme ethic. Where there is the possibility of love, there must be the reality of free will. Where there is the reality of free will, there will inevitably be the possibility of sin. Where there is sin, there is the need for a Savior. Where there is a Savior, there is the hope for redemption. Only in the Judeo-Christian worldview does this sequence find its total expression and answer. The story from sin to redemption is only in the gospel with the ultimate provision of a loving God.

My understanding is that Christ did not die on the cross for a handful of people. He died for the whole world; including those that reject Him. John 3:16

Hmm, good question; I guess we need to separate natural consequences from the legal issue of sin. Consider if I commit a serious crime against another person; say murder as an example. The natural consequences of this would be the pain and suffering of the family of the victim; and my guilt and shame. Through Christ, God has forgiven us the legal debt owed between us and God because of our sin; but we still have to deal with the consequences of our actions. Not sure I’ve addressed this question properly…

so, a person that rejects God their whole life, should be forced against their will to reside in Heaven with God for eternity? if a person reject’s God and wants nothing to do with Him; God will honor a person’s free will choice to reject Him and gives them what they want ; existence without God.

hopefully some helpful thoughts… ? are you in conversation with a fellow believer with these questions, or a person who is/has rejected God, or a person who is seeking answers to difficult questions?

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Matthew, thank you so much for giving such a thoughtful and thorough answer to my questions! You did understanding them correctly. The discussion has been between my husband and I. I just don’t always know how to answer these differing view points, and if he is bringing them up than other are likely to as well. Thank you for your time! JoEllen