Why Our Interpretation of Genesis is So Important

Justin Taylor recently pointed to an interesting discussion between two scholars on the interpretation of Genesis 1.  Considering his post generated 61 comments, I think it's safe to say that this is a "hot button" issue.  But does it really matter all that much?  After all, does our interpretation of Genesis and whether or not we believe in a literal, six day creation make all that much difference in gospel ministry to this world?  And what are we to do with all these new, scientific views on Genesis?  Here's my twin brother, Mark Wolter's response:

Now how are we to scientifically interpret such a silly looking text as Genesis 1-11? We've got talking snakes, a big boat that carries two of every living kind of animal, worldwide floods and, oh yeah, God finishing his creation in six short days... (days and nights written in just for added clarity!) This looks hard... Before we rush in to let "science" reinterpret what seems to be the plain reading of the text let's consider:

What are the foundational doctrines that have begun to be developed in those first 11 chapters? I have chosen just 5, since they are simply the first to come to my mind. Following them are honest and humble questions I have for you or anyone who is willing to think about this with me:

The Foundations of 5 Key Doctrines in Genesis 1-11:

1. Sin and the Curse - How could there be millions of years of death before Adam's sin? How could the world and everything in it be called, "good" and "very good" by God if it was (from the beginning) laced with disease, suffering and death - for millions of years before Adam even came into the situation? Why is the creation groaning to be set free (Romans 8:19-25) if it was created suffering before sin even entered the picture?

2. Complimentary Manhood and Womanhood: If this is a figurative/poetic text, what do we do with the very precise and key doctrines that are shaped for us here about men and women and personhood in general? Are they figurative as well? Why or why not?

3. Universal Judgment: How can the coming judgment of the entire world have any significance if Noah's flood did not cover and judge the whole world? (2 Peter 2:5) How could the flood have so much significance to Jesus and Peter (in particular) if it was merely a local flood? Why would they continue to stress, "the whole world"? (Luke 17:27, Mt. 24:38)

4. Redemption: How could the first pillar of redemptive history be laid without a literal Adam and Eve? (Gen. 3:21) How could Romans 5:12-18 make any sense without a real Adam, in a real garden, with a real tree in the middle of it?

5. The Trinity: The first clear statement regarding the Trinity is in Gen. 1:26 as God shows that he is a plurality and yet a singular God. If we take the word, "our" figuratively or poetically, why should we believe in a Trinitarian God? Isn't this just being too literal?

The Integrity, Believability of the Bible: This is really what the issue comes down to for me. Why should we believe that the N.T. material be taken objectively or at face value if that is not what we are expected to do for the first and foundational book of the Bible - where we see the introduction of the Creator, the Creation, Sin and the Curse, the Trinity, the coming Judgment, and the Redemption through Christ? A recent study shows that this is where many kids from Christian homes start to fall away from the gospel. The foundations are so shaky. The Sunday school stories (O.T. and N.T.) are some real whoppers and churches are not giving good answers as to why I should trust the stories or take them at face value.

So, you see, for me it all comes down to Christ and preserving the pure gospel of God from Genesis to Revelation. I am open to your rebuke and help. Please help me to see my errors if you see any glaring at me. I am wanting to approach this whole issue with a humble heart. I admit that may indeed be wrong. But I have studied the Bible and the scientific data enough to think that I am not overlooking the importance of this issue. In my mind it is foundational.

Thank you for your refining questions and thoughts (and prayers).