In Northern Kentucky, a 75,000 square-foot museum boasts exhibits and merchandise that celebrate and emphasize the “young earth” argument that insists on a literal interpretation of creation’s seven days. The museum employs over 300 workers and receives hundreds (or even thousands) of visitors daily. It cost founder Ken Ham over $27 million to develop…however, that amount is pocket change compared to the $100 million spent on the sister museum, a life-size replica of Noah’s ark that also sings the 6,000-year-old earth story…
On the other end of the time spectrum, the End Times industry conducts a booming business, with books, films, websites and studies bringing in millions for their followings. On top of that revenue sits the money and effort spent on making preparations for a grand apocalypse. Concerned believers have done everything from stock-piling nonperishable food to purchasing weapons.
So why all this fuss? Why do we pour time, effort, and funding into questions of beginnings or endings or details? Why do we grow so terribly upset and contentious over dates that we simply cannot know for sure? Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with research, and a bit of speculation or curiosity certainly never hurts. The problem is that focusing so much on minutiae can block our concentration on more important elements of our faith.
When we discuss denominational differences or debate ethical theories, there are always multiple sides and specifics to examine. Usually, we tend to come to an understanding of what sorts of things are major “deal breakers” and what we can overlook somewhat. All too often we invest effort and attention on things that are not essential to faith. We know that the Bible is the word of God. It is alive and active, profound and powerful, and every word of it is true:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. -Hebrews 4:12
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
-2 Timothy 3:16-17
However, we can know and believe this truth, but not necessarily take every word of the Bible literally. Certain elements we know not to interpret literally (i.e. poetry, like the Song of Solomon). And some things we recognize as meant for another time, place and people. Consider, for example, the Old Testament rules, regulations, and restrictions, which were later supplanted by Christ:
Anyone who touches something unclean—whether human uncleanness or an unclean animal or any unclean creature that moves along the ground—and then eats any of the meat of the fellowship offering belonging to the Lord must be cut off from their people.’” -Leviticus 7:21
And we know that specific words and meanings can vary according to translation and background. None of these considerations detract from the authenticity and veracity of the Bible. Nothing is added, subtracted, or changed. These are essential truths. The lordship of Christ, the Holy Trinity, the forgiveness of sins…those are faith basics that cannot be ignored or denied. But the number of hours in a “day” of creation? The timing of the Second Coming? Are details like that necessary to engage in a life of faith now?
So how should we distinguish and approach the most critical elements? We can start by recognizing that we do not always have all of the answers…in fact, some things only God knows:
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. -Matthew 24:36
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. -1 Corinthians 4:5
We also know that God wants us to focus on the here and now. Sure, we can make our plans and be prepared, but it does us no good to dwell on either the past or the future. Christ calls and commands us to look at what IS, not what was or what will be.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. -Matthew 6:33-34
The first and foremost concern of our souls must be God’s kingdom. We want to work to build up and bless His people. Sure, we can do that in multiple ways and situations. And there is nothing wrong with a friendly debate or a bit of research or theorizing…so long as we keep our eyes focused on the ONE thing that matters first and foremost. For the cost of the “Understanding the End Time” DVD set (created by Irvin Baxter), Heifer International could provide a needy family with a goat, for nourishment and revenue. And the price of parking and admission to the Ark Encounter could provide 200 meals to community food bank recipients.
This is not to say that anything is inherently wrong with studying details, visiting museums, or believing that the earth is young or old or flat or round (well, that could become problematic as far as astronomy is concerned…). But the danger emerges when our emphasis on the details gains precedence and importance over the commandments to love God, serve God, and care for our neighbor. We can devote incredible amounts of time, money, and efforts into arguing over the non-essentials; but does that really matter in the end? Can others be saved because we offer proof of things we cannot even fully understand? The most important thing is to seek first the kingdom of God. Love Him and pray today. Love others today. Do that, and the rest will fall into place.