Monday, April 11, 2016

Creationist vs. Atheist or Christian vs. Christian?


Well guys, writing this was probably a bad idea, but here goes nothing.

There’s something I’ve been keeping silent about around certain people: Creationism. Not even because I don’t want to get into another tiresome debate, but because I’m afraid that if I express my opinion I’ll be looked down on. That’s because I believe in Old Earth Creationism (OEC), in contrast to the Young Earth Creationism (YEC) that is popular among many of the Christian conservatives I socialize with. Not to mention that I’m also very open to the idea of Theistic Evolution, though I’m still studying it for veracity. This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this publicly, but there are a few points I would like to present to those who may criticize my Christian walk based on my stance on Creationism. I speak not only for myself, but on behalf of similar Christians: according to Gallup statistics for 2014, a little over half of Americans believe that humans evolved over millions of years, with the majority specifying that God was involved in this process.



First, I’d like to say that I know many intelligent people who believe in YEC and I value their opinions and even look up to many of them as super cool people I can only dream of being like. I respect them, even though I do not agree with them on that particular issue, and many of them have returned that same respect to me, for which I am appreciative. Please understand that it is not my intention to generalize the attitudes those who believe in YEC, I am merely discussing a trend that has occurred in my personal experience. Indeed, I realize that YECs get bashed by various non-Christians all the time, so I’m not here to do that. However, that does present a parallel: while YEC’s desire not to be instantly pegged as stupid because of their beliefs, that is exactly what a few of them do to OEC’s. 

The problem stems from a false dichotomy: either you believe in YEC or you invalidate the gospel/are not a real Christian. All too often YECs cross the line from simply debating geology or Hebrew words to challenging an OEC’s commitment to God—or even personal insults and rude remarks. Aside from typical YouTube comment section attacks, a large amount of the unnecessary demonizing of those who believe in OEC or Theistic Evolution has come from Ken Ham and his organization, Answers In Genesis (AiG). For example, AiG writer Dr. Terry Mortenson has said that Theistic Evolutionists are “undermining the authority and reliability of the Word of God and subverting the gospel, despite sincere intentions to the contrary.” These are outrageous and unnecessarily antagonizing claims. Moreover, in the past Ham has been disinvited from multiple homeschooling conventions for comments towards OECs that were “ungodly,and mean-spirited statements that are divisive at best and defamatory at worst”. To illustrate, Ham wrote a Facebook post to “warn” homeschoolers not to be “led astray” by Peter Enn of the BioLogos Foundation—a Christian who believes in evolution and an old earth. Ham has even accused BioLogos of “shaking their fist at God’s Word” despite the fact that their website specifically states that they uphold the authority and inspiration of the Bible.

These are not isolated events but rather represent a maintained attitude from AiG. On forums, blogs, and even in person, OECs or Theistic Evolutionists are often accused of conforming to secular ideas, compromising to please the world, and undermining the Gospel. Ham has called astrophysicists Dr. Hugh Ross (who believes in an old earth, but not macro evolution) "an enemy of biblical authority" and and has stated that Dr. Ross "twists the Bible." Ham even goes so far as to state, "We have written a number of articles on the AiG website to warn people that compromising God’s Word in Genesis is an authority issue, a gospel issue, and, indirectly, a salvation issue."


These inflammatory statements that alienate fellow Christians serve to exemplify the type of behavior I have encountered not only from people like Ken Ham or Kent Hovind (admittedly, Hovind is low hanging fruit when it comes to critique) but from casual conversations or online forums. I've even had a professor get rude and snarky with me in a casual discussion over the age of the earth.

Another argument centers on the validity of the Gospel. The typical argument is thus: “What?! You think the earth is billions of years old? The Bible clearly states it is only 6k years old. If you undermine that you’re undermining the gospel.” This argument is nothing less than a fear tactic based on a slippery slope fallacy. The weird thing? People who says these things often do not even hold this standard consistently. This type of argument is not nearly as commonplace in other points of conflict, such as if—according to the Bible—piercings are allowed, divorce is ever okay, church should be held on Sunday or Saturday, or if all dogs go to heaven. I mean, conversations about most things never go like:

Joe: I think it’s fine for Christians to have ear piercings and stuff.
Jane: How dare you conform to worldly, secular ideology! Leviticus forbids it! And if you say Leviticus is wrong then you don’t believe the Bible is infallible, so that means you think everything in the Bible is a lie! You’re not a Christian!
Joe: Wait, I don’t think Leviticus exactly meant what you’re thinking, actually I read that—
Jane: I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I’ve got to warn people about you. You’re dangerous!



I doubt you’ve heard many conversations like the above about topics OTHER than Creationism...it would be laughable! I guess my point is that some biblical disagreements are worth getting in a tizzy over and some aren’t, because some issues are foundational to salvation and others are not.  Scholars are continually learning more about the culture and language of Biblical times, and there is much more study in many areas of academics to be done before we can comprehensively understand God’s word. Just because the Bible is inerrant doesn’t mean our interpretation of it is infallible. Some issues are easier to understand than others and that’s okay, because the main point of the Bible is clear: God loves his children and Jesus died for their sins so that they could be with him in Heaven. Let’s focus our energy on getting that message out, instead of tearing down those who disagree with us on minor issues. Really, can we not make this a salvation issue? I don’t ever want to hear someone say, “I like the Gospel message but if I have to believe humans rode dinosaurs to be a Christian, I guess I can’t get saved.” (No, not all YEC perspectives involve people riding dinosaurs. But some do!)


Still not convinced that a person can believe in OEC or Theistic Evolution without being “compromising?” Let’s see what evangelist Billy Graham has to say on the subject:

“I don’t think that there’s any conflict at all between science today and the scriptures. I think that we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and we’ve tried to make the Scriptures say things they weren’t meant to say, I think that we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course I accept the Creation story. I believe that God did create the universe. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man. … whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man’s relationship to God.”  Billy Graham: Personal Thoughts of a Public Man, 1997. p. 72-74



My final comments:
1.      If you discount people’s intelligence or faith because they are OECs or Theistic Evolutionists, please reconsider.
2.      If don’t do that: you’re awesome, thanks for that! Encourage your friends to be more like you!

(Note: This post is not about science or interpreting Genesis, so I’m not going to debate about that in the comments.)


Suggestions for further study: TBN: Age of Creation Panel  and John Ankerberg: The Great Debate

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3 comments:

  1. I very much enjoyed this article. Your thoughts on this topic are very similar to my own. I see no conflict between science and religion. Science gives us a partial look at how God does things. Religion is the guide for living. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on Gods communication with people and how you view non Christian religions.

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