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Why would Christians be hostile to biblical creation?

Published: 13 July 2014 (GMT+10)

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Sadly, it is often the case that the people most hostile to biblical creation are not non-Christians but professed Christians who believe in deep time and/or evolution. Young-age creation is not exactly a new view in church history (it was the practically unanimous belief of the church until the 19th century!), and it’s easy to see how it can be deduced from the Bible. And yet deep-time Christians often treat young-age creationists as if they cannot read the Bible or a science textbook. Why is this? CMI’s Shaun Doyle explores some possible reasons why.

M.A. from Australia writes:

I ask a question, why is it that fellow Old-Earth Christians seems to have some kind of a hostile behaviour towards us Biblical creationists? I read one comment and I saw a complete nonsense. This, a Christian commenter, accuses us of offending hard-working scientists in the lab (we also do research for our own), quote mining (Yes, it happens, but let us not do it further), a somewhat unsubstantiated claim that scientific papers show that DNA information arose from experiment and so on. Such a serious accusation. I believe he is from [a long-age Christian] website. Sigh, why can’t old-earth Christians see us a brother in Christ? We’re not your enemy. Plus, do creationists really quote-mine?

CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

Dear Mr A.,

It’s really a tough question to answer, because we don’t have access to the psychology of every old-age Christian. For some thoughts on the matter, please see Loving the Bible too much?

People will often tolerate a ‘wrong’ opponent, but rarely will they tolerate an ‘irrational’ one.

I suspect that there are other reasons as well. For instance, like the rest of academia, many would consider the young-age position not simply to be false, but irrational in the light of ‘modern science’. People will often tolerate a ‘wrong’ opponent, but rarely will they tolerate an ‘irrational’ one. For instance, consider what we might feel about Holocaust deniers or flat-earthers. In fact, that is why biblical creationists are often lumped with both groups—belief in biblical creation is thought to be as irrational as belief in a flat earth or a denial of the Holocaust.

However, the problem is compounded for the old-age Christian because a ‘face value’ reading of Old Testament history (especially, but not limited to, Genesis 1–11) gives the unmistakeable impression that it contradicts the deep time story in countless ways—e.g. that the universe is only c. 6,000 years old, that death and suffering were not always a part of creation, and that most of the rock record is the result of a global Flood c. 4,500 years ago. In other words, there appears to be strong warrant for the ‘obviously irrational’ young-age position from what should be their own most cherished source (the Bible), which cannot be anything but an embarrassment for them since the position is ‘obviously irrational’. And when such people come across groups who promote this impression as exegetical and historical reality, embarrassment (that such a position can be plausibly justified from Scripture) and contempt (that someone would hold such a position) can mix to create a hostile reaction. (See William Lane Craig’s intellectually dishonest attack on biblical creationists and ‘Billions of years’ makes Christians dumb (and atheists loud)).

For some, there could also be an element of the ‘convert syndrome’, where one develops a special animosity for a position they once held but have now rejected that makes one liable to ignore or dismiss inconvenient facts. This can happen with any position, even correct ones (it also happens among biblical creationists, and can be a source for bad arguments for good positions: Arguments we think creationists should NOT use). There are plenty of converts to old-earth Christianity who promulgate the same facile strawman arguments that pervade the deep-time Christian literature (of which they could be easily disabused with a quick search of the creationist literature—see e.g. No keeper’s brother). Converts from biblical creation have less excuse for this than those that have never believed in biblical creation, and yet they are often the worst culprits.

I wonder if it is even possible not to feel the heat of this debate once you appreciate it.

Another factor that often raises the ire of old-earth Christians is that biblical creationists often insist (correctly, in our view) that this issue directly impacts the integrity of the Gospel. That’s a serious accusation about their doctrinal stance that could potentially affect their eternal destiny (it doesn’t have to, but it can)! Even if we say that as tactfully and gently as possible and argue our case cogently, many (if not most) old-age Christians are still not going to like hearing it. What Christian would like hearing that their doctrine destroys the integrity of the Gospel?

Put all of this together, and it is almost bound to produce a volatile situation at the best of times. The stakes are high in this debate, and that is reinforced by both sides of the debate—one position or the other is woefully misguided in practically every field imaginable (science, history, philosophy, theology, exegesis), and to top it off is a blight on church integrity. I wonder if it is even possible not to feel the heat of this debate once you appreciate it.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that there are some (even high-profile) old-earth Christians who have been respectful in their dealings with biblical creationists (see ID theorist blunders on Bible). We disagree, and the disagreements are not minor, but the debate has typically been civil.

As to the accusation of ‘quote mining’, please see Responses to our 15 Questions: part 1 (objection 5). Some quotes commonly used among biblical creationists have indeed been taken out of context (please see Arguments we think creationists should NOT use for the example of Darwin’s quote about the absurdity of eye evolution from Origin of Species). However, most are legitimate quotes of hostile witnesses—everybody knows that despite the specific concession about a weakness in evolution or deep time which a quote might provide, the person still believes in evolution and deep time. In fact, that is precisely the point—even someone committed to the deep time paradigm acknowledges the quoted problem.

Kind regards,

Shaun Doyle
Creation Ministries International

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Readers’ comments
J. B., Australia, 13 July 2014

Accusing us creationists of quote mining appears to be a great sport for atheists and others, to the point that we can be nervous about using any quotes at all. But perhaps a good definition of quote mining might include: using a quote out of context. So, as long as we use our quotes within context, we should be on solid ground - especially if we can show that we are using the right context, and we might explain this about the definition of 'quote mining'. It might also be helpful to remember, and perhaps gently point out another great atheist sport - quote mining the Bible!

Gabriël S., South Africa, 13 July 2014

It is tragic that self-acclaimed 'christians' see fit to accommodate an old-earth creation in lieu of the fact that it effectively negates the gospel and hence the dire need for salvation. the question arises if you can at all spell that 'christian' with a capital C. if you are a German citizen, very well, by all means use a capital G, but if you are not and only are able to speak the language and per chance eat Bratwurst and drink beer, you are still what you are, it does not make you a German...

Rich W., United States, 13 July 2014

The article charitably assumes that Christians who challenge Creationism are truly Christians.

I propose that the greatest concentrations of deep time/evolution-believing "Christians" are among churches, or at least beliefs, that have fallen away from the Gospel and from faith that God is God.

Not all who follow both scientism and the gospel are lost, but the position does wave a warning flag. If we weigh the relative importance of Creationism and salvation, we may conclude that the greater need is the gospel rather than an argument over science.

Of course, if Genesis is a stumbling block to faith, we may need to address it in order to open a door to addressing the gospel.

John F. K., United States, 13 July 2014

I am troubled by the fact that people I have read and respected for their coherent views on important issues and various Christian topics think young earth creationists are simply wrong, and they believe that holding to the "literal" biblical perspective does much damage in today's advanced, scientific, technological, non-primitive world. To them, I am a hindrance, a detriment, to the cause of Christ, and I should just become silent and get out of the way of Christian advancement. I am in need of local support and like-minded fellowship, but I have not yet found it.

Don J., United States, 13 July 2014

What was once called "documentation" is now dismissed as "quote mining" when arguing against evolution.

Cowboy Bob S., United States, 13 July 2014

Mr. Doyle made some good points, and what he called the "convert syndrome" applies to many areas. There are "former creationists" and "former Christians but never YECs" that prowl the Web like roaring lions, seeking someone to devour. They appeal to "reason" but are also condescending, telling us how much smarter they are than "literalist fundies". (By the way, William Jennings Bryan of the Scopes trial was a Fundamentalist, but did not believe in a literal six-day creation. What is a "fundie" to these people? It is probably just a pejorative that has little or no actual meaning.) Then they change from trying to convert us into simply attacking. People with any familiarity in logical fallacies can see right through this.

It amazes me at how hostile theistic evolutionists and others can become. When they visit our ministry's Page or creation/evolution discussion groups, it is difficult to tell TEs/OECs from atheists. (Perhaps those of us who believe what the Bible says in Genesis are not real Christians in their eyes, so they do not need to use John 13.35, but I am guessing.) Atheists often cozy up to TEs and OECs because they are more "moderate" and "sensible", but I believe it is because those compromising Christians are not that far from atheism, and far much less work to convert them.

Colin M., United States, 13 July 2014

From some of the comments above it appears that YECs are 'feeling the heat of the debate'. Its possible to be right and still be like the Pharisees. Let's not go there.

Victor B., Australia, 14 July 2014

A very thoughtful and accurate assessment of the issues and dynamics involved amongst Christians who differ in their views in this important debate. As a biblical creationist, I also get hurt by some fellow christians who like M.A. says ".... deep-time Christians often treat young-age creationists as if they cannot read the Bible or a science textbook." Nevertheless, I have to remind myself of who our real opponent is and the importance of upholding the truth of God's word in our thinking and living.

Olufemi B., Nigeria, 14 July 2014

I do not like pigeon holes. I am a Born again Christian who believes that a universe billions of years old is not incompatible with a creator who is the ancient of days, and for whom 'ten thousand ages is like an evening gone'. But I also oppose Macroevolution strongly. I am about to complete work on a book titled: "Evolution: what Dawkins did not tell you". This is a direct riposte to Dawkins' book titled "The greatest show on earth". God is beyond time and space and it does not detract from the wonders of creation whether or not the days of creation are literal (He could do it in six days or even six hours if He wanted!) or figurative. Remain blessed.

Shaun Doyle responds

Please see Common ground with old-earth creationists? and The Greatest Hoax on Earth?, our direct riposte to Dawkins' book The Greatest Show on Earth.

Phillip L., United States, 14 July 2014

I am not a scientist nor a theologian in any way or form, but it seems to a lay person like myself that: we only use approx. 3% of our brains (something like that) and yet all sides profess to have the only answers that make sense, and that when we get to Heaven we will be able to use 100% of our brain and we will have all the answers. So, that leaves me to do the one thing that Jesus told me to do: HAVE FAITH. I don't care how long it did or didn't take to get the job done or who can prove or disprove this or that. All I care is that God sent Jesus to give us a way to join them in Heaven and that is my bottom line.

Shaun Doyle responds

The same Jesus who said "have faith" also said "from the beginning of creation he made them male and female" (Mark 10:6). In other words, Jesus said God made humans male and female right at the beginning of the world (and he quoted Genesis 1:27 to prove it). Since you trust Jesus for eternal salvation, it should not be too much of an issue to trust him on basic history. See Jesus and the age of the earth.

Regarding our brain usage, the notion that we only use a small portion of our brains is false. We use all of our brains, though different parts are used more intensely in certain kinds of activities.

And finally, biblical faith is not blind. It is much like trusting a skydiving instructor when we jump out of the plane for our first ever sky dive. In both cases we are entrusting something of great value to someone else (our life (the instructor), or our eternal life (Jesus)), and we are venturing on an outcome we cannot control. But we are never doing so without reason. We don't evince our trust in the parachuting instructor by jumping out of the airplane just because we get a nice feeling about the instructor; we trust that he knows what he is doing, and will keep us safe. Trusting Christ for our eternal salvation is much like this; we trust him because we think we need salvation, we have evaluated his credentials on the matter (however summarily), and found him willing and able to save us. However, people object that deep time and evolution void Jesus' claims about himself and his mission; i.e. if deep time and evolution are true, then Jesus can't even get basic history right, so why should I trust him for eternal salvation? And we think this objection is right on target … except that we think evolution and deep time are false.

Doug L., United States, 14 July 2014

I have to say that this article is very timely for me since I just finished a week long exchange of posts with an Old Earther. All I could say at the end was "WOW"!

He would make statements like "CMI and AIG teach that being YEC is necessary for salvation" and "every position that you'll find on their websites is demonstrably wrong."

He actually tried to sell the idea that believing in a young Earth was damaging to the cause of Christ! And he seemed to actually believe that. This person continually made erroneous statements and mischaracterizations of the Young Earth position and those who defend it. When I corrected him, and showed him he was wrong do you know what his response was? He ignored what I said, didn't respond, and shifted ground to something else!!! It was exactly the same kind of tactic used by secularists.

This person was an excellent spin-meister and his ability to twist things to sell his position was almost breath-taking (in a negative way.) He even actually said I either don't understand science or else I was a liar!!!

The breadth and depth of his superciliousness, his haughty arrogance was amazing. My initial reaction to him was one of utter contempt. I reigned that in and tried to talk reasonably. I wonder if I should have stuck with contempt instead?

At any rate, this article hits the nail on the head. It's appalling that we have to face this kind of opposition from people who claim to belong to the body of Christ. I guess I'm in a state of shell shock. No wonder this seems like such an uphill battle.

Shaun Doyle responds

Dr Mark Harwood offers a really helpful perspective on dialoguing with skeptics in his article Anyone for tennis?

Robert T., United Kingdom, 14 July 2014

Does any YEC find, as I do, that many otherwise sound Christians, are hostile to any questioning of their acceptance of evolution, because they have reconciled the world view with the literal position of Genesis after much agonising. To reopen the subject, to them, is like re-opening an old wound. I realised this when leading a home group in our evangelical church when I was angrily told never to bring up the subject again. The retort was hastily added 'I suppose you also believe that people in the old testament lived for hundreds of years!' Thankfully, I have nevertheless, been able to arrange CMI presentations at our church, but sadly the long age folks just stay away and don't even want to hear or confront anything that would disturb their views. My own son, a Phd in seismology, bristles when the subject arises and dismisses it as 'bad science'. Before university, he was never hostile and we had many a debate about Genesis, but that was before I had the benefit of CMI's evidence based approach. I now pray he meets other scientists who are YEC's as he might just, please God, hear them out. The testimonies in your magazines and on the website prove that the Holy Spirit does break through to many, by God's good grace. Keep doing what you are doing! And keep praying what you are praying.

R. D., United Kingdom, 14 July 2014

Anyone who's spent 5 minutes in the creation-evolution thing knows this one only too well. Myself, I've seen anticreationists use the "quote-mining" ruse when they make it clear in the same sentence that they've never even read the piece which is being quoted from in the first place! Much of the time it's just a standard reaction any time a creationist produces a quote from an evolutionist - they don't even stop to think. The best way to deal with this is to challenge the person to quote the text either side of what you've quoted. If they can't do that, they're shown-up as the bluffers they mostly are. If they can and do, in the vast majority of the cases they'll just undermine the point they're attempting to make because the surrounding text only further emphasises what the creationist is saying.

And of course, often enough it's just an ipse dixit statement with no examples even offered. The best way to deal with that is always simply to ask them to produce an example. 90% (maybe more) of the time you do that I'd suspect the above can then be applied as the next step! (And sometimes they can't even do that.)

That said, this all-too-common accusation does emphasise the importance for us that we go and look quotes up ourselves - even when we've heard them from a fellow creationist. Often times when I've done that I've found that to quote more of the passage, further than is typically done, actually strengthens the point further still. A couple of examples are Richard Lewontin and Scott Todd's famous quotes on how any theistic scenario is simply ruled-out a priori in academic study of the physical realm - I often think we under-use their words!

Phil K., United States, 14 July 2014

@ Rich W.: I don't disagree with your comment, but I feel the need to illustrate an exception. I have a good friend who is an ER physician and was thoroughly convinced of Evolution and an Old Earth from medical school. He became a Christian after becoming a physician. I believe this is a growth process for him and his conversion is true. He exhibits many Christlike qualities. I believe it is only a matter of time before he accepts the literal Biblical account. But he has a lot of indoctrination to overcome and perhaps I and CMI are here for him. This is one personal account, I'm sure there are many more old earth creationists traveling the same road.

Dean M., United States, 14 July 2014

I believe cognitive dissonance is the reason for the anger of Christians who become angry at YEC: Supporting two contradictory views causes stress (Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance). I knew (and had discussions with) a theistic evolutionists who was adamant about it. I believe the stress was adversely affecting his health. He even said the YEC belief was of demonic origin (because non-christians ignored YEC Christians who they said were irrational et al.). When he accused me of being under demonic influence I told him not to make personal attacks like that, and he apologized.

I knew a Biologist who attended a video series at our church. It took several hard hits at evolution (on more than one video). While he would have been okay with one, he did not think it appropriate for there to be three or more doing that; I agreed with him. I told him I had no problem with using the taxonomy model for cataloging animals, explained my position and we did not argue (like the theistic evolutionist had done with me).

That is what is important: being courteous, developing a good relationship (etc.). When we had our small group discussion on the trinitarian view of God, I used the analogy of how a sea sponge can be shoved through a sieve, but will reassemble because there are three types of cells. He went into more detail (which helped him participate in the group).

I am logical by nature, training, and profession. My degrees are in Physics, and as a physicist I can defend the Scriptures against the modern day myth of evolution. (Try that last sentence on someone else and see what happens;).

Justin D., United States, 15 July 2014

I am a theistic evolutionist now I might get a lot of hate for believing in evolution but I am not gonna make this a debate about evolution in fact no debate at all. I would first like to say that in the article you ask why can't OECs respect YECs as brothers and sisters in Christ well most of the YECs that I have seen are very disrespectful to OECs and Theistic evolutionists such as Ken Ham with all due respect. Most of the YECs such as Ken Ham or Ray Comfort will boldly say that if you believe in an old earth or evolution you are an atheist and against God. Well I am not an atheist and I am not against God I love God and I go by his word. Now you also say in the article that the bible does teach a young earth but I would like to know exactly where the bible says that the earth is exactly 6000 years old? Because I have read the bible and the bible does not say how old the earth is exactly I am not saying it says the universe is billions of years old either. But I let God interpret it for me not man and you guys are letting man tell you what the bible says and not God and I am guilty of that to. I am not trying to be mean or militant or anything I am just saying, because I used to be one of you but I see no conflict between believeing in an old earth or evolution. My belief in evolution does not take away any belief in an historical Adam or historical Eve I still believe they existed like I believe Jesus existed which he did and I still believe Jesus rose from the dead. So if any of you are willing to have a normal calm logical and reasonable discussion I will be happy to have one.

God bless you all and may The Lord keep his hand of protection over you and may many blessings and peace come upon you in these troublesome times.

P.S. get ready for the return of Jesus he's coming quickly and we see all the signs happening. (Just saying LOL!!!)!

Shaun Doyle responds

Even if YECs were uniformly disrespectful, it does not follow that OECs and theistic evolutionists (TEs) should be. However, I wonder if OECs and TEs often mistake what is really a dire warning for disrespect. Sometimes it is not the delivery that gives offence, but the very position being asserted that gives offense. We believe deep time destroys the integrity of the gospel and the Bible. I think it's hard for any old-age Christian to accept graciously such a statement because it does question the integrity of their Christian faith.

Now, you believe in a historical Adam and Eve. That's good. However, there are TEs that don't, such as Francis Collins and many at BioLogos. And I would challenge you that your belief in a historical Adam and Eve contradicts your belief in evolution. In fact, it would contradict any belief that there are 50,000 year old anatomically modern human fossils, and in a very serious way: if humans were dying before Adam sinned, it breaks the causal link between sin and death, and thus undermines the salvific meaning of Jesus' death and resurrection. See Pre-Adamites, sin, death and the human fossils and The good news without the bad news is no news at all! for more information.

Susan P., Taiwan, 15 July 2014

Hi

I love to read Genesis and be blessed by dwelling on God's love for us and the unfolding of his ultimate plan of salvation.

I believe that Genesis gives us the background for understanding God's authority, our need for salvation, and God's plans for our redemption.

We need to remember though, that we are saved by Jesus' death and resurrection not because we have the correct understanding of Genesis. We are all of us sinners and I am sure not one of us has a complete and faultless understanding of all of scripture. Just as well we are saved by Grace not by passing a biblical knowledge exam!

With this in mind, we need to exercise humility when we talk to and about Christians with different views about any biblical topic, including Genesis. There can be rudeness, insensitivity and pride on both the Young Earth and Old Earth sides of this topic. I think we should bear this in mind when we are discouraged or offended by individuals with differing beliefs from ours.

This difference in beliefs is not between 'us' YECs with all the moral high ground, and 'them' Old Earth believers who are all always on the defensive and attack. It is between us fallen but saved sinners, and some other fallen but saved sinners.

My point is that while we ponder the behaviour of some who attack and offend us we shouldn't collectively condemn the behaviour of every one who disagrees with us. We must also constantly monitor our own words and actions, speaking only in a loving manner and forgiving those who offend us, just as we have been forgiven.

Shaun Doyle responds

We have consistently maintained that belief in six-day creation and a historical Genesis is not necessary or sufficient for salvation (see e.g. Do I have to believe in a historical Genesis to be saved?). Nor does having the correct view excuse us for having a petulant attitude towards those who disagree, especially Christians. But notice what I said:

Another factor that often raises the ire of old-earth Christians is that biblical creationists often insist (correctly, in our view) that this issue directly impacts the integrity of the Gospel. That’s a serious accusation about their doctrinal stance that could potentially affect their eternal destiny (it doesn’t have to, but it can)! Even if we say that as tactfully and gently as possible and argue our case cogently, many (if not most) old-age Christians are still not going to like hearing it. What Christian would like hearing that their doctrine destroys the integrity of the Gospel? [bold emphasis added]

In other words, the offense is often not in the way we state the implications of deep time belief, but in the implications themselves. In such cases, the only way we can avoid giving offense is to avoid being honest; clearly not an option for Christians (Ephesians 4:25).

Sas E., United Kingdom, 16 July 2014

Well not everyone who claims to be a Christian will enter the kingdom of heaven as Jesus said. Only God knows the heart and we may deceive ourselves but not God!

Shaun Doyle responds

True, but that's not our judgment to make. We should be as charitable as possible (which is not to say all-inclusive; I do believe e.g. saying that Jesus taught error from the Bible during his messianic campaign is contradictory to saving faith), but never play down the significance of the issues.

Larry L., United States, 16 July 2014

The answer to your question is straightforward.

Because of evolution, many people are predisposed to embrace religion and superstition through intuitive reasoning. We also form beliefs through "traditional" reasoning. Traditional reasoning can serve as an acid test for beliefs that are embraced by the intuitive process.

Religious people are simply hardwired to give more weight to the intuitive thinking process that is highly laced with emotions such as gratification. Yet not all religious people are wired to give the same importance to the intuitive process and they will seek a brand of religion that fulfills their emotional needs on the intuitive yet allow the religious belief to pass the acid test of traditional reasoning.

When compared to an "young earth christen" an "old earth christian" is simply a person with a weaker intuitive reasoning process yet not so weak that he or she forsakes religion. An atheist is a person that as a bit more mastery of intuitive reasoning on the emotional front.

Lastly, a person who is strongly emotionally pulled to an intuitive based belief yet does not embrace the belief because of logical reasoning (traditional reasoning) is an amazing person....very rare.

Shaun Doyle responds

If atheists have a comparative rational mastery over their emotions when compared to religious people, then why is atheism so irrational? Atheism denies objective moral values while raging against the evils of e.g. pedophile priests. But if evil exists, then objective moral values exist, which cannot be on atheism, from which it follows that atheism is false. Atheism is committed to one of either two absurd propositions about the physical world: that it always existed, or that it just popped into being without cause or reason. The first flies in the face of the laws of thermodynamics and posits an infinite regress, and the second is worse than magic! Atheists think we are nothing more than random or deterministic matter in motion—and don't see the incoherence of that notion.

Or are you one of those 'lack a belief in gods' atheists? If so, it doesn't matter; a skeptic's epistemic condition does not affect the truth value of the statement 'God exists'. Besides, there is plenty of reason to think God exists—that the universe exists (cosmological argument from contingency), that the universe had a beginning (Kalam cosmological argument), that objective moral values exist (moral argument), that intentional beings like us exist (argument from consciousness), that the universe is fine tuned for life (fine-tuning teleological argument), that natural laws are comprehensible with mathematics (another species of teleological argument), that life is amazingly designed (biotic teleological argument), and even that the very notion of a greatest conceivable being is coherent (ontological argument). And in all that I haven't even mentioned the Bible or Jesus, but it does show the Bible is right about a very important truth; nobody has a rational excuse for not worshipping God (Romans 1:19–20).

It is not the wise who says in his heart 'there is no God'; it's the fool (Psalm 14:1). Please see Christianity for Skeptics

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