Why would Christians be hostile to biblical creation?
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?
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.
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.
Creation Ministries International