The need for creation apologetics
Published: 19 June 2018 (GMT+10)
In my work with an apologetics ministry, I often interact with pastors in arranging talks and public discussions featuring various apologists and scholars. Though they are very keen when it comes to most subjects involving defence of the faith, there is often a distinct reluctance to having creationist ministry conferences and presentations. Several have told me they do not see the creation-evolution issue as relevant. Many such leaders overlook the fact that denial of biblical creation is one of the greatest obstacles to Christian faith facing the church today.
New study highlights the problem
Research published by the Barna Group in January 2018 showed that atheism among Generation Z—those born between 1999 and 2015—is double that of the general population.1 The researchers discovered that in addition to many teens embracing relativism and/or agnosticism about what is true and, particularly, what is true about God (His existence, how to acquire eternal life, etc.), nearly half of teens—and ‘millennials’ (a.k.a. Generation Y, those born between 1980 and 1999)—said they needed factual evidence to support their beliefs. When asked what they considered to be the greatest barriers to accepting the Christian faith, Barna found that two of the most common answers given by non-Christian young people, especially millennials, is (1) that science refutes too much of the Bible and (2) refusal to believe in ‘fairy tales’.
So, many non-Christian young people think that the scientific evidence does not support belief in the Bible. One reason for this is the constant stream of pro-evolution propaganda. Importantly, though, most (whether indoctrinators or the indoctrinated) fail to make the distinction between facts and their interpretation.
Facts vs interpretation
The late famous palaeontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science Stephen Jay Gould correctly noted: “Facts do not ‘speak for themselves’; they are read in the light of theory. … [Science is] not a mechanized, robotlike accumulation of objective information, leading by laws of logic to inescapable interpretation.”2 This is not to support the postmodern idea that truth is relative and every interpretation is equally valid. There is objective truth and therefore an objectively correct interpretation of each and every fact. But the question is, particularly when it comes to reconstructing the history of life on Earth, what is that correct interpretation?
An evolutionist looking at the fossil record (i.e., the observable fact), ‘sees’ (actually, interprets) it as a record of the evolutionary history of life from a universal common ancestor over billions of years. However, a creationist interprets the same facts as largely representing a vast sequence of rapid burial by a complex, cataclysmic global Flood. One can evaluate the validity of either creation or evolution by considering whether there are any observable facts that cannot be consistently interpreted within the worldview in question. If there were, for example, fossils crossing through multiple layers of rock supposed to have formed over millions of years, or fossil organisms found out of sequence of their supposed evolutionary history, or soft tissue found in the remains of organisms which supposedly died out ‘millions of years ago’,3 then the observable fossil record would be inconsistent with the evolutionary worldview (though such observations would be consistent with the creationist worldview). When confronted with such inconsistencies, each side constructs auxiliary hypotheses to explain the discrepancies. For example, the evolutionist might speculate that there must be some way that fragile organic molecules can last for millions of years longer than laboratory testing indicates.
We can evaluate these competing interpretive frameworks by examining the frequency and credibility of such ad hoc storytelling within each.
However, while resistance to having creation ministry persists within a church, how will young people even get to know about these issues? How will they discover that evolutionists have claimed an illegitimate monopoly on science by teaching that the facts unequivocally prove evolution is true, when the reality is that the evolutionary worldview is only one possible interpretation of the known facts; and a strained one at that. How, too, will they discover that there are many with high scientific qualifications who used to accept the evolutionary framework, but are now convinced that our current scientific knowledge is more consistently interpreted within the framework of the straightforward teaching of Genesis?
The importance of Genesis
But why is denial of biblical creation so detrimental to the Christian faith? For one thing, Genesis is logically foundational to every major Christian doctrine, including the Gospel message itself.
Consider the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the foundation of our faith and the historical centre of the Gospel of salvation and eternal life. Jesus and the Apostles took the Genesis creation account as historical fact. But if it is actually poetic allegory or religious myth, then the person and work of Christ is undermined—His work was to reverse the effects of Adam and Eve’s bringing sin and death into the world at the Fall.
Paul explains that “sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). In consequence, Jesus paid the penalty for sin on the cross and defeated death three days later in His resurrection, beginning the reversal of what Adam had done: “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19; cf. v. 21). “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21–22). This is why the Bible speaks of “the first man Adam” and Jesus is called “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45; cf. Romans 5:14). The historical work of the second Adam is dependent on the reality of the historical work of the first. Both Adams are essential for the Gospel message—even informed non-Christians recognize this.
Furthermore, consider the entire ‘big picture’ of the Gospel—a good world, ruined by sin, to be restored for all eternity through Jesus’ act on the Cross. It’s about more than one’s individual salvation. If the fossils do not represent the mass entombment of the pre-Flood world, but rather, as we are told, a tape recording of long ages showing death, disease, suffering and even cancer on a humongous scale before any people were present to rebel against God, what then? It would not only make God the author of death and suffering and having Him call it part of His “very good” creation (Genesis 1:31), but it would also mean that instead of a once-fallen, decaying world in bondage, groaning for its liberation and restoration (Romans 8:18-23), we have, we are told, a world which is continually evolving ever upwards and onwards. No wonder atheists like Richard Dawkins call those Christians who try to reconcile this to the Bible “barking mad”.4
It is also no wonder that ‘creation evangelism’ has such a powerful track record. The history recorded in Genesis concerning Creation, the Fall, the Flood, and even the dispersion from Babel, is key to answering the major science-related stumbling blocks to young and old placing their faith in Christ.
Creation apologetics needed
The results from the Barna research study are reminiscent of the campus interviews conducted by CMI in the American ‘Bible Belt’ (south-eastern and south-central United States) for their 2015 documentary Fallout! The results were not surprising:
Our interviews show unequivocally that the majority of young people who were not exposed to creation teaching in their youth now embrace evolution and no longer attend church. Yet, every student we spoke to who was equipped with answers as a young person still retains their Christian convictions, in spite of the evolutionary teaching they received in higher education. Better still, every student we spoke to who affirmed biblical creation still attends church regularly.
While only God can save our young people, we can remove intellectual barriers and help them to have a clear understanding of the faith by teaching them in the home and the church the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ—and providing sound teaching as to why we believe the Gospel message is true. Scripture tells us to be ready with answers to questions and objections about Christianity (1 Peter 3:15), dismantling intellectual barriers to saving faith in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3–5). And there are answers—more today than ever! Believers need to equip the younger generations with these answers so that when they go out into the world—whether school, the work place, or wherever—they may say along with the apostle Paul: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
References and notes
- Barna Group, Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z, barna.com, 24 January 2018. Return to text.
- Gould, S.J., Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History, W.W. Norton and Co, New York, NY, 1977, p. 161. Return to text.
- Thomas, B., A Review of Original Tissue Fossils and Their Age implications, in (Ed.) Horstemeyer, M., Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Creationism, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, PA, 2013. Return to text.
- Dawkins, R., The Root of All Evil?, BBC Broadcast on Channel 4, 16 January 2006. Return to text.