Peer pressure and truth
Several years ago, Christianity Today published a series of articles entitled, 'How It All Began: Why Can't Evangelical Scientists Agree?'1 It is a shame that Christians are divided on the issue of origins. Let me suggest a reason why they are.
I was a theistic evolutionist during my college and medical school training. After going through a time when even looking at scientific creationist literature made me feel ill, I began to consider the evidence. What I saw astounded me. I had never been told that there is design in life that cannot be accounted for by chance. After years of further study, I have also been convinced that although there are some problem areas for the young-earth position, the total scientific case for it is much stronger than that for an old earth.
Why do others not think so? There is strong peer pressure, even a herd instinct, in science. 'Progressive creationist' Professor Pattle Pun, Professor of biology at Wheaton College in Illinois, in his section of the Christianity Today series, was honest enough to say this: 'I hate to hear the name creationist, because I am a creationist—but I don't want to be treated by my colleagues as a cultic person.' In many cases it amounts to more than just being looked down upon. Dr Jerry Bergman, himself a victim of persecution, documents many instances of withholding degrees, terminating positions and denying tenure to creationists.2
Creationist articles have rarely been accepted for publication in secular refereed journals. Because of this, most creation scientists do not submit them any more. And creationist journals are unavailable in most public and college libraries. An exception is that some of the work of Dr Robert Gentry on polonium haloes was published before its creationist significance became clear to the scientific community. Afterwards, Dr Gentry was treated very shabbily by those 'objective' scientists who control the flow of information.3
Because of all this, it is very unlikely that an outspoken creationist could get through the system intact. Christians often take on 'protective colouration' by accepting scientific orthodoxy but adding a Christian footnote to it. This is no threat to their peers because it fits the prevailing cultural idea that something can be 'true for you, but not for me'.
REPORT SCIENCE LIKE POLITICS
While we may have respect for scientists generally, both believers and unbelievers, it is healthy to recognize the human tendency for covering ulterior motives. If reporters used the same suspicious nature in their reporting of science news that they usually reserve for politicians with whom they disagree, we would have Pulitzer Prizes for an exposé of 'Evolutiongate'. I have had discussions with people who could run intellectual circles around me, and yet I have seen them become infantile when logic led to an uncomfortable conclusion.
This is an important issue. It is at the root of the conflict between our culture and the Gospel. Our age does not believe there is objective reality behind religious pronouncements. Yet the evidence for a young earth and recent creation marks the Bible as credible and universally applicable.
However, many Christians fear that the Gospel will be discredited if it is tied to literal acceptance of Genesis. In fact, it does not need to be 'protected' from science any more than it needed to be protected from history in the time of Swiss theologian Karl Barth, who stated that even if there was no historical Jesus, the Gospel was valid. The Jesus whose existence could not be confirmed soon became equivalent to a Jesus who did not exist, and Barth's theological grandchildren later proclaimed that God was dead.
The Christian faith is not a leap in the dark, but rests on solid evidence and calls for a commitment to the true and living God. This requires distinguishing truth from error. God makes His existence clear and accredits His Word. He then holds people accountable for response to the light they have been given. God's revelation can stand the test of scrutiny.
HARMONIZING EARTH'S AGE
Some say the biblical data allow for an old earth, therefore an old earth should be the preferred position. However, this ignores the problem of the alleged long ages of death and suffering (allegedly represented by the fossil layers) before man. I think it would be safe to say that if it were agreed by secular science that the earth is young, there would be absolutely no problem harmonizing that with the Bible.
Some have expressed concern that there was not enough time in a 24-hour sixth day of creation for Adam to name all the animals. This worry diminishes when one recognizes the nature of Genesis 'kinds'. There was tremendous potential for variability built into the original living creatures that allowed a relatively smaller number of 'kinds' to branch out into the plethora of life we see today. It does not allow macro-evolution (the alleged evolution of one major type of creature into a very different type), because there are limits. Also, Adam's brain at that time had not been subject to the decay that has come over time because of sin, so his thought processes would have been much better than ours.
There are warm-hearted, clear-headed Christians with scientific credentials who will disagree with me on these points. Many of them are far more spiritual than I am.
But how ever much they may have contributed to God's Kingdom, theistic evolutionists and even long-age creationists are wrong on this one major point, as I see it. Their compromise of truth is probably understandable to many, and I cannot say that in similar circumstances I would have done any better. Still, it must be seen for what it is. They have uncritically accepted the intellectual milieu of their peers. In the process, they have been forced to mistrust the Bible. The effects may not be immediately apparent, but the danger lies down the road. And for a significant number, it has already led to the rejection of other vital biblical doctrines.
Romans 1:18-22 says: 'For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.'
A scientist who is a Christian needs to consider whatever conclusions the evidence seems to justify. However, conclusions depend powerfully upon presuppositions. Beginning with the rock of the Scriptures as the foundation of his thinking, with all their credentials, he may become aware that some of the conclusions of the scientific establishment are questionable.
He should not disregard the evidence. Rather, he must critically examine it and look for those suppressed truths that Paul writes about. This should be done regardless of potential disapproval by the scientific community.
As Paul wrote further in Romans 12:2: 'And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.'
- 'How It All Began: Why Can't Evangelical Scientists Agree?', Christianity Today, August 12, 1988.
- Jerry Bergman, The Criterion: Religious Discrimination in America, Onesimus, Richfield (Minnesota), 1984.
- Robert V. Gentry, Creation's Tiny Mystery, Earth Science Associates, Knoxville, 1986.