Who’s in the driver’s seat?
What’s the primary motivation for Old Earth and Theistic Evolutionary believers?
Published: 2 July 2015 (GMT+10)
Recently one of our event planners (CMI Canada) was contacting churches where one of our speakers was going to be touring to see whether they were open to having a CMI meeting. The email response from one of the pastors was (unfortunately) quite typical;
“I read your email and listened to your voicemail. It might be helpful to you and more to your purposes and that of Creation Ministries if you were to send your information to [deleted] churches, and not to [deleted] churches. [They were referring to different divisions of a certain denomination which will remain unnamed].
It’s doubtful there would be very many, if any, [deleted] churches interested in the teachings of Creation Ministries. I could be wrong, but I would think most pastors of [deleted] churches are Theistic evolutionists.
Theistic evolutionists understand the opening chapters of Genesis to teach us not how the world was created, but why. I don’t subscribe to an earth that is 6000-10000 years of age, nor do I believe that man was created instantly from the dust of the earth as Genesis teaches [emphasis mine]. That doesn’t make the Bible wrong as your email suggests.”
What did they actually say?
It’s interesting when analyzing this type of response to notice the following;
- There is an obvious divide in this denomination. Both groups see large volumes of Scripture (the same words in the Bible) almost completely differently.
- According to one view, Genesis is about why God created not how and when.
- He openly admits Genesis teaches the earth is young and that God created man instantly from the dust—but he doesn’t believe it.
- Even though he thinks the words in the Bible record a history that is supposedly false, he believes that doesn’t mean the Bible is wrong.
Why is this so? (Fill in the blanks)
Point number one (division within denominations) is very common, and the difference usually comes down to each group’s method of interpretation. Typically one group will hold to the literal, grammatical, historical interpretation of the Bible while the other is open to the Bible being read allegorically. Why not take the Bible as plainly read in this case?
Because of … science
Point number two is actually rather confusing. One can read Genesis high and low and nowhere do we see explicit statements as to why God created! The details of how and when God created are expounded on in some detail, but nowhere are God’s motives as to why He created clearly stated. Why do some Christians claim this is what Genesis is about?
Because of … science
Point number three is refreshingly honest, as those with compromised views of Genesis typically attempt to justify their old earth and/or evolutionary views with some sort of pseudo-theological apologetic. Here we see an open admission that Genesis means what it plainly says, he just doesn’t believe it. Why?
Because of … science
Point four is an example of how postmodernism infiltrates Christianity. It is where claims that language is inadequate to clearly communicate what was meant to be said and so the words aren’t really ‘wrong’, just misunderstood. So even though the Bible seems to say certain things, we need a correction factor to discover what it really says. What would that corrective factor be in this case?
The answer = ‘Science!’
It’s obvious what the driving motivation is here; ‘science’,1 not Scripture. Prior to around 200 years ago virtually no Christian theologian would have held to an old earth or theistic evolutionary position as they simply weren’t available in the interpretive marketplace. The facts show that prior to Lyell’s uniformitarianism and Darwin’s theory of evolution becoming popular the overwhelming consensus from the early church fathers all the way up to the reformers was young earth creationism. (i.e. That’s what the Bible teaches without factoring in any ideas outside the Bible).
It is a tad ironic that pastors and theologians claiming to hold expertise in Christian theology (what the Bible means) deny what it plainly says because of claims from an area where they typically do not hold any expertise whatsoever (science). And many of these theologians criticize those Christians who do have scientific credentials unless their interpretation lines up with what secular scientists (often naturalists and atheists) conclude.
As one compromising pastor once said at a CMI meeting; “Creationism is just bad science”. But when challenged on various areas of science supposedly supporting evolution (showing that it was actually evolutionary interpretations that were ‘bad science’) he said he was a theologian and couldn’t defend the ‘science’ of evolution but trusted that scientists knew what they were talking about. Why then can’t scientists trust theologians to know what they are talking about? Because for both these groups (secularists and compromising Christians) so called ‘science’ is in the driver’s seat, not Scripture.
But if ‘scientific explanations’ hold the authority over Scripture, then what are Christians to do with claims from the scientific community that pertain to moral issues like abortion (‘fetuses’ aren’t really human) and homosexual behaviour (some people are just born that way).
Christians in the Western world who are disappointed to see where the culture is going should realize that handing the wheel over to the secularists and expecting a different destination doesn’t really make sense.
It seems as if in a bid for intellectual credibility among unbelievers, some Christians are willing to marginalize fellow Christians and ‘throw them under the bus’ for believing what the majority of Christians who ever lived believed about creation!
In a recent book, well known New Testament scholar N.T. Wright made the following derogatory comments regarding young earth believers;
“I wonder whether we are right even to treat the young-earth position as a kind of allowable if regrettable alternative, something we know our cousins down the road get up to but which shouldn’t stop us from getting together at Christmas … ”
Continuing his contempt-filled comments it seems he actually questions whether YECs should be associated with by fellow believers!
“And if, as I suspect, many of us don’t think of young-earthism as an allowable alternative, is this simply for the pragmatic reason that it makes it hard for us to be Christians because the wider world looks at those folks and thinks we must be like that too?”
One wonders if Wright realizes the utter contempt for fellow believers he is actually displaying here. It’s like saying he wonders if it’s even OK to associate with those small-minded simpletons that believe Genesis as it’s actually written. And his disgust at the world actually considering ‘educated’ Christians like himself and his compromising kin even being related with those Christians who believe the word of God as plainly written is quite evident. He even goes so far as to accuse YECs of false teaching.
“That’s the danger of false teaching; it isn’t just that you’re making a mess; you are using that mess to cover up something that ought to be brought urgently to light”.
So who are these ‘false teachers’ and unintellectual dum-dums that believe(d) nonsense like Adam and Eve were real people, God created ex-nihilo and that the earth is quite young (all things Wright does not believe)? Here is an (extremely) short list of those ‘intellectually challenged’, from ancient times to present day; John Chrysostom, Ephraim the Syrian, Basil the Great, Ambrose of Milan, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, John MacArthur, Joe Boot, Al Mohler, Ting Wang, Robert McCabe, Andrew Steinmann.
And seeing as how theologians like Wright aren’t driven by Scripture to determine what Genesis means (but rather by ‘science’), I suppose that the same sort of contempt should be reserved for not just theologians but scientists that did/do not hold to ‘millions of years’ and/or evolution and got the origin of the world so ‘wrong’ as well. People such as; Sir Isaac Newton, Carolus Linnaeus, Blaise Pascal, Francis Bacon, Michael Faraday, Louis Pasteur, James Clerk Maxwell, George Washington Carver, Raymond Damadian, John Hartnett.
Try imagining Wright’s second comment above while putting specific names into it and see how it sounds; “ … many of us don’t think of young-earthism as an allowable alternative … simply for the pragmatic reason that it makes it hard for us to be Christians because the wider world looks at (John Calvin, Martin Luther, John McArthur, Al Mohler, etc.) and thinks we must be like that too?” (Eww! Who’d want to be like those people!)
The most common response someone could give to try and blunt the force of the argument for older young earth proponents would likely be the discredited argument, “But those people weren’t aware of all of the scientific information (translated-evolutionary propaganda) we now have.” But this again would highlight the fact that it is scientific interpretations rather than Scripture that is driving compromise.
And criticisms of modern young earth creationists fall flat. Most of them have examined the evidence, and found it completely lacking substance when examined critically.
So when theistic evolutionists and old earth creationists declare the young earth position is intellectually inferior and downright embarrassing, what motivates their embarrassment is actually a plain reading of the Bible!
It would be an interesting thought project indeed to imagine having Augustine, Newton, Luther and Damadian in a room together with someone like Wright to discuss science and theology and see which view of origins could be best and most supported biblically, historically, and scientifically.
Far from compromise positions being ‘more intellectual’ they are in fact incredibly weak. How can you even explain the number one philosophical objection to the faith (If God is all loving why is there so much pain and suffering in the world?) if you are saying God used death and suffering over millions of years to create life? How do you explain the Gospel if there was no first real man and real woman who rebelled (original sin)? How can Jesus be the ‘last Adam’ when there was no real first Adam? The list of questions can go on and on, and compromising Christians have no good answers whereas biblical creationists do!
It’s time compromising Christians recognize that biblical creationists are not some back-woods cousins to be embarrassed about, but rather the group that has the most well-developed, historical, theological and scientific support for their view of Scripture.2
References and notes
- By science of course we are not talking about repeatable, operational science in the normal sense, but rather historical science. See article ‘It’s not science’ for a thorough explanation. Return to text.
- For the most up to date defence of Genesis 1-11 from a biblical creationist viewpoint see the commentary ‘The Genesis Account’ by Dr Jonathan Sarfati. Return to text.