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.
At one time Theology was the queen of science. That is if science came to a conclusion that was contrary to the Bible they knew it was time to do more research. Today Science has become the queen of Theology and it is time we turn it back around the way it should be. Thanks for all you do and you are leading the charge to do just that.
Maybe N.T.Wright should change his surname so that he becomes N.T,Wrong! It is people such as him who are either wolves in sheep,s clothing or too proud to accept what God tells us, and who fulfill Bible prophecy of the end times who are the problem, not young earthers who believe God at His Word. These so called scholars are like the people Jesus preached to in His home town- they took offence at Him. This hinders the Gospel.
In a recent interview, I made a brief comment about compromiser Hugh Ross. The interview was about soft tissues in dinosaur bones, the way old-earth creationists and atheists want to silence biblical creationists through intimidation and other logical fallacies, and more. None of that was addressed.
When I post material on our ministry's Facebook Page, OECs come along to "correct" us, ignoring scientific evidence and good biblical hermeneutics. Such evidence is posted, but is ignored (including a series of links refuting Ross).
It constantly baffles me *why* some people insist on elevating dubious, ever-changing science philosophies to the magisterial position above Scripture.
They're going to love it when I post this, as well as your 2-part article on "Worldviews, Logic, and Earth's Age". Many of us are not here to be admired by the world, else we'd be liberal Christians, denying the authority of Scripture.
Genesis may not explain why God created, but the book of Revelation does. To wit...
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Rev. 4:11, KJV)
I know that most modern translations render that as "because of Your will" or something similar, but I first remember reading it in the KJV, and it provided me with a marvelous and sufficient answer for that particular question.
Pre-Darwinian scientists were so wedded to empirical evidence that it is hard to imagine them abandoning their faith in favor of macro evolution as readily as consensus scientist do today. I can hear Newton or Faraday saying, "that's not science; that's philosophy, and I shall not trade my faith for another man's speculation!"
Robert, Tennessee, USA
Great article. I could not help notice this statement near the top.
"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. That doesn’t make the Bible wrong as your email suggests."
I could paraphrase this as "just because the bible is incorrect does not make it wrong."
This is horrible logic but it tells us something interesting. Someone is trying to serve two masters by holding to one (claims of science) and despising the other (scripture).
My preference is to hold to scripture and rescue true science from unsupported evolutionary claims.
There is a clear divide between those who expect to obtain mainstream acceptance and those who do not. Scripture alone should warn that such acceptance will not persist even if re-established in our western culture (see 2Peter.chapter 3)
The uncritical acceptance of long periods of time, where no human observer is thought to be present, is going to be one of the strangest perversions of human thought in the long view of history.
The patronising attitude of many moderns (e.g. Asimov, Keynes ) toward many pre-moderns (e.g. Isaac Newton, Bishop Ussher), who 'wasted' their time studying scripture and thereby correcting profane history, will be turned upon its head.
In this case Wright will be proved to be completely wrong.
For many years CMI has been warning that when Christians relegate Genesis to a piece of holy poetry they lose the very foundations of their faith and anything can follow. Just last month we had a reminder of this in UK. The authorities at York Minster, seat of the Archbishop of York, allowed a homosexual rights march to begin at the Minster. Not only that, they quite literally gave the event the Church of England's blessing when one of the Minster's Canons, Michael Smith, offered a public prayer of support, ususping the biblical sign of the rainbow in Genesis 9 and handing it to the marchers. The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, enthuses about the event on his official website (google 'Archbishop of York' and scroll down to 22nd June on the first site returned).
I have a doctorate in Chemistry and have given a few talks on the Creation/Evolution topic from a biblical perspective and have offered to come and speak to various congregations. But, sadly, pastors are reluctant to take me up on the offer. One wonders how they respond when young people come to them for answers like the age of the earth. Trust what the secular schools teach?
Who's in the drivers seat, indeed?!
Oh, how men err by not listening to The Holy Spirit of our Great Creator YHWH, Whose supernatural and Devine plain-sense teaching falls on so many deaf ears.
When one looks at world history, (and we only have to do that thing and compare Biblical teaching with the ineptness of mankind), to urge us to open our ears and shut out all else.
Can ever-changing science as we see science, ever be in the drivers seat?
Many believe it can. That in itself is mind blowing.
Yet where The Word of God touches on science, beautiful harmonious and accurate accounts which cannot be disproven touch the open-minded with God-science.
Now man-science is beneficial in many, many ways and I love it. But it can never be the final authority.
Ears open now.
Can governments be in the drivers seat? Answer yes to that and you must be removed from society immediately.
It must be noted here that YHWH is in charge and His purpose is defined in every aspect of mans days.
Clearly our manual, The Holy Bible teaches us that it is God who appoints governments and establishes kings, and as His purpose is for all time those words cannot ever be restricted to mean a certain point in history unless that is clearly stated.
Finally, can any mere man ever be in the drivers seat?
We're going to find out. Ones coming who thinks he can. And the woeful world will think he can too.
There is no evidence in history to back up such a sad notion. Sad for the unbeliever, that is.
When we have a book which lovingly tells us the end from the beginning, and those who have ears to hear do clearly understand that it is only God who knows both, and everything in between, which eludes unwise men, we would do well to consider that Word our most prized possession, which besides our Salvation, IS.
It's an enormous disappointment to see NT Wright make these sorts of patronising comments, given that he's long been one of the more thoughtful opponents of the destructive Liberal theology of modern times. What's doubly disappointing is that Wright has clearly recognised the root of old-Earth\evolutionary ideas - in both text and video I've read\heard him clearly pin them as an outcome of the deistic mindset of the "Enlightenment", and say (correctly) that this was a period of history where humans rebelled en masse against Judeo-Christian ideology, and that traditionalists have tended to reject anything which can be traced to the "Enlightenment" mindset.
Why, after he has identified the "Enlightenment" and its fruits as the enemy of conventional Christianity and has identified old-Earth\evolutionary thinking as the brainchild of it, does he accept them? It baffles and frustrates me in equal measure.
Perhaps Wright is more of a craver of respect from men than I'd wanted to believe. And I really, really hope that I'm wrong on that score because he's unquestionably done a lot for the cause of Christ with his scholarship on the New Covenant texts and era and has helped to disabuse many gross errors.
Creationism allows supernatural and natural explanations of the evidence. It doesn't rewrite history due to the fact we already have the only true history book of the universe: Genesis. And most importantly it presupposes God's Word as true rather than a lie.
Creationism is continuing the tradition of truth, even if a remnant at times, so that each generation can learn, believe, teach, and defend the truth until the last generation, the end of the age.
I want to give you one word of scripture, Lk 10,3:
"Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves."
1. Joh 5:4-5
"For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"
At the end, the creationists will win the battle, not the evolutionist.