It's not very often that I come across a truly novel argument against creationism. Just recently, though, I came across a headline that caused me to do a double-take. On FaceBook, Stephen Bedard posted an article comparing Young Earth Creationists and Jesus Mythicists. It just struck me as odd because I would never have viewed those particular beliefs in the same light. Obviously, I was curious about how anyone would consider them to be similar.
For anyone not familiar with Jesus mythicism, Bedard describes it as the belief “there was no historical Jesus and that he is only another form of the common Horus/Dionysus/Mithras myth.” Weird, huh? Any way, as I read Bedard's article I saw that the claims he made weren't really novel at all. //Sigh//. Before giving my opinion, let me highlight how Bedard sees Jesus mythicism as being similar to young-earth creationism. According to Bedard:
- Both are views that a person would never get just by looking at the scientific/historical evidence.
- [B]oth theories are highly suspicious of the scholarly consensus.
- [B]oth YEC and JM are agenda driven rather than evidence driven. YEC start with their theory and then look to scientific evidence to see how it can be reinterpreted to fit the theory.
Bedard says in the article he was once a young-earth creationist, obviously intending to mean that he no longer is. He tries to deal politely with creationism and concludes his article by saying, I have tried to remain objective here. Either group could be correct.... My point is simply that two groups that have widely different belief systems actually go about their task in very similar ways. Bedard seems to be a nice guy so I will return the favor and not direct my comments toward him specifically. Rather, I will make my own observations of old-earth creationists or theistic evolutionists in general.
I'll start by saying that I agree with Bedard in some ways. For example, I am skeptical of scientific consensus. Just put me in the same category as people like Galiliei who argued against the “scientific” consensus of Ptolemy. Even the majority can be wrong. Besides, truth is not decided by vote. If we stopped questioning anything after “the science is settled,” where would we be? Scientists are usually proud to say that we should question everything. However, when it comes to issues like evolution or global warming, they want critics to shut up because the science is settled!
At its heart, this is a question of our presuppositions. As people search for the truth, they have to decide what they will accept as evidence. Personally, I have decided without exception that I will believe the Bible. Romans 3:4 says, “let God be true, but every man a liar.” Even if the whole world were to disagree with me, I would like to think I would still stand firmly on God's word. If I'm wrong, then I'm wrong. And when I stand before God in judgment, let my plea be that I believed the Bible too much.
Bedard, apparently, has decided to put more faith in scientific consensus than the Bible. Such a belief has a direct impact on how a person interprets Scripture. An examination of the chronologies in the Bible, for example, suggests that history only goes back about 6,000 years. Of course, old-earth creationists can't accept that because “scientific consensus” says the earth is billions of years old. Therefore, even though the Bible says God made the universe in 6 days, it can't believe it really mean 6 days.
When people start doubting the clear meaning of the words in the Bible, I'm not sure where they draw the line. Hank Hanegraaff – aka, the Bible Answer Man – also believes in an old earth. However, he rejects evolution. That's curious. Why would he accept the scientific opinion on one subject but not the other? I've heard him talk about both subjects and he always appeals to science. He believes that distant starlight proves the earth is old but feels the scientific evidence for evolution isn't as compelling. It seems even the “Bible Answer Man” doesn't necessarily start with the Bible when looking for answers.
Besides the origins issue, what else might these people compromise for the sake of science? The virgin birth? The miracles of Jesus? The resurrection? Where does it stop? And on what grounds can we say science is wrong there but not here? The rate of atheism is a lot higher among scientists than the public. If we trust their opinions, why should we even believe in God at all?
I suppose the ultimate irony in Bedard's article is that it is his views that are more like Jesus mythicism. Neither old earth creationism nor Jesus mythicism are supported by a plain reading of the Bible. Both conclusions are reached by starting with opinions from outside of the Bible and then projecting these unbiblical beliefs onto Scripture. Think about it, Jesus mythicists claim Jesus wasn't a literal person; well, most theistic evolutionists also believe Adam wasn't literal. Neither was Noah. Jesus talked about Adam and Noah as real people from history yet TE folks say they are fictional! Why? Because of science? Many professing Christians also claim Abraham, Moses, and David weren't real. At what point does Luke's chronology from Adam to Jesus stop being fictional characters and start becoming real people?
Let me just say, I agree on a lot of things with folks lot Bedard or Hanegraaff or William Layne Craig and others of that stripe. However, when they allow science to shape their understanding of the plain meaning of words of the Bible, they're setting a terrible precedent. I will paraphrase Martin Luther who said that, if we ever lack understanding of how the Scriptures can be correct, let us merely grant that the Holy Spirit is wiser than we are.