googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Is creationism bad for Christianity?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Is creationism bad for Christianity?

Allen Marshall O'Brien wrote an article on Irenicon titled, 5 Ways Creationism Is Bad For Christianity. Most of it is the same weak arguments I've heard before but, since theistic evolutionists keep trotting out these tired points, I have to keep answering them. Before I get into the points, though, let me just say I'm really getting tired of having to confront other Christians about what should be a non-issue. Evolution is a waste of time in science and, frankly, while many people may believe in evolution, the majority of those don't really give a whit about it. They're not “evolutionists.” I only discuss the issue because there are militant critics out there that use evolution to attack the credibility of the Bible. It's sad that some Christians feel it's important to “reconcile the Bible” with such a useless and godless theory. Evolution is an obstacle to the Faith and the time I spend addressing stupid points like the following is time I could have spent reaching lost people with the truth.

//Sigh// Anyway, here we go.

1. It suppresses critical thinking. Demanding conclusions which rise from evidence is part and parcel of human reasoning. If Christians say, along with Ken Ham, that no evidence could ever change their mind about Genesis 1-3 (or anything else for that matter), then they turn off the only function by which we arrive at logical thought and rational conversation.

There's an old Abbott and Costello skit where Lou “proves” to Bud that 7 x 13 = 28. Obviously, he's wrong but he reaches the same answer by adding, multiplying, and dividing and completely stymies Bud. I see evolution in much that same light. It's a clever explanation of the “facts” and some people have fallen for it completely. It's still absolutely wrong.

If something is true, then it's true regardless of how persuasively anyone might argue to contrary. God created the world miraculously. That's the truth. I will never let someone use clever stories like evolution to make me to believe in a lie.

I would like to ask Mr. O'Brien if he believes the Bible or not? I mean, what sort of evidence might convince him that Jesus isn't Lord? Might he ever change his mind about the resurrection? I admit that I believe the Bible. I believe that Jesus is the Risen Savior. I believe these things for the same reason people believe anything – I'm convinced it's the truth. Now that I've accepted Jesus as my Savior, no criticism will ever make me stop believing. For some reason, O'Brien thinks that's a bad thing.

2. It consciously promotes a lying God. The creation of a “mature” Earth is one way creationists attempt to explain a whole host of scientific evidence. But isn’t it troubling to think that God should make a universe which only looks old and life that looks evolved, then bequeath humanity a contradictory account of the real “truth” on the situation?

On the day that God made Adam, I wonder how old Adam “looked”? Obviously, God created Adam as a mature man who was able to walk and talk and speak. He commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply meaning they were post-pubescent. Was God being deceitful making a man fully-grown even though he was only 1 day old? God made trees with fruit on them ready to eat. Just imagine Adam questioning God saying, “Lord, trees this big with fruit take years to grow so, when you say you made them in a day, I know you mean many years because You're not a deceiver.”

This argument is absolutely ridiculous. If God created a working universe in six days and told us that He did it in 6 days, that's not being deceitful. The irony is that if God did create the universe over billions of years but said He did it in six days, then He really would be a deceiver. Theistic evolutionists believe in a lying god!

3. It disrespects the legitimacy of human culture and the meaning-making power of literature. Ken Ham has said time and again that the Bible rises and falls with the scientific viability of Genesis. In fact, I’d venture to guess that most avid creationists feel this way; they deny that God could/would speak to humankind through ancient, scientifically inaccurate, mythology.

Jesus often taught using parables. When He did this, it was clear that He was not speaking something that was literally true. The Psalms are a collection of poetry that teach spiritual, though not necessarily, literal truths. The Bible uses many literary devices like metaphor, simile, and personification. However, the Bible also talks about historical facts like the death and resurrection of Jesus.

In Luke's chronology from Adam to Jesus, at what point do the people stop becoming myth and start becoming real? At Adam? Noah? Abraham? David? Jesus? How do I know Jesus wasn't a literary device? If we begin assigning the genre of “figurative” to passages that are intended to be literal, then the entire Bible becomes suspect. When we read the Bible, we understand it like we would any other written work – the way the author intended it. Some parts are figurative, some parts are literal, and it's not really that hard to tell the difference.

And by the way, I'm not that concerned with respecting the legitimacy of human culture. I am much more concerned with correctly understanding the revealed word of the Creator.

4. It hinders our vision of Jesus. Tethering creationism to Christianity places an unnecessary obstacle between us and Christ. The slippery-slope rhetoric of creationist pastors and theologians has regrettably set up a false dichotomy between evolution and “true” Christianity.

Jesus believed in the creation and the Flood. When asked about marriage, He cited the creation of Adam and Eve. He mentioned Abel by name in Luke 11:51. He compared His second coming to Flood of Noah. He talks about the events of Genesis as though they were historical events. Conversely, He never suggested even once that the books of Moses were meant to be figurative. At times, He confronted the Pharisees on their abuse of the Law. When He cited Old Testament passages to them, He always relied on a clear understanding of the text and never once appealed to some figurative meaning.

If Jesus treated Genesis as history, what does it say about Him when theistic evolutionists say none of it happened? Why would anyone need the last Adam if there never really was a first Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45)? If His return shall happen suddenly, like the Flood of Noah, what does it mean if there wasn't a Flood?

Theistic evolution destroys the gospel.

5. And yeah, it makes us look really, really silly. The silliest (read: saddest) part of fighting, speaking, preaching, and spending millions of dollars touting creationism is that our fights, speeches, sermons, and millions of dollars are needed elsewhere.

The risk of looking silly is hardly a reason to compromise on God's word. Indeed, Matthew 5:11-12 says that we should rejoice when people mock, insult, and persecute us because we will have a great reward in heaven. I guess that means Christians always have the last laugh.

What else in the Bible might make us look silly for believing it? Are we silly to believe Jesus turned water into wine? Could a person believe it didn't happen and still be a Christian? Maybe. What about feeding the crowd or healing the sick or walking on water? What if I believed in a Jesus that did NO miracles? A Jesus that did no miracles is not the Son of God revealed in Scripture but is just an insane, lying rabbi who was executed along with a couple of thieves and is still buried somewhere. Likewise, the god of evolution is an impotent god who is bound by the physical laws he supposedly created and is indistinguishable from dumb luck. I will not let scoffers shame me into believing in some farce of a god.

Regardless, O'Brien is missing a major point. Richard Dawkins once said that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. The rate of atheism among scientists is greater than the general population. Secular theories of origins are obstacles that hinder people from coming to the faith. Theistic evolution and theories that compromise the Bible to make it “compatible with science,” do harm to those people who don't think God is necessary to explain the origin of the universe, of life, or of man. Telling them that God guides evolution sounds as compelling as saying gravity is accomplished by angels dragging the planets in their course. Theistic evolutionists should stop wasting their time trying to explain how “six days” (as in Exodus 20:11) really means billions of years.  It makes them look silly.


Steven J. said...

[1] I will never let someone use clever stories like evolution to make me to believe in a lie.

Gerardus Bouw makes a very similar argument about the geocentric solar system: God said it, and clever arguments for the Copernican heresy will not sway him from it. Some 17 centuries earlier, Lactantius Firmianus made much the same point about the flat Earth. When you basically have to argue that evidence is no reason to prefer one hypothesis to another (since you assert that the evidence is "mute" and imply that all interpretations are faith-based and equally reasonable), you're basically admitting that you believe in spite of the evidence.

I believe these things for the same reason people believe anything – I'm convinced it's the truth.

You believe things because you believe them? What convinced you? Again, you're dismissing evidence entirely as a reason to believe things. This seems not merely anti-scientific but contrary to most notions of apologetics.

[2] Just imagine Adam questioning God saying, “Lord, trees this big with fruit take years to grow so, when you say you made them in a day, I know you mean many years because You're not a deceiver.”

Did those trees have scores of growth rings, whose varying width marked off dry years and wet years they had never lived through? Buried within their trunks were there scars from fires that had never burned? Of course, there's the age-old question of whether Adam had a belly-button, since even medieval churchmen understood the difference between a complete, mature creation and the appearance of a history that had never happened.

Now, if you insist on a young universe, the very ability to see distant galaxies is a false appearance of history, since, first, people wouldn't need to see distant stars (many not even visible without a telescope) for the skies to work "for signs and seasons, days and years, and second, the gradual appearance of more and more distant stars would be itself powerful testimony of a young universe.

But even putting the age of the galaxy aside, the human body itself contains signs of a past evolutionary history, from endogenous retroviruses shared with other primates to vitelligenin pseudogenes right where egg-laying animals have genes for making the main protein in egg yolk. An omnipotent Creator could surely have made us fully functional and complete without the GULO pseudogene, disabled the same way as the GULO pseudogenes in apes and old world monkeys; indeed, there seems no obvious reason He could not have made us with, e.g. cytochrome-c strikingly different from that of apes and monkeys. Our genomes are littered with the relics of a history that you insist we never had.

And this bears either on whether we should accept that the Creator is in fact the Author of the particular creation story you espouse, or on whether you have interpreted it correctly.

Steven J. said...

[3] I'm not sure that here, your reply is quite on point with the argument it's rebutting. I don't think O'Brien is arguing that the early chapters of Genesis are figurative, though others certainly have made that point; I'm pretty sure he's arguing that they are fiction, and that what God is trying to communicate through them is not a matter of historical fact at all, but something else. I think at once that this is his weakest argument (since it is still vulnerable to your objection -- when does it stop being fiction and start being fact?), but it's probably necessary to avoid arguing for some system of symbolism that makes Genesis accurate history.

[4] Again, I think you're addressing a point that's not quite the one he's making. His point is this: while you dismiss the evidence for evolution as "just clever stories," a lot of young Christians are going to study science, familiarize themselves with the evidence for an old Earth and common descent, and accept these things -- and then, if they've been taught that evolution and the gospel are incompatible, toss out the gospel as a package deal with creationism. I'm not sure whether he's right; perhaps they'll, as you did, dismiss evolution for that reason, or perhaps they will simply decide that those who taught them were wrong about evolution but right about the gospel.

Also, Jesus, in his statements about marriage and divorce, didn't actually insist that Adam and Eve were real, or that "the beginning" of the human race came two days rather than nearly five billion years after the beginning of the sun. You're reading more into those texts that they strictly say. And I'm far from convinced that saying that something will be like "the days of Noah" implies that Noah was real; comparisons of real things to fictional events is a commonplace at least in modern rhetoric.

[5] The risk of looking silly is hardly a reason to compromise on God's word.

Though 1 Corinthians 14:23 does seem to imply that convincing non-believers that believers are out of their minds is a bad thing and harmful to the cause of the gospel.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

Thanks for your comments. I'm going to avoid quoting you since that simply takes up more room and we're already limited on space.

What evidence do you think Bill Nye could cite that led him to believe truth is only learned by evidence? Sounds a little circular, doesn't it? At the end of the day, we all have a starting point when trying to decide what is true. Call it what you want: axioms, presuppositions, paradigms. Whatever it is, it comes before the “evidence.” A claim like Nye saying he only believes things that have evidence is self-defeating since there is no scientific evidence for his claim. I guess I'm taking the long way around to say that I refuse to entertain Nye's “only things that have scientific evidence are true” worldview. To me, the theistic worldview is the only starting point that makes any sense. Like I've said before, I'm a theist by default and a Christian because of the evidence. I won't rehash all the reasons now.

I'm not sure if there were rings in the trees that God created. Rings give the wood its strength, so if God intended Adam to use the wood to build anything, He may have put rings in it. Regardless, He still told Adam He made the trees in a day so it's not deceitful. Perhaps it's like Victorian furniture. If I like that particular period of furniture, I may make a piece in that style. I may even distress it to give it an antique look. As long as I tell you I made it, I'm not being deceitful. Imagine if I put it on display in some gallery with a sign that said, “reproduction.” How insane it would be if some critic to say, “That chair is obviously old. Anyone who believes that sign is calling the chair's maker 'a deceiver!'” I'm not saying that God intentionally made the universe look old; He made it mature (like He made Adam mature). When theistic evolutionists see some “evidence” that makes them think the universe is billions of years old, they're essentially calling God a liar.

In point 3, the author was talking about lore, though he didn't use that word. He's saying God gave the ancient people a “creation myth” because they were too stupid to understand billions of years. It's funny really because he said it's creationists who “disrespect the legitimacy of human culture” yet he must believe everyone who lived then was a simpleton. It also goes back to my point that he's calling God a liar because He said “six days” when it was really billions of years. I'm sure I didn't miss his point. I said “figurative” while you call it “fiction”; as they say, it's a distinction without a difference. It's a non-literal account meant to convey a spiritual message.

Perhaps I didn't make my point very well in point 4. I understand author is saying we shouldn't tie creationism to Christianity. My point is that our belief in evolution or creation has a bearing on how likely we are to accept Christ as our Savior. If we believe in a God who intended death and suffering, if we believe Jesus believed the creation “myth” to be literal, if we are conditioned to believe miracles cannot happen, then aren't we less likely to accept Him as our Savior?

I appreciate your citing of 1 Corinthians 14:23 and you have a point. However, believing the Bible to be true isn't the same as acting like a clown. I need to write a post about the health/wellness preachers or some of the more extreme charismatic churches.

Thank you for visiting. God bless!!


Steven J. said...

I'm not sure that either Nye or I is arguing that "truth is only learned by evidence." What we're arguing is that [a] claims to truth should be tested against evidence wherever possible and [b] that ignoring evidence, or dismissing it on the shabby pretext that one can always find some faith-based proposition that justifies making it meaningless ("God just created it that way; stop thinking about it!") is good only for defending random and false dogma. I note in passing, though, that while every system needs postulates (that are accepted simply because they seem obviously true to everyone), you try to keep them to a minimum -- you don't assume that just because "evidence is a good reason to believe something" needs to be accepted as a postulate that it's reasonable to take "the Earth is 6020 years old" as just another basic postulate.

Perhaps Adam had some good reason to suppose that God was actually talking to him (how did that happen -- a voice booming out of the sky? God actually appearing in human form and telling him?), but we today (and for the last few thousand years) have simply one creation story out of thousands. How are we to distinguish which one, if any, is God's account and which others are not?

Which irritating question, I suppose, is why O'Brien is not more explicit. I don't think he's arguing that God "gave" the ancient Israelites a myth because they couldn't grasp "billions of years." I've never liked the argument that the ancient Israelites couldn't have grasped a revelation that a fifth grader today could more or less understand. O'Brien's point, I think, is that God let the Israelites work out their own myths and "gave" them their creation accounts only the broadest sense that God "gives" people everything they have, and that at some point these myths about times they didn't really have records of merged into their actual lived experience with God's providence.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

I'm at lunch now so I only have a few minutes to reply.

You said, “claims to truth should be tested against evidence wherever possible.”

How would I know if this claim is true since even this cannot be tested against evidence? You may not have said truth can only be discovered by evidence but you seem to resort to it often. Like I've said, even when we consider the “evidence,” it is only through the lens of our worldview. Nye is a little less subtle about the importance of evidence. He has overtly ruled out that anything supernatural can exist. He even appealed to “evidence” to defend his natural-only definition of science. Carl Sagan is famous for saying, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” but where is there ANY evidence for this claim? He is making a statement of fact about the need for evidence but has ZERO evidence to support his statement of fact. Can they not see how self-defeating statements like this are? I guess not.

Nye said “evidence” could make him change his mind. Would he ever consider changing his mind without evidence since we know something could be true though there is no evidence for it? I would hate to put words in his mouth but I seriously doubt that he would. O'Brien's point in his article was that creationism suppresses critical thinking and used Ken Ham as an example. I don't think Bill Nye is the slightest bit a more critical thinker than Ham is.

To your last point, however O'Brien labels Genesis, he does what every theistic evolutionist does – he makes Genesis non-history. He said in his article that we need to divorce creationism from Christianity. Some extremists seem to ignore the entire Old Testament. We're the New Testament church, they say, let's just preach Jesus. But Jesus Himself said He came to fulfill the Law. He was the promised seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent. He is the last Adam sent to restore the ruin made by the first Adam. He is the Lamb of God who would end the need for sacrifices. Jesus is the solution to sin. Preaching Jesus without knowing Genesis or the Old Testament is like having the answer to a question that was never asked.

Thanks for your comments. They're provocative as usual. God bless!!