Saturday, January 26, 2013

Is Young Earth Creationism Bad for the Human Race?

Is it detrimental for the good of the human race if Christians (not all do, but some do) believe in a recent, six-day creation?  It's a criterion of embarrassment lobbied against "biblical literalism" by many of the so-called New Atheists, Richard Dawkins being the patron saint, as it were, of the ruggedly dogmatic, and downright angry pontiffs of the now decade-old rant against religion in general and Christianity in particular.  "Do you really believe in a literal Adam and Eve?" they ask.  "Do you really believe the earth is not billions of years old?"  "Do you really believe all the animals on the planet were once in an ark with Noah?"  The questions are hurled over the fence with the hopes of smacking people in the face and leaving a mark on the forehead, which would make any self-respecting person not go out that day.  Better heal up before showing your face in public.

Those questions remain for a different time as my point here isn't to defend a recent, six-day creation.  I leave that open to issues of hermeneutics (the science of biblical interpretation) and research in the natural sciences.  Rather, my question regards whether such an interpretation is actually detrimental in the existential sphere of life: will progress suffer, will people suffer, will the environment suffer, will politics and economics suffer, if people believe the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the God of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, created the world in six days not too long ago?  Is it a bruise on scientific progress and technology if scientists actually believe in a recent, six-day creation?  On this point, I will argue that no, it isn't.  Here is why.

First, many Darwinists claim that believing in young-earth creationism is the same as believing something in spite of the evidence, and not only so, but "because a book (the Bible) says to believe it."  So, let's take for granted that the earth is indeed billions of years old (as most people do), but that someone chooses to believe something radically different.  Is that going to make a negative impact on a Christian doing scientific research in medicine?  No.  Is that going to make a negative impact on a Christian doing research in nanotechnology, fuel efficiency, green energy and agricultural productivity and cleanliness?  No.  Why would it?  Is an old earth a necessary presupposition required in order to understand how a certain drug or medicine eliminates unwanted biological maladies in the body?  But what about fossil fuels and the environment?  Isn't it necessary to believe that, because the earth is incredibly old, that surely we will run out of fossil fuels, and therefore must limit our use of them, seeking cleaner energy?  Well, no on that one, too.  That's because whether the earth is very old, or very young, the earth is a living organism, as it were, with a core as big as a small moon.  It's common sense that the earth is in the process of producing energy for us.  Earth is not a stagnant planet in a static position.  It continues to produce food, rain, fuel and energy (volcanic, tidal, plate tectonic and so on).  It won't last forever, but it does thrive in its present state.  

On the contrary, even if someone does believe the earth is young "despite the evidence," they are still under the same assumption that creation needs good stewardship, because God has given the earth as a living quarters to mankind, and it needs care.  This is the commandment given to Adam and Even in Genesis 1:27.  They are to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.  Of course, the population control advocates operate on a completely different paradigm, even saying that humans are a plague on the earth.  But that position isn't rooted in an old earth, but rather that nature is more important than mankind (mankind somehow a simultaneous creation of nature, and a plague upon it.  Huh).  So, an old earth isn't required in order to believe in population control, either.  

Perhaps the following is closer to home, and that would be "biblical literalism" and its connection to to the existential spheres of life, namely, civil law.  Many Darwinists and New Atheists decry the "wicked"  stories in the Old Testament of Abraham's commandment to offer up Isaac, the Canaanite genocides, as well as the Levitical laws and capital laws against murder adultery, homosexual action (as opposed to homosexuality), worshiping false gods, sacrificing children to Molech, and working on the Sabbath, among others (how they justify absolute, objective, moral claims in a godless universe is a wonder).  The reason for the alarm at a young-earth position, is that if the Genesis account of creation in chapters 1 and 2 are taken "literally," then the aforementioned stories and laws are to be taken literally too, and we can't have that.  We musn't!  But  once again, there is a misunderstanding.  In the first place, the Old Covenant is obsolete now that Christ has come (per the book of Hebrews), so civil law is not to be an exact prescription of Israelite sanctions in any nation, even if they are a "Christian" nation.  

But perhaps the Darwinists are afraid of a "theocracy" (known in theological circles as "theonomy" where God's law in the covenant with Moses and Israel is circumscribed as a way of civil law today).  One thinks of capital punishment against homosexual acts in Christian Uganda.  While there are some Christian "reconstructionists" who are theonomists, and who do, in fact, tend to take Genesis literally, there needn't be either a connection or a cause for alarm.  This is because some theonomists are old-earthers, and also because theonomists do not seek to "take over" the government by passing all the meticulous civil code of the Mosaic system.  Rather, they hope that, through the preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ, people--a majority of people--will follow Jesus' way of life and actually desire, from their own wills, laws that reflect the goodness, holiness and love of God.  And in a democratic society where individual choice is championed and which Christianity actually breeds, such a scenario is possible, where adultery is against the law (perish the thought!) and where sodomy is against the law (it was in our country until early in the last decade), and where violent criminals are put to death.  Not innocent people--but guilty ones.  

Ok, so...what are Darwinists afraid of?  It simply cannot be that young-earth creationism is a "science-stopper," for many young-earth creationists have PhD's in their respective fields of scientific research, including biology, physics, chemistry, geology, and many other fields.  For example, one can read In Six Days: Why Fifty Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation.  One may disagree with their conclusions about the origin and age of the universe, but one should not say that these people "aren't scientists" or that they "don't care about science."  If you have a PhD in anything, you obviously care about it, yes?  Darwinists also cannot be afraid that young-earth creationists will be poor medical practitioners, either, as geological timetables have nothing to do with how to excise a tumor, or diagnose symptoms of disease, or find micro-organisms in a suffering person's blood.  It cannot be that belief in a young earth will deter someone from seeking to create green energy, either.  In fact, belief in a young earth, along with belief in the dominion mandate (common among postmillennials, reconstructionists, and theonomists) behooves Christians to be stewards of God's creation, as they believe in God's future judgment of our works, and of a preparing for Christ's return.

Wait a second.  Judgment of our works, and preparing for Christ's return (Romans 2:4-11; cf. Psalm 62:12; John 5:24-30; Revelation 20:11-15).  Record scratch, Vurrip!  I think we're on to something.  Didn't Jesus say that "This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed"?   Why yes, He did, in John 3:19-20.  So maybe that's the problem:  judgment according to our works, undergoing an evaluation, and instead of looking through the microscope, being placed under it.  There is a motive for the natural man to avoid the judgment of God, and he'll make up big stories in order to do so (Romans 1:18-32).

But here's the argument from Dawkins, and it's really a pretty good argument:  His premise is that the Bible must be read literally in order to be read historically.  And in order for the Bible to be both of the those, the earth must be young, Adam and Eve must have existed, and Noah's story must be true.  Now, if the earth is old, then Genesis cannot be taken literally, and if Genesis is not taken literally, then the God of the Bible doesn't exist, and neither was Jesus the Son of God, and neither is there a future judgment.  Sigh...that's comforting.  No judgment.  No judgment!  Phew. 

I agree with Dawkins that prima facie, one should take the Bible literally from the very first word, in order to take it as historical.  "It means what it says," he might say.  I patently concur.  On the face of it, that seems like the most reasonable position, until you read the arguments by believing scholars who offer other, viable interpretations of Genesis that create deep concord between the old earth position and a historical, albeit, non-so-quite-as-literal rendering of Genesis.  There are even young-earth creationists who believe the earth is old, but that the Garden of Eden was a recent thing, and there are young-earth creationists who believe the universe is old, but that Earth is young.  In short, there are many competing--and viable--understandings of Genesis, that affirm the veracity of the text as historical.  But how that makes such a belief detrimental for human society is a mystery, for it cannot be a detrimental belief.  The mere existence of young-earthers who research at the doctorate level in their respective fields proves this point.  Even a young-earth geologist doing research on deep oil fields doesn't need to know how old the earth is in order for him to make conclusions about whether or not to drill.   "But remember King Kong? The dude said the oil needed to cook for a few more million years in order for it to be good for fuel."  Yes, that was a disappointing moment in the film.  But if it's true that oil does have to cook for millions of years in order for it to be good for fossil fuel, one could still believe the earth is young, because Genesis teaches that God created the earth and everything in it with the appearance of age.  Remember?  Adam wasn't an infant, but a fully-grown man.  

I'm not saying the earth really is young.  What I am saying is that believing in a young earth is not detrimental to human flourishing, and we really, really need to get along and stop throwing darts at one another and calling each other names. 

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