Is Young Earth Creationism Dangerous?

danger 1Many old earth creationists and theistic evolutionists are tempted to suggest that ones’ belief about the age of the earth does not really matter. It is just a secondary doctrinal issue about which the orthodox Christians are free to adopt the stance that they would like. While I can sympathize with this sentiment (as it is mainly a response to young earth creationist elitism) I also think that there is another angle to consider. It would be better for the body of Christ if all young earth creationists renounced their interpretations and succumbed to vulnerability to the influx of knowledge and information. In this article, I explore the question, “is young earth creationism dangerous?” I maintain that because of the contemporary prevalence of modern science and reason, the dogmatic young earth creationist positions are Christianity’s weakest points. They open the door for a scathing critique of the Christian worldview.

danger 2Young earth creationism plays into the secularists hands. The church has always stood as a bastion of morality and righteousness. It would guard the secular world against sin that it so desperately wanted to justify. When the secular forces stormed the proverbial ground and took the land, handily sweeping the minds of the masses, it also launched some attacks on the church. Since the church is trying to guard us against certain misdeeds that we desperately want to commit, we need to discredit them. The easiest way to discredit the church is to pit it against science. It is religion versus science and science versus faith. The implication is obvious. One must choose one or the other. Since the natural world yields that which is true, people are apt to choose science.

danger 3The eminent scientists throughout the ages who have been faithful Christians stand opposed to this narrative. Georges Lemaître proposed the theory of the expanding universe. The history of science is permeated with faithful thinkers who saw their science as an expansion of their knowledge of God. But the young earth creationist movement casts a shadow over that rich history. They indulge in the secularists narrative. When the secularist says that one must either choose religion or science, the young earth creationist will choose religion. When they are told to choose between faith and reason, the young earth creationist will choose faith. Is young earth creationism dangerous? It obliterates the history of science in the contemporary mind and pits science against faith. It accepts, and does not combat, the atheistic narrative.

danger 4It creates an anti-scientific precedent. Why are so many Christians so opposed to anything that comes out of modern science? In response to a grand scientific discovery, one can hear the loud cry of Christian voices reminding us of how many mistakes science has made in the past, and that we cannot put our trust in the scientific method because it has let us down so many times. Well, that is something like saying that because we have misapplied or misused biblical hermeneutics so many times, that therefore we should not read or trust in the Bible. I am sure that we have all encountered people who were like that.

danger 5Unfortunately for the young earth creationists, the success of scientific naturalism vastly outweighs the errors. The scientific achievements of the last century have been remarkable. I am typing this in the privacy of my apartment. Without physically speaking to anybody, handing out pamphlets, putting up signs, preaching to a crowd, thousands of people are going to read what I have to say. And what did I do? I just wrote it. That is a testimony to the success of scientific naturalism. Therefore, when the young earth creationists begin their bouts of anti-scientific rhetoric, they open themselves up to easy falsification. Anybody can instantly perceive the success of scientific naturalism. Is young earth creationism dangerous? Of course it is. By creating an anti-scientific precedent, it makes Christians look foolish and opens them up to easy falsification.

danger 6Young earth creationism brings unnecessary cultural barriers. How do people view the Christian faith? Is it a rational option for thinking men and women? Is it something worth serious thought and reflection? Or is it easily dismissed as it goes against the tide of the most basic and general survey of knowledge that we have acquired? If a religious person told you that all animals do not share DNA, or that the earth did not spin, or that the sun revolves around the earth, you would dismiss what they were saying and consequently, their entire religious system with it. They are adhering to an old mythology. An invitation to accept their dogma would strike you as bizarre, creepy, and even amusing. That is what young earth creationism does to Christianity. It reduces it down to the level of the old mythology.

Further, since the general populous is just not savvy to Christian theology and the creation controversy, many do not know what the Bible says. So most people just assume that the young earth creationists are the ones who are taking it literally and the rest of us are not concerned with the biblical data as much as we are concerned with science. But this would be to ignore the vast archive of great men throughout church history who were old earth creationists. Saint Augustine, one of the fathers and developers of Christian thought, wrote that it may be impossible to discern what sort of days these were in Genesis 1. Many of the other church fathers were quite receptive to this sort of interpretation. Young earth creationism is a modern phenomenon that has plagued the culture and the perception that people have of Christianity. Is young earth creationism dangerous? Well, it has reduced Christianity and the Bible to just an old myth in the eyes of the culture.

Of course, I hastily admit that there will always be barriers to preaching the gospel. People will always resist it because they have a hard and stubborn heart that is disinclined to follow God’s commandments (Ephesians 2:3). God must regenerate the human heart first, and he often uses human means to soften a heart (1 Corinthians 3:6). He could use the preaching of the evangelist to soften the heart of the sinner. He could use rational argumentation to bring an atheist to faith. For some reason, God has chosen to use a synergistic method to bring people to faith. If we say that God just draws whoever he will and therefore we need not worry about the barriers, we decline into definitional hyper-Calvinism. It would be like saying, “Everything is predestined anyone, so you may as well live however you want because you cannot change anything.” So I would not be keen to say that just because God draws whoever he will that therefore the cultural barriers do not matter. They do matter.

It does not apply the historical-grammatical method of interpretation. When I took my first semester majoring in theology, I learned what is known as the historical-grammatical method of biblical interpretation. This means that when interpreting a text, one must ask [1] what is the cultural context? and [2] what is the literary context? Young earth creationists do not ask [1] when interpreting Genesis 1. They only ask [2] and since they think that their literary interpretation is robust, they think that no further question needs to be asked. However, by ignoring [1], they are shunning the most standard method of biblical interpretation and not allowing the author to speak. When we read a text, we are reading something that came out of a specific culture and the original audience would have understood it in a certain way. The original audience would not have adopted the understanding that young earth creationists have.

Throughout church history, we have not had much data about the Ancient Near East (the era in which Genesis was written). But when discoveries were made, then we began to establish a context for Genesis. In his book The Lost World of Genesis One Dr. John Walton pointed out that the creation texts are written in the context of ancient near eastern cosmology and are concerned with functional rather than material creation. So the author of Genesis is not so interested in telling us about how things are brought into existence, but rather with how they begin to function for the incoming human stewards. Dr. Walton used the illustration of a university. One could build the structures that compose the campus (the material creation). But unless you have students and professors and a staff (functional creation), you do not have a university. This is the sort of creation with which the ancient near east was concerned, and it is likely what Genesis One is concerned with as well. This is the cultural context, and young earth creationism shrugs it off. Is young earth creationism dangerous? It does not allow for a plain, straightforward reading of scripture in its’ historical and literary context.

It creates a form of elitism. Anyone who has encountered just a couple of young earth creationists knows what I mean. Many think that they are a superior class of Christians. The old earth creationists are not as faithful to the Bible as they are. They are compromisers and Scripture-twisters. They have uprooted the foundation of biblical history and allowed modern science to fit in where it does not belong. Many young earth creationists are often slanderous. As I pointed out in my article It’s An Attack On The (Adopted) Son: Ken Ham Maligns Brethren many young earth creationists are willing to sacrifice other people, their reputation and challenge their faith for the sake of their cause. He accused Dr. Hugh Ross of loving the praise of men more than the praise of God. Often when a Christian rises up and declares that he believes in an old earth, the young earth creationists are there to point the finger at them, to call them nasty names and to just maintain a mean-spirited disposition. Is young earth creationism dangerous? It certainly is. On top of all of the embarrassment, anti-intellectualism and scripture-twisting, it cultivates a divisive disposition.

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