Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Why Creationists are Treated Like Red-headed Step Children by Christians [pt 2]

As I noted previously, there are many in the contemporary Christian church who willfully oppose the work of young earth creationists (YEC). Despite how well researched and argued they may be, they are met with a scornful disdain that seems to be hopeful they will fail in their scientific pursuits. Hugh Ross and the men who comprise his ministry team at his Reasons to Believe organization fall into this category.

However, apart from them, there are other Christians who oppose YEC but are perhaps not as hostile. Generally, their opposition to YEC is born out of being misinformed. They operate from a position of ignorance. Some of these misinformed folks, not knowing any better, may feed their ignorance with anti-YEC apologetic propaganda generated by the willfully hostile group. Yet, for the most part, the ignorant group remains ignorant of both positions. The don't read any literature, especially from the YEC position and any information they may get is surface level at best.

I encountered some of these folks over on the Stand to Reason blog. Stand to Reason is the ministry of Greg Koukl, and for the greater part, I consider them to be one of the more outstanding apologetic ministries around today. The one area where they terribly fail is with their misrepresentation of what YEC believe and teach.

I listen with regularity to Greg Koukl's STR radio program through the internet. He presents a Bible Answer man style program in which he takes caller questions, but Greg does it with much more depth and insight. Every once in a while, however, a caller will ask Greg about YEC vs. OEC, how to read the creation week in Genesis, and other related creationist topics, and to my sad disappointment, Greg will label their position as being "incredible" meaning unbelievable, or he will parrot some of the comments made by Hugh Ross against YEC. Stand to Reason is a ministry that prides itself in being "good ambassadors" for the Christian faith, and one of the important ways of being a good ambassador is by accurately representing the position of the ones with whom you disagree. I have yet to read or hear STR do this with YEC. What I do see is the erection of a strawman caricature and then the dismantling of that strawman as if it genuinely represents young earth believers.

Greg is friendly with Ross and his Reasons to Believe ministry, so I can understand how he can be biased towards them against YEC. But I think he is an example of a larger, misinformed group of believers who don't have a clue about YEC. This general cluelessness was demonstrated clearly by several of the folks who posted comments on a blog entry addressing whether or not we can trust our senses. Melinda, the regular poster on the STR blog, was making reference to a caller from a previous Sunday broadcast who questioned whether or not we can trust our senses so as to gather knowledge about our world. The caller came from a skeptical, "we can't really no if we exist, let alone if there is a God," point of view, but Melinda took the call and used it as an illustration against the claims of YEC.

I thought her comparison was irrelevant, if not illogical, and posted a comment suggesting for her to actually read what YEC believe. Other posters who represent the ignorant, misinformed group against YEC also made comments questioning our understanding of the word "day" in Genesis 1, raised the old canard about how the ancient Hebrews believed in a geocentric cosmology, and other such nonsense.

My interaction with these dear folks began to stir my thinking. Why exactly do Christians so easily gravitate toward a non-YEC position to embrace an old earth position, what I believe to be a theological untenable and scientifically problematic view point? I think there are at least three key reasons. Let me deal with the first one with this post and hit the other two in a later one.

These Christians adhere to an evidentialist philosophy in their approach to apologetics and evangelism. Evidentialism is an approach to defending the Christian faith in which the Christian apologist appeals to the reasonableness of evidence when presenting the gospel. For example, the evidentialist when evangelizing an unbeliever will point to evidence for defending the reliability of the Bible. Such things as the internal consistency of the scripture, even though it has been written by 40 different authors over a 1,400 year time frame, and the fact that it is the most attested ancient document known to man. These evidences when presented to the unbeliever forces him or her to evaluate the reasonableness of the Christian truth claims. If the evidence demonstrates that the Bible could possibly be the Word of God, then the Bible's claims about Christ could be possibly true and hence the Christian faith is established by reason. Only an unreasonable, illogical person would reject such undeniable evidence.

The problem with this line of reason, to borrow the term, is that evidence must be interpreted. There are no neutral facts floating around in the world that "speak for themselves" as we would say, so that everyone would come to the same conclusions about them. Even though the evidence may be undeniable, the Bible is quite clear that the unbeliever is opposed to truth (Romans 1:18 ff.). Moreover, unbelievers have their "understanding darkened" as Ephesians 4:18 states, so they don't reason properly to begin with. Thus, they explain away the evidence because they don't want it to be true. The issue with the unbeliever is not one of evidence, but one of the heart. They are in need of a spiritual heart operation and that is a work only God can do.

Also, evidentialists hold to an improper view of General Revelation (GR). The Bible implies there are two forms of God's revelation to man. First, general revelation is God revealing Himself in nature through His creation (Psalm 19, for instance), but special revelation(SR) is God revealing Himself to His redeemed more specifically. All men know God through GR, but GR cannot show the way to salvation. If anything, GR merely declares God is and holds man accountable in judgment. Only SR can show the means of salvation and that is only contained in scripture.

Evidentialists tend to believe GR is self defining in terms of its scope and authority apart from SR. In other words, GR is an authority in and of itself, and moreover, it has sufficient authority to inform and correct SR. Thus, where GR is believed to be telling us one thing about creation, say the world is billions of years old, well then GR can inform and correct our understanding of SR where it appears to conflict with the GR. A young earth belief is considered incredible, as Greg Koukl asserts, because geologists, who are believed to be dealing with self defining absolutes like the age of rocks, tells us the world is really old. Thus, the only reasonable conclusion is that the Bible must be re-interpreted to fit the alleged absolute and undeniable conclusions of the geologists.

Again, any and all evidence is interpreted, and secular geologists regularly work from a presupposition opposed to the scripture, so all the so-called evidence will be interpreted to stand against the Bible. Furthermore, science is not infallible and what is considered self defining absolutes for understanding our world many times get overturned by later findings. Only the Bible is infallible because it is tied to the character of our infallible God. Our understanding of General revelation, then, should be conformed to the text of scripture (special revelation) not the other way around.

I'll conclude this discussion next time.



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