There seems to be no lack of opinion about the opening of the new 27 million dollar Answers in GenesisÂ Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY last month. The museum seeks to present an alternative understanding of how the world came into existence. Following a strict biblical literalism, theÂ museum teaches that God created the universe in six literal days and that the earth isÂ young, being under 10,000 years old. Obviously, the museum does not support evolution; itÂ seeks toÂ present a scientific alternative to evolution, using the Bible as the authoritative guide.Â Naturally, many in the scientific community are not happy about its opening. There were over 800 scientists in the surrounding three states that offered a statement articulating their concern about this museum, believing it to be highly influential on young minds that cannot think critically.
In the Christian community, the opinions are extremely radical. There are those who have disdain for the endeavor of “young earth creationists” (henceforth “young earthers”),Â believing their theories and adherence to a literal interpretation of Genesis is pseudoscience. This group is made up of those who hold to an intelligent design (henceforth “IDers”)Â theory of creation, usually holding to an old earth and allowing for the possibility that God utilized macro evolution in creation. The ID movement has gained much ground in the scientific community in the last twenty years and does not want to be identified with young earthers as represented by the Creation Museum. TheyÂ think it will create a guilt by association thatÂ cutsÂ them offÂ fromÂ the audience they have worked so hard to reach. IDers seek to demonstrate without the use of the Bible or reference to the Christian GodÂ that the scientific evidence is in favor of creation by an intelligent designer. This does not mean they disregard the Bible, but they believe that one cannot presuppose the Bible’s authority in order to establish its authority. Most IDers have not had good things to say about the opening of the museum.Â
There are, of course,Â those on the other side who support the young earth theory of creation. TheseÂ believe that the museum is the greatest thing since U2s Achtung Baby (OK, maybe not THAT great, but they really do like it). They are militantly against the propositions of evolution believing it is the major cause for the moral decline of our society. As well, young earther and president of Answers in GenesisÂ Ken Ham would propose that if you believe in an old earth or evolution, you cannot have a doctrine of sin since you would have death before the fall.
It is important to note that young earthers and IDers alike have a common agenda to point to God as the ultimate source of all things. Normally, both would affirm that God created all things ex nihilo (out of nothing), the deity of Christ, his resurrection from the dead, the doctrine of the Trinity, salvation by grace through faith, and the inspiration of Scripture. Yet, with all this in common, it is hard to find two groups of people who get along less than these two. As the old saying goes, “the dogs of the closest breed fight the hardest.” This seems to be the case here.
IDers usually look down uponÂ young earthersÂ believing them to be naive. Young earthers look at IDers as those who compromise essential elements of the faith. IDers wave the claims of young earthers away like an annoying fly, believing their claims to be outdated, irrelevant,Â and unscientific.
My thoughts on these issues are neither passionate about a particular position nor infinitelyÂ informed. Nevertheless, here is my advice to both sides:
Cool the rhetoric. People can interpret the early chapters of Genesis differently than you. This does not mean that they have compromised the faith. The method of creation is not the article upon which the church stands or falls. You may be setting up a false dilemma that keeps people (from a human standpoint)Â from accepting the Christian worldview.
- God could have used evolution to create the world.
- The early chapters of Genesis could be condescending speech.
- The flood could have been local.
- All of this and sin could still be real.
Humble your tone. If there is anything we have learned in the last 100 years it is that science changes. Much of that which was once proclaimed from the scientific mountaintops is now in a discarded pile ofÂ rubble named “Oops.”
- Young eathers maybe correct; you really don’t know with certainty.
- The assumptions ofÂ uniformitarianism may be misguided. The speed of light may not be constantÂ and the decay rate of isotopes may have been different in the past.
- Once you accept creation ex nihilo, belief in talking serpents, dinosaurs on the ark, and men living to 900 is really not that difficult.
- Those in the young earth creation camp do offer some viable theories, even if they are not scientifically driven. Give them some respect. They are trying to honor the Lord.
To both sides:
It seems that God has called both sides into the marketplace of ideas. But we all need to respect the ignorance with which we approach these issues and be respectful of each other. There is no reason for either side to anathematizeÂ the other to the pits of irrelevance, much less to the hottest parts of hell.
Personally, I don’t know the answers to these questions. I think the theory of evolution itself is unpersuasive from a biblical and scientific perspective. But when the issue of the age of the earth is on the table, I fold. There are great men on both sides of the issue. Let me put it this way: when I get to heaven I will not be bent out of shape either way.