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In Appreciation of Both Sides of the Creation Debate

One of the beautiful things about being slow to respond to the internet topic du jour is that sometimes other people come along and say what you want to say, only better and more concisely. So it is with me on the creation debate topic this week.

Yesterday I had 1500 words written on the topic. Then today I found two posts that sum up my thoughts better than I was able to. (Brevity, Chris. Learn brevity.)

First up, let me point you to Richard Beck, writing today about Creation Wars in Church. After noting that he once was removed from consideration for a tenured post at a “flagship school” of evangelicalism because of his interest in evolutionary psychology, Beck says this: “I get it. This is still a big issue in many places. But here’s the thing I’ve been pondering: Is this an issue in the
local church?”

I ask because creation vs. evolution just isn’t an issue in my church. I go to church with people who have PhDs in biology and people who teach creationism in their home-school curriculum. The people at my church are all over the map on this issue. Some were with Ken Ham Tuesday night. And some were with Bill Nye.

And we all go to the same church.

How’s that possible?

I’m not sure, but my best guess is this.

We just don’t think it matters. We just don’t talk about it. You are free to think however you want to think about this. We don’t make it a test of fellowship. We recognize the diversity in our midst and have sort of collectively agreed to not make it an issue.

This makes me happy, both for Dr. Beck and because I think the same is largely true in my own church body. We all have opinions, but we as a matter of practice don’t make it a divisive issue. There are bigger things to be concerned with.

Which brings me to Michael Brendan Dougherty’s In Defense of Creationists. He manages to be both annoyingly condescending toward but lovingly appreciative of devoted Christian creationists all at once. It’s worth reading the whole piece, but let me quote a few of the good bits here in a way that can perhaps ameliorate the condescension:

In most times and most places, I have a load of sympathy and even admiration for six-day creationists, “young Earthers,” and fundamentalists. As the debate between Ham and Nye unfolded, I found myself more and more disgusted with some of the self-styled “sophisticated” Christians performing their giggles at Ham for all the world to see.

There was something just a little ugly about all these Christians rushing up to their platforms, drawing attention to the sweat on their brow, putting a concerned look upon their faces, and proclaiming that fundamentalism is a “modern” error. And then when they were sure everyone was listening, lifted up their eyes heavenward to pray, “God, I thank you that I am not like this mouth-breather Ken Ham.” With a great urgency, but very little understanding of cosmology or the various theories of evolution, they recited their absolute fidelity to these theories. These anxious-to-please Christians were telling important truths, but in the spirit of a lie.

Yep. This is exactly the attitude that my friend (and scientiest) Richard Okimoto decried to me on Twitter yesterday. (Richard: I hope this post doesn’t make you sad.)

More:

To submit to the authority of science does not mean to place one’s personal and irrevocable imprimatur on today’s most supported theories. It simply means accepting the rational process of investigating claims about nature through rigorous observation and experimentation….

On the other hand, I’ve always found those Christians who hold to six-day accounts of man’s origin difficult to refute and even more difficult to despise. There is a certain strength and flexibility to their tautology. Further, even though they’re wrong on the science, they are right about the things that really matter to the human heart and to human civilization.

And then he brings it home:

So I do not think that Ken Ham-style creationists should get to rewrite biology textbooks according to their very peculiar reading of Scripture. But I admire their bullheadedness. They … [are] trying to protect the big truths of Christianity: that God created the world, that we are dependent on him, that we owe him everything, and that he loves us even though we are sinful. In the world most of us inhabit, day to day, the world of lovers, wriggling kids, disease, war, and death, the sureness of God’s love is relevant in a way that the details of early hominid fossils never will be, glorious as they are. Have some perspective, people.

In protecting that big truth of creation ā€” that we are all made in God’s image and all endowed with supreme dignity ā€” fundamentalists zealously guard things that follow logically from that. Things like the commandment “Thou shall not murder.”

If Ken Ham is getting rich telling things he knows to be false, he’s a shameless fraud. But the bulk of creation’s fundamentalists are deeply sincere. And, better than that, they are willing to be, in St. Paul’s words “fools for Christ’s sake.” They do not live for the world’s esteem. And so when the world next discovers a sophisticated ideology to get around “Thou shall not murder,” I’d rather have one cussed fundie next to me than the whole army of eye-rolling Christians lining up to denounce him.

Amen and amen.

Is this fair? Honest? Kind and not patronizing? I hope so. If you’re reading this as a young-earth creationist and you’re miffed at what I’ve quoted, please accept my apologies. I don’t want to swipe, or sneer, or condescend. The nut that I get from both these posts is that, as Christians, we can agree to disagree on the age of the universe, and that there is noble, earnest desire to serve God and to love the truth of Scripture on both sides of the debate.

I want to be as passionate for the truth and unconcerned about what everyone else thinks as the YECs are, even if we disagree about the age of the rocks.

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