Sunday, 24 June 2018

The dark side of young earth creationism

This comic was shared as a reason to reject creationism. Old Earth Ministries (OEM) exists,
to help the church understand they are following a false teaching, and abandon young earth creationism in favor of accepting the scientific truth that our world is billions of years old. 
The comic presents claims by a creationist which are refuted by an Old Earth advocate. The setup is an enthusiastic but naive and ignorant creationist who repeats creationist teaching and is refuted by an knowledgeable and calm rationalist. The creationist is increasingly angry until he becomes an apostate.

The rhetorical effect is one of creationism being both false and dangerous regardless of whether the actual arguments contained in the comic have any merit. But it must be remembered that falsehood is falsehood regardless of whether or not you keep your cool (or, as often the case, you are actually passive aggressive). Man's anger is to be avoided but so is sowing discord among brothers. You don't get a free pass from God by avoiding wrath if you still bear false witness. Character matters, but so does truth.

The claims of the tract are as follows
  1. Scientific theories by creationists are not science but propaganda. Creationism is not scientific
  2. Creationism is not taught in the Bible.
  3. The Hebrew word "yom" means any time frame, not a normal day.
  4. The earth bringing forth fruit is not God doing a miracle thus the time must be longer than a day.
  5. Numbering "day" does not make it literal.
  6. Putting "evening and morning" does not make it literal.
  7. God referring to creating in 6 days and resting on one is not literal because we have other Sabbath patterns.
  8. The sun was not created on day 4 it appeared.
  9. Human death did not exist before the Fall, but animal death did.
  10. If the world is no longer very good then Romans 1:20 cannot be true.
  11. God cannot give us meat if carnivory comes from sin.
  12. God fixes laws so creation cannot change.
  13. If creation changed with Adam then the gospel is diminished.
  14. Creationism stared with John Milton's Paradise Lost.
  15. Creationism is dangerous because when Christians come to understand it is false they abandon Christianity.
14 of these claims are definitely false. And #9 probably is.

Creationists have written on all of them in detail. My summary will be brief. But it is worth mentioning a common feature through the comic. Creationists believe what they do because they read the Bible in a straightforward manner. They are what many would describe as literalists. Creationists take many of the statements in Genesis as narrative and historical. Though they do not think every verse in the Bible is literal. Creationists allow for a range of genres including fable, poetry, and apocalyptic. They recognise grammatical features such as hyperbole, generalisation, rhetoric, etc. What is problematic in the protagonist is that he refutes plain readings of Scripture by giving hyper-literal meanings to other passages. Including appealing to more poetical passages.

To the arguments.

Scientific theories by creationists are not science but propaganda. Creationism is not scientific.

Except that creationism is applying the scientific method to the world around us using different presuppositions. We assume that history is correct as recorded in the Bible and apply that to the world. The presuppositions of Evolutionists are just that. The evidence is the same, but we read it through different perspectives. And it matters what those perspectives are.

As an aside, much of what is called science is actually history. And the historical story of evolution is far more history than it is science. Forensic science is legitimate, but it is not operational science and should not be confused with it.

Creationism is not taught in the Bible.

It depends a little on what is meant here, but the idea that the world is currently ~6000 years old has a long history. It seems ridiculous that an idea that many men have concluded from Scripture over millennia is not suggested by Genesis. Now these interpreters could be mistaken, but only if you claim a straightforward reading is mistaken. This is a little ingenuous. You really have to show why this interpretation is incorrect rather than stating it is absent from the text. 

The Hebrew word "yom" means any time frame, not a normal day.

This is just plain false. It can mean a time frame longer than a usual day, much like the English word. But it has usual meaning and less common meanings. And its meaning without any contextual qualifiers is that of a normal length day.


The earth bringing forth fruit is not God doing a miracle thus the time must be longer than a day.

The logic seems to be that God told the earth to bring forth fruit thus the length of the day must include that time that it takes for a fruit tree to grow fruit. This is utter nonsense. The idea that this is not a miracle because it is indirect is folly. Further, the same is said about the earth bringing forth animals and yet the earth does not normally do this directly or indirectly. Also, it is unlikely that the passage even says this. The earth is to bring forth trees which bear fruit.
God said, “Let the earth produce green plants that will bear seed—fruit trees bearing fruit in which there is seed—according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. And the earth brought forth green plants bearing seed according to its kind, and trees bearing fruit in which there was seed according to its kind.

Numbering "day" does not make it literal.

Except that it does. Hosea 6:2 is not an exception.
He will revive us after two days;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live in his presence.
Even if this means a short time (rather than 2 and 3 days), it means this by virtue of a symbolic comparison. The literalness of the 2 and 3 days is needed so that there can be a figurative understanding of a short time. If "day" does not mean a literal day here, then where is the meaning of a short time? If the passage could mean 2 aeons and 3 aeons then the implied meaning is this will happen after an extremely long time.


Putting "evening and morning" does not make it literal.

This is an interesting argument because creationists do not say that evening and morning mean a 24-hour period (though it often does), rather they argue that the association of evening and morning with the term day makes the day literal. So the example of Psalm 90 is irrelevant. The use of evening and morning here is meant to imply a short time. Again, like in Hosea, it is this literal meaning which shows the Psalmist is claiming how short things are. Grass blossoms and withers in a day, meaning quickly. Similarly men, in God's sight, have short lives.

God referring to creating in 6 days and resting on one is not literal because we have other Sabbath patterns.

This gets things back to front. The example of the creation is an example for men to follow. It is a direct comparison. God did this and you do the same. God created in 6 days and rested on the 7th day therefore you are to work for 6 days and rest on one day. In Exodus the term "day" appears in the command and the example of God. Other Sabbaths such as Sabbaths of years are modeled on the week. There is not comparison of God working for 6 years. Rather the example of 6 on 1 off is the Sabbatical type. (And there is no Sabbath of months.)

The sun was not created on day 4 it appeared.

There can be a difference between "create" [bara] and "make" [asah] but one must be careful not to overly distinguish synonyms. It could mean appoint. It is questionable that the sun existed before this, although the parenthetical comment about making the stars could mean they were made either then or had been made earlier. One should be cautious about getting an exact chronology from Job. As mentioned the stars could have antedated the sun. Either way, "stars" in Job 38:7 is likely to poetically refer to angels.

Human death did not exist before the Fall, but animal death did.

It depends a little on what is meant by "animal." Humans did not die before the Fall. Prior to the Fall Adam and Eve had access to the Tree of Life and death was a result of the Fall. Humans were to eat plants. The fact that God also gave plants to the animals and birds is highly suggestive that carnivory is a result of the Fall. God can then provide for animals if they subsequently become carnivorous. He gave men meat after the Flood and yet we still see God's hand in this provision.

If the world is no longer very good then Romans 1:20 cannot be true.
For from the creation of the world, [God's] invisible attributes, both his eternal power and deity, are discerned clearly, being understood in the things created, so that they are without excuse.
This claim seems a little odd. If the world is no longer very good (because of the Fall and animals eating other animals), then why would this passage not be true? We can see these attributes of God in the world even if it is broken. Why do we need a perfect created world to see God's handiwork?

God cannot give us meat if carnivory comes from sin.

The argument seems to be that if God gives us something then it must be good. If it is good then it cannot be a result of the Fall which came from sin. But this seems like an unusual argument as we know God gave us meat after the Flood and we know that God only gave plants before the Fall. Carnivory was something that occurred after creation. It was not how things were set up when God made humans. So it must have occurred for a reason.

The protagonist argues that carnivory cannot be due to sin because God gives us meat, but God can bring about good from evil. There are many examples in Scripture where something good comes from evil: Joseph and his brothers, Hosea and his wife, water from a rock, salvation through the murder of Jesus.

God fixes laws so creation cannot change.
Thus says the Lord: "If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth, then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them."
This says nothing about whether creation can change as a result of the Fall. And we know that it did because Paul tells us:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

If creation changed with Adam then the gospel is diminished.

This takes us away from creationism into whether God foreknew or caused the Fall. Regardless, the Fall occurred and God promised a redeemer in the curse. The idea that a plan B diminishes anything for God is not borne out in Scripture. It is frequently the case that God does even greater things when we fail.

Creationism stared with John Milton's Paradise Lost.

Mention is made of Milton and 4 other creationists. Milton wrote Paradise Lost in 1667 and 1674. It is almost certain that any concepts related to creationism reflected not only his beliefs but those of Christians during that time. No mention is made of many other creationists such as Kepler (1571–1630) or Newton (1642–1727). Creationism clearly antedates Paradise Lost.

Creationism is dangerous because when Christians come to understand it is false they abandon Christianity.

There are several reasons to question this. Firstly, there are a large number of beliefs which are held by a variety of Christians around the world. Many who change what they think about a particular doctrine do not abandon the faith. Most of us have modified at least one aspect of what we think about various Christian doctrines. Do we all abandon the faith every time we modify a belief?

Secondly, it is the experience of many creationists that Christians who have abandoned evolution they were taught and embraced a creationist understanding of Genesis and the Bible are even more enthusiastic about he things of God. It was the theory of evolution that hamstrung their faith.

Thirdly, what are we to say of other Christian beliefs that act as a stumbling block? Professed Christians abandon Christianity claiming that they have come to realise one of their beliefs is wrong. Do we deny the virgin birth, the coming of Jesus in the flesh, the love of God, because if someone abandons this belief they could end up abandoning Christianity? The truth is that people abandon Christianity for a range of reasons, not all because of struggles with doctrine. Even so, someone who wishes to walk away will often blame a belief he struggles with. (This may even be the case when the real reason is that he struggles with a sin that he does not wish to abandon.)

Regardless, it is important to believe the truth. If creationism in true then it is better to teach it in the church and better for Christians to hold this doctrine. Irrespective of what happens to men who abandon a true doctrine, we are better to think rightly about the world, the Bible, and God.

Conclusion

I find it interesting that creationism is portrayed as dangerous in this cartoon. It seems to me that the author rejects a straightforward reading of Genesis but in doing so he reveals that he does not understand the rest of Scripture that he brings to his defense.

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