Christians: Jesus Was A Creationist
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The Creation Museum near Cincinnati is the single most powerful statement of the young-earth creationist perspective. I visited it shortly after it opened ten years ago. My next column is about a recent book, in which an historian and a rhetorician present their analysis of the museum.
A growing numberof Christians (now calledyoung-earth creationists),including manyscientists, hold to thetraditional view, believingit to be the only viewthat is truly faithful toScripture and that fits the scientific evidence far better than the reigning old-earth evolutionarytheory.
Many Christians say that the age of the earth is an unimportant and divisiveside issue that hinders the proclamation of the gospel. But is that really thecase? Answers in Genesis and many other creationist organizations think not.
Scientific creationism as a movement ispractically coterminous with Protestant fundamentalism, yet creationists,seemingly, would like us to believe that this correlation is accidental. Thatis, while a fundamentalist must needs be a creationist, the reverse is notnecessarily true: anyone may be a creationist so long as he or she approachesthe data with an open mind. While many opponents of creationism have regardedsuch claims as simple attempts to disguise the strictly religious character ofcreationism (i.e., no one would espouse it whose religious beliefs did notdemand it), a few have pursued the question one important step further. Mightcreationist polemics in fact be an apologetical, even an evangelistic, strategyaimed at the religious conversion of unbelievers? If this is so, then indeed oneneed not be a fundamentalist to accept creationism, but, the polemicists hope,accepting creationism will be the first step to eventually acceptingfundamentalism as well.
I suspect that there is such a hidden agendaimplied in creationist polemics and that a clear analogy may be traced betweencreationist argumentation and admitted fundamentalist apologetics. The analogycan be shown to be so close as not to be an analogy (i.e., between twoseparate but similar things) at all; rather it becomes clear thatcreationism is simply one more branch of evangelistic apologetics sharing thesame goal of preparing the ground for faith and conversion.
In thenext pages I will briefly review a few standard apologetics arguments, drawingattention to the pattern of argumentation I have described. Finally I will showhow the pattern and motive of evangelistic apologetics underlies creationistpolemics as well.
At lastwe turn to creationism. I believe it will require no extensive demonstration toshow how similar in logic and procedure many creationist arguments are to thoseoutlined above. In creationist literature it is common to find otherwise tenuoustheories being preferred simply because they conform most closely to "thecreation model." Creationists champion Moon and Spencer's theory that the redshift has been seriously miscalculated, and so light need not have traveledthrough space longer than creationism says stars have existed. But if thisproves unworkable, then we may posit that God created the starlight already intransit. Any reading of the facts will do, as long as it seems to supportcreationism. (There is no point in belaboring this, since most readers are bynow familiar with creationist arguments.)
What is worth pointing out,however, is that we need not merely try to infer that the creationists are movedto their harmonizing tactics by the same apologetic zeal that impels proponentsof gospel accuracy and biblical inerrancy. Creationists themselves are candidabout the matter.
We could ask forno more explicit statements of the apologetical intent to harmonize the datawith the criterion of biblicist faith. Our preceding discussion makes it clearjust why Gish, Morris, and other creationists remain so convinced in the face ofrepeated refutations by scientific critics. They are so impressed with their ownharmonizations that they do not see that harmonization can never convince onewho does not already accept the independent belief with which the facts havebeen harmonized.
It might be suggested that creationist apologists are notunaware of their real obligation to demonstrate that their model makes bettersense of the data in their own right scientifically (however poor a job they maydo of it). For instance, is not this the point when they criticize the theory ofevolution by invoking against it the second law of thermodynamics and theabsence of transitional forms from the fossil record? I would contend that weare still dealing with harmonizations since the creationists consistently chooseinterpretations of the second law and of the relevant fossils that areconsiderably strained in the direction of creationism. The second law is alwaysmade to apply to the increasing complexification of evolving life-forms, despitethe demonstrated inapplicability of the law to an open system such as earth'sbiosphere. Similarly Gish refuses to recognize the clearly transitional natureof the archaeopteryx, ruling instead that anything with feathers and wings hasgot to be a bird (Evolution: The Fossils Say No!, p. 90).
Ifcreationist arguments can be seen to be of a piece with fundamentalistapologetics in regard to method, the same is true when it comes to motive.Creationism is what Frances A. Schaeffer calls "pre-evangelism,"apologetics as a laying ofgroundwork for conversion. For creationists believe that evolutionists aredamned and going to hell, indeed not simply for their espousal of Darwin'sdoctrine, but because of what else this denotes.
So the evangelistic motive of most creationists ought to beclear. And this fact in turn clarifies something else. It explains why those whopose as men of science tend in public debate to rely on rhetorical techniquesand emotional appeals that would seem more at home in an evangelistic meeting.Of course, Gish and company view public forums on evolution and creationprecisely as evangelistic meetings! They are contending for souls andwill use any appropriate strategy: "We destroy arguments and every proudobstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ"(II Cor. 10:5).
Let us examine briefly three types ofpolemical arguments used commonly by fundamentalist evangelists and byscientific creationists. Each, by the way, entails the commission of a blatantfallacy of logic.
In exactly the same way, creationist debaters do not tire ofappealing, e.g., to Karl Popper and his criterion of falsifiability (i.e., if wecannot even suggest a condition whereby a theory might be disproved, then the"theory" is so indefinite as to be meaningless). They ignore the fact thatPopper's dictum is itself the subject of some debate, and the appeal is oftensimply to Popper as a recognized authority. And again, it matters not whetherPopper himself would apply his criterion to the theory of evolution; he may becited as a pro-creation witness anyway. And the creationist has likely notthought beyond the bare appeal to the "big name." It is in fact quite easy toshow that evolutionary theory passes Popper's test with flying colors, but thecreationist did not pursue it thus far. The proof-texting of the authoritativename would settle the argument, just as a biblical proof-text will settle aquestion among fundamentalists.
Creationists pursue the identical strategy when they quote variousscientists of different disciplines piecemeal as they each critique someevidence in their own specialty. It is as if all these scientists were caught ina rare moment of honesty admitting that evolutionary theory really is full ofholes. It does not matter that others in the same specialty would counter thecritiques, that others would suggest other reasons for the problems noted,consistent with (or even demanded by) evolutionary theory. Nor does it evenmatter that the scientists quoted do not themselves see their criticisms asfalsifying evolution as the creationists do. Again what we have is a kind ofselective and out-of-context proof-texting that naturally appeals tofundamentalists because of their accustomed use of Scripture. And the debatershope the weight of collected criticism or the evidence from each scientificdiscipline will appeal to the audience as well.
It is obvious that creationist debaters are no lessenamored by the bifurcationfallacy. Indeed it is one of the chief weapons in their arsenal. We have alreadyseen how Morris opposes the death-message of evolution to the life-message of thegospel. But beyond this, it can be said that the entire creationist polemic isstructured according to the fallacy of bifurcation. Most of their efforts to"defend the creation model" are in fact attempts to poke holes in the evolutionmodel. How could they see the two attempts as equivalent unless they assumedthat evolutionism and biblical creationism were the only two options? Only onthis (erroneous) presupposition could it seem that to disprove the one (if itcould be done) would be to prove the other.
I haveattempted to show, both by analogy with evangelistic apologetics and by explicitstatements from creationists themselves, that the polemical enterprise ofcreationism is actually one more strategy of "pre-evangelism." It is intended topersuade unsaved evolutionists to discard faith in evolution and to embracefaith in the Bible, first in the matter of cosmology, then in the matter offaith in Christ to save one's soul. Accepting creationism and rejectingevolution is seen to be a necessary step preliminary to salvation, sincefundamentalists do not imagine that one can believe in Jesus Christ as saviorwithout also adhering to biblicism. Whatever the merits or demerits of such abelief theologically, it can hardly be denied that the creationist enterprisemust be seen as primarily religious, not scientific, in nature andpurpose.
The Creation Museum, located in Petersburg, Kentucky, United States, is a museum that promotes a pseudoscientific, young Earth creationist (YEC) explanation of the origin of the universe based on a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation narrative in the Bible. It is operated by the Christian creation apologetics organization Answers in Genesis (AiG). 2b1af7f3a8