Nothing discourages me about the future of evangelicals like “young earth creationism,” Hamm style.
Josh puts it well in this post at Here We Stand: “Every time I read someone saying it’s the Christian’s duty to refute biology and physics with the Bible, something inside me just dies a little.”
I’m feelin’ that as well. The army of preachers who have proclaimed themselves the new Lords of Science make me ever more convinced that evangelicalism is souring fast.
Joel Hunter responds to Josh here, and recalls a previous discussion here. Joel was commenting on the LA Times story on the “Ministry” of creationist superstar Ken Hamm. I’m sorry folks, but reading the description of Hamm’s pure propaganda rallies- teaching children to take on teachers with “Were you there?”- makes me ashamed and discouraged.
In a recent post on “The Proper Use of the Bible,” David Wayne communicates well some of his own growth regarding the Biblical narrative and how that narrative relates to the use of the Bible. Wayne’s discovery of the nature of scripture is wonderful. I would wish it for everyone. Wayne quotes his teacher on a three-part description of the nature of scripture:
Dr. Tripp pointed out that the Bible is a story, not a compilation of many stories, but one story with many mini-dramas comprising the story. More specifically, he defined the Bible as a theologically annotated story. The Bible has three parts which can be distinguished but not separated:
1. Narrative -the story itself.
2. Propositions – The theme of the story formed into generalized truth statements that help you understand the plot of the story.
3. Principles – The themes of the story applied to the situations of daily life to help you live within the plot.
Young earth creationists believe that Biblical propositions contain scientific descriptions of the age and beginnings of the universe. Hamm teaches students to fight their Biology professors with Bible verses and to taunt them because they “weren’t there” at the events described in the texts, and therefore must take an epistemological back seat to Christian fundamentalists.
My own experience with creationists indicates that maintaining a view of scripture that includes scientifically valid propositions about the age of the earth, the origin of species and the nature of geology/astronomy and physics is just as important as any Biblical statement about Jesus or the Gospel. Use of the Genesis account of creation and the fall anywhere in the Biblical narrative means that all the propositions, theories, explanations and extrapolations of the young earth creationists are assumed to be true, Biblical and the standard test for orthodoxy.
I could cite any number of blog comments that indicate a complete “domino” theory: Inerrancy = young earth creationism = orthodoxy = the Gospel. It’s not much trouble to find advocates of this view who will say departure from the “truth” of Hamm’s version of creationism equals abandonment of the Bible, the Gospel, the truth and righteousness.
As one sending Christian students off to colleges and universities, this is depressing. While advocates of ID are valiantly working to make a case for intelligent design, the advocates of YEC continue to make fideism and acceptance of the entire YEC canon a cardinal tenet of being a Biblical Christian. The shape of their resistance to debate and discussion appears to be increasingly unethical and incompatible with a Christian witness and intellectual integrity.
Contrast this with the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on these same subjects. (Catholic Answers has a good article, but the Catechism is the crucial statement to read.)
I’ve blogged my own position in the YEC debate in the past, and gotten all the expected reaction. Saying that the Bible is about Jesus, God’s Final Word of salvation, and not about geology and astrophysics is still a minority view.
We must develop a way to talk about scripture that does not create this situation. The rise of Ken Hamm’s approach to Genesis has been largely blessed by the culture warriors whose influence in evangelicalism ties every available issue together, making those who would doubt YEC to be honorary pro-abortion activist Democrats in favor of gay marriage.
Clearly, we need to hear voices like Conrad Hyers who rescue our use of the Bible from the claims of the creationists. The false dichotomies, death-or-surrender tactics and propagandizing techniques of one segment of evangelicalism is making it more and more difficult to bring the intelligent, bright young people of our churches with us into serious discipleship. This is not an issue that will be solved by preachers throwing Bibles around in protest of the insidious errands of anti-Christian educators. If the YEC approach wins the day in evangelicalism, the movement will lose. It will lose thousands and thousands of young minds, who will go where the relationship of science and scripture is less hazardous.