The young earth creationists believe that Genesis 1 is “literally” a description of creation. I do not. It is this simple disagreement that is the cornerstone of my objection. I believe that Genesis 1 is a pre-scientific description of Creation intended to accent how Yahweh’s relationship with the world stands in stark contrast to the Gods of other cultures, most likely those of Babylon. Textual and linguistic evidence convinces me that this chapter was written to be used in a liturgical (worship) setting, with poetic rhythms and responses understood as part of the text. It tells who made the universe in a poetic and pre-scientific way. It is beautiful, inspired and true as God’s Word.
Does it match up with scientific evidence? Who cares?
• Michael Spencer
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Todd Wilson makes a good effort at his CT article, Ten Theses on Creation and Evolution That (Most) Evangelicals Can Support. But, in the end, it is unsatisfying and unsustainable.
Wilson begins by noting that, with regard to the topic of origins, “There is hardly a more controversial subject among evangelical Christians.” As one of our commenters noted the other day: “And hardly a less controversial subject anywhere else. Sometimes there are not two sides to every issue. There is a right answer and a wrong answer.” My main response to this article is, “Boy, do evangelicals need to grow up and enter the real world.”
I understand that this puts pastors such as Todd Wilson in an uncomfortable position, but so be it. The process that he and his church went through is well known to me from my own experience. A church is stuck in a dogmatic box. The pastor and other leaders suggest a long process of study and conversation to come up with a statement or policy that most everyone can live with. In the end, they develop something that doesn’t really end up dealing with the elephants in the room.
This tension-filled season in the life of our church provided a good occasion to engage in serious conversations about origins issues. We grappled with our doctrinal boundaries as a local church: What degree of diversity will we allow? And given our diversity, what can we still affirm together as a unifying doctrinal core?
The upshot was the development of a series of ten theses on creation and evolution that we believe (most) evangelicals can (mostly) affirm. We weren’t looking for perfect unanimity. Our ultimate goal was to maintain the “unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3) and to prioritize the gospel as of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). It was important for us to arrive at a position on creation and evolution that was in keeping with that faithful Christian saying, “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
I’ve been there. I admire the good intentions of the church leadership. However, they only delayed the inevitable sense of dissatisfaction that comes with an unfinished task. The statement they came up with will only keep them in a no man’s land of intellectual dishonesty.
Here are the ten theses Todd Wilson’s church developed:
- The doctrine of creation is essential to the Christian faith.
- The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is the Word of God, inspired, authoritative, and without error. Therefore whatever Scripture teaches is to be believed as God’s instruction, without denying that the human authors of Scripture communicated using the cultural conventions of their time.
- Genesis 1-2 is historical in nature, rich in literary artistry, and theological in purpose. These chapters should be read with the intent of discerning what God says through what the human author has said.
- God created and sustains everything. This means that he is as much involved in natural processes as he is in supernatural events. Creation itself provides unmistakable evidence of God’s handiwork.
- Adam and Eve were real persons in a real past, and the fall was a real event with real and devastating consequences for the entire human race.
- Human beings are created in the image of God and are thus unique among God’s creatures. They possess special dignity within creation.
- There is no final conflict between the Bible rightly understood and the facts of science rightly understood. God’s “two books,” Scripture and nature, ultimately agree. Therefore Christians should approach the claims of contemporary science with both interest and discernment, confident that all truth is God’s truth.
- The Christian faith is compatible with different scientific theories of origins, from young-earth creationism to evolutionary creationism, but it is incompatible with any view that rejects God as the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Christians can (and do) differ on their assessment of the merits of various scientific theories of origins.
- Christians should be well grounded in the Bible’s teaching on creation but always hold their views with humility, respecting the convictions of others and not aggressively advocating for positions on which evangelicals disagree.
- Everything in creation finds its source, goal, and meaning in Jesus Christ, in whom the whole of creation will one day achieve eschatological redemption and renewal. All things will be united in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
- Re: Tenet 2 — Committing yourself to a typical evangelical statement of inerrancy locks you into a closed system of reasoning that will not allow for honest inquiry into other evidence about origins.
- Re: Tenet 3 — Calling Genesis 1-2 “historical in nature, rich in literary artistry, and theological in purpose” tries too hard to cover all the bases of genre and style without really saying anything meaningful.
- Re: Tenet 5 — Again, there is no nuance or wiggle room in this conviction about Adam and Eve. Wilson himself notes that this could be a sticking point for some, and he also acknowledges that in twenty years, this will probably be a minority opinion. They make an unequivocal statement anyway. Why?
- Re: Tenet 7 — I find this to be an especially unhelpful statement, especially in an evangelical context, where there is often a genuine lack of appreciation for “the book of Nature.” “All truth is God’s truth” to most evangelicals means “science will ultimate agree with my interpretation of the Bible.’
- Re: Tenet 8 — This point once again shows the limited perspective of evangelicals. To say that “the Neo-Darwinian assertion of people like Richard Dawkins, that mutations are random and that evolution is therefore necessarily unguided or blind, is a metaphysical add-on to the scientific theory of evolution, not a part of the theory itself…” is to misunderstand what science is. By its very nature, science does not take into account theological concerns such as God’s providential oversight of creation. Will evangelicals ever feel comfortable talking about any aspect of life without using explicit God language or requiring that everything fit into their narrow “worldview”?
- Re: Tenet 9 — “Christians should be well grounded in the Bible’s teaching on creation but always hold their views with humility, respecting the convictions of others and not aggressively advocating for positions on which evangelicals disagree.” While I appreciate the author’s desire for unity and agree that we should not trample upon others’ beliefs, the church ultimately needs to move on from this controversy. Would the sentiments of this tenet have been appropriate in the light of Galileo and Copernicus’s findings? For how long?
For how long?
Nice try. But all this statement tells me is that we have a long, long way to go.