Sep 2nd, 2006 · Categories: Christianity · No Comments

Christianity: What’s wrong with teaching creationism?

By “creationism” I don’t mean the fundamental truth that the universe was created from nothing by an intentional act of God. I accept this truth without reservation. I take “creationism” to mean a strictly literal interpretation of the seven days of creation described in Genesis 1:1-2:3. I would not dissuade anyone who embraces this understanding of the text. But teaching it as an irrefutable fact has long troubled me. Here are ten reasons why.

There is no Biblical command to teach creationism. Christians are called to make disciples, to baptize, to serve, to be obedient, to preach the gospel. Nowhere are Christians told to preach creationism.

The Bible does not itself claim to be a source of scientific truths. It reveals its spiritual purpose in many passages in both Old and New Testaments, but nowhere more clearly than in Paul’s words to Timothy: “… from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-17, emphasis added) The Bible’s eternal significance is in the fact that it is God’s own witness to His son, Jesus Christ.

Jesus did not appear to attach any special importance to the seven days of creation. He referred often to the Old Testament in his teaching. Yet the only time he specifically mentioned creation was in the context of marriage when he referred (in Matthew 19:4-6) to the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:5-25.

Focusing on the mechanics of creation diminishes the glory of God’s act of creation. The four most important words in the Bible may be the first four – “In the beginning, God”. God wants us to see that He himself existed before He created everything else. How He created everything else is insignificant compared to the fact that He did create everything else.

A 15 billion year-old universe takes nothing away from God or His work. Many Christians find the idea of God lingering over His creation for thousands of millions of years truly awe-inspiring. To know that God could create in an instant a universe that would explode into the vast expanse it is today, that He could foresee the ages which would yield exactly the product He intended, that He infused His reason, order, and laws into the material universe and that it has remained obedient to His commands ever since – to know these things is to know of an infinite God who is powerful and majestic beyond human comprehension.

Using the Bible to contradict science invites science to contradict the Bible. To say that any scientific principle lies at or near the foundation of our faith is to expose our entire faith to scientific evaluation and criticism. The Bible is full of scientific inaccuracies. Science’s complete exoneration of Galileo after the Church’s fanatical persecution of him probably did as much to undermine public faith in the Bible’s teachings as any event in the past thousand years. It produced the illusion that everything in the Bible can be disproven by scientific means.

To a seeking non-believer, creationism can be an impediment to faith. Many people appreciate the obvious utility and validity of science. Yet it is possible to show someone with an appreciation of science that the story of Jesus, if true, was an event so extraordinary as to be beyond the reach of science. For this person, belief may begin with an understanding that while Jesus’ story might have been a myth, there is no evidence that it actually was a myth. It could have happened. Science has no means of disproving the Biblical account of Jesus or of evaluating his eternal spiritual significance. An understanding and appreciation of science is not an impediment to faith in Christ.

So far, so good. But creationism goes on to demand that the hearer accept more than Jesus’ miraculous birth and resurrection and the plan of redemption these events fulfilled. He or she must also accept a story about creation that is directly contradicted by a large body of credible scientific evidence. This person can easily equate faith with myth and abandon it – not because of unwillingness to accept Jesus for who he is but because of unwillingness to accept a secondary, non-essential understanding of a passage at the beginning of Genesis. This is tragic. Nothing about Jesus – his person, his work, or his central role in salvation – is in any way dependent on the amount of time it took to create the universe. It is Jesus himself, not the story of creation, to which we are to be witnesses.

Creationism compels students to choose between school and Sunday school. If teachers and scientists are portrayed as foolish, ignorant or evil when it comes to the origin of the universe, why trust them at all? To be sure, students need to know that scientists sometimes overstep their bounds and attempt to answer spiritual questions. But they must also realize that the Bible does not address all human concerns and can be misapplied when its message of hope for salvation is taken out of context. Students need to be guided into the spiritual maturity necessary to evaluate claims made on both sides and to find the boundaries of such claims for themselves.

Creationism demonizes science. This produces mistrust, suspicion, and cynicism where there should be openness tempered with healthy skepticism. After all, science is not the invention of Satan. Science grew out of a deep and abiding faith that the God of the Bible created the universe and that it embodies His own characteristics of immutability and order. The last thing we need in an era of stem cell research, cloning, and genetic engineering is for Christians to withdraw from the debate because they cannot engage the scientific community.

Creationist dogma marginalizes Christians who accept the idea of an ancient universe. These Christians see much in modern scientific thought that validates the Bible’s account of God’s causative role in creation. Do they have an inferior faith? Do they love Jesus less? Insistence on one view or the other creates an artificial division in the body of Christ that must delight the Enemy. All Christians share a common belief in God the Creator of Heaven and Earth and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord. We can reasonably and lovingly disagree on how long God spent doing the creating.

I sometimes think that this is a disagreement that should never have escaped from the seminaries. But there is an opportunity as well. Jesus said that our unity will show the world that God sent him (John 17:22-23). Our unity is based on our common identity in Christ, not on our views of Genesis 1:1-2:3. Perhaps we Christians can show the world that despite our disagreements over the details, we are one in our love for Christ and for each other.

This entry was posted on Saturday, September 2nd, 2006 at 12:46 pm and is filed under Christianity. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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