I’m going to start my day by ticking people off!
Just let me say at the outset that I am not saying that people who hold a belief in what is called “biblical creationism” do not honor God. They may or may not. But the belief system itself does not honor God. Why? Because it denies the work of God’s own hands. The creation is very important to God. “It is good,” was his judgement on it. Scriptures tell us that the created world speaks so clearly of the reality of God that even those who have never heard the name of Christ can be judged because of the truth that it proclaims.
Today we are very privileged to live in a time when people who do not even know our savior are dedicating all the days of their lives to studying the work of His hands. What have they discovered? That mountains really do bow down. They just take a really long time to do it. That rocks when studied proclaim the glory of a God whose creation has been unfolding in ways both mysterious and wonderful for longer than man can fathom. That the very atoms of our bodies come from dust – dust of the ground and dust of exploding stars and the dust that the stars and planets formed from. Over and over, these scientists who study how creation works are explaining the physical realities behind the poetic descriptions given to people so long ago. It is truly amazing how accurate these poetic descriptions often are. The writers of the bible had no way of knowing that mountains really do rise up and then get eroded away. They didn’t know about great banks of moisture traveling over the surface of the earth which when full, spill their water to the surface – like the water jars of heaven that the bible mentions. They didn’t know that rocks contain the secret history of the earth and the records of life growing and evolving here. Yet somehow, Jesus knew that they could proclaim the glory of God even if no one else would.
But then we get to evolution. This is where many Christians lose it. First of all, many Christians have bought into the idea that if evolution is true, it discredits God as creator and our special place in the universe. Which is absurd. If evolution is true, it is because God made it true. Who are we to tell God how he may and may not create his own universe and the creatures who bear his image? Who are we to deny the evidence of God’s own creation by insisting, “well, I read your book and as I understood it, it says you did it this way – not the way that your creation points to you making it.” Doesn’t that just sound ridiculous? It’s our understanding of scripture that is flawed, not the testimony of creation!
Many Christians will point to scientists and their faithlessness as a reason to disbelieve what God’s creation is telling us. But I challenge any believer to take a closer look at creationist materials. They are filled from start to back with dishonest representations of the work that these scientists are doing. Take any argument and look to see the scientific response to it and the dishonesty of these materials starts to take shape. A very basic example: does evolution rely on random accidents? That is one of the claims used to discredit evolution, but it is very far from the truth of what evolution has found. I wrote a bit about this elsewhere, but the mutations evolution depends on are far from random. Irreducible complexity only makes sense if you don’t understand the parts life has to work with. The basic materials of life fit together in such a way that scientists are beginning to think that life is almost inevitable. Just like snowflakes naturally form because of the shape of water molecules, the basic structures which the most primative forms of life depend on seem to be the natural result of the way that various materials come together.
If you really believe that the creationist materials which claim to refute evolution scientifically are reliable, I have a challenge for you. Look up the references they offer. See what the original source material says and judge for yourself how accurately it has been represented. If there is a quote from a scientist, see if it was pulled out of context in such a way that its meaning has been lost. See what the scientist has to say about his or her work and what it means. Creationist materials rely heavily on deception and count on those who are using it not to challenge or dig into its claims. Our God is a God of truth and this reliance on deception is not His way. And this reliance on dishonesty is pervasive among those who claim to be able to show the truth of “biblical creationism”. In the infamous Dover PA case regarding teaching intelligent design, it was easily shown that the ID text book was simply a creationist text tweaked to remove explicit references to God. The whole argument of the intelligent design proponents was that ID was not the same thing as biblical creationism, and yet they were so arrogant and so dishonest that they simply took a creationist text and modified it a bit. I have even heard proponents of creationism claim that God only made it appear that the world was billions of years old and that life arose from the process of evolution as a test of our faith. These people are willing to make God himself into a liar in order to protect their own understanding! These people claim to be serving God, but the god of their own imagining is a liar who depends on other liars to protect him. There is a father of lies, but it’s not God.
As to the actual words of the creation story, we need to remember who it was given to: people who didn’t know what a billion was or what an atom or dna or a virus or sperm was. Would we have preferred that God waited until our scientific knowledge caught up to the physical reality before making himself known to humanity. Even within the story itself, there are signs pointing to a more complicated reality. There are two different creation stories, for one. A lot of it is vague – what is the light and the dark that God created? And did it really not occur to God that Adam would need some way to reproduce until he decided to make Eve? Which is not to disparage the creation stories in any way. I’m personally fascinated by them. I have been meditating on them for a good 20 years now and will probably continue trying to figure out what they have to tell us for many years to come. It’s a shame that the story of the creation and fall have been treated so shallowly because they contain puzzles worthy of the greatest minds.
I have been upset for years over “biblical creationism” because of the bad fruit it produces. Many of the scientists that Christians like to disparage (which is NOT loving) do not believe in God because of creationism. It keeps people from knowing God. Creationism breeds lies and liars. It trashes the church’s testimony. No one sees Christians denying the reality of creation and is inspired to follow God. It keeps people hanging onto a simplistic, immature view of God as a genie who goes “poof” and makes things happen. It puts God on our timeline and not His own. Having to wait on God makes much more sense when you consider that God normally works over the course of billions of years and not minutes and hours. Creationism discredits holy scripture by trying to make it into a history book rather than the record of the revelation of God to his people. When we insist that scripture says something that is obviously untrue, people will no longer see any reason to take it seriously.
Often creationists try to claim that by standing up for “truth”, they are honoring God. But if there’s anything that comes naturally to us humans it is refusing to admit when we are wrong. Those who hold onto this very human, flawed understanding of what the scriptures say about creation aren’t being brave and faithful to God. They are simply doing what we humans are always doing – trying to substitute our own ideas about how things should work for God’s and stubbornly refusing to be corrected. God’s creation is telling us how He created life. Denying this testimony does not honor God in any way.
Of course, our scientific understanding is incomplete and mistakes get made. But the fundamentals have been being worked out for a long time now. The evidence keeps mounting. Mysteries keep getting solved. It is well past time for people of faith to take a real interest in what is being found. This is the work of our God’s hands and he has told us that it testifies to His ways and his truth. What we really need is a new theology that doesn’t deny the reality of creation, but uses it to understand the sort of God we serve. That is what would honor God, I believe. But we need more and more people who are willing to let go of their own understanding and love both God and his creation to lead the way.
It’s been a while, but I have written on this topic before:
Raising Christian Evolutionists
Teaching Creationism or ID? A Formula For Putting Your Child’s Faith at Risk
Ancient Hebrews and Creation
Disproving ID: Unlocking the secrets of cells
In Which I Call Creationism Demonic