Thursday, May 24, 2018

Fred Clark on the Cruelty of Young Earth Creationism

Ken Ham is fond of saying that the reason that many young people are falling away from the faith is because they have been indoctrinated into "billions of years" thinking.  They are quite clear about how important this line of thought is:
What is at stake here is the authority of Scripture, the character of God, the doctrine of death, and the very foundation of the gospel. If the early chapters of Genesis are not true literal history, then faith in the rest of the Bible is undermined, including its teaching about salvation and morality.
The problem is that when many young people are launched into the real world, they come face to face with a mountainous amount of counter-evidence that leads to a real crisis in faith. Fred Clark puts it thus:
Young-earth creationism is a cruelly efficient machine for manufacturing spiritual crisis. It has created more atheists than all of Richard Dawkins’ books put together. It exchanges the truth of God for a lie — a lie that’s spectacularly indefensible because none of the people caught up in that lie lives on a young Earth. They live, instead, on this one — this ancient Earth that confronts its inhabitants with its vast and incomprehensible oldness at every turn.

The “evangelical worldview” Nelle Smith describes binds that unsustainable lie to everything else that evangelical Christians believe: the existence of a benevolent God, the belief that life has meaning, the love of Christ, the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. All of this is bound together with the lie in a constantly repeated and reinforced if/then construction. If the Earth is older than 10,000 years, then God does not love you. If the Earth is older than 10,000 years, then all meaning is illusion. If the Earth is older than 10,000 years, then Christ is not risen and your faith is also vain and you are of all people most to be pitied
I have seen this play out in families where children encountered the evidence for evolution and an old earth and it destroyed their faith. In one instance, a teenager who, after years of being in a YEC homeschool environment and subsequently walking away from her faith, said to their parents: “I wish you had told me more about evolution.”

If we tell our children about the love of God, the salvation through Jesus, the need to live out a Godly life, and that the central tenets of the faith can be found in the early creeds, that should be enough.  We should let them have the freedom to work out the importance of the early chapters of Genesis, to discover whether or not it is important to believe that the flood was world-wide or localized (or if it happened at all).  These questions are not an indictment of the early chapters of Genesis, simply a recognition that they were written to a different people with different customs in a time thousands of years ago.

As many people have noted: the bible was written for us but it was not written to us.  It was written to people who had no understanding of geological, cosmological or biological scientific principles because those things were unimportant to their faith and hadn't been discovered yet.  If they weren't important to the faith of those people, why should they be important to ours?

Ken Ham and other young earth creationists of his mindset are setting people up for an incredible let-down.  By linking the belief in a young earth to the rest of the faith, they are not just promoting a stark dichotomy but putting themselves into a corner by requiring that the science support their position.  This is what Joel Edmund Anderson picked up on: science then becomes the ultimate arbiter of the faith.  If Ham is going to tell people that the young earth position is integral to their faith, then the earth better dang well be 6,000 years old.

The problem is that it is not.  Hugh Ross, no evolutionist, once wrote that, after careful scrutiny, he discovered that there is not a single defensible argument for a young earth.  Worse, over 95% of practicing scientists will tell you the same thing.  Of the remaining five percent, many, like David Menton, writing for AiG, often write in fields of which they know nothing.

In the Menton post linked above, I eventually argued that people like David Menton  (and by extension, Ken Ham) were an asset to the kingdom.  Now I am not so sure.  How can those who place such a weight and potential stumbling block on Christians be an asset to anyone?   Further, how is such a position not heresy?  It links the core tenets of the faith to a position that has a time depth of a little over a hundred years.

The young earth creationism taught by most home schoool curricula is straight out of the works of Henry Morris, which was simply repackaged George McCready Price, in turn based on the “visions” and “special knowledge” of  Seventh-Day Adventist prophetess Ellen G. White. In other words, none of it is actually in the Bible.  It is often wild extrapolations on what, according to them, must be true.The rest is simply attacks on mainstream science. 

Answers in Genesis is a very popular site in Christian circles and, while it is certainly true that there are many Christians out there who are perfectly willing to accept that there are different ways to interpret the Primeval History that don't have salvation implications, Ken Ham's voice is very loud and he is doing more harm than good.  

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