Sometimes, in evangelical circles where young-earth creationism is the dominant view, “believing in” evolution is seen as a theological handicap. Those who accept the overwhelming evidence from virtually every field of science just might experience the following none-too-subtle patronism from our YEC brethren:
“I think you can (lots of emphasis on the can) believe in evolution and be a Christian,” they say, “but it weakens your theology.” And as they say this, it’s entirely possible that they are also hearing in their heads the words of Romans 14 and praying silently that God would come alongside their weaker brother or sister.
Problem is, a non-evolutionary form of creationism has some seriously bad theological implications all its own — ones that any believer should find distasteful. Now, I’m not saying creationism caused the Holocaust or anything like that; I would never lay the blame for one of the most horrific crimes against humanity ever perpetrated on something as simple as one’s perspective on the origin of species. That would be ridiculous.
All the same, here are three logical consequences that follow from the fundamental teachings of young-earth creationism, and a few reasons it deserves to be a theological punching bag for once.
No. 1: God is a liar. The Bible says, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.” And yet, at the heart of young-earth creationism lies a deceptive God, a deity who appears to have far more in common with the trickster Loki than the savior I’ve come to know.
The Vredefort crater in South Africa is the largest confirmed impact crater ever discovered on earth; it’s nearly 200 miles across — about the width of the state of Massachusetts. Scientists believe the asteroid that caused it was as much as 6.2 miles in diameter (i.e., about 6.0 more miles than the amount of miles I can run).
Under the young-earth model, this asteroid never could have struck. We know that, because if it did plow into the earth some time in the last 10,000 years, history most definitely would have recorded it, and we would still see the effects of its impact today. In fact, most likely, it would have caused mass extinctions and life would not have yet come close to recovering.
And so, if we must accept the young-earth position that either this planet is absurdly young or the Bible is not true, then we’re left with one option: God created the world with Vredefort and dozens of other large craters already in it, for no other reason than to make us think the earth had been hit by massive asteroids when in fact, it never was.
And it’s not just craters. There’s radiometric dating, ice layering, continental drift, human Y-chromosomal ancestry, the fact that we can see starlight that took billions of years to reach earth, and much more — all of which points to a very, very old earth (and if you don’t feel like reading, here’s a helpful infographic made by Christian smart people).
Speaking as a Christian, I think these facts are pretty overwhelming. And I decided it made a lot more sense to believe in a God who first revealed himself in a document meant to convey theological — not scientific or historical — truth, rather than a God who told the literal truth in Genesis but lied in creation.
No. 2: Faith is unnecessary. Throughout the Bible, we see the high premium God puts on faith. It was a frequent theme of Jesus’ messages: Obey me, believe me, even when it doesn’t make sense.
Creationism teaches that there is no reason to have faith, and here’s why: If the scientific evidence, objectively observed, really does point to the entire universe arising in a single creative event no more than 10,000 years ago, as YECs claim, then that means those who wrote the Bible undeniably had knowledge that they couldn’t have had without the touch of God. Thus, the case is closed. God is real, the Bible is inspired and perfect — no further discussion necessary.
Any Christian should recoil from that. We know there is no power in rote knowledge of objective facts; the power is in our faith. Abraham was a man who talked to God. He had no need for faith in him — he had heard his voice. And indeed, Abraham is not remembered as a man who believed in God — that was easy for him. He is revered as a man of faith, because he trusted in God’s promises, even when they seemed impossible.
I accept that there are legitimate reasons to doubt God’s existence. But I still choose to believe and trust in him, because through my faith and his unfailing grace, I have encountered a relationship with a savior that defies explanation.
No. 3: Nonbelievers must be avoided. Young-earth creationism creates (alliteration, get it?) a vast gulf between those who believe in the Bible and virtually everyone else.
When I engage with other Christians who disagree with me on evolution, I have never sensed in them much of a longing for nonbelievers to experience the joy and salvation of knowing Jesus. I more often tend to encounter a deep animosity and mistrust, especially toward scientists. But here’s the thing: If our shared theology is correct, we should be doing all we can to reach that very population (the scientific community) with a message of Christ that might make sense to them.
There is good evidence that the prevalence of atheism or agnosticism is much higher among scientists than in the general population. Creationism proponents say that is because of the deleterious effects of something called “evolutionary philosophy” or some such nonsense, and I disagree (accepting the scientific consensus for the origin of species has done nothing to shake my belief in the God I worship every day).
But the bottom line is that even if scientists are atheists because of evolution, isn’t that something that should concern us? Traditional Christian theology would tell us this is a large population of people beloved by God who are destined for destruction unless we can — with the aid of the Holy Spirit — figure out a way to fulfill the great commission in their midst. What a missions field!
To paraphrase Paul in 1 Corinthians, he wrote that he “became all things to all people so that by all possible means (he) might save some.”
I do not see the same enthusiasm in my YEC brothers and sisters to share the gospel with scientists. And that’s not surprising, since creationism teaches that there is no need to try to reach them, because the evidence that supports the “correct” interpretation of the Bible is supposedly in front of their eyes every day, and they are either too stupid to see it or deliberately choose to ignore it.