Readers speak: Is young-earth creationism the modern-day equivalent of the ‘circumcision controversy’?

A sculpture of the circumcision of Jesus (Luke 2:21) in Chartres Cathedral.

Ah, yes, I had a feeling that putting “circumcision controversy” in the headline would make you click here. Welcome! If you’ve never heard of it, rest assured, the circumcision controversy was a real thing, and you can read about it in the Bible, or if you prefer, on Wikipedia.

Yes, it might sound almost silly now, but at one time, circumcision was no laughing matter. It was a big issue, one some might say was coming to a head. Indeed, it was a sensitive subject, that no small number of early Jewish converts felt very pointedly about. One might even go so far as to call them the “pro-knife movement.”

OK, I’m done.

Anyway, one of our readers, Nick Hodgetts, makes an interesting parallel with the circumcision controversy (which, now, of course, is little more than an interesting historical footnote) and the modern-day young-earth creationism movement (which I fully expect to one day go the way of the aforementioned “pro-knifers”). I think many of you might find his thoughts interesting and provocative as well. His full letter follows (all emphases and links mine).

Hi Tyler,

I have just been given the link to your website and I felt I had to e-mail at once to say “thank you”! As an evangelical Christian and a professional biologist, I have been interested in the compatibility of science and Christian faith for years, and perplexed and troubled by the continuing false dichotomy between the two perpetuated by the likes of Richard Dawkins on the one hand and Ken Ham on the other.

I get particularly upset by the Answers in Genesis website (I no longer look at it, it’s bad for my blood pressure!), as it is so damaging, so divisive, so counter-productive in terms of evangelism, and so unnecessary. How can we expect people ‘out there’ to hear and accept the good news about Jesus if they are confronted by the sort of ignorant and reality-denying stuff that Ham and his chums peddle?

Many of my friends in my church (who are not particularly interested in evolutionary biology) accept the premise of the argument that “evolution is bad” (because they equate scientific ideas about evolution with the kind of atheism preached by Dawkins) and seem to think the only response is the dead-end of literal six-day creationism. It does sometimes make me feel that I am regarded by some as a second-rate Christian! I tend not to discuss the matter, unless someone else brings it up, because it has become so divisive in the church, and I believe church unity is important.

Fortunately, our leadership (of which I am now a part!) seems to accept there is room in the church for a range of views on origins, and that one should not be actively promoted over another in a church environment. I would therefore not preach evolution from the pulpit, but equally I would not expect a six-day creationist to preach that view either, and would make a fuss if they did. The insistence by some on a literal six-day creation has become a sort of modern-day equivalent of circumcision (see Acts 15!), something that makes it difficult for others to turn to God. One has to suspect that the devil is having great fun with this unnecessary debate!

On the plus side, I do get the feeling that the debate is moving on. There is now quite a lot of literature demonstrating the compatibility of science and religion, and both Dawkins and Ham-ites are sounding increasingly shrill and desperate, so I look forward to the day when we finally grow up and mature into a faithful and scientifically literate church. After all, there is nothing in science, properly understood, that can shake faith – quite the opposite, as the more we find out about God’s creation, the more wonderful it seems. I sometimes worry about the fragility of the faith of the “literal’,ts,” as elements of it are so easily disproved by science.

Yours in Christ,

Nick Hodgetts

Always nice to hear from our brothers and sisters employed in legitimate scientific pursuits. Incidentally, if you’d like to share your own story, please consider emailing it to me for consideration on GOE’s Testimonies page. Thank you!

— Tyler Francke

  • Paul Bruggink

    I like the analogy between the circumcision controversy and young-earth creationism. Someone needs to develop it further.

  • Yes, I think this parallel is here. Only, I can understand why Peter and other Jews thought circumcision was the next step for Gentiles to take.

    Gordon Fee and other New Testament scholars call these “boundary markers”. That is, activities or beliefs that are held up to identify those who are inside and outside the Kingdom. In Paul’s time, it was Sabbath, circumcision, and food laws. These separated Jew from Gentile.

    Yes, AiG and other groups are making this non-essential a boundary marker and thus being divisive.

    However, the Jews ancestors fought and died for the right to practice their traditions under the Greeks. So, I get why they were so upset. Ken Ham and others fear the disintegration of Christianity and for some reason think it has do with Genesis 1-11. The irony is that their attempt to “save” Christianity is likely doing more to contribute to its demise, if that were possible.

    While I believe there is room for satire and sarcasm in dealing with this issue, in the end, how Christians conduct themselves in an argument will likely have more influence than the argument itself. #popchrist

  • Mortification240

    More like the Aristotle vs Democritus debate over whether atoms existed or not. but this analogy I agree with also