Chances are you know all about the race card, but you may be less familiar with the “faith card.” Generally an evangelical phenomenon, the True Christian™ “plays the faith card” when he or she attempts to bludgeon his or her opponent into submission by the “vastly superior” strength of his or her faith. It’s essentially a trump card, of the theological variety. Here’s how one might use it in a sentence:
I was trying to show Bob that the universe must be more than 6,000 years old because we can see starlight that took billions of years to reach our planet. But he played the faith card, so there was nothing I could do.
In short, it is exactly the kind of spiritual one-upmanship and Pharisaical arm flexing that not only makes me want to facedesk, but really, really turns people off to Christianity.
For a good example of it in action, see young-earth creationist John Hultink’s recent essay in the evangelical magazine World, “Just Say the Word.” Being touted as a “lead story” by the top evangelical news magazine in the country and billed by founder and columnist Joel Belz as “thoughts on how creation bears testimony against theistic evolution,” my expectations were high for Hultink’s article. And by “my expectations were high,” I mean I expected it to not be completely terrible.
I was disappointed. Honestly, I was. I mean, I am a theistic evolutionist, and I could write a better rebuttal of theistic evolution in a Holy Spirit-induced stupor.
Throughout the piece, the author pens some bizarre statements that make me wonder if he reads a different Bible than I do, like, “Metaphors apply to humans but seldom to God, other than to help make God’s acts in history comprehensible.” In the Bible I read, God appears as a burning bush, a whirling cyclone and a towering pillar of fire. In the Bible I read, God is described as a man with white hair, fiery eyes, bronze feet and a sword shooting out of his mouth. Psalms calls God a rock, a shepherd, a fortress, a warrior. And in the parables of Christ, God plays the role of everything from an unjust judge to a vengeful vineyard owner.
To be quite honest, I’m hard-pressed to think of a single instance in all of scripture in which God is not described in metaphorical terms.
So Hultink’s not off to the strongest start in dismantling the theistic evolutionary worldview, and he stumbles yet again in his description of God’s act of creation. In one of the most breathtaking displays of unapologetic (and possibly unrecognized) cognitive dissonance this writer has ever observed, Hultink declares that “how creation came into being” will always be a glorious mystery that exists well outside the feeble reach of science, and then proceeds to explain, “We, the living, can today experience and witness the creative power of the Word.”
As a wolf-like creature “evolves” (evolution within the species) into 600 North American species of dog before our eyes, so it is that the creative Word of God continues to unfold before our eyes. Seven billion people today inhabit the earth, people of different nations, colors, physical appearances. Few of these 7 billion people look alike, as one would expect if they were the product of some mindless cookie-cutter process of evolution. What we actually witness in the world around us is the dynamic potential God placed in creation in the beginning coming to actualization before our eyes.
You might have to read that more than once to grasp the full scope of the author’s argument. Yes, he carefully notes that “evolution within the species” is capable of producing 600 new and different “species,” through a “creative Word of God” whose power human intuition is forever precluded from examining. So, essentially, evolution is proof of creationism. Now, we must spend a little extra time with his statement regarding the diversity of the human race, since that — coupled with his dog comment — represents the entirety of his scientific argument against the theory of evolution. After a few days of study, reflection and meditation, I believe I’ve come up with the perfect response:
In most basic terms, evolution is the idea that mechanisms like natural selection work on naturally arising genetic variation with populations. So, of course, the facts that there is a lot of variation within the human race, and that it arose naturally, without anyone ever seeing the hands of God magically descend from heaven and make it that way, is somehow evidence for creationism and against evolution.
I have to admit, this is a new one for me. The young-earthers often claim a perceived lack of evidence for evolution as proof positive of their “alternate view,” but this is the first time I’ve seen one of them take clear and powerful evidence for evolution and attempt to argue it is actually evidence against evolution. It’s kind of like saying that, because something you drop from a tall building falls back to earth, we know that there is no such thing as gravity.
But, like any good young-earther, it’s not just the science that bothers Hultink about evolution. You see, in his view, evolution is “a messy process” “birthed by mysterious physic-chemical chance processes resulting in the malfunctioning or malformation of existing perfect genes and driven by a natural selection of whatever it is that is out there to be selected over a period of billions of years.” Evolution makes God into a “subordinate author” (which means what, exactly?) of “design by death and failure and chance and time.” It borders on blasphemy, he declares!
No, Hultink much prefers a God who created a perfect paradise, only to plunge it into a hellish maelstrom of pain, suffering, carnage, corruption, disease and death at the first whisper of human sin, all without mentioning it once in scripture. Hultink prefers a God who is “in control,” even if that means giving him direct credit for the nastiest aspects of the natural world. What a high view of the Almighty he has!
His essay centers on the story of the Roman centurion and his suffering servant. If you’re not familiar with it, and would enjoy seeing it presented in random order and exhaustively rehashed and reiterated multiple times, I’d urge you to read the first page of Hultink’s article. But, in a clever twist that surprised none of his readers, the author turns the story of the centurion’s belief that Jesus could heal his sick servant into an indictment of us Christian theistic evolutionists, whose limp and atrophied faith refuses to accept that God is powerful enough to create the world out of nothing in less than a week. Unfortunately, like science and a good chunk of the Bible, Hultink has this wrong. Allow me to explain.
JOHN, I FULLY AND COMPLETELY BELIEVE GOD IS CAPABLE OF MAKING THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE AND EVERYTHING IN IT IN SIX DAYS, SIX HOURS OR SIX SECONDS IF HE WANTED TO. I BELIEVE HE COULD HAVE MADE IT OUT OF NOTHING, PREEXISTING MATERIAL OR GRAPE-FLAVORED JELL-O. AND I BELIEVE HE COULD HAVE DONE IT ALL 6,000 YEARS AGO OR LAST TUESDAY.
However, that is not what the evidence he left for us in creation indicated that he did. And I don’t believe God lied to us to test our faith. I believe he beckons us — commands us, even — to study his work in this amazing cosmos he built, and I don’t think he invites us to do so in the hope that we would ignore the evidence we find in favor of a rigid, modernist interpretation of a deeply symbolic ancient text.
I know I’m not being all that charitable to Mr. Hultink. Fact is, I am sick and tired of the Christian establishment validating YECs’ insistence that their absurd, anti-science beliefs are the only way a True Christian™ can view the world. The centurion’s faith and Jesus’ joy in recognizing it, were not about Genesis, guys. In fact, that whole deal wasn’t really about beliefs at all.
Faith is a verb; it necessitates action. It was not simply the centurion’s beliefs that thrilled the lord, but how he demonstrated that his faith was real by seeking Jesus out and confessing it. Not that good works alone can save any of us, but it is by our works that we and everyone else can see our faith is alive. And so, we are called to love in faith, give and forgive in faith, live in faith and, ultimately, die in faith.
And, I’m sorry, but how you think God created the world doesn’t play a big part in any of that. It just doesn’t. Whether you think the first few chapters of Genesis are primarily symbolic representations of real events and important truths (like the New Testament parables and most of the writings of the prophets) or literal history that contradicts itself almost immediately, does not make us even the tiniest bit more or less capable of following Jesus’ commands to love God first and foremost, love our neighbors as ourselves and otherwise continue the work he was doing in every way we possibly can.
Just to be completely clear, I didn’t start this website because I believe God actually gives a rip about people’s beliefs on the material origin of the universe. I don’t. I started this website because people like Ken Ham, Ray Comfort and, yes, John Hultink and World Magazine, are attempting to damn Christianity into eternal irrelevance by yoking the precious good news of the gospel to scientific ideas that were demonstrably proven false well over a century ago.
Faith is important, dear readers. My hope is that, if you would place your faith in anything, it would be in God, who is closer than you know, and in Christ, who died to save us all. But, if all else fails, put your faith anywhere — anywhere — else but in the words of the words of the young-earth creationists.