Young-earth creationism: It’s kind of like your weird Uncle Ned

Weird Uncle Ned (image source: Internet Monk)

Editor’s note: This is the final installment of an essay submitted by the author to godofevolution.com titled “Darwin’s doves, bulldogs and deniers.” Also see part 1, part 2 and part 3.

It almost goes without saying that the American church is in a sad state of affairs. Even the necessity of the existence of this website is evidence that certain things are out of sorts. And I do not believe that the sole reason for this situation is “evolution vs. creationism.” In fact, I don’t believe our decline is due to a sole reason at all, unless you were to say that the sole reason is “the religious right.”

For it is under the broad umbrella of the religious right that 1,000 problems of the church take shelter: the modesty/purity movement that is rife with chauvinistic rhetoric that blames and shames women, suspicion and hatred of the outside world especially toward those of other faiths, “muddying the waters” in regards to social issues, using horrific national and global tragedies to blame secularism and other “hobgoblins,” and yes, the evolution/creationism battle, which I will now discuss.

It is understandable that those who lived in the 1920s and 30s hadn’t the best of educations or opportunities, and we certainly cannot blame those in our past who knew not the things we have knowledge of now. They were not exposed to the amount of information you and I surround ourselves with each day. There was of course, no internet or smartphones — the television being that era’s object of wonder (and only for the rich). For many people living in that time, their “outside world” extended maybe 20 miles, and if whatever it was didn’t happen within those 20 miles, it didn’t really matter.

As the Depression began and went on, it became more the concern of the average family to survive day-by-day, rather than to sit and debate the origin of species. So I can see why so many people simply took “The New Geology” at its word. “Opposing viewpoints” are much more important to us today than they were back then, when books in the home were few and scarce, and food was precious. It would not surprise me if, for many people back then — especially in rural areas — “The New Geology” was the only “science” book they ever came into contact with.

But now there is no excuse. The year is 2013, and we find ourselves in a much different (and better!) world. As we, and the times we live in, grow increasingly colorful, complex, technologically advanced and indeed, scientific, it is astonishing that Christians like myself and countless others have to worry about what will become of our lives and reputations if we openly stand up and refuse to believe in the rot known as young-earth creationism. For us to still be taught, in this day and age, that in order to believe in God, that we have souls and that we are to love others as we have been loved, we must also believe the earth and the universes were made in six literal 24-hour days, and that mankind once saddled the dinosaurs and that there was once a big boat that held all the animals while the world flooded, is insulting to our intelligence and repugnant to our intellectual dignity.

How pathetic it is, indeed, that we Christians in the “outside workforce” who are called to to be doctors, lab workers, zoologists, archaeologists, anthropology professors, high school physics teachers, etc., are expected to be such from Monday to Friday, but on Sunday we are to turn all of that off, and listen to a man behind a pulpit “educate” us on the sciences in which many of us are trained. And what is worse, we are silent about our objections because we are conditioned to fear the consequences: Being cut off. Being alone. This is the year 2013. Why is this controversy still our reality?

In light of the rest of Christian teaching, creationism is just strange. It’s like a man going over to meet his girlfriend’s family, finding the caring father, the kind, hospitable mother, a brother or sister — everything normal, a typical familial unit. But then, sitting in a shadowed corner to the right side of the living room, you have weird Uncle Ned who wants to show you his 15 toes and how gifted he is at rolling his belly: That’s creationism in relation to the rest of Christianity. History says so, science says so, proper biblical scholarship says so. The family is begging Uncle Ned to stop. To. Just. Stop. The only question remaining is if he will listen to reason.

I write under a pseudonym. Sad to say, as it is, in many Christian circles in America, creationism is the dominant view. I know I’m not the only theistic evolutionist. In fact, I think there are many of us. But most of us just prefer to be silent for now. Perhaps, because we value our peace. We walk through the double doors on Sunday morning, sing the archaic, centuries-old songs whose meanings are lost in monotony and repetition and let the conspiracy theories and right-wing agendas enter one ear and out the other, as we close our eyes, bow our heads and ask God, “Why can’t I forsake the assembly? The assembly has clearly forsaken the rational.”

You may take this as ranting. Maybe it is. But I echo Jeremiah’s sentiment: “Like a fire in my bones, I can no longer hold it in.” There will come a day, as more and more voices inevitably join ours, and as new generations arise to replace old ones, that we will no longer have to fear for our relationships and quality of life because of our scientific views.

I will leave you with this: For those who have reconciled to themselves what never really needed to be “reconciled” — science and faith; for those people, there is grandeur in this view of life.

Dietrich Kessler

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  • Jason

    When you move beyond argument from outrage, and strawman arguments, not to mention a healthy dose of ad hominem, feel free to let us know.

    “For us to still be taught, in this day and age, that in order to believe in God, that we have souls and that we are to love others as we have been loved, we must also believe the earth and the universes were made in six literal 24-hour days, and that mankind once saddled the dinosaurs and that there was once a big boat that held all the animals while the world flooded, is insulting to our intelligence and repugnant to our intellectual dignity.”

    Intellectual arrogance more accurately, and since the Bible nowhere claims that Jesus (or anyone else) ever rode a dinosaur/dragon, and Job’s observations on Behemoth and Leviathan suggest such would be slightly hazardous, that is a strawman. (Your evidence? A children’s comic. This is not the way to convince anyone to take you seriously) How big was the ark? How many animal representative kinds did it actually contain? For a start it only contained land dwelling, air breathing animals. For the second it only had to contain representatives of each animal family, the full range extant resulting from a post flood speciation. For a third it need only contain adolescents, which being smaller require less space and food than full grown adults.

    The other claims are not made by any creationist group, although they would say that YEC a necessary part of a coherent Christian worldview.

    So other than a childish rant, what do you have?

    • Hey Jason! Thanks so much for visiting my site and for your thoughts. I didn’t write this piece and can’t speak specifically for the author, but for my part, I see where you’re coming from.

      As for the riding dinosaurs thing, I’m not sure where the comic with Jesus comes from (I think/hope it’s a joke), but the other image the author included is from a children’s book (“Dinosaurs of Eden”) by Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham. As you’ll see, it depicts several different species of dinosaurs, not only being ridden but also being used as beasts of burden.

      It’s fine to take issue with the author’s methods, but I think his overall points were that it’s unfair for a pastor behind a pulpit to presume to be able to lecture experts on the sciences, and that those believers who are inclined to accept the evidence for evolution should not be treated as something like second-class citizens by other Christians. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on those two points if you’re interested.

      • Neal Wright

        I think it’s unfair to expect a pastor behind a pulpit to renounce what the Bible says is true just because the modern day educators say it is not. This is not the same type of scenario as when the Catholic church claimed the Earth was flat but Galileo said it wasn’t. The Bible never said it was flat. The Bible does describe the creation to occur in 6 days. No twisting can make the word day mean a million years. I’m confused as to why you say proper Biblical scholarship says the Earth isn’t young. It seems to me that you have to put words in God’s mouth to come up with that.

        • I think it’s unfair to expect a pastor behind a pulpit to renounce what the Bible says is true just because the modern day educators say it is not.

          I doubt “renounce” is the word you really meant to use there, but I think I understand what you’re saying.

          This is not the same type of scenario as when the Catholic church claimed the Earth is flat but Galileo said it wasn’t. The Bible never said it was flat.

          I’m really glad you brought this up, because I think there are actually a lot of similarities between the Galileo affair and the modern-day creationism controversy. The Galileo affair, of course, wasn’t about whether or not the earth was flat (we can talk about the many Bible verses that seem to indicate the earth’s flatness another time), but rather, about whether the sun was at the center of the known universe and the earth revolved around it, or vice versa.

          The Catholic Church’s geocentric model of the era was indeed based on scriptural teachings, which seemed to indicate that the sun moves (e.g., Joshua 10:12-13 and Habakkuk 3:11 and Ecclesiastes 1:5) and the earth doesn’t (e.g., 1 Chronicles 16:30, Psalm 93:1 and Psalm 96:10).

          Now, if I may, I imagine you will look up these passages I’ve just referenced and say something like, “That’s just poetic language. That’s not what the author meant.” And my response would be: That’s exactly my point with Genesis 1.

          I’m confused as to why you say proper Biblical scholarship says the Earth isn’t young.

          That point was the author’s not mine, but if you’ll look, you will see that part of his article included a link to a video lecture by Dr. John H. Walton, a biblical scholar and Old Testament professor at Wheaton College. He has a fascinating view of Genesis, and I would encourage you to check it out if you are curious about what the author meant in saying “proper biblical scholarship says so.”

  • How is a magic sky daddy that can think without a brain in any way reconcilable with science?

    • I consider science to be the most reliable way to explore and analyze the natural, material world, but I don’t believe the natural world is all that exists. I am inclined, like many others through the ages have been, to believe there is also a spiritual reality. I think the spiritual world is the main realm of the magic sky daddy, and I believe it is a world that can be explored, at least to a certain extent, though not with the tools of science.

      If I may, I imagine you would deem anything that can’t be analyzed scientifically to be fantastical rubbish. And that’s your prerogative. I was just trying to answer your question.

  • I also am a theistic evolutionist. I blogged on creationists issues over the past couple weeks and received a lot of challenges from conservatives, as you might imagine. Thanks for this post.

    • Seems to go with the territory, doesn’t it? Thanks for reading.

  • Maria Kayed

    “How pathetic it is, indeed, that we Christians in the “outside
    workforce” who are called to to be doctors, lab workers, zoologists,
    archaeologists, anthropology professors, high school physics teachers,
    etc., are expected to be such from Monday to Friday, but on Sunday we
    are to turn all of that off, and listen to a man behind a pulpit “educate” us on the sciences in which many of us are trained.”

    I just loved this part! Some preachers just refuse Evolution but they don’t know what it really is, they never bothered doing some real research or even understand what it is about. And we are supposed to just listen to them and say nothing, and if we do try to bring some new understanding, “we are just following science to Hell, while YEC are following the Bible to Heaven”.

    • Matthew Funke

      Indeed. I have no desire to only work in science from Monday to Friday and be only a Christian who worships an amazing God on Sunday. I want to be both, every day. I believe God wants all of me.

      Honestly, it seems to me that if a lot more preachers paused to contemplate the depth and breadth of a God Who works on the scales in space and time mandated by evolution, they might be prone to see Him as bigger than they’d previously imagined.