Thursday, May 25, 2006

Creation

Is it me, or are there a lot more creationists about these days? For the purposes of clarity, I mean people who regard the account of Creation in Genesis literally. It's just that having grown up in an evangelical church from the age of 7, people with that particular reading of Scripture were extremely rare, and usually went to rather obscure independent church fellowships.

Over the last few years, there seems to have been a reawakening of the old debate that Darwin endured about creation vs evolution.

Now let's be clear on some ground rules
  1. I believe God is responsible for the existence of the material universe. Therefore He is Creator, and we are and live in His Creation.
  2. The purpose of theology is primarily concerned with the meaning of creation - i.e. what does it mean for our existence, rather than the scientific 'how' or the chronological timescale.
  3. Scientific theories are precisely that - theories. New discoveries can always adapt or even overthrow current thinking. However, just because something is a theory, that doesn't make it a lie or a deception. The theories about electricity don't mean I should abandon all the normal rules of wiring a plug.
The obvious problem with a literalist creationist approach is that it flies in the face of all scientific evidence. We may not have an evolutionary continuum, but it is clear beyond doubt that the universe is very much older than the Biblical 6000 years or so. Faced with such an obvious contradiction, we are left with two choices. Either the Biblical literature is intended to reveal something other than dating to us, or the universe is telling lies about itself. But why would it lie? It reveals God to us, and Romans 1 makes it clear that our guilt before God as humanity derives from our ignoring of that revelation. What kind of God creates a Universe that looks 12-13 billion years old, but is actually only a tiny fraction of that, and then holds us guilty for being deceived?*

The first choice must therefore be true. In fact, the Genesis account affirms some very radical things about God, which tend to get buried in the Creationist debate. It affirms his total sovereignty over everything - he isn't a God vulnerable to the whims of 'nature' as in some contemporary creation accounts. He pre-exists. Humanity are his will, and are given stewardship of the Creation. (not surprising that gas-guzzling and fundamentalism tend to go together!) All this richness and more within the text gets lost in the usual debates.

It's like all of Scripture; we have to ask what question was it intended to answer when the text was written and preserved.

*italics here added 30/5/2006
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7 comments:

Matthew McMurray said...

My reply is on here.

http://spaces.msn.com/mpmcmurray/blog/cns!8899BF3735EC3463!123.entry

Chris said...

As someone who doesn't believe in 7 literal days, I find it hard to even discuss the matter with people who do believe in 7 literal days. It's almost as if their faith depended upon it and that mine should too. It's like it's a key point to their belief, a pillar of belief if you like.

Rob Bell's excellent book, Velvet Elvis, warns against having such rigid beliefs and alikens them to being bricks in a wall. If one brick crumbles (i.e. we discover something about one of our beliefs that throws a belief into question) the whole wall may fall down. Instead such "pillars" of faith are better if we alikened them to springs that can stretch and contract as we discover and learn more about stuff. Our faith and understanding can then grow and devlop as we discover more things about it.

Mike said...

Thanks, Chris. I was planning to read Velvet Elvis when I finish some study work I'm doing.

A friend of mine used to talk about theological Vietnams - battles people fight in fear of a domino effect. If this one slips, then it's all over. The example he used to use was Peter as the author of 2 Peter, but it applies here equally well.

It is an acute problem, isn't it when people write you off totally for quesioning one issue? Of course, it's the classic strategy of a cult.

Emma said...

I have to be in agreement. This year at Spring Harvest the first day was given over to creation, not necessarily (I've never had difficulty spelling that word until today...!) creationism. Still I was astounded by the number of people that were talking about literal 6 days as clearly true - I thought that view was held only by a few quacks nowadays. Anyway, it doesn't really ring true with me, and when people get so hung up about creationism being taught in schools it gets me rather animated. I don't have a problem teaching creationism in RE as part of a 'stories for how the world came to be' topic, but I really don't think it has any place in science. And when we get so hung up on how long it took for the world to come to be we get peoples backs up and come across as religious lunatics and manage to miss telling them the whole point of Christianity! If creationism belongs in science why aren't we asking for Jesus' life to be taught in history lessons?

The house group I've joined here at home is linked to another church in the town. They recently had John Mackay to speak about creationism... I'm keeping my head down and my views to myself!

Mike said...

Hello Emma, and welcome to the conversation! All I can advise is keep your nerve. I think it's really important that those of us who believe there is a different view which has integrity are not bullied into silence.

Fundamentalists don't have the right or authority to tell me to shut up or that I am a heretic. They would say that their authority is from Scripture, whereas in fact it is from their interpretational model.

It's worth noting that for Anglicans, Scripture "containeth all things necessary to salvation", and it's authority and sufficiency are in that area. (Article 6 of the 39 articles)

erobed2 said...

Okay, so this might be a little way down the line, but Mike, I noticed your note on Facebook, so I took a look at why you don't believe in 6 day creation 6000 years ago.

Some good points are made - but firstly, Creationism is backed by scientific evidence - and the evolutionary hypothesis (apparently "theory" in science means "proven") only has evidence backing the idea of adaptation - something creationists accept without any problems.

And the age of the universe is in debate, given that all dating methods require an input of an assumption at some point, and there are some pieces of evidence that the universe cannot be older than 10000 years at the most, such as the composition of the atmosphere of Titan, a moon of saturn.

I'll be happy to discuss this further over facebook...

erobed2 said...

sorry, just realised that my name isn't published - David Roberts, if you want to send me a message...