One of the surprising, disconcerting themes that emerges[sic] from reading the Christian blogosphere over a long period and a large number of blogs is the entrenched idea that young earth creationism — the interpretation of Genesis as a scientific record of creation, and the resulting belief that the earth is 6,000-10,000 years old (”YEC” for short) — is a creedal or confessional demand for believing Christians.
Conversation over the Boar’s Head Tavern recently turned to a discussion of young earth creationism, initially as part of a “member’s poll”, then later exchanges about the results. “Lee” over at the “Two-Edge Sword” blog was dismayed by the results:
First, only two members of the blog thought Young Earth Creationism was valid. Two out of at least 23. That is less than 10% of the people held to a Young Earth view. Not only that, but also many of them held a Young Earth view in a great deal of contempt. One mentioning that he had “outgrown the T-shirt”, and another making sure we all knew that Young Earth and the science behind it “dishonors the creator”. I have to admit this took me by surprise. With evolution faltering in the secular world and science favoring William Paley as much as it favors Charles Darwin, I fail to see a reason for such venom. Even if one wants to snub ‘Creation Science’ as a mistake for some reason (some of it is bad, but not all), it still seems unwarranted to doubt the Biblical data.
Later on, Lee points out why this is such a problem:
Yet once the door of the Bible is opened to error, what can be left for the Christian to hold? Every truth of the Bible must be challenged, and what will be the final arbiter of truth? Some of the polled claimed that inerrancy missed the point because the point of the Bible was Jesus Christ. Yet, how can one know anything for sure about Jesus if the Bible that reveals him is wrong often or even from time to time. Is the Virgin Birth wrong? Is Jesus both God and man, or is that wrong? What about the Trinity? All
such doctrines are attacked by secularists and non-believers as much as the Young Earth doctrine, why not jettison those as well? And if not, why not? How can you know what is right and what is wrong in the Bible?
Lee is mixing in YEC doctrine in with the virgin birth, the Incarnation and the trinity. That’s some rarified company he has put YEC doctrine in the mix with. All three of those have been creedally and confessionally affirmed on the most universal of bases since the earliest days of the church. I’m not aware of YEC teaching ever being elevated to peer status with doctrines like the Incarnation and the Trinity. It doesn’t appear in *any* of the creeds or confessions I’m familiar with.
At the heart of this is conflation. Lee wonders what will happen if YEC doctrines are rejected, and the Bible is thus proven to be “errant”. Well, that’s an attempt to make the YEC exegesis synonymous with the Bible itself, consciously or otherwise. Perhaps young earth creationism *is* an errant doctrine; is the Bible and Christianity falsified? I realize that Ken Ham and Kent Hovind (among others) have been making this argument for a long time, but I’ve always chalked that up to their own zeal for the ideology
the are professionally committed to. But this idea, the notion that YEC doctrines are somehow essential, is much more widespread than just the YEC advocates; the people in the pews listening to Ham’s videotapes seem to have bought this part of his argument, if not his scientific ones.
I don’t hold YEC doctrine in high esteem at all. I was raised in a YEC home, taught in a YEC church, and pushed to the limits of my faith when I finally reached the real world and discovered how misleading and dishonest the PR campaign for young earth creationism is. Truly, I think the BHT commenter who said that YEC science “dishonors the creator” was being quite charitable. To my mind, YEC doctrines are outright denial and rejection of the witness of God’s creation, his general revelation to man.
But even so, I don’t hold doctrinally purity about creation and origins to be a creedal or confessional testing point. I don’t think YEC doctrine is faithful to the Word of God, in view of God’s creation, but I also don’t see those views as fundamental to one’s salvation, the understanding and embrace of the Gospel, or one’s ability to preach and teach the Gospel as a witness to all men. While I see deep and wide errors in YEC teaching, the much bigger error is the elevation of this issue to the “fortress”
of Christian dogma.
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