Like most students raised in the church, I was taught to believe the Bible is inerrant. I was also taught that the first few chapters of Genesis are literal, and since we know Genesis and Scripture’s genealogies are inerrant, the earth was created roughly seven to ten thousand years ago, and any kind of Darwinian theory (which requires millions of years) is fundamentally opposed to Scripture.
Like many fundamentalist Christians, I was also taught that not taking a literal interpretation of Genesis undermines the rest of Scripture and the doctrines contained therein. Therefore, either the world is young, Darwinism is false, and Christianity is true or the world is old, Darwinism is true, and naturalism is true. There is no middle ground as any attempt to reconcile Darwinism and Christianity critically weakens Christianity.
Anybody familiar to this kind of doctrine will be familiar with the consequences. A state of war is declared between fundamentalist Christianity and contemporary scientific theories. Christians valiantly scramble to fight the seemingly unstoppable tide of science and provide evidence for a young, created world. Secular classrooms become battle grounds for Christian students being introduced to doctrines which they have been taught can only be true if their religion is false.
The result is a messy, chaotic war zone full of dogmatism, mockery, misunderstandings, and the inevitable casualties of those who fall on the wrong side of the dichotomy of the fundamentalist creation debate. Some adhere to blind faith in the face of contrary scientific evidence to their religion. Some such as myself seek diligently for answers and are left devastated by seemingly inadequate evidence provided by those who want to prove a literal Genesis. Others are persuaded by purported scientific evidence for a young earth.
But what of those, like me, who are not persuaded that the earth is young? Do we write them off as those who fail to submit their intellectualism to the truth of Scripture? Do we write them off as casualties in a culture war centered around the battleground of science? Or what if our focus has become so skewed in our modern culture of scientism that we have forgotten that there are other ways to give a reason for our faith?
I would like to ask a simple question. Is it possible that fundamentalists could be completely wrong about a young earth and common descent, yet Christians could still have sufficient reason to rationally believe in Christianity? I believe the answer is yes. Science only poses a threat to Christianity if we allow it to do so through dogma and false dichotomies.
I’m not seeking to actually convince anybody that the earth is young or old or that Genesis is literal or figurative. I simply want to suggest that Christians can defend their faith without ever needing to mention a young earth or the falsity of Darwinism.
We in this golden age of science are not the first to question our worldviews. There are centuries of philosophical and historical precedent for defenses of Christianity. My fear is that one of the greatest injustices contemporary Christendom has done to itself is forget the endless volumes dedicated to painstakingly rigorous philosophical arguments or documenting endless pieces of historical evidence for the truth of Christianity and the accuracy of Scripture.
I believe that if we establish the existence of God through one of countless arguments from morality, purpose, beauty, first movement, a necessary beginning of the universe, etc. then there is no reason to believe that scientific evidence for an old earth or common ancestry suggest atheism. I would like to suggest that if we can independently establish the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus through historical evidence yet are persuaded of Darwinism, then it would be irrational to assume that the truth of Darwinism necessitates the falsity of Christianity. If we are persuaded of God’s existence through philosophy, Jesus’ historicity through historical evidence, and Darwinism through science then we must simply reevaluate our interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis. And such a reevaluation may very well be the most reasonable course of action based on where the evidence leads us.
Perhaps a reader might ask whether taking the first few verses of Genesis figuratively means that we should question whether the entirety of Scripture is figurative. My question in return would be why they think that the first few chapters of Genesis being literal means we can trust the rest of Scripture as literal fact. Should we not have evidence for all Scripture that we take literally that we should take it to be so? And if it turns out we were wrong the whole time about a literal Genesis 1-3 yet have evidence for other crucial parts of Scripture which establishes their historical statements as literal fact then why should we be troubled by a different passage being best established as figurative? A figurative understanding of Jesus saying that He is the door hardly makes any Christian question the historicity of his death and resurrection. Therefore, with proper evidence and effort to find that evidence, we can reasonably hold to a figurative creation account while maintaining the historicity of other events in Scripture.
At the very least, the vast majority of us who have only a spectator’s view of scientific discovery should hold our scientific beliefs with an open hand, and solidify our faith through historical or philosophical arguments that are more accessible than ever changing, highly technical fields. I believe it is far easier to describe why a certain Roman coin points to accuracy within the Gospels than it is to explain why abiogenesis is fundamentally impossible for biochemical reasons. The former is far more easily accessible to laypeople, and does not fight the tide of contemporary scholarship. Trying to understand abiogenesis and explain why lost of academia is wrong about it is far less practical for somebody with only a layman’s background (let alone a teenager in an apologetics seminar).
For the sake of the victims of the dichotomy the church has created between dominant scientific theories and religion, we must humbly remind ourselves that even if we are wrong about the age of the earth, then we have sufficient evidence elsewhere to adequately establish the reasonability of our faith. Students should walk into biology class satisfied in the knowledge that even if their young earth views are challenged, they need not despair over the truth or falsity of their religion because they have been properly equipped with reasons for their hope that do not depend on complex scientific theories tenuously tied to Christian dogma. They should rest assured that even if their interpretation of Genesis is wrong, their overall religious views remain unchanged.
We must do away with this dichotomy between Darwinism and Christianity or the equivocation between Darwinism, an old earth, and atheism. It is up to Christians to rediscover the arguments of those ranging from Aquinas to Bonaventure to Paley. There is a treasure trove of contemporary scholarship in the same vein who are perfectly accessible to laypeople. One must simply look beyond superficial internet articles and quick and easy answers so that we can adequately give a reason for the hope we have received.
Latest posts by Kyle Huitt (see all)
- When Talking Heads Become the Minds of a Civilization - October 23, 2017
- What Everyday Christians Need to Know About Apologetics When Their Beliefs are Under Fire - October 17, 2017
- Can We Please Stop Calling Intellectual Rejects “Woke?” - October 4, 2017