The Bid for "Intellectual Credibility" Among Many Christian Leaders in the West (and Why It’s Failing)

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Many mainstream Christian leaders have tried to insert themselves into political and/or social justice issues increasingly over the past six months of the COVID-19 crisis. I understand that many people are likely bored, but watching them fumble around in a seeming attempt to be relevant in a culture that has largely dismissed them long ago is often embarrassing to watch.

And this type of virtue signaling is showing up in many a Christian layperson’s social media feed as well, where often you will see threads full of vitriol and name-calling between believers accumulate over several hours. Somehow, many a Christian “troll”1 seem to have endless hours to bait other believers into arguments about doctrinal issues or social debates but don’t appear to have time to share the gospel with their unsaved family and friends: No encouragement, no equipping, no discipleship, no grace—no gospel.

Example: Whose Lives Matter?

Take the “Black Lives Matter” issue so prevalent in the news. For many leaders in the church, it seems like they are making the matter of “racial equality” appear like a brand-new issue that the church has somehow never dealt with before and that the Bible perhaps isn’t clear about. But if a Christian takes the Bible as plainly written, understands that we are all descended from two people (Adam and Eve) and that there is only one race (the human race), their theology would have informed them how to think about the issue all along rather than needing to (what’s the typical Christian-eze catchphrase?) “wrestle with it”!

A consistent biblical creationist cannot be racist. In fact, the only way to hold to racist views is if one believes in some type of evolutionary view which allows for different races of people to have evolved at different rates, therefore somehow justifying the idea of some races being superior (or “more evolved”) to others. Bible-believing Christians understand that there should be no partiality shown to any person, that racial discrimination is wrong, and that all people are created in the image of God and, thus, should be treated fairly as Scripture clearly teaches (i.e., yes, black—and all—lives matter).

Not Starting from the Start

Unfortunately, if you look up what many of the same Christian leaders who are “grappling with these issues” believe about origins, you’ll often find they do not hold to biblical creation and have accepted evolutionary storytelling into their Christian worldview. No wonder they can’t seem to come to a biblical conclusion on the topic: they often start with man’s ideas regarding these sorts of issues (marriage, gender, race, sanctity of life) rather than what the Bible plainly teaches. And if these Bible teachers are not standing firm on the authority of God’s word, what are they signaling to those who are listening to their teaching? Start with man’s word, not God’s!

Perhaps this is one of the reasons the Scripture says;

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1)

Intellectual Snobbery

Not only do many not hold to Genesis as plainly written but many of them also openly mock biblical creation, not only the theological view but the individuals themselves who hold to this position. And this type of marginalization has been going on for some time now. Why?

It seems as if many Christian pastors, theologians, ministry leaders, authors, and professors, in a bid for intellectual credibility among unbelievers, have adopted secular interpretations of “science” over the plain reading of the biblical text in Genesis so as not to appear like “simpletons” in this modern age. And some are even quite willing to throw fellow Christians “under the bus,” so to speak, for simply believing what the majority of the Church Fathers, Reformers (and in fact the majority of Christians who ever lived!) believed about creation, especially before the 1800s!

Take well known New Testament scholar N.T. Wright, for example. In his book Surprised by Scripture, he sadly makes the following extremely shallow and derogatory comments regarding young-earth believers:

I wonder whether we are right even to treat the young-earth position as a kind of allowable if regrettable alternative, something we know our cousins down the road get up to but which shouldn’t stop us from getting together at Christmas . . . 2

His snobbery for those who hold to what the text plainly says in Genesis goes beyond simply viewing us as the “simpleton cousins you are embarrassed about,” it then extends to the point where he questions whether or not “enlightened” Christians such as himself should even associate with biblical creationist believers!

And if, as I suspect, many of us don’t think of young-earthism as an allowable alternative, is this simply for the pragmatic reason that it makes it hard for us to be Christians because the wider world looks at those folks and thinks we must be like that too?3

The contempt for fellow believers in his statement above makes you wonder whether Wright realizes the extent of what his elitist attitude conveys to the average person who simply believes the Word of God at face value. But he doesn’t stop with simple mockery, he even goes so far as to accuse young-earth creationists (YECs) of false teaching!

That’s the danger of false teaching; it isn’t just that you’re making a mess; you are using that mess to cover up something that ought to be brought urgently to light.4

Note that Wright’s caustic rhetoric is reserved not for those fellow believers who do NOT hold to the plain reading of the biblical text but for those who do! Apparently, it is considered quite fashionable and intellectually sound to consider all manner of other readings (old-earth creation, theistic evolution, framework hypothesis, etc.) regarding Genesis 1–11 as viable alternatives, as long as you don’t take the words written there plainly.

Unfortunately for him, whether he realizes it or not, should his attitude and comments be applied to fellow believers throughout history, he would find his caricature of biblical creationists (both theologians and scientists) as simple Christian “hicks” would fall apart very quickly.

Team Wright or Team Right?

Among those that were/are so “intellectually challenged” as to believe and “falsely teach” ridiculous ideas, such as Adam and Eve being real people, God creating ex-nihilo, and the earth as quite young include the following (from ancient times to present day in no specific order): John Chrysostom, Sir Isaac Newton, Ephraim the Syrian, Carolus Linnaeus, Basil the Great, Blaise Pascal, Ambrose of Milan, Francis Bacon, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Michael Faraday, Martin Luther, Louis Pasteur, John Calvin, James Clerk Maxwell, John Wesley, George Washington Carver, John MacArthur, Raymond Damadian, Joe Boot, Wernher von Braun, Al Mohler . . . just to name a (very) few.

Remember Wright’s comment on not wanting to be associated with “those people” (i.e., young-earth creationists)? Let’s try plugging some of those names above into Wright’s statement and see how it looks in retrospect-

“It makes it hard for us to be Christians because the wider world looks at Sir Issac Newton and thinks we must be like that too. . . ”

“It makes it hard for us to be Christians because the wider world looks at John Wesley and thinks we must be like that too. . . ”

“It makes it hard for us to be Christians because the wider world looks at George Washington Carver and thinks we must be like that too. . . ”

“It makes it hard for us to be Christians because the wider world looks at John MacArthur and thinks we must be like that too. . . ”

“It makes it hard for us to be Christians because the wider world looks at Raymond Damadian and thinks we must be like that too. . . ”

Yes, who in Christendom would ever want to be associated with those ill-informed, mental midgets? And notice that trying to blunt the force of the argument by appealing to the fact that some of the historical figures mentioned were simply unaware of the modern scientific information (translation: evolutionary propaganda) we have now doesn’t work.

It highlights that it is scientific interpretations driving this compromise of Genesis 1–11 and shows, in fact, that when theistic evolutionists like Wright declare the young-earth position is embarrassing and “intellectually inferior,” what motivates their embarrassment is actually a plain reading of the Bible itself. What they are essentially admitting is that, yes, that’s what the Bible says, but science has proven the Bible is wrong so in order to be credible intellectually we need to compromise what the Bible says to “fit with the times”! But what could be seen as more of a weak or less of an intellectual position than saying you can’t take your source of authority as plainly written?

Fear God, Not Man

It’s time Bible-believing Christians recognize that the young-earth biblical creationist position has the finest historical, scientific, and theological view of Holy Scripture. It provides those who trust in it as the revealed Word of God to navigate the complexities of life in our troubled times. I invite you to meditate on the following verse and be encouraged to stand firm, and never compromise, on what God’s Word plainly says.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. (Proverbs 29:25)
For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. (John 12:43)
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men . . . (Colossians 3:23)
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

Footnotes

  1. Note that I am not using this word in an arbitrary, insulting way, but rather as common online vernacular holds to it. A troll is defined in the Urban Dictionary as "one who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument".
  2. N.T. Wright, Surprised by Scripture: Engaging with Contemporary Issues (Great Britain: SPCK, 2014), 31.
  3. Wright, Surprised.
  4. Wright, Surprised.

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