Young-earth creationists are often criticized for holding grossly non-scientific positions. Interestingly, this criticism frequently comes from pastors and seminary professors who insist that we are sacrificing scientific integrity and thereby alienating the scientific community. As a result, we hinder the “church’s” outreach to the intelligentsia.
Of course, young-earth creationists have fairly definite scientific and biblical reasons for holding their position. It has always been an interesting historical point that the contemporary creation movement began not in the pulpit, but in the laboratory. Scientists, trained to evaluate and understand this physical world began to see clear evidence of the hand of the Creator (not all of these scientists were even initially Christians). Using this evidence, they argued that science supports rather than contradicts biblical accounts and claims of creation.
Are some theologians suggesting that biblical teaching is contrary to a worldwide Flood, the special creation of humans, or even a young Earth?
Dr. Gary Parker tells of a time when he was on the faculty of a college’s science department that supported a young-earth creation model while the college’s religion department opposed such a view. Why the opposition? Are some theologians suggesting that biblical teaching is contrary to a worldwide Flood, the special creation of humans, or even a young Earth? If so, then we appear to be reading two different Bibles. Are they suggesting that God lacks the power to create galaxies, planets, and humans, or needs extensive amounts of time for their creation? Or are they simply basing this position on a perception of the scientific evidence, i.e., these concepts are not popular in the scientific literature—thus, they must not be scientific. (This is also a subtle way of saying that since these concepts are not popular, they must not be true.)
Unfortunately, many theologians have decided that claims made by the majority of scientists represent scientific “facts.” In turn, these “facts” represent ultimate truth, which must then be used to understand biblical teachings. However, the Bible contains numerous claims and events that are not going to be popularly accepted as “scientific.” Are these claims now unacceptable to Christians?
Scripture records the occurrence of numerous miracles performed by God. By definition, a miracle is an event not explainable by natural processes. Otherwise, it would hardly constitute a miracle. Are these miracles going to be accepted as “scientific?” What do these theologians propose we do with biblical miracles?
When Jesus calmed the sea (Luke 8:22–25), it was immediate and complete. His disciples fully recognized that they had just witnessed a supernatural, rather than a natural, event. However, had Jesus spoken and hours later the storm gradually dispersed and the waves gradually subsided, the result would ultimately be the same—calming of the sea, but from a human perspective there would be a dramatic difference. No longer would even His disciples have viewed the event as miraculous. Rather, they would have simply attributed it to natural weather patterns. While the introduction of time will make the event more “scientifically acceptable,” as Marvin Lubenow expresses it, time “can turn a miracle demonstrating Christ’s authority over nature into a strictly natural phenomenon.”1
In the same manner, time can also give the perception of turning God’s miracle of creation into a strictly natural phenomenon. No one argues that natural forces could form the stars and planets, let alone life, in just six days. In the minds of some people, though, given enough time the natural formation of the universe (including life) not only becomes more likely, but almost inevitable. While I would strongly challenge the scientific validity of such a position, for these people time will so sufficiently remove God the Creator that He can be replaced with Nature the Creator.
The Resurrection and Genesis
What is more, the Gospels all proclaim that Jesus arose from the dead. His resurrection is the core principle of Christianity. In fact, the apostle Paul declared that if Jesus did not really rise from the dead, Christianity has nothing to offer (1 Corinthians 15:18–20). The Bible further claims that all those who are in Christ will ultimately be resurrected as well (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Yet, there are few ideas that are more unscientific than resurrection from the dead. I can easily declare it a scientific fact that the bodies of dead people do not come back to life. In all the scientific studies and all the empirical trials ever recorded, a dead body has never been found to spontaneously live again.
Therefore, Christianity is clearly built upon what could be called a very unscientific claim—the Resurrection. It contradicts known scientific fact. If some theologians are so concerned about their “faith” being scientifically acceptable, then they face a hard dilemma. How is Christianity “scientifically acceptable” without abandoning the biblical teaching of the resurrection?
By what criteria is the resurrection (and presumably other miracles) not considered a scientific hindrance, but the concept of a recent creation is a hindrance? How does this somehow make Christianity more scientifically palatable? How is this less of a hindrance to outreach? Where is the consistency? Does the scientific community really respect and accept this? Has it responded by saying, “Ok, the resurrection is acceptable, but this recent creation stuff is not?” Has it responded by saying that certain miracles are allowable, but other miracles are not?
The power of Christianity is not in becoming more palatable to the scientific community. The power of Christianity (and its ability to reach not just the scientific community, but everyone) is the person of Christ and His living Word. It is the power to change the human heart. Attempting to make Christianity conform or fit with human knowledge (i.e., opinion of some scientists) does not give it more power or authority.
Instead, science is empowered by understanding how it provides insight into God’s creation. The early 17th-century astronomer, Johannes Kepler is credited with saying that as he studied and understood the cosmos, he was “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” Science that is used for the glory of God can be a powerful tool of human understanding. When convinced that science gives testimony of the Creator, people often grow in their biblical understanding and spiritual maturity. This I have witnessed many times. This is a situation that theologians should desire.
Acknowledgement: Several years ago I had a marvelous discussion with Dr. David Menton of Answers in Genesis, which ultimately stimulated much of the thinking I have presented.