Why I’m Still a Young-Earth Creationist, Even Though It’s Getting Increasingly Lonely over Here
Once you’ve decided that the Bible is a supernatural book, I suppose the next step is to learn and evaluate the arc of its story. That’s especially important these days because the story starts with divine creation, and today’s culture completely rejects that idea. The peer pressure in academia is completely opposed to the biblical creation story, and believing it is pretty much suicide for a well-regarded academic career.
In the 1940s several leaders of evangelical Christianity made a considered decision to moderate their stance toward the academic community and to seek “a place at the table.” By the mid-1950s one leading evangelical scholar, Bernard Ramm, had publicly embraced old-earth creationism in his book The Christian View of Science and Scripture, and evangelical scholars quickly followed suit. Today it’s difficult to find anyone on the Bible or science faculties of the mainstream evangelical colleges and seminaries who takes the Genesis timeline at face value. Millard Erickson, a conservative Southern Baptist and the author of a standard systematic theology, views young-earth creationism as indefensible in the light of modern science; you get the idea he classes it with “lost cause” Southern sympathizers who are still saving their confederate money.
Even with the upswing in talk of “intelligent design” in recent years, academics are still overwhelmingly old-earth. The ID leadership such as Michael Behe and William Dembski hold to an old earth, as does the “progressive creationist” Hugh Ross and, most famously, Biologos founder Francis Collins, former director of the Human Genome Research Project.
For what it’s worth, while academia has embraced the geologic timescale, and while a great many conservative evangelical academics have as well (though they may quibble over the use of the term evolution), the American populace has not followed along. Evolutionists are generally dismayed to find that after decades of indoctrination through the public school system, according to Gallup, in 2017 twice as many Americans believe in direct divine creation as believe in atheistic evolution; and as recently as 1999, the ratio was more than 5:1.
But despite that, publicly embracing young-earth creationism is generally counter-productive to an academic career, and I find its ranks shrinking among my evangelical academic peers.
So what am I still doing in a rapidly emptying room?
I’ll observe, at the risk of sounding judgmental, that the primary reason for bailing on a natural reading of Genesis 1-11 seems to be peer pressure—or more precisely, the behemoth of “scientific consensus” that Darwinian evolution, or one of its descendants, has been demonstrated true in its basic propositions. (“The science is settled!”) After a while, you go along, or you feel like the guy on the street corner with the sandwich board announcing that The End Is Near. Nobody wants to be that guy.
I can’t judge motives. Ramm argued for his change of heart from the compelling scientific evidence—though I didn’t find his evidence compelling at all, and I finished his book thinking, “You bailed on Genesis for that?!” Perhaps some are just intimidated by the size of the crowd and the uniformity of the arguments. Perhaps others just don’t want to face the ostracism and go along for the sake of their salaries and their pension plans. And perhaps some of them work backwards from that to find the evolutionist arguments more compelling than they really are.
I can only speak for myself. But once I have determined that the Bible is a supernatural book, I’m going to take it as straightforwardly as I would any other literary work, fiction or non-fiction. I’m going to read history as history, and poetry as poetry, and visionary apocalypse as visionary apocalypse, and do my best to find out what the divine author of this remarkable book says.
And if something comes along that asks me to do a wholesale reinterpretation of what the book says, I’m going to need it to be seriously convincing, beyond the social penalty of Not Going Along With The Crowd.
So far, I just haven’t found the science, or the accommodating theology, compelling or even mildly believable. I’m not about to bail on The Book for a bunch of biased brains. Or a boondoggle.
So here I am, in the padded room our culture has graciously provided for young-earth creationist academics, watching the room get roomier by the academic year.
I’d like to take a series of posts to lay out my thought process, for what it’s worth. I’m not a scientist, but I talk to a lot of them, and I’ve skimmed a little cream off the brains of each. I’ll start explaining my reasoning in the next post. See you then.