Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Evangelical Colleges Battle Over Creationism

Alice C. Linsley

The September 2010 issue of World Magazine has an article about why young-earth creationists should be welcomed at Christian colleges.  Of course, most young-earth creationists are welcome, but that's not the point of the article really. The point is that among Christian colleges there is a range of views on the question of creation.  All agree that God is the Creator and that He created matter ex nihilo (from nothing). Most insist that Adam and Eve are historical persons, although this is not what the genealogies of Genesis actually reveal.

Calvin College in Michigan teaches "evolutionary theory as the best scientific explanation for the dynamic diversity of life on Earth."  Young-earth creationists probably wouldn't find that biology department a comfortable choice. I'd want to know why the evolutionary paradigm fails so completely when it comes to human origins.

Biola in California insists that creation models that seek to harmonize Genesis with science (concordism)should hold to 3 principles: 1. "God providentially directs His creation"; 2. He intervened at specific points in the creation process, and 3. He created Adam and Eve. To colleges that encourage concordism I recommend John H. Walton's book on Genesis, in which he warns of the dangers of concordism:

"If we accept Genesis 1 as ancient cosmology, then we need to interpret it as ancient cosmology rather than translate it into modern cosmology. If we try to turn it into modern cosmology, we are making the text say something that it never said. It is not just a case of adding meaning (as more information has become available) it is a case of changing meaning. Since we view the text as authoritative, it is a dangerous thing to change the meaning of the text into something it never intended to say."

The World Magazine article deals only with the question of geological dating.  The grand canyon was the subject of discussion and the young-earth creationists believe it was carved when Noah's flood propelled "huge amounts of water at 100 miles per hour against rock walls" (p. 45). I wonder how the flood waters from the Lake Chad area shot so fast to Arizona? : )

The question of human origins isn't addressed in the article and I know why.  It is going to be very difficult to explain human artifacts dating to 800,000 years ago.  Even if one argues that the dating is wrong, say by half, we are still looking at hundreds of hand crafted axes dating to 400,000 years ago.  That hardly supports a young-earth position.

The explanation that is given is this: God created things with the appearance of age.  Why would God cause man-made axes to appear older?  The explanation is given that Christ aged the wine at Canaan. Talk about assumptions! The best wine for general tastes isn't always the oldest or driest.

The more I read about the creation-evolution confusion in evangelical colleges the more I realize that the problem isn't science, but assumptions about what Genesis says.  Assumptions, not facts, are what cause confusion. Until people gain a better understanding of the cultural context of the people from whom this material comes, these colleges will only continue to muddy the waters.

Related reading:  Genesis: Is It Really About Human Origins?; Qesem Cave Finds in Perspective; Plato and Intelligent Design; Genesis and Genetics; Q and A on Creation and Evolution; Theories of Creation: An Overview; The Oldest Human Fossils


Alice C. Linsley said...

It would be interesting to survey Orthodox seminaries on this question.

Michael Kruse said...

"The more I read about the creation-evolution confusion in evangelical colleges the more I realize that the problem isn't science, but assumptions about what Genesis says. Assumptions, not facts, are what cause confusion."


あじ said...

Is it just me or was the whole "uniformitarian vs. catastrophist" bit a straw man? I don't think Christian colleges should excommunicate young earthers, or birthers for that matter, but Christian colleges also aren't lately known for their vast achievements in the physical sciences. Non sequitur then.

Alice C. Linsley said...

The contrived "uniformitarian vs. catastrophist" arguement is a straw man indeed, and senseless when it comes to human origins.