Theological Problems with Creationism Pt. 1 – General

For the next couple of posts we’ll look at the theological problems raised by the creationist and Intelligent Design views. This one will be a general look at creationism. This is were the theological muscles get flexed after the science and socio-historic criticism has been dealt out. Firstly, we look at criticism of creationism. This includes scientific ignorance, the ludicrous claims made by creationists, the unethical ploys adopted, and the disregard of proper exegesis.

creationist

Robert Cornwall states that taking the Genesis creation accounts literally makes it look like Christianity “has been left behind intellectually.” Conor Cunningham echoes this sentiment when he says that “the advent and rise of creationism and its understanding of the Bible represent a lapse into intellectual barbarism, a complete desertion of the Christian tradition.” St Augustine’s words are just as applicable today as when he wrote them between AD 397 and 400 in Book 11 of his Confessions: “It is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.” This scorn of the unbelievers is called irrisio infidelium. Augustine explained the serious ramifications of irrisio infidelium:

The shame is not so much that an ignorant person is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full off falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books.

 

Part of the ignorance found within creationism is the ridiculous claims made to support the creationist stance. Mark Isaak states that “the invalid ‘proofs’ necessary to support antievolution, a global flood, and a young earth have pushed people away from Christianity.” Bram van de Beek agrees that attempting to make science fit with the literal interpretation of the Bible results in pseudoscience. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines pseudoscience as “a system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific.” Pseudoscience is a cause of mockery and may prevent others from taking any Christian claims or communications seriously. Robert T. Pennock provides an example of absurdity invoked to defend the creationist account against evolution: “To defend the scientific plausibility of Noah’s Ark, ICR creation-scientist John Woodmorappe provides a book-length feasibility study and finds himself arguing that Noah solved the problem of animal waste management by training the animals to urinate and defecate upon command as someone held a bucket behind them.” Perhaps the most ridiculous claim was the one made by Accelerated Christian Education, which states that the Loch Ness Monster is proof against evolution (see the Top 5 Lies Taught by Accelerated Christian Education). After some unwanted publicity about the inclusion of Nessie in a science curriculum, Accelerated Christian Education has decided to leave Nessie and a “sea monster” caught by a Japanese fishing trailer out of the new editions. I actually did that science PACE and mostly forgot about it until I read Jonny Scaramanga‘s blog about the lies taught by ACE.

 

loch-ness-monster

In addition to ridiculous claims, sometimes unethical means are utilized to argue for creationism. There are those in the creationist camp that choose to demonize the perceived enemy by arguments such as the following by Henry Morris: “Satan invented the evolutionary concept and is using it as his vehicle to deceive the nations and to turn men away from God.” Robert Cornwall adds an interesting observation: “…the voices that yell the loudest are the most extreme. It is either the militant fundamentalist or the militant secularist… These two extremes agree on one thing: that literalism is the only legitimate religious voice, which means that one must choose between God and evolution.”

 

Besides simply being bad science and at times using unethical arguments, creationism also fails to take the interpretation of Scripture seriously. Christopher Southgate states that “creationism both fails to take science seriously, and uses a very dubious method of interpreting Scripture.” Creationism tends to take a literal stance to Scripture and see the Bible as absolutely inerrant. As Van de Beek states, creationism fails to take into regard the osmosis between context and theology. The stance of inerrancy ignores textual criticism, source criticism, syncretism, and the values of the authors. Basically, the approach used by Biblical literalism does not do the text justice. Isaak lists several examples of factual errors and contradictions in the Bible that shows how the literal, inerrant reading of the Bible does not treat the Bible properly:

  • Lev 11: 6 states rabbits chew the cud.
  • Lev 11: 20-23 speaks of four-legged insects, including grasshoppers as four-legged insects.
  • I Chron 16: 30 and Ps 93: 1 both state that the earth is immobile.
  • In Gen 1, God creates Adam after all the other animals, but in Gen 2, Adam is created before the animals.
  • Matt 1: 16 and Luke 3: 23 differ over the genealogy of Jesus. According to Matthew, the grandfather of Jesus was Jacob, but according to Luke he was Heli.
  • Mark 14: 72 differs from Matt 26: 74-75, Luke 22: 60-61, and John 18: 27 about the number of times the cock crowed. According to Mark the cock crowed twice and according to the others it crowed three times.
  • II Sam 24: 1 and I Chron 21: 1 differ over who incited David to count the people. II Sam states that it was God and I Chron states that it was Satan.
  • I Sam 17: 23, 50 and II Sam 21: 19 differ regarding who killed Goliath. In I Sam it was David and in II Sam it seems to have been Elhanan.
  • I Sam 31: 4 and II Sam 1: 8-10 differ regarding who killed Saul. According to I Sam, Saulorder his armourbearer to killhim, but the armourbearer refused and Saul fell upon his own sword. In II Sam, Saul asked an Amalekite to kill him and the man agreed.
  • The details of the death and resurrection of Jesus is different in each of the four gospels. Matt 27: 37, Mark 15: 26, Luke 23: 38, and John 19: 19 have different inscriptions on the cross. Matthew cites the inscription as THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS, Mark cites it as THE KING OF THE JEWS, Luke cites it as THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS, and John cites it as JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. These are not major differences, but all four cannot be literally factual.
  • Matt 27: 5-8 and Acts 1: 18-19 differ over Judas’s death. According to Matthew he gave back the blood money and hanged himself. According to Acts, he fell in the field he bought with the money and burst.
  • Gen 9: 3 and Lev 11: 4 differ regarding what may be eaten. Genesis states that one may eat everything that lives, whereas Leviticus states that the following may not be eaten: any animals that chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves and any animals that have cloven hooves but do not chew the cud.
  • Rom 3: 20-28 and James 2: 24 differ regarding faith and deeds. Romans focuses on faith, whereas James emphasizes that faith without deeds is dead.
  • Ex 20: 5, Num 14: 18, and Deut 5: 9 state that sons inherit sins from their fathers, whereas Ezek 18: 4, 19-20 and John 9: 3 state that sons do not inherit sins from their fathers.

 

Only with proper exegesis can one make sense of these contradictions. The process of exegesis includes several forms of criticism, these are:

  • Textual criticism, which seeks the earliest or original wording of a text.
  • Historical criticism, which seeks to understand the historical, geographical, and cultural setting of the text. Questions regarding the author and the intended readers and their social norms and structures are investigated.
  • Grammatical criticism looks at the morphology and syntax of the text. Grammatical rules are investigated.
  • Literary criticism looks at the broader literary context. Questions regarding the relation to other texts, composition, structure, and rhetorical style are addressed.
  • Form criticism looks at the passage of text itself. Form, genre, and the life situation are examined.
  • Tradition criticism investigates the earlier stages of development a text has undergone before its present form.
  • Redaction criticism focuses on the final form of the passage and seeks to find out the intention of the author and/or final editor.

From these forms of criticisms it is clear that biblical interpretations is by no means an easy undertaking. The literal reading of the text ignores the rich background behind it and leads to an impoverished view.

 

Also see:

Creation Harms Christianity – Sacerdotus

The Simple Truth about Biblical Literalism and the Fundamentalists who Promote it – Sean McElwee

 

Sources:

Cornwall, R. 2007. Charles Darwin goes to church: A literature guide to the evolution versus intelligent design debate. Congregations, 35-38.

Cunningham, C. 2010. Darwin’s pious idea: Why the ultra-Darwinists and creationists both get     it wrong. Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans.

Hayes, J H & Holladay, C R. 1982. Biblical exegesis: A beginner’s handbook. London: SCM        Press.

Isaak, M. 2007. The counter-creationism handbook. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Pennock, R T. 2002. Tower of Babel: The evidence against the new creationism. Cambridge:         MIT Press.

Scaramanga, J 2012a. How the Loch Ness Monster disproves evolution. [Online]. Available:             http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/2012/05/23/how-the-loch-ness-monster-disproves-evolution/ [Accessed 29 July 2016]

______2012b. Top 5 lies taught by Accelerated Christian Education. [Online]. Available:             http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/2012/05/07/top-5-lies-told-by-accelerated-christian-education/ [Accessed 29 July 2016]

______2013. No more Nessie for Accelerated Christian Education. [Online]. Available:             http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/2013/07/23/no-more-nessie-for-accelerated-christian-education/ [Accessed 29 July 2016]

Southgate, C 2008. The groaning of creation: God, evolution, and the problem of evil. London:   Westminster John Knox Press.

Van de Beek, B. 2005. Toeval of schlepping? Scheppingstheologie in de context van het modern   denken. Kampen: Uitgeverij Kok.

Advertisements

Creationism (Darwin a Friend of Theology? – Part 2)

In my first post of the series I defined evolution and some key terms. In this instalment I’ll define creationism and its different faces.

Perhaps one of the best and most humorous statements made about the nature of creationism is the following by Robert Pennock: “[c]reationism is evolving. Several new species of creationism have appeared recently and are competing to stake out a niche in the intellectual landscape.” He adds a 6-point definition which is applicable to creationism in the general sense: “…the key elements of the creationist view are that there is a (1) Personal Creator who (2) is supernatural, and who (3) initiated and (4) continues to control the process of creation (5) in furtherance of some end or purposes. …but here let me note a sixth element that is implicit in this definition, namely, (6) a rejection of theistic evolution.” The basic tenets of creationism are based on Genesis 1 (the first creation narrative), and Genesis 6-9 (the flood narrative).

With reference to Pennock’s point number 6: creationism of all guises presents people with a false dilemma. The false dilemma is that one must either choose the Christian, Biblical view of creationism or the atheistic view of evolution. Evolution and the Christian faith are posed as mutually exclusive. Creationism presents the conflict model in the religion-science debate.

Young-Earth Creationism

Within the creationist camp there are divisions. One of the biggest divisions is between the young-earth creationists and the old-earth creationists. The young-earth creationists believe that the earth is 6,000 or perhaps as much as 10,000 years old. Johannes Ussher, Irish Archbishop of Armagh, was the first person to make the calculation that the Earth is 6000 years old. He mainly used the genealogies in the Bible. A few years after Ussher’s calculation, John Lightfoot refined the calculations and stated that the first day of creation was the 18th of October 4004 B.C. Adam was created on the 23rd of October 4004 B.C., at 9 a.m. Historian E. T. Brewster wryly commented on Lightfoot’s estimate: “Closer than this, as a cautious scholar, the vice Chancellor of Cambridge University did not venture to commit himself.”

Old-Earth Creationism

The old-earth creationists recognize that the young age of the earth simply cannot match up to geological findings. Most old-earth creationists hold that the days spoken of in Genesis 1 are not 24-hour days, but “God-sized” days. 2 Peter 3: 8 is often cited as a proof text regarding “God-sized” days. Another alternative is the “gap theory” which states that there was a gap of undeterminable length between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 in which geological history and the lifetimes of the dinosaurs fit. Another term is that of “ruin and restoration,” because it can also hold that God had destroyed the initial creation, perhaps as a judgment on the rebellion of Lucifer, and that the new creation, which starts at Genesis 1:2, was completed within 6 literal days. The view also exists that there have been numerous creations and destructions and not just one destruction and re-creation. Another view is that the days were literal twenty-four hour days, but that they were not necessarily consecutive and there may have been millions of years between these days. During these long periods in between, God would be proclaiming the next phase of creation.

Mature Earth Creationism

Another view is that of the mature-earth creationists. This view is similar to the old-earth creationists and is often included in old-earth creationism. In 1875 Philip Gosse proposed that the earth was created as recent as the Bible says, but that God had created the universe with an appearance of age:  “Embedded in deep layers of rock we find what appear to be fossils of long-extinct creatures, but that is because God placed them there when he laid down those beds six-thousand years ago. We see light from stars millions of light-years away because God neatly created it already in transit.” Another term used is “ideal-time creationism.”

Scientific Creationism

Scientific creationism is also called creation science. The following definition is given in Act 590 of the 1981 ‘Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act’:

‘Creation-science’ means the scientific evidences for creation and inferences from those scientific evidences. Creation-science includes the scientific evidences and related inferences that indicate:

(1)    Sudden creation of the universe, energy, and life from nothing;

(2)    The insufficiency of mutation and natural selection in bringing about development of all living kinds from a single organism;

(3)    Changes only within fixed limits or originally created kinds of plants and animals;

(4)    Separate ancestry for man and apes;

(5)    Explanation of the earth’s geology by catastrophism, including the occurrence of a worldwide flood; and

(6)    A relatively recent inception of the earth and living kinds.

Some creationists hold that science can prove and has already proven that the biblical account of creation is true. Evolution is argued to be a belief and not scientific. Others state that science cannot prove creation as the truth, but that “the Biblical teachings match the observed scientific data just as well or even better than evolutionary theories”. A third position is that neither creation nor evolution is scientific, but that creationism is more scientific than evolution.

Creation science builds extra structures on the foundation of Biblical texts, which Stanley Rice describes as follows: “In order to concoct what they call “creation science,” creationists have had to highly develop their skills of creative twisting of both Bible and science. It is not surprising that they have violated their own publicly stated beliefs regarding both.” An example of this “creative twisting” is the “vapour canopy” theory. This theory explains that a vapour canopy encircled the Earth before the Flood. Genesis 1: 7 is employed as a proof text that there was water “above the earth.” A result of this canopy was that the whole planet enjoyed a tropical climate.

Image

Rice notes that such add-ons are not built upon texts which deal with other areas of science:

Thus when Job referred to “storehouses of the wind,” creationists do not build a creationist version of meteorology upon the belief there are actually big rooms where God keeps the wind locked up, nor that God opens up literal windows for rain as is written in Genesis 6. When the second book of Samuel says that a plague was caused by the Angel of Death, with whom King David actually had a face-to-face conversation, creationists do not reject the germ theory of disease and champion a creationist version of medical science. Finally, First Kings 1:40 describes King Solomon’s inaugural parade by saying that “the earth was split by their noise.” Creationists do not claim that this literally happened. Generally, creationists insist that even though humans can employ figures of speech, God cannot.

Although there are differences in scientific creationism, the consensus may be summed up following Barker: “Scientific creationists agree that there are variations within a gene pool, and that natural selection can take place within a particular ‘kind’, but not that it can occur between the kinds.” Some creationists do not hold that God created each species on earth as it is now, but that God created certain kinds of animals. The term baraminology is derived from the Hebrew words for “created kinds.” This echoes Genesis 1: 24-25 where it is told that God created animals according to their “kind.” These “kinds” are rather unclear and can refer to species, genus, family, or perhaps some other level of taxonomic classification.

Brief History of Creationism

Before modern science, using the Bible as a handbook for science was standard practice in the Western world. Even as far back as the late 1700’s, scholars began interpreting the Genesis narratives in a non-literal sense. Examples are two Scottish Presbyterians, Thomas Chalmers and Hugh Miller. Chalmers believed there was a gap of eons between the first two chapters of Genesis. Miller, in the early 19th century, interpreted the days of Genesis to be long periods of time and not literal, 24-hour days.  With William Paley’s Natural Theology, the only other theory was that all species were produced by chance. These writers were not biblical literalists, but their views square with those expressed by creationists.

Creationism fell rather silent after Gregor Mendel’s findings in the field of genetics were rediscovered in 1900. Between 1910 and 1915 a series of books called The Fundamentals were published. These books claimed biblical inerrancy and it is from them that the term fundamentalist was derived. Two of the contributors, theologians George Frederick Wright and James Orr, accepted certain tenets of evolution, giving the series of books a non-monolithic stance. After WWI, anti-evolutionary ideas began to stir again and in 1925, it was made a criminal offence to teach evolution in Tennessee. After WWI, the ensuing cultural crisis provided ample breeding ground for fundamentalism, and many Americans began to see sinister links between the external threats of German militarism and Russian Bolshevism and the internal growth of religious and political liberalism. In this context, Darwinism came to be seen as the most identifiable corrupting influence on American society. Prominent fundamentalists linked the name of Darwin with a whole catalogue of social ills, from international conflict to the collapse of family life.

The first creationist writers that can be regarded as similar to what creationism is today, were George McCready Price, a Seventh-Day Adventist, and Harry Rimmer, a Presbyterian preacher. During the 1920’s they preached creationism and Flood Geology. In 1961 Genesis Flood was published by bible scholar John C. Whitcomb and hydraulic engineer Henry M. Morris. Creationism is not a continuance of age-old Christian orthodoxy, but rather a product of the 20th century. Michael Ruse states that “[c]reationism is an idiosyncratic form of American Protestantism dating from the first half of the nineteenth century”.

Bailey reports that in 2004 a poll showed that 45% of Americans believed that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so” and another poll in 2005 found that 42% of Americans agree with the statement that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time”. The biggest concentration of creationism can be found within the United States, but as the Fundamentalist movement spreads, creationism spreads with it.

 Conclusion

As a conclusion, the definition given by Stanley Rice seems appropriate: Creationism is “(1) a product of the 20th century rather than a holdout of pre-Darwinian Christianity; (2) based upon highly imaginative Bible interpretation; (3) supported by bad science; and (4) often politically motivated.”

Sources:

Accelerated Christian Education 1998. Science 1086. s l: s n.

Bailey, D H 2010. Creationism and intelligent design: Scientific and theological difficulties. Dialogue: A journal of Mormon Thought 43/3, 62-81.

Barker, E 1985 Let There Be Light: Scientific Creationism in the Twentieth Century in Durant, J (ed.) Darwinism and divinity: Essays on evolution and religious belief, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 181-204.

Cotner, S & Moore, R 2011. Arguing for evolution: An encyclopedia for understanding science. Greenwood: Santa Barbara.

Du Toit, C W (ed.) 2000. Evolution and creativity: A new dialogue between faith and knowledge. Pretoria: UNISA

Pennock, R T 2002. Tower of Babel: The evidence against the new creationism. Cambridge: MIT Press

Rice, S A 2007. Encyclopedia of evolution. New York: Facts on File.

Ruse, M 2011. Making room for faith in an age of science: A response to David Wisdo. Zygon 46/3. 655-672.