Sunday, June 29, 2008

Copernican Revolution in Creationism

I am a creationist. It is common for anti-creationist speech (propaganda?) to say that creationists are like old dogs. And we all know how hard it is to teach them new tricks. In other words, so goes the allegation, creationists just believe whatever the Bible says and their thinking never changes.

But I got to tell you, that I, for one, have undergone tremendous change over the years in my own thinking on the issue of creationism. I guess the first cardinal point in my own journey came when I took an introductory-physical geology course at a secular university. This served two functions in my journey as an evolving creationist, if you'll pardon the very bad pun. First, it got me to question the faithfulness of extreme creationists (a la Ham, Hovind, etc.) in their quotation of evolutionary sources. Second, I had the opportunity to observe first hand that evolutionary scientists are not the blubbering idiots that extreme creationists seem to think they are.

About this same time I went to hear Kent Hovind speak. During the Q & A time I asked him why he tied the big bang in with evolution. As I remember, he said it was the beginning of the process (which he denied ever having occurred) culminating in macro evolution. But I had come to be open to the big bang. It was useful apologetically a la kalam cosmological argument. Furthermore, I could not see in the Bible where it says God absolutely could not have created the cosmos 6000 years ago by means of the big bang (I have since come to see that if there was a big bang-and it seems essentially certain that there was-it must have been billions of years ago).

During my years as an extreme creationist I did not give Dr. Hugh Ross a fair hearing. I saw him as a kind of heretic (though his heresy was relatively minor). I remember reading one of his books and thinking he was compromising the Scripture to be too accommodating to heathen science. Later on, however, I started to see that he was on to something with his view of an old world. And this brings us to the second major turning point. I still have some more thinking to do on this point but I am willing to admit now that it is more or less certain that the cosmos is billions of years old. And what is more, this seems to me to be consistent with the Bible if not explicitly taught by it.

So geology 101 and Dr. Ross giving me permission to be an old-earther (and retain orthodoxy at the same time, which is very important to me) were the first two steps. And may I say that I am still a work in progress when it comes to creation/evolution? And may I further say that when one critically reflects on the problem for oneself it seems that one shall see that creation/evolution is an incredibly complex issue? In fact, with one notable exception it is probably the most complex issue in all of Christian apologetics.

One of the reasons why it is so complex is that everybody defines their terms differently. For example, what exactly is evolution? An extreme creationist would perhaps take evolution to mean macro evolution. They do admit theistic micro evolution but deny that they are theistic evolutionists. This makes no sense to me. And in my informal debate with a naturalist, I get the impression that he (exapologist is his username online) thinks that Dr. Behe denies evolution. He, Behe, even accepts macro evolution. Even common ancestry of all species. Rather, I think I'm right in saying that he defines evolution, when denying it happened, as naturalistic evolution. The point is that people in the debate need to start carefully defining their terms. So far very few, if any, have done so.

And that is the first step in any debate if real progress is to be made. Instead what normally happens is people just talk past each other and often agree more than they think (though they probably do have significant differences as well).

As was said above, my perspective has changed a lot over the years on the question of creation/evolution. What is my point of view at present? I answer that, I do not see a conflict between evolution and the biblical account of biological origins but neither am I persuaded that all species share common ancestry. I find myself leaning towards, though not yet totally embarrassing, progressive creationism. By 'progressive creationism' I mean that God created the various kinds of animals in progressive stages. So maybe He waits for the trilobites to become extinct then a thousand years later He creates angle worms, for example.

I would say, that while it is vitally important that God created the cosmos out of nothing and that He now sustains it and rules over it, it is relatively less important (though still fairly important) when and how He did it. This is my Father's world. He is thus free to intervene in a miraculous way at any point in time that He so wishes. That is also vitally important. I think I've hurt a lot of ears in this post but it is an honest revelation to you, dear reader, of where I currently stand. This is a fascinating area of inquiry. I therefore look forward to reading any and all comments you post to this entry at this blog.

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