It turns out that Young Earth Creationists are still around, at least according to some Christianity Today figures. This should not come as a surprise to anyone, really, since many churches still teach Young Earth theories over and against the multitude of scientists who would say such beliefs are utter nonsense.
So that you do not try to figure out exactly what I believe from my inevitable bias, I’ll say it outright: I land in the Young Earth Creationist camp, but loosely so. If it were accepted by the Church at large and by the majority of pastors, or I were presented with a particularly strong and convincing case without many counter-points, my faith in a powerful and sovereign God would not be damaged. The reason I haven’t spent much time seeking out information on the subject is twofold: I am not a scientist, and, the ancient origins of the Earth reside in God, whether 6000 years ago, 4.54 billion years, or any other figure that someone may postulate.
But this Young Earth position is, apparently, driving people out of the Church. So argues Karl Giberson, Ph.D over at the Huffington Post. The reason given for people leaving the Church, at least when it comes to science, is that the Church is viewed as “antagonistic to science.” One example that Giberson brings up is that of apologist Ken Ham, who encourages children and students to ask the question “Were you there?” when presented with any statement detailing the past. The standard, as Giberson rightly points out, is pretty insane. After all, the answer will always be no. But if I say that Jesus died on the cross, or even that George Washington was the first president of the United States of America, then I will also be forced to answer that “No, I was not there.” This sort of standard–where personal experience is the only reliable justification for knowledge–is destructive to nearly all knowledge. No piece of news would be trustworthy, nor would any person be able to communicate their knowledge to you in a way where you could pass it on. The buck stops after just one transition, since direct experience would no longer exist.
This is obviously problematic, and it strikes me as sad that such a poor argument stands for the position with which I associate myself. But what I find odd is that as Giberson calls for the Church to stop being “antithetical to science” (to whatever extent it actually is, anyways), his statements come off as abrasive and divisive. The call, it seems, is not for unity, but rather for a step away from one belief towards another. The counter point to this, as I suspect Giberson would say, is that he is simply making a call for Christians to affirm truth. And this may well be the case, but here is what I suggest.
Since it appears to me that there are intelligent people on both sides of this particular point (Ken Ham’s arguments, I think, misrepresent many Young Earth Creationists), and since the doctrine does not pertain to salvation or the Gospel message directly, I think the solution is to not worry so much about the issue within the Church. Of course, this does not mean we should stop seeking truth. Our responsibility as followers of a God of truth is to worship God for who he is, and we can most genuinely do that when our beliefs most accurately align to reality. But when it comes to the unity of the Church, it seems worthwhile to not let this issue be divisive. Don’t shy away from it, and make sure that you have healthy discussion with fellow believers and non-believers alike, but pastors, elders, and lay-people should all accept and respect people who have sought an answer, even if they conclude something that does not match exactly what they believe.
What does matter, however, is affirming that God had his hand in Creation, whenever that happened. Genesis takes this as one of its primary points, at least for the first portion of the book; God is the source of all matter, living or non-living. Let’s remember which issues are most important (Jesus’ resurrection, for instance) and try not to quibble about issues like how old the Earth is.