Colossian Blog
October 16, 2012 | Andy Saur

Article – What I Would Like To Hear A Young-Earth Creationist Say

Article – What I Would Like To Hear A Young-Earth Creationist Say

By Dr. Dennis Venema
October 16th, 2012

***See the companion article: “What I Would Like to Hear an Evolutionary Creationist Say” by Todd Charles Wood

When I was first asked to write this piece, a flurry of thoughts went through my mind about what things I would like to hear a Young-Earth Creationist (hereafter, YEC) say: things such as that the geologic column actually exists, that humans and chimpanzees have incredibly similar genomes, or that transitional fossils are real.[div id=”callout-right”]It’s the simple “brother” or “sister” that says – “we’re both part of the same family.”[end-div]Then I thought of more specific examples I’d like to see addressed – lake varves, ice core layers, or shared pseudogenes in nested hierarchies. Then, as I reflected further, I realized that these scientific issues are not the most important issues on the table.  In fact, the most important thing I would like to hear a YEC say to someone of my views isn’t a scientific statement at all – it’s a statement of unity in Christ. It’s the simple “brother” or “sister” that says – “we’re both part of the same family.” Even if we disagree on the mechanism of creation, affirming our unity in Christ needs to be the starting point for the conversation.

One of the issues that Christians of YEC or Evolutionary Creationist (EC) persuasions will likely face, sooner or later, is a breakdown in Christian fellowship over one’s views. For a YEC, this might take the form of being regarded as “ignorant” or “fundamentalist” by believers who hold differing views. For those of us who hold to an EC perspective, this can take place in a general sense when leaders in the YEC movement label us as “compromisers” or “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. While this is hurtful, it is at least somewhat abstract. More challenging is the personal form: what I call that look – perhaps over coffee in the foyer after the sermon – when an acquaintance suddenly looks at you with new eyes in a way that says “Whoa, just a minute. I’m not sure you’re really one of us!” For those ECs who are professional biologists, these encounters are virtually unavoidable:

“So, what do you do for work?”

“I’m a biologist. I teach up at the local Christian university.”

“Oh, really? You must really love the work that (insert the individual’s favorite anti-evolution ministry) does. It’s so good to have Christians like you who fight against evolution.”

“Well, actually…”

And not long after, it’s very likely that I’ll get that look – especially if I happen to be teaching a Sunday school class at the time. Even if my new acquaintance eventually comes to accept that I do have faith (of a sort) in Christ, often the sense I get is that they feel that I’m pretty wishy-washy, or that I don’t have a high view of Scripture. Now, I don’t get those feelings from close friends who know me well, but I wonder how many of those casual church acquaintances would have become closer friends but for this issue.

[div id=”callout-left”]We’ve given up the unity of the body over what I feel is a secondary issue.[end-div]Of course, even more concerning for me is the effect that these issues have on students who learn (almost always for the very first time) that evolution is a well-supported scientific theory, and that it is very challenging to defend YEC from a scientific viewpoint. After dealing with the shock personally, then the next issue is what to tell mom and dad. When they go home, say over Christmas, similar conversations around the dinner table or in the foyer are bound to happen. I’ve had some students relate the pain they go through – some do talk it over with their friends and family, but others can’t bring themselves to do so, because they know what will happen if they do.

And I grieve with them that we as believers are divided. We’ve given up the unity of the body over what I feel is a secondary issue.

It seems to me that the Apostle Paul had similar concerns over issues that divided believers in his day. Things like circumcision and dietary laws were issues that threatened to break the unity of Jewish and Gentile believers. For Paul, these issues were ones that he viewed as non-essential issues for Christians. In the case of food laws, he notes that as one in Christ Jesus he is convinced that no food is unclean of itself, but admonishes that Christians accept those still keeping the food laws without passing judgment. As for circumcision, Paul claims that neither circumcision nor lack thereof counts for anything, but then has Timothy circumcised in order that his partial Gentile parentage not be a stumbling block for Jews Paul was hoping to bring into the faith. These issues, both of which were “boundary markers” under the Abrahamic covenant for who was “in” or “out” of the people of God, are now discretionary items in light of the resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Discretionary as they were, there is one thing that Paul will come out swinging on, for both of these: any move that made them essential for Gentile Christians, and thus threatened the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit as a marker for who was part of the people of God. Driving this issue for Paul was a deep concern for the unity of the body: God had brought the Gentiles “in” by filling them with the Holy Spirit, not by requiring them to be circumcised and follow the food laws.  He minces no words for those who would make circumcision an essential for the Gentile believers in Galatia. When Peter, embarrassed at the arrival in Antioch of fellow Jews from Jerusalem, now refuses to sit at table with his Gentile brother and sisters, Paul calls him out in no uncertain terms.[div id=”callout-right”]Such division would hamstring the church and raise an unnecessary barrier to those outside the faith.[end-div]These were issues that threatened the gospel by bringing division and separation where God desired unity. Not unity of opinion, but rather the unity of sitting together and eating the Lord’s supper as one people of God, despite holding differences of opinion on disputable matters. For Paul, that unity cut across all social classes that divided people in his day – slave or free, Jew or Greek, male or female – and he was not going to allow secondary issues to undo what God had done in Christ and through the Spirit. Such division would hamstring the church and raise an unnecessary barrier to those outside the faith.

For me, I see similar themes with the evolution – creation discussion. Is it an important issue for Christians to discuss? Yes. Does the issue serve as a catalyst for a wide-ranging discussion on exegesis and hermeneutics? Certainly, and that in and of itself can be very healthy. Is it acceptable for believers to hold either opinion and be within the people of God? I would say yes. It is my conviction that the mechanism by which God created is an issue of secondary importance compared to the underlying primary issue of holding God as the Creator and sustainer of all things. As a secondary issue, then, the only danger is making one of the options an essential, and dividing over it. Is it a problem if my brother or sister at church is a YEC? No. Is it a problem if I won’t share fellowship with them because of their views? Absolutely. Our difference of opinion on the mechanism of creation is not a gospel issue, but breaking fellowship over a secondary matter is a gospel issue. It hinders the love and fellowship that we are called to be known for, and raises an unnecessary barrier to those who would consider joining us.

So, to my YEC brothers and sisters, I would make this request. Without minimizing the importance of the exegetical issues that the creation/evolution controversy raises, let’s first and foremost sit at the Lord’s table and break bread together, recognizing each other as brothers and sisters in Christ and members of the same body. Those of us who see things from an EC perspective may need to repent of belittling our YEC brothers and sisters as scientifically ignorant or theologically naive. Those of a YEC perspective may need to repent of condemning their EC brothers and sisters as “compromisers” or theologically liberal. Together we can affirm that what matters most is that Christ’s body not be divided over secondary issues – and then work to discuss these important matters in light of that affirmation.

 

Dr. Dennis Venema is an associate professor of biology at Trinity Western University and Senior Fellow of Biology for the BioLogos Foundation. He blogs frequently at http://biologos.org/blog.

 

Suggested Posts
Christ the King, King Over Everything
December 13, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Christ the King, King Over Everything
This month's prayer letter talked about our death before us, even when our resurrection is secure. Our world is full of struggle right now, and Advent reminds us that we join the suffering of our Savior, in both big and small ways. The "small house church" mentioned in the letter is Kalamazoo Mennonite Fellowship, and Pastor Will Fitzgerald gave us permission to post this sermon from Christ the King Sunday, November 26. We hope you enjoy a moment of hope and reassurance from this Gospel message today. Ephesians 1:15-23 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. This passage is from the first letter of Paul to the church in Ephesus, and he has heard good things about them. This is what he has heard: they have true faith in Jesus, and they show love to others, especially those in the church in need. Every time Paul thinks of them, he gives God thanks for them. I think we know what that’s like. Whenever I think about our former member, Elisha, it brings a smile to my face, and I often thank God. Who are people like that for you? Paul does something else for them: he prays for them. There are many things you can pray for someone, and many reasons why you think God will answer your prayer. In Paul’s case, he knows God can answer his prayer because God the Father was so powerful that he took a dead Jesus and raised him from death into a position of power – the position of power, seated at the Father’s right hand. He declared Christ to be king, king over everything. Christ is king over every “rule and authority and power and dominion.” That means Christ is king over the United States government, over the Democratic and Republican parties, over the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), over the armed forces. Christ is King over our bosses and the companies we work for. Christ is King over our parents and spouses and children. Christ is king over systems of addiction and every system of oppression. If there is something we truly need, none of these powerful things will get in the way of our achieving it through our powerful God. It may not come right away, but it will come in God’s own time. What are things that you feel powerless over? How can knowing that God is more powerful than whatever has you in its grip help you? Christ is also king over “every name that is named.” If it has a name, Christ is king over it. Christ is king over Donald J. Trump. Christ is king over every president and leader in the world. Christ is king over cancer and every disease. Christ is king over sadness and failure, and every moral lack. Christ is king over the devil and sin and hell and death. What could you name that frightens or threatens you? How does your obedience to Christ the King give you courage and strength? Paul finishes this section by saying that Christ the king orders everything for the sake of his body, which is the church. We are filled with Christ, who fills everything. And so, a bit, it comes full circle. Paul goes down this path because he remembered the faith of the believers at Ephesus, and how they loved other people. This is how Christ seems to be filling out the church: by making it full of faith and full of love. One of the ways we can think about becoming can be the “good sheep” that Ezekiel and Jesus talk about is exactly this: to increase in our trust of Jesus and to continue to love the people around us. It’s as simple and as hard as that. In closing let me ask these questions again: What things do you feel powerless over, that Christ, nonetheless, is king over? How does this change how you act or feel? What things can you name that frighten or threaten you? How does Christ the King give you courage and strength? How can this week be full of the “fullness of Christ” as you love others and increase your faith in him?
“Why is everyone struggling so much?” An Advent reflection
December 6, 2017 | Michael Gulker
“Why is everyone struggling so much?” An Advent reflection
Not long ago, my 13-year-old son Sam and I were attending our little Mennonite house church that we love so dearly. It wasn’t an easy Sunday. Nearly all of us, for a variety of reasons, were hurting pretty deeply—family struggles, concern for the gravely ill, loved ones who, for one reason or another, are no longer a part of us. People shared their pain so openly that Sam wondered aloud to me about it. He identified both with the struggles of others and his struggling teenage self, saying, “Why is everyone struggling so much? Why do we all go to church if it just means suffering?” While that is not the line of logic my years of theological conditioning provide me, on the surface it’s a pretty valid conclusion. Why do we bind ourselves to broken and suffering people? On our drive home, we were surrounded by billboards depicting happy, healthy, sexy people. Why not identify with them—the winners? Their super white smiles sure seem more convincing than our tears. Why can’t the faith be more obviously right? More visibly true? Why doesn’t God prove his Godhood to the world? I don’t have adequate answers to satisfy a teenage boy who is suffering from the terrors of adolescence. All I’ve got is Advent, and a God who didn’t come down in an undeniable blaze of glory but as a baby born amid scandal, political intrigue, suffering, and the slaughter of the innocents. The eternal Word of God, Logos of Creation, Wisdom of the Ages came enfleshed as an infant Jew, freely identifying himself with a broken, corrupt, suffering people. As with any word, this Word incarnate is eminently deniable, vulnerably open to multiple interpretations—not to mention murder. What are we to make of this? In his brilliant work on Dostoyevsky, Rowan Williams reflects on the theological nature of language and how Dostoyevsky “sees language itself as the indisputable marker of freedom: confronted with what seeks to close down exchange or conflict, we discover we can always say more.” Part of the freedom of being able to “say more” when we are confronted with Jesus—the Word of God—is that we can say more and deny its validity. Christ comes to us vulnerable, “unable to compel [us] since compulsion would make it impossible for the creator to appear as the creator of freedom.” This means that the “credibility of faith is in its freedom to let itself be judged and to grow. In the nature of the case, there will be no unanswerable demonstrations … apart from Christ.” Are there no unanswerable demonstrations apart from Christ? Because that’s exactly what I want most! I long for something provable, repeatable, tangible, undeniable. I want to be able to point to “something” and compel others to accept without having to embody it myself. I want to indisputably possess “something” without having to become like Jesus. But what we get is Christ’s hard-to-believe faith in the goodness of the Father. All done in the face of his betrayal and death—in the goodness and freedom of creation, just as that same freedom would be used to crush the one through whom it was made (John 1:3). Of course, living on the other side of Easter, we see that Jesus’ faith is vindicated in his resurrection and the lifting up of his name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9). Sam’s very correct intuition reveals this: our death is still before us, even if our resurrection is assured. I desperately want God to speak a word that would spare me from the vulnerability of death and the nearly unbearable freedom to live life in light of our certain death. Sam’s desire is my own—to avoid the suffering that comes to us because of the freedom we’ve been given and often misused. We’d rather buy into another false promise of billboard happiness with shiny, white-toothed smiles. We believe these false words—the false certainties that cause us to forfeit our birthright as children and heirs of the King and the freedom that comes with it—all for a cup of soup. It’s the cause of our suffering in the first place. It seems that only a few saints have not sold their birthright (said an isolated and depressed Elijah before God revealed that there were 7,000 such saints). But in our little house church, as in so many small and humble Christian fellowships across the ages, the birthright of the Kingdom has not been sold. Believers join their Savior in suffering the hurts of the world, in ways small and large. They do not shy away. They suffer the uncertainty of freedom. They participate in the passion of Christ, holding on to a sure knowledge of God’s goodness while uncertain about almost everything else. They aren’t sexy. They aren’t likely to be on billboards. When the Lamb who opens the scroll reveals what has mattered in the history of humanity, their names will be called out. And as John Howard Yoder, another incredibly broken believer, once said, history isn’t moved forward by cause and effect, manipulated by the powerful, but by the cross and resurrection of Christ and those who bear it. A deniable thesis to be sure, uttered by an eminently deniable human being. Quite frankly, there’s no place I’d rather be. No other people I’d rather be with, than with Christ and his broken, struggling body.