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
The Joy of the Inner-Directed Life
November 15, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
The Joy of the Inner-Directed Life
Lou Huesmann is the senior pastor at Grace Long Beach, which recently went through The Colossian Way training. He shared this excellent reflection and an article from Rabbi Sacks with us. Thanks, Lou!   Is character strictly personal, or does culture have a part to play? In other words, does when and where you live make a difference to the kind of person you become? These questions are raised by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in a recent reflection on the classic book from 1950, The Lonely Crowd. The book's two sociologist authors develop the idea that particular kinds of historical circumstances give rise to particular kinds of people. In reflecting on The Lonely Crowd, Rabbi Sacks argues for the recovery of an "inner-directed" people for the sake of the world. In a culture largely comprised of "other-directed" individuals who find their direction in life from contemporary culture and winning the approval of others, the work of The Colossian Forum is vital. The Colossian Forum is providing groundbreaking training that has the potential to change not simply individuals but also the larger culture through its emphasis on developing the acquisition of virtues and practices that mark an "inner-directed" person. It's this inner-directedness that provides the security and courage to be different and the confidence to build a better, more life-giving future. Inner-Directedness, by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. If you see something that sparks a connection with TCF's mission, we'd love to hear from you!
Consumption and Conflict Avoidance
November 8, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Consumption and Conflict Avoidance
Well, friends, it’s November. Fall colors. Crisp, cool air. Football. Family. Thanksgiving. And yes, Black Friday. The shopping season is upon us once again, calling us all to order our time and schedules to the rhythms of super sales and dynamite deals, hurtling us toward Christmas at breakneck speed. How is it that Thanksgiving—memorializing a surprising friendship that significantly aided the tenuous survival of the Plymouth Plantation—is now seen as the launch of the shopping season? Perhaps shopping provides a welcome distraction from all the underlying family tensions that the Thanksgiving season inevitably raises. It’s now common when discussing holiday plans to hear friends worry about how they will get through those pressures unscathed. SNL hilariously memorialized these tensions when a family, hopelessly mired in ideological warfare, is rescued by their common love for Adele’s hit song “Hello.” I think there’s a significant link here between conflict and consumption – be it of gluttonous quantities of food, Black Friday specials, or Adele’s trendy tunes. On the surface, these distractions save us from dealing with the deep divides we most fear. While we are filling our stomachs, schedules, and credit cards, our lives are marked with a scarcity of love and life-giving relationships. We live fearful and shallow lives, unable to discuss the things we care about most. Beneath this lies the Nietzschean presumption that the core of the world is conflict, not communion. As original a thinker as Nietzsche was, his perspective was hardly new. Augustine engages the problem in relation to the Roman Empire. The Pax Romana (peace of Rome) mercilessly suppressed dissent through fear and violence. Rome determined the shape of life for Augustine’s known world, structuring time (July for Julius, August for Augustus), family (the gods’ love patronage), and forms of fellowship (Colosseum for blood sport anyone?). In his work, The City of God, Augustine describes the world not as determined by the coercive power of Rome but as two cities, or two stories played out simultaneously. The old story of fear, conflict, and death, was the City of Man controlled by the narrative of sin and human fallibility (fallen-ness?). But Augustine saw a hope-filled tale; the City of God upstaging the Roman City of Man. Two cities. Two cultures. Two understandings of one world. These cities overlapped and competed against each other. But the fate of each city was already sealed hundreds of years earlier, by a backwater prophet from a backwater province, supposedly crushed under the Pax Romana. Problem was, he didn’t stay dead. And in his resurrection, we see the City of Man’s principalities and powers destroyed; death dethroned; fear and conflict defeated. They no longer have the last word. In the resurrected Christ, we see a foretaste of what’s to come – the reason for the hope that is in us (I Peter 3:15). Yet, there are still two storylines playing out and we live with a foot in both worlds. Jesus shows us the trajectory of the new narrative from within the old. He’s grafted us into his people. He’s made Israel’s story our story. In fact, he’s grafted us into himself, as part of his very own body. And as his body, our lives are ordered by new time toward a future full of hope. We’ve also been given a new calendar (the liturgical calendar) by which to order our lives around his birth, life, death, resurrection, and gift of his Spirit. We’ve been adopted into a new family (the church) and offered new forms of fellowship through worship, the sacraments, sacred celebrations. Our new family calendar culminates not in Thanksgiving and the shopping season but in a celebration of Christ the King Sunday (Google it), a celebration of Christ’s Kingship over all creation. As God’s people, we celebrate the victorious City of God right in the middle of the City of Man. Together, as his body, we celebrate Christ’s ultimate victory over fear, conflict, sin, and death, and the vindication of hope, communion, life, and love. And we get to be a part of it! But we don’t do alone. We can only live in liturgical time, Christ’s time, as we order our lives to Christ’s life together. As one, we celebrate by confessing and believing that Jesus Christ is Lord and our conflicts are overcome. Although, we still live with a foot in both worlds. I invite you to live primarily as citizens of the City of God—citizens who have been reconciled to God and one another through Christ’s victory. And as you celebrate the rituals of Thanksgiving Thursday, remember that first there was Christ the King Sunday. Worship and reconciliation replace consumption and conflict avoidance.