Christianity 201

November 9, 2011

The Front of the Book

If we’re honest, most of the tensions and debate within some Christian circles are concerned with issues arising out of the front of the book (Genesis) and the back of the book (Revelation).  Not that the 64 books in-between don’t also present their share of challenges; such is the nature of ‘seeing through a glass darkly;’ the last word, darkly, surprisingly accepted by my spell-checker.

When it comes to the front of the book, much ink has been spilled and much fellowship has been fractured by division between young earth creationists and old earth creationists.   Websites like Answers in Genesis and Answers in Creation present the two sides to the debate; while bookstore shelves can be confusing since all the books sit — generally alphabetically — in a single section called “Creation Science” or as a subset of the apologetics section.  If your church wants to have an evening or a weekend where this issue is presented, it’s entirely possible to book a speaker or ministry team and overlook checking which side of the discussion they subscribe to.

Old earth creationism also allows for the possibility of what’s called theistic evolution; or the idea that evolution was the means God used to bring us to the point where we find ourselves now, or what we could term ‘the age of man.’  My personal belief is that I can accept the idea that the ‘days’ of Genesis 1 are not necessarily literal, I can accept the idea that much of Genesis 1 and 2 are somewhat poetic in nature, trying to explain something so far beyond our understanding, just as words can’t describe the vision John experienced described at the back of the book.  I just think there are too many flaws — both scientific and theological — in evolutionary theory to go down that road.

But not all old earth creationists believe in theistic evolution, which makes for a bit of a divide within their community.

Still, the idea of a 6,000 year-old earth with an apparent age — the view I long subscribed to — is equally tenuous when you go out in the evening and look at stars, the light from which may have originated more than 6,000 years ago.

Does it matter?

I think that believers who are trying to understand the nature of God — to really know him — should be asking themselves questions on this issue from time to time.   It should neither be an obsession nor should it be a concern if we can’t fathom all the nuances of creation; but it should be somewhere on our radar.  In fact, I believe our idea who God is will actually shape our opinion on some of the facets of this kind of discussion.

Why mention this today?

I was reminded that this discussion rages on while stopping by Internet Monk, one of the longest running Christian blogs, and certainly a very Christianity 201-ish (or 301-ish) place for deeper discussion.   A recent item there looked at the responses of Peter Enns to an interview that Albert Mohler — a young-earth, six-day creationist — did on National Public Radio; responses by Enns which included this one and this one.

Enns writes:

I am writing, rather, for the sake of those who are living with the consequences of what Mohler says they must believe–those who feel trapped in Mohler’s either/or rhetoric, that to question a literal interpretation of Scripture concerning creation puts one on the path to apostasy.

I find the phrase ‘path to apostasy’ particularly intriguing.  Does a ‘liberalization’ of our view on this subject put other doctrinal understanding at risk?  Does it change our doctrine of man, our doctrine of the nature of God, and perhaps even affect our doctrine of salvation? Or does this issue stand apart from other theological implications.