Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Paradox of "Creation Science" Evangelism

Recently, I met a person who really loves the Lord. They love Jesus so much they want to be an evangelist to tell more people about Him. This is, I believe, a great thing to do. Evangelism can be a very necessary and wonderful activity. The Christian should always be evangelistic. As St. Francis said, "Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words." 

What troubled me about the conversation was that this person insisted on being a "Creation Science" evangelist. For those of you who may not be aware, "Creation Science" evangelism is in the same vein as the "ministries" of Ken Ham, Kent Hovind (although to be fair, he's a whacko to pretty much everyone on all sides of this issue), etc. 

What's so bad about being a "Creation Science" evangelist?

First let me clarify, I don't have anything against Christians who insist on reading Genesis 1 literally. My intention isn't to bring them down. However, I think there are a few logistical problems here.

Again, my goal is not to say a literalist understanding of Genesis 1 needs to be demonized. However, it should be noted that over the history of the Church, lots of Christians have had different views on Genesis 1-3 and this was often in a pre-scientific world. 

The "Creation Science" evangelists tend to almost beat people into believing that Gen. 1 must be literal or else they can't really believe the Bible as the Word of God.

Check out this quote from Answers in Genesis: "If Adam was not a literal, historical person who literally rebelled against God by eating a literal fruit, thus bringing in the Curse upon this world, then why did Jesus (a descendant of the literal Adam) come to die on the Cross? We do not teach that one must be a young-earth creationist to be saved, but we do express how important it is to take God at His Word in all areas, particularly in Genesis, which is foundational to the gospel message itself. If we say the account in Genesis 1–11 is not true, then that opens the door for others to deny the rest of Scripture." 

The thing I want to point out about this statement is that it is historically ignorant of Christian theological developments (as well as a slippery slope fallacy). According to former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, "[For] most of the history of Christianity there's been an awareness that a belief that everything depends on the creative act of God, is quite compatible with a degree of uncertainty or latitude about how precisely that unfolds in creative time." To say that doubting the literality of these accounts opens the doors to denying the rest of the Scripture ignores the fact that there were divisions amongst Early Christians as to whether or not the days were literal. St. Augustine is a great example of a Church Father who is adored by both Protestants and Catholics and he flat out rejected literal readings and even proposed a theory similar to evolution. In a more contemporary setting theologians like C.S. Lewis and Timothy Keller (among many others) reject a literalist reading while maintaining a high view of Scripture. 

It is very possible to take the Bible seriously while reading Genesis 1 other than literally (I could even argue that a "literal" reading means not reading the text literally but that's out of the scope of what I'm talking about here). No one does anyone else any favors when they make this a huge issue. It's not a hill to die on. 

If a non-Christian I was speaking with about the Gospel brought up a periphery issue such as YEC, instead of demanding that they convert to it, I would lay out some of the different Christian views because evangelism is not ultimately about this issue whatsoever. It should never be a stumbling block to a non-believer. Unfortunately, that's exactly what the tactics of "Creation Science" evangelsim do. 

My hope is that we can get past this issue when we're reaching out to non-believers. The Gospel message (of which "Creation Science" is not a part) is a stumbling block enough. There's no need to complicate the issue further by forcing a particular, extra-biblical opinion on people.