What Christian isn’t a creationist?

February 25, 2016

O.K., my headline is slightly tongue-in-cheek. I’m well aware that “creationist” is a technical term that means not simply that God designed and created the world in which we live, but that he did so in a way that is consistent with a particular interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2.

I almost wrote “he did so in a way that is consistent with Genesis 1 and 2.” But if I put it that way, then that would make me a creationist, and I don’t want to be one of those! I might be lumped in with the Ken Hams of the world. Never mind that Ken Ham knows a lot more about biology than I do (and nearly any other Methodist minister who shuns the label “creationist”), having learned everything I know from a ninth-grade textbook I only half-understood at the time. But if I reject Ken Ham then I’ll be one of those “respectable” kinds of Christians—wink, wink—who “knows better” than to take the Bible’s creation account seriously—and who is “smarter” than those bumpkins who call themselves creationists.

I bring this up on the heels of yesterday’s post because of a controversy surrounding Dan Walker, a popular television host with the BBC, who came out last week as—gasp!—a creationist! His condemnation in the news media was swift and severe. How can he be trusted to read news off a tele-prompter if he holds these beliefs?

Even many Christian op-ed writers were alarmed: “We’re Christians,” they assured the public, “but not that kind of Christian.”

Nevertheless, David Robertson, who frequently appears on the excellent Unbelievable! radio show and podcast, leapt to Walker’s defense with this opinion piece:

This may come as a shock to the British journalistic community but those who believe in God tend to believe that he created everything. The question – which apparently they have neither the intelligence or the courtesy to ask – is what kind of creationist is Mr Walker? There are Christians who are theistic evolutionist creationists, old earth creationists and young earth creationists. On the basis of one statement from a spokesperson, many journalists made the assumption that it was the latter that was being spoken of.

And why is this news at all? Who cares? He is a TV presenter! The only people who care are those who want to introduce American style culture wars into the UK, and who view creationism as a bogeyman which enables them to vent their anti-religious prejudice and feel self-righteous while doing so.

For the record, I am a creationist. I believe that creation happened according to Genesis 1 and 2. To believe otherwise undermines one’s belief in the authority of scripture—including the credibility of Christ’s own words. As for how it happened, I’m somewhat agnostic on the question: I would say that there are a number of faithful ways in which we can interpret Genesis 1-2. But people who are more literalistic on the question than I am are not my enemies, and I am not morally superior to them. In fact, I don’t disagree with Archbishop Cranmer, when he says the following (in response to the Dan Walker controversy):

Beyond scientific doubt, the earth is many millions of years old. Radiocarbon (and -uranium and -potassium) dating tells us that Bishop Ussher was wrong: the earth was not created in 4004BC. But don’t some creationists hold to the Apparent Age theory? Adam was created on the sixth day. On the seventh day, how old was Adam? 33 years or just one day? Forget whether he had a navel or not, you see the point: God reveals Himself through His created universe in very many and mysterious ways. It may offend against common sense, but the God who can raise a man from the dead is perfectly capable of creating trees with rings in them.

William Lane Craig does an outstanding job assessing various biblically faithful alternatives to interpreting Genesis 1-2 in this series (21 episodes!) of podcasts: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/s9

8 Responses to “What Christian isn’t a creationist?”

  1. bobbob Says:

    what was the term I coined– molecular predeterminism in response to the Dawkins-Gervais video. well here’s another: agnostic evolutionary creationist. the bible is silent on the how from “Let there be light” to “Let Us make man in Our image.” Ussher was wrong to declare 4004BC as absolute beginning: such bad math he used. it could be that the Creative transcendant being used a lot of time but how does that matter? He didn’t have time. He had eternity. we have the reader’s digest super-condensed version. it’s what He wants us to know about Him. not about how He did it. reasonable universe and rational minds and all that.

  2. Tom Harkins Says:

    Well, I am a “literal 24-hour six day” creationist. I think that is most consistent with the text (including in Exodus: “For in six days God created the earth, and on the seventh day he rested.”

    As for making this consistent with “science,” I agree with Archbishop Cranmer’s observation about “Apparent Age theory.” Adam was created as a “full grown” adult–why couldn’t the “earth” and the “universe” be so created likewise? (That also “fits with the text.”)

    • brentwhite Says:

      After listening to Craig’s discussion on his podcast, there’s actually more than one way of even understanding “six literal days.” I found it to be a very thought-provoking discussion. You might as well.

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        21 episodes! Not sure when I will have time for that! We’ll see. However, I do recognize the view that a “day” might mean something other than 24-hours–I just hold to that view until “proven otherwise,” especially with the Exodus “commentary” on the event.

      • brentwhite Says:

        Actually, I was referring to the view that there’s evidence in the text that God “begins” the work of different aspects of creation on each of six consecutive (literal) days. I’m not endorsing that view, but I think it’s worthy of consideration.

    • bobbob Says:

      yes, but what really matters, is that we are here, Jesus suffered and died and rose, and sits as King of kings on His throne. getting wrapped around the axle of 4004 or 4005 or 13.5 billion does not alter these facts. that’s why I called myself agnostic evolutionary-creationist. maybe I should modify that to add Christo-resurrectionist.

      • brentwhite Says:

        Sounds good to me. I agree. I don’t think it’s an issue to divide over, provided that what we believe is within reasonable interpretive boundaries of the biblical text.

        In my arguments with fellow clergy over the issue of homosexuality, the LGBT, etc.-affirming don’t want to hear any argument from Genesis 1-2 (which Jesus himself makes in Matthew 19/Mark 10) because, they tell me, we can’t take that literally. O.K., I say, but how do you take it figuratively? What does it mean? Because not taking it at all isn’t an option!

        To whatever extent the passage is figurative or poetic doesn’t give us license to ignore it altogether!

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        bobbob, I agree with Brent that this is not a matter to “split fellowship” over. And you correctly identify what “most matters.” However, often for many people this comes down to whether one takes a “high view” of scripture or not. In other words, scripture is okay, until it runs into “science,” at which point science reigns. That is what is not acceptable. If someone truly believes that he can RECONCILE a reasonable interpretation of scripture with some scientific view, I don’t have a problem with that, even if I disagree.

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