Some Christian friends of mine are PhD students in one of Michigan State University’s science departments. They recently told me about the stir the November 1st Origin Summit is causing among their colleagues and about their tension in how to respond. The Origin Summit is a one day conference being held at MSU arguing for creationism and setting out to debunk evolution. There are debates going back and forth amongst their non-Christian scientist colleagues on if they should aggressively confront those putting on the conference or if they should just ignore them so as to not draw the attention the creationists are looking for.
This saddens me as a follower of Jesus in so many ways.
Do I start with how there are multiple views of creation within orthodoxy and that those who know proper hermeneutics clearly understand that a 7-day, 24 hour day, young earth creation account is not the only view a Bible-believing Christian can hold about creation?
Or do I start with the attacking, mocking, arrogant, prideful (sinful), little-man-syndrome method that these creationists are using to promote their conference?
Or do I start with how these creationists are acting as if their message about the age of the earth is the gospel itself?
I’m so sad.
Let’s start with some facts about Genesis (pasted and modified from a post I did a while back entitled, “Should We Read Genesis Literally?”)
What is typically lost when we read Genesis is the foundational approach needed for reading any book of that Bible and that is the essential question: What was the original author’s purpose for writing this book?
Do you know who wrote Genesis?
Do you know when it was written?
Do you know who it was written to and why?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you cannot read Genesis accurately and biblically. If we ignore the author’s original purpose for writing a book and we simply read it for the purposes we want, we are reading in an unbiblical way.
Moses and his scribes wrote Genesis in approximately 1450 B.C. Did you know Genesis was written 650 years after the time of Genesis 12’s Abraham? And who knows how many years after the time of Noah, Adam, and Eve? It was not a newspaper written for you this morning by Adam, Noah and Abraham, so don’t read it that way. It was written as a sermon to a specific congregation, who had just gone through some very traumatizing life experiences.
God revealed the truth of Genesis to Moses and his scribes after the Hebrew people had been freed from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. They were miraculously rescued from their Egyptian captors via the 12 plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. These people had been slaves for 400 years, had no identity, and worshiped the Egyptian gods. They were 5-7 generations removed from Joseph, the last character of Genesis. These people had assumed that God had abandoned them and forgotten about them. They had no idea who they were, or what their purpose going forward was.
So God gives them Genesis to tell them these things.
He tells them who made them, where they came from, and what their purpose is. He tells them who He is and what their identity is as his image bearers. These are the reasons Genesis was written. It was not written to tell us the age of the universe, what the fossil records mean or if there were dinosaurs on Noah’s ark or not. Why would a non-scientific people who had no clue who they were or if God even cared about them anymore care about any of these scientific arguments? Genesis was not a science book dropped out of heaven to a group of ex-slaves, it was a sermon about how God wanted to bring order to their chaos.
To read it any other way is to read it on our terms, not on Moses’ terms. And if we aren’t reading it on Moses’ terms, we aren’t reading it on God’s terms.
At the end of the day, science and faith answer two very different sets of questions:
Science can tell us what things are and how they operate.
But only faith can tell us who we are, why we are here, and what our purpose is.
Neither one is meant to answer the questions of the other and we would be so much more productive (let alone accurate) if we left things this way. Combative posturing like the Origin Summit make it so scientists don’t even want to consider what the Bible actually has to say them.
Outside of bad hermeneutics and telling the Bible what you want it to say, a much more damaging problem arises from the hardline creationist view. When one teaches the only interpretation of Genesis 1-3 is that the earth is a few thousand years old, was created in 7 literal 24 hour days, and that evolution is false, the message of creation begins to get confused with the message of the gospel itself. The gospel being (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. This is what we are to be evangelizing as Christians, not how old the earth is.
The Origin Summit website posts the following text at the bottom of their homepage. This is a screenshot:
Do you notice how the Origin Summit is pitching their donations? They are trying to get potential donors to think that they are “reaching the unreached” if they donate. A clear call to evangelism. But evangelism to what? To Jesus? To a saving faith in the blood of Christ to take away our sins? To repentance and falling in love with Jesus? Or to a young earth and a belief that evolution is false?
This honestly makes me sick to my stomach.
It’s not just the contents of the screenshot, it’s the mindset behind this stuff. That the Bible can be proven by making truth claims on it that it never claims for itself and that somehow through this combative argument of “proof”, a non-believer is going to then take the humble step of surrendering their life to Jesus.
Or how the entire attitude of the event is arrogance, pride, and mocking. Seen in such photos as:
Even if you are a staunch creationist and you’d consider evolutionists your opponent, or even your enemy, when does the Bible ever tell us we are to mock our enemies or that we will convert non-Christians through prideful arguments and “challenges”? It sounds more like a challenge to fight at the recess flagpole rather than anything that resembles the model of Jesus.
Talks at the Origin Summit include: Blind to the Obvious, The Big Bang is FAKE and Hitler’s Worldview.
Sounds like a great strategy to “reach the unreached.” I don’t know what people like more than being insulted with comparisons to Hitler, calling them blind to what’s obvious, and telling them the theory they believe (along with the vast majority of top level scientists everyone) is all-caps-FAKE.
So if anyone in the scientific community at Michigan State is reading this blog, I want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for misguided efforts by Christians. I’m sorry for the pride and arrogance. I’m sorry that the Church has time and time again failed to represent Jesus to you. There is no excuse for this. I pray and hope that you will experience the true love of Christ and that you can disassociate this event on your campus from that.
And to creationists, I’m not saying you can’t hold your view or that it’s not a credible view. I’m saying you need to drop your weapons and see the Bible for what it is, not what you’re trying to make it into being. With this comes a large dose of humility that God didn’t intend for us to know everything, especially about Genesis 1-11. Converse with love, gentleness and respect. And never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever confuse the gospel of Jesus and its power to change the human heart with your personal view of how the earth was formed.