Appeal of Young Earth Creationism
Forty years ago creationism and anti-Darwinism was almost unknown outside the USA but today it is common throughout the world and results in conflicts in various religions and over education. The roots of creationism are in American fundamentalism and the modern movement effectively dates from 1961. Since the 80s creationism has grown throughout the world influencing faiths, education and museums.
Creationism has grown within evangelical Christianity, which often tends to take the Bible literally. Within Europe this has resulted in pressure to make science teaching critical of evolution and to recognise creationism as valid science. So far this has been rejected within the UK and EU.
The growing evangelicalism in Africa, Asia and Latin America is dominantly creationist, and is beginning to impact on education, though there has been pressure to alter anthropological displays in Nairobi museums and to teach Creationism in various countries.
It is difficult to give a clear picture of creationism as the situation is confused. One thing is clear; Creationism will be at the centre of controversy both in world faiths and in education for many years to come.
To many YEC is simply absurd but simply saying that will not help. We need to understand why some Christians believe it so fervently
The appeal of YEC cannot be understood without grasping the deeply felt reasons for believing what many scientists think nonsense. YEC provides the “scientific” capping to a “biblical world view,” which provides an all-embracing outlook on life and integrates every aspect of life. It enables one to oppose non-Christian world views and to be confident in the “Culture Wars.” Recently many evangelicals have stressed the uniqueness of the biblical world view against the secular world view, which may look to science for its justification. This is expounded, for example by John MacArthur of The Master’s College in California in Think Biblically (MacArthur, 2003) and on the AIG Web site.
The reasons for accepting YEC are interrelated and are threefold being theological, moral and anti-reductionist. These predicate the scientific objections to “evolution” and are more than adherence to a literal Bible.
The most important reason for accepting YEC is a concern for salvation through Christ. The heart of evangelical faith is redemption through the death of Christ, expressed as (penal) Substitutionary Atonement in that Jesus’ death on the cross forgives sin and takes away the penalty of death. This goes back to St. Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century. Since the late eighteenth century, the corollary of an ancient earth was that animals were living and dying long before humans, thus most evangelicals have limited the “death” brought about by the Fall to humans, and regard animal death as of no consequence to the atonement. However some evangelicals in the early nineteenth century, for example George Bugg, and YECs today argue otherwise and that physical death came in at the Fall (Genesis 3), and that the Fall resulted in a Curse over all creation, and before that no animal died or suffered. If T. Rex had actually attacked and killed herbivores 100million years ago, then the whole Christian Faith will collapse like dominoes, hence the geological timescale must be false. This is at the heart of YEC arguments as expounded by Sarfati (2004, Refuting Evolution pp. 195–224), and Whitcomb in the appendix to The Genesis Flood (Morris and Whitcomb, 1961). Carefully presented (with evangelistic overtones) this is crucial.
The authority of the Bible is central to evangelicals, who often interpret it in its plain or literal sense. For early Genesis, that means creation in six days and a worldwide flood. A Young Earth model supports this “scientifically,” so YEC is the only valid interpretation. A further “biblical” appeal is the Sabbath as the day of rest. The Fourth Commandment reads, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work. . . . for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day” (Exodus 20 vs 8–11). Hence the Sabbath is dependent on a six-day creation and thus “billions” of years must be wrong. To reject this is to reject the Commandments.
Hence the biblical arguments for YEC are threefold,
first, upholding the plain sense of scripture, which is inerrant in history and science,
second, buttressing salvation through Christ’s death, dependent on no death before the Fall, and
third, defending the Commandments .
As these are essential to evangelical belief then a Christian must be YEC. The appeal is irresistible. Well, almost.
To understand why YEC beliefs have grown in the Anglican Church, the approach of evangelicals like Richard Blackham are very instructive. He was curate of All Souls Langham Place under Richard Bewes for many years and has a particular perspective on the bible. Briefly he seeks to interpret the Bible without external influences and thus no input from any other knowledge. On Genesis and creation that means that he ignores science and opts for a literal interpretation. i.e a theological argument for YEC. This has manifest itself on his video on Genesis for the Open Bible series, produced while at All Souls. This caused controversy at All Souls as several members, with scientific backgrounds saw this as moving from the classic evangelicalism of John Stott to fundamentalism. More recently Blackham has been working with John Mackay on a creationist understanding of Genesis.
This self-sufficient and internally-consistent world-view and very appealing as it is a very strong faith position, which appears to give a powerful challenge to secularism and any alternative religion. Its Achilles heel is on biblical literalism in relation to Genesis and if that is not accepted the worldview collapse like a line of dominoes.
Moral concerns, particularly over eugenics, motivated the antievolutionists of the 1920s and the Scopes trial . YEC has amplified this position and stress that evolution leads to immorality of every kind. In his book The Genesis Solution (Ham and Taylor 1988, p. 97). Ham argues that evolution leads to a decrease in marriage, an increase of suicides, euthanasia, pornography, abortions, promiscuity, sexual abuse, homosexuality, theft, violence, racism, etc.
evolution leads to a decrease in marriage, an increase of suicides, euthanasia, pornography, abortions, promiscuity, sexual abuse, homosexuality, theft, violence, racism, etc.
Hence evolution is contrary to family values. The concern to counter teaching evolution partly stems from this.
A further appeal of YEC is the opposition to Reductionism, or Nothingbuttery as Donald Mackay called it. This is the view that everything is nothing but physics and chemistry and that there is nothing distinct about humans. Reductionism often stems from a scientific materialist philosophy. Opposition to reductionism is by no means restricted to YECs. Many oppose reductionism. Arthur Peacocke, the British biochemist and clergyman, opposed reductionism for decades from a liberal theology and founded the Society of Ordained Scientists in 1986 to facilitate this. John Polkinghorne, Donald Mackay, and many evangelical members of the CIS also oppose Reductionism. However YEC is extreme antireductionism. When these arguments are put before an evangelical audience the appeal of YEC becomes compelling. Anyone who to challenges them, and “scientific arguments” for YEC are compromising the Gospel. That is why such beliefs are so tenacious. The argument is more over deeply held religious convictions than intellectual ones. Recent anti-evolutionism is often bound up with the Religious Right and family values, but one must ask whether the motivation is the control of education or religious belief. All YECs I know of are so because of religious rather than political or educational convictions. It may be hard to understand their outlook if one is not “religious” and thus one may look for a nonreligious explanation in line with the secular outlook of Western academic culture. But this often fails to understand their motivation. One must grasp the religious and moral appeal of YEC in order to understand the movement and how it has developed. The scientific arguments are beyond the wit of most people, but the average evangelical will understand why the blood of Christ washes away his sin, even if he cannot evaluate the arguments for and against the decay of the speed of light.
Hence acceptance of Young earth Creationism supports one’s Christian faith in a world which can be hostile to Christianity