Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Orthodoxy, Creationism and its detractors

Part of the claims of Young-Earth Creationism (YEC) is that it alone is the orthodox interpretation consistent with the Scriptures. In other words, YEC claims to be the truth, not just an approximation to the truth or the most plausible interpretation of Scripture. Now, of course, those who claim to hold to YEC may or may not take that stance, thus there is a difference between those who hold to YEC as a plausible hypothesis, and those who treat its claims seriously.

For those who are YEC by conviction, they hold that YEC is the only orthodox position. Now all Christians do recognize a difference between orthodoxy and salvation. There is a correlation of course between orthodoxy and salvation, for one cannot be a heretic and be saved. Yet, we recognize that a person is not saved by right doctrine. At the same time, we recognize that false doctrine may indicate a reprobate spirit and heart, for the Holy Spirit which indwells a believer is the Spirit of truth. While in this world, believers may sinfully hold to error, yet not willfully. A person who willfully embraces error knowing it is error is in grievous sin. Most errors held by believers should fall into the category of "errors held to be true doctrine." In other words, they are held because the proponents of these theories think they actually are what Scripture teach.

In this light, YECs do recognize that those holding on to different views of creation within Evangelicalism are believers, if they believe the true Gospel. At the same time, it is unavoidable that we see their views as being errant, some even grievously so. We believe that YEC is orthodoxy, and others not, for that is the conclusion if YEC is indeed truth, not just a best approximation of the truth. We also recognize that some who hold to differing views of creation may view their theories likewise. So we agree to disagree, which actually means we STILL disagree, not that we all join hands and sing kum-ba-ya.

Doctrinal disagreements are therefore present. Christians can strongly voice their support of what they believe, and critique the other views. That is part of the exchange of ideas, as iron sharpens iron. All of this is well and good in academic discussion, and is so within the church (within limits) if the denomination rules certain views tolerable.

The problem however comes when some in the opposing camps throw low brow shots at the opposition. This is seen in statements implying that the science done by YEC scientists is not real science (as if any of these theologians have the authority or even knowledge to make that judgment!) Other statements to that effect are statements attacking YECs as being schismatics (or that their views as shibboleths) for saying that YEC should be the only orthodox option. Note that saying YEC is (or should be) the only orthodox option does not mean that one must embrace YEC in order to be saved. Orthodoxy and salvation are not the same thing, although as I have said there is some correlation between them.

All of these statements by critics of YEC are very unfortunate, because instead of dealing with the substance of YEC, they use underhanded tactics of mockery, ridicule, ad-hominem arguments and the like to dismiss YEC without even engaging with it. Now, of course, I do not deny that some who proclaim themselves YEC may make outrageous and inaccurate statements attacking other views. The problem however is that only the fringe Fundamentalists are committing sins against those holding to differing views of creation, while the mainstream YECs are respectful even while we disagree. However, among its critics, prominent historians like Mark Noll misrepresents YEC. Among Framework proponents, while Dr. W. Robert Godfrey is generally a kind and solidly Reformed person, yet he slandered YEC by condemning it as pseudoscience, even though he does not have any scientific expertise or authority to make that judgment [W. Robert Godfrey, God's Pattern for Creation: A Covenantal Reading of Genesis 1 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2003), 91]. Dr. Godfrey is not some fringe element, so we see that mockery and slander of the YEC position is mainstream among non-YECs. So while those mocking and ridiculing Framework, Progressive Creationist and other views are in the fringe of YEC, those mocking YEC are mainstream among adherents of other views.

If you claim to want dialogue, to agree to disagree, then shouldn't you respect those you disagree with and represent their views correctly? Then why is it that those who are against YEC almost never seem to not misrepresent, mock, ridicule and plaster YECs with ad-hominem arguments? Why does one side try to represent the other correctly, while the other side does not even bother to understand its opponent? Do for example Framework proponents have the right to routinely mock and misrepresent the YEC position? If not, then why are we asked to tolerate this kind of unscholarly and uncivilized behavior?

For there to be a conversation, there must be two sides talking to each other, not one side intent on shouting down or dismissing the other side. Unfortunately, unless there is a change in the manner the views of creation are discussed, there will be only more heat and no light.

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