Monday, March 03, 2014

The Gospel and theories of creation

The issue of the views of creation, while certainly academic, is not merely academic. Behind the various views lie major ramifications for faith and life. Here I would like to deal with the issue of history.

The Genesis accounts and the whole section normally termed "primeval history" (Gen. 1-11) are dealt with in various ways by advocates of the various creation theories. Key among many who deny 6-24 creation is relegating the creation account to some form of poetry or allegory. The best one could do was to affirm its overall historicity without at the same time holding to the necessary historicity of its parts, which is what the Framework view does with the Genesis account.

The main reason why creation is so important is because of what it does to history. If the Genesis accounts are fully historical, then what that implies for history is that world history actually begins the way the Bible says it would. Conversely, if the Genesis accounts are not in some sense historical, then that would tend to lead towards the idea that world history and redemptive history are at best parallel tracks. If we embrace the idea of two parallel histories, which are not always separate but ontologically independent of each other, then it will create problems for the universality of the Christian faith and evangelism.

The issue here is very simple: For example, I am non-white Chinese. Christianity as it comes to us is a "white-man's religion." Furthermore, Christian missionaries were often flawed and sometimes partook of the sins of the Western imperial powers in the 19th century as they bullied China into submission. The question therefore is: Why should the Chinese embrace Christianity, a religion historically (and I would certainly say wrongly) associated with imperialism and oppression?

There are various reasons that can be offered for why Chinese (for our example) should be Christians. The flimsiest reason is that it works; it provides for one's subjective spiritual and/or material needs. The "God-shaped hole" in one's heart after all *just* needs to be filled. The problem with this is that emotions are unreliable, and while I do believe that there is some sort of "God-shaped hole," in the sense that Man is made for God, people do not necessarily know or feel what they actually need, as the happy atheist will testify. The one who bases his faith on feelings of spirituality is like the shallow soil. When the plant grows up and unfavorable conditions come (which can be more than just persecution and also include one's emotional states), the plant of the Gospel will die in his heart and he will certainly fall away.

The second reason given for embracing Christianity, despite its alien origins, is that it speaks to the sin condition that I see in myself. Correlative with that is the evidentialist apologetic methodology proving the existence of Jesus, His death and His resurrection. The reasons here are better as it focuses on Jesus and the Cross, and such is the focus of Evangelicalism as a whole. The main problem here is that the sin condition is in some sense subjective. It depends on the person being convicted of sin based upon a rather subjective Christian realization of sin. The second reason suffers from the similar problem of subjectivity, and gives Christianity the impression of a crutch for weaklings — only for those who feel their sin in the Christian way. Now of course, some sense of sin is unavoidable, but falling short of the ideal can be construed in other fashions as it is done in other religions like Buddhism, where "sin" is impersonal and can be outweighed by good works. And the proofs concerning Jesus and His death and resurrection, while powerful in their own right, can be twisted to support pantheistic notions of Christ and Man, something which was seen in early Gnostism and now in the New [Age] Spirituality.

The third reason for embracing Christianity is through an appeal to its intellectual prowess and consistency, or Christianity as a philosophy and worldview. Such would appeal to intellectuals and philosophers. With their sophisticated arguments, they are convinced that Christianity provides the best answers to the ultimate questions. Be they Alvin Plantinga or William Lane Craig, they are intellectually convinced of Christianity and its universality, arguing for Christian theism against unbelief. Now this has much more virtue than the previous two since it appeals to more objective issues, and the use of evidentialist claims about Jesus here are more objective because they are not left drifting but correlated to a bunch of other philosophical and theological arguments for the Christian faith. Yet, the weakness here comes from its strength, its intellectual rigor, as it almost made Christianity the religion of Christian intellectuals and philosophers, or at the very least split Christians into two camps: the uninitiated, and the intellectuals. Lastly, the methodology itself has a flaw in the following: What happens if one day some philosopher suddenly proves (at least for a time) that Christianity is not the best and most rational system? Are we rationalists that only follow Christ to the extent that Christianity makes sense to us?

If we hold to the parallel tracks of history, it is not much of a surprise if non-Christians see the other track as irrelevant to "normal life." From a non-Christian non-white point of view, the claims of Christianity are merely just that, claims. Even if true, they have no relation to him and his history. After all, in the prevailing secular metanarrative, life evolved from non-life, humans evolved from primeval apes, and cultures and civilization develop naturally. Eastern non-materialists could conceivably accept supernatural occurrences in the history of Israel for example, but what has that got to do with *MY* country and culture? The history of China goes back 4000 years, so why should we listen to the "white men" who were living in caves while we were building great cities?

That is why the whole issue of creation is so important, because it attacks the supposed autonomous histories of cultures, even those as ancient as China's (or Egypt's). Primeval history especially in the table of nations of Genesis 10 established the historical basis for all of Christianity's claims of universality. It is because there is a real objective historical basis for sin that sin is sin and deserves damnation. It matters not whether someone is happier after he has jettisoned his faith, for feelings often deceive. It matters not whether one feels sinful, it matters not whether one feels that Christianity is meeting his need, it matters not whether he feels a "God-sized hole" in his heart. All these don't matter! It is because Christianity is historically objectively true on the origins of Man, that it is objectively true regarding everything else it teaches. No one for example dispute the fact of gravity (except theoretically). In the same way, Christian history should be claiming that level of truth.

Only a proper grasp of the historicity of the Genesis account will avoid a parallel track system of two histories, and only that can solve the problem of the universal claim of Christianity (not its universal appeal). If one holds to some version of the dual system of histories, then why would anyone be interested in hearing just another "abstract theory," especially during the times when they feel self=fulfilled?

It is because of this that I find holding to 6-24 creation necessary. The other views, while held to sincerely, do not seem capable of adequately answering the problem of universality. Why should a particular faith be universally applicable? Experience, guilt, miraculous evidences of the 1st century AD, and rationality all bypass the history of other cultures and peoples, and thus cut redemptive history from other cultures and people God did not work with in the Bible..

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