Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Creationism and the "art" of "living schizoprenically"

We should be radically skeptical postmodern relativists and social constructivists when it comes to inconvenient scientific and historical truths, it seems ... but thorough-going modernists committed to a strictly foundationalist epistemology, a literalistic hermeneutic, a fundamentalist ecclesiology and a "scientific" apologetic the moment we open our Bibles. Is it any wonder that so many young adults who are told that dancing this awkward two-step is the only way to remain believers in the modern world decide to sit the dance out— or to abandon religious life entirely—when the cognitive dissonance becomes too great? [Ronald E. Osborn, Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014), 117]

One recurrent charge against creationism is that it results in young people leaving the faith. It results in people being functionally schizophrenic, believing one thing on Sunday and another thing the other 6 days of the week. Osborn certainly brings forward this argument as part of his overall polemic against Young Earth Creationism.

Firstly in response, the historic Reformed faith recognized its foundation without embracing Cartesianism, it has a hermeneutic that interprets Scripture according to itself (Scriptura scripturae interpres). It has a historic Reformed connectional ecclesiology, and an apologetic that grounds itself on God as the principium essendi and Scripture as the principium cognoscendi. In other words, Osborn's summary might just be true of certain versions of Fundamentalism, but not of Creationism in general.

More importantly, such a view, while commonly asserted, only makes sense only for a fragmented education coupled with a false view of science. Basically, it can only arise if we allow the secularists to inform our view of the nature of science. In other words, the problem comes about because Christians are not prepared to think critically about the nature of science. If one were to accept uncritically the presuppositions of naturalism, then of course one has to be "schizophrenic" in daily life. Why shouldn't one be? Christianity would be relegated to one's subjective experience, as the Newsboys' song "God's not Dead" proclaims (it has absolute terrible theology and not even a good tune). Even the learning of Christian truth in more conservative circles would be a mere religious intellectual exercise disconnected from the real world. The real world then would be related to science and whatever else the person fancies (careers, entertainment, fame etc).

Here I speak from experience. I know what it is like to have that sort of experience somewhat analogous to Osborn's idea of "schizophrenia." Before I was regenerated and turned in faith to Christ, the learning of Bible truth seemed disconnected with ordinary life. I doubt it would have make any difference even if I were to heard solid Reformed teaching and preaching instead of the somewhat conservative broad Evangelicalism I was brought up in. Apart from the working of God's Spirit, nobody will find interest in the things of God. Living one way on Sunday with the learning of spiritual truth was disconnected from my life in the other 6 days of the week. My conversion led me towards the extremes of Charismatism, yet I was too intellectual to go all the way, thus I have not had the mystical experiences of speaking in tongues etc (since I could not just "let go"). It was the Reformed faith that brought me back from the brink. But more importantly, it was Creationism that helped me reconcile what I was learning in my science courses with what the Scriptures say. If evolution were true, I see no reason why I should believe in a faith that has no relation to me. Plus, a religion that sprouts lies is not a religion worth believing.

It took me quite some time for me to think through the issues of science and the nature of science, and it is my opinion that getting this issue right allows one to integrate science with faith. Hopefully, one day that wheel wouldn't be reinvented for every Christian wrestling with the issues. The crux of my response is this: It is not Creationism that causes people to leave the faith. Unbelief causes people to leave the faith. And unbelief is strengthened when Christians and churches fail to give a reason for the faith. I can't speak for everyone, but how many people will accept a faith that has no relevance to real life? Trying to do all manner of literary gymnastics around Genesis wouldn't work, because all it does is to perpetuate the view that Christianity has little relations to the real world, being only for piety and the afterlife. Aside from literal creation, why should I consider Christianity since it is seen as a "western religion"?

Living "schizoprenically" is probably the lot of many children of professing believers. But it need not be this way. Osborn attributes that to creationism, I attribute it to a false view of the nature of science. Regardless of whether creationism is taught in the churches, having empirical evidences for creation is insufficient to address the real problem. So there might be children leaving the church because of "creationism" (or at least they claim that), but the problem is not creationism but that it is taught in a wrong manner, without dealing at the foundational level of the nature of the subjects studied.

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