Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Our Day in the Museum: Part Three

We continue our account of our recent visit to the Creation Museum of Answers in Genesis.

Today we begin to note various statements made in museum displays that reflect theological judgments that go well beyond the clear statements of the Bible and which are not necessarily widely held by Christians who take the Bible as their sole or primary authority for theology.

One is the explanation of God's slaying of an animal to provide covering for Adam and Eve's nakedness (Genesis 3:21). The display says (emphasis inserted):

God killed animals to provide skins to cover Adam and Eve. This was the first sacrifice to cover their sin. For centuries, animals would continue to be sacrificed for sin. But because humans are not related to animals, animal sacrifices cannot take away sin. They can only cover it temporarily.

Viewing this episode as a sacrifice is, of course, more than the text actually says. But we don't object to that assertion: it is one commonly made by interpreters and is not without justification.

However, as far as we know, there's nothing explicit in the Bible about animal sacrifice being inadequate to atone for human sin specifically because animals are "not related" to humans, though we invite gentle readers to offer textual support for this notion if they can find it. Yes, Hebrews asserts the inadequacy of animal sacrifice for atonement, but not on this basis as such.

So why this assertion? We think the answer is simple. Ham is seeking a theological means of excluding the possibility of macro-evolution. If animals cannot atone for human sin, but if a creature "related" to humans can atone for human sin, then animals cannot be related to humans.

Of course, there is a logical error here, even granting the premise about relatedness. Could a "related" creature still be inadequate for substitutionary atonement for another reason? That seems possible enough: because the creature is of lesser value than the one for whom it is given as a substitute is one obvious possibility.

But what if it isn't just relatedness that matters? What if it's identity: actually being the very same kind of creature? Then even a related animal is inadequate: we need one of the same kind, not just a related kind. Hmm.

Further, Ham is happy to assert a similarity between humans and other animals in other parts of his exposition. It is important to him that humans and animals are nephesh (a subject for another posting), but plants are not. Clearly he sees similarities and differences between humans and other animate creatures, as just about everyone does who has ever contemplated the matter.

Ham's assertion is, in our theological opinion, unwarranted. Hebrews, obviously unconcerned as the book is about Darwinian macro-evolution, says less about the atonement problem than Ham does, and Anselm is a better guide to the logic of atonement than Ham. The degree to which humans are "related" to animals can't be settled a priori on Ham's theological ground. If all animals are descended from a common ancestor (and we don't know whether they are or not), the doctrine of the atonement is unaffected.

Again, our primary objection to all this is not that such conjectures are bad in themselves. It is the absolutist rhetoric of the presentation. The museum asserts that this view and this view alone constitutes the only valid interpretation of the biblical doctrine of creation. One must have all of it or none of it. But those who note what is included in this all-or-nothing choice need to know how much is Bible and how much is problematic conjecture.


Anonymous said...

It's almost all problematic conjecture, and this characterization is an understatement. I'm sorry to have to say that for all who have donated to the museum.

Christian said...

Please keep in mind my comments from Part Two when reading this.

I'm usually a fairly balanced kind of guy. I see balance as important to life (ministry, family, education, etc.). I bring that up to say that I don't think the Creation Museum is so bad as anonymous above and others have made it out to be. I often agree with SWNID on his take on things and I would say that I usually agree with his postings on this subject. But even SWNID has said positive things about the Museum. He even went there, that is why we have these posts.

I think that we can disagree with Ham and still be okay with his ministry. I know for a fact that some people have come to Christ as a direct result of his ministry. I do not know the numbers, but there are whole churches (maybe even whole denominations) that have an average adult conversion rate of 0 per year. But besides that, frankly, if I'm going to go to a museum, that's just as good if not better than others. I think my daughters would have a ball there. Having never been, I can't say that for sure. But I know I would like it better based on what I've heard. I'm not a big museum kind of guy. And I do appreciate Ken's convictions to accurate representation of history. He may be wrong in some places. So may we, but it's still coming from a theological worldview whereas your average museum does not. Also, your average museum is so blatantly "one theory is fact" on the opposite end of the spectrum (i.e. Big Bang and Darwinian Evolution) that if we are going to write off the Creation Museum then we should write off every other Museum for the exact same reason. (Clearly I don't think we should do that.)

I would compare the museum to a decent book (granted, I've never been). Possibly a lot more enjoyable than many other books. Not necessarily the best book ever. Might agree with much of it while disagreeing with some, or vice versa. But I can still be challenged by it if at the very least to know what I believe and why. To think through the Word we are encouraged to read daily and connect it with our World.

Why do we have to despise and/or throw away that which we disagree with in part?

And for that matter, since when did anybody ever agree with everything somebody else ever said?

Christian said...

On a lighter note, what do you think the clothes God made for Adam and Eve were like?

Here's my conjecture:

God appreciates design (as seen in every aspect of His creation). I say this subjectively, as in, His creation is beautiful.

God created us to appreciate design. Not just any design, but an appreciation of good design.

We are told they are made from animal skins.

So the ultimate designer makes clothes for a man and woman out of animal skins. Functional no doubt. But of impeccable design.

Eve gets a cute leather skirt with a cashmere sweater. Adam gets some leather pants and a biker jacket. And both get snake skin boots just for fun.

Jim Shoes said...

Other organizations are much more articulate and persuasive on the question of creation versus time-plus-chance, like Hugh Ross's Reasons to Believe. Has anyone seen "The Privileged Planet"? That's a good one too.

Maybe there are some who have become Christians because of AIG, but how many have written off Christianity because of AIG?

The amazing thing about the gospel is that some people can believe it even when it is miserably and inaccurately presented. But that doesn't make me indifferent to the bad presentation.

I've been to a lot of museums of natural history. As a Christian, I have no trouble understanding what I see in them as evidence of God's design. I'm not assaulted or offended by the Darwinism in them. I haven't been to any mainstream museum that is as blatantly ideologically driven as is the Creation Museum. There I felt assaulted and offended. Maybe I'm just sensitive.

Bryan D said...

In Europe people just use Ham as another excuse to laugh evangelicals off when they try to do actual ministry—that is, sharing the kerygma with people who have no hope. I'm not up for things that needlessly place barriers between people and the decision to follow Christ. That's why I'm not "ok" with Ham's "ministry."

Where do Christians think they're going by making sterilized copies of the societies they occupy? What is next, a Christian Louvre? We have one of everything that "the world" has, only, the Christian ones are almost always 1) Bad copies of their originals 2) Irrepresibly boring 3) Needlessly offensive to nearly everyone 4) Fundamentally and methodologically flawed.

What is the purpose of it all? Only to allow Christians to comfortably escape their real responsibility, that of radically engaging and changing their culture by way of participation, not withdraw. Instead of doing what they ought, Christians are taking the easier path of creating a "New World" within the one that already exists and condeming anyone who does not take the pilgrimage with them.

This, I do not think, is the legacy of Christ. This, I am quite certain, is not ministry.


Anonymous said...

I haven't been to the Creation Museum, although we did a "drive by" on our way to somewhere else recently. The parking lot was packed. I am an old earther that is open to the possibilty of evolution in some form. But Darwinists are just as dogmatic as Creationists. That is why people are flocking to that museum. They want a place that tells them it's OK to believe something else.

Personally, whatever science comes up with doesn't change the fact, for me, that God created it all. And I am awed to realize that all those billions of years, including elements created by super-novae, culminated in the creation of humans for whom Jesus was willing to die.