Monday, October 08, 2007

Our Day in the Museum: Part Two

As we have noted, our friends at AIG have divided the question of origins into two mutually exclusive categories: atheistic Darwinism and young-earth creationism. We hasten to add, however, that AIG does acknowledge that there is territory in between. Unfortunately, they characterize those who occupy the territory as Christians who have fallen from faithfulness.

This is nowhere better illustrated than on a couple of displays in the first third of the museum. One reads as follows:

The church believed God's Word.
Based on the Bible, Ussher calculated creation at 4004 B.C.

The church questioned it.
"Is 6,000 years enough time?"

Humanity abandoned it.
"Millions of years ago . . ."

A few steps later, one sees a more detailed chronology of the previously described questioning and abandonment. The display contrasts Luther's assertion of biblical authority with the views of various figures who suggested that "day" in Genesis 1 might refer to something other than 24 hours as measured by timepieces set to the current rotation of the earth.

Now, one might easily expect that all such folk rightly belong to that category so easily labeled "liberal" by those whose theological categories were first shaped to describe the fundamentalist-modernist controversy and then applied to every theological dispute past or present. And indeed, some named on the AIG display could be so described within the very broad parameters with which the "L" word is commonly applied by contemporary evangelical laypeople.

But some are, well, not so easily labeled. Among those cited on the display as inciting the questions that led to abandonment (and we quote from the displays):

B. B. Warfield (1851-1921)
leading defender of the Bible's inerrancy at Princeton Theological Seminary, accepted the possibility that God directed the evolution of life (theistic evolution) (On the Antiquity and the Unity of the Human Race, 1885)

Charles Hodge (1797-1878)
leading defender of the Bible's inerrancy at Princeton Theological Seminary, argued that "day" can mean millions of years in Genesis 1 (Systematic Theology, 1873)

The display goes on to mention that the notes in the Scofield Reference Bible endorse the so-called "gap theory" that postulates millions or billions of years between the "beginning" and God's creating the [present] earth in Genesis 1:1.

We find this aspect of the Creation Museum enormously revealing. It is the frankest acknowledgement in the museum that Christians with as much commitment to the authority of the Bible as Ken Ham and his associates disagree that the Bible must be understood to assert that the earth is young. To put it differently, there is no one in the history of Christianity whose advocacy of the authority, infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible was more clear and thorough than Hodge, Warfield and Scofield. Yet even these would take issue with the assertion of AIG that creation took exactly 144 hours and that Ussher was correct that the biblical genealogies were sufficiently complete to allow for a calculation of the age of the earth.*

As readers of this blog no doubt realize, the reasons for rejecting Ussher are many and varied, and well documented in all kinds of places. We simply point out here that Ham and his associates have staked out a position that essentially says, Even among those who believe the Bible, only those agreeing with us on this disputed point of interpretation are really faithful to the Bible.

Sorry, Mr. Ham. We are too committed to liberty in nonessentials/opinions of biblical interpretation, let alone too familiar with the problems of your line of interpretation, to let such a claim go unaddressed. Your weak case is not made stronger by the not-so-subtle disparagement of Christians who take a different view (in the museum, the real disparagement is in a video depicting some teens acting up during a smart-alec sermon that affirms biblical creation but denies six 24-hour days and the Ussher chronology). If anything, you appear to be defensive and divisive, not exactly characteristics that commend you as a paragon of the orderly, merciful, godly life that you want to issue from a proper grasp of creation's origins with the orderly, merciful God.

*All that makes AIG what it is can be hung on those two hooks: "day" in Genesis 1 must mean 24 hours and Ussher's approach to the genealogies is correct. All else that is distinctive about their assertions is derived from these points. Nothing else divides them from any other Christian approach to the science of origins.


Christian said...

I don't know if what I'm about to say is accurate, or even coherent (I haven't slept in a month) so feedback is appreciated.

It strikes me that the cuplrit here is modernism. Ken Ham's expressed views and opinions come from an extremely modern (should that be capatilized?) mindset. Doesn't he even call it Creation Science? I find this extremely ironic considering his distaste for the conclusions that the modern mindset produced in athiests.

I also find it ironic that he has realized that his message will be heard by more people using postmodern techniques. I have not been there, but I believe the Creation Museum is as much about the experience as it is the information conveyed.

Now, I happen to be a young earth creationist. I understand where SWNID is coming from and can appreciate other points of view. I am where I am because I happen to like the idea that God created everything to completion in so short of time. But my faith and my understanding of the innerancy and inspiration of Scripture is neither founded nor dependent on that view. It appears to me that Ken's modern outlook on creation puts him in the opposite camp.

Jon A. Alfred E. Michael J. Wile E. SWNID said...

Agreed! Ham is thoroughly unaware of the way that he has adopted the materialism of a modernist or logical posivitist (and I'm probably using these imprecise terms imprecisely) perspective in the way he addresses this question. In Ham's world the biblical text must speak literally to chronology because that's the only kind of speech that is true.

We hope to point out some examples of this problem as time goes on (and time goes on one literal, 24-hour day at a time, of course).

Guy named Courtney said...

So...if 24 hours isn't literal, does that explain how Jack Bauer can drive across L.A. in under an hour?

Matt Coulter said...

I am thankful for your comments on the Museum. I felt in disagreement with you regarding the Museum in a previous discussion. But you have clarified points (you probably did the first time and I wasn't paying enough attention) that allow me to understand the concerns. And likewise I am thankful for christian's (as in, the first postee above) comments because I agree with him and he has helped me articulate why I am a young earth believer.

In addition, I think that a museum of this nature in our culture will only find it's way to serve as a large training simulator for Christian's to go forth and share the message themselves. It will not draw people who are not seeking something tied to the main theme of the museum.

I think that the outreach ministry could best be expressed in the lives of the scientists that have signed the petitions in agreement with Ken Hamm and Creation-ism. They should perform excellently in science while living a holy lifestyle. There will be more opportunity for all of those people to contact and reach non-believers because of the nature of our society (i.e. people work with people from all walks of life).

Those scientists and doctors generate their own credibility each day. The message is the same and just as powerful but it has a better chance of reaching those that do not yet understand.

I have seen this theory played out in my new job. My father and I have our own pool service business. We are both seminary trained, we have both spent many years in staff positions at churches, but now we clean people's pools yet we carry with us knowledge and experience that amazes clients and vendors.

We have our forum but it is the last thing the client expects from us.

I think I see this evangelism as acceptable and exemplified in Christ. He didn't set up a "Me" store and wait for people to come and find out who He was. Rather he served people in a way that was expected then He went beyond that. Eventually He developed credibility. He understands that most all of our cultures have trust issues and it can take a long time to share a simple message.

Anonymous said...

Young earth does not mean 4003/4004 BC creation. It is a relative term. Ken wants to make it very specific. For "his" date to hold up he has to assume there are no gaps in the genealogies. If you examine Luke's parallel genealogy you will notice there is an eleventh generation after the flood. In Genesis there are only ten. There is at least one gap! You can be young earth and believe in a 30000 year old earth or even a 100000 year old earth, but if you do you are no better than a theistic or atheistic evolutionist to AIG. If you study genealogies with an open mind you will see that genealogies form links between characters and are not a means of absolute dating. Read Mt 1:1 if you think there can't be big gaps.

I am a heretic, but I do believe in God the creator who made the heavens and the earth. He formed and filled the earth in six yamim and he did that in a yom . . . "in the day the LORD created the heaven and the earth." Scripture never mentions the six days of creation outside of Mosaic literature. They are never in the confessional statements of Isaiah or even the early creeds of Christianity (that I can find). Why is chronology a point of faith? If it is I want to know with certainty when Jsesus was born. Was it 6 or 4 BC. Surely the birth of Jesus is more important than 4004 BC!


Anonymous said...

What Ham destroys (hermeneutics and logic) is greater than what he thinks he gains (culturally undermining philosophic and scientific evolution).

What we (as the Kingdom) lose in credibility is monstrous.

And I don't believe in macroevolution. It's not that the evolutionistic modernists / positivists are right, and Ken Ham is wrong. It's that they and Ham are both wrong. So were the early higher critics who sought to explain miracles by discovering and exploring previously unknown natural phenomena. And Mr. James Cameron is wrong that a volcano on the other side of the Mediterranean caused the plagues of Egypt. All of these are examples of the same trap, but the Kingdom pays the price.