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.