Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Real Genesis Crisis.

If extreme rhetoric and gross misrepresentation are a sure sign that your opponent has you cornered, then this recent article by fundamentalist Cameron Buettel from Grace to You Ministries shows that the extremist YEC wing of evangelical Christianity simple has no credible answer to the facts of an ancient Earth and common descent. Any article that features hysterical nonsense such as
The doctrine of inerrancy becomes useless when men like Wright, Keller, and Waltke let atheists weigh in on what parts of the Bible are acceptable to believe. And while they don’t explicitly deny Scripture, their reinterpretation relegates it to a meaningless text. It is true that not all scholars who take such positions call themselves evangelicals, but they wield great authority in evangelical circles, and their capitulation is spreading like a disease.
The opening chapters of Genesis are not up for debate, nor are they negotiable. The academic credibility of our faith is meaningless if we’re so quick to sacrifice the meaning of Scripture at the altar of public opinion. Better to be counted a fool for the sake of God’s Word than to be embraced for our willingness to compromise it.
has crossed over into the realm of self-parody, and given critics of Christianity yet another free kick at goal.

OT scholar Peter Enns, in a recent blog post commenting on this wretched travesty of an article cuttingly but ever so accurately noted
The article is its own refutation. When N. T. Wright, Tim Keller, and Bruce Waltke are your Stygian Triplets, you know you’ve passed into some parallel universe. 
This is what fear masked as supreme confidence with a liberal helping of emotional manipulation looks like in print.
The fundamentalist conflation of their idiosyncratic interpretation of the creation narratives with the inspired text itself is of course one of the main reasons  behind exegetical nonsense such as young earth creationism, though ultimately, the problem lies with the Reformed doctrine of Original Sin, which demands that the entire human race descends exclusively from Adam in order to inherit the guilt and consequences of Adam's sin. Population genetics of course conclusively shows that monogenism is impossible [1], while the doctrine of Original Sin owes everything to Augustine's flawed reading of Romans 5:12 and his own battle with Pelagius, and nothing to the Bible [2]. When both science and the Bible contradict dogma, the only intellectually honest position is to admit you have made a major error in your theology, abandon it, and humbly return to both books of divine revelation in order to get a better approximation to divine truth.

Unfortunately, obdurate adherence to human dogma is the most likely response, at least until fundamentalism dies a deserved death. In the meantime, the cost to faith, as this comment to Enns' article eloquently points out, is likely to be anything other than minimal:
When I was eight years old, I was in Sunday school and our teacher began talking about Adam and Eve. She showed us a picture of two modern-looking human beings. I looked at the picture and asked "What about Neanderthals?" She said "You can believe in the Bible or you can believe in Neanderthals. You can't believe in both." I said no more, but inside I said to myself "I believe in Neanderthals, so I guess I don't believe in the Bible." 
This kind of garbage is a great way to make atheists. It took me years to find a way back.
My big beef with the Genesis account--which I have used, playfully, flexibly, to talk about God as creator in a fun Vacation Church School--is that there is NO WAY AROUND day three. All those plants. And no sun! 
But of course, if I had to pretend the universe were not about 15 billion years old and the human race had not evolved from lower hominids over millions of years, in order to be a Christian, I would still have the same answer I did at age 8.
This is the wretched legacy of young earth creationism, science denialism, and fundamentalism.


1. Venema D  Genesis and the Genome:  Genomics Evidence for Human-Ape Common Ancestry and Ancestral Hominid Population Sizes Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (2010) 62:166-178

2. Mahoney, Jack Christianity in Evolution: An Exploration (2011, Georgetown University Press) p 55