Monday, 23 November 2009

Out of the Theological closet: I am not a 6 day Creationist.

A bit of background is always helpful I feel. I was, from my GCSEs till my second year of University, a strong 6 Day Creationist. From that period until now my view on this has gradually changed, and I'm sure is going to alter again as new evidence comes for and new ideas are presented. Where I stand at present is, I suppose, as an agnostic. Let me expand a bit further.

As I have already said I was for a long time a solid 6 day-er, mainly due to my views on Genesis. Not helped, as I'm sure everyone can empathise with, by those that taught (on both sides) that evolution kills God. This of course, due to my strong conviction in the truth of Christianity, lead me to take up and defend the position which I was convinced at the time showed God, and attacked that which I believed lead to a him being pushed out the picture, so to speak. I got all the books I could on the subject so that I could have a strong apologetical stance on the issue, which I believe I did. I was a big fan on Ken Ham, Monty White and Answers in Genesis ministries in general. Michael. J. Behe's book, 'Darwins Black Box' became almost Deutero-canonical for me.

So where did it all change? There were 3 real steps:
1) I was actively involved in the Cardiff Christian Union, whilst at university. I found that instead of aiding the God debate, creationism actually destroyed it. I had to make a decision on where to go from here. What I concluded at the time was that even though it was correct it was a red-herring and therefore is to be avoided where possible. What I found was that even when I made a strong case for creationism, the mere mention that I questioned evolution placed me as a nutter not to be listened to. I decided that it was Christ crucified that I was to preach, not God the builder.

2) I looked at the reason for Genesis 1-3. Seriously, I mean why is it there? A nice story for the kids? Why do we need to know the ins and outs of what God made and when? Wouldn't Genesis 1:1 be enough? Then we looked at Genesis as University and I was convinced of it. Genesis very closely resembles Babylonian creation myth: Enuma Elish (EE). Each generation of the gods of the EE myth parallel the days that God creates on. E.g. Generation 1: Apsu (the god of water) and Tiamat (god of chaos and bearer of earth and sky) parallels day 1 of creation (Gen 1:1-2). Now there are various reasons given for this but I believe it to be intentional. Something along the lines of, 'You worship creation as Gods but you are wrong. Our one God created everything, including what you believe to be gods and has in fact placed them under our control'. You will notice that much of Genesis is in poetic prose, and not as history. I believe that it is also to counter-act the theology of pre-determinism found in many pagan theologies. (Genesis 2-3)

3) Due to the points above I attempted to re-evaluate the evidence with an open mind. What I discovered was that the evidence was more tipped towards evolution then I had first accepted. However I was still aware that evidence doesn't lead to much unless interpreted, and that much of the interpretation was indeed biased. Of course we all know of falsified evidence (on both sides I might add) that means that we have to approach with a great deal of scepticism. One only needs to think of the peppered moth incident!

4) I looked at when the 6 day-ers began and the history behind it. What it came down to was that it wasn't even addressed until Darwin (as you might expect) and even then most of Darwin’s supporters were Christians. The idea of creationism as we know it now is an extremely late (1920's American) take on the Bible and is a minority view in the extreme. This period was largely influenced by the documentary "Did Darwin kill God?". You can see it here.

So where does that leave me now? Basically I’m on the fence. I have disregarded 6 day creationism on 2 grounds: 1) That it is an extremely late, extra-biblical concept, and 2) the evidence (and interpretation of it) is stacked against it. So am I an evolutionist in the sense used today? No, because: 1) God is certainly involved in creation. I think that is is very clear from simple observation and the idea that matter comes from nothing is scientifically absurd. It seems obvious that there must be, as Aristotle notes, an 'unmoved mover'. 2) There seems to be much evidence contrary to established evolution. The geographic columns are mixed up, people keep forging evidence which if it is so solid seems absurd, and both carbon and uranium dating are unreliable. None of these of course means that evolution is incorrect but rather that I'm not ready to put all my eggs into that basket yet. Perhaps in time my position will change but for now this is where I stand.

I think the Church of the Nazarene sum it up well when they say:
"The Church of the Nazarene believes in the biblical account of creation (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth . . .”—Genesis 1:1). We oppose any godless interpretation of the origin of the universe and of humankind. However, the church accepts as valid all scientifically verifiable discoveries in geology and other natural phenomena, for we firmly believe that God is the Creator." (Articles I.1., V. 5.1, VII.)

Till next time!


  1. No disagreement from me here, just cheering you on from the sidelines!

    I followed a similar trajectory when at university. I arrived as a Young Earth Creationist, though not inclined to make a big deal about it, had growing doubts about it, and gradually changed my mind, particularly in my second and third year.

    The big elements for me were seeing that Genesis 1 made more sense if interpreted as poetic and topical, rather than historic and chronological; as a polemic against idolatry rather than a scientific account. Genesis still challenges naturalism as an ideology, the idolatrous notion that the natural, physical world is all that exists, but I don't think you can draw direct conclusions from Genesis about [i]how[/i] exactly God created.

    The big factor in making me sceptical about creationism was reading [i]The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind[/i] by Mark Noll, which charts the rise of creationism as very modern phenomenon. That doesn't necessarily mean it is untrue, but it cleared the ground ready for me to re-evaluate what I thought about evolution.

    I think that there's a tendency for the claims of science to be overstated, particularly as it is presented on a popular level and by atheist polemicists like Dawkins. (Thank God for Dawkins, by the way! Who needs a strawman of militant atheism when you've got him?! ;-)

    But on the whole I think the evidence is pretty overwhelming that the universe is much, much older than 10,000 or so years, and while science doesn't have all the answers, it goes a long way to plausibly reconstructing our origins in material terms.

    Anyway, I've written quite a lot about creation and evolution on my blog, so I won't repeat myself further here.

  2. Yo Pedro,

    Regarding the Babylonian creation myth could you provide sources as well as the dating of Genesis.

    On the history of creationism I think your account is somewhat misleading. It is indeed true modern creationism is a product of the late 19th , early 20th century, but this is not unsurprising since it took time for a movement to react to Darwin and form. However putting it this way implies that a "literal" creation account only really existed from that period which is false: indeed Augustine promoted a largely allegorical view of Genesis but others such as Basil of Ceaserer held a more literal one and you could see modern creationsim as an extension of that tradition. Also even if a doctrine seems to be a new innovation as Rome did against Luther it is frankly irrelevent; it rises and falls on scripture as well, as though not on the same level, natural theology.

    On the efficacy of creationism in Christianity/ theism debates it is pretty useless; you're correct you'd get labelled a nutter. The problem here is that they're working from a different paradigm and it isn't a point which will make them shift it unlike something like without God we are truly beyond Good and Evil.

    Nice piece though.

    The Rambler

  3. Hi both. Thanks as always for you comments. They are greatly appreciated as always. Before we go any further please look at : We would all do with a laugh I feel!

    Caleb - Since when did you become a cheer leader? I think the image in my head will not leave me from now on! Seriously though, thanks. It's nice to have encouragement.
    I really think that the reason for the creation story is a big turning point and I agree that it isn't a how, or when for that matter. I would argue, as I think from what you say you do too, that it has a lot to do with being faithful and standing firm. Also, perhaps even an evangelistic twinge to it (which is rather ironic).
    I've not real the Noll book but looks facinating. I thoroughly enjoyed his work on church history so I'm sure this will be no different. Again as you say it doesn't mean its not true, but it does lead us to some skepticism.
    I've already read a lot of your stuff on the debate and must say it is very good, so I encourage others to read it.
    I don't think we go to far if we claim the evolution has become a religion, with Pope Dawkins at its head, and Hitchens as an arch bishop. I genuinely know someone who said to me that they were his Bible. Now despie it being a very bad use of the word bible its almost laughable! You are right that to most people they are a laughing stock and almost a blessing, but it does concern me how many people are suckered by them. I suppose that the logic is that evolution is true, the 'experts' say that it kills God, therefore no God exists. Obvious rubbish but there we are!
    Its a sign of our times really. If science can't prove it it's not there. Rather science should be put in its place. Was it kepler that said' God, I have thought your thoughts after you'? I think this vid sums it up: You may want to check out the whole site. Its great.

  4. Cont:
    Rambler - Alos thanks for your comments. Always good to be challenged.
    Here is a link to the full EE myth: From what I'm told the copy we have is 7thC BC but may date back to the 18th.
    As for the dates of Genesis that is a very complicated issue. From what I gather, a traditional date is aroung 1500BC. Now don't get me wrong. I don't dismiss that date completely. In fact I think that at least some of what we have now was starting to be compliled by then. (In not so sure that I agree with the JEDP concept.) However, I think that things were possibly added, redacted and changed up till around the Babylon exile (C.597-538). It is highly probable that the creation story we have now dates from before this exile since the EE existed before the advent of Moses. I don't know the reason behind the logic but from what I'm told the date of its composition as we now know it is 7th-8th C, but I must rely on others for these dates. All I know is there is a noticeable parallel between the EE and our Genesis myth.

    I noted that we might expect that the debate didn't really exist until Darwin to try to avoid being mis-leading, sorry. You are right that there were some the took it literally but the point I tried to make was that 1) it was generally a minority view and 2) that it wasn't a big issue until the 1920's. You are also right that to make it look new doesn't make it wrong but 1) I think I have tried to demonstrate that it is a bad interpretation of scripture and 2) I would argue that tradition does carry some weight on this issue, and other for that matter. E.g. if many early fathers took it as allegorical before they new of evolution, why did they? There was no pressure to conform.
    Re. efficiency of creationism in evangelism do you know what I'm getting at? I was thinking of AiG in particular who say that creationism is vital to our witness. Lets keep to the issues, Christ saves, Creationism doesn't!

    A note to all: You may want to check out the following websites, both in relation to this topic and in general also:

    God bless