by Crowhill on 9 September 2004
The July/August 2004 issue of Touchstone is called Darwin’s Last Stand: A Special Issue on Darwinism, Naturalism & Intelligent Design. I’m working my way through it on the commute, and will comment on many of the articles. (You can see a summary of the issue here, and buy a copy if you’re interested.)
My comments should not be taken as a review. I’m simply mentioning things that occur to me as I read the articles.
Re: Philip Johnson’s piece, it occurred to me that if the ID guys are right — if materialist evolutionary theory is wrong, if there is some kind of intelligent design, but if the general facts of earth history have been adequately established — e.g., that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, that life appeared in such and so stages at such and so times, and all that — and, BTW, I endorse that position — (and how else can I make this sentence an example of bad writing for the English teachers?) — then it’s rather disturbing to me how little help Scripture and Tradition provide in figuring out just what is true.
I recall a lecture by Dr. A.E. Wilder-Smith in which he mentioned the comment of an unbeliever to the effect that if 6-day creationism isn’t true, then God must be muddle-headed because He used the fact of a 6-day creation to justify the Sabbath commandment. (See Ex. 20:11)
It is a poser. If the 6-day creation account is some sort of non-literal story, then why was it used this way in the Decalogue? There are answers, of course. Let’s say, for example, that the story of Washington and the cherry tree is folklore. I don’t see why that should prevent someone referencing it, e.g., “just as Washington told the truth about the cherry tree, so you should tell the truth about your gambling habit.” Or whatever.
Those sorts of things can be explained, but they make you a little more cautious about the Bible. It certainly seems as if the Bible teaches a 6-day creation, and if the evidence requires us to abandon that (which I believe it does), then we have to wonder what other things we think the Bible teaches that it really doesn’t.
Of course I reject the silly notion (falsely attributed to many Christians by ignoramuses and/or by Christians from rival groups) that the Bible should tell us everything about life. But explaining our origin and our destiny are usually considered fairly fundamental to a competent religious worldview, and the thing that disturbs me about the “yeah, evolution is sorta mostly true in outline, but God is the great designer and we haven’t quite figured that out” approach is that the materialist seems to have the better religion. He has a horrible religion that logically leads to despair, forced eugenics and ideas about a master race, but his view seems more complete.
Imagine that I wanted my child to feel special, so when he asked me how the world was made I told him a little story like this. “Well, in the very beginning there wasn’t anything in the universe except God. And God decided one week that He wanted to make a special place for you to live, so He sat down and figured out all the things you’d need. He knew you’d need a place to stand, so He made the earth. But the earth was pretty dark and gloomy, so the next day He made the sun. But God knows that you need a special time to sleep, so He made the moon and the stars for the night time and the sun for the day time. Then God said that you needed air to breathe, so the next day He made good soil for plants to grow in, and He made all sorts of plants and trees to make fresh air.
“God knew how much you like animals, so the next day he make squirrels and dogs and cats and all the other animals to play in the world. He put the fish and the dolphins in the ocean and the birds in the sky. But mostly God knew that you needed a family, so on the fifth day He made all the people of the world, and picked me and mommy to be your parents. Then everything was ready, and on the sixth day He made you. But He wanted you to go to church every Sunday, so on the seventh day He made the church, and told us to go every week.”
So there’s a silly little story with a lesson for the kid. You’re special. The world was created with you in mind. Go to church on Sundays. Etc. But when the kid grows up and realizes it’s a silly story, he isn’t left with much. It’s hard to blame the kid if he just rejects the whole thing. The notion that he’s supposed to find the “essential meaning” of the story and pick out the real lessons from the fables is expecting a little much, I think.
And this is my basic problem with the “creation but not ‘creationist'” movement. It’s almost as if the Bible would have served us better if it didn’t bother with a creation account at all.
2004-09-09 » Crowhill