Why Bother Being a YEC? Part 2: What’s Good?
So on Monday I talked about the failures of Day Age and Gap Theory. My main reason for discussing them was to make it clear that when it comes to the issue of origins Christians have only two real options; either we must believe that Genesis is not an accurate account of the creation of the universe, or we must believe that Evolutionary Theory (defined loosely as the belief that all life evolved from primitive single-celled organisms over a period of billions of years; not evolution itself) is inaccurate. Attempts to meld the two positions or find a compromise between them are doomed to failure. All that’s left is Young Earth Creationism (YEC) and Theistic Evolution. So when it comes right down to it the real question we need to answer when we ask “Why anyone would bother being a YEC?” is “Why would anyone have a problem with Theistic Evolution?”
Well let’s take a look and find out.
I’m going to generalize a lot here, just so you’re aware. Not all Theistic Evolutionists share the exact same ideals or interpretations. So if you consider yourself a Theistic Evolutionist and you don’t think I’m describing your beliefs accurately, then understand that I’m intentionally trying to be broad and that what I have to say won’t fit everyone exactly. I just want to talk about the central ideas behind Theistic Evolution. These are:
1. Evolutionary Theory and Christianity are not contradictory.
2. Genesis is not an accurate account of God’s creation process. (This belief may take many forms: some consider it metaphorical, some hold that it’s simply a myth, and others say it is a story that informs us of deep and abiding truths about God and creation. They all agree that it shouldn’t be considered as an accurate historical record of actual events.)
3. Evolution is a tool that has been used by God as his method of creation. He presides over evolution, guides it to an extent, and it is part of his plan for our world.
All this leads to the Theistic Evolutionist narrative of creation. The story goes roughly like this; in the beginning God used the Big Bang to slowly, over a period of more than 14 billion years in a process that is still going on to this day, create the universe. Over 4 billion years ago God formed the Earth; that is to say he allowed natural processes that he set up to from the beginning of time to form the Earth. 3.6 billion years ago God created the first single-celled lifeforms (or allowed the natural system that he set in motion to create them) which, under God’s watchful eye, slowly evolved into every living thing. Then, at a certain time in the near past (less than 1 million years ago) humans appeared, and God placed minds and souls in them. Then at some point man rebelled against God and was separated from him. Roughly 2,000 years ago God took the form of a man and died on a cross to reconcile mankind to himself. Someday we will all live in heaven where there will be no death or suffering, and we will walk with God.
In contrast, this is the Young Earth Creationism narrative of creation. Between 12 and 6 thousand years ago God created the universe and everything in it over a period of six days. He first created the Earth, later created the stars, and also created plant and animal life in their own turns. Finally he created a man and a woman, Adam and Eve. He made a garden for them, walked with them, and they were in harmony with Him. They, and all the animals, were vegetarians. There was no death or disease. God placed nature under Adam and Eve’s authority. The world was very good. Then Adam and Eve rebelled against God. They fell, sin entered the world, and death followed. Nature was cursed because of the Fall. Now animals slay each other, diseases come and go, natural disasters lay waste to the land, and everything dies. Man was separated from God. Then roughly 2,000 years ago God took on the form of a man and died on a cross to reconcile mankind to himself. He paid for mankind’s sins, and opened the door to forgiveness. Someday He will return and this world will be destroyed. Then God will create a new heaven and a new Earth and there will once again be no more death, disease, or suffering.
So why should anyone choose the YEC story over the Theistic Evolution story? We could debate about that for hours, and I don’t have infinite writing space (actually, I guess I technically do. I mean this is the internet. But nobody has the time to read all that), so I’m going to sum up the two primary reasons I choose Young Earth Creationism.
The first reason is that the story of creation tells us a lot about the character of God. God is all-powerful, so he could have made the world in an infinite variety of ways if he chose too. Whichever way he did choose is important. This isn’t a frivolous matter. The beginning of a story sets the foundation for everything that comes after. So the important question is “Where does our story come from?” My problem with the Theistic Evolutionist story is that it does not come from God, or even from revelations of godly men, but from men and women who do not believe that God exists. This would be fine if we were debating the boiling point of water or the theory of relativity; atheists and agnostics are just as capable as anyone else of performing the experiments necessary to prove either of those. However the matter of the Earth’s origins is in the unobservable and untestable past. What we believe happened in that past is inevitably based on our own assumptions about how the universe works. Most of Evolutionary Theory has been developed by scientists who believed that there was no God. Evolutionary Theory is an explanation for how life could have arisen without a creator. However, as Christians we know that there is a God and that he is the creator. So from our point of view Evolutionary Theory is based on a false assumption: the assumption that there is no God.
When dealing with events that happened in the unobserved past having false assumptions will almost inevitably lead to false conclusions. Let’s say I’m investigating a murder. A woman has been stabbed, and her husband is the primary suspect. They also had a family friend staying at the house on the night of the murder. I assume that either the husband or the guest must be guilty because they were the only people there that night. But what if there was a third person involved? If my assumption that it could only be those two suspects is incorrect then I may come to an incorrect conclusion. Now it’s possible that a third person may have been there that night but the husband or guest was still the guilty party. So I could have false assumptions and still come to an accurate conclusion. However, it is absolutely certain that if a third party did carry out the murder then I will never come to a correct conclusion as long as I falsely assume that there was no third party involved. This is exactly the situation we find ourselves in when it comes to the origin of life. We Christians all believe that God is responsible for the creation of life. The scientists who have developed Evolutionary Theory assume that God cannot have been responsible. From their point of view it all had to come about through purely natural processes without any divine intervention. So why should I, as a Christian, accept as fact a theory that is based off of false assumptions?
Now there may be a few of you reading who want to point out that it could just as easily be my own assumptions that are false. I admit that readily. It could be that there is no God. If that is the case then my own conclusions about the past will inevitably be incorrect. However since I do believe that there is a God it would be inconsistent of me to act in ways that are contrary to my beliefs. I do not expect atheists to believe in Young Earth Creationism. It would be foolish for them to trust in conclusions that are based off of assumptions they reject as false. All I’m saying is that it’s equally foolish for Christians to trust in conclusions that are based off the assumption that there is no God.
Beyond that there is one other major problem with Theistic Evolution. Death.
One of the longest lasting and most legitimate criticisms of Christianity is the existence of pain and suffering. If there is an all-powerful and all good God then why do we see so much death in the world? Why is there so much pain? How could he allow this to happen? Now I’m not going to try to thoroughly answer those questions here (though if you’re interested I’d recommend checking out C.S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain for a start). However I will say that Christianity has always had a basic answer to the question of why God would create a universe full of pain and death:
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
The Earth was originally made perfect. There was no suffering, death, or disease. God, man, and nature existed in perfect relationship to each other. However, God did not create us as robots or slaves but as free willed beings designed in his own image. This makes sense to me; after all, how can you have a relationship with a robot? What good is love if it comes from someone who has no other choice but to love you? So God provided Adam and Eve with another option. If they wanted they could rebel, turn away from him, and go their own way. He warned them that such a course of action would end in death. They rebelled anyway. Because of that sin, death entered the world. The suffering we see around us today was not the original plan. It’s not the way things are supposed to be, and it is not the way things will forever be. God entered our world, suffered, and died on a cross for our sins. Because of that we all can repent of our sins and be reconciled to God. Someday Jesus will return and our fallen world will be destroyed and God will create a new Earth, as perfect as the old one was meant to be.
However this answer to the question of suffering is almost completely incompatible with the Theistic Evolutionist point of view.
Evolution is fueled by death. Creatures change over time because certain traits allow them to outcompete the other organisms in their ecological niche. Survival of the fittest. Theistic Evolution gives us a history of billions of years of death, disease, and suffering before humans ever appeared on Earth. This was all part of God’s plan. God chose to create through competition, pain, and death. From the very beginning God planned for killing, birth defects, and cancer. All of these things are perfectly natural parts of God’s “very good” creation.
Then man came around, and lived in harmony with God. Perhaps they were immortal, or perhaps they weren’t. In any case man chose to rebel against God, and now we suffer along with the rest of creation. God became a man and died so we could be reconciled. Someday we will live on a new Earth which, inexplicably, will be free from the suffering, death, and disease, that has characterized all of existence up to this point.
The God of Theistic Evolution is a God of death and pain, the architect of all cancers and pathogens, all mutations and disabilities, the designer of exploitation, slaughter, and parasitism. A God who delighted to create a world where mother animals kill their own children, insect larva slowly eat creatures from the inside, and wolves eat rip apart and consume still living prey. Where that was the plan.
That’s the story Theistic Evolution tells us about God. And that is not the God I serve; nor, I would say, is it the God we see depicted in the Bible.
And that’s why I bother with being a YEC.
There’s a lot more I have to say about Young Earth Creationism. No doubt I’ll there’ll be posts on them in the future. But for now I’ve explained what I set out to: what Young Earth Creationism is, how you can be a YEC without being against science, and why it matters at all. I hope you got something out of this. Who knowns what I’ll be writing about next week.