Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mark Driscoll on the Chucks - (1) Creationism

Quoting from Driscoll's blogpost:

Creationism: Chuck Smith Sr. holds the conservative position of a young earth while Chuck Smith Jr. holds the apparent position of an old earth. This is an issue where there should be some room for disagreement among even biblical literalists. Why? Because though the Bible is clear that God created the heavens and the earth, it does not tell us the age of the earth. The age of the earth can only be inferred and is therefore not a point on which Christians should divide, though we can certainly debate and disagree about the issue as it relates to the Bible.

First off, I'd like to acknowledge, right off the bat, that I'm very biased on this issue. I grew up a committed evolutionist,indoctrinated in a decidedly Darwinian public education system which effectively stifled any spiritual stirrings I may have had, and it wasn't until the United States Navy trained me in the practical (i.e., outside of the insulated, isolated, and largely surreal environment of school and into the crucible of real-world) application of the scientific method as part of my undergoing the Advanced Electronics Field training for working on high-tech shipboard fire control radar systems, and subsequently meeting three guys onboard ship who took the Bible seriously, that I began to finally think for myself and question my presuppositions. After coming to the stunning conclusion that evolution is based on a very tenuous set of assumptions, and that the evidence alone (without an a priori commitment to materialism, for instance) just doesn't support it, and after learning what Creationism actually taught (as opposed to the many caricatures of it that one encounters), I rapidly became convinced that I had been sold a bag of goods, and after examining the evidence on its own merits, became a Creationist. Then I became a Christian.

I became convinced of the Bible's testimony of origins before I became convinced of it's testimony of destiny; in fact, for me, the latter flowed organically and necessarily from the former.

So I admit to a fair amount of bias on this subject.

That said, though I do not place Creationism in the same hand as Driscoll puts Trinitarianism or the Virgin Birth, I hold to it, if anything, even more tightly than I do eschatology or pneumatology. Whether you like it or not, one's view of Creation says volumes about their view of the perspicacity and sufficiency of Scripture. If you can't take the first few chapters of the Bible seriously enough to take them at face value, where does that leave the rest of it...?

Now, having said that, I don't believe it is an issue to divide over any more than one's view on the gift of tongues, for instance, or the Rapture. Important, yes, but entirely secondary in importance to what someone has called "left-hand" issues of the faith.

And having said that, I disagree wholly with Driscoll's statement, "[t]his is an issue where there should be some room for disagreement among even biblical literalists." Why? Because the more literally you take the Bible, the more you'll move away from an Old Earth view and move toward a Young Earth view - and thus, Creationists are definitionally biblical literalists.

This isn't just a "because I said so" assertion, either.

Consider: If you take a child and give him the Bible, without any prior conditioning or coaching, and have him read it, then come back and report on what it says about things, you will not have him deliver a dissertation on why Genesis 1 doesn't really say what it says it says. You won't have him conclude that there are (begin: Carl Sagan voice) billions and billions (end: Carl Sagan voice) of years of death and suffering before Adam. Taken at its most basic, face value, unless you have a prior commitment to another worldview or to a higher interpretive authority through which you read the Text, you will conclude that the universe is at most a handful of millennia old.

However much that insults the materialist or compromised Bible student, it is the most plain understanding of the Text.

And I find it fascinating that those who raise tremendous hue and cry over taking the Bible at face value in every other area become astonishingly inconsistent at this point.


I know for me, I considered it foolish that Christians believed in a Young Earth. What idiots! How could you, when the evidence is so overwhelmingly in favor of (begin: Carl Sagan voice) billions and billions (end: Carl Sagan voice) of years as the age of the universe?

...and, frankly, nobody likes looking like a dumb dummy.

So, there is a subtle shift away from an otherwise solid commitment to Biblical fidelity to interpreting the opening verses to say what they don't say.

(Of course, Driscoll's also a Calvinist, so he falls for the same trap in certain thorny soteriological passages like Hebrews 6, but I digress...)

I respect those (like, for instance, Chuck Smith, Sr.) who try to compromise by imagining a "gap" between vv.1 and 2 of Genesis 1, but again - unless you have an a priori commitment to even finding such a "gap" won't.

(Note, BTW, that Chucks Sr. and Jr. both adhere to an Old Earth; Smith Sr. holds to the Gap Theory, while Jr. seems to believe in progressive creationism/theistic evolution. But both seem to agree that the Earth is essentially old. So much for media accuracy...)

Many men make take far stauncher stands on far less clear points of doctrine than Creationism, without batting an eyelash. But since this one is perhaps the most uncomfortable one to take in our modern (or "post-modern," depending on who you're talking to and which Dilbertisms you're willing to employ to back it up), well...

Keep in mind, Scientific Creationism is hardly the inbred yokelism that evolutionists and other Old Earthers really really really wish it would be; many of the finest scientific minds (such as the über-smart Dr. Russel Humphreys, one of my personal heroes of the faith - his White Hole Cosmology was seminal in my developing Christian walk as a spiritual young'un) have taken the wildly unpopular position of choosing to view the universe through the lens of Scripture, rather than the reverse ((::cough-cough:: Hugh Ross ::cough-cough::)).

I'd recommend especially the work of the Institute for Creation Research as representative of the finest work of the Creationist community. You can call them many things, but "slackers" isn't one of them. These boys pay the price to do their homework.

Now, all of that having been said, I must point out that Creationism isn't a Calvary Chapel distinctive; there are Young and Old Earthers within the ranks of Calvary Chapel. Hence, this is not one of the areas which moved Chuck Jr. outside the borders of what constitutes a CC, symptomatic as it is of the primary issue (a slow creep away from Biblical fidelity) which did.

Finally, what does this have to do with the growing divide between "older evangelicals" and the new batch of Emergents? What I've noticed in the Emerging/Emergent community is at best a general apathy towards the plain understanding of the first few chapters of Genesis. While that same apathy exists in the "older evangelical" community, it certainly seems all but institutionalized in the ECM. Along with eschatology, it comprises what for ECM-types can be thought of as "disposable doctrine." Forget holding it in either the left or right hands of faith - it's not held at all.

I find this very instructive, because, again - one's attitude towards the opening chapters of the Bible inexorably governs his ultimate attitude toward the rest of it.

I'm not that excited about the future of evangelicalism as it currently exists.

I'm even less excited about the ultimate fate of the ECM.

I've said it before, but this, too, shall pass.

The Word remains.

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