Conrad Hyers, The Meaning of Creation: Genesis and Modern Science, John Knox Press, Atlanta, Georgia, 1984, page 26:It may be true that scientism and evolutionism (not science and evolution) are among the causes of atheism and materialism. It is at least equally true that biblical literalism, from its earlier flat-earth and geocentric forms to its recent young-earth and flood-geology forms, is one of the major causes of atheism and materialism. Many scientists and intellectuals have simply taken the literalists at their word and rejected biblical materials as being superseded or contradicted by modern science. Without having in hand a clear and persuasive alternative, they have concluded that it is nobler to be damned by the literalists than to dismiss the best testimony of research and reason. Intellectual honesty and integrity demand it."
Gregg Wilkerson, co-founder of Students for Origins Research and former young-earth creationist, at the 1990 International Conference on Creationism:It certainly seems to be true at first glance, to the point that it could make a person feel guilty for arguing for creationism at all."Creationism by and large attracts few to the gospel, but it turns many away."
Certainly it's true that there are some very bad creationist arguments, but that doesn't seem to be the problem. There are also some good creationist arguments that nevertheless also turn people away. I've seen this happen over and over at EvC for instance. Science is very sure of itself, but science as it defends evolution is nevertheless a gigantic delusion -- and the distinction between science and scientism in this case is meaningless. Research and reason are not the road to reality they are touted to be.
Then it seems to be worth considering that Christians should only present the gospel, keep the focus on the unbeliever's need for salvation, and leave creationism aside as a sort of secondary issue that only takes the focus away from what matters most.
I can't claim to have given this a lot of thought so I might change my mind eventually, but I think this is a false concern. I think that Biblical creation is intrinsic to the gospel, absolutely essential, and if a person rejects it they would also reject the gospel anyway. I think this is demonstrated on the "deconversion" thread at EvC where I think it could be shown that all those who supposedly deconverted on the basis of the claims of science really never were converted -- born again -- in the first place, never really grasped the gospel, never knew Christ. It was all merely an intellectual assent to a list of propositions or a cultural habit, deeply ingrained habit but not spiritual reality. Another clue to this is that in genuine revivals there are always some proportion of lifelong Christians who realize as a result of the powerful presence of God in the revival that they never were born again, so then they get born again and that's when their Christian life actually begins. They could have been dedicated churchgoers and even preachers for fifty or more years to that point, even knowing the Bible better than most.
There may be both good and bad scientific arguments employed in the service of creationism, but Genesis 1 is always the underlying foundation if we're talking about BIBLICAL creationism. It is mainstream evolutionary science that discredits Genesis 1, FALSE science, that turns people away, but it also discredits the gospel at the same time. That is, the assumptions that contradict Genesis 1 are the same that contradict the supernatural claims of the gospels. If a person is convinced by those assumptions -- the materialist assumptions of modern science -- the gospel won't make any more sense to him than Genesis 1.
Again, "reason and reality" in the service of evolution are a snare and a delusion, seductive to the fallen mind and SO hard, maybe impossible, to break. People must have their spiritual eyes opened, either to recognize the gospel or to recognize the creation.
Also, the implication that nothing but the gospel should be presented pretty much eliminates the role the Christian is to play as salt and light in the world, which is usually understood to mean being an influence against the moral deterioration of the culture. Certainly if the gospel is making converts the culture will deteriorate less anyway, even spontaneously improve as in the case of revivals, but this fact doesn't preclude the separate work of being salt and light. This is what William Wilberforce did in Britain as he worked year after year to eliminate the slave trade. He didn't preach the gospel, he lived the gospel in that work of changing the culture.
Likewise, attempting to defeat the claims of evolution is a worthy endeavor for the good of society, especially in the proper valuing of all life but especially human life as made in the image of God. So is attempting to prevent the murder of the unborn. So is attempting to prevent the corruption of marriage which is the linchpin of a stable society and a protection of human dignity, which should include a lot more than just working to defeat efforts to establish homosexual marriage but does include that for sure. ALL of it is about valuing human life when it comes down to it. That's the work the church -- born-again Christians -- has always done from the very beginning.
Pagan societies promoted human sacrifice, promoted the devaluation of women (one of the "curses" of the Fall), discarded unwanted infants and the sick and elderly. All this was reversed by the influence of Jesus Christ. There are former cannibals who thank Jesus Christ that He changed their culture (one stood up in the audience at a debate with atheist Christopher Hitchens -- it's on You Tube somewhere). Christianity inspired the salvaging of infants exposed to die, promoted the care of the sick and elderly. Christians took in abandoned children, built orphanages, built hospitals, and also promoted science because of its coherent view of a law-giving Creator God, which is far from the pagan gods. Pagan science could only go so far before it would break down in chaotic speculations, it took the Biblical God to inspire productive empirical science.
And on and on and on. Society in the West was gradually changed over the centuries by Christians. Not everybody believed the gospel, but society was changed for the better anyway. We are now reverting to paganism again with our devaluation of life as expressed in the theory of evolution in general (yes it DOES devalue life and reverse all the moral gains of the last twenty centuries), as expressed in abortion which is a callous devaluation of human life in the name of materialist science (it's just a bunch of meaningless tissue), with our devaluation of marriage (at least partly a result of the now-embedded notion that we are "just animals"), which leads to chaos, poverty and insecurity. The increase in the influence of pagan religions in the West over the last half century is all part of this degeneration from our Christian cultural foundations.
It is the church's job to oppose these things.
I think if we are not succeeding at these efforts any more this is simply a sign of the deterioration of the church itself, the growing apostasy in various branches of the church, even compromises that have crept into the best of the churches and even into the minds of Christians who are attempting to be the salt and light (if you feel you have to compromise with science to the extent of inserting a few million years between a couple of verses in Genesis, accepting the idea of suffering and death before the Bible says Adam and Eve's disobedience brought it into the world, you've already lost the moral high ground).
It's not the fault of the attempt to change the culture in itself in other words, it's the fault of the churches that we have lost the supernatural power to do that work OR effectively preach the gospel, either one.
Which is why revival is so desperately needed, as I've argued on my other blogs.