When I entered the Christian faith as a teen, I held some pretty wild concepts in my head. It is almost comical now – no it is comical – when I step back and look at what I believed and how those beliefs were shaped. We probably all do this, I think. It’s humbling, which is good and necessary for us. The Creationist movement was pretty instrumental in bringing me to some kind of legitimate Christian experience and so I need to regard it as such. I view this movement, among other factors, as providing guideposts to my exploration and ultimate commitment to Jesus. So I am indebted to it. Having said this, however, there were aspects of this movement that were taught and thus allowed to become part of my worldview that maybe weren’t so helpful and of which only in the last few years has it dawned on me just how incongruous holding such convictions were. One such perspective was the motive behind non-Creationist viewpoints. I actually believed that if you did not agree with a literal interpretation of the first eleven chapters of Genesis, you were an outright enemy of God. Evolution, and subsequently secular humanism which naturally flowed from evolution, it was taught, was an avenue used by Satan to draw people away from God. Such thinking formed the foundation for racism, abortion, homosexuality, and a host of other evils. If you promoted evolution, you were averse to anything from God, hell bent on destroying the Christian foundation of our nation (i.e. the United States, as all Creationist literature stemmed from the U.S. – particularly the southern United States ;)) and replacing it with a utilitarian, “survival of the fittest” moral ethic to guide us. To suggest all non-creationists were on the same wavelength as Hitler was not uncommon reasoning, and in fact, when I think about it, this was a conviction I held to more adamantly then I’d care to admit. Suffice to say, this is more than a little embarrassing when I think about it today.
Thanks in large part to the teachings of Ken Ham and the Answers in Genesis movement, this school of creationism that I had bought into not only created these terrible syllogisms connecting non-creationist thinking with every conceivable evil in the world, but implied, albeit not so subtly, in this reasoning was a false dichotomy: either you held a literal Genesis, 6000-10,000 year old earth, etc. OR you were more or less an evolution-advocating secular humanist, God-hater. Theistic evolutionists, Intelligent Design proponents, and any other school of thought were lumped into the latter category because, it was reasoned, such views undermined the authority of scripture and if scripture were undermined, what did that say about the potential for a person’s faith? Without this solid foundation, one was prone to be like the “waves of the sea, blown and tossed about by the wind.” Truly this was definitive Fundamentalist Christianity. And I reveled in it. I clung to it. It resulted in me pitting myself against a host of people in my high school and early college days – including good friends, parents, teachers, and probably a deluge of other people I obliviously offended through these earnest convictions.
Not once during these years had I considered that evolutionists arrived at their positions sincerely or that many who held to a non-literal view of Genesis 1-11 could actually maintain a very high view of scripture and did not have to reject the rest of the Bible. Not once did I consider that there might actually be evolutionary Christians out there who weighed the evidence that science presented and came to different conclusions. I just couldn’t accept that – my rational worldview wasn’t open to it.
At the time, I failed to realize that academic types acting as the voice piece of science hadn’t simply embraced secular humanism by default. I hadn’t even considered that maybe there wasn’t a hidden agenda that sought to undermine the foundation of the faith. That maybe there wasn’t a secret quest to create a morally relativistic world through science, in which hedonism could reign supreme and we could legitimately gain a free pass to pursue anything our wretched hearts desired. Scientists probably didn’t meet secretly at night in their science labs to conjure up fake evidence to support their views of the earth being 4.6 billion years old; nor did they plot an agenda through their contrived science to create doubt and dissension among the faithful. Rather–and it took many years to arrive at this–they just did science. They were–and are–intelligent, insightful men and women who are gifted with a sense of curiosity that has lent them to exploring our world and coming to other, decidedly non-creationist conclusions that the evidence simply pointed them toward. It was not their job to reconcile science with a 3,000-year-old piece of poetry written to a nomadic people group in the Middle East—that was up to the theologians. Their job was simply to do science.
As I said, it’s all really kind of humourous to think back on some of the stuff I believed in those first few years along my faith journey. I wonder if, in 10 years, there will be another sort of awakening and I’ll look back at this time in my life and think the same. I wouldn’t doubt this – all of which should instruct us to be quite humble in our beliefs and, I dare say, our convictions. Indeed, at one time what I considered a die-hard conviction I now see as mere extraneous subject matter of interest for those so inclined.
Because I was at one time such an advocate of the Creationist movement and have since gone through this sort of personal reformation in my own thinking regarding my worldview and epistemology, I am sometimes asked where I currently stand on this issue that is by and large associated most with fundamentalist Christians today. Am I still a young-earth, creationist? Do I still reject evolution and embrace only the truth of God’s Word as the authority for explaining our past both as a species and as a world? Well, it’s complicated and will require another post to answer. Stay tuned!
Thoughts on this? Have you held beliefs and convictions that, upon looking back on, might be considered a bit absurd today? How do you handle that as you move forward in your faith today?