What drives more scientists away from Christianity, evolution, or young-Earth creationism? I don’t know the answer, but I suspect that both have significant roles.
Some forms of evolutionary philosophy drive scientists (and others) away from Christianity. The New Atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, claim that evolution makes it intellectually feasible to be an atheist. To them, science can explain everything and there is no need for a God.
Young-Earth creationism (YEC), as taught by the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis, drives scientists away from Christianity. To most scientists, YEC fails in a number of ways. It fails biologically, astronomically, and geologically. The YEC-ers have convinced themselves, much of the Christian public, and much of society, that there is only one way to read Genesis, and that the truthfulness of Christianity stands or falls on this one interpretation. Scientists reject YEC, so they reject Christianity. This could happen to our youth raised on YEC as well.
I see both extremes as needless and unfortunate. I am convinced of the truth of Christianity, and don’t think the Bible has all that much to say one way or the other about evolution (except perhaps of humans).
To scientists who are reading this:
- Don’t reject Christianity because of young-Earth creationism. There are plenty of alternatives out there to YEC within the Christian community, even within the Evangelical Christian community. At one time there was even quite a bit of diversity on these issues within the “fundamentalist” Christian community, but most of the dissent has been squashed.
- One alternative within the Evangelical community is presented by Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe. Ross accepts an old Earth and old universe (he is an astronomer), but isn’t too keen on some aspects of evolution. He is a proponent of the day-age understanding of Genesis, and makes a good case for drawing parallels between the days of Genesis 1 and the history of Earth.
- Another alternative within the Evangelical Christian community is theistic evolution. A good presentation of this is in Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, edited by Keith Miller, who is in the Geology department at Kansas State University.
- You can be a Christian and a scientist. You don’t have to abandon thinking; in fact, you may find your intellectual life fulfilled in ways you never imagined possible.
To Christians who are reading this:
- I believe in a real creation by a real God, and a real Adam, a real fall into sin, real consequences for that sin, and in Jesus Christ as the only solution for that sin. Belief in an old Earth hasn’t changed any of that.
- I’m not making a commitment to any one understanding of Genesis. Prominent old-Earth interpretations include the day-age, analogical day, and framework interpretations. I see the literal six-day interpretation as also valid Biblically. Being that there are competing interpretations of Genesis within the conservative Evangelical community, I will go for ones that are not ruled out by the external evidence for an old Earth.
- The truthfulness of the Bible does not stand or fall on the age of the Earth or biological evolution. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, for example, intentionally leaves out any statement on the age of the Earth.
- Be willing to allow for some tension. We don’t fully understand the Bible. We don’t fully understand nature.
- Be careful what you teach your children and the youth at your church. Don’t give them bad apologetics, and most of what is produced by ICR and AiG I place in this category. It is not all bad, but much of it is. And there are other creationist groups that are far worse. The risk is that our youth will some day have a crisis of faith, not because of what the Bible says, or because of evolution, but because much of what comes out of the YEC movement simply doesn’t conform to reality.
Grace and Peace