The Problem with Creationism

I have a problem with Creationism. It often irks me. Now before my fellow conservative Christians eat me alive for that statement, let me explain. I do believe in the literal truth of the creation story in the Bible. No theistic evolution for me. But often, it appears to me, that Creationists often indulge in the same modern arrogance as theistic evolutionists or even their non-Christians cousins, the Darwinian materialists.

Here is an example from the latest CBD catalogue. A DVD on dinosaurs is being advertised: "When did the dinosaurs first appear on Earth? Is there any evidence that people actually saw them? What are the "dragons" mentioned in the Bible? Can we use dinosaurs to present the gospel?"

Reading this, it hit me just what it is that makes me uneasy around Creationism. My problem is with a particular attitude reflected by, but not limited to, the dinosaur/dragon statement. One of my students also asked me this question once: "Do you think the dinosaurs are where people got the idea of dragons?" I say absolutely not. I think the better question would be: "Do you think dragons are where scientists got the idea for dinosaurs?" Just in case that seems like a cutesy Chestertonian kind of statement to throw out there, let me pursue it a little. "Dinosaur" is a modern name given to make dragons seem mundane and naturalistic. Kids see through this of course; they usually see through adult silliness. They stand in wonder of dinosaurs, and we could learn a thing or two from them.

For thousands of years there have been stories about dragons. Heck, the Old Testament even throws in liliths (banshee-like demons that attack pregnant women and small children). Now in the nineteenth century people started unearthing large bones and arranging them in some oddly familiar ways. Suddenly now, we know that these are dinosaurs! Imagine! Those silly ancients believing in dragons when it was dinosaurs all along!

This is the arrogance of the modern: a rejection of previous generations, history, legends, and oral traditions. Many creationists fall into this trap, trying to make the Bible some sort of scientific textbook that had to be written with symbols and imagery because its readers were too primitive and stupid to understand scientific principles. Of course the Bible has to say "dragons"; the people were too primitive to know what dinosaurs were. This gets people into silly and ridiculous problems with Biblical symbolism and prophecy as well. Of course the Bible has to say locusts like horses with human heads; the people were too primitive to know what helicopters were!

On the other hand, I generally believe the ancients were not, in fact, stupid. They could use sophisticated political symbolism as in the book of Revelation. They could also tell the difference between truth and falsehood. So for me, the Trojan War is as real as the Civil War. Both happened before I or anyone I know was born. Both have come to me in the form of stories. I have no more reason to think that the ancient Greeks and Romans were lying than I have for thinking my American History teacher was lying. I have no reason to doubt that Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf. I have no reason to doubt that Brutus had to fight off the giants in order to found Britain. Even the stories of pagan gods and goddesses, demigods and heroes have a factual root in my mind, and I generally interpret them as Augustine did: the gods and goddesses were angelic beings (mostly fallen) whom men worshipped as divine. And so as angels begat giants and heroes upon mortal women before the flood, I’ve no reason to doubt that this continued to go on up until the time that Jesus cast down all such powers and principalities and ascended to His throne. Don’t even get me started about stories of the medieval saints.

Oh, and one other important thing about the ancients: they knew a dragon when they saw one. Which is more than I can say for most Creationists.

Comments

I find that in the evolution vs. creation controversy, most people fall into one of three camps: 1) Evolution is true, the Bible is false, 2) The Bible is true, but the six days in Genesis are figurative and could have represented periods millions of years long, 3) The Bible is true, and the earth is only 6,000 years old.

But a careful reading of Genesis chapter one indicates that the language allows an undefined period of time before the six days of creation that could have been millions of years. Genesis 1:1 says that in the beginning God created the earth. This could have been millions of years before the condition described in verse 2 of the surface of the earth being desolate and covered in water and in darkness came to be, and during those millions of years there could have been life on the earth. It could be before the six days when the fossil record was laid down, and if so, then there is no contradiction between a literal reading of Genesis and the physical evidence science finds today.