A couple weeks ago I found out that a church in my area was offering a Creationism class. Interesting. I expected a reasoned argument, a couple heated debates, but what I got instead was the essence of why Christians and non-believers have trouble co-existing—and it’s not what you might think.
Walking in, I was relatively surprised to find out that the teacher was a relatively well-known college professor, who generally specialized in the physical sciences. Cross one stereotype off the list—he was in no way an idiot. …And then he opened his mouth.
While he went word-for-word through the text, pointing out presuppositions and Hebrew/Greek meanings of words, he interspersed scholarly notes with interjections such as his belief of why we must study Creationism: “Evolution is taught in school, and we should be able to clean up [a child’s] mind before it’s polluted with all this evolution stuff.” These interjections were pervasive through his teaching—which was, for what it’s worth, somewhat interesting. The pointing out of presuppositions (that one believes in God, that God existed before time, etc) and the insights into the Hebrew and Greek language helped to explain sticky points throughout the text, but I’m not entirely sold they were how he meant them to come off.
As someone who has continually asserted that the Creation story is just that, a story (not something that didn’t happen, but a representation of something unknowable which God has graciously given us to aid in understanding), this class just reinforced my beliefs. I have long-held the belief that the Creation story is a story meant for humans so that we could get a glimpse of God’s actions in creating the world. We are not meant to understand everything, as we cannot—He is God, we are not. His assertion that Genesis cannot be a story because it does not follow the style of Hebrew poetry is blatantly false. Not only does Genesis follow a literary form of poetry seen throughout the Pentateuch, but it contains many markers found in oral tradition. “’Evening and the morning were the first day’—does that sound like millions of years?” Actually sir, it does. The continual statement of evening and morning is a common oral history mechanism to remind the orator of his place.
The implications of these fallacies in study and his overt hostility to all things evolution (though the fact that he was speaking to a group of believers may have skewed his speech towards the more radical), brings up the greater question of division. He continually brought up the phrase “No compromises.” Compromise on the basis of religious belief is one thing, but this adamant stance of no compromise even for the benefit of discussion causes an essential divide that will irreparably separate him from an unbeliever. By not compromising, not even admitting that he doesn’t in fact know how or when the earth was made (something that is attested to by many Christians), and statements like “scientists aren’t stupid people even though they believe in evolution,” decidedly divides a community. If it is the believer’s stance that they cannot compromise on this single issue they are cutting themselves off from an entire population that hasn’t heard of the love of Christ because they are so consumed with the debate over how the earth was created, as if it matters at all to the person in need of salvation.
But hey, what do I know? This was only the first class. 1 week down, 13 more to go.