Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Creation Museum

To this point--and I'm nearing the century mark (in blog posts, not age)--I have not yet written any posts about Ken Ham and his organization Answers in Genesis. This is despite the fact that his writings and speeches (the latter of which can be heard--much to my embarrassment--three times daily on the local Christian radio station) contain nearly as many misassumptions and logical fallacies (not to mention poor Biblical hermeneutics) as what Richard Dawkins writes. I believe Ham to be a brother in Christ, and so--even though I find the very central belief of his ministry to be dead wrong--I am hesitant to bring him up. To the extent that I do in future, rest assured that I will not attack the man himself (as he so often does his fellow-believers who happen to disagree with his particular interpretations), but will confine myself (as I hope I have, more-or-less, with Dawkins) to the arguments.

But for now, and since several folks have asked me to comment on the AiG Creation Museum that opened last month (across the river from where I grew up in Cincinnati), I thought I'd share a couple or three quotes. The first, from an essay by Michael Patrick Leahy titled The Trouble with Fred and Wilma, specifically addresses the new museum.
The trouble with the $27 million Creation Museum, which replaces the scientific method with word for word Christian Biblical literalist theology, is that it makes all Christians who don’t accept evolution look stupid. In doing so in such a publicly visible way it undermines the credibility of all Christians, especially those who are researching alternatives to Darwinian evolution using the tools of the scientific method. It also gives the growing movement of militant atheism, as exemplified by the works of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett, an easy opportunity to misrepresent all Christians as “irrational”. The mainstream media, including the Los Angeles Times itself, are only too happy to lend assistance to this misrepresentation.

Owned by the “Young Earth Creationist” organization Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum claims that the universe, earth, and man are only 6,000 years old, and that dinosaurs co-existed with man. The premise worked well for the Flintstones cartoon show, but has zero credibility within the scientific community in general and the Christian scientific community in particular.
The rest of the essay is well worth reading. Leahy is a theistic evolutionist, and I hope my regular readers will by now recognize that I find extremely little evidential support for that position. Nonetheless, I agree with most of what Leahy writes in this article.

The second and third quotes, by Thomas Aquinas and Saint Augustine, respectively, were not written specifically about the Creation Museum (obviously), but I take Ham's ministry in general and the museum in particular to be perfect examples of what these church fathers had in mind. First, Aquinas...
The truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels if any Christian, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false.
Now Augustine, from The Literal Meaning of Genesis...
Usually, even a new Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world...and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. [Be prepared for a good deal of this in the months to come with regard to the Museum.] The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?


Anonymous said...

A great topic! I haven't put much thought into. Would you agree with the position of the late Charles Hodge in his work, "Systematic Theology" as he decribes a "mediate, progressive creation". He writes:

"Mediate and Immediate Creation But while it has ever been the doctrine of the Church that God created the universe out of nothing by the word of his power, which creation was instantaneous and immediate, i. e., without the intervention of any second causes; yet it has generally been admitted that this is to be understood only of the original call of matter into existence. Theologians have, therefore, distinguished between a first and second, or immediate and mediate creation. The one was instantaneous, the other gradual; the one precludes the idea of any preexisting substance, and of cooperation, the other admits and implies both. There is evident ground for this distinction in the Mosaic account of the creation. ... It thus appears that forming out of preexisting material comes within the Scriptural idea of creating. ... There is, therefore, according to the Scriptures, not only an immediate, instantaneous creation ex nihilo by the simple word of God, but a mediate, progressive creation; the power of God working in union with second causes." (Hodge, C., "Systematic Theology," [1892], James Clark & Co: London, Vol. I, Reprinted, 1960, pp.556-557)

I'm still trying to sort through various issues but this sparked my interest.

Rick Gerhardt said...

Dear Anonymous:

Thanks for reading. And yes, I think Hodge was right on. (I don't have his "Systematic Theology" but long ago copied out the entire chapter from which you quote.)

Young Earth Creationists are fond of denying this "mediate" aspect of creation, and thus see any acknowledgment of processes--whether stellar birth, death, and burning or geological sedimentation--as "compromising with evolution." Indeed, they frequently do not distinguish between biological evolution (which most progressive creationists find no evidence for) and stellar evolution or geolgical evolution. One significant problem with that stance is that they accept other mediate creation processes--like the procreation of new individuals or cloud formation--because the latter don't disparage the time frame of their particular interpretation of the creation accounts. But the fact is that the ongoing star formation that we can readily see involves a much simpler chemical process than does cloud formation!

I'm tickled to find an astute Hodge fan reading my blog!