Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Creation Museum

I'm frequently asked--both by believers and unbelievers--about the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum that opened in May of 2007 across the river from where I grew up in Cincinnati. So I thought I'd share a post that I wrote back nearer that time. It included three apt quotes. The first, from an essay by Michael Patrick Leahy titled The Trouble with Fred and Wilma, specifically addresses the 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?


Jordan said...

Thanks for the review. I used to be such a fan of Answers in Genesis and almost all my Christian friends and family are die-hard followers. It makes me deeply saddened to think about it these days. I was so confident those days.

I've seen those Augustine/Aquinas quotes around and I think they're fascinating considering how long ago ago those guys lived. My question/comment though is, is there danger that we can chase "don't embarrass us" to the end that the Gospel has no power left to it? What I mean is, there are various scripture passages that talk about our message seeming to be foolishness to those who reject God. So are we to not embarrass Christianity for secondary things but to hold firm to those that are primary? I don't know if that makes sense, it's late here :-)

Rick Gerhardt said...

Hi Jordan:

Yes, I think you're right. The way I would put it is... The Gospel (that we are hopelessly lost in sin and that the perfectly holy God Himself had to suffer Roman crucifixion to deal with that sin problem) is offense enough; we are not to be more offensive (in our behavior or false claims).

Or, to put it another way (though echoing Augustine), why would we expect a modern reader to stick with the Bible all the way to the part about Cross and Resurrection (more than halfway through the Book) if our interpretation of the first several pages is demonstrably false?

Thanks for reading!

Mark D said...

Rick - excellent citations, and I wholeheartedly agree. BTW - I have always loved the piece by Augustine.

Rick Gerhardt said...

Mark D:

I, too! Thanks for reading.

Mike Caba said...

One other Augustine quote of interest from the same book you noted:

“That day in the account of creation, or those days that are numbered according to its recurrence, are beyond the knowledge and experience of us mortal and earthbound men. And if we are able to make any effort towards an understanding of the meaning of those days, we ought not to run forward with an ill-considered opinion, as if no other reasonable and plausible interpretation could be offered. Seven days by our reckoning, after the model of days of creation, make up a week. By the passage of such weeks, time rolls on, and in these weeks one day is constituted by the course of the sun from its rising to its setting; but we must bear in mind that these days indeed recall the days of creation, but without in any way being really similar to them.”

Rick Gerhardt said...

Hi Mike:

Yes, Augustine seemed to realize that there were problems with imposing a 24-hour day upon the Creator God who is outside of time.

More importantly, however, Augustine is just one example of Christians throughout history who maintained a humility about their understandings, a humility often lacking within the church today.

Thanks for reading.

Mike Caba said...

Hi Rick:

Yes, the intriguing thing for me when I read Genesis 1, especially the first few verses, is that it really seems like it is talking about some type of different kind of day, the nature of which we know not. Of particular resonance in this regard is your statement “imposing a 24-hour day upon the Creator God who is outside of time.” Just seems to me like there is something going on here, in the first few days at least, that we have a hard time getting our heads around. So, tongue in check, I propose a new 15th theory to add to your previously noted 14, namely, “the Different Kind of Day” theory, in which the only “belief” is that we really do not, and cannot, understand what these days are, although they seem to mirror in some respect our 7 day week. Obviously I am just parroting Augustine’s epistemological humility, and going no further.

Av8torbob said...

Living within 25 miles of said museum, I am CONSTANTLY confronted with this issue. In my efforts to be gracious and keep the real "enemy" (Naturalism) in mind, I have often found myself avoiding the subject as best I can. No longer.

During my church's journey through FOTF's "Truth Project," a friend of mine confronted me (in front of a large group of folks) for tiptoeing around it.

My account of the encounter is here: http://true-horizon.blogspot.com/2009/09/out-of-closet.html

He was right to do so, of course, and it made me realize just how harmful this can be. I appreciate your post more than you know.

Well done ... as always