Christian philosopher of Science Bruce Gordon explains that “Young-earth creationism (YEC) is one of the more peculiar manifestations of broader evangelical culture. It continues to be the most common view of the relationship between science and Scripture held in the evangelical community and, unfortunately but understandably, the view of science most non-Christians associate with evangelicalism” (7). YEC creationism typically holds that the Earth is just six to ten thousand years old, that evolution is a false, that dinosaurs lived alongside man, and that most of what contemporary science affirms is false. This view, however, hasn’t attained consensus in Christians ranks. Many and an ever increasing number of leading Christian intellectuals have criticized YEC as being damaging to the vitality of Christianity and Christian belief.
For example, William Dembski, Professor of Science and Culture, explains that YEC methodology in how their proponents view and warp contemporary science “damages Christian apologetics,” (2) rather than assists it. Christian commentator, and member of the Geological Society of America, Greg Neyman agrees by explaining that because of YEC “Religion becomes to them [seekers & critics] as the equivalent of folly, fools blindly ignoring scientific facts in favor of a book, which they now believe to be nothing more than a collection of fairy tales” (3). Neyman continues throug noting that “YEC has become a ‘stumbling block’ to belief in Jesus and the Bible. While a person can believe in YEC and be a fruitful Christian, their belief in YEC can also hinder people from coming to Christ.”
A clear example is a former Christian blogger who has now become an outspoken advocate for criticism (4). He has since named his blog Escaping From Christian Fundamentalism with the strapline reading “A brief account of my life in Christian Fundamentalism, the damage it has caused and my attempts at finding healing and wholeness.” He is but one of many who end up turning the backs on Christianity because of having to choose between science and belief. Moreover, who has caused him to reject the gospel? Young Earth proponents. As Neyman rightly diagnoses, “YEC ministries, and their workers such as Ham, are directly responsible for this [youth] exodus,” and “Unfortunately, the young earth movement has probably done more damage to the church, by driving people away, than most Christians realize.”
This damage is further realized through the many false dichotomies that YE proponents nurture in their literature. For example, the YEC advocates that any supporters of modern scientific understanding with which they disagree are primarily motivated by atheism. This is false. YEC’s are also routinely exposed in their selective quote mining, the practice of isolating passages from academic texts that appear to support their claims, while deliberately excluding context and conclusions to the contrary (5). Not only do readers catch on to this, but it annoys the people of whom that they quote. Perhaps one of the more absurd quotes readers will come across is an anti-evolutionary quip made by controversial YEC proponent Kent Hovind. Hovind once remarked that “Satan is using evolution theory to make kids go to hell” (8). This is the dichotomy that leading and influential YE advocates present to the public, either it is science or it is Christianity. It can’t be both. But this is false since many believers have testified to how evolutionary creationism, for example, advances their belief and awe in God rather than undermine it. Former YEC, Daniel Banks, became convinced on the basis of evolution to reject YEC, which he says “It gives me confidence that I can bring my children up with a Christian worldview that excites their scientific possibilities, rather than one that alienates them from the science classroom” (6). Many other prominent and respected Christian thinkers of the likes of N.T. Wright, Tim Keller, and Francis Collins would agree with Banks. Again, on YEC this is another false claim. Christians, nor anyone else, are obligated to accept the evolutionary creationist’s perspective, but as critics of such a perspective they shouldn’t perpetuate false claims just as evolutionary creationists shouldn’t perpetuate false claims about YE beliefs.
Gordon explains the detriment of this, “For scientifically literate non-Christians, it presents an obstacle to Christian faith, and for young Christians who have been raised to equate YEC with the teaching of Scripture, it can destroy their faith altogether when its falsity is discovered.” Gordon goes on to explain that YEC is “intellectually insulated,” meaning that it has no impact on secular culture except to become an insurmountable intellectual obstacle to any serious engagement with the claims of Christianity. Sadly when “young believers discover that the scientific claims of YEC are untenable, this perception of untenability transfers to Scripture itself, their faith dies, and they are absorbed into secular culture.” Philosopher and Professor William Lane Craig, arguably Christianity’s most able apologist, concedes that Young Earth Creationism is an embarrassment. In one interview Craig explains that “when you think about that, Kevin, that is just hugely embarrassing. That over half of our ministers really believe that the universe is really 10,000 years old. This is just scientifically, it’s nonsense, and yet this is the view that the majority of our pastors hold. It’s really quite shocking when you think about it” (1). Sadly, Gordons realizes, is that seekers “are not aware that there is another option, that allows them to believe in the Bible, and in modern science.”
1. Hallquist, C. 2013. William Lane Craig: young-earth creationism is an embarrassment. Available.
2. Dembski, W. 2009. The End of Christianity. p. 63.
3. Neyman, G. 2014. Creation Science Commentary. Available.
4. Escaping From Christian Fundamentalism blog.
5. Pieret, J. 2006. The Quote Mine Project. Available.
6. Banks, D. 2014. Confessions of a Failed Young-Earth Creationist. Available.
7. Gordon, B. 2014. “Scandal of the Evangelical Mind: A Biblical and Scientific Critique of Young-Earth Creationism” in Science, Religion and Culture, 1(3): 144-173.
8. Kent Hovind quoted by Zlati Meyer in “Creation v Evolution Topic of Student Forum: A FLA. Evangelist Spoke at Pennridge High School” (2000).