The Official Student Newspaper of Calvin College Since 1907
March 12, 2010
Volume 104, Issue 22
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Op/Ed
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Biblical authority separate from evolution issue

Last week, student Zach Fisk called our attention to the increased secularism in Western Europe, rightly highlighting the dangers of removing a Christian foundation from society. He has a good point that demoting the Bible to a mere object of interest castrates Christian faith and strips our religion of its meaning, its power, and its ability to relate effectively to the world. Certainly there is a real danger of letting America follow Britain, France, Belgium et al into intellectual atheism. But the acceptance of evolution is not something we have to fear.

Western Europe began to be secularized with the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, roughly a century before Darwin and his associates brought a serious scientific theory of evolution to the table. What Robespierre and Napoleon started had everything to do with attacking Christian religion, but nothing at all to do with evolution (or with any of the specific passages that figure into the modern debate). Secularism is the consequence of smart people not knowing what to do with the Levitical laws requiring capital punishment for small offenses, the supposed racism (and, these days, sexism and homophobia) that can be found on the pages of Scripture, and accounts of the Israelites razing cities and stoning entire families to death. Social issues are almost entirely responsible for the trend toward secularism in Western culture; the young-earth position figures in only by giving modern atheists one more opportunity to ridicule Christianity as ignorant. Dawkins, Hitchens, and their ilk would have plenty to say against the Bible and those who follow it even if Genesis was not part of the canon at all.

What makes Ken Ham such an excruciatingly poor representative of the Christian faith is that he refuses to see this. With a few noble exceptions, the young-earth movement is deliberately waging the necessary battle to fight for the Word of God on completely the wrong battlefield. There are plenty of Christian organizations (WorldVision, for example) that recognize where the work of Christ needs to be done, in improving society and genuinely bettering people’s lives and creating strong communities. This work can be done equally well regardless of what you think about evolution. But Ham and the rest of Answers In Genesis don’t want to see this. They are not genuinely interested in preserving biblical truth, only in quoting it to support their egos. Some young-earth writers are so caught up in quasi-Messianic American nationalism that they think the good work of WorldVision is a waste of time; others simply choose to avoid the question of societal engagement as a whole. AIG’s mission is to make the Alps out of an anthill, so determined are they to stake the entirety of Christian faith on an issue that was resolved scientifically long ago while distracting Christian effort away from tasks that matter today.

The case is closed, people. Thanks to Professors Young, Schneider, Harlow, and numerous others, there really is not an abiding need for a belief in a young earth. It’s not just science that has proven the great age of our universe; the best of Christian Biblical scholarship has gotten to the bottom of the issue and determined that there is no conflict between God’s Word and God’s world. It is as simple as that. The earth is billions of years old. People evolved from apes. Adam was an early hominid leader whose arrogant actions against God led his entire tribe into sin. Life continues to evolve in thousands of exciting directions, and for that we have a brilliant God to thank. Atheists and young-earth creationists alike: please get over it.

There is an alternative that Fisk, like most people, does not put on the table because it doesn’t naturally cross our minds. Thanks in part to polarizing demagogues like Ham and Dawkins, most North Americans and Western Europeans truly believe that there must be a choice between “religion” and the Bible on the one hand and science and secularism on the other. This need not be, and I don’t even say this because Christians can do legitimate science. I say this because not only is “science versus the Bible” a false dichotomy, it is far from exhaustive in its importance. A quick look at other areas of the world - Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, large chunks of Asia, and the eastern half of Europe (where I have studied for two semesters) - reveals a thriving, growing global church whose members by and large don’t give a rip about evolution, one way or another. I have no proof of what most Greeks believe about the age of the earth (although being an EU country they probably accept science like the countries in the west), but what I do know, what I saw impressive evidence of every day I spent in that country last semester, is that Christian faith is right at the heart of Greek society. It is like this in Serbia, Poland, and a lot of Romania too. Christian faith in these countries has survived both decades of dictatorship and the modern atheistic assault because it focuses on the things that matter and refuses to put the big bad “e-word” at the center of faith. Christian faith is not about proving the age of the earth or protecting the Bible behind lock and key. It is about making the Word take flesh in our lives and actions. The Bible only counts for anything if there are believers who will witness for it. We can do a much better job keeping the Word of God at the top of our lives by picking the battles that matter and fighting them, than we can by creating new ones that the world is not interested in noticing. We need nothing more or less than a shift in perspective.

 
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