Divisive Apologetics

I have so many things I want to write, and I didn’t know how to pick which to write to start my return to my general discussions–so I ended up picking the one that had been fermenting in my mind the longest. I fear that my failure to write it down may have caused the idea some stagnation and rot, so bear with me as I try to pull the relevant bits together into something that sounds coherent.

A fairly recent post on Creation Today is titled “Today’s Church trumpets an uncertain sound.” The goal stated by Creation Today, and its founder’s father, Kent Hovind, is that the Church of Christ must preach a consistent message in order to be taken seriously in a modern world. I won’t lie, their stated goal is admirable, until you get to the point where they state “And the message we have to preach, because it is the only correct message, is the message that we came up with.” The following part is implied, but I suppose I have little choice but to take it at face value, “Because we have discovered the truth behind the message of Jesus that has been hidden from everyone for the last 2000 years.”

Their message is hardly unique, and it definitely has some roots in the Bible, but the ferocity with which they believe in it, to the exclusion of all contradictory evidence, is the problem. I suppose how fiercely they believe it is neither here nor there, but they are getting new followers in the American South faster than I find entirely comfortable. The point, though, is that most people I know who are staunch Christians do not share their message. The Pope himself doesn’t share their message, though many Protestant Christian belief systems believe that the Pope is the seat of the antichrist, so perhaps his endorsement of an opposing view is something of a detriment to my side rather than something that speaks to my side.

Obviously science has something to say in this arena… And no, I am not talking about the arena of whether or not God exists. That is something that is still (and perhaps indefinitely) beyond the scope of scientific range. I am talking about the still very young field of “Creation Science”, or if you prefer “Intelligent Design.” To claim the Earth is 6,000 years old stands in stark contrast to modern scientific consensus. I am not saying that science knows the age of the Earth to an absolute value, but to compare hundreds of dating methods that agree on the general age of the Earth to within 5% to a book written by scientifically illiterate middle eastern shepherds… That is something of intellectual dishonesty that is difficult to understand, let alone believe in. Even then, to believe the Earth is 6,000 is your right, and I suppose I don’t have a problem with the belief itself. I do, however, have a problem with the attitudes that come out of that belief system.

Many Young Earth Creationists who hold fast to creation science will often speak of the “Arrogance of scientists,” and their “presuppositions.” To say “You are definitely wrong, we are definitely right, and your looking for evidence makes you the arrogant ones with a prestanding belief that ruins your objective outlook,” hurts me. It really does.

I am not writing this to merely state that I don’t like their view, but to state that I find their view to be somewhat reprehensible in a way that isn’t absolutely obvious. The issue is, they claim several things; they claim that they are right, that science bears them out, that the evidence of God is self-evident, that (as per the legendary Bible quote Romans 1:20) anyone who does not realize they are right is a fool (and they will use it as an insult, though while telling you they mean no such thing).

The other issue with this belief system is that it exists within an echo chamber; the population of the United States consistently shows in polls that they believe the Young Earth View. The United States as a general idea seems to have grown increasingly arrogant in the last decades, believing themselves to be the World Police, morally right, the freest nation on the planet. Somehow, though they only came to nationhood in the 18th century, you will hear many people say that they are the elect of God and Jesus; George W. Bush believed (or at least stated his belief) that he was elected to the Presidency by God, a view that perhaps gave him a surety in his many objectively poor decisions that borders on dangerousness. If a strong believer actually fully believed that their ideas were endorsed by He of the Most High, what ruin could he wreak with his decisions, believing they were correct the whole time?

That question isn’t really rhetorical, we have evidence, in the global recession that occurred under Bush. Bill Clinton managed to create a budgetary surplus; the United States was on track to clear their debts. They are now so far in debt, so far in the red, no one on either side of the party really knows how they are going to reverse it.

This comes down to the religiosity of the voting public, and I think this has some kind of basis in modern apologetics. The reason apologetics has become divisive isn’t in their message (they do mostly preach peace, though there are certainly some issues with hatred in some parts of their message, I believe they could be ironed out), but it is because of their fanaticism. Like so many religions that came before, young earth biblical fundamentalism has some malignancy that has yet to be ironed out. To believe, for example, that their religion should be spread at the point of a sword is still a problem many face. Even if not at the point of a sword, many in the young earth movements believe that the world would be a better place if everyone believed in their brand of religion. This has created a divide. (HAH! See, I worked this post around to the title, and all it took was one thousand words! With a word economy like that, I could really be a writer, hey?!)

The problem with apologetics is that it relies, leans, depends, upon the statement that “Our God is not a God of confusion,” and further that the Bible should be read literally. The idea that the Bible is without error has been proven false, both here and elsewhere, and many have done it far better than I could. This has created an issue where people on the same side, that of young earth evangelism, end up fighting each other. Dr Henry Morris is credited with founding the idea of modern creation science. It is odd, but I think it worth pointing out that the PhD that earned Dr Morris his title was in hydraulic engineering, a field that I am not sure really aligns with any requirement to make definitive statements about the Bible. That being said, his book (the New Defender’s Bible) is generally heralded as the best book on apologetics that the average person could hope to find. Obviously, it is based on the King James Version, which for some reason is touted by many as the perfect bible despite modern translation improvements showing certain phrases to be in error…

If God is not a God of confusion, why does Kent Hovind repeatedly state in many of his speeches that he disagrees with Dr Morris on several counts? If God is not a God of confusion, why do so many apologists trumpet such a different sound? As an improvement on the old message, it is worth noting that the modern message of Eric Hovind (son of Kent Hovind) is aligned with Answers in Genesis… Though I would go as far as to say that this is less that he believes as they do, and more to do with the fact that AIG is such a powerhouse in modern apologetics, to fight against that current would be to drown and disappear.

The other reason apologetics is divisive is that it also balances upon the statement “We know everything now that we need to know.” So often evangelical preachers have stood against science, mostly when it runs perpendicular to their own personal message, but it isn’t always so. We know almost nothing, so little that it is impossible to list what we don’t know; that list would dwarf the list of what we do know so completely that it would hardly be worth the time to write down what we know… Except for the fact that we need this basis to build more knowledge.

What was it that eradicated small pox? It wasn’t religion. What was it that caused the murder of women in Salem? It wasn’t science.

The above was incredibly unfair, but rhetoric often helps to make a point. If everyone in the world were a peasant making food in the service to some enlightened person in the Church, I doubt we would be where we are today. I am not calling the Church anti-scientific, though it has had… Phases? There are times when it has stood against scientific flow, and modern YEC evangelism is still standing in stark opposition to science. To argue against Darwinian evolution is a failing point. To argue against spontaneous life is certainly valid, but I do not understand why “from nothing came something” is impossible, but God created everything by speaking it into existence, and only an ignorant person would stand against that! I do not understand what it is about that statement that makes it so compelling to so many people.

That being said, to say “You don’t know how life began,” is not an insult; it is a mere statement of fact. Science does not know how life first formed, though they are at least working on the problem. If they figure it out, what happens then, I wonder? YEC scientists would never try to create life in a lab, I think, because their belief system calls the idea impossible.

I’d like the think that science relies on the idea that nothing is impossible, just very, very, unlikely.

The point of this semi-coherent ramble is this; if you are right, secular science will eventually come to the same conclusions of you. So shouting “you’re wrong, you’re wrong, you’re wrong, you’re wrong,” at the top of your lungs helps no one. You should be working with scientists in secular laboratories, helping them find the answers. The problem is, in order to do that, you must start from the assumption that we don’t yet know the answer, that we have yet to find it.

Perhaps you can use the Bible as an answer key, in some cases, but only in hindsight. You still have to show your work, and quite often most scientists will say that the creation scientist has ignored a key piece of evidence or has ignored some new piece of information found after the presented information, and anyone who keeps up with the field would have known that.

If that is the case (and I would tend to think it is so), why should we rely on scientists who ignore contradictory evidence? How does one trust them?

It is a universal thing, really; a fanatic will ignore anything that would stand in the way of their fanaticism. It creates a divide between the true and the imagined. I think Justin Bieber is almost the perfect example; he has been caught doing awful things, like spitting on fans, like driving under the influence of alcohol, like being a general jackass… But many Beliebers will say that he didn’t really, or that he was misunderstood, or any one of a thousand excuses. The same is true of YEC scientists, I fear.

Again, this wouldn’t be a divisive issue if they kept their beliefs… But their own ideas require the Christian to attempt to spread these ideas.

They don’t even want to work with secular science, that is why they have their own schools, their own colleges and universities, their own areas of study and labs–they don’t even want to work with scientists unless the scientists will agree with them.

So what I propose is we leave each other alone for fifty years, let the YECs toil away in their labs, general scientists toil away in the labs of public universities, and then we can compare notes in 2065. I am sure we will all learn a lot from each other, and I think science would progress at a much higher pace if we stopped fighting… Particularly because the United States has a lot of money to spend on science, and the YEC influence that is huge in that country is slowing things down.

It’d be awesome if we all just acted like adults rather than kids who could fight for weeks about “MY DAD IS BETTER THAN YOUR DAD!”

Bah, I don’t really like how this post came out. It is kind of negative, doesn’t really prove a point. I suppose it is just here to put some information down, consolidate some of my own thoughts. When I take two weeks off of writing, a whole bunch of crud builds up. I think it is going to take me a few posts to get over it all. The next few days will probably see me writing with less cohesion than normal, so please forgive me while I figure some stuff out.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful 2015!

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