Yesterday after school my young daughter burst into the kitchen and announced, with all the alarm of a good little evangelical, “Mom! My teacher says the earth is two billion years old!”
I sighed and felt an old unrest creep over me as I thought of loved ones who can’t quite get to the risen Lord because of a gigantic hurdle some well-meaning Christian voices have put in their way: specifically, the way Young Earth Creationism has been presented. I’ve attended their seminars and, when the graphics illustrating YEC as “the foundation of our faith” were displayed, I wanted to jump up and shout,”NO! Jesus is the Cornerstone! He’s the foundation!”
Hear me out. This post is not about evolution from a philosophical standpoint, which raises discussion about the value of human life. That’s a different post.
I am talking specifically about a young earth, and I am no more more equipped to defend it through scientific evidence than most Christians reading this post are.
Please swallow your blood pressure pill as I say it again: I am not so foolish as to make an authoritative claim I cannot back up as an expert.
That’s not because I’m lazy or intellectually irresponsible: it’s because I am a writer, not a scientist. I like words, language, ideas, philosophy and art; I’m not a geologist, archaeologist or biologist, and I get a tad annoyed when Christians pontificate about things they don’t begin to understand, and then run away from the conversation when it goes beyond their knowledge, leaving the rest of us looking like the idiots the world believes we are.
Not that there aren’t smart, educated Christians who can intelligently defend a young earth or intelligent design (those are two separate and different positions). I know them personally. They teach in universities, work in laboratories and study archaeology. I want to learn how they arrived at their conclusions. I really do. Just as I want to understand how my theistic-evolutionist friends came to their conclusions. I don’t plan to leave my kids’ heads in the sand about this. There are resources out there that give reasonable credence to the possibility of a young earth.
I hope to delve into those studies when I have more time. But I’m satisfied that the claims of Christianity are true because I did my digging where it matters most: the empty tomb. I am prepared to explain, from a studied point of view, why the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ makes more sense than any other attempts to explain what happened on that mysterious morning two thousand years ago. And I am willing to be challenged. I am ready to say, if necessary, “I’ve never considered that question, and I’m going to search for the answer.”
When we insist that our skeptical friends get the age of the earth squared with our interpretation of Genesis, especially when they can present as much, if not more evidence to support their position, we are in danger of pushing them farther away from the Gospel. In fact, we preach a different Gospel.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not “repent and believe that the earth was created in seven twenty-four hour periods exactly six thousand years ago, and thou shalt be saved.” You will not find that anywhere in the Bible.
But we act as though it’s true sometimes, and cause scenes like the one in my kitchen, and even worse scenes on school campuses. I’d rather prepare my kids for college by instilling in them a deep devotion to Christ than a Saul’s-armor defense of young earth creationism.*
The Gospel is more than mind-blowing evidence concerning the origin of life: it is the heart-transforming conviction that Jesus came to earth to die and absorb our sinful nature while on the Cross. He rose from the dead three days later, was seen by a multitude of eye-witnesses who consequently “turned the world upside down,” and ascended into Heaven forty days after that, where He lives to make intercession for us before the Father.
You know who I hope He’s interceding for right now? Those zealous YEC’s who are planning to comment by saying that unless you have the beginning of the Book sorted out, you can’t understand the end. Before you do that, go to the ends of the earth and count how many thousands of new converts have yet to read the book of Genesis. Count how many of them are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth without knowing anything about a young earth.
And one more thing, my dear YEC friends: Maybe, just maybe, there is someone reading this post right now who desperately wants to believe there’s a God who knows and loves him (or her), and is breathing a sigh of relief because he can now take steps toward the “Who” behind it all, and leave the “how” and “when” to sort out in good time, even if on the other side of heaven.
*I Samuel 17:39 tells of King Saul trying to force the young David to wear Saul’s armor for battle. David refused, saying he hadn’t tested the armor. He did just fine killing the giant with five smooth stones. It’s the simple truth of the Gospel that, when propelled by the Holy Spirit, knocks intellectual giants square between the eyes.
photo credit: www.babybulletblog.com