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What’s at Stake in the Creation vs. Evolution Debate?

Looking beneath the surface of the creation vs. evolution debate, this excerpt from chapter 8 brings to light how a noble fight for “truth” may not be so noble after all.

     Have you ever been to a creation vs. evolution debate? In the late twentieth century these spectacles were the heavyweight bouts of America’s culture war. I was lucky enough to attend one of these epic battles back in 1991. The fight was held in a performing arts auditorium at a prestigious liberal arts university. The event was sold out, but fortunately, being from New Jersey, I knew a guy.

     The venue was packed and the crowd went wild when the two opponents were introduced. The man in the red corner, representing the young-earth creationists, had the swagger of a condescending Christian. The man in the blue corner, representing the evolutionists, had the look of an angry atheist. The place was raw with emotion, and when the two combatants met in the middle of the stage to shake hands, you could tell this was going to be one hell of a fight.

     From the opening bell the evolutionist threw his hardest scientific data at the creationist, but the creationist was able to dodge and deflect most of the punches with theistic responses and anecdotal evidence that illustrated the uncertainty of evolutionary science. With each passing round the evolutionist grew more and more frustrated with the creationist’s defense: unless the evolutionist could recreate the Big Bang or form life out of primordial soup, the creationist was not going to throw in the towel; he was not going to concede that the earth was billions of years old or that evolution was a scientific fact.

     Unlike the evolutionist, the creationist didn’t deliver hard, scientific punches. He seemed content to jab at his opponent, exposing the various gaps in the theory of evolution. The hardest scientific data he threw supported the biblical account of a worldwide flood, but it was not much of a punch. Some might have even called it a slap in the face of science.

     After more than two hours of debating, neither man showed any signs of tiring, and neither one had the proof to land a knockout punch. As they stood there toe-to-toe, exchanging blows, the final bell rang, and the moderator stepped in to call an end to the fight. The debate was over.

     So who won?

     Well, it depends on whom you ask. There were no judges, so there was no official decision. When the moderator said good night and the house lights came on, it was time for everyone to leave, but the fight was far from over. As the crowd made its way up the aisles and out the front doors, so did the debate over who won, and no one was going to step in to stop that fight.

     In the end I don’t know if there were any winners in the creation vs. evolution debate, but I can tell you this: there are plenty of angry and condescending people in both camps who insist they’re wearing the title belt of truth.

     Truth? Is that what this was about? Was America’s culture war a fight for truth? Did the creation vs. evolution debate devolve into a verbal street brawl because people were passionate about the truth? In hindsight I don’t think so. There was a time when I believed in the fight for truth, but not anymore.

     Truth—absolute truth—is not something that can be won or lost in a debate. Whether I think life on earth is a product of God’s creation, evolution, alien invasion, or something else does not affect the truth. The truth is simply that—the truth. It is what it is.

     Those involved in the creation vs. evolution debate can insist they’re engaged in a noble fight for truth, but it’s hard to see the endless debate as anything more than a shameless struggle for control. Regardless of what scientific data is brought forward, creationists refuse to give up the “good” fight, praying they’ll win so they can bring creationism back into our public schools. Meanwhile, the evolutionists are just as committed to winning so they can keep creationism (i.e., religion) out of our public schools. Each camp passionately professes to be fighting for the truth, but the prize for winning the creation vs. evolution debate is not the belt of truth. The prize for winning the debate is control over what is printed in textbooks and taught to our children. When you strip away all the hoopla and posturing, the creation vs. evolution debate, like any other debate, is merely a fight to gain control over what is perceived and what is portrayed as the truth.

Take a minute to think about the fights, conflicts, and disagreements you are currently involved in and ask yourself, “What is it that I’m really fighting for?

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About Leon Hayduchok

Comments

  1. I can fully relate to your comments. I am a creationist who is seeking to understand the issue more deeply and comprehensively. I am reading everything I can on both sides of this issue. It takes time to run down quotes to make sure they are not taken out of context and that they are accurate. I have found BOTH sides overstating their point of view. Debates are never decided on condescending retorts. I would love to see a fair exchange of ideas where all the personal accusations were taken out of the discussion and only the substance from each side was left. I have found very little of this. Each side is circling the wagons and attacking vigorously the other side.

    Because there is so much material you have to endure an endless raft of quotes. If your honest they all have to be substantiated or they are useless to quote. The context has to be considered too.

    I believe there is truth and I believe in this case there are only two conclusions you can reach, the origin of the species was either supernatural or natural. I know of no third alternative. However, trying to gather information to make informed conclusions is not easy given the dynamic one has to endure to get said information. I remain optimistic and I do hope that what I learn will aid me in discussions with evolutionist. I like fair, substantive, and non-emotional exchanges, a place where we get at the facts and avoid the “gotcha” tactics so evident in many of the places I have stopped to glean information.

    I think your assessment will go a long way in framing the possibilities for these discussion.

    • Ed, thank you for your thoughtful comments. I’ve been looking through some of my older posts and comments (reviewing previous interactions can add new insights as time passes given that our circumstances, perspective, and current events change) and I reread your comment on this debate. I agree with all of your deductions and commentary on the subject. And I agree that it’s difficult to obtain objective data and analysis; unfortunately, most of the writing on the subject is clearly written from a predetermined conclusion (whether the writer/researcher is willing to admit it or not.)

      You mentioned in your comment that you’re “seeking to understand the issue more deeply and comprehensively” and I was wondering if you’ve gathered more insight on the subject since posting your comment that would be a helpful contribution to the conversation.

  2. I think a mistake has been made in the way this response to the debate is worded. It’s not a competition for ‘truth’. If there is an absolute truth, it can only be God’s Word, and what it clearly and unmistakably says, before any interpreting begins. If you think about other ancient and modern views of origins and existence, no text or belief system makes the absolutely authoritative claims that God Himself makes of Himself and what He has done. In the end, it’s not a debate between that guy’s position versus this guy’s position. It’s a debate between oneself and the Creator (this is what He consistently says of Himself) and Saviour of all things, Jesus Christ. In the end, the problem for each of us is authority, to whom do we give the trump card, the final authority, God or men? In any case, there’s more than enough uncertainty in evolution’s claims and no hard evidence to refute God’s claims with certainty. Since that’s the lay of the land, all that remains is the choice. O Israel, choose today whom you shall serve! As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

    • Peter, thank you for taking the time to interact with this post. I agree with your assessment that “the problem for each of us is authority, to whom do we give the trump card, the final authority, God or men?”

      Personally, I am a creationist and I agree that God’s Word is Truth and I have no problem stating that I hold said position by faith. The problem, however, that I am attempting to expose is that Christians can make the mistake of presuming that they “know” the truth on a given subject because God’s word contains the answer, or they hijack God’s word for the sake of their own agenda.

      We see this mistake made 500 years ago when Copernicus argued that the Earth was a sphere and not at the center of the universe. The Church and Christians at large insisted that Copernicus was wrong and that he was a heretic because the BIBLE WAS CLEAR ON THE SUBJECT THAT THE EARTH WAS AT THE CENTER OF CREATION.

      I believe the Bible is the truth and inerrant. I also believe the creation account in Genesis 1 portrays the Earth as being at the center of Creation and that the Moon is the second brightest light in the cosmos. So, then, is the Bible wrong or mistaken? Do we have to do interpretive gymnastics to now say, “Well that not was Genesis 1 is actually saying.” Or maybe there’s another answer.

      Is it possible that the primary point of the creation account isn’t to inform us “when” and “how,” but rather, “who”? When I read the creation account I see an Almighty God, One Creator and Sustainer of everything in the physical world. I believe the Creation account does exactly what you suggest…cause us to question who has the final authority…man or God? The mistake man has made, however, is to take God’s Word and presume it takes an authoritative position on ALL issues, or, at least, on issues that we want to read that authoritative position into?

      So, bottom line, I think the Biblical narrative of creation teaches us that God is the Creator and Sustainer of all of creation, but that it’s silent, or at best vague, on the issue of “how” and “when” God created the physical world.

      Isn’t it possible that the creation account doesn’t address the details of “when” and “how” and that the Christian insistence on a young earth and a literal seven-day creation, is reading more into God’s Truth, than the Author intended? You don’t have to agree with the above suggestion, but can you at least concede that it is possible? The problem the Church and Christians have made, and continue to make, is to take the arrogant, unteachable position that I KNOW THE TRUTH OF WHAT GOD’S COMMUNICATING IN THIS PASSAGE. It is with this arrogance that the Church remained unteachable on the interpretation of Genesis 1 and literally killed people for not accepting the “truth” of the Bible that teaches that the Earth is at the center of the physical world.

      I hope the above clarifies my position on the subject and provides you with a good enough explanation for why I consider myself to be a committed Christian, who believes the Bible is God’s authoritative Word; yet I’m comfortable with saying that I’m unsure of when and how God created the cosmos and I’m open to scientific discovery that may help us to better understand God’s truth.

      • Thank you for your response to my response, Leon. I don’t doubt that your faith in Christ for salvation from the world, from sin and from death is genuine. But whereas the notion of evolution is as old as pagan religion itself (a notable example is in tablet one of the Enuma Elish), and whereas Darwin’s great assertion was equating evolution with science, an eminently false equivalency, allow me to respond to your points in turn if I may:

        I think the Church was right to challenge Copernicus in his view that earth and humanity are not the centre of the universe. Copernicus had a point only insofar as astro-geometry is concerned (or whatever the term would be for earth’s location in the universe). But Copernicus’ observations did not refute the Word’s statement that the earth is the centre of His interest, and that His children are the centre of His concern and His great love. The creation of the stars (‘Cochavim’) in Genesis 1 is an afterthought in the account I think precisely in anticipation of views like this today. The Word says, ‘He made… and the stars’, or thereabouts. That’s an enormous universe for God to give it what amounts to one word in Hebrew. I think He’s trying to tell us something there. God, outside of the time-space continuum of the universe He made, anticipates our needs. I think God’s identification with and almighty love for humanity who bear His image is clear in His Word, and holding this view doesn’t necessarily lead to some kind of human narcissism or self-aggrandisement.

        I’m surprised to see you write that Jesus (the Word of God that took on flesh) isn’t Lord of all issues, when that’s precisely what the Word says of Himself, ‘Jesus is Lord of All’ (Acts 10:36), that’s why He has the title ‘Pantocrator’, ‘Ruler of All’. There is no field of study or area of existence in which the Word of God does not have ultimate and final authority. What man will call God a liar? Who will add time to or take away anything from His Word? There are many clear warnings about this sort of behaviour throughout the Word.

        While the Christian leaders with whom Copernicus debated may not have known the earth was a sphere, the Word itself does make that plain! We read in Job 26 and Isaiah 40 that the earth is a ‘circle’ or ‘sphere’ and that ‘it hangs on nothing’ in space. That’s a solid affirmation, and notice an anticipation, of observational science like that of Copernicus which catches up with the Word of God, Who of course knows everything, for which reason the Word of God and its study was until recently considered ‘Queen of the Sciences’. How could the creation possibly be in disagreement with the Creator’s Word? There’s a logical break there that needs to be accounted for. We need to distinguish between observational science like that of Copernicus (the real conclusions from which are not at odds with the Word) and historical science like the evolutionary story. The latter is forced to make assumptions that it can never verify through science. Science can only ever support the Word of God, if we take God’s Word seriously. And when we look at the evidence, we can see that it better supports what God says happened, that He did, than what some fallen men like ourselves surmise happened.

        The suggestion that trusting in what God said He did and how He did it in Genesis 1, which is very clear as to how and when, not just who, actually, is somehow ‘arrogant’, is a real strange turn of phrase to me! I never thought I’d hear a believer say that belief is arrogance 🙂 I think the accurate term is trust. But it’s not a blind trust at all as many presume, because as I say, the hard evidence favours what God says He did to what some fallen minds think may have happened. I wouldn’t say the Lord is vague at all on how or when He created all things. If the Word appears vague on that, you’ll have to concede that He’s vague on how He performed other key miracles including the incarnation, salvific crucifixion, and resurrection. Empiricial science views those events as impossibilities also, but what Christian would confess disbelief there?

        Critical to reflect upon, in closing, is the fundamental problem of the purposelessness of the Cross once millions or billions of years of death have been added to the biblical history. God became fully man to save man from sin and its consequence, death, by His death on the Cross and His resurrection. If death precedes sin as evolution proposes, such that God would have concluded that sin and death are ‘very good’, as He says in Genesis 1, then why would He later come to save us from a condition He considers very good? Why do we need to be saved from the very thing that enabled us to evolve into the wonderful beings we are today? There’s a logical break, an ultimate inconsistency between the evolutionary story and God’s History, that is insurmountable. There can be no compromised position. A man cannot serve two masters, as Christ said, and there are only two fathers to choose from. Christians have only one Father, and He is in Heaven, and we have only one teacher, and He is the Christ. And ‘O how He loves you and me,’ Leon! ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus. Just to take Him at His Word. Just to rest upon His promise. Just to know, ‘Thus saith the Lord!”

        • Peter, I appreciate your well-reasoned, well-articulated response. In fact, I concede that you may be correct in your understanding of Genesis 1. My concern, however, is your portrayal that there’s only two positions on the issue: young earth creationism vs. old-earth evolution (without a creator). There are other options (e.g. theistic evolution, a long gap between God’s final creation of humanity, and several others) Again, not that you have to agree with any of those other positions, but there are other position that don’t contradict the systematic theological positions you’re protecting.

          As for the interpretation of Genesis 1, in scholarly Christian circles, it is generally agreed that Genesis 1 is written in the genre of epic poem, and the generally accepted hermenuetic on poetry is to recognize the use of language for it’s literary purpose and to be careful with literal interpretations. That said, the long and extensive debate over the meaning of “day” in Genesis 1 may be a flawed debate because the use of “day” may simply be a literary devise to offer order to the creation account and continuity to the poem. Many believe that the intention of Genesis 1 is to show how one God is the creator of all, in contrast to the polytheistic paganism of the day.

          Again, I’m not looking to debate interpretation. All I’m asking is for you to recognize that there are other possible positions on the issue and that it’s a not simple “either or” debate.

          I apologize if I was unclear about the Lordship of Jesus. I absolute believe Jesus is Lord of all, but I don’t believe the Bible answers all our questions about the physical world. I don’t feel the need to make Scripture and science fit, but I am open to how science, (and anthropology) can help us better understand the Bible, and expose errors in our interpretation.

          I have no problem stating that some of my theology is incorrect. The problem is that I don’t know where I’m wrong: hence the desire to grow in my understanding of the truth. For me to think that on every issue we disagree I’m right and your wrong, I would say is arrogant and would reflect an unteachable spirit on my part. Teachability is not a willingness to learn more, but I willingness to think differently.

          My caution to you is simply this: you There are very few doctrinal positions that we should hold dogmatically, and it’s important for us to hold all other positions loosely, acknowledging that we are only human–prone to mistake–and that we all have a long way to grow in knowledge and truth.

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