I’ve recently been published in Answer’s Research Journal, a peer-reviewed young earth academic journal connected with Answers in Genesis. The piece they published was a rebuttal of one author connected to a movement that seems to be reintroducing a new model of theological liberalism as a substitute for Christianity. Before discussing the piece, though, I want to lay out where I currently am in discussions of the article I published entitled Mea Culpa a year ago, and this discussion, again, opens another issue, which is my own growth in the understanding of an apologist’s mission, limits and the distinctive role an apologetic ministry carries with it.
The issue is charity not change
I was and am a young earth creationist, and while I always am willing to re-review the scriptural data, the presence of thorns in fossil layers with dinosaurs and the problem of evil to me indicate that a Young earth model is still the most self-consistent with a Christian worldview. There are scientists who have filled in gaps and built a Young Earth model that demonstrates how this consistently fits with the scientific evidence, though I will leave those discussions to those who are experts in those fields, this is an issue I will discuss in a later article. The point of the piece I entitled Mea Culpa wasn’t a change in my position, it was a change in my rhetoric, stemming from a discussion with the professor who was running my colloquium, Dr. Ted Cabal, who has recently published a book on the controversy of the age of the Earth within the church. There is this long running habit among believers to draw interest to a topic by escalating the importance of the issue, this happens with baptism, with eschatological positions, or with Calvinism and Arminianism. My discussion with Dr. Cabal convinced me that I was part of a way of discussing this issue that I already believed was destructive, and also that I was previously using the word “compromise” in a different way than others were.
Please note, I said “I already believed was destructive.” I am a part of a group on facebook called the Christian Apologetics Alliance, (along with a few other groups I would like to spend more time with, but work, school and family already take up much of my time). I’ve noticed when issues involving origins come up, it is difficult to wade through the character assassinations to get to the main point. More often then not, therefore I avoid those discussion after a bad experience on that board two or three years ago. While Dr. Cabal’s work focused on this in terms of the Young Earth movement, I’ve seen similar things from Progressive creationists and from theistic evolutionists. Quite frankly, far too often these discussions produce more heat than light, and there is a certain degree of hubris we should all avoid; Evangelicals should hold themselves to be imperfect interpreters of an infallible text.
The two great dangers are that we choose to fight no battles for the purity of the faith, or we choose to treat every issue as a Fundamental. Paul on the one hand warned against teaching any other doctrine, and that those who preached another gospel were to be accursed, but he also warned that the heretic after the second admonition was to be excommunicated as well, the underlying term referring to a person who bring division (contextually perhaps unnecessary division) and strife. Ironically, it is always easier to see this in others rather than in ourselves, and yet seeing it in ourselves is often where understanding it is most crucial. It is ironic how many of the critics of the radical wing of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement so often sound like the very radicals they claim to be crusading against. Whether one is a radical IFB supporter of the King James Bible, anti-calvinism, and premillennialism, or alternately the anti-IFB crusader declaring premillinialism heresy or claiming the IFB movement is somehow the fall of the American church, the message sounds the same. As James warned us, the wars in our midst often come from our flesh. This does not mean we must give up doctrinal discussions or debates, but rather the tone in which the discussion happens.
What does this mean
I’m taking this discussion in two separate directions, both stemming from what I have laid down here. The first will be a brief discussion of my own (developing) riff on CS Lewis as he has influenced my own development as an apologist, and that is the need to divide theological issues from the “mere evangelicalism” of our apologetic. In a sense, we need to remember that people need not understand the full panoply of faith to be a believer at the point of their entrance, there are elements of growth that come later. The second, however, is to remember that Satan has his army at the gates of the castles, along with the sappers digging underneath, and there is a particular problem developing within the issue of the Bible’s discussion of origins that must be challenged.
The problem in a sense is that the theistic evolutionists is forced to give up the “freewill defense” in dealing with the deductive problem of evil or in dealing with the various inductive approaches one must forego “freewill theodicy.” It is true that this particular problem is less problematic for one group of progressive creationists, the gap theorists, who argued that the fall of Satan had led to the destruction of a primeval world, which God then recreated, the problem with this theory is that it was based on a faulty understanding of the language of Genesis 1, but it does seem peculiar to my way of thinking that the fall of Satan is not a larger topic of discussion during these debates. Yet even this approach as a weakness, the system requires the assumption that the fall of Satan was before Genesis 1, but if this is the case, how is everything that has been created “good” on day seven?
One occasionally hears it argued that infant baptism leads to the collapse of denominations into apostasy, but one sees the same argument raised by those in favor of infant baptism insisting the real danger is treating children as if they are not part of the church until they make a profession of faith.
One currently hears amillenial believers talking about how new premillennialism is (usually disconnecting the modern premillennialists from the early church’s similar position which they refer to as “chilism”). Yet premillenialists have often noted that the amillenial position evolved out of an attempt to deal with passages that show Rome in a bad light during the age of Constantine.
For the record, I have never thought that Gleason Archer, Bruce Waltke or others who hold different positions were intentionally changing or watering down the faith. I’ve always felt arguments about B B Warfield by modern Young Earthers were a bit myopic, it is difficult to argue one of the nineteenth centuries most prolific defenders of inerrancy was somehow intentionally compromising inerrancy.
My point was always that as Christians in a non-Christian world, it is easy for us to borrow from the beliefs present in our cultural context uncritically. Nor was this merely attacking opponents, as I study theology this one of several issues that is always in the back of my mind when I try to navigate thorny issues, creationism included. Quite frankly, this is simply an area where guilt from my past reminds me to be cautious in my present.