Friday, March 27, 2009
Young Earth Creationists and Jehovah's Witnesses
"But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" 2 Thessalonian 2:13 KJVA
The Young Earth creationists wish to enforce the Biblical 6000 year chronology- minus tens of thousands of years depending on the writer. In its rational looking argumentation this type of creationism resembles the reasoning in Jehovah's Witnesses textbooks. This highly organized religious group still carries some of its Adventist roots making it look a bit like Christianity and has developed quite a machinery for spreading its message of salvation. Young Earth creationists and Jehovah's Witnesses are all very convinced about the divinity of their mission and their belief systems seem to have internal logic but both fail in the light of objective criticism.
I am particularly worried about attempts to create pseudo-scientific Young Earth "realities" that can fool many people, such as the catastrophic flood interpretation of Grand Canyon carefully analysed by G.R. Morton or the rather commercial looking Project Creation asking donations for a planned Dinosaur-People park.
Creationism - confused meanings
There is an important terminological distinction between one type of creationism and other. Because it is often forgotten there is much confusion in the discussions between believers and unbelievers in creation.
It should be noted that all believers in Judaism, Christianity and Islam are "creationists" in the sense that they share the fundamental belief that one personal God has created the entire cosmos.
As a Christian, I also believe that these three religions of the Book are right in accepting the message of Genesis about on God who has created the world. However, some believers tend are so convinced about this that they have a tendency to forget that God Almighty cannot be part of any scientific theory. Faith says that "God has created the world". This statement of religious belief does not have any direct scientific value since it cannot be proven right or wrong by science and it does not indicate anything about how the world is made. Science is busy studying the "how" and has yet much to learn but it has great difficulty with the question "by whom".
The existence or non-existence of God cannot be proved scientifically because He has hidden himself from our sight in great darkness. Dawkins suggest on those buses that probably God does not exists but even he cannot go further than that. Bible actually suggests that we would die seeing Him as He is. It is not healthy to look at the sun without sunglasses and getting close to a Black Hole Sun would not be a wise move from us. And God has made them both.
Natura et Gratia
Saint Thomas of Aquinas made a significant conceptual distinction between nature and grace. Thick theological books have since been written about the subject.
In simple terms, we can say that Grace is the revelation of God to the entire human race in Jewish Scriptures (both the Old and the New Testament are written by the Jews). Word of God is personally present in the numerous Christian congregations that exist on planet earth. Grace includes such matters as expressed in the Nicene Creed and in the holy sacraments.
Grace is essentially beyond the study of human science and belongs to the realm of faith. For example, it is true that we can make scientific studies about the content of the faith of the various people gathered together for the sacrament of baptism. We can also describe very accurately the average age of the participants, the chemical composition of the water used or make exhausting analyses of the psychological and sociological and religious profiles of those present. But the essence of the sacrament, the baptism itself, is beyond science.
Nature is all God's creation. It is fully open to scientific study using repeatable experiments, making theories and learning facts. Study of nature does not necessarily make men believe in God. Rather, the opposite seems to be true as apostle Paul wrote to the Romans:
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20 KJVA)
Creationist approaches include legitimate - and some not so legitimate - discussions on the theories of evolution and especially the profound doubt that the probabilities of Chance being the leading force in creating order from chaos.
Those six thousand years
But the problematic creationism is the type presented by "Young Earth Creationists" who twist facts of nature to enforce religious belief. Fundamentalists believe in those famous 6000 years that are included in the King James versions of the Bible. That chronology was the best estimate the sharp academic mind of Bishop James Ussher (1581-1656) could come up in the early 17th century.
In Ussher's time the Bible offered the oldest known historical dating evidence with its genealogies that go back to Adam and Eve in Paradise. From his calculations Ussher suggested that God finished creating the world in the night preceding 27 October 4004 BC, according to the proleptic Julian calendar.
Today we know that dendrochronology, the modern dating method counting series of tree rings, reaches dates older than that: "Fully anchored chronologies which extend back more than 10,000 years exist for river oak trees from South Germany (from the Main and Rhine rivers)." (wikipedia)
If we take Ussher's date as our authority on world chronology and reject all the work done after him on history, archaeology, geology and sciences, we might as well ask advise from the best 17th century doctors how to operate on broken leg without anaesthesia with only rudimentary if any understanding of blood circulation in human body. Or we might produce copies of 17th century dentists tools and learn their methods for fixing cavities in our children's tooth.
Of course it is allowed to fight against erroneous scientific claims, criticize manipulated fossil evidence about human evolution and bring up overlooked facts about the wonders of nature - this is a process of learning. And if a Young Earth creationist really is able to show that universe was created 4004 B.C. he or she should write a scientific book or two and some articles to Nature or Science about this overwhelmingly important discovery and probably get the next Nobel price for the glorious work.
With the pseudo-science and propagandist view of "truth" Young Earth Creationists are actually causing great damage to the holy name of our God they wish to protect. His name is been trodden to dirt by unbelievers who wrongly think that the baseless claims of Young Earth creationists represents true Christianity.
Let there be light!
Space Age has rendered much of this Young Earth talk utter nonsense. Why do not these people do what Abraham did walking with God and look at the night sky He has made?
Today we know that the light that comes to our eyes from the moon travels about a second, the light from sun some eight minutes. The light takes 2.7 million years to reach us from Andromeda, our big brother in the neighbourhood of Local Group of galaxies (Andromeda, Milky Way, Magellan clouds). Yes Sir, the light you see coming from there is a bit older than six thousand years. And it is our nearest galaxy.
You can see this 2.7 million year old light by looking at the night sky with simple binoculars and using the W of Cassiopeia constellation as your guide. However, maybe you do not want to look at Andromeda like the inquisition did not like to look at Galileo's telescope in order to keep their firm faith? Or maybe it is HTBWYS - hard to believe, what you see.
Go for the truth and nothing but the truth. In all matters of life and death importance like creation.
That galaxy may not look in your binocular the same as in this or other pictures taken with high-powered telescopes. Perhaps just a greyish dot of dust between bright stars - but still, just spotting it up there and seeing it with your own eyes while your toes are freezing in the cold night maybe a life changing experience.
Your God who has made all the life in that enormous spiral so far away. Seeing that thing shows that He is a bit bigger than you were perhaps thinking. So big, in fact, that He is truly concerned with little ones, like the safety on road of your youngest child on the way to school right now.
To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David.
O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
Psalm 8 KJVA