So this was a really interesting podcast. In it, Phil Vischer (maker of veggie tales) lays out his research about how Young Earth Creationism became a “do-or-die” issue for many Evangelicals:
1. Through the course of the 1700’s and 1800’s, as science progressed, nearly all educated Christians came to believe in an old earth
- The one exception was Seventh Day Adventists, who believed in a young earth
- In the 1920’s, to 1940’s, many American Christians reacted against European Christianity by developing “Fundamentalism”
- None of the founders of Fundamentalism believed in a young earth, although several rejected evolution
- In the 60’s, Dr. Henry Morrison started writing books about creationism. He explicitly tied a certain view of Genesis 1-3 with Fundamentalist/Evangelical orthodoxy. Using the “slippery slope” argument (btw, a very weak argument in logic), he argued that if one did not agree with him on this point, they would soon not be a Christian anymore
- Ken Ham read Morrison, and dedicated his life to propagating Young Earth Creationism, eventually coming to the US, joining Morrison, then founding Answers in Genesis
- Answers in Genesis grew to twice the size of Morrison’s organization. As Evangelicals pulled back from society into homeschooling and private school in the 70’s and 80’s, Ham produced very well packaged homeschool curriculum, making his views incredibly popular in the “bubble” of American Evangelicalism. It is impossible to avoid noticing that Answers in Genesis has an incredible amount of money behind them, and are able to use media extremely well, including the internet.
- Today, it is very common for Evangelicals to not only deny Evolution, but also believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old. Further, to believe that this is the only Christian way to read the Bible, and that if anyone denies this, it will be a “slippery slope” to rejecting all of the Bible.
In my own experience and research:
- There are many views on the very complex passages of Genesis 1-3 (also Job and Psalms, etc.)
- Young Earth Creationism (as Ham explains it) is a modern and American belief. It is not common in Europe. It was not common before this time. (People did not believe in Evolution before Darwin, of course, but many Christians were open to an old earth, and there were many, many theories about the agency of creation. That was never identified as a key issue in any synod, council or creed)
- There are many great theologians today doing work on this topic, such as John Walton, Hugh Ross, and Willian Lane Craig.
- In my work as a campus pastor, Ken Ham’s strict choice of, “Either you believe in YEC or you’re not a Christian” was one of the chief reasons students left the faith, as Young Earth Creationism doesn’t square with many many fields of study
- A dogmatic statement of YEC is a big part of why I am on this journey now. Nipawin Bible College used to be a place where many types of conservative Christians could find a place and dialogue openly. But I was told that (despite fitting in nearly every other way) I could not be hired as a teacher because I would not teach a hard-line stance on this issue. I preferred to teach YEC as one option among many, but was willing to only teach YEC: but because I admitted that I did not believe this theory personally (for academic reasons), I could not teach there.
This is a very complex issue, and it is just sad that one man has made a living of reducing complexity down to two options: “my way or the highway.” I’m glad that Visher did this podcast, shining a light on the very recent nature of Ken Ham’s Young Earth Creationism.