There’s always something going on out there, and in the last couple of weeks one of those somethings has been the flap over the musician Michael Gungor’s post on the age of the earth:
Do I believe God exists? Yes.
Do I believe Jesus is the Son of God? Yes.
Do I believe that Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness? Yes.
Do I believe that God literally drowned every living creature 5,000 years ago in a global flood except the ones who were living in a big boat? No, I don’t.
Let me make one stipulation: I’ve never heard his music, or at least knew I had. This isn’t a fan piece. This is a piece of a fellow traveller (to some extent, at least) on a very long voyage in an old universe.
In my very first blog post I made the following observation, obviously in a university setting:
For me, however, as a Christian, an old earth creationist, an adjunct and someone who deals with geological issues in Soil Mechanics, this was a perilous situation. If the evolutionists win, I get the boot over the origin of the universe and being a theist (the evolutionists are for the most part rabid secular humanists.) If the new earth creationists win, I get the boot over the age of the earth. Real academic freedom these days consists of forcing the administration to find really creative ways to give people the boot!
Things haven’t come to a head just yet…but UTC wasn’t the only place where things were perilous. I was also working for the Church of God then. I never made a big deal about being an old-earther, but it did come out from time to time. But they never held it against me, even when it came out in print.
And, I might add, Gungor is in better company than he thinks:
I can’t remember the date, but one day the 700 Club ran a story on Patrick Henry University. One of the things they brought up about this institution was that it required its faculty to sign a statement affirming their belief that the Creation took place in six (Earth) days. When the piece was done, Pat turned to his co-hostess Terry Meeuwsen and asked her whether she could sign such a statement. She relied she could not, to which he answered he couldn’t either. That’s not the only time he has gone on record saying in effect that he is an “old earth creationist” but Richmond, like other capitals, doesn’t pay attention to what’s going on in the “provinces” unless it’s pretty sensational.
I can’t say that Gungor’s analysis is the swiftest treatment of the subject I’ve seen. But we’re not paying him to be a theologian: we’re paying him to be a musician. The basic problem, as I see it, is an endemic one these days: we’re trying to turn religion into a science and science into a religion.
On the first problem, for centuries a “more than literal” hermeneutic was the norm with Biblical studies. And, as Gungor points out in his follow-up piece, the core of people’s faith in the past was God-centred, not book-centred. Since he brought up Augustine, it can be shown that the “literal” (and that term can be equivocal as well) meaning wasn’t the one with priority in the Fathers’ minds.
The first hit that took (in Christianity at least) was the Reformation, although it can be argued that the issue there wasn’t as much how the scriptures were interpreted as to who could do it authoritatively. But the biggest hit to the old way was “modern” Biblical scholarship. It represented trying to apply “scientific” methods to Biblical studies. Without going into a long diatribe of the weaknesses of same, it’s clear that Biblical studies drew the second string of the German intellectual bench.
That succeeded in emptying churches, mostly from the boredom and irrelevance of the message that followed. So now we have the post-modernists, whose message is that the truth content of the scriptures depends on what “construct” they should be interpreted in. But the result is the same: the churches that make such the centrepiece of their message (and you know who you are) are emptying in like manner.
The reaction to this has been modern Fundamentalism, which forces the Scriptures to be interpreted in a very rigid, “scientific” way that is alien to the world they came in. That’s led to the concept that being a Young Earth Creationist is a “deal-breaker” Article of Faith. I’ve even seen this set forth in Anglican circles, which is a surprise for me. But that’s the “tradition” these days, and Gungor has found this out the hard way.
As far as the other problem is concerned, I’ve taken flak for this but I’ll stick with it: making science into a religion, which means that we are to accept what science “says” as articles of faith, makes for bad science. It discourages exploring science in different ways by only allowing people who stick to a certain “orthodoxy” to make those explorations, and that’s a sure road to Lysenkoism.
But our focus is on the opposite problem, and the result is the mirror image. We deserve a better discussion of this issue than what we have seen here. Whether we’ll get it is another matter altogether.