Answers in Genesis is coming to campus for a conference, and its goals are lofty: "Answers in Genesis and Cedarville University are partnering together to host a conference that points a generation to God, where Scripture is our truth, is our foundation, and is our alone authority." They hope that by defending 6-day creation, our generation can return to God.
Is it possible, though, that taking a strict position on the origins debate is misguided? Could Answers in Genesis' work be pointing a generation away from God? I think it is doing just that. Sending the message that the Bible and nature clearly explain 6-day creation also sends the message that to believe in the Bible (or to consider Scripture "our truth"), one must believe in 6-day creation. Those who deny 6-day creation are then excluded from Christianity.
Answers in Genesis and Ken Ham recognize that the issue of evolution can damage relationships with Christ. In a blog post titled "Christian Colleges and Compromise" Ken mentions how many Christians in our generation are leaving the church over the origins debate. He states
"However, by and large, most churches have failed to teach generations creation apologetics so they will not be led astray by the world's false teaching. This became very clear from the research detailed in the book Already Gone, where we documented why so many young people are leaving the church when they become adults."
Ken believes the problem is that churches haven't properly taught "creation apologetics" to young people in the church, so when they encounter the claims of evolution they have no tools to deal with it. They cannot reconcile the clearly biblical 6-day creation view with the overwhelming evidence for evolution. Is the problem, though, that the creation apologetics haven't been taught? Or are there deeper problems?
The origins debate has two distinct branches - two battlegrounds in the war. The first battle is against the scientific view of evolution. In this battle, 6-day creationists are trying to show that evolution is inconsistent with evidence and that 6-day creationism provides a better model for origins. The other battle is against biblical interpretation that shies away from explicitly endorsing a 6-day creationist view. This battle has the 6-day creationists mostly requiring that Genesis 1 be interpreted literally. Other interpretations, in their view, demean the authority of the Bible.
Both battlegrounds have done (and continue to do) great violence to those outside of Answers in Genesis' positions. The scientific branch of the debate has caused more damage; it has resulted in people being excluded in the church. For that reason, I will only focus on the scientific battle in this article.
Recall that Ken Ham is worried that Christians are leaving the church because they haven't been taught how to fight off evolutionary ideas. What if we have been taught these "creation apologetics", though, and they simply aren't effective?
Take, for instance, the argument that the second law of thermodynamics proves that evolution could not increase the complexity of organisms. This argument was taught to me in my Christian high school by my Bible teacher, my biology teacher, and my physics teacher, all who used information supplied by Answers in Genesis. The Answers in Genesis website provides a list of numerous resources supporting this argument (1). But it's well known that the second law of thermodynamics only relates to the general tendency for entropy to be produced in closed systems, and in fact Answers in Genesis has a more recent article stating that Christians shouldn't use the second law against evolution (2).
If our generation is walking away from the church because we can't reconcile evolution and Christianity, Answers in Genesis has no one to blame except itself. For years it produced article after article that consisted of nothing more than pseudoscience and creation propaganda. When young Christians encountered the real theory of evolution - not the straw person that was taught to them in their church or Christian school - they saw the power and enormous amount of evidence backing it up. They were then faced with a choice: Christianity or evolution? And they chose evolution, as it appeared more rational.
In addition to turning Christians away from Christ, the origins debate can block atheists from ever getting to Christ. A common perception of atheist evolutionists is that to be Christian, one must reject evolution. The scientific community at large, however, believes that evolution is fundamental to all life sciences. It is supported by a vast amount of evidence and is consistently affirmed by new findings (like the human genome project). For the typical evolutionist, giving up evolution would mean lying to oneself about the nature of our planet. If they think that to be Christian means to deny evolution, then they will certainly not be interested in being Christian. Ken Ham holds that one can be both a Christian and an evolutionist - but the force of Answers in Genesis' arguments undermines that belief.
There is also a third way in which the origins debate does harm in the sciences. Creation scientists often complain of being discriminated against in the mainstream scientific journals. Evolutionists refuse to take the claims of 6-day creationists seriously. They generally assume that 6-day creation is an inherently flawed model, so any papers detailing scientific study within a creation framework are automatically discredited. Creation scientists are doing serious work in science, however, and they deserve to have their findings heard. If Answers in Genesis would give up the war, creationists would certainly be considered more credible in the scientific community.
Remember how Answers in Genesis for years practiced pseudoscience. As it turns out, the views that Answers in Genesis espoused have worked their way into many Christian circles. In doing so, many evangelical Christians have seen is as their duty to take part in the war. Evolutionists have thoroughly debunked many of the claims that these evangelicals made. Therefore, in their minds creation science is automatically bad science. But if Answers in Genesis stops indoctrinating Christians into thinking they are conversant with contemporary issues with evolution, creation scientists might not be so quickly dismissed. They might then be able to publish in scientific journals and make significant progress in creationism.
It seems clear to me that giving up the public debate for 6-day creation would do nearly everyone a huge favor. Christians should be concerned about their public image, and demonstrations of ignorance in scientific matters can damage that image. Mainstream evangelicals need not feel threatened by evolution (or if they do, they can let people who are knowledgeable and passionate about the issue defend creation instead of clumsily trying to do so themselves). Think of the possible benefits of scientists suddenly having the doors to Christianity opened to them. Perhaps some of them will convert, take creation more seriously, and contribute great work to the 6-day cause.