Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Review: The Creationist Worldview According to the Bible

This week, we're reviewing a series of essays in the Baptist Messenger by OBU's Whitlock-era religion hires.  You may find the original article for this review here.

Can I be honest for a minute? I'm not even really sure where to begin speaking on this article.

The last two articles were not that bad. Honestly, I disagree with a lot of the implications of what they say and I'm not sure that those implications bode well for a liberal arts university-- but I wasn't grinding my teeth or anything to read them. At least, I understand where they're coming from. And having grown up in a pretty conservative church, I probably would've agreed with them for a lot of my life.

Actually, the most ironic part of the whole story is that if I hadn't gone to OBU, I would probably still agree with them! But I did go to OBU and found a safe place where I could open my mind to new ideas and see that God had created a much bigger world than I had once thought. And that is the freedom that I am trying to protect for future students. Some will still come out on the side of worldview and that's fine. But some will come out like me, and that needs to be fine too.

But when I saw this article, I cringed. The truth is, if this one had never been written, I'm not sure if this series would even exist. The underlying logical assumptions of the article are so flawed, I'm not even sure how to summarize it fairly as I did with the other two.

You'll have to just go read it yourself.

Probably the best thing I can say about this article is that the author chooses to quote the NASB-- which is at least not the sexist ESV. Did you know, the ESV was specifically made as a reaction against the NRSV in order to counter their effort to use gender inclusive language? Now you know. But the author does not choose this favorite version of Reformed thinkers everywhere (granted, he's not going for the gender inclusive NRSV either) to borrow his quotes.

However, since in this article not only God is male but also all humans, I think the point is moot and negated anyway. I just wanted to find maybe something that could be said for the positive.

The article begins by setting up a straw man of "the evolutionists" and explaining that all of "the evolutionists" believe the world came together randomly about 4.5 billion years ago. They say it came from dust, etc. without a creator, but maybe some aliens. In this process, humans came from "'ape' men" and without a maker have "no code of ethics and have no need of eternal salvation."

The author then contrasts this view with the "biblical" view that God made the world from nothing in six days and man [sic] was made from the dust of the earth in order to glorify God.


First of all, not only does the author set up a straw man of evolutionists as though they are all godless heathens or something like that, but it also creates a false dichotomy between Young Earth Creationism and atheism. We'll get more to that later. But first, I want to comment on the use of the term "the evolutionists."

Probably the majority of the OBU science department should be offended that this man is using the term "evolutionist" to imply atheist-- or at least all of the ones I've talked to. Also, probably a fair portion of the Bible professors I had should be offended that he's implying the only "biblical" way to see the world is Young Earth Creationism. But honestly, the part that gets me the most is this lie that people who are not Christians have no sense of ethics. Let's not be ridiculous. Everyone who is not a sociopath knows the difference between right and wrong and I know plenty of people who worship no God and are quite fine to be nice and even to treat their neighbors as they would want to be treated.

If he's basing his "worldview" on the idea that if you're not a Christian you're a terrible person, he's going to be very disappointed when he meets some very kind people who are just not interested in church. -- But I guess, in fairness, I'll give him the point that they most often are not interested in eternal salvation.

So now the options are godless heathen or young earth creationist. And if you don't read the Bible (which, by the way, never says anything anywhere about 4004 BC) and think you know more about the age of the earth than, I don't know, anyone who has ever dedicated their entire life to scientific research, then I guess you are doing it wrong. So, six literal days it is, that's the only way to read it.

But it's time for me to move on.

The rest of the article is not much more than some strings of bible verses taken out of context to "prove" whatever he is saying. It's pretty bland stuff: man [sic] is made to worship God, plants and animals can't, don't worship them either, man [sic] is supposed to be holy, man [sic] is accountable to God. (I hope you're all seeing the pattern. If anyone could let me know what women are supposed to be doing at this point, I'd be pretty grateful.)

God is forever, unchanging, made the world from nothing-- using words and in six days. Man [sic] is made to glorify God. We've all sinned, etc. Thanks to Adam and Eve we can all look forward to a lake of fire... But Jesus came to save us (now we are all called simply, sinners-- at least it's gender neutral?) if we believe in his death and resurrection.

The author then goes back to creation to mention again that all people are made in the image of God, which means reason enough to submit to God. Thus, there is right and wrong (interesting move, his prooftext for that is the 10 commandments. No thoughts, it's just interesting.). So man [sic] is not a "higher animal" and also genocide is wrong.

Finally, since all people are sinful and all people are in God's image (capacity to follow God), we should do missions and proclaim the way of salvation throughout the earth.

Mostly, I end the article confused, wondering how in this brief span of words-- most of which are quoted proof texts-- we managed to hit missions and genocide and also the sinfulness of all humanity. Also, I guess the implication is that everyone who believes in a literal six day creation believes all of this and anyone who doesn't, doesn't believe any of it.

Well, that sort of false dichotomy has no place at a university.

And if that's not enough, at the end of the page he suggests further reading material including a Young Earth Creationist apologetics book where "theologians" talk about "scientific evidence."

Oh, and -- which is the website run by the people who made the Creation museum.

I'm kind of surprised he didn't try to argue it like this. (Oh, it's real.)

Ok. I've been rude, and I'm sorry, but I'm just not sure if there is another appropriate way to respond to such an article.

But on a serious note, I am not saying that you shouldn't be a Young Earth Creationist. I'm saying you should be able to explore the options and decide for yourself which is the most convincing-- that's called learning. If you, like the author of this article, come out with 6 day creation in 4004 BC, then that's great.

But don't say that there's only one way to read that story. And don't think if people disagree with you that they are all godless. That's ridiculous-- and that attitude definitely has no place at a Christian university.


  1. And here's what slays me: he's got a Ph.D. from Hopkins in Semitics. They don't let dumb people get Ph.D. degrees from Hopkins. He knows better and chooses this sort of flimsy, disingenuous argumentation because he knows that the Baptist Messenger is an echo chamber where he will never face critique. The only standard is theological orthodoxy as defined by the far right--as long as your conclusions match up, your argument is irrelevant.

  2. I clicked on the "Baptist Messenger" link and posted a few comments which could be characterized as a hope that the school would at least be honest with prospective students and let them know that if they enrolled they would not be receiving a liberal arts education. The post was rejected.

    1. Unsurprising. We aren't advocating that high school students look elsewhere just yet. But in our letter to prospective students (see link in the top righthand panel), we try to give prospective students an honest assessment of the situation. They deserve to know that they are plunking down six figures to walk into Stan Norman's little ideological battle zone.

      If things start to look more like Shorter, then we'll see current students transfer out and prospective students (the smart ones anyway) avoid OBU.

  3. There is not a person on this page that could carry this mans book bag. He knows more about God's word than all of you combined. He is a conservative SCHOLAR and doesn't claim to be anything else. BTW, some scholars believe in a supernatural approach to the Genesis account- is there anything wrong with that position? Jesus appears to fall in that camp and I am ok siding with Jesus.

    You appear to be the ones who take issue with anyone that stands contrary to your very "narrow" belief structure.

    1. It's one thing to take a supernatural approach to Genesis. It's quite something else to a) think that the earth and humans were created pretty much in their present form <10,000 years ago and b) believe that creationism is central to a Christian worldview.

      I don't know of any scholars who insist on a six-day creation and the literal historicity of Genesis 1-11 who have anything to contribute in college classrooms. As Chris said elsewhere, it's hard to contribute to the bibcrit conversation if you reject its principles.

      And, no, we do not have a narrow belief structure. That's so blatantly not true that I hesitate to even comment. But to clarify, we would support qualified scholars from a vast range of the Protestant theological spectrum teaching at OBU. But not flat-earthers.

  4. Jacob, would you be willing to debate this in an open forum with the author of that article? You did refer to him as a "flat earth" guy which should make him easy to debate. I would suggest you way under estimate this mans ability to "rightly divide" the word of God. He is not an academic light weight (as much as you want to believe that). He just happens to have all the credentials and remained conservative. I know that doesn't make sense to you, but it does happen.

    1. Probably not, because I haven't spent years trying to fix science to fit my theology. So I don't know the arguments/logic/rhetoric.

      But I would debate Dr. Whitlock, Dr. Norman, and/or Dr. McClellan any time anywhere about the appropriateness of this hire -- and any hire that involves fixing the process through weeding out moderate candidates and/or ignoring search committee recommendations.

  5. Does character play any role in future hires, Jacob? Appears that's been a problem in the past.

  6. Wow. Jacob doesn't back down to you so you resort to slander? Classy.

    1. Slander? This blog is dedicated to 'saving' OBU and questioning some of the unjust firings, right? Do you believe character plays any role in the hiring process? Veronica, how is that slander?

  7. (Differently Anonymous): As Veronica and others have pointed out, "character" is hardly the exclusive domain of Christians, something early Church fathers acknowledged when they built their Christian worldviewS on the firm foundation of certain virtuous pagans. But perhaps you don't mean moral character so much as adherence to a set of defined doctrines, using acceptable language. If so, yes, candidates for hiring must submit a faith statement and some have been eliminated from consideration because they couldn't articulate well enough or did articulate using the "wrong" faith language. Then, when they get to campus, they face a series of questions from Dr. Norman that move from basic beliefs to sensitive social issues.

    Interestingly, although I can't think of anyone rejected because of his or her answers to these questions, they put the candidate in a character box, in the sense that they falsely communicate an OBU Worldview to which the candidate should conform. I fully expect some faculty realized they had a character problem at this point because they answered as they were expected to answer. Common enough when one undergoes an inquisition.


We invite you to join in the conversation. However, anonymous comments are unwelcome.