I’m about to say something that may raise your hackles. But, please, hear me out, hang with me through the end of this post, and give some consideration to my argument before you remove me from your bookmark menu… 🙂
There are few things that frustrate me like prominent young-earth creationism ministries do. (Did you just gasp?)
Do I believe that the young-earth creationists’ research project is a worthwhile endeavor? Yes, yes I do. I believe their avenue of intellectual inquiry is reasonable, and that their hypothesis deserves to be explored. As long as the data is treated honestly and with scientific integrity, I say go for it.
Am I intellectually committed to a young-earth view? No, I am not. After years of study on the topic, I have reached the conclusion that it is best to make sure you fully understand each point of view (theologically and scientifically) and to realize that it is absolutely not an issue worth dividing over. It is a hermenutics issue, NOT a biblical authority issue. There are sometimes multiple possible interpretations of biblical passages that are theologically and linguistically reasonable. I will not go into the details of that issue here. Suffice it to say that if a particular interpretation of scripture is plausible and it solves external problems (such as scientific ones), then I believe you are justified in accepting that interpretation.
What bothers me about young-earth organizations (more so than their accusations of compromise aimed at old-earth creationists) is that they shoot themselves in the feet when it comes to offering a viable apologetic to non-believers. You often hear them make statements like, “We should start with the Bible, view everything in the world through the lens of Scripture, and adjust our beliefs about the natural world accordingly.” Of course the Bible should be our ultimate authority on everything; if we hold Scripture to be the inspired word of God, and we understand its factual reliability based on centuries of rigorous historical and textual research, we should trust it to be completely and utterly true (while accepting that there is some latitude in how some passages can be interpreted).
However, when it comes to defending the faith and keeping our hearts united with our God-given intellect, we need to examine this approach more closely. When someone asks you why you believe the biblical claim that “God created the heavens and the earth,” how far do you think you’re going to get with them by answering, “For the Bible tells me so”? This is a fallacy known as circular reasoning, and it is fatal to our apologetic and to having a reasonable faith ourselves!
What we need instead is extra-biblical evidence that supports the truth of the Bible. (Notice that I did not use the word “prove.”) Philosophers use the fancy phrase “epistemic grounding.” We need to meet the non-believer where they are–observable nature–and carry them towards the truth of Christianity. As believers, we benefit from having both intellectual AND spiritual reasons for our beliefs, and we escape the trap of having a privatized theology where our confidence in the Bible is based exclusively on internal feelings.
I believe this is where intelligent design theory is enormously useful. I call it a “stepping stone apologetic” for Christianity. What I mean by this is that it isn’t a direct argument for the faith, but it is an indispensable step in the cumulative case for it. By demonstrating that nature bears hallmarks of design, such as the specified complexity of the genetic code, we show the plausibility of a Creator.
I love the way Dr. John Mark Reynolds stated it:
No, intelligent design is not a uniquely Christian movement, and no, it does not get us all the way from John chapter one, verse one to John chapter one, verse fourteen. And yes, it is broad and diverse, capable of holding any number of people, from neo-Platonist pagans to Islamic persons, to Jewish persons. But I will tell you this: We will never get the culture to John 1:14 if we do not first establish, as the Greeks did before, that John chapter one verse one is credible and worth believing.