I have now been following the current creation debate intensively for a decade. During that time I have participated in hundreds of on-line discussions of the topic, have gathered a collection of more than 200 books on the topic and generated a library that includes over 50,000 pages of material including journal articles, copies of web pages, selected book chapters, and correspondences. As many of you know, I have mostly confined myself to scientific considerations in the current debate since that if my particular area of expertise. I have focused my attention particularly on the world of creation science. During that time I’ve seen the ebb and flow of the debate within and outside the church and most specifically the reformed christian denominations.
Way back in 2001 Gary North produced a document called Deadline 2020: How to return Calvinistic Presbyterian churches to the Westminster Assembly’s position on the six-day creation. This document was emailed to a large number of pastors and other interested parties as a grass-roots attempt to devise a strategy to prevent any new pastor from being ordained that didn’t hold to particular views. While a full-scale review of this 58 page document is not possible an examination of some of claims/suggestions found in this document can be instructive because now 10 years later many of the strategies suggested are being employed to some success. I will highlight the social aspects of the creation debate that North says can be taken advantage of. I believe that North has identified a potentially winning formula for making literal 6-day creation a consciously decisive issue in the church. He notes that lay person in the pew has been and is becoming increasingly sympathetic toward the 6-day creation view. I see this trend as probably continuing with the vast resources coming from the YEC camp especially into the home school movement. Furthermore, the popularization of polarized politics feeds into an us/them approach to decision making.
In my experience, the creation science movement is strongly anti-intellectual at its heart. We are told we can’t trust a large segment of the scientific community. Nor can we trust anyone that comes from a seminary because they are serving academic self-interests. Furthermore, the YEC community consists of a large number of untrained scientists that practically flaunt their lack of training in many areas as of experience could taint them from making unbiased decisions.
The movers and shakers of the creation science community are few in number but their outward projection is very large. If one looks at the massive quantity of YEC literature for a while one will realize that the number of authors is really very small (even smaller once you realize that some writers in that past have had a numerous pseudonyms over time). Yet their influence is huge. The YEC movement is essentially inbred with many of its leaders closely related to one another or having been at least trained by others in the community.
In addition, I think it is quite clear that the YEC movement is not a reformed Christian movement at heart. Although they espouse an orthodox understanding of the nature of Scriptures, the movement is promoted and populated primarily by Baptists and some Church of Christ elements. They have made use of some elements – most notably the language of presuppositionalist apologetics – of the reformed literature but for the most part they do not share the traditional reformed view of the sciences and their hermaneutical and epistemological arguments are frequently quite different. Overall, I would submit that the YEC movement has usurped traditional reformed theology in the arena of science and their literature has, for the most part, become the default position for many in the reformed church. I find it very interesting that I can walk into many PCA (Presbyterian Church of America) and OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) churches and on their book table almost all the books on all topics will have been written by those from the reformed community but along-side those books will be ones by Ken Ham and Jonathan Sarfati. Many of these books are, for the most part, devoid of theological content which is interesting in itself. How many other books that don’t discuss the Bible directly or are an application of Scripture to a situation in some way do we allow on our tables? Other books such as “Darwin’s black box” are written by Catholics etc.. What bothers me is that it appears that Calvinists are more apt to trust the analysis of non-reformed Christians on matters of scientific inquiry while the members of the reformed community that do have expertise in these areas and have serious concerns about the exegesis and science of the creation science community are most often ignored. In fact, such scientists in our own midst are attacked by the same arguments made from outside the reformed community claiming they are serving self interests (scared of losing their jobs, scared they won’t get tenure, don’t want to lose face in the scientific community). I can list many books written by reformed Christians on the topic of science and faith but can only think of a couple of books written by overtly reformed Christians that ascribe to young earth creation science and the theology behind it. An yet, non-reformed YEC literature dominates the book shelves.