November 22, 2005

Why Christopher Heard is Not a Creationist

While I was at the ASOR meeting, Christopher Heard posted "Why I am not a creationist" on Higgaion. His whole post deserves to be read and digested. Here is his conclusion:

. . . it seems to me that creationism is simply bad exegesis. Or, rather, creationism springs from simplistic, careless interpretation of one isolated text, and does not do justice to the full range and richness of biblical creation faith. The biblical writers used the prevailing cosmology ("science") of their day and adapted its attendant theologies, transforming them in ways that glorified Yahweh, the God of Israel. I reject creationism because it reduces and distorts the rich biblical tradition of creation faith, slicing off much of the biblical testimony and elevating the relatively insignificant question of "how" to a position of pre-eminence alongside of, or even over, the vital biblical question of "who."

I do have one serious complaint in two parts. First, if it turned out that creationism was indeed good exegesis would Heard be supportive of it? In other words, is Heard not a creationist simply because the Hebrew Bible does not support creationism? Second, Heard does not directly concern himself with the overwhelming support in science for the modern theory of evolution. Yes, he does touch on this issue:

Both creationism and ID are bad science, it's true, but that's not really my main concern. I'll let others, like Carl Zimmer on The Loom, explain the scientific problems. My issues are with the exegetical problems. That is, I'm not a creationist, not so much because creationism is bad science (though it is), as because creationism is bad biblical interpretation.

While I strongly agree that the Bible does not support creationism for all of Heard's reasons and more, I do not find that much of a reason to be against creationism. Scientific problems with creationism are not the problem. Even if creationism were supported by science, there would still be scientific problems: in this hypothetical case, real scientific problems. I am against creationism not because it is not supported by science. Rather, I am against creationism in all its forms because science supports something else: a modern theory of evolution. What the Bible says or doesn't say on this subject is irrelevant to the topic except as a debating point with those who mistakenly think the Bible does support creationism. Often we forget that there are a host of none biblical creationist accounts that still flourishing today. For example, Native American accounts continue to be used for political reasons often resulting in placing arbitrary limits on scientific inquiry. Even if the Bible presented a completely consistent creationist account without borrowing, in an acceptable literary genre and was not rooted in one or more unacceptable cosmologies, no thinking person should be a creationist.

Did I like Heard's post? Loved it!

Posted by DuaneSmith at November 22, 2005 02:46 PM | Read more on Evolution |

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Duane, thanks for the interaction! The reason I emphasized the exegetical flaws of creationism is because I'm an exegete, and that's where my expertise lies. So, while I can write at length about how creationism is bad exegesis, I'm not especially qualified to explain why creationism is bad science. Also, a considerable proportion of my "constituency" doesn't care whether creationism is bad science or not, because in their ideology the Bible trumps science. So, as a matter of expertise and audience analysis, I emphasized exegesis. If creationism were good exegesis, it would still need to also be good science (which it isn't) to be credible (which it isn't), but I focused on the reverse dynamic just because of my expertise and audience.

Posted by: Christopher Heard at November 23, 2005 10:28 AM

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