Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More on the Creationist Movement

Henry Morris, who passed away little more than a year ago, enjoyed the title of father of the "modern" young-earth creationist movement. His 1961 book, The Genesis Flood (co-authored with Old Testament scholar John Whitcomb), launched a reconsideration of the evidence for the age of the earth among evangelicals. His explanation depended on a catastrophic worldwide flood.

Unfortunately, as with most pioneers, many of his views and explanations sound strained, fanciful, and even quaint today. It was common, for example, for young-earth creationists to say that God created light "in transit" from distant stars or to rely upon a "canopy" theory for the volume of water prior to the flood.

Since then, the work Morris inspired has moved into the realm of peer reviewed scientific research of some sophistication. It used to be said with disdain that most "creation" scientists were metallurgists or hydraulics engineers, not geologists, astrophysicists, or biologists. No longer. A group of young-Earth researchers calling their project RATE (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth) investigated radioactive dating methods and worked to develop alternative young-Earth explanations.

The RATE study began as a joint collaborative effort between the Institute for Creation Research, the Creation Research Society and Answers in Genesis. Their work with radio dating was more than a little interesting. RATE physicist Dr. Russ Humphreys, for example, reported on measurements of helium diffusion (leaking) from zircon crystals. Helium, one of the most "slippery" elements, is created as a byproduct of radioactive decay, but also leaks out of the crystals. If the zircons were billions of years old, there should be very little helium left since it would have had plenty of time to diffuse away. However, the RATE researchers found that a tremendous amount of helium remained in the zircons—consistent with an age of about 6,000 years.

In addition to Morris' organization, the Institute for Creation Research, in Santee, California, Answers in Genesis has emerged as a major player in the creationist movement. Led by Australian-born Ken Ham, AIG just this week opened its state-of-the-art $27 million museum near the Cincinnati airport debt free (see prior blog).

Where ICR focuses on graduate education and the production of more technical materials, AIG looks to the "retail" side of creationism. With a full slate of energetic speakers, dozens of DVDs, and curricular materials for both church and home-schooling use, Ham's communicators blanket the country, popularizing creationism and defending the Bible, using presuppositionalist apologetics. AIG has recently added several new PhDs in biology (cf. Purdom from Ohio State), astrophysics (cf. Lisle from University of Colorado at Boulder), and other specialists to their roster of speakers and developers of resource material.

For the movement as a whole, a new "RATE" style research project is being pulled together involving the genetic side of the issue of evolution. I recently heard a tenured Cornell University geneticist lecture on the "improbability" if not "impossibility" of evolution based on information theory and mutation within the human genome.

And, I have not even touched upon the progressive (old-earth) creationism of people like Hugh Ross. His arguments dovetail quite well with the secular Intelligent Design movement which has resurrected Paley's old watchmaker argument from design in the form of Behe's irreducible complexity. The ID folks, technically a non-religious alternative, disdain the ICR and Answers in Genesis crowd almost as much as the Darwinists do. Yet, their work has been making waves in the area of building a case for a Creator, and the impossibility of "chance" as a viable explanation for the world we see around us.

Creationism, whether of the Ken Ham (young-earth) or Hugh Ross (old-earth) variety, has attracted its share of critics. The opening of the Creation Museum was met with vocal pickets and even an airplane towing an anti-Christian message. Several organizations (including DefCon and it's "campaign to defend the constitution")have argued that AIG has a moral responsibility to disclaim that the Creation Museum has anything to do with empirical facts, merely out-dated and fanciful beliefs. One commentator even likened the museum to cigarette advertising, opining that both should be banned for the same reason! And, despite the fact that AIG built its facility entirely with private funds, some have raised the issue of violation of "church and state." The Los Angeles Times dismissed Ham's museum in colorful prose as "yabba dabba science."

Still, amid the din of the critics, Answers in Genesis and other similar organizations continue their efforts. In both the secular ("intelligent design") and explicitly Christian forms (either old-earth or young-earth) creationism has changed radically since the primitive days of Morris in 1961.

In other words, right or wrong, this "ain't your father's" creationism any longer. In terms of sophistication, scientific acumen, research, and argumentation, it has moved "light years" from its origins little more than 45 years ago. Standing on the shoulders of pioneers such as Morris, a new generation of scholars from the fields of apologetics and the sciences is beginning to challenge evolutionary assumptions just as a growing majority of evangelical and mainline Biblical scholars have made peace with Darwin!

"As for me and my house" . . . laugh if you must, but I stand with the creationists (both old and new earth types) against the mechanistic Darwinians and their god, Chance. Bottom line: I am a creationist and make common cause with other creationists, regardless of their view of the antiquity of the universe.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Creation Museum Opens Amid Criticism

The venerable Los Angeles Times has already pronounced the effort, “Yabba-dabba science” in a May 24 editorial. Condemned as a “60,000-square-foot menace to 21st century scientific advancement” by critics, Answers in Genesis unveils its $27 million Creation Museum this weekend in the Cincinnati suburb of Petersburg, KY.

Designed to present a “young earth” creationist model of human origins, the facility was designed to incorporate the latest in high-tech sensory experience. It even boasts recreations of Noah’s ark, animatronic dinosaurs, and a movie theater with seats that shake, all designed by some of the same people behind the attractions at Universal Studios in Florida.

The museum has drawn objections from a coalition of scientists and organizations, including the Campaign to Defend the Constitution ( , or DEFCON, a Washington-based group that says it seeks to combat the political influence of religious conservatives. In a May 24 conference call with reporters, those opponents said the museum is presenting a distorted view of evolution and the earth’s history.

In an ABC interview, Eugenie C. Scott, the executive director of the National Center for Science Education (, an Oakland, Calif.-based organization that supports the teaching of evolution, called the museum a “creationist’s Disneyland.”

Even Christian authors have weighed in, decrying the project. One of the Baptist blog sites (dominated by seminary educated clergy) was full of naysayers and skeptics. “Don't know that I'd call it a ‘Christian’ museum any more than I'd call Left Behind ‘Christian’ fiction." “I had no idea there were so many people out there to who actually believe in and accept such a strange cosmology--enough to completely pay for a place like that!” “It's astonishing to me that people believe this stuff, but P.T. Barnum's axiom still holds true.”

Despite criticism that the Creation Museum will put Christianity back a hundred years (or at least until the Scopes trial of 1925), AIG founder Ken Ham sees it differently. Answers in Genesis claims:

"The Creation Museum will be upfront that the Bible is the supreme authority in all matters of faith and practice, and in every area it touches upon.

We’ll begin the Museum experience by showing that “facts” don’t speak for themselves. There aren’t separate sets of “evidences” for evolution and creation—we all deal with the same evidence (we all live on the same earth, have the same fossils, observe the same animals, etc.). The difference lies in how we interpret what we study. We’ll then explore why the Bible—the “history book of the universe”—provides a reliable, eye-witness account of the beginning of all things.

After that, we'll take guests on a journey through a visual presentation of the history of the world, based on the “7 C’s of History”: Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross, Consummation. Throughout this family-friendly experience, guests will learn how to answer the attacks on the Bible’s authority in geology, biology, anthropology, cosmology, etc., and they will discover how science actually confirms biblical history."


According to an ABC News poll, 60 percent of Americans believe God created the world in six days. So do theologians Al Mohler and R.C. Sproul. Before dismissing it out-of-hand, visit the AIG web site for yourself ( Browse around in the articles and online books and see if the arguments and evidence challenge some of your own ideas about cosmology and the Bible.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Medley Moves to Restructure Ecumenical Office

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 05/23/07) -- General Secretary, A. Roy Medley, announced today a future restructuring of the ecumenical office of the denomination. The restructuring will draw more upon the Committee on Christian Unity of the denomination and other leaders in fulfilling ABCUSA’s ongoing commitment to dialogue and cooperation with other Christian communions and organizations.

As a result of the restructuring, the Rev. Rothang Chhangte will leave her position on September 4, 2007. She will continue to represent American Baptists on the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches. Rev. Medley said, “This is a critical position to which Rothang was elected last year. As American Baptists it gives us an opportunity to continue to shape the future of this ecumenical organization, especially as it seeks to each out to evangelicals and Pentecostals. Rothang has distinguished herself by her contributions to the WCC Decade to Overcome Violence, and her work in interfaith relations.”

During her tenure Rothang has been instrumental in:

The formation of the WCC US Young Adult Task force
Service on the Interim Steering Committee of Christian Churches Together that brought together Mainline Protestants, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, historic African-American churches and the Roman Catholic Church
Renewing and building closer ties with Church of the Brethren
Giving leadership to the formulation of ABC Policy Statement on Interreligious Prejudice

Speaking of her service, Rothang said, "I am grateful for the opportunity to have served as your American Baptist representative at ecumenical gatherings and meetings. I thank God for the opportunity to work towards building reconciliation and healing in God's oikumene, household. It has been a spiritually enriching journey for me. The prayer of Jesus in John 17 that "all may be one so that the world might know and believe," has become an ever more urgent calling in my life. I look to forward to discovering new ways of living this prayer in my life."

The Rev. Jerrod Hugenot, chair of the General Board Committee on Christian Unity, has said of Rothang, "Deep ecumenical relationships are formed by grace and openness. Rev. Chhangte models these values well in her faith and ministry. We are grateful for her work representing and articulating the American Baptist voice within ecumenical, intra-Baptist, and interfaith councils, forums, and other gatherings which promote religion as a source of hope and common good rather than exclusion and schism."

In the restructuring, Ms. Iris Cobb will provide administrative assistance to Dr. Medley and the Committee on Christian Unity. Iris has extensive experience in this role from her previous work with the Rev. Dr. Cheryl Wade, who served on ABCUSA’s team of Ecumenical Officers.

ABCUSA’s ecumenical relations include the Baptist World Alliance, the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, the National Association of Evangelicals, and most recently, Christian Churches Together.

Having served on committees with Rothang over the years, I know her as a diligent and pleasant person. During her tenure as the chief ecumenical officer for the ABC she won plaudits from the left for her advocacy of causes dear to the more ecumenical wing of the denomination and criticism from some conservatives. A few traditionalists have suggested that they were dissatisfied with answers she gave to their questioning of her remarks quoted in an IRD publication regarding evangelicals and the issue of salvation through Christ alone. My guess is that as in the case of many Valley Forge staff reductions, money has been a major factor.

Blessings on your new endeavors, Rothang!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Evangelical Philosopher Switches Teams at 47

Francis J. Beckwith, leading Christian philosopher and current (until May 5) president of the Evangelical Theological Society, has reverted to the Roman Catholicism of his youth, and resigned from both the ETS presidency and even membership in the inerrancy touting society.

Beckwith, an associate professor at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, said the decision he made to seek "full communion" with the Roman Catholic Church grew from his desire to find "historical and theological continuity" with the early Christian church.

In an interview with Christianity Today's David Neff, Beckwith said:

"I still consider myself an evangelical, but no longer a Protestant. I do think I have a better understanding of what sometimes the Catholic Church is trying to convey. Protestants often misunderstand. The issue of justification was key for me. The Catholic Church frames the Christian life as one in which you must exercise virtue—not because virtue saves you, but because that's the way God's grace gets manifested. As an evangelical, even when I talked about sanctification and wanted to practice it, it seemed as if I didn't have a good enough incentive to do so. Now there's a kind of theological framework, and it doesn't say my salvation depends on me, but it says my virtue counts for something. It's important to allow the grace of God to be exercised through your actions. The evangelical emphasis on the moral life forms my Catholic practice with an added incentive. That was liberating to me."

Additional references on Beckwith: J._Beckwith

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Celebrating Cino de Mayo . . . Ole!

Cino de Mayo has never been a very significant holiday in Mexico, celebrating the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, and the ridiculously short-lived victory of the Mexicans over the French. Contrary to the assumptions of many, it does NOT even commemorate Mexican Independence Day (Sept. 16). However, in the United States marketers have capitalized on the day to advertise all things Mexican, especially beverages, foods, and music. In this sense, it may be little different from the proliferation of those of us once-a-year “Irish” sporting our green on St. Patrick’s Day or the way Chinese New Year virtually shuts down my largely Asian neighborhood in Southern California.

In a more significant sense, Cinco de Mayo stands as an enduring icon of the underdog overcoming apparently insurmountable odds. Following the near riots in Los Angeles this past week, Cinco de Mayo reminds all of us of the Mexicans among us and their culture and heritage. As a life long Southern Californian raised in the barrio, who has dozens of hard working employees with a Mexican heritage, I add my “Ole” to Cinco de Mayo. May the blessings of hard work, family loyalty, and boisterous celebration of life so characteristic of Mexican culture and heritage continue to enrich our American experience. And, regardless of how you believe in fixing the "immigration problem," may we all move forward with justice, fairness, and Christian compassion. For my part, I will proudly enjoy a taco, enchilada, rice, beans, and guacamole tonight, thanking the Lord for the blessings of our Mexican sisters and brothers and what they have taught me about life, not just cuisine.

Gloria al Padre, al Hijo y al Espíritu Santo.
Como era en el principio, ahora y siempre,
por los siglos de los siglos.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Hints of New ABC Structure Emerge . . . Slowly, but This Could Actually Work!

Thanks to Dr. Stinnett, we have a few hints of how the ABC will probably look in the years to come. Due to the absence of an approved summary, Stinnett felt the need to speak in generalities in his recent blog entry ( Still the hints he offers afford readers an unusual insider's view of what things will likely look like.

Dr. Stinnett comments:

Unfortunately, there still has not been a sketch of that plan released, which makes it very difficult for me to discuss with any integrity.

In brief: The plan endorses a federation form of organization for the denomination. I have argued for a long time that federation is the best way for us to understand ourselves. Federation, however, can take several forms. As they say, the devil is in the details. This is not entirely a return to the societal days, but it is a movement in that direction. The General Board, as it functions now, will no longer exist. There will be no interlocking memberships between the General Board and the various program boards. Instead, each will become radically smaller and self-sustaining. The means for maintaining connection and accountability is not yet settled. Likewise, while it is generally assumed that covenants will be the basis of our very loose union, the nature and content of those covenants has not even been part of a casual conversation.

Bottom line: leaner, smaller, less formally connected, moving in the direction of the old societal days. Reader alert (MY opinion): This will probably reduce the flash points of controversy which have plagued the ABC (and the other mainline denominations) for years. It will also allow for greater financial sustainability due to a smaller national staff and structure footprint. While this will not necessarily remove all of the controversies afflicting the body, it could staunch the flow of congregations exiting the denomination in a very significant way. Given the financial constraints facing the ABC, it is unfortunate that the GEC was not willing to give Medley the go-ahead to present the plan without further tinkering. As it stands, a full change will await the Pasadena biennial in 2009.

This direction has been suggested by savvy organizational theorists and ABC leaders for years. The fact that the Writing Team has come to agree with the direction is a blessing to the entire denomination. Dr. Medley should be congratulated for his part in helping move the plan through the maze of the bureaucracy. It would seem to hold the best hope for a continuation of the denomination during these difficult post-denominational days. In my opinion, the sooner the better.