Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. — Romans 14:13
I understand why some Christians want the Church to embrace evolution. If more people accepted theistic evolution, perhaps we could stem the perceived anti-science image Millennials have of the Church. Religious scientists passionately, desperately want to show their fellow Christians how and why science and faith are compatible. I get it. That camp of the science-faith dialogues makes sense to me.
What makes less sense is why so many Christians I know are eager to highlight differences between themselves and those pesky creationists. Now I’m no Biblical expert–just a confused quasi-Hindu who enjoys Bible study and has countless Christian friends. But isn’t highlighting differences exactly the wrong thing to do? Aren’t we supposed to make every effort to keep “the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace?” If there is “no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female”… why do some Christians try so hard to separate into creationist and not-creationist? Since we must remember “a body made up of many parts is still one body”, don’t you hurt that body with division?
I would think the goal, as Russell Moore articulated, would be to create churches “united by the blood of Christ and the Spirit of Christ, not by economic status, ethnicity or blue collar vs. white.” Beliefs about the age of the Earth are largely irrelevant in this calculus. Rather than shy away from them, creationists should be embraced. They too are Christians.
The desire for acceptance is a strong desire. Who naturally wants to be reviled and segregated?
I’m curious. What do you mean when you say people are separating themselves from creationists? In other words, if people are simply differentiated their personal beliefs from the beliefs of the “average creationist,” then it may not at all be a divisive act, but rather a clarifying act in personal conversation between friends.
So I agree that divisively differentiating in a way that moves toward starting different churches and different groups is divisive. However, clarifying a personal belief or the belief of a group or church or clarifying that there are an array of beliefs isn’t divisive. In Christianity (as in other religions), there exists the problem of fragmentation on issues beyond creationism & science (that’s the least of them), and so there are so many denominations and sub-denominations. So your points are valid over and beyond the creation issues you mention here. I wonder what type of differentiating you are referencing.
Secondly, three thoughts pop to my mind.
I wonder if people are differentiating themselves from a creationist viewpoint or a whole set of viewpoints of which creationism is one.
I wonder if people are differentiating themselves from a creation understanding or creationISM. They might be different.
Lastly, related to those two thoughts, in Christianity, there is a type of movement to redefine it. In other words, some people who feel they are truly following in the way of Christ will use a different term rather than Christian because of the sociological or culturally geographical definition of Christian which might apply to a region or group or country of mostly secular (non-religious) people. So there is a cultural Christianity and maybe a more devout, active, or “true” Christianity.
First, some people try to differentiate their active, devout Christianity from people who live in a de facto Christian nation or Christians who attend church on Easter and Christmas. In that way, some of the people who are not really devout Christians or wouldn’t even call themselves Christians–some of those people might feel comfortable differentiating themselves from active Christians who have a creation understanding or are creationIST. This is especially true if these people don’t feel they are Christians.
Secondly, and more related to your point, when looking at people who are actively Christian (this can mean many things), there is a growing division. Some people feel that active cultural Christianity in mainstream Western society has moved away from the Way of Jesus. As such some Christians who follow in the Way of Jesus, choose not to call themselves Christians in order to differentiate (some denominations do this as well, but I’m talking about groups with emerging understandings of Christ and the Christian life). Others choose to call themselves Christians but they do not consider the others Christian. A good example was when I was in Palestine, talking with a Palestinian Arab Christian vicar (minister). He made a statement that still sits with me today, “Either you are a Christian and you work for peace because that is what a Christian does, or you are not a Christian. If you are not working for peace, you cannot call yourself a Christian.” In this way he is drawing a line in the sand between a cultural or nominal Christian which he doesn’t consider a real Christian and a Jesus-inspired, peace-making Christian in places of conflict. This happens on a whole host of levels.
All of that to say, I wonder if this group you’re referencing, if considering creation understanding or creationISM as one part of a host of ideologies or understandings, is differentiating themselves between something they consider to be truly Jesus-following over something they think isn’t.
Brilliant comment that gave me a lot to think about. I will get back to you in greater detail. I guess the short answer is that there is a difference between being divisive vs clarifying a belief. But the devil is in the details, and how you go about clarifying your beliefs is important. What I’ve seen (emphasis on me) is that it can very easily tend to being divisive and looking down upon “those Christians.” Of course, you definitely know more than me.
Thanks again for your thoughtful comment.
I suspect that a Christian who accuses other Christians of being in error, would say that it’s not himself but the one who is in error, that is causing the division.
In fact, I suspect that fairly often it’s creationists themselves who accuse others of being in error, for NOT taking the Bible at face value and thereby believing in a literal 7-day creation.
Personally, my problem with shutting out creationists is that whether God created in 7 days or via long evolutionary processes, is not something that is de fide but is a matter of interpretation. I think there should be room for varying interpretations so long as they don’t conflict with defined dogma (speaking as a Catholic).
Hi. Thanks for the comment and sorry for the slow reply. I was traveling from work. I think this is a fantastic point, and one I hadn’t considered (probably because I personally see the other side more often). That is, creationists themselves often criticize other Christians.
I agree with you about interpretation.