Creationism, Atheism, and Progressive Christianity
I received replies from both literalists and atheists. Both took exception when I said that their definition of faith is too restrictive to be of any use.
The literalists expounded on the clichéd idea that “if we can’t believe the world is only 6000 (or so) years old, how can we believe anything the Bible says.” Simplistic at best.
The atheists were equally adamant, but from the opposite starting point. Their claim was that they don’t have “faith” in anything. All of their beliefs are founded in facts. Balderdash.
The literalists’ position is just willful denial of reality. The world, the universe, and even humanity, is much older than the tally proposed by Ussher in the 1600s. Robert Heinlein, in Job: a Comedy of Justice, has “God” resolve this by saying that he made a bunch of stuff “old” when he created the world just to mess with people’s heads. I’m pretty sure that Heinlein was kidding. And even if the Zeus-god that’s required for Creationism to work did exist and did indeed mess with us in that way, we’d have no way of knowing it. We must therefore take the world as we see it. It’s old. Billions of years old. Otherwise, since none of our science would be valid, none of our technology should work. Which means that you aren’t really reading this article on your computer, hundreds or thousands of miles away from where I’m writing it.
Creationism denies the statement “the truth will set you free.” Truth – aletheia – is unfolding and progressive. Creationism requires a denial of all of the knowledge we’ve gained over centuries of study. True Faith cannot be a denial of fact. Creationism is a non-starter.
Atheists, however, have their own problems of denial.
Atheism embraces science and our advancing understanding of way the universe works. So do I. Without our current medical expertise, I would undoubtedly be dead by now. Atheists state that our knowledge of things like the Big Bang proves that the traditional “god” of the Bible doesn’t exist. I think they’re right about that as well, for all of the reasons I’ve stated here and elsewhere.
But then they jump to the conclusion that because science has found answers to so many questions that it will eventually find a mechanical reason for everything, including how and why it all began.
That’s a leap of faith. A faith that they claim not to have.
We all have faith. Even if we call it something else.
Atheists challenge people of faith to provide “evidence” of the existence of God. Literalists have trouble with this. Partings of the Red Sea are not all that common, and most of what we call miracles can be demonstrated to be simply a series of fortunate coincidences.
But lack of evidence of the supernatural is not lack of evidence of Theos.
Science has long since passed the point of requiring the gross manifestation of effects to recognize the existence of something.
Rather, it works in the realm of observing an effect and then postulating a theory as to the cause.
In that same sense, I find evidence for the existence of Theos everywhere. It’s evident in the increasing complexity of life as documented in evolution; in the interconnectedness of that life on a multitude of levels. It’s evident in the actions of each of us; in the innate urge to compassion, justice and fairness; in the selflessness of someone jumping into a raging stream to save a stranger’s child; or in the simple act of dropping a few coins in a panhandler’s hat.
I observe the “network of mutuality” that Martin Luther King Jr. talked about, and I theorize that the universe and everything in it has Intent and Purpose.
You can call that theory what you like. I call it God.
Literalists don’t like this God because “he” doesn’t meddle in the working of the world. This God works by encouraging “good out of evil.” This God doesn’t force any course of action on anyone, nor prevent any consequence. This God leaves it to us to act, or not, on God’s underlying influence toward equality, justice, and compassion.
Atheists don’t like this evidence either. They too depend on a meddlesome deity because, finding no proof of one, they can safely maintain their faith in the omnipotence of science. Even when science makes no such claim for itself.
Atheists argue that what we experience isn’t “evidence.” Perhaps. But it is observation. And good science begins with the recognition of observation, not with its rejection. Atheists also argue that there’s no “need” for God in order to explain these observations. Perhaps. But there’s also no need for life to become more complex. In fact, entropy suggests that the opposite should hold true. Everything should be winding down, falling apart, becoming simpler. But it isn’t.
Evolution suggests that all living things, including human beings, always act selfishly, in our own best interests. We shouldn’t risk ourselves to save others. But we do.
Survival of the fittest should preclude throwing away money on homeless beggars. But it doesn’t.
My faith tells me it’s because Theos, that panentheistic expression of the immanent and transcendent Creator, exists.
The “evidence” may not be conclusive enough for an atheist or literal enough for a Creationist, but my observation is that it’s compelling enough to guide an entire universe.
That’s a faith I’m content to live with.