Evidence and Faith: The Creationist Paradox

There is a fundamental tension in young-earth creationism. It is claimed that there is evidence for not only creation but a young earth that anyone with an open mind will be persuaded by. Many other theologians and preachers, however, have found themselves speaking of a need for faith in order to perceive God’s hand, whether in nature, in history or in personal circumstances. The puzzle is this: if God created things directly and recently in their present form, and was willing to provide evidence that he did so, then why would an omnipotent, omniscient (and perhaps also omnivorous) deity not inscribe “(c) God Year 1 Day 6” somewhere on the human person where modern microscopes could find it, in English (since God would have foreknown that all these debates would arise with Darwin and predominate in an English-speaking context). If God works in the way ancient peoples and modern young-earth creationists believe, then this is the sort of evidence we would expect. Indeed, such evidence is less dramatic than the sort provided in Biblical stories, with fire from heaven or parted seas annihilating enemies. Where is the shower of fossils and dinosaur bones to descend in judgment and wipe out those pernicious scientists who dare to support evolution merely because all the available evidence supports it?

If, on the other hand, seeing God at work in the universe requires faith, then the attempt to provide clear-cut evidence that so-called creation scientists engage in is not only doomed to failure, it is fundamentally misguided. Of course, there are plenty of other options as well – among them, that God worked through natural processes in a way that is not detectable, except perhaps in the sense that one can intuit it. But be that as it may, the question for young-earth creationists remains: If God created in the way they claim and left evidence that he did so, why would God leave the sort of evidence that would convince the ignorant but not the well-informed, the gullible but not those employing the scientific method? As Ken Miller has helpfully shown, young-earth creationism isn’t merely not science. It is also bad theology, offering a very dubious portrait of God.
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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10790230046425439946 -joe

    your blog killed my computer 4 times. i finally was able to get on long enough to get to the comment section. it was rather difficult though–I have one point I’d like to discuss, not really about the topic at hand (that being Creationism) but of your sentence in the second paragraph “If God created in the way they claim…why would God leave the sort of evidence that would convince the ignorant but not the well-informed…”This is probably a simple case of semantics, but the Scriptures repeatedly state that God shuns the wise and gives grace to the humble. That man’s science is nothing in the eys of God. -joe

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    xiphkmMy blog is and evil plot to kill your computer…ha ha ha! Just kidding – I’m not sure why that happened. I know that lots of the extra feeds and stuff can take a while to load on dial-up, but since the blog itself works fine for me on dial-up, I assumed that it would function fine for just about everyone. :(My answer to your theological point is that I don’t understand God’s bias in the Bible towards people who are foolish, poor, humble and of low status to mean that God provides evidence for his existence that looks persuasive to the gullible but doesn’t stand up under close scrutiny. For me, the references in question are primarily about God using something as foolish as the cross, which is not about evidence or intelligence but about God and God’s Messiah being humble, accepting rejection, and undergoing suffering.You may note that there is nothing in the Bible to say that ‘man’s science is nothing in the eyes of God’. Of course, “science” is a modern notion, and basically means “knowledge”. But at its heart the problem is this: You will find yourself claiming that God placed evidence in the geological record that would only persuade someone who doesn’t know much about geology, and evidence in our own cells that would only convince someone who failed biology. Is that really an appropriate portrait of the Biblical God? When it says “The heavens declare the glory of God”, do they really only declare them to people who are willing to believe that God engages in deceptive measures such as creating the light en route to mislead intelligent people regarding the age of the universe?