I’ve been reading Kenneth Miller’s book Finding Darwin’s God for a class I’m taking. Although I’ve been out of fundamentalism long enough (about two years) for most of this information to be old news to me, some parts have challenged me to think about how low of an opinion of God I had as a fundamentalist.
In the chapter I just finished, “God the Charlatan,” Miller (who is himself both a scientist and a believer in God) takes on the fundamentalist idea that God created the earth with the appearance of age. And not just the appearance of age, apparently, but with a consistent appearance of 4.5 billion years of age.
According to Miller, “this sounds like a deception most cruel. Their Creator deliberately rigged a universe with a consistent–but fictitious–age in order to fool its inhabitants.”
He continues (emphasis mine),
What saddens me is the view of the Creator that their intellectual contortions force them to hold. In order to defend God against the challenge they see from evolution, they have had to make Him into a schemer, a trickster, even a charlatan. Their version of God is one who intentionally plants misleading clues beneath our feet and in the heavens themselves. Their version of God is one who has filled the universe with so much bogus evidence that the tools of science can give us nothing more than a phony version of reality.
I am not a Biblical literalist. But even in a literalist perspective, is this really the God that the Bible puts forth?
Is this the God who “is not the author of confusion/disorder?”
Is this the God who “cannot lie?”
Is this the God of whom “the heavens declare the glory?”
According to Miller, to worship the God of young earth creationism, one must “reject science and worship deception itself.” As a former young earth creationist, I agree.
The fundamentalist God I once believed in was extremely fragile, in constant need of defense. And everything was a threat, even creation itself. The best way to worship God was to know as little about the world that God created as possible.
I don’t think that view does God justice.
I don’t think that view even does the book of Genesis justice.
In the words of Michael Gungor,
Genesis is a poem if I’ve ever seen one.
It’s full of refrain, metaphor, and rhythm.
And God said that it was good.
Over and over like the hook of a pop song, like a wave sculpting its shores…this is good, this is good. The poetic refrain of Genesis hammers the wonder and beauty of a creator making a good creation into our hearts.
In a science book, you’d have to discredit a text like this for glaring logical errors like the creation of light before stars, or days before an earth and a sun. In a poem, you don’t have to worry about such things. You simply can enjoy it’s beauty and hear the voice of God as it speaks over and over.
By trying to force them into my tiny fundamentalist box, I missed the amazing complexities of nature. I missed the poetic beauty that some ancient writer used to describe that creator.
And I missed the Creator herself.
I missed the creative wisdom in the laws of nature and physics and I settled for a world that was haphazardly spoken into existence.
I’m still forming thoughts and words for what I actually believe about God. But I do know this, the god I worshipped as a fundamentalist was too small.
What if we can trust God not to lie to us? What if the heavens really do declare, and not deceptively lead us away from, God’s glory? What if God gave us brains that could at least in part understand the world around them and those brains really were good?
What if, by trusting that creation is what it seems to be saying it is–old, yet constantly evolving into fascinating newness–we are actually doing God justice?
As Kenneth Miller says, “As we walk through the gates, aware of the dazzling richness of the genuine biological world, there might even be a smile on the Creator’s face–at long last [God's] creatures have learned enough to understand [God's] world as it truly is.”