I am going to try and make sense with this post, but please bear with me. I just got home late from being on call, and have given myself a one-hour time limit to put this post together. I’ll try to make my point concise, but I’m not sure I will be able to give a full analysis or present everything I want to say.
The other day I watched the HBO documentary Questioning Darwin (2014). The film portrays two “sides” in the creation/evolution debate. On the one hand they interview proponents of Young Earth Creationism, such as Ken Ham, Pastor Joe Coffey, and others. On the other hand, they have scientists speak on behalf of evolutionary science while at the same time telling Charles Darwin’s story about his discoveries, how he came to write The Origin of the Species, and the impact his journey had on his own faith. I’m going to try and watch it again sometime soon, because I want to be able to analyze it more carefully.
I just want to make one observation at this point, because a particular thought struck me with new impact while watching this film.
That observation is this:
I was impressed anew at how evangelical Christianity comes across as faith in a system rather than faith in the person of Jesus Christ.
The arguments Young Earth Creation proponents made all presupposed that:
- The Bible, as the inspired, inerrant Word of God, reveals a readily apparent, coherent system of belief, answering humankind’s most important questions.
- If we tamper with one part of the system (in this case, especially the “foundational truths” of Genesis 1-11), then we will lay the whole system waste.
- Our job, then, no matter what evidence comes to light through our study of nature, is to defend the system of the Bible at all costs.
The evangelical Christianity that this documentary displays, and I might add, the evangelical Christianity that I spent most of my adult life studying and teaching, is not, in the final analysis about Jesus, except insofar as Jesus is a part of the system. It is faith in the Bible that is more fundamental. It is believing in the system that is crucial. They are not just making a claim that reading the Bible aright leads to Jesus, it’s more than that. It is that the Bible is a divinely given systematic presentation of an entire worldview that must be believed in its entirety for one to be a faithful Christian (along with having “accepted” Jesus, of course). Indeed, beyond that, if we allow one crack in the wall of this system, society itself will become subject to moral decay, chaos, and ultimately destruction.
If somewhere within the Bible I were to find a passage that said two plus two equals five, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible, I would believe it, accept it as true and then do my best to work it out and to understand it.
This is not faith in Jesus, it’s faith in a certain understanding of what the Bible is and how it’s designed to speak to us. It’s not simply authoritative, it is the entire little box in which we live. This is naive biblicism. I would even call it “blind” faith, because so many who hold it, ironically, have so little knowledge of the Bible as it truly is.
There are ways in which the concepts of trusting the Bible and trusting Jesus come together. This is not it.
When your faith is in a system, this system becomes your “platform.”
Those who hold to it become the “party” of those defined by allegiance to the system.
The party begins to function as a “political” entity.
And the whole thing becomes a “partisan” affair in which faithfulness is defined as defending the system against all who suggest any other way.
In this film, the Christians who spoke weren’t just questioning Darwin. They were questioning anyone who didn’t line up 100% with the party line. That’s not faith in Jesus, that’s faith in the system.