Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Kentucky Fried Creationism

(Hat tip to Nasturtium for the mock-up Enquirer.)

The Creation Museum opened yesterday in Petersburg, KY, a community located about 20 minutes from my church. (Actually just about everything in northern Kentucky is located within 20 minutes of the church, which probably speaks volumes about the world view in these parts.) The museum spokespeople say they hosted about 4,000 visitors and noted some of those were "naysayers." Kentucky.com reports, however, that only 3,000 visited. According to our local news station, about 100 protestors held a "Rally for Reason" outside the entrance. They mentioned many of the protestors were scientists, but did not mention that Christians like local minister, Rev. Mendle Adams, pastor of St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Cincinnati, were also in attendance. Boone County's finest were also well represented just in case the protests were, um, unruly. And flying above all this spectacle was a small airplane with a banner proclaiming, "Thou Shalt Not Lie."

For the record, I did not go. Like most of you, I saw the photos of humans living peacefully together with dinosaurs -
Oh, wait, I mean this picture:

And I thought, "Why bother?" Sure it might be fun. But mostly it would be annoying. And who wants to pay $19.95 to be annoyed? Let me give an example. The museum asserts that dinosaurs existed in the garden and because the garden was created "very good" all animals would have been vegetarians. It wasn't until after the "fall" that dinosaurs got a taste for blood. And yet, they then proceed to claim that dinosaurs were on Noah's Ark. Well, this takes place well after the fall. I shudder to think of what carnage took place on that tiny ark. Maybe that's when the unicorns met their demise.

Indeed, The foundational premise of the museum is flawed. The museum purports to take the creation account as found in Genesis as literally and factually true. That is, that God created the world in six 24-hour days on a planet just 6,000 years old. But that only takes into account Genesis chapter 1. Before you get halfway through Genesis chapter 2, even the most literal Bible reader should be left with their unevolved brain spinning. Because, you see, Genesis chapter 2 contains a wholly different explanation for the creation of the world:

Genesis 1:1 - 2:4a

1In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

3Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

6And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

9And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. 12The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

14And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

20And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

24And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

26Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

29God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

2Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

4These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

Genesis 2:4b-25

4These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, 5when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— 7then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

8And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. 11The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. 14The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. 15The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.

16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

18Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.

21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” 24Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.

So, apparently Genesis 1 is factually and scientifically true. Genesis 2? Not so much. Indeed, it's been my experience that folks have only read the first chapter of the first book of the Bible (and selected verses from Leviticus apparently). Last year I did a study of these two chapters with a group of 80 year old ladies and the majority of these women - lifelong churchgoers - had no idea there were two creation stories in Genesis. I suspect that Ken Ham and the Universal Studios guy who developed the museum never heard of Genesis 2 either.

The bottom line is that the Bible was never meant to be read literally. And the Bible is not a history book. Nor is it a science book. Rather, it is stories that attempt to come to grip with existential questions about life and death and how we should live in the world. It's power doesn't come from the "fact" that it is literally true, but from its ability to transform hearts.

The Clergy Letter Project (which I signed about three years ago) puts it this way:
We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

If you plan to visit the Creation Museum, kindly check your brain at the door.

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