Having spent almost a decade studying Answers in Genesis (AiG) and the Creation Museum, we sometimes forget how foreign the young earth creationist world is to a large swath of the American public.
It was great to be at the First Baptist Church of Peoria last weekend, where our old friend (and occasional Righting America blogger) Dr. Rodney Kennedy is the interim pastor. It turned out that the weekend marked the 50th anniversary of Rod’s ordination. It was such a privilege to be with him that occasion and to hear the enthusiastic applause from the congregation during Sunday morning worship.
I (Bill) had the privilege of making two presentations on Righting America. I presented one, which I wrote, on Saturday afternoon titled “A Literal Word: The Remarkable History of Creationism.” I presented another, which Sue wrote (she could not come along on the trip due to a minor illness) on Sunday afternoon. It was titled “Science and Righting America at the Creation Museum.” At each talk there were approximately 60 individuals (a few of whom were from the outside community) in attendance, and I could not have asked for a more gracious and attentive audience.
And, I have to say, bewildered. In this regard, and as we often are, I was struck by the gulf between young earth creationist fundamentalists and other Christians and other Americans. Here are some of the questions I was asked:
- How could Noah have fed all those animals for a year?
- How could he have had dinosaurs on the Ark?
- Do they really believe that humans and dinosaurs were on the earth at the same time?
- How can they reject carbon-14 dating?
- When they say “inerrant Bible,” which translation are they talking about?
- How can they pretend that the two creation stories in Genesis 1-2 are really just one account?
- Who could believe that the universe is less than 10,000 years old?
- Is there anything scientific about creation science? Anything logical?
I repeatedly responded that young earth creationists have answers for all these questions and objections. But the AiG answers I shared – e.g., Noah brought very young dinosaurs onto the Ark, and anyway, most dinosaurs were not that large – were received with incredulity and even laughter. Who could believe such explanations?
The most poignant moment of the weekend came when I was asked this question:
- How can I have meaningful conversations with my fundamentalist relatives about these matters?
I confess that I had no good answer to this question. But as I thought about it while driving back to Dayton on Sunday evening, I was reminded that fundamentalist apologetics – and that is what AiG is all about – is not about furthering dialogue with the other. It is even not primarily about converting the other. Instead, and as we note in Righting America,
The AiG apologetics ministry is designed to give people the Truth and make sure they are so fully indoctrinated in the Truth that they do not budge from the Truth. To use the warlike imagery so beloved by Ken Ham, AiG provides not only the “Christian patriot missiles” with which to attack the enemy, but also (and perhaps more importantly) a suit of armor that will ensure complete protection from the enemy, including an extraordinarily thick helmet that will render the mind impervious to dangerous ideas (208).
And, I am afraid, impervious to meaningful dialogue. That is to say, the gulf between young earth creationists and other Christians and other Americans is not an accident.