by William Trollinger
In our first few visits to the Creation Museum we were repeatedly surprised by the Creation Museum’s lax treatment of the Bible.
According to Answers in Genesis (AiG) the Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant, without error and factually accurate in all of its assertions, including its claims about science and history. Because God spoke every word, the Bible has no mistakes and no contradictions. Because God spoke every word, the Bible is so clear that everyone everywhere at any time can understand what it means (Righting America, 111-114).
Given the museum’s strong commitment to a divinely inspired and inerrant Bible, we expected the museum to be extremely careful in its handling of biblical text. But no. Instead, in our examination of the museum’s placards we discovered:
- Verses or parts of verses missing, but with no ellipses to indicate text had been removed.
- A mishmash of biblical translations, sometimes multiple translations used in one verse.
- Creative editing with no alerts to readers that the text had been rewritten.
- A misleading lack of context for the biblical quotes (Righting America, 122-133).
Whatever the museum may claim about the Bible as “God-breathed,” it is certainly not committed to a careful, judicious presentation of the text. But while in the beginning we were stunned by this, over time it came to make sense, as we realized that the museum’s loose handling of biblical text is directly related to inerrancy’s great shortcoming.
While AiG (and other fundamentalists) repeatedly claim that the Bible is “perspicacious,” so clear that it is easily understood, the reality is that Christians – even Christians who are committed to a literal understanding of the text – have developed an incredible variety of interpretations on an incredible variety of topics.
Here is a great conundrum. Biblical inerrancy does not change the reality that written texts are unstable, “roll[ing] around everywhere” (in the words of Plato), falling into the hands of various readers who come up with multitudes of wide-ranging interpretations (Righting America, 135).
But fundamentalists cannot admit inerrancy does not solve this problem. At the Creation Museum there is no acknowledgment that there is a wide variety of interpretations – even among evangelicals and fundamentalists – regarding the Creation, the Flood, and the rest of Genesis 1-11. What you get at the museum is a young Earth creationist interpretation of Genesis, presented not as an interpretation, but simply as the clear and obvious Truth of the Bible.
So there it is. Instead of “the careful presentation of the inerrant biblical text,” the “museum is most interested in making the case for . . . the young Earth creationist interpretation” (Righting America, 137).
Once we understood this about the Creation Museum, then it made perfectly good sense that the museum would cut verses and portions of verses without alerting museumgoers, would mix and match biblical translations, would engage in the creative editing of biblical text, would provide no context for verses that are being used. What matters is not the Bible, but a particular interpretation of the Bible presented as the True Interpretation. If a cavalier treatment of biblical text advances the cause, so be it.
As regards the Ark, it has its own distinctive and equally creative approach to the Bible. That will be our next post.