Memo to CNN and Bill Nye
Dr. James Emery WhiteJames Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.
- 2012 Sep 03
CNN recently ran an article about the YouTube slam on creationism, “Creationism Is Not Appropriate for Children,” by Bill Nye – also known as TV’s “Bill Nye the Science Guy.”
In the video, Nye maintains that the United States has great capital in scientific knowledge and “when you have a portion of the population that doesn’t believe in it, it holds everyone back.”
Translation: Creationists don’t believe in science.
Nye continues: “Your world becomes fantastically complicated if you don’t believe in evolution.”
Translation: Belief in science means belief in evolution.
Then CNN chimed in with its own set of conclusions:
“For Christians who read the Genesis account literally, or authoritatively as they would say, the six days in the account are literal 24-hour periods and leave no room for evolution. Young Earth creationists use this construct and biblical genealogies to determine the age of the Earth, and typically come up with 6,000 to 10,000 years.”
Translation: If you take the Bible at face value, and grant it authority in your life, you have to reject evolution and automatically become a young-earther.
If I may be so bold, here’s a memo to both Mr. Nye and CNN about the confusion that often exists within media and science in regard to the Christian faith.
To: Bill Nye and CNN
From: James Emery White (and I would suspect at least a few million others out of the two billion Christians currently living on the planet)
Re: Caricatures and Misunderstandings
I have read your recent article on Christians and creationism, generated by Mr. Nye’s video posting related to creationism on YouTube. It would seem that there are several misunderstandings, and even caricatures, about Christianity and creation.
Please consider the following:
*All Christians are creationists. We believe the opening line of the Bible that, in the beginning, God created all that is. How God performed His creative work is another matter. For that reason, please do not equate “creationism” with a particular view of the age of the Earth or the nature of God’s creative process.
*Christians can take the Bible literally, and authoritatively, without believing in a young Earth and a six 24-hour day creation. Yes, Genesis speaks of “days,” but it uses a very specific Hebrew word (“yom”) which can be taken to represent any number of time lengths. Most biblical scholars would maintain that the word “day” as used in Genesis was not meant for scientific precision, but as a literary device. More importantly, to take the Bible literally means to read it in regard to its genre and in view of authorial intent. It would be difficult to call a “literal” reading of the Genesis account as six literal 24-hour days when the sun and moon (necessary for 24-hour solar days) were not created until the fourth day.
*You can be a Christian and believe in an old Earth. Whether you believe God used some form of evolution for His creative process, or created by immediate fiat – or a mixture of both – the central idea of the Christian faith is that God was behind it, in it and through it. Some may be suspending judgment as to whether macro-evolution, particularly in relation to hominoids, has been sufficiently demonstrated. But whether it becomes conclusive in their minds or not, God’s creative reputation is far from at stake. Genesis teaches two things: God did it, and it was good. Whether that creation was by evolution or not, those two things remain.
*You can believe in an original Adam and Eve as part of a unique creation event while holding to an old Earth and evolution. Not all Christians would believe this, of course, but for those who call themselves “theistic evolutionists” this is precisely where they land. God used evolution as part of His creative process, and then uniquely supplied the breath of life to an original Adam and Eve as the first human beings with a soul, created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
*Christians are not anti-science. The Christian has nothing to fear from science because we believe the God of the Bible is the God of creation. All true scientific discoveries simply illuminate the world God has made. In return, please do not be anti-Christian.
This may be the most important rejoinder of all.
The role of faith in light of science is often upheld by scientists by trivializing it, reducing it to the likes of a favorite color, or preferred style of music. It is often maintained that science and religion deal with two different kinds of human “experience.” There is the experience which can be validated as fact (science), and there is the experience that can only be embraced in faith (religion). So believe what you want about God – that is your prerogative – just don’t treat it like you would a scientific reality.
It is to be granted that modern science is based on empirical evidence and testable explanation. One cannot put God in a test-tube and determine His existence. But there is more at hand here than science doing its job, and knowing its limitations in regard to matters of faith.
It is about limiting what religion can say about science.
The working idea is that we can maintain our religious faith and our scientific discoveries not by seeing both as operating in the realm of public truth – to be jointly engaged and interpreted accordingly – but by seeing them as separate categories altogether that should never be allowed to intertwine.
So if you wish to believe in God, fine; just don’t posit that this God actually exists as Creator, or that He could actually be pulled out to explain anything.
But that isn’t good science, and is, in fact, the very thing Christians are often accused of being: closed-minded.
Yes, we may think differently about things. As Harry Blamires has written, “To think secularly is to think within a frame of reference bounded by the limits of our life on Earth: it is to keep one’s calculations rooted in this-worldly criteria. To think Christianly is to accept all things with the mind as related, directly or indirectly, to man’s eternal destiny as the redeemed and chosen child of God.”
But we can agree on the need to think, and that includes thinking about the possibility of that which lies beyond the narrow confines of the empirical method.
So make your case for evolution, Mr. Nye, and by all means, CNN, keep reporting on such things. Just make sure you do not caricature the Christian view on such matters.
Much less Christians themselves.
James Emery White
“Bill Nye slams creationism,” Eric Marrapodi, CNN, August 27, 2012; read online.
“Creationism Is Not Appropriate for Children,” Bill Nye, posted on YouTube; view online.
Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is A Traveler's Guide to the Kingdom: Journeying through the Christian Life (InterVarsity Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.