As you may know, a while ago my pastor-in-law informed me and my fiance that he had found this blog. The following conversation was interesting, of course, but it probably went about as well as it could have. I took this opportunity of openly talking about our beliefs to ask him a few questions, as well. I’d always been under the impression that the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod was a strict believer in young-earth creationism stemming from a literal interpretation of Genesis; this had actually been one of my biggest reasons for deciding I couldn’t accept its teachings or religion at all.
So that’s what I told him when he asked what some of my biggest problems were with LCMS teaching. When I inquired about his own beliefs, he said he hadn’t specifically made up his mind as to what he believes about the age of the earth, only that he know God was capable of anything and whatever happened, it was God’s doing. He had seen my last post on LCMS creationism where I responded to what I believe to be a ridiculous YEC article from the Synod president, and he referred me to a somewhat more intelligible source: the Concordia Theology blog.
Beginning in December 2017, writers for the Concordia blog began publishing a series of articles on creation. They express that, as we know, there are various viewpoints among Christians as to how it all went down, and it’s somewhat of a hot topic theologically. As my brother-in-law said, the LCMS isn’t as solidly decided on its position as I’d always thought it was.
The first article in this series is titled, “A Travel Guide to the Evangelical Creation Debates: Introduction“. Before introducing the different “sides” of creation debates, the author justifies his reasoning:
“Furthermore, I believe that it is important for us to become familiar with these debates and the various camps or “teams” engaged in them, for two reasons. First, all of the camps in these faith and science debates publish extensively and address an audience that often dwarfs The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. This means they may even influence our own pastors and people who will run across their materials online and in Christian bookstores. Second, if we are going to be drawn into these debates, we need to know who the various teams are and the particular positions that they seek to defend and promote. It is kind of like having a map or ‘travel guide’ by which we can follow along.”
After cautioning Lutheran readers that none of the three ideological positions are expressly Lutheran, he identifies them as “Evolutionary Creationists (who hold to both an old earth and theistic evolution)” on one end, “Young Earth Creationists (who reject both old earth views and evolution, theistic or otherwise)” on the other, with “Old Earth Creationists (who hold to an old earth view but reject theistic evolution)” somewhere in between. These are all terms I am all too familiar with, as I am what I could only call an atheistic evolutionist according to this terminology.
I’ve always found the Christian camps of creation/evolution belief to be interesting because I don’t think they really have any right way to go about it. Sure, I’d say that evolutionary creationists (also known as theistic evolutionists) have got it closest to the real truth of biological evolution, but if you’re a Christian and trying to believe that, you’d have to do some real gymnastics to make this truth fit with the biblical narrative. Similarly, I’d say that young earth creationism most closely ties in with the Genesis account, but anyone accepting that now has to do even worse gymnastics in order to fit their beliefs with the reality of scientific discovery.
So as an atheist, I suppose I don’t really have a bias for any of these three views over the others. And I’m not trying to determine which I “believe” either, since after years of examination, I’ve decided my beliefs lie in the realm of naturalistic evolution following a deity-free big bang. Here, I just want to follow along to learn what the LCMS really has to say on creationism, and see how close they can get to an official position on the question. I’ve always wondered what my family believes in regards to origins, from my mom to my pastor’s-wife sister to my super-smart other sister who is a doctor but is also married to a non-denominational believer. Maybe one day I can ask them, or even interview them, but for now I can stay ahead of the game by learning what their own denomination’s leaders believe.
The article’s author next outlines what these three “camps” share in terms of concerns and goals, listing their concern as “the prevailing culture” (essentially, the teaching of evolution in public school classrooms and occasionally even in churches), their motivation as “evangelistic and pastoral” (trying to win back deconverts who left the church after feeling forced to choose between faith and science), and their means as “apologetics” (using the metaphor of “God’s two books” of scripture and nature, which apologists love to say cannot conflict because they are both true, using the law of non-contradiction). He also points out that the three positions have a lot in common, essentially that they all stem from bible-believing conservative and fundamentalist Christians with different scriptural interpretations.
Although I admit that this seems so far to be a modest enough study of biblical creation, it didn’t let me forget that it is, at bottom, much more about faith than it is about science. Apologists often like to appeal to the truth of both nature and scripture, but I’m quite positive that when they do (inevitably) conflict, their faith always snaps them back to put the truth of the bible above all else. I’m reminded of this in the next paragraph of the article:
“As a result, all three of these camps also reject neo-Darwinistic or naturalistic evolution, which can be defined as:
“‘The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments’ (National Association of Biology Teachers).” (I love their audacity to directly reject a statement from an association of biology teachers before their study has even begun!) “This rules out any supernatural activity of God in the origin and development of life and of humans, and hence makes a naturalistic metaphysic the basis of science. (“Report of the Creation Study Committee” [Presbyterian Church in America, 2000], 2317)”
The author goes on to explicitly explain that all three positions are creationist and that they believe in God and Jesus and the bible and the resurrection, but that they are not only theological but also scientific positions which arise from “questions raised by science for the Bible”. He outlines that the following posts will look into each creationist position in-depth (which, in turn, I will respond to, so my posts in this series will be mirroring his). After gathering information from what I could only call “creation-scientists” in a faintly Strobel-esque style, he will piece together a Lutheran view of creationism, which he calls The Lutheran Option. I’m excited to see what he comes up with and how it differs from what I’ve always thought Lutherans have believed.