This is the week when we will find out for sure what LCMS Lutherans believe about creationism! I feel like this is something I’ve been wanting to know for years, but I’ve never really been able to ask my family directly, and the one time I asked my brother-in-law, he said he wasn’t totally sure but to check out the Concordia Theology blog for answers. So that’s what I’ve done, and it may finally tell us what Lutherans believe.
So far I have read and responded to the introduction to this series, as well as their Lutheran-colored analysis of Old Earth, Young Earth, and Evolutionary Creationism. This is the conclusion of Charles Arand’s series, and it’s called A Few Reflections on Creation in Genesis 1. In the beginning, Arand states,
“This post will consider some of the key biblical texts where our interpretation of Genesis 1 conflicts with the conclusions drawn by many scientists from their reading of nature (and its history). How to deal with these texts is crucial for the three evangelical camps [the three creationism options] in their quest to show that God’s ‘two books’ (the book of Scripture and the book of Nature) do not contradict each other.”
I’ve felt throughout reading a lot of Lutheran creationist literature that they often get so close to being right, but they just won’t settle with the rational option: science and religion conflict because they conflict. They can’t both be true. That’s how conflicting works. Instead of trying to do the gymnastics needed to make them fit, it is more worthwhile to find which has evidence. This makes it a lot easier to figure out which is true and which is false.
Before going on with trying to pinpoint the Lutheran option for creationism, which feels a lot to me like trying to nail jelly to the wall, the author skirts around the question by explaining that the creation story in Genesis is meant to show the uniqueness and almighty-ness of the Christian god. Arand explains that he is not like Zeus, Odin, or their religions because he isn’t polytheistic and doesn’t have human qualities like jealousy or the ability to be duped. Reading through the even just the book of Genesis should clear up the fact that at least once or twice, he is all of these things. So the creation story has failed already in this regard. Next.
I’ve decided to skip ahead from here to Arand’s reasoning concerning the age of the earth, but if you’d like to read the post, he does include some…interesting stuff, like why the seven-day week exists only because of Christianity, and why the mystical metaphor of an eight-day week inspires the octogonal shape of Lutheran baptismal fonts.
So, how old is the earth? Arand says,
“Although the Scriptures do not give a specific age to the earth or a specific date for its creation, the Scriptures portray a world that has been created in the relatively recent past, that is, within a historical span of time measured in thousands of years rather than millions or billions of years.”
He later states,
“Exactly how recently did God create it? We simply can’t say definitively on the basis of Scripture. We can offer suggestions and guesses . . . but that is as far as we should go.”
After this long study, Arand gives pretty much the same response that my pastor-in-law gave me when I asked him about his beliefs: that he doesn’t know exactly how or when God created the universe. He said that this was second in importance to the fact that he did it. One of my friends does something similar in that she seems to want to be able to accept evolution as true, but for her, she just can’t fit it into the biblical narrative.
I’ve found there to be three main camps of Christian belief regarding creationism. You have your Young Earth Creationists, which, say what you want about them, but at least they are absolutely positive about what they believe, pretty much down to the day the earth began. Ken Ham has no wiggle room in his doctrine. Then you have the Evolutionary Creationists, which includes every Christian I know who is also a scientist, like my biology-major roommate from my Christian college, and also Francis Collins.
But there’s this third camp, including my brother-in-law and my college friend, where they feel as if their hands are tied and they aren’t allowed to say whether a literal Genesis might possibly be wrong. They tend to border more on being YECs, because it’s safe and it’s not the kind of thinking that will get them in trouble.
I think this is where Arand is. He seems stumped by the blatant contradictions between Scripture and nature. After talking to people with different beliefs, and a handful of scientists, he seems to say, “Huh. Well. I didn’t really expect them to make such good points. It seems that Genesis doesn’t actually line up with science as well as I hoped it would. I guess I can’t say one way or another what the real truth is.” What he actually says is,
“When we encounter conflicts between the conclusions reached by Scripture and science it is natural for us to ask how they can be resolved. God created us to want to understand the world around us, and to find answers to all the questions that our study of the Bible and of the world raises. We want answers, but sometimes we cannot find them.
In this we share Habakkuk’s dilemma as we wonder how long it will be until we see all things fully revealed. It can be hard to hear God say, ‘Wait for it’ (Hab 2:3). Like Habakkuk, God calls us to wait in faith. Until that day, genuine faithfulness requires us to confess the truth of God’s Word while having enough humility to recognize that when the Word of God does not speak directly to a question, we may have to live without answers.”
And this really is a shame. Without the bible to tell us how old the earth and universe are, how could we ever figure it out?
If only there were ways to try to see how old the Earth is….
Really, it’s such a shame that there is no way at all to tell…
It’s not like the Earth’s materials have their age stamped right on them!
Oh well! I guess we’ll never know!