“On the Outside Looking In”

I’ve never been a staunch evolutionist or creationist. At times I’ve leaned slightly more to the creationist side but I never really embraced it completely. There were too many holes for me. But evolution has always seemed so random. When I look at a baby, I find it difficult to believe we’re all here because of a random big bang. So I suppose you could call me an evolutionary creationist.

I don’t really care too much about the origins of the earth aside from simple curiosity. I think there is a God who created the earth, but I also don’t think Genesis is a historical science textbook. Evolution is definitely part of the picture, but I don’t believe in the big bang theory. And I’m okay with that general outline. I don’t need to know every last detail or have a big overarching theory. The fundamentals of creation don’t affect my faith one way or the other.

I’ve found a lot of peace on this subject by reading Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam. His argument is that the creation story in Genesis is just that: it’s a story. It’s a myth used by the ancient Israelites to set apart their God from those of other surrounding nations, an inspired myth if you will. Adam isn’t someone who existed; he’s a representation of humankind (which means Eve wasn’t a real person either, and we can all stop blaming her for the world’s troubles).

Here’s the Adventist Church’s belief on creation:

6. Creation – God is Creator of all things, and has revealed in Scripture the authentic account of His creative activity. In six days the Lord made “the heaven and the earth” and all living things upon the earth, and rested on the seventh day of that first week. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of His completed creative work. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was “very good,” declaring the glory of God. (Gen. 1; 2; Ex. 20:8-11; Ps. 19:1-6; 33:6, 9; 104; Heb. 11:3.)

We disagree. Fine. I’m okay with that.  So you think this would be the end of the conversation.  But the Church isn’t.

Adventists tend to get defensive when they talk about creation; they don’t like being told that their belief is stupid and naive. Well, nobody likes being told that; I certainly don’t.  I really don’t care one way or the other: if you want to believe in creation, go ahead.  I’m not going to to try and change your mind.  If that’s what you believe, you’re entitled to do so.  End of discussion, right?

Well, it would be if the Church wasn’t so vehemently opposed to any evolutionary theory infiltrating its doors that one of its spokespeople has said you’re either an Adventist or an evolutionist: you can’t be both.

Well, I don’t really appreciate the labelling and trying to boil one’s faith down to a black and white “you either believe or you don’t” ultimatum when faith is so much more fluid and complex than that.  But again – fine. Lucky for me, I’m not terribly concerned about this because it’s not like there’s someone coming around every week checking to see if I can spout back the 27 fundamental beliefs of the Adventist church and whether or not I truly believe in them by making me submit to a lie detector test before I enter the church’s front door (although that would be kind of interesting because I’m curious about how strong other’s people’s beliefs are on some of them). Whatever. So that’s got to be the end of this, right?

Nope. I really don’t care if the church says I’m not a ‘true’ Adventist (whatever that is) if I don’t fully, 100% believe in a literal 6 day creation (the church’s world president would like it to be a literal six 24-hour days). But I get pretty offended and angry when the a church spokesperson says he doesn’t respect someone like me who thinks there’s a way to bridge the two and shows contempt for those who don’t fall in line, even going so far as to question our faith.

This quarter the church’s Bible study guides center on creation, which is the only reason why I’m even bringing this up.  I’ve been irked by a lot of the language in the quarterly, language like this:

So crucial to our relationship with God is our trust of God and of His Word. If we can’t trust the Word of God on something as foundational and as explicitly stated as the Genesis Creation in six literal days, what can we trust Him on?

Why would it be dangerous to link our theology to any scientific theory, especially when science so often changes?

Look at the incredible diversity of fruit and vegetables and other edibles.  How do they present powerful evidence of God’s love for us?  Why is it absurd to think that all these things were created, as evolution teaches, by random processes?

*Sigh*

I’ve heard Adventists say that people who think evolution has something to do with creation are clearly being influenced by the devil.  Language like this and the above noted citation from the quarterlies are not only untrue and unhelpful, but condescending and dangerous: it implies that there’s only one true faith – only one way of believing – and if you don’t believe that, not only are you wrong, but you’re unfaithful, immoral, un-Adventist and un-Christian.

Why do we do this to each other?  Why can’t we have civil discussion about this topic without pointing our fingers and basically calling each other unbelievers?  Why is it always ‘my way or the highway?’  Are Adventists really that insecure about their faith that they need to shout down all of those who think a little bit differently?  Are we all supposed to be exactly the same?

Here’s the thing that really gets me, though.  Adventists discredit the science behind evolution, but when the independent scientific studies come out about the health benefits of the Adventist vegetarian lifestyle or the superiority of the Adventist education system, Adventists trumpet those studies as validation that their beliefs are the right ones.  Really?  Is that not ironic?

Another thing.  Adventists believe in present truth, which I understand as a belief that theology is not fixed; it changes as our understanding grows and new data comes to light.  For whatever reason, we refuse to apply this to creation.  Why?  What makes creation special?  For Adventists, I think the problem is that they believe that relinquishing belief in a literal 7 day creation week somehow weakens the argument that Sabbath should be observed on Saturday.  Here’s my question: isn’t the fact that Jesus, whom we believe to be the Son of God, worshipped on the Sabbath good enough?

I say all of this as an Adventist.  As I mentioned previously, there are lots of things I love about Adventism.  But I’m getting really tired of being told that I’m not as good of an Adventist or Christian as others because I don’t think and act exactly like whatever Adventist ideal exists.

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