This week, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary named creationist Kurt P. Wise to replace outgoing Intelligent Design proponent William Dembski. The theological and scientific differences between Dembski and Wise are deep and wide. Intelligent Design and creationism are not co-conspirators trying to overthrow Darwinian evolution.
While the press railed against efforts to introduce Intelligent Design into classrooms, spokespersons at the Discovery Institute routinely distanced their theory from creationism and from those who wanted to teach ID in science classrooms. At the same time, creationists were warning their millions of followers about the dangers of ID. Its foundation in science, not the Bible; its willingness to accept large aspects of evolutionary theory; and perhaps a little jealousy of ID's quick rise to prominence make ID unacceptable to creationists.
Besides, they don't need ID's help to topple evolution. They're doing just fine. An April CBS poll found that 44 percent of Americans believe God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years.
Across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, just off of the 275 bypass, is the almost completed Creation Museum being built by Answers in Genesis. AiG was formed in the United States 11 years ago by Australian Ken Ham, Mark Looy, and Mike Zovath. AiG's international chapters date back 25 years. But in AiG's short time in the U.S., it has built a ministry of 140 employees holding 300 conferences each year and distributing magazines, books, curricula, as well as a radio program on 750 stations.
The crown of AiG's ministry will be its creation museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The $25 million museum is expected to be complete by spring 2007 and fully paid for. It will be a Mecca for an expected 250,000 annual visitors for whom the museum is not just a fun family excursion, but a biblical answer to their local natural history museum.
The museum will trace the seven Cs of history: Creation, Corruption (the fall), Catastrophe (the flood), Confusion (Babel), Christ, the Cross, and Consummation (the Second Coming). So, only one seventh of the Creation Museum will specifically teach six-day creation. The rest focuses on telling the story of the Bible and teaching biblical authority and biblical interpretation. Outside the museum, trails through 50 landscaped acres will take visitors along paths with interpretive signs explaining aspects of creation.
But the growth of AiG's ministry doesn't put a smile on the face of Mark Looy, vice president of outreach. "We're ministering to many, many more people. We're seeing a lot of people saved," Looy says. "But the other side of that coin is if the church had been doing its job in the Bible colleges and been doing its job to equip people to defend their faith, we wouldn't be a ministry."
"Our growth really is kind of an indictment on a church that's either ignored the issue of the authority of the Bible in Genesis or even compromisedtheistic evolution, progressive creation," Looy says. Elsewhere he calls Genesis the most-attacked book of the Bible.
But such "compromise positions," as Looy calls them, are not limited to versions of the gap theory, which allows for any amount of time to be inserted between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. The most recent attack on Genesis, one that to AiG's dismay is accepted and promoted by evangelicals, is Intelligent Design.
Riding on the coattails
"I don't think the ID movement would be where it is even now if it was not for the general creation movement," says Ken Ham, president of AiG. "They're riding on the coattails of the creation movement."
Last year, Ham says, AiG sent out 5 million pieces of literature from its Kentucky warehouse, including books, tracts, and DVDs. That much material, along with AiG's conferences and the work of other creation ministries, is having an impact on the general culture, Ham says.
Looy says AiG is not a political organization. "We believe the culture can be best changed at the grassroots level, and then those people in their communities affect the local school boards." Still, AiG sees its ministry having political impact. "We basically just disseminate information," says Ham. "But those people get on school boards and in politics. We're an indirect influence."
In fact, says Terry Mortenson, an AiG lecturer and researcher, creation ministries were a major influence in last year's ID curriculum battles. "The creation movement has been developing for three decades before the leaders of the ID movement even realized this was something they should study. So without the creation movement, I don't think ID would be getting any attention."
"I would venture to guess," says Mortenson, "that it would be very likely that the majority of people who are trying to influence the schools are creationists rather than ID [proponents]." ID, he says, was seen as a way to challenge evolution without violating court rulings on the separation of church and state.
"ID is perceived as a midway point between these two radical views of naturalistic evolution and fundamentalist creationism that has gained such popularity in a short period of time," says Mortenson.
But six-day creationists, such as AiG, aren't so enthusiastic about ID.
Doubts about design
ID isn't opposed to evolution, says Ham; it's really just opposed to naturalism. Not only that, says Mortenson, ID proponents say they're not even interested in the Bible.
"So you've got this group that's not about the Bible," says Ham. "You've got the secular press saying this is just a way to get the Bible back in the schools, because many of the Christians who think ID is great think it is a way to get the Bible back into schools. [At the same time] the ID movement's trying to divorce themselves from that saying it's not [about the Bible]. The secular press is saying yes it is. And many of the Christians who are behind them are really doing it because they are Christians."
But Christians are being duped, Mortensen says. "Most if not all of the ID books are published by evangelical Christian publishers, which are marketing to an evangelical audience. And our concern is that [although] in those books there are good design arguments, there are statements sprinkled in them implying or stating openly that Genesis isn't important."
"We're concerned about the influence it's having on the church," says Mortenson, "causing Christians to not be concerned about what Genesis says."
This can weaken Christians' faith, says Ham. "Those of us who believe in a literal Genesis have a history, a history concerning the Fall, a history concerning the Flood. So when we look at this world, we're looking at a fallen world. It's not God's fault there are tsunamis. Death is not God's fault." However, by only discussing an unnamed designer, Ham says, flaws in creation must be attributed to that designer.
"The intelligent being has spoken," says Mortenson. "To ignore his word is a serious problem."
"In a subtle way, none of the ID people are coming out and attacking the Bible," says Mortenson, "but by leaving the Bible on the side and saying Genesis isn't really important, and we don't need to worry about that, is a very subtle form of undermining the authority of the Bible in the church."
And the Bible is clear, says Mortenson and Ham, that you can not insert millions or billions of years into Genesis. "I've had personal conversations with a couple of leading systematic theologians who believe that the fall had a cosmic impact," Mortenson says. "You can't have millions of years of death and suffering and extinction of the dinosaurs millions of years before man ever was created, and then have a cosmic impact of the Fall."
"What good is it if people believe in intelligence?" says Ham. "That's no different than atheism in that if it's not the God of the Bible, it's not Jesus Christ, its not salvation."
Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Also posted today is:
Science in Wonderland | Getting some perspective (250 million years' worth) on the evolution controversy.
Christianity Today's coverage of science, evolution, and Intelligent Design includes:
God by the Numbers | Coincidence and random mutation are not the most likely explanations for some things. (March 10, 2006)
Intelligent Design Is Too Religious For Schools, Judge Rules | "Abundantly clear" that it's updated creationism, he says. (Dec. 21, 2005)
Design Film Sparks Angst | Under fire, Smithsonian disavows presentation on Intelligent Design. (July 6, 2005)
Science that Backs Up Faith | There is overwhelming evidence for a creator, says Lee Strobel. (June 1, 2005)
Verdict that Demands Evidence | It is Darwinists, not Christians, who are stonewalling the facts. (March 28, 2005)
Were the Darwinists Wrong? | National Geographic stacks the deck. (Nov. 23, 2004)
The Art of Debating Darwin | How to intelligently design a winning case for God's role in creation. (Sept. 08, 2004)
Unintelligent Debate | It's time to cool the rhetoric in the Intelligent Design dispute. (Sept. 03, 2004)
The Dick Staub Interview: William Dembski's Revolution | The author of Intelligent Design set out to answer the toughest questions about the movement he helped promote. (March 30, 2004)
'A Nuclear Bomb' For Evolution? | Critics of Darwinism say skull's discovery isn't all it's cracked up to be. (Aug. 14, 2002)
Your Darwin Is Too Large | Evolution's significance for theology has been greatly exaggerated. (May 25, 2000)
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