When a pastor/speaker mentions Creation in a sermon title, most of us prepare for a presentation on fossils, the ark, dinosaurs and apes—and at least one awkward picture of Adam and Eve with some very fortunately placed plants or animals. This presentation is not one of them. Though these topics are certainly important, my experience in speaking with people about the Christian faith has brought me to the conclusion that we (the Church) should start somewhere else in this discussion. Why? Because many moderns consider the Creation story an intellectual liability for the Church and because the discussion so often devolves into a God v. modern science debate. Again, I am not saying that that debate isn’t important. I am simply observing the fact that we can be more persuasive if we explain (as a starting point) why a special creation undergirds three key principles that most modern people assume to be true. These principles are: Awe, Purpose and Equality (the mnemonic spells APE since many Christians thing about monkeys when they think about Creation v. Evolution).
Human beings intuitively sense that there is something greater, something grander than our current reality. As noted by Jen Wilkins, no one ever looked at the Grand Canyon and remarked, “I am awesome!” We all sense a pull to the supernatural, and this is hard to deny. Interesting fact: Human beings are the only mammals that have the physical capacity to develop “goose bumps” for reasons other than fear. A view from the mountains, the majesty of the ocean and that first glimpse of your child all inspire a sense of awe in us all. These meaningful experiences are hard to deny, and they point to a Creator. Secularism attempts to counter this sense with a sort of faux courage that shakes its fist at the endless, meaningless universe and shouts “I am the master of my fate.” But this approach does not seem to satisfy most. Faith makes sense to 4 out of 5 people in the world and will continue to do so. If Creation is true, then love is more than a set of chemical reactions intended to perpetuate the species, the ultimate end of life is not mere survival and we can hope and work for a just and peaceful world. We want these things to be true. We need these things to be true.
In her recent book The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness, Emily Esfahani Smith apparently struck a chord. The book is currently the #1 best seller in the Philosophy of Ethics and Morality section on Amazon. She also produced a TED talk that has over 630,000 views. Her simple point (as implied in the title) is that purpose or meaning is more important than fleeting happiness in producing fulfillment in one’s life. We all feel that–the need to tie our actions and our suffering to some form of lasting purpose. But, if there is no special creation, you are simply a cosmic hiccup in a vast, purposeless universe. Your dreams are meaningless, your body will one day return to dust and no one will remember your name even a few decades after your death. Comedian Louis CK discussed this realization in an interview with Conan O’ Brien, saying: “What the phones are taking away is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person. Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty, forever empty. That knowledge that it’s all for nothing and that you’re alone. It’s down there. And sometimes when things clear away, you’re not watching anything, you’re in your car, and you start going, ‘Oh no, here it comes. That I’m alone.’ It starts to visit on you. Just this sadness.” Though modern people talk of individual purpose and pursuing one’s dreams, there is little foundation for individual purpose outside of a special creation. Contrast this with the idea of special creation, which emphasizes a purpose for the world, a specific purpose for humanity (Revelation 4:11) and a specific purpose for you (Matthew 28:16-20; see Jeremiah 1:5).
In 1926, John T. Scopes was famously tried under Tennessee law for teaching evolution (the “Scopes Monkey Trial”). Few people remember, however, that the textbook Scopes used, Civic Biology by George Hunter, taught not only evolution but also argued that science dictated we should sterilize or even kill those classes of people who weakened the human gene pool by spreading “disease, immorality, and crime to all parts of this country.” If evolutionary biology emphasizes survival of the fittest, it is emphasizing differences, not equality. In fact, evolutionary biology supported the eugenics movement, which was largely supported by American academies in the early 1900s and played a large role in Nazi Germany/World War II. Now, I am certainly not saying that evolutionary biologists are racists. That is simply not the case. We are simply comparing ideas and their rational conclusions. Yuval Harari (no friend to religion), in his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, sets out the following comparison of the U.S. Declaration of Independence as (1) originally written and (2) rewritten with the principles of evolutionary biology.
Original: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” [emphasis added]
Rewritten: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men evolved differently, that they are born with certain mutable characteristics, and that among these are life and the pursuit of pleasure.” [emphasis added]
My point in all of this is as follows: what happens to the concept of equality and to the concept of rights if the idea of Creation is removed? The removal appears fatal to our current understanding of equality and rights, and our socially constructed values will only last as long as our society values them. Therefore, since most people believe in equality and rights, we should explain that Creation is their surest foundation.