1860: The Year Creationism was Born

Discussion in 'Creation vs. Evolution' started by MicahJF612, Mar 10, 2016.

  1. MicahJF612

    MicahJF612
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    Perhaps one of the most interesting intellectual trends within the church over the last two hundred years has been the rejection of modern intellectual thought by replacing it with an incoherent model. That is not to say that rejecting or accepting contemporary trends has not been a part of the church's life over the last two thousand years. Augustine and Aquinas are incredibly important in Christian self-understanding, because they provide us with systems that bring together the way the world thinks and the way the church thinks, without compromising the essential core of Christianity. Our faith has been one over the last two thousand years that can accept other truth, because the divine truth that we have received will fit with the truth that we discover through the senses God has granted us. What is strange and fascinating about this particular trend is not that it happened, but the ferocity with which it happened and continues to carry on. To understand that, we really ought to begin at the beginning.
    First, we really ought to understand that Creationism is an American phenomenon. There were a few English theologians and pastors that opposed Darwinian Evolution when it first arrived on their shores, but their opposition was largely on minutiae, rather than on the theory as a whole. They often turned out to be correct on the minutiae after further investigation, and the theory was reformed to reflect this new knowledge. But in America, the reaction was quite different. There are several important factors that can explain this. First, America remained under the influence of Reedian Common Sense Philosophy, which was Americanized and democratized into saying that basically what seems to make the most sense is simply true, and if something is not obvious, then it ought not to be considered true (this point I greatly oversimplify, but if I were to expand, this post would be far too long). This view was dominant in American society, and deeply influences even today the thinking of fundamentalists when they discuss science. This confusion is illustrated by a classic fundamentalist comeback, which states that evolution is only "a theory," which they claim means it is not a sufficient base from which to establish truth (which simply illustrates that they do not understand the way in which a scientist utilizes the word "theory"). Common Sense Philosophy says that truth will be obvious and will coalesce with other truths, so science and the Bible ought affirm one another. Since evolution is only a theory, and the Bible is truth, then the Bible must win.
    But the view that the two do not coalesce arises out of the second American phenomenon, Biblical literalism. Literalism was not a legitimate way to read the Scriptures until (unfortunately) the rise of the idea of individual responsibility for salvation. As a Baptist, I believe that this has always been at the core of our faith. But a renewed emphasis on this idea came about largely through the work of early Baptists, who were quick to distribute the Bible to as many as could read it. Although literacy grew, the complexities of theology did not, and so how to reconcile the Bible with itself became a very difficult topic indeed. In part due to Common Sense Philosophy, in part due to the pragmatic necessity, and in part in fear of the new teaching of evolution, many pastors advocated an as-literal-as-possible approach. This view is relatively new on the scene, beginning to be popularly utilized only in 1860, which I call the birth of Creationism.
    There are several other uniquely American phenomenon that also contribute to the rise of this view, such as the difficulty of spreading ideas across such a massive land that could not be easily traversed, the lack of education among settlers as they moved west, a rejection of German theological understandings after the Franco-Prussian War, and many other minor factors.
    I have largely left individual names out of this discussion, for fear that they will only detract from a larger understanding of the phenomenon. I have used a number of books as my sources for this, but the bulk of this particular lens of understanding comes from Warsden's "Fundamentalism and American Culture."
    I hope that this quick and dirty exposition of the birth of the Creationist movement will help spread a little bit of light on this discussion. If you have any questions, please let me know, and I would be happy to answer.
     
  2. Kevin

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    If the Biblical account of creation was written a few thousand years before 1860, how/why would you claim that as the "birth of Creationism"?
     
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  3. annsni

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    I agree Kevin. I believe before Charles Darwin was even a glimmer in his father's eye, the truth of how the world was created was given to man.
     
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  4. InTheLight

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    So, Creationism was born within a year of Charles Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species? Quite a coincidence, isn't it?

    I know of no philosophy that starts out with the premise "The Bible is true". Furthermore, I don't think a literal reading of scripture was a new concept in the 18th century. You're going to have to prove that to me.
     
  5. JonC

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    When you read the views within the early church, the claims in the OP appear as nonsense (e.g., Justin Martyr and why he left his philosophy for this new one; Theophilu denouncing the Stoic view of preexisting matter, Basil’s teachings on the 6 days of creation….etc.). Had the OP remained tightly linked to “Creationalism” as a response to Darwinism and the incorporation of science in general, then the OP may have started an interesting discussion.
     
  6. MicahJF612

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    Creationism is a pseudo-scientific theological movement that began to arise in 1860. I suppose you are correct in that I should have referred to 1860 as the "primordial ooze" giving birth to Creationism, which really became a powerhouse around the turn of the century.

    No, it is not a coincidence. Creationism arose in order to fight this new understanding of the world. Many theologians struggled with this new theory, and reconciled faith and evolution together in the same way that Christianity has been able to do since the beginning. Paul used Greek mythology to illustrate the power of Christ; Aquinas used Greek philosophy to understand divine mysteries; Patrick used Celtic theology to explain Trinitarian theology, and so on throughout Christian history. Creationism is unique as one of the only counter-movements away from newly discovered truth that continues to persist.

    I am not here describing Common Sense Philosophy, I am describing the logic used by many American Christians used in coming to their Creationist conclusions.

    A literal reading of Scripture is fine, if you hold such a reading lightly. We ought to believe firmly that Christ literally died, but that does not also mean that we have to affirm that God created the world in seven days. What makes inerrancy different and heretical is the unbiblical assertion that you must read the Bible literally wherever possible, because it then makes the reader into the inerrant interpreter of God's almighty intention. Science has proved that the world does not rest on pillars, which means the inerrantist must give up that those verses must be read literally. Science has also proven evolution as far as we might, yet the inerrantist holds on to this view. The Christian tradition holds on to the essential truths of the Scriptures, which are spiritual, while the literal often are virtually meaningless.

    See Augustine of Hippo, who claimed Creation occurred in one day. Justin, Theophilus, and Basil are each dismissing the idea of absolute chaos that arises within modified Stoicism, not evolutionary theory or as an assertion of six literal days.
     
  7. JonC

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    My apologies, but I have somehow missed your point in all of this. I took the OP to claim that Creationism was something that developed post evolutionary theory. I disagree with your assessment of Basil. Regardless, my response was directed towards my own misunderstanding that you were suggesting that prior to the theory of evolution no one held a "literal" view of Creation (as by virtue of their arguments they excluded evolution as a possibility).

    More to the point, I suppose, is that many of their Christologies excluded evolution as a viable position.

    And, I'll add, a Christian belief in the theory of evolution (that God created via evolution) is a fairly new theology.

    Sent from my TARDIS
     
    #7 JonC, Mar 11, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2016
  8. MicahJF612

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    I am referring more toward the pseudo-scientific theological conception that arises from a literal reading of one of the two creation accounts in Genesis when I say Creationism. The beauty of Christianity is in its capacity to not be threatened by truth, since we worship a Savior who epitomizes truth and reality. Creationism rejects that beauty in demanding a literal interpretation where one is unnecessary. I am not arguing for the legitimacy of a Christian Evolutionary perspective based on time, for it does not make much sense to rest a theology on evidence not yet available. The issue with Creationism is the unnecessary dichotomy it makes between science and faith, since evolution is still somehow not "settled" science in the minds of fundamentalists in the same way that the earth not being flat is settled.

    The biggest issue here is that if we demand of evolution the same sort of truth that we require to believe the world is not flat, then the atheist can simply turn the same argument on us, and demand the same sort of truth for the existence of God. That puts faith in a precarious position. It is my belief that fundamentalism has created as many atheists as it has Christians.
     
  9. Calminian

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    I think most realize what you're trying to say, but it's a false argument. Biblical creationism is merely the idea that the world came to be as outline in Genesis 1:1-2:4. That's when it was born. Just because a transient opposing idea came along in the 1800s and Christians responded, doesn't mean it was born at that time. It was merely defended at that time.

    And it's not the first time Christians have gone against mainstream science. Aristotelian philosophy used to dominate astronomy until Christians like Galileo opposed it. At that time, some Christians sided with secular science like the Pope, will others sided with Galileo. Turns out the modern scientists were wrong at that time, as were the compromising Christians that followed them.
     
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  10. BobRyan

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    The junk science religion which argues that an "Amoeba will sure enough turn into a rabbit over time given a talented enough amoeba and a long and talented enough length of time filled with improbable just-so stories easy-enough-to-tell but not actually science" is the religion of evolutionists. Sometimes theistic ones.

    Atheists would change that slightly to argue their religion in this form "A pile of dirt-rocks-gas (Accretion disc of our solar system) will sure enough turn up a rabbit over time given a talented enough and large enough pile of dirt and also a long and talented enough length of time filled with improbable just-so stories easy-enough-to-tell but not actually science"

    That sort of junk-science-religion is not taken seriously by most Bible-believing Christians.

    It combines junk-science with bad-religion. The worst of both worlds.
     
  11. Calminian

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    It's easy to pick out a few errors, but by and large, the early fathers were biblical 6 day creationists. That's only because Moses was a 6 day biblical creationist. Many believe Augustine likely cleaned up the view he expressed early on in his life. And even then, he believed in a young earth and took Genesis as literal history. He didn't go along with old earth greek philosophers on this issue, and he's by no means a good poster boy for old earth creationism and the hermeneutic they employ.

    In fact, most of the early fathers took a typological view of the 6 days. They not only were young earthers but believed the days were typological of future 1000 year periods, meaning they believed the earth would endure no longer than 6000 total years. Typology is not the same as allegory, and this has confused many looking over their writings.
     
  12. Revmitchell

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    There is nothing about this post that is true.
     

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