You Don’t Need a Young Earth to Get to Heaven

Do creationists use intimidation and spiritual threats to coerce young people to believe?  Not as often as some critics assume.

Young-earth creationist leader Ken Ham of the organization Answers In Genesis repeated his call recently that Christians do not need to believe in a young earth.

For outsiders like me, this can appear puzzling.  After all, those of us outside the circle of conservative evangelical belief often assume that all conservative evangelical Protestants spend their time sweating over their eternal fate.  We might make the mistake of assuming that conservative evangelicals thrive by threatening sinners with hellfire, brimstone and damnation.

Take, for example, the Christian beliefs of young-earth creationists.  From the outside, it’s tempting to assume that the more insistent YECs must somehow bully new generations into embracing their beliefs.  After all, those beliefs are so radically different from the ones embraced by mainstream science that it seems impossible for young people to become YECs unless compelled.

This is why some prominent atheists have called this kind of creationism “child abuse.”  As we’ve seen in these pages, smart young people brought up in the faith have wondered why their trusted adult leaders sold them a scientific bill of goods.  As Anna wondered recently in her illuminating ILYBYGTH series about her youth as a YEC, “It is still a bit difficult for me to look back on authority figures and members of my community that I looked up to and respected and wonder: are they just ignorant, or are they purposely deceptive?”

For us outsiders then, it can seem surprising that arch-creationist Ken Ham takes time to point out that young-earth belief is not a salvation issue.  That is, Ham insists that good Christians can disagree about the age of the earth.  As he puts it,

Many great men of God who are now with the Lord have believed in an old earth. Some of these explained away the Bible’s clear teaching about a young earth by adopting the classic gap theory.

Others accepted a day-age theory or positions such as theistic evolution, the framework hypothesis, and progressive creation.

Scripture plainly teaches that salvation is conditioned upon faith in Christ, with no requirement for what one believes about the age of the earth or universe.

Ham hastens to add that discarding a belief in a young earth can have “very severe consequences.”  In sum, since the Bible clearly describes the origins of earth, disregarding that message puts Christians on the very slippery slope to disregarding Biblical authority as a whole.

“All biblical doctrines,” Ham concludes, “including the gospel itself, are ultimately rooted in the first book of the Bible.”

Make no mistake: Ken Ham wants you to believe in a young earth.  But this is not a threat.  This is not a tent-preacher warning that only YEC can save your soul.

Too many outsiders like me ignore these kinds of nuance in the intellectual world of conservative evangelical Protestantism.  We end up calling YECs child abusers or worse, without taking the time to understand the real culture of young-earth creationism.  That might make for good headlines, but it does so at the heavy cost of relying on caricature rather than reality.

Common Core = Christian Core

What is an evangelical Christian to do?

The prolific Karen Swallow Prior recently argued that evangelicals ought to embrace the emerging Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

The CCSS have been attacked and defended by both progressives and conservatives.  They have been called both totalitarian and liberating, intrusive and effective.

Conservatives are divided.  Some say the Common Core is the least-bad planOthers warn of “control by Obama administration left-wing bureaucrats.”

Not so fast, Prior wrote. She attended a workshop with Core Mastermind David Coleman, and came away convinced that the standards have promise to improve literacy skills in the USA.  Especially as Bible-centered Christians, Prior argues, evangelicals need to get behind this effort.

After all, Prior insisted, “no one more than evangelicals can appreciate the importance to a people and a culture of the ability to read, and read well—or the devastating effects of being unable to do so.”