Why is there creationism? Marc Barnes at Bad Catholic makes the argument that today’s young-earth creationist movement is nothing more nor less than a theistic outgrowth of Richard Dawkins-style materialism.
Today’s sort of Ken-Ham-style creationism, Barnes correctly observes, is an entirely modern phenomenon. Barnes doesn’t make the point, though he could have, that ignorant partisan anti-creationist hack jobs like that of Mark Stern in Slate miss the boat entirely when they accuse creationism of being “medieval.” Nonsense. Today’s creationism is a thoroughly modern affair. Even the briefest familiarity with the history of the movement makes that point abundantly clear.
Today’s creationism, Barnes argues, is not a wholesale repudiation of the materialist viewpoint, though it falsely claims to be. Materialism, after all, in this sense, means the assumption that life and everything has purely material origins. Primordial soup somehow got a transformative spark, perhaps from undersea volcanic vents. Life came from non-life due to purely material causes. Similarly, life itself, though it may feel like it has transcendent spiritual meaning, is nothing more than biochemistry. When the switch goes off, the magic ends. Back to carbon.
Such a view of life separates God out entirely, Barnes points out. And Ken-Ham-style creationists make the woeful mistake of simply plugging God back in, from the outside. In other words, Barnes argues, young-earth creationists stupidly think that by insisting on a God who popped into time, created life and the universe, inspired a Bible, and sent his kid in to fix things, they have refuted materialist assumptions. Not so, Barnes contends. That sort of outsider God, a God who creates, judges, and saves, all from somewhere outside of, beyond the creation itself, actually endorses the materialist vision of life. Instead of electricity as the prime mover, though, Ken Ham’s style of creationism plugs in a Bearded-Guy-in-a-Throne sort of God.
God, in this YEC vision, is a mere competitor with electricity for the role of life’s spark. God, in this YEC vision, is simply the materialist understanding of life with a quick substitution of God for an unintelligent spark.
Instead of falling for this materialist presumption, instead of simply rebutting one part of materialist assumptions about life, real creationism needs to posit an entirely different relationship between the world and its Creator, Barnes argues. As he puts it,
God is not simply the Creator of the material order, and the theistic tradition has never made such laughable claims. The concept of God as Creator has always been the source of existence as such. This means that God does not just answer the material question of “Where came this rock, that plant, or the entire conglomerate of material thingmabobs we call the universe?” He answers the ontological question: “Why is there something rather than nothing?”