Do I Have To Believe That? Creationism

by | Jan 22, 2023


Meg Peery McLaughlin
Do I Have To Believe That? Creationism
January 22, 2023
Genesis 1:1-2:1

I’m Scott Singleton, Pharmaceutical Scientist, Listen:
When God began to create the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was complete chaos, and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

I’m Lyn Billings, Nurse. Listen:
6 And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

I’m Betsy Edwards, Biologist. Listen:
9 And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

I’m Andy Ackerman, Statistician. Listen:
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

I’m Sharon Edmiston, molecular biologist. Listen:
And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” 21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

I’m Donna Van Engen, chemist. Listen:
24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind and the cattle of every kind and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

I’m John Wallace, epidemiologist. Listen:
26 Then God said, “Let us make humans in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over the cattle and over all the wild animals of the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
27 So God created humans in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the air and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

I’m Will Aldridge, psychologist. Listen:
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished and all their multitude. 2 On the sixth day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God’s Word to you?

I said “I do” to this ordination question in 2006,
standing on the chancel steps of Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas. Less than a year earlier, 100 miles from that spot in Topeka,
the State Board of Education voted to change teaching standards that would forbid public school teachers to include the scientific theory of evolution in their curriculum.

Why? One board member said it was because of a belief in a literal interpretation of Genesis chapter 1, stating that evolution was “biologically, genetically, mathematically, chemically, metaphysically wildly and utterly impossible .”

The chancel steps where I answered the ordination questions for the first time were made of limestone tiles. And in that stone were fossils. I used to love to watch the little ones in worship during children’s time find coral and brachiopods
– creatures that have changed over time, preserved right there in the middle of that sacred sanctuary.

Creation. Six days, plus one for rest. Done. The Word of the Lord.
Fossils under our feet. Monkeys as our ancestors.

What are we to do friends?
Christians have a history of going in diverging directions with this question.

Earlier this month, our Presbyterian Campus Ministry took 30 students to Montreat for a conference, where they encountered a scholar named Peter Enns. In his book The Sin of Certainty, Enns describes what he calls threats to faith.

He writes: The idea of the Bible providing a sure intellectual foundation for what we believe took a knockout blow from four rapid punches within about thirty years.
1. Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution.
2. Archeology. For most of Christian history, our source of information about the ancient Israelites and their neighbors was the Bible alone. But then scientists discovered stories of other ancient peoples and they too had stories of beginnings—creation, the first humans, and a great flood. All of a sudden our Bible didn’t look so unique.
3. German biblical scholars—who were the first to tell us that Moses didn’t actually write the first 5 books of scripture. Several people, living centuries apart and long after Moses, wrote various portions of these books. So we lost our “eye witness.”
4. Slavery. Christians in the 19th century debated the enslavement of Africans, and turning to scripture, faced conflicting imagery. Slaveholders quoted “slaves, obey your master, as you obey Christ. And those denouncing racism as sin, quoted “there is no longer jew or nor Greek, slave or free.” What do we do with a bible that doesn’t give us crystal clear answers to huge ethical questions?

All this meant that while some opened the faith to nuance, others gripped certainty even tighter. Those who doubled down on the fundamentals of the faith and practiced a literal reading of scripture became known as Fundamentalists.

As my friend Jenny McDevitt says, the fundamentalist expression of Christianity
makes faith an argument to be won rather than a way to be lived.

The late Rachel Held Evans, who grew up within that tradition herself, says the fundamentalist Christian “sits perpetually on the precipice of doom, one scientific discovery or cultural shift or difficult theological conversation away from extinction. So fearful of losing their grip on faith, they squeeze the life right out of it.”

If this is you, you are welcome here, we will give you a soft-landing place in your fear. You’ll hear the gospel proclaimed here in ways that may shake your footing,
but you have our hands in support.

But my guess is that most of you have gone a different direction.
My guess is that evolution and archeology and biblical scholarship and ethical questions are not threats; and that none of you believe the world was made in seven days. My guess is that your trust of science is not in conflict with your trust in God.

That’s my guess because three years deep as your pastor, I know you,
and because we’re Presbyterians.

I know I gave John Calvin a hard time the last time I was in this pulpit,
but this theological forefather of ours said that God is revealed in Scripture,
of course, but also that God is revealed in nature .
He even argues that scientists have the front row seat in experiencing God’s glory.

I bet Betsy and Lyn and Scott and Andy would agree.


Jamie Bryan, the ophthalmologist who told me my eyes were getting old and thus time for these puppies, described how when you get a floater in your eye, gravity pulls that floater downward. The eye is like a camera, which means upside down and backwards as far as the image. So, when that floater goes downward it moves higher and higher out of your central visual field so it doesn’t bother you. God’s brilliance on display.

I asked these UPC chemists and biologists to read our scripture today
because part of what I want to model this morning
is the connection of faith and science, not their separation.

We can be people of faith and people who believe in science.
People of the Word and people of the empirical method.
Church, we do not have compartmentalize our lives.

In fact, we are best when we don’t.
Jack Benjamin, a pediatrician, told me a story of twins born with severe respiratory distress. The NICU across town full, Jack and the nurses in that community hospital did all they could. At 3am when the twins hadn’t responded to his initial treatments, Jack remembers stopping what he was doing, hugging the incubator in which the tiny babies lay, and praying. Faith and science are friends not enemies.

The Israelites who wrote this sacred text knew that too.

A little bible study for you—
Genesis 1 is the first creation account—the seven day narrative,
and there is a second account, just after it, the story of Adam and Eve.

The two accounts are quite different.
They use different names for God—Elohim and Yahweh.
In the seven-days narrative, God creates light first.
In the other, God starts with Adam, the earthling.

William Greenway who teaches theology at Austin Seminary suggests that we could conclude any one of the following three things:

1. The people who put these accounts together were trying to write a scientifically accurate account, but they were too dull-witted to notice the glaring inconsistencies.

2. God actually created everything twice.
3. The people who composed these accounts noticed the contradictions, but scientific accuracy was not a concern of theirs because their stories testify to other kinds of truth. (ding, ding, ding).

So, then what is the truth of which this text speaks?

This is not a story of how God creates the world,
it is story of why God creates the world.

And why indeed? Because, it seems to me that
God knows we need light to lead the way
and that darkness too is holy and essential and ought not be overlooked.

Why? Because God knows we need to be reminded that we are created in the image of God, that we are called good, and very good.

Why? Because God knows that in the midst of chaos, when everything is a swirling mess, we need the assurance that God can still speak and make room for life.

Why? Because
God knows that we need a picture of life that is sustainable,
life where all creatures of all kinds coexist in harmony.

Why? Because
God knows we can so easily forget that all of life is bound up in God.

When I stood on top of those fossil embedded tiles
and that said I accepted the scriptures as the Word of God,
that’s what I meant. I still do.

Now, I don’t know when Christians–
like those in Topeka all those years ago
will stop trying to pit faith against science.

It’s been happening a long time.
In 1922 a preacher named Harry Emerson Fosdick preached a sermon
called Shall the Fundamentalists Win?
In it he asks: “What can you do with folks like this who,
in the face of colossal issues,
play with the tiddledywinks and peccadillos of religion?”
Tiddledywinks and peccadillos – games and trivial matters.
It is almost unforgivable that we should quarrel (over these small things)
when the world is perishing for the lack of the weightier matters.
We have colossal problems
which must be solved in Christ’s name and for Christ’s sake.

100 years later, colossal problems indeed.
In the century since that sermon was preached,
the earth’s temperature has risen and isn’t stopping,
over 500 species gone extinct.
And those who bear the image of God
in Ukraine and in our own homes
struggle to see the light.

So whether we stand on fossils,
or the red brick sidewalks over on campus,
or the clay dirt of this part of the state

may we face these colossal problems together
armed with science—all the amazing things that the Lord has let us learn
and guided by the truth we know in this Word
spoken by the maker of light
the lover of creatures
and the one who calls all things good,
very good.