So far, for the last 14 weeks, I’ve tried to stay away from controversies on this blog. That won’t be the case this week. I have something to say that some people I know aren’t going to like, but I won’t back down.
A few of my friends this week have circulated this article (click). For the TL;DR crowd, it is about musicians Michael and Lisa Gungor, who are best known for composing and performing Christian worship music. The controversy, according to many in more conservative and traditional Christian circles, is that Michael Gungor says that he does not believe that the Genesis creation account is meant to be taken literally. He still believes that God is real and that Jesus is the Son of God, but his lack of belief in God having created the world in 4004 B.C., flooding all living creatures several centuries later except for a boat full of every species on Earth, has led some to go so far as to call him, his wife, and their bandmates not real Christians, false teachers, and deceivers. Well, that escalated quickly.
I grew up attending Catholic Mass but didn’t really choose Christ on my own or study the Bible until age 19, when I was a student at UC Davis. I came of age in my faith through Intervarsity, a ministry on college campuses, and several months later I stopped attending Mass and became involved with an evangelical church in Davis. Davis is very much the quintessential college town, with a very educated population, and many of the university’s most well known programs are related to the biological sciences, so many Christians that I knew in Davis had no problem reconciling science with their faith. As a result of this, although I knew that evolution was kind of a bad word among Christians because it was often associated with atheism, it wasn’t until I was around 25 that I discovered that there were still people in America who believed in young Earth creationism (i.e., that Genesis is meant to be taken literally, 4004 B.C. and Noah’s Flood). Some of you who were raised in a young Earth creationist environment probably are surprised to realize that there are so many Christians who reconcile their faith with science, whereas those of you raised outside the church are probably as surprised as I was to discover that young Earth creationism is still that much of a thing. So now that I’ve had another decade-plus of studying the Bible after this shocking discovery, what is my position on creationism vs. evolution?
I don’t know. And I don’t care.
Let me clarify what I mean by that. When I say that I don’t care, I don’t mean that I’m going to be ignorant or apathetic because ignorance and apathy are easier. I mean that there are more important things in life than to debate over this question. Back when I was a fairly new Christian, I remember meeting someone who was a Christian but studying evolution science, or something to that effect. I was about to ask her if it was difficult being a Christian and studying something often associated with atheism, and before I could even ask, she anticipated what I was about to say, and said something to the effect that how and when God created the world doesn’t change the way we respond to Jesus and salvation. And that’s exactly how I feel about young Earth creation vs. old Earth creation vs. theistic evolution. None of those really changes how I’m supposed to live as a child of God now. I believe that God created the world, somehow, in some time period. I believe that all have sinned.* I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to bring salvation, and that this act of atonement brought salvation and reconciliation with God. And none of this changes depending on how and when God created the world. That’s why I don’t feel a pressing need to figure it all out. I’ll ask God someday when I see him.
(* I’ve heard the argument that this part, original sin, requires a literal Adam and Eve, since original sin entered the world through them. I can see that point, but whether or not Adam and Eve literally existed, I think it’s pretty obvious that humanity is inherently sinful. Just look around you. No one is perfect, and everyone falls short of God’s standards.)
Michael Gungor wrote this (click) in response to the recent furor over his statements. He mentioned that the people who have problems with Christians who don’t believe in young Earth creationism “huddle together out of fear,” shutting out all the good things in the world along with the evil from which they want to protect themselves. I see this mentality all too often, and it really makes me sad. This is exactly what Satan wants. Satan wants the people of Christ to be fighting each other over things that don’t matter to distract them from doing God’s work in the world, helping the needy, bringing hope to the hopeless, and the like. And I’m sorry to be harsh, but this my experience with those who aren’t Christians suggests that those outside the body of Christ respect those who quietly practice what they preach much more than those who self-righteously segregate themselves in Christian bubbles, so no one will be brought into the body of Christ by staying in that bubble.
Of course, I don’t mean to lump all young Earth creationists in this category. I know plenty of them who are out there on the front lines feeding the poor and helping the needy. But all too often, this Christian bubble mentality lends itself to dangerous acts of legalism, proclaiming that Christians should be listening to this and shouldn’t be watching this and the like. In the debate that followed when my friend posted the article in the first paragraph, he said at one point that Christians shouldn’t listen to secular music. I’m sorry, but I can’t get behind that. For one thing, music brings out a lot of emotions in me, and some emotions just aren’t expressed anywhere in the Christian music bubble. Furthermore, putting labels on art forms cheapens the experience and compartmentalizes these complex expressions into boxes. And then there’s the fact that labeling music as Christian or secular can be quite arbitrary. Take, for example, these quotes from secular songs:
1) “Find me here and speak to me. I want to feel you, I need to hear you. You are the light that’s leading me to the place where I find peace again… ‘Cause you’re all I want, you’re all I need, you’re everything.”
2) “When I get where I’m going, and I see my maker’s face, I’ll stand forever in the light of his amazing grace. When I get where I’m going, there’ll be only happy tears. I will shed the sins and struggles I have carried all these years.”
Or these quotes from Christian songs:
3) “If I could only read your mind, tell me the answer I would find. Do you dream of me? And when you’re smiling in your sleep, beyond the promises we keep, do you dream of me?”
4) “Uh, we goin’ put it on ya, make it loud n clear, all of my shorties, whether far or near. Since the last, it’s been three long years, so we goin’ make it loud, we goin’ make it loud n clear.”
You read that right; I didn’t mislabel those. According to the legalists, those first two songs are “secular” and the other two are “Christian.” It doesn’t make much sense to place arbitrary labels on music, now, does it. Someone who doesn’t know those songs wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between “Christian” music and “secular” music just from this. (In case you were wondering: 1) “Everything,” by Lifehouse; 2) “When I Get Where I’m Going,” Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton; 3) “Do You Dream Of Me,” Michael W. Smith; 4) “Loud N Clear,” TobyMac and TruDog (his kid).)
If you are one of those legalists, please don’t start telling me that my faith is weak or eroding, because it’s not. Just forget it. And if you’re going to stay friends with me only to convert me to young Earth creationism, don’t bother. No one likes to be treated like a project. I’m not writing this to convert anyone away from young Earth creationism; if that’s how you are convinced that God created the world, then good for you. I’m not opposing anything you’re doing for God, so you shouldn’t be opposing anything I’m doing.
Don’t get me wrong… there are some very real false teachings out there that Christians need to stand against. But some things just aren’t worth fighting about. I heard a pastor preach once that once you get away from the literal creation account, your entire faith falls apart. I just can’t make myself believe that. I have no doubt that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the path to salvation, and I know that I am living for him now. But I haven’t worked out yet whether or not I believe that Genesis is meant to be taken literally. I’m not saying it isn’t, nor am I saying it is. What I’m saying is that this isn’t something I need to worry about right now. God created the universe, somehow, at some point. I don’t believe that it makes my faith weak, nor do I believe that this undermines the authority of Scripture. As Michael Gungor says in his response, Scripture contains metaphors. I really don’t believe that the question of whether the creation account is literal or metaphorical dilutes the central message of the Gospel. When I get to see God face to face someday, I’ll ask him how he created the world. But until then, I’ve just come to accept the fact that I don’t know. And I don’t care, because it’s not something I need to know right now to live a Godly life.
I’ll end on a lighter note totally unrelated to creationism, but related to the title of this post, which is also a quote from a song. Last time I mentioned how I’m kind of tired of these young country singers who look like male models with cowboy hats and sing about partying and picking up women. Yet somehow, when two middle aged men (who happen to be two of my favorite country singers) sing about partying and picking up women, it’s hilarious. Why do I have this double standard? I don’t know, and I don’t care.