I guess that as long as there are massive mudslides in Washington, earthquakes in Chile, and droughts in the Central Valley of California, we’re all consigned to keep paying attention to yet another mini-disaster: The incessant chatter of newscasters who used to blame all this on Mother Nature, and now are bold instead to hold climate change responsible. For serious Christians, though, such references should remind us of the unusual opportunities such events give us for saying straightforwardly that the doctrine of creation matters.
The problem is, as I’ve argued here before, that so few Christians really believe that anymore. They can’t any longer say the word “creation” with conviction or gumption. For a generation or more now, evangelicals have increasingly swallowed the line that what we believe about origins isn’t all that different from what everyone else believes—except that we’re careful faithfully but lamely to add that God controls the process. Leading evangelical colleges quietly but efficiently persuade thousands of students that theistic evolution is a more sophisticated and less embarrassing explanation of origins than what we learned as beginners in Sunday school. Those who hold to any form of fiat creation are regularly made to feel as if they should also be speaking Elizabethan English.
But these days it’s become even more difficult than that. Now even those who speak in tones of theistic evolution, or others who are so restrained that they publicly commit to nothing more specific than intelligent design, are regarded as retrograde throwbacks to simplistic thinking. I can never forget the encounter I had some time back with a woman next ahead of me in line at the bank. We were watching a cat just outside the window, crouched beneath a bush and eyeing a bird above her as only a feline can. “I have two cats,” the woman told me. “But I don’t let them play with birds. Mice, voles, shrews—OK. They can gobble them up to their hearts’ content. But no birds. Can you believe some people get a thrill out of watching a cat catch and eat a bird?”
Well, no, I can’t—unless maybe it’s a lion in Kenya on the prowl for a buzzard. But I was puzzled then, and have been ever since, at the woman’s double standard. “Do you suppose,” I asked her, “that God built that into His creation—that He planned that we would put a higher value on canaries than we do on mice? Or is that something we came up with on our own?” The woman responded with a disdainfully blank stare, and turned ever so deliberately to end the conversation.
I had, of course, broken a profound social taboo. I had allowed religion to contaminate a conversation that had been focused on secular issues. That’s why so many folks get so annoyed when the question is raised about the possibility that the Creator of the universe also occasionally rattles parts of that universe a bit—as he did in northern Chile last month. “Leave God out of this,” they insist.
The big problem now, though, isn’t that those “bad” people out there—the academics, the scientists, the big media people, and the people who run national parks and museums—leave God out of the discussion. The big problem more and more is that those of us who profess to be believers have to such a large extent joined them in their silence. So theoretically, we are still creationists. But practically speaking, we don’t let our allegiance to that great truth affect us much in everyday life. We’ve become scared to talk out loud, at least in public company.
With His magnificent creation, and with the exercise of His incredible providence in that creation, God gives us countless opportunities to witness to His greatness. Even when we’re reluctant to bring up the subject, He does! Shame on us all for not taking the hint and using it more often as a springboard to a few God-centered conversations.