In my last post I argued that the doctrine of creation is central to the entire history of redemption. For the Hebrews in the ancient world what differentiated them from the Pagan nations was that their God was the creator of the universe, while Pagan gods were literally nothing, figments of sinful human being’s imaginations. But I ended my last post with this question: What makes the doctrine of creation so important for us, and keeping our kids Christian, in the 21st century? Let’s answer this question for our own unique historical cultural moment.
It’s no secret we live in a post-Christian age, one getting more post-Christian by the moment. As I argue in the book, far from being a threat to our and our children’s faith, a hostile secular culture can be our children’s best friend! But we can only turn the culture to our advantage if we know the actual threats it poses. The doctrine of creation will help us counter one of the least understood cultural threats Christians must address if we are to build a generational faith in our children: naturalism. What exactly is naturalism and why is it such a threat?
Simply put, naturalism is the doctrine or assumption that the natural (i.e., material) world is all their is, or even if their is a God, it is a closed system of cause and effect. The religious term for the latter is Deism. In this version of theism, God is an almighty Creator, but once he built the universe and set it in motion, it was on its own. He pushed the first very big domino, and they’ve been falling ever since. This is the clockmaker God of the Enlightenment: once he built the clock (the universe) and set it running, it was hands off after that. The Bible knows of no such God, but our culture insists on it.
Charles Darwin was a gift to naturalists. His theory of evolution made it plausible to imagine a universe without a creator. Combined with Newtonian physics (which requires a closed system), and a very limited understanding of the “natural” world, by the 19th century God was on his way out as a necessary part of human existence. Unfortunately for the naturalists, Albert Einstein messed all that up. If time and space were not absolute . . . oh my, that might have metaphysical implications, and we can’t have that! But as knowledge progresses the idea of a God-less universe becomes increasingly implausible. Nonetheless, as sociologist Christian Smith has argued, the religion of most Americans is something he calls Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. The Bible calls them fools, as in, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.” The biblical fool isn’t an atheist, however, because a god-less universe was inconceivable to ancient people. In Hebrew, the words “There is” are not in the text, so in effect the fool says, “No, God!” The fool still believes in God, but he ignores him, much like a Deist would. God is simply not relevant to his life.
That last sentence perfectly captures what it means to be secular in a secular, post-Christian society. But what does this have to do with the doctrine of creation? Everything. If God is the Creator, and providentially in control of all things, as the Bible claims, over and over again, naturalism is a lie from the pit of Hell. But we swim in a culture where naturalistic assumptions are everywhere, literally ubiquitous. I’m watching, and enjoying the World Series right now (my Dodgers are looking very good), and the commercials annoy the living daylights out of me. They’re all naturalism, all the time. The point of all this is that if we are not careful, and most Christians unfortunately are not, we begin to see naturalism as plausible. We begin to see the created world through lenses informed by naturalistic assumptions. How does that manifest itself in our lives and the lives of our children? This post is getting too long, so I guess I’ll have to come back for a third post and conclusion. Stay tuned!