Jeans. Coca-Cola. Dental floss.
Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.
All are American inventions, or at least, so quintessentially American we claim credit.
A few weeks ago, I was surprised to see my first book, Baby Dinosaurs on the Ark? The Bible and Modern Science and the Trouble of Making It All Fit reviewed by an Australian magazine (link below).
Those baby dinos made it all the way to the land down under!
It was a great review, but right out of the chute, the reviewer reminded his readers of a uniquely American export, birthed right here in the U.S.A.:
Young earth creationism.
Although creationism isn’t litigated in courtrooms and school boards like it is in America, Australians have America to thank for the faith/science angst felt in many of their churches.
Prior to the twentieth century, belief in a six-day special creation and a literal global flood was by no means ubiquitous in Christian belief. Since the early church fathers, there have been diverse interpretations of the first few chapters of Genesis.
Early discoveries of fossils and extinctions and the evidence for an ancient earth were disconcerting to many Christians to be sure, but overall, they simply shrugged their shoulders and said, “I guess that’s how God did it.”
Enter Ellen G. White.
White founded the Seventh Day Adventist Church in upstate New York in the mid 1800s. White reported seeing thousands of visions sent by God, including the doctrine of the Adventist Church.
In one vision, claimed White, God brought her back in time and allowed her to witness the six-day creation of the world.
The Genesis Flood, a book published in 1961, expanded on White’s teachings and entrenched a global flood as fact and as necessary evidence for a literal 6-day creation week – including dinosaurs living with humans.
And . . . that’s how we got baby dinosaurs on the ark.
The Genesis Flood is credited with launching the modern version of young earth creationism.
The cause was taken up by the growing evangelical movement in America and was exported by fundamentalists, primarily to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
A few years ago, I met a long-time Oxford professor of science and history who is also a man of deep Christian faith. I told him that I was writing a book about the rejection of evolution science by Christians.
“Y’all are still talking about THAT?”
(Well, he’s an Oxford professor and a Brit so he didn’t say ya’ll, but ya’ll get the point).
Oh, it’s not that Britain doesn’t have a science-faith controversy. It’s that the controversy in Britain is not “can a real Christian accept science?”
That’s an American question.
In Britain and across most of Europe, the question is flipped: “can a respectable scientist be a person of faith?”
My friend, the Oxford professor, was once mocked after lecturing at a high-powered British science conference for wearing a small cross pin on his lapel.
And although we Americans exported the “can’t be a Christian and accept evolution” mentality, attitudes can travel both ways.
The Story Collider is a popular podcast featuring speakers with real-life science stories to tell. Recently, a pediatric oncologist threw this out as an aside in his introduction:
“I was raised deeply religious, but twenty-four years of education beat it out of me.”
Research tells us that the church’s “antagonism toward science” is one of the primary reasons given by young adults who leave their faith behind.
When forced to choose faith or science, they aren’t picking faith.
Evolution is no longer simply a science topic in creationist quarters. Evolution is now part of a bigger battle.
For decades, American evangelicals included opposition to evolution as a front in the culture wars, and the fallout is massive.
A generation is choosing science and jettisoning faith, robbing the world of faith-infused perspectives on some of the most important science issues of our time.