Thursday, August 27, 2009

Belief #6: Reality is Fatal to Fundamental Adventist Beliefs

I feel like I've been stuck on one topic for awhile. I'm not exactly sure why that is. It might be just because I have less time to write on things that are only sort of interesting to me. That the Seventh-Day Adventist church has chosen to highlight creationism this year has definitely provided plenty of material. In the future I'll try to diversify, but this is just too easy.

This month's topic in The Adventist World's series on fundamental beliefs is belief number six - creation. The official position is stated as:
6. Creation:
God is Creator of all things, and has revealed in Scripture the
authentic account of His creative activity. In six days the Lord made
"the heaven and the earth" and all living things upon the earth, and
rested on the seventh day of that first week. Thus He established the
Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of His completed creative work. The
first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work
of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with
responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was ``very
good,'' declaring the glory of God. (Gen. 1; 2; Ex. 20:8-11; Ps. 19:1-6;
33:6, 9; 104; Heb. 11:3.)

Which leaves a slight bit wiggle room, to adapt to scientific reality. You know, the moderate Christian position of symbolic time periods with a special 'ensoulment' of humans at some point in the recent past. However, fundamental Adventism cannot accept a moderate interpretation -
even of this easily falsifiable claim. The reason is probably clear to almost everyone, but for some reason only came into sharp focus for me after reading this article. It is this: young earth creationism is like a keystone. If it slips, it starts a cascade of failing fundamental beliefs and dearly held doctrines.
"Special creation preserves the integrity of Scripture, safeguards the loving, praiseworthy character of God, establishes the reality of the atonement and redemption, and the soundness of the seventh-day Sabbath. These reasons, and more, show why a special creation worldview matters so deeply to the Adventist message and mission."

Most important is the seventh day Sabbath, which is the nearly the entire identity of Seventh-Day Adventism. The other beliefs specifically mentioned in the article that are threatened by reality are "authority and inspiration of Scripture", "the biblical teaching of the
loving character of the Creator" and the "literal fall" of man.

This last is significant because absent a literal fall and a historical Adam who transfers sin to humanity, we no longer require atonement and redemption. No need to for Jesus to die, no need for Christianity. Clearly no religion is going to acknowledge and embrace its own obsolescence.

Although creationism is demonstrably false, I'm sort of in favor of the SDA position of holding firm. It seems to be fairly benign in practice. I don't think my science education was irreparably damaged. But, it serves to underline the ridiculousness of the religion and hopefully decrease its influence and relevance in the culture. As PZ Myers eloquently put it.

"When fundamentalists tie their faith absolutely to a claim that is easily refuted, that contradicts the evidence, and that requires them to constantly escalate their denial and delusions in order to sustain their belief, it makes it really easy for atheists to demolish their religion. We don't even need to attack religion in the classroom at all - we just calmly lay out the facts, let the students work out the conclusions, and's epiphany time! They realize their pastor lied to them, or was just really ignorant, and suddenly their respect for Christian authority begins to crumble away. It's not the atheist's fault, though. The lesson should be, "Don't lie to your kids,"