Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Visiting the Creation Museum - my thoughts

Some of you who are on facebook commented on my status update the other day when I said I'd just visited the Creation Museum. Where we are visiting family is close to the museum, and currently the issue that Isaac is in heavy discussion with his family on (there's one every year - he never fails to make his family uncomfortable about SOME issue!) is creationism.

So, off to the Creation Museum we went. It was just four of us, Isaac and I and Isaac's sister and soon to be brother-in-law. Isaac and I were, admittedly, a little skeptical going in, simply because of what we've heard about it going into it.

Here are the good things. It is an interesting museum, targeted to kids and families, and it does a good job of teaching a six-day creationism view of history and science. So, if your intent is to teach your children creationism, it does a good job. It is interactive, the exhibits are cool, there are fossils and models and videos and everything a good museum has.

Creation Museum

However, here is what it does not do. It does not answer the skeptic. It does not explain how they came to their conclusions. It will not convince an evolutionist, in fact, I can almost guarantee that the skeptic or cynic will come away more skeptical or cynical, because the museum simply does not dialogue or investigate. It is meant to explain what creationism would look like scientifically and historically.... not WHY they believe in a six day creation.

So - to enjoy the museum, you have to agree with their presuppositions. Their presuppositions were very clear. This (below) was the very first plaque that we saw on entering the museum, and it made me chuckle because of the blatant addition of their presupposition to scripture. This is the premise the entire museum is built on, that the six literal 24-hour days is THE biblical presentation.

Creation Museum

When you enter the main progression of exhibits, you see a variety of things, like exhibits bringing to life the creation story as it's told in Genesis 1, of course with the strategically placed hair and flowers. :)

creation museum 022

It first squarely within the fundamentalist culture war mentality. Modern world vs. Christians. Modern world is unbiblical. Anyone who buys into the modern world will fall away from faith. Must hide away in biblical subculture (okay, that last one is my interpretation of what they're saying).

creation museum 010b


It doesn't stick with just illustrating creation, it also tells a particular version of history, in which people like Galileo are condemned for upholding science over scripture (which I think is very sad, Galileo was quite committed to scripture and his faith, and finding how science can inform our faith without rejecting one or the other). As you can see below, they see both modernism and the Middle Ages as being a departure from truth, and in this presentation alienate even Catholic believers who may otherwise agree with them.

Creation Museum

Essentially they say - if we take the Genesis account literally, what would it have looked like? So they have exhibits about dinosaurs, the flood, the geological formation of continents, the Poles, etc. It's all interesting, though not too in-depth. It tends to stick with what I was taught in my 7th grade science class on creationism. I don't say that snarkily - it's meant to teach children, not be an academic treatise.

Creation Museum

creation museum 029b

It's a big place, with two cafes, one of them a coffee shop. Outside is big and beautiful, and right now is covered with snow. We went to a live nativity in the evening, which meandered around their petting zoo. We watched a show in their planetarium about the Christmas star and what it might have been astronomically. We watched a presentation in their theater about creationism and how to defend it.

For some reason the place was chock full of Mennonites, and apparently usually is. Some of them were even speaking Pennsylvania Dutch to their many children. I have no idea why they come from far and wide - maybe Creationism is currently a hot button issue within the Mennonite community? In any case, Isaac fit in with his chin beard! All I needed was a head covering and we would have been one of them.

What do I think about the museum overall?

Phew. How to put this? Isaac and I found it very difficult to visit the museum from a place like Isaac's seminary, which is itself a conservative evangelical school known for its excellent academic scholarship and exegesis of scripture. We sat in a class together as a professor that we both highly respect exegeted Genesis 1-2 and talked about how it would have been read by the Israelites, etc. His conclusion, and the conclusion of many other faithful Christian leaders, is that Genesis 1-2 does not necessarily lead to the literal six-day creationist view. I could write more about that, but that's a discussion for another day.

Then we visit this museum, which repeatedly says that they are people of the book, and repeatedly posits that if you do not hold to this particular view of creation then your theology will fall apart. Really? Essentially, they leave NO room for believers to hold to long-day creation, theistic evolution, basic intelligent design, or just an "I can't be sure what that passage definitely means". The museum did absolutely no exegesis, they don't explain why they believe what they believe, they just assume that if you're a Christian you believe it too and thus will join them in the fight against the evil evolutionists.

Isaac and I walked out of the museum discouraged because they didn't just present creationism, they were angry with everyone that isn't a literal six-day creationist. They condemn evolutionists for not examining their presuppositions against God, and yet the museum doesn't examine their own presuppositions. I'm sure that the scholars behind the museum have come to their conclusions someone, but it is totally unfair to come to such exclusive conclusions without explanation. It ends up looking like indoctrination without reason.

I do believe that it's true that our science and academia in the West at the moment tend to be ruled by a naturalist presupposition - the belief that everything must be natural therefore everything must have come to be naturally. I think there are a variety of ways to respond to this bias in the academy. There is an organization called the Discovery Institute, and Isaac and I have heard several members of this institute speak this past year. They were fantastic. Instead of just condemning academia or evolutionists, they start philosophical discussions about presuppositions, naturalism, etc. This starts a viable discussion, and it is not just people of faith that came take their side - anyone for academic honesty is willing to look beyond pure naturalism. That approach is in contrast to the Answers In Genesis/Creation Museum, which instead simply demonizes evolutionists and academics and leaves no room for discussion. I think it fuels the culture war fires and isn't helpful for anyone.

I hope what I just said make sense. It isn't that I disagree with creationism, I simply don't know because I don't think that scripture makes it clear how we are to interpret the creation story. I just don't like how exclusive the Museum is in their claims, against the exegesis and beliefs of many other Christians. I don't find their approach helpful.


Jaimie said...

Agreed. The Creation Musuem has always sounded like that to me. I've never been though. (I have a friend who used to work there.)

It's always crazy to me that we can respect people who see the Bible differently as still having a viable viewpoint, but they can't do the same back. It makes me think of Romans 14. They are definitely the weaker brother, and we are told not to despise them for their weakness. And that's really all the response I can give. God knows you can't reason with them.

Togenberg said...

Naturally they condemn the middle ages and Roman Catholics, but they condemn Galileo?!?! That is so strange.

I could never go to this museum because it would make me angry, self-righteous and cynical, make it harder to love cultural warriors and easier to see them as denizens of some anti-intellectual cul-de-sac of Modernism. I think my reaction would be to be cheeky, witty, mocking - and that would be so easy but it would not make me a better person and I would not see my Fundamentalist brothers and sisters as people and children of God but instead as frightened propagandists.

A kind and fair review. Thanks pal!

PresterJosh said...

Sounds like you had an interesting visit, though I'm not likely to drop by myself. :-)

CM said...

Hmm, I've actually never heard of this place. I did get the Creationist view beaten into me in high school. I think it's overly simplistic to insist on six 24 hour periods. From what little I'm coming to understand about the way that the Hebrews understood Scripture, literal number was not as important as the symbolism. Not to say that God couldn't have done in 6 days, or an instant, or however He wanted. Including evolution.

Young Mom said...

O my those pictures made me laugh! I love the sign with the quote from Luther, and how many in the ELCA are 6 day creationists? I can't say I know exactly how God made the world, I wasn't there. But I think that if he presented it as 6 days, and there isn't any reason God couldn't have done it in 6 days, why not just believe that he spoke the earth into existance in 6 days instead of thinking that humans are now suddenly scientifically advanced enough to finally figure it all out. It should NOT be a division causing crisis in the church.

Kacie said...

Exactly CM and Young Mom. It's not that I'm anti-creationist, because I believe God certainly could have done it that way, and if it's read literally it is certainly a six-day story. So yes, it could have been that way.

However I agree with what you said, CM. From what Seminary has taught Isaac and I, the Hebrews and others of their day may well have interpreted this story symbolically, rather than as a scientific text the way we do. If you interpret it symbolically you STILL come out with a Creator God that is above all, man made in His image, a perfect world that becomes broken through sin... etc.

Isaac likes to say he's agnostic on the issue - he doesn't think there's enough information to know how we are meant to interpret it. However, there are some definite things you can draw out of the text even if you don't know if it's symbolic or literal.

Joe said...

So what your saying is that you didn't catch the video where the Hebrew word "yom" is explained.

Kacie said...

I did watch that video. And my husband, who has taken years of Hebrew, has done exegesis in class on the same passage. Yom is used many ways... Isaac doesn't particularly like this arguement. However, the use of "evening and morning" is the strongest arguement for literalism.

Kathy said...

Thanks for giving a (rare) accurate comment on Galileo! Everyone thinks the Church wanted to execute him for teaching heliocentrism and that he was some kind of radical proto-atheist... except that he wasn't. Anti-Church enlightenment historians re-wrote Galileo in their own image, since he was one of the earliest "big names" in science that wasn't working directly for the Catholic Church, although he did dedicate some of his work to cardinals who had helped him or funded his work.

Ever read "Galileo's Daughter"? It's very interesting. His favorite daughter was a cloistered nun.

That Married Couple said...

I really enjoyed your post on this; it's both objective and faithful.

Anonymous said...

I've not had much interest in visiting the museum... it seems that only two choices are posited in the museum... 24/7 Creationism or secular humanism - did I understand that correctly? What about those of us who are Old Earth Creationists? The creation story wasn't supposed to be a lab report anyway. I also have trouble with those that link salvation to one particular view of creation... seems very narrow.

I enjoyed your review though - it was kind and honest.

Kacie said...

Correct, Debd, that is presented as the only option, which is what bothered me. As a Christian, it seemed rather one-sided. I am all for their freedom to present 24/7 Creationism, but I did not appreciate that they presented that as the only Christian option, or else.

michelle said...

just a note - i saw your other post w/ the pics from the live nativity - the "mennonites" are probably actually amish. unless that area is highly populated w/ what are called "old order mennonites", which are more like the amish in their dress. i grew up in PA "amish country" and there were mennonites fact, phil was raised mennonite! :) but typically mennonites are pretty much like us but it is more like a denomination. the amish are the ones who are always noticed by their dress, driving horse and buggies and having no electricity.

Kacie said...

And that's why we don't think they were Amish - because they were driving - and because they went to watch a movie shown in the Creation Museum!

Anonymous said...

I probably lean more toward a six-day creation, but definately not dogmatic about it and I figured the museum would be a bit maddening.

We were a bit put off once with a friend who felt that anyone who believed in a six-day creation was close minded and unintelligent. But in our discussions we found that he wasn't very open minded about it.

I know that God would be capable of creating the universe in six days, but I wonder if there might be a bit more significance in a more allegorical interpretation rather than spending our days feuding about how long a day is.

Kacie said...

I do fully agree - the close-mindedness of both sides and the insistance on angry debate is really distracting from the point of the passage to BOTH sides - the preminance of the Creator God, our responsibility as His creation, etc.

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