Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What is a creationist? Part 1

I've been doing some reading lately and pondering the question of what makes a person a "creationist." On the one hand, Ron Numbers wrote a paper that traced the historical usage of the term and linked it in the modern world to young-age creationism. That's generally what I mean when I use the term by itself, but I've been making more of an effort lately to specify which kind of creationist I'm talking about.

In the "debate," the term creationist is used in a derogatory sense by various anticreationists trying to denigrate the Intelligent Design movement. Anticreationists would say that anyone who believes that God created, regardless of the method, is a "creationist." ID advocates hate that label, since creationism is obviously equated in the minds of many with young-age creationism, which many folks find absurd. On the other hand, since many (most?) of the ID leaders are Christians and believe that God created, can we really blame anyone for equating ID with creationism? Are there really that many agnostic ID advocates that we need a term other than "creationist" for them?

Then there's this post about me over at BioLogos. It's written by Dennis Venema, who (understandably) liked what I had to say about Fuz Rana and RTB a few weeks ago. It's a flattering post, in a depressing sort of way. I am once again identified as the "honest creationist," which I suppose is nice for me but also depressing in that I'm singled out as the only one. In his post, Venema wants to identify himself as a creationist as well, as he concludes his opening description of me:
In fact, I can think of only one major difference between us: my colleague is a Young Earth Creationist, whereas I am an Evolutionary Creationist. His name is Todd Wood, and he is a faculty member at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee.
You could think of "evolutionary creationist" as another term for "theistic evolutionist" that emphasizes the idea of creation rather than evolution. You could also think of theistic evolution as an unnecessary term, as Steve Matheson does. Venema wrote in the comments to his post, "Every Christian is a creationist of some sort - we hold that God is the Creator." Commenter Gregory took issue with this:
No, I disagree with you that *EVERY* Christian is a creation-IST. That is a (highly questionable) social-philosophical position, not a theological or biological one. it is one that I wholeheartedly reject. ... I suspect that if a poll was taken at BioLogos, far, far more would reject Dennis’ suggestion that “Every Christian is a creationist of some sort” than would agree with it. Is this topic open for discussion at BioLogos?
I think it's fascinating that there's such a debate over the question of origins that the very words we use to describe our positions can come under fire. Such a simple thing as a name holds great power.

In any event, I intend to explore in a sporadic (meaning non-daily) series this question of what is a creationist? Most of the entries will be my own personal musings, but I also want to know what my readers think. So drop me an email (address below) and tell me what you think. What is a creationist?

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.