by Jack Hoehn

Name calling has a long, juvenile history. Saying things like, You’re a Cry Baby! You’re a Big Liar! or You’re the Teacher’s Pet! is no more immature than labeling a friend as a Bleeding-Heart Liberal! or a Right-Wing-Conservative! On talk shows each political operative is coached to “keep on message” which means don’t get into nuanced discussion of issues, just keep repeating the party’s catch phrases as many times as possible in the 30 seconds of air time you have. Propaganda substitutes for thought, and labels avoid the risk of sympathy if not understanding.

That is why every time the Adventist Review calls me a “Darwinian Adventist” I feel tarred, if not feathered!

I’ve never met Mr. Darwin, never studied at his temple, don’t agree that his theories on the origin and development of life are reasonable, and have read more and more evidence that as someone wrote, “Lenin is Dead, Freud is Dead, and Darwin isn’t feeling very well!” 

If I happen to believe that rich Adventists should use their wealth to help the poor, I don’t want the Adventist Review to call me a “Communist Adventist”. And if I believe that God created sex and meant for it to be important in human life, I don’t want the Adventist Review to call me a “Freudian Adventist”. And if I have come to believe that God created life in a more complex and interesting way than is simplified in Genesis 1, I don’t want them to call me a “Darwinian Adventist”!

There is an unproven fear lurking behind the tactic to label everyone a “Darwinian” who doesn’t agree that the Bible limits God’s Creation to 144 hours 6,000 years ago. 

The fear is that you are destroying the basis for all our other beliefs! As goes your opinion on the chronology of Genesis 1, so goes the Bible?  This so called domino or house of cards theory has bolstered many arguments throughout the ages. If you give up this point, then “everything else” is destroyed. All falls down like a house of cards, once you remove the Ace. All dominoes fall once you tip over the Double Zero standing at the start of the line.

But what if I tip my domino sideways, or let it fall away from the line? What if I don’t tip it over at all, but just take it out, turn it upside down, and then put it back in line but now upside down?

And what if my faith is not a house of cards based on a chronology of Genesis 1 at all? What if my faith is firmly based on the Gospels, and the Resurrection?  What if Creation is a pillar of my faith, but the chronology of Creation a surface detail on that pillar?

If you understand that I don’t believe in Darwin, perhaps you might call me a “Created Life Changes and Adapts Adventist”, but even Young Earth Creationists all believe in dramatic evolution or change of creatures. In fact no Darwinian Evolutionist believes in faster and more dramatic evolution, than that required by a short chronology of only 2,000 years from Eden to Noah’s flood! That is evolution on Steroids! And I don’t believe life happened by chance evolution at any time, I believe in a progressive God commanded creation.

You might be closer to target if you accuse me of Intelligent Design, as an “ID-Adventist”.  Although no agreed chronology is part of Intelligent Design thought, there is universal support that all life shows evidence of being created, designed, planned, and brought into being by Intelligence. 

Whenever Creation happened I can always agree with my Bible that my Redeemer is my Creator.  My Bible has no dates in it. I can be comfortable with ambiguity on the chronology of Creation, but no ambiguity at all that life shows unmistakable hallmarks of an Intelligent Designer.

Cliff Goldstein recently challenged us to “give me a reinterpretation of the (Bible) texts…” and I agree this is the real challenge. (Adventist Review, March 15, 2012)

There is not a lot left to discuss about the evidence from Bristlecone pines, layers of ice/pollen in Greenland, the evident progression of the Hawaiian Islands from young and tall to old and flat or worn away–not fitting a 6,000 year chronology.  I think those discussions are largely over. I think the more fruitful Adventist debate is not are you a 144 hour or a 13.7 billion year Creationist, but how do we understand the Bible.

Jesus reinterpreted the Bible of his day to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, “beginning at Moses.” (Luke 24) The Old Testament said new and surprising things to them after that Bible study. They saw truths they never before had understood. Instead of ending with their old understanding of Scripture, (according to Jesus they had been “fools and slow” in their past understanding of the Bible)  under Jesus instruction they began a new, deeper Christian understanding.  

Believing first-Adventists had Jesus himself to push a change in their understanding of the Old Testament. Believing second-Adventists have the Spirit of Prophecy to encourage us to look for new and better explanations of the Word of God.

Ellen White, Signs of the Times, May 26,1881:
“The Word of God presents special truths for every age. The dealings of God with His people in the past should receive our careful attention. We should learn the lessons which they are designed to teach us. But we are not to rest content with them. God is leading out His people step by step. Truth is progressive. The earnest seeker will be constantly receiving light from heaven. What is truth? Should ever be our inquiry.”

How to best understand the Bible stories of creation is not yet resolved between short term, long term, and evolutionary Creationists. But as we study, pray, and attempt to convince each other of a better Chronology of Creation and clearer understanding of how to undersand the Bible, here’s my offer: 

I won’t call you a “Narrow-minded, dogmatic, and parochial Adventist” instead of a Young Earth or Short Term Creationist.

As long as you don’t tar me as a “Darwinian Adventist” instead of an Old Earth or Long Term Creationist.

Creationists of all kind stand against Godless evolution. But God-permitted change has to be on the table. And chronology is fully up for debate. Don’t shut that debate down with unfair labels.