The $27 million Creation Museum opens its doors on Memorial Day amid a flood of protests and debates over its version of history – based on the literal interpretation of the Bible.
The 60,000-square-foot facility in Petersburg, Ky., located just outside of Cincinnati, depicts a literal six-day creation model of the earth, beginning about 6,000 years ago, and stands as one of the several Christian models on how the world and life first began. It has also revived the creation and evolution debate among Young Earth creationists, Old Earth creationists, anti-creationism evolutionists, and theistic evolutionists.
"The argument we make is this: When you believe in millions of years of evolution and add it to the Bible, you actually have to change what the Bible clearly says," explained Ken Ham, the founder of the museum and CEO of the apologetics ministry Answers in Genesis, in an interview last week with The Christian Post. "You have to reinterpret it. That unlocks the door to say that you don't take this as written. You reinterpret it from outside influences, which means that you tell the next generation that you can't take the Bible as written. So you just undermine biblical authority."
While many Christians would agree with Ham, particularly Young Earth creationists who believe that the Hebrew text of Genesis can only mean a literal six (24-hour) day account of creation, there are also many who believe the Bible must not be looked at literally in all instances.
Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institute of Health, says he has no problem with looking at Genesis as being more of an allegory for how the world was created.
"As a born-again Christian, I regard Ken Ham as my brother in faith and I have no doubt of the complete sincerity of his position," Collins told The Christian Post. "But as a working scientist who has studied the intricacies of human DNA as my life's profession, I have arrived at very different conclusions on the basis of the facts in front of me."
Collins, who is a theistic evolutionist, is recognized for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and successfully leading the effort to complete the Human Genome Project (HGP), a complex multidisciplinary scientific enterprise directed at mapping and sequencing all of the human DNA, and determining aspects of its function. He is the author of the book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief and is invited to many settings to defend Christianity in debates about the existence of God and evolution.
"By closing their minds to the profoundly compelling evidence about the age of the universe and the relatedness of living things by descent from a common ancestor, those who adopt an ultra-literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 seem to imply that God needs to be defended against what science is teaching us about nature," said Collins. "Didn't God create all of this? Isn't science therefore a way to worship Him?"
As a theistic evolutionist, Collins believes that the world was created billions of years ago, and that evolution does take place, just that evolution is guided by God.
"Could God actually be threatened by what our puny minds are learning about the beautiful complexity of His creation?" posed the scientist. "And was Genesis intended as a textbook of science, a source for Creation Science museum exhibits, or a powerful message to tell us about God's character and our own?"
More widely held by Christians than Young Earth creationism is Old Earth creationism, which is typically more compatible with mainstream scientific thought on the issues of geology, cosmology and the age of the Earth. The latter variant of the creationist view still generally takes the accounts of creation in Genesis more literally than theistic evolution (or evolutionary creationism), but argues that the earth is much older than a few thousand years. Old Earth creationism is also divided among Gap creationists, Progressive creationists, and Day-Age creationists.
Reasons to Believe (RTB) – a science and faith think tank which believes that the world was created in "ages" that correlate to Genesis' six "days" – has taken the middle ground, believing in a billion-year-old earth while at the same time dispelling evolution.
The focus of its scientists when discussing the new Creation Museum is to look at the commonalities that Christians share and not get too caught up in the Genesis argument. Christians should not break fellowship over that issue, they say.
"One might expect mutual hostility between Answers in Genesis (the ministry behind the Creation Museum) and RTB since we fall into two different and disparate creationist camps," explained RTB president Hugh Ross and group of scientists in a statement to The Christian Post. "However, from a Christian perspective, we have more in common than we have areas of disagreement. This statement does not gloss over the significant differences between each view or minimize the importance of working through those differences. It simply highlights the 'in-house' nature of this creation debate that God calls us to resolve in a manner that honors Him."
A question that arises amid all of the debates is whether or not one type of creation model will discourage a person's faith. If someone was told that evolution was true, for instance, would it drive them away from the Bible?
"Maybe there's someone out there – but I haven't met anybody yet – who because we told them to believe the six literal days and believe what the Bible has written, has left Christianity," argued Ham. "But I sure have met many, many people, even just in the conference I was at in Washington, D.C., because of what they were taught years ago about evolution, that they learned not to trust the Bible."
Collins, however, says he has seen the opposite occur. He has seen many youth leave the church, because they were told that the literal creationist model was the only one that they could follow.
"They have been led to believe that acceptance of those facts (for evolution) would mean the collapse of their faith," Collins explained to The Christian Post. "They feel they are being asked to choose between science and faith. And yes, to my great sadness, quite a few of them choose science and walk away from their faith. How terribly tragic, and how terribly unnecessary."
Despite their disagreements, all three camps of belief came to agreement when it came to this point: that what truly saves is the grace of God and belief in Jesus Christ. Through that, humans gain life.
To emphasize this conclusion, Collins shared a statement from one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity, St. Augustine.
"In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received," wrote the fifth-century Christian theologian. "In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it."