In the past few weeks, I have had numerous on-line interactions with YECists (Young Earth Creationists). Prior interactions inspired my recent posts on the tendency of many YECists to react to simple statements in accord with orthodox Christian doctrine with shock and seemingly “righteous” indignation and, subsequently, in defense of their YEC beliefs and supposedly in defense of Christian orthodoxy, they frequently make assertions deemed heterodox by the Christian tradition.
When the error is brought to their attention via relevant quotes and links to texts, YECists will not change their position but change the authoritative source of their assertion. That is, in their initial reaction, they will claim that their position is the traditional orthodox position. Yet, when I or someone else provides evidence from Church Fathers, councils, and creeds to demonstrate their error, then, persisting in their error, YECists will reject the arguments of the Church Fathers, councils, and creeds. Usually, at this point, YECists will then claim that it does not matter what the Church Fathers, councils and creeds say for those teachings are the “fallible words of men” and their position is based in the “infallible Word of God.” In other words, they retreat into the argument that their position is the biblical position based on the plain reading of the text (of course). Any position that is contrary to their position is then obviously not biblical but shaped by non-authoritative extra-biblical sources.
Of course, for those of us familiar with the development of doctrine, this begs the question (and I think I am using this idiom in its proper sense from logical argument). Arius assumed that his teachings were biblical. Apollanaris assumed his teachings were biblical. Yet, whether YEC and indeed the doctrine of inerrancy into which YECists ultimately retreat are biblical and in such a way that excludes all other interpretations of the Scriptures is precisely the question at hand.
Having a “dialogue” (and I use the term loosely) with a YECist is quite predictable in its circularity and its self-serving inconsistency. I have written the following dialogue as a way to draw you into the limited circle of reasoning that is characteristic of YECism.
Imagine I am sitting at a chess board in a park waiting for someone to join me in a game. A man comes and sits across from me. The white pieces are in front of my opponent. So, he proceeds to move the Queen’s pawn forward one space. I am intrigued by this cautious opening but say nothing. I respond by moving my King’s pawn forward two spaces to take control of the centre.
“You cannot do that!” My opponent exclaims.
“Do what?” I ask — taken aback.
“You cannot move two spaces.”
“Of course, I can. It is the pawn’s first move.”
“No. No. You don’t understand the rules. You may only move more than one space, if you jump another piece.”
“But the only piece that can ‘jump’ is the Knight and the only piece that is permanently restricted to moving one space at a time is the King.”
“But you don’t have any Kings, yet, and everyone knows that Kings can jump as well as any piece. We’ve barely begun and you have already cheated.”
“But I do have a King. He is right here.”
“Oh, how can I have been so silly. You have not cheated. I see you do not know how to play at all. You have placed your king on the white square. He should be on a black square like the other. . . Oh My! I see now that you have set the whole board up incorrectly. Here let me . . .”
You watch as the man begins to shift his pieces so that they are all on black squares but as he reaches toward my pieces, I shoo his hand away.
“Stop.” I say. “I see, now. You want to play checkers.”
“Of course, I want to play checkers.” He says with furrowed brow. “We are sitting at a checkerboard. Are we not?”
“Well, yes.” I say. “And no.”
“It is either a checkerboard or it is not a checkerboard. It cannot be both.”
“Yes, it can.” I respond. “It is a checkerboard when one is playing checkers but at present it is a chess board because I was hoping to play chess. Do you know how to play chess?”
“I have heard of chess but this is clearly a checkerboard and checkers is the only game that one should play on it.”
“Let me show you how to play chess and you will see that there is more than one way to use this board.” I suggest.
The man’s brow furrows again and he crosses his arms. “I see that you are deceived, sir.”
“What? How am I deceived? I am not sure what you are talking about.”
“You have obviously been told some false things about the proper use of this board and now you want me to use it improperly.”
“No,” I say, shaking my head. “I am simply showing you that this board can be used in more than one way. Chess is really a very fun game. Yes, it is more complex than checkers but strategy and tactics make it that much more interesting.”
“Aha! You have revealed yourself, sir. You are a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
“‘Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the strategies of the devil.’ You invite me with a checkerboard and yet you want to lead me into the improper use of the checkerboard. You want to lead me in a game of schemes and tactics just as the serpent lured Eve in the Garden.”
“No, I just want to show you another fun game that you can play on this board. Christians have been playing this game for centuries.”
“No, they have not, sir. No Christian I know plays this game nor has any Christian played this game.”
“Look,” I say, trying to maintain my composure, “see this piece here — the one beside the King. This piece is even called the Bishop.” The man’s eyes widen and he leans back farther.
“Oh, so you are a Catholic.” He sees with a look of fear in his eyes.
“N-no, I’m not,” I stutter, “but what has that got to do with anything.”
“You need to know your Church history, sir. Martin Luther rescued us from all those Catholic traditions and brought the Church back to the plain and simple teaching of the Bible. And it is clear that like the Bible itself checkers is far more perspicuous than chess with its schemes and tactics.”
“But the Bible says nothing about checkers.”
“That may be so but it says even less about chess and clearly speaks against it as I have already shown.”
“When did you show that?” I say now utterly confused.
“‘Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.’ That’s Ephesians, sir, if you don’t know your Bible.”
“Well, I do know something about the Bible and I’m fairly certain Paul is not warning his readers about the dangers of playing Chess.”
“Well, the application is obvious.” The man says with a dismissive wave. “Besides, just this past Sunday, my Pastor warned us about the dangers of chess and its feminist roots.”
“It’s what? I think it was invented by the Chinese.”
“Aha, you see you admit that it is not a Christian game. But again it is obviously part of the feminist agenda or perhaps even has its roots in the worship of Astarte given that the most powerful piece is the Queen.”
“Now, you are just being ridiculous.” I say with obvious exasperation. “It’s merely a game and the Bible has nothing to say for or against chess or checkers for that matter.”
“Typical, when chesscularists are backed into a corner, they resort to name calling. If you are not careful, when you climb Jacob’s ladder, you will find yourself sliding down the serpent’s back. If you ever want to play checkers, then please come to my church. It is never too late to repent.”
“No, thanks. I’m going for a draught.”
Now, if the above conversation seems to have gone off the rails at some point, then I have succeeded in capturing the nature of almost every internet interaction I have had or have witnessed someone else having with a YECist.