Posted on March 26, 2015 at 12:07 pm by Dr. Jim
Woot! I have one of my SBL proposals accepted for Atlanta in November. It is in the “Use, Influence, and Impact of the Bible” section.
Creating Genesis in Their Own Image: On Young Earth Creationism’s Creative Mythology
Biblical scholars and theologians often deride Young Earth Creationism (YEC) as “bad theology” that represents an unsophisticated anti-modernist hermeneutic based on a simplistic doctrine of scriptural inerrancy. Consideration of YEC’s modern creation mythology often takes place in polemical contexts that accuses it of irresponsibly forcing the ancient biblical materials into a pseudoscientific straightjacket. Studies of YEC’s history and political agendas tend to take the phenomenon more seriously as an object of study in its own right. Some researchers note how YEC anti-modernist discourse builds on particular mythic notions of American identity (e.g., E. Caudill, 2014, on the cultural myths of the “Garden”, “Frontier”, “Progress”, and “Individualism”). These studies do not, however, examine in detail creationist hermeneutics and mythic constructs based on the Bible. I argue that YEC needs to be studied as a totalizing myth-making endeavor that embraces stories about origins and models of the universe developed from the intersection of Bible passages and appropriations of scientific concepts and language, along with myths about the Bible and of human religious, moral and intellectual history.
This paper presents the variety of YEC cosmologies as part of a more expansive myth-making process through by which creationists continually create meaning through a “play” between various social, cosmic, and historical paradigms and models, including the place and nature of science as method of gaining knowledge of the divine and as a factor in society. My methodology develops from thinkers such as J. Z. Smith, Wendy Doniger, André Droogers, and Bruce Lincoln. YEC’s myths of origins center on Genesis and adapt various interpretations of such things as the “firmament” and the origins and fate of the waters of the deluge. There are also various accommodations of biblical creation passages outside of Genesis. These models are typically placed in the context of a Western Christian view of Original Sin and Salvation. In some cases, the nemesis of YEC, “evolution”, becomes a facet of human apostasy from the origins of human society, preceding Darwin by millennia, thus positing the modern debate as intrinsic to the nature of the fallen world. This paper also traces some aspects of the paradox creationists face in having to cast revelation in a “scientific” light to affirm its cultural relevance and inherent integrity, and of the inner YEC dynamics surrounding the multiple cosmological options. I argue that this opens up opportunities for “scientific” debate not dependent upon the approval of secular scientists, thus the disagreement leads to a strengthening of creationist identity.