“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God's thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.” ― George MacDonald link
There is an advantage of staying in a church over a long period of time if one is interested in observing how various beliefs play out in reality. I know that some of our readers do not like us to wander into the area of creationism. However, it has been an issue that has helped me to observe the demise of promised results.
Here is a quote from that bon vivant of the young earthers, Ken Ham, in an article he wrote in 2015 Is AIG Driving Young People from the Church?
Well, research published in 2011 by the Barna Group in the book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church, and Rethinking Faith by David Kinnaman, actually shows how wrong this accusation is. An article on this book and its research says that one of the six reasons that young people are leaving the church is because “Churches come across as antagonistic to science.”
He quoted the Barna study.
It goes on to say,
One of the reasons young adults feel disconnected from church or from faith is the tension they feel between Christianity and science. The most common of the perceptions in this arena is “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” (35%). Three out of ten young adults with a Christian background feel that “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” (29%). Another one-quarter embrace the perception that “Christianity is anti-science” (25%). And nearly the same proportion (23%) said they have “been turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.” Furthermore, the research shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries.
Then he makes his point. Young people are leaving the church because they are not being taught the reality of young earth creationism. In fact, it is rather amusing that he equates apologetics with teaching young earth creationism.
Now, why do these young people who left the church think that Christianity is “anti-science” or “out of step with the scientific world we live in”? Is it because they were taught apologetics by Answers in Genesis or another creation ministry? No! It’s because they weren’t taught apologetics at all! One of the graphs in the book shows that 52% of the young people surveyed aspired to work in a science-related career but only 1% of the surveyed young people said that their youth pastor or youth worker had addressed “issues of science in the past year.” Only 1%!
A church which did it Ken Ham's way and things didn't turn out as expected.
There was a well known family in my former church. They were the role models for "how to raise your kids." They were home schooled, of course. The father was involved in the church leadership and the mom was involved in teaching other families "how to do it their way."
I was still rather clueless about things at this church. However, I was becoming increasingly concerned that the church taught young earth creationism exclusively to the children from kindergarten through high school. Every year (I am not exaggerating), each class had to spend 6 weeks teaching young earth creationism. So, one day, I stopped at this family's house to pick up something. I mentioned my concern to this mother and was taken aback by her response. She adamantly stated that young earth creationism was the only biblical approach and that I was wrong to be concerned.
So, not only did the church teach young earth creationism exclusively, the kids in that home school group were hearing it there as well. My husband and I took matters into our own hands and taught our kids our belief in an old earth as well as helping them to understand that even evolution could have been part of God's plan.
Years down the line I learned that the children, now adults, (and very nice, by the way, have rejected the faith altogether and have a cold relationship with their parents. By the way, they know Ken Ham's *apologetics" and they have rejected the faith, in part, because they know how bogus it is.
I bet you are thinking that this is just one example. I wish it were so. Another family who we knew in the same church were totally sold on the gospel being equated with young earth beliefs. Their oldest son came to them and said he no longer believed it. They insisted that he could not be a Christian and believe differently. So, the son rejected the entire faith. When I asked the parents if they thought if was worth it to insist on a young earth, they said they had to because biblical *truth* was more important than compromising.
Recently, I received an email from a reader who wanted to tell me that he had recently rejected a Young Earth in favor of an Old Earth. He had defended the young earth position here and I asked him what changed his mind. He said he did what I suggested. He went to websites like Reasons to Believe, the American Scientific Affiliation and Biologos and came to the conclusion the evidence for an old earth was irrefutable.
Scientific discoveries are beautiful; not grotesque.
Slate recently posted How an Evangelical Creationist Accepted Evolution. The opening to this article caught my eye.
Scientists announced in September that they had discovered a huge cache of ancient hominid bones deep in a cave in South Africa. The bones, representing at least 15 individuals, belonged to previously unidentified member of our family tree. Homo naledi had fingers curved for climbing, a brain the size of an orange, and perhaps even a penchant for disposing of its dead.
When he heard the news, Brad Kramer rejoiced. “Awe-inspiring” is how Kramer, who was watching the two-hour NOVA and National Geographic special at home on PBS, described it. “The discovery, the evolutionary science, was amazing.”
Coming from a typical science-loving American, that response would hardly have been noteworthy. But Kramer isn’t like most science-loving Americans: He’s an evangelical Christian, a demographic group not particularly known for rejoicing over the study of human evolution. If the Homo naledi discovery had happened 15 years ago, Kramer would have had a far different reaction. He would have considered it an attempt by atheists to hijack faith with their “science-based religion.”
“I would not have seen such a discovery as beautiful,” he says now. “I would have seen it as grotesque.”
The life story of Kramer
He had been taught that science was good but the theory of evolution was made up by atheists.
In general, science was good. But evolution, Kramer was told, wasn’t science. “I had no idea there was anything to evolutionary theory other than atheist wishful thinking,” he says. “I had been told growing up and in every book I read that it was irrational, blind guesses made up by atheists to substantiate their atheist beliefs.”
Evolution was anti-Christianity.
As he began exploring the possibility that evolution was true, he became unsure of his faith. It is obvious that his parents were unable to be of help to him during this struggle so he felt scared.
To Kramer, the sites sounded hostile—as if they were “written as a direct attack on my faith” and “intentionally trying to jab a sharp stick in the eye of the Christians.” But they also sounded true. It was as if he had stumbled into a Pandora’s box, opening up question upon question that he felt ill-equipped to answer. For instance: OK, let’s say that an evolutionary process did take place. But if God was perfect, and God had chosen to use evolution, then why was evolution so flawed? “It was almost like my beliefs were colliding with reality,” he says. “There were just pieces in my mind that I could not put together … It was very scary.”
Kramer ventured into intelligent design but did not find enough there to satisfy him scientifically. Then, while attending Kings College, he had the rare opportunity to meet Dr Francis Collins.
Collins is an unusual scientist. As the longtime head of the Human Genome Project, he is one of the world’s leading geneticists as well as a devout, outspoken Christian. (Compared to the general population, far fewer scientists believe in God, according to Pew research.) In 2006, Collins wrote The Language of God, a deeply personal book that argued that the sciences provide evidence for the existence of a higher power. He once described the sequencing of the human genome with these words: “It is humbling for me, and awe-inspiring, to realize that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God.”
Collins was the first Christian Kramer had met who embraced evolution. In his lecture, Collins presented evolution as a means to understand the beauty and glory of God. Here was someone who showed that you could be an excellent scientist and still believe in God. “Most people are seeking a possible harmony between these worldviews [science and faith],” Collins said in an interview about the book. “And it seems rather sad that we hear so little about this possibility.”
In 2007, Collins founded BioLogos, a nonprofit that preaches the harmony between science and Christian faith. BioLogos’ target demographic is those softened evangelicals, as well as scientists who want to embrace faith. According to Deborah Haarsma, the current president of BioLogos, it embraces a literalist reading of the Bible, Jesus and all: “The Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God.” But it also embraces evolution. “We affirm evolutionary creation, recognizing God as creator of all life over billions of years,” reads the BioLogos mission statement. “[E]volution is not in opposition to God, but a means by which God providentially achieves his purposes.”
Kramer embraced evolution, went to seminary to study the Bible, and wrote an op ed piece for Patrol, Bridging the Great Divide. He writes beautifully. Here are the final two paragraphs of the piece.
Theistic evolution describes a God who created a universe with a “robust foundational economy,” to borrow again from Van Till. God poured his creative energy and his love into creation, forming a universe so good and so gifted that it had the ability to grow, develop, and improve without his constant correction. And where was God during the millions of years before Adam? He was there the whole time, involved in a wonderful, incomprehensible dance with his creation; sustaining and growing it until it was for him to imbue man with his nature.
The greatest irony of the evolution debate is that the sword that killed God should have been a death blow to secularism instead. Evolution shows our creator to be majestic, purposeful, and ingenious beyond any of our imaginations. By rejecting evolution, Christians jettison their best opportunity to unite faith and reason. For those who wish to restore Christianity’s place in the public square, no task should be more important. As 19th century theologian Benjamin Warfield put it: “Let us, then, cultivate an attitude of courage as over against the investigations of the day … None should be more quick to discern truth, more hospitable to receive it, more loyal to follow it, whithersoever it leads.”
Kramer has gone on to start a blog hosted at Biologos called The Evolving Evangelical. Here is what he has to say about his blog.
"Let us, then, cultivate an attitude of courage as over against the investigations of the day … None should be more quick to discern truth, more hospitable to receive it, more loyal to follow it, whithersoever it leads.” -evangelical theologian B.B. Warfield
Evangelical Christians are often seen as hopelessly anti-science. As a lifelong Evangelical, I've experienced these attitudes firsthand. But I also think Evangelicalism is evolving, as the movement asks new questions and deals with its spotted past. It's a complicated and exciting time to be an Evangelical (especially as a millennial), and I welcome you to follow my journey of faith as I wrestle with the hard questions about faith, science, and the Bible.
I only wish I could have reached out to more of the kids growing up in that church and had been able to show them how we can reconcile science with our understanding of the Bible. It breaks my heart to think about these kids who were so poorly taught that they felt they either had to accept shoddy science or to leave the faith. I am grateful for millennials like Kramer who are out there providing both the questions and some answers.
Please take the time to read the entire post at Slate. It is well written.
Ken Ham's Ark and the messy problem of baramins and evolution
For those of you who want to read more or to be challenged more, here is a link to an excellent article: Dodging Darwin: How Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter is Slowly Embracing Evolution found at NATURALIS HISTORIA: Exploring the Intersection of Science and Faith. Have you ever heard of baramins? Well, neither had I but they look to be very important in order to explain how Noah could have gotten all the animals on board this little boat. The answer is-he didn't. It would be impossible to get all of the animals of the world on one boat and Ken Ham knows that.
As the strict young-earth creationists at Answers in Genesis work to complete their Ark Encounter “theme park,” they have expended an impressive amount of energy organizing the millions of species of land animals alive today into a handful of small groups they call “baramins.”
They claim these groups represent the original created kinds of which Noah would have brought pairs onto the ark. This consolidation of numerous species into single “baramin” groups is driven primarily by the space on Noah’s purported vessel. The smaller the menagerie the Ark was purported to have contained, the more feasible it seems, and so the “baraminologists” at Answers in Genesis have gone to great lengths to explain how the vast array of species today could have been represented by a relatively low number of ancestral pairs.
This theory may constitute a real problem for Answers in Genesis.
Unfortunately for the young-earth model, the push to minimize the number of animals riding on the Ark has exposed a major problem with this view. Ironically, this problem is perhaps nowhere more apparent than with the very clade (the technical/evolutionary equivalent of the term “kind”) to which cats and dogs belong: Order Carnivora.
…Baraminologists claim that hundreds of species of carnivorans all descended from just eight ancestral pairs that survived the global Flood by riding on Noah’s Ark just a few dozen centuries ago. The creationist rule is simple: there can be dramatic variation within each of these groups, but no creature will fit between any of these groups.
…The problem is obvious. Creationists claim that the various “baramins” all have intrinsic, essential differences that render them totally unique and distinct from one another, but the presumed ancestors of each of these groups are all very, very similar. In fact, if creationists were presented with only the eight “ancestral” species depicted above, they would likely group most or all of them into a single baramin based on their obvious similarities. There is more morphological and genetic variation within each of the terminal “baramins” identified by Answers in Genesis than there is within the collective group formed by their ancestors.
…It almost seems it would be easier for creationists to claim a “super-carnivore” species which survived the flood as a single pair on board Noah’s Ark and thereafter multiplied into the many species shown above. Of course, they can’t do that, because they’ve spent the last sixty years insisting cats, dogs, hyenas, and bears (along with numerous other families) are all separate, distinct kinds which couldn’t possibly share a common ancestor. They would have to explain how a single common ancestor for all carnivores is really just “extended microevolution” if they wanted to keep insisting that “macroevolution” is impossible.
What’s more, they’re running out of time. Creationists believe in an Ice Age which ended about 700 years after the global flood, at which point most modern species would have had to already emerge. They must already propose an exponentially rapid burst of evolutionary speciation following the flood; there is no way they can fit a full 40 million years of adaptation and speciation into the 200-odd generations that would have spanned this period.
I look forward to the discussion.