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Saturday, 21 November 2015

YEC - the worst barrier to preaching the gospel in a scientific age

In a world where the evidence for an ancient Earth has been acknowledged as compelling for well over 150 years, and accessing this evidence can be obtained with a few taps on a phone screen, not only maintaining the demonstrably false belief in a 6000 year old universe, but demanding that it be a first principle of the One True Faith will do far more to destroy Christianity than any number of New Atheist screeds. Tyler Franke, who runs the excellent God of Evolution website gets it in one:



This is not hyperbole - the path from YEC to atheism is well-worn, and while fundamentalists privilege their interpretations of the creation narrative and uninformed dismissal of the scientific evidence over what both books of divine revelation actually say, the decline in our community will continue unabated.

Christians in the life and earth sciences, who are in a position to appreciate the evidence for common descent and an ancient Earth regard this with not a little unease. [1] Recently, three Christian geologists, speaking at a 2009 lecture to the Evangelical Theological Society in New Orleans highlighted this crisis of faith which believers face each time they discover that their YEC is little more than unscientific smoke and mirrors:
A friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) attended conservative churches his entire life – churches that openly push and teach a young-earth position. He has been a teacher and a leader in his local church. He is a strongly logical, thinking person who wants to know God’s truth. He told us recently that he is thinking about giving up on Christianity and becoming an agnostic. Why? As he became more knowledgeable about the scientific evidence regarding the age of the earth, he found increasingly that facts presented by young-earth organizations had been misrepresented. He no longer knows who to believe or who to rely on. He feels that he has believed lies his whole life. [2]
The tendency for the evangelical Christian church to source their information outside of mainstream science [3] tends however to blunt the impact of such scientifically informed Christian warnings both against science denialism and basing first principles on demonstrably false views of the natural world. Deconversion anecdotes such as these, culled from a 2002 TalkOrigins post of the month [4] are representative of the one-way traffic towards unbelief that often results when science and faith are pitted against each other:
I. The fact that, when you consider the available evidence and with our present understanding, evolution makes so much more sense than creationism. It was a matter of intellectual integrity for me. For example the universality of the genetic code. The fact that structurally we are all variations on a theme. Obvious cases of microevolution which can easily be extrapolated out to macroevolution. The age of the earth, etc. Oh, and the lousy, dishonest stories professional creationists have invented to try to explain it all.
There came a point when the contradictions were too obvious to ignore and the answers were lacking. I realized that I would have to leave sooner or later so I decided I might as well go sooner than remain shackled in what I felt to be a lie.
II. I started out really enthusiastic about creationism, and wanted to become a contributor. I thought the place to start was to take creationist quotes, look up the original evolutionist sources, and see what else I could find. What I found was that creationists were being misleading (to put it kindly) with regards to what evolutionists were really saying. That was the beginning…I read some books detailing scientific responses to creationism, and found that, rather than running around worrying about the alleged lack of answers, scientists had quite a lot of rather good answers, backed up by hard data, as well as telling critiques of flaws in creationist arguments.
Finding I couldn't trust what conservative Christians said about Genesis, I began questioning other things as well, which ultimately led to the realization that there was nothing to Christianity that was so much supernatural as it was psychological and social.
III. I was raised in a Southern Baptist church...I had always loved science/learning and especially dinosaurs. I was also very committed to my church. When I was around 12 to 13, I started asking questions about the contradictions between what I read in the Bible…what was preached at my church; and what I was learning in school and personal studies, about science especially. My parents sent me to our preacher to counsel me. Over the period of about a year, our preacher became very frustrated with me because I wouldn't just take his word for what was true or not (He was of the "Dinosaur fossils aren't real; they are fakes either because scientists are lying and/or because the Devil created them to test our faith" school.) He eventually stopped the counseling sessions with the cautionary words (more or less yelled at me) that if I kept questioning, I would be damned to Hell.
Eventually, though, I took a really hard atheistic stand. Some of the reason for that was the initial 'counseling' I got from that Southern Baptist preacher. I was told then that to believe in the 'supernatural' I had to cease to use my brain. I couldn't do that. That early lesson stuck and I was always more skeptical of blind faith after that.
IV. I was raised in a household that was dominated by Grandpa, a Southern Baptist preacher. You might say I was born a creationist. However, by the time I was ten or so, Grandpa made it clear that one could not be a fundamentalist ("bible-believer") and friendly to science. So, naturally, I chose science. 
One could readily multiply such anecdotes, but the point has been made. Any Christian community that bases fundamental doctrines on special creation runs the risk of losing believers who, when they discover evidence against special creation may well end up abandoning not only special creationism but their faith, and that is scandalous.

References

1. Organisation such as the BioLogos Foundation were formed in order to disabuse the lay Christian of the belief that Christianity and evolutionary biology are in opposition.

2. Wolgenmuth K, Bennett GS, Davidson G “Theologians Need to Hear From Christian Geologists About Noah’s Flood” Lecture given to the Evangelical Theological Society, New Orleans, Louisiana November 18th 2009. Solid Rock Lectures.

3. Giberson K “Why Evangelicals Are Fooled Into Accepting PseudoscienceHuffington Post 23rd September 2011