Sunday, 9 June 2013

Understanding God's Word through His Creation -2

Special Creationism is a threat to belief

This is hardly uncommon, as even a casual examination of the internet reveals. [11] One of the most common themes in the deconversion anecdotes of ex-Christians is how the refutation of their creationism by scientific evidence led to their loss of faith. One such former Christian is Gordon Hudson, an Edinburgh-based charity worker whose involvement in special creationism was hardly minor, having been active in promoting one of the first tours to the UK of Ken Ham. He’s fairly emphatic in pointing out the role YEC had in his loss of faith:
“My own faith was shipwrecked by this issue because I had been told time and again that belief in a young earth and creation of the species as they currently are without evolution was essential to being a proper, soundly converted, bible believing Christian. When I started to doubt creationism I also began to question all the other things I had been told about God. I felt lied to, and ultimately I found I no longer believed in God. In hindsight if I had been in an environment where it was possible to believe in the Gospel message without having to accept creationism I would probably still be a Christian, or at least have some level of faith in God. Although it’s unlikely that this level of faith would have made me acceptable to evangelicals as a “real Christian”. [12]
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. [13] 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. [14]
The tendency for the evangelical Christian church to source their information outside of mainstream science [15] 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 [16]  are representative of the one-way traffic towards unbelief that often results when science and faith are pitted against each other:
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. [17]
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. [18]
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. [19]
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. [20]
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. 

Gordon Hudson, the ex-creationist mentioned earlier puts it bluntly. Christians who make “evolution-bashing” a part of their gospel proclamation strategy are playing with fire:

  • You are making the relevance of the bible conditional on the literal truth of a part of which stands at odds with observable facts.
  • You are unwittingly providing fuel for militant atheists.
  • You are misusing creation as a proof for the existence of God.
  • You are encouraging people to base their faith on a total denial of reason.
  • You are in danger of promoting lies. [21]
Coming from a former Christian once active in campaigning for YEC, it is difficult to dismiss his warnings, particularly when one considers the disturbing fact that one of the reasons 59% of Christian youth over the age of 15 either abandon the faith or leave the church for an indefinite period is the antagonistic stance taken by evangelical Christianity towards modern science. The Barna Group, a Christian market research group that has provided well-received material on faith in America notes that:
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. [22]
Despite this, young earth creationist organisations remain stubbornly wedded to an a priori commitment to a fundamentalist reading of Genesis. Terry Mortenson, a YEC theologian and historian regards adherence to Biblical literalism as important because he regards it as fundamental to his theological world view:
None of us, including any particular scholar (no matter how respected he is), or even the majority of scholars or Christians, can be the final authority for determining truth. God’s Word must be the authority. And it clearly teaches creation in six literal days about six thousand years ago and a global catastrophic Flood at the time of Noah. We must graciously but uncompromisingly contend for the literal historical truth of Genesis 1–11, which is absolutely fundamental to all other doctrines in the Bible. [23]
What Mortenson fails to so convincingly is justify why a Christian must interpret Genesis 1-11 literally or exactly how our salvation depends on recent creation in six days or a literal world-wide flood. Instead he damns respected 19th century Christian scholars such as Torrey, Warfield and Dana as ‘compromisers’ for being willing to follow the scientific evidence where it led them, even if it contradicted with a particular interpretation of the creation narratives. 

This refusal to engage with modern science is particularly acute given that the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly against flood geology and recent creationism, and in fact was recognised by conservative Christians well before Darwin. To be blunt, any Christian doctrine that hinges on a literal world-wide flood that laid down the fossils or recent creation in six days has been falsified, and no amount of appeal to a literal reading of Genesis will change observable reality. [24] Mortenson and his colleagues at Answers in Genesis may pride themselves on not compromising on what they believe to be a fundamental principle, but all they are doing is forcing believers to choose between observable reality and dogma, which as the Barna Group has shown is not a strategy for long-term growth of Christianity. More importantly, it is forcing believers to base fundamental doctrines on a description of the natural world that is demonstrably false.

This article first appeared at my Facebook page here.


11. See for example or, which contain many anecdotes from ex-Christians in which their discovery of the flawed nature of creationist claims featured strongly in their decision to leave Christianity.

12. Hudson G “Why creationism is bad for Christianity – an open letter to creationists in Edinburgh” October 27th 2010

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. Giberson K “Why Evangelicals Are Fooled Into Accepting Pseudoscience” Huffington Post 23rd September 2011






21. See ref. 12

22. Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church Barna Group September 28th 2011

23. Mortensen T “Exposing a Fundamental Compromise” Answers June 3rd 2010

24. See for example Alan Hayward’s “Creation and Evolution – The Facts and Fallacies” (Triangle Books, 1985). Although his arguments against evolution were flawed even in the early 1980s, and are utterly dated now, his critique of flood geology and young earth creationism still hold up today.