Re: YEC Destroying Faith

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Thu Apr 15 2004 - 21:07:34 EDT

Glenn Morton wrote:
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From:
> > [] On Behalf Of George Murphy
> > Sent: Thursday, April 15, 2004 7:17 AM
> > I'm not sure whether you categorize me as a "liberal":
> > I don't.
> I wasn't referring to anyone in particular. What I was thinking of when
> I wrote that is the numerous times I have heard people say about such
> situations, when a YEC is having trouble, that what they should do is
> believe that the Bible is
> 1. allegorical
> 2. non-historical
> 3. a poem which teaches us deep truths
> 4. it is a myth
> Etc etc
> The thing people who suggest such things don't realize is that they are
> effectively helping that person to atheism. Given their epistemology
> that the Bible must have historical truth, if one tells them "come on be
> a christian but you don't have to believe it has historical truth," what
> that person is doing is telling them that their worst case scenario has
> just occurred! The bible ISN"T true. That merely makes the crisis
> worse.

        The Bible has historical truth. Some of it is history, some isn't. The
question though is whether it is _all_ historical truth &, in particular, whether
Gen.1-3 should be read as historical narrative. I assume that under "Etc etc" you
include the possibility the the Genesis creation accounts are theological statements
about God's relationship to the world & humanity. Is that really so vacuous?
        You argue that in order to help a YEC in crisis we have to agree that that early
Genesis is historically true. That avoids the question of whether or not it really _is_
historically true. I agree that one needs to be gentle about this & that concordism of
very sorts can - as I said below - provide a useful halfway house. If someone in this
situation says "maybe the days of creation were really geological ages" or something
like that, I'd say "That's one way of thinking about it."
        But I will not dissimulate forever. If that person asks, "Do _you_ believe that
Genesis 1 & 2 are historically concordant & accurate accounts of past events in the
earth's history, I'll say "No." & I will immediately add - if it hasn't already been
made clear - that I believe in the cross & resurrection of Christ & in him as my Lord &
savior. & if that can't at least convey to the person that it's possible to reject the
historicity of Genesis & still hold the Christian faith, so be it.

> Anyway, I grew
> > up in church setting in which evolution was rejected & in
> > which YEC was, at least in
> > theory, held. As a freshman in high school I did a science
> > project called "A Refutation
> > of the Theory of Evolution." I gradually exited that kind of
> > thing with some temporary
> > help from "apparent age" & "day-age" notions, & without much
> > trauma of faith or
> > intellect.
> You were fortunate. Some people aren't.
> >
> > The sort of concordism promoted by many on this list
> > (though with little
> > agreement on what early Genesis is supposed to be in concord
> > with!) can be a helpful
> > halfway house (nice alliteration) for those exiting YEC. But
> > they can move to more
> > mature forms of Christianity & not live in the halfway house
> > forever. (& by "more
> > mature forms of Christianity" I do _not_ mean "liberalism.")
> I will say something you won't like here. The mere term 'more mature'
> forms of Christianity, is a term of snobbery, George. It rates the
> other person's form of Christianity as less mature. There is no escape
> from that logic. And to say that to a person in the midst of a crisis
> that they need to have a 'more mature' faith is not very helpful. In
> fact, I would find it hurtful. Maybe someone like me doesn't have the
> maturity that you have achieved, but telling them that doesn't help them
> get there. That is simple human dynamics.
        You're right - I shouldn't have said "more mature faith" & apologize for that.
"A more satisfactory theology" would have been preferable. But in any case, I didn't
mean that I would say to the person in crisis, "You need a more mature faith." He or
she may settle down in the halfway house for a long time, & while I don't think that's
ideal, it's not the worst thing in the world.

        & having made the retraction I did above, I would add that that applies to
people who have some sense of faith priorities & realize that trusting in Christ is more
important than what one thinks about the age of the earth. OTOH, in extreme cases in
which a person's faith consists simply in believing that a list of historical events -
6-day creation, Flood, Jonah, Virgin Birth, Cross, Resurrection, &c - actually happened
is not genuine Christian faith at all because it lacks the fundamental element of trust
_in_ Christ. I might not say that to the person in that situation right away but it
would nevertheless be true.

> > One of the things that was helpful in my own case is
> > the fact that while the
> > Missouri Synod does reject evolution & insist on a more or
> > less "literal" interpretation
> > of early Genesis, it has always held - with the Lutheran
> > tradition in general - that the
> > gospel of Jesus Christ and the doctrine of justification is
> > the core of Christian faith. So while dropping the idea that
> > Genesis is accurate history & accepting evolution may be
> > difficult for a person in that tradition, one needn't feel
> > that the Christian faith
> > itself is being abandoned. If you've got to grow up as a
> > YEC, have the good fortune to
> > do it in a church that at least has its priorities straight.
> > Of course that doesn't
> > help someone in crisis right now in a church that doesn't
> > have its priorities straight
> > & thinks, e.g.(with Ken Ham), that Genesis is the foundation
> > of Christianity.
> I would agree with you here, personally. But the YECs simply won't. And
> neither will those in the midst of a YEC generated crisis. They will
> look at that and do exactly as I have done with you over the years and
> ask
> 1. So God didn't know what happened at the time of creation and thus
> told us a fairy tale?

        I reply (as St. Tom would say):
        a) "Fairy tale" is your term & if you're going to use "proof by ridicule" we
won't get anywhere.
        b) Who told you that God was obligated to tell you everything that happened at
the time of creation?

> 2. So God doesn't have the power to communicate actual scientific truth

        a) Who told you that God's purpose in scripture was to communicate actual
scientific truth?
        b) If God was trying to do that, he did a poor job of it. E.g., there's no big
bang there. (& before you produce a Ross-like argument that there is, find any
commentator before 1920 who read Genesis 1 that way.)
> (something I would apply to my friend Paul Seeley's views)

> 3. God tells us not to bear false witness but He is allowed to do it?

        a) Only if you assume that God was trying to give an accurate scientific
account. & (having given the person the 2 accounts of Lincoln's death that I've
mentioned here before several times) I reply further, "Was Whitman "bearing false
witness" when he described Lincoln lying dead on the deck of a ship?
> On and on. MY point is not to get back into that merry-go-round you and
> I have had, but to try to make people here understand how ineffectual
> the help is that is often offered.

        I am sure that in many cases the kinds of help I would try to provide would not
be effective because the person has so closely identified the Christian faith with the
historical truth of early Genesis. But these arguments will be made even less effective
if they are caricatured as "fairy tales" &c.
George L. Murphy
Received on Thu Apr 15 21:09:52 2004

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