RE: (post?) [asa] promise trumps biology (accepting biological evolution for Adam)

From: Dehler, Bernie <bernie.dehler@intel.com>
Date: Fri Dec 19 2008 - 11:07:50 EST

George said:
"(Some may ask, if it's risky to try to convince them about evolution, age of the earth &c, why try? Why not let them remain in ignorance about those matters? Because congregations of such Christians produce
    a) more ignorant people, including the toxic variety in category 1, as well as
    b) young people who are brought up with YEC views but eventually learn the truth & as a result abandon the Christian faith altogether.)"

My concern- you hit the nail right on the head. I see your Case A and Case B so clearly. I still attend a YEC friendly church, so that may be what bothers me so, which means cases a and b are always front and center. Maybe if I was in an evolution-accepting denomination, I could chill-out... but that doesn't sound like a good thing... I like "seeing the need" to help drive me to see the importance of this ministry... the ministry of getting people out of camp a and trying to avoid camp b. Also, I think the older generation can be comfortable in denying/ignoring evolution because they aren't in the community that is faced with it almost daily- unlike high-school and college students today which can face it almost daily. These YEC churches work so hard to convert children- then likely loose them as they go to college or take any high-school college classes.

...Bernie

________________________________
From: George Murphy [mailto:GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com]
Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 2:20 PM
To: Dehler, Bernie; asa@calvin.edu
Subject: Re: (post?) [asa] promise trumps biology (accepting biological evolution for Adam)

Of course a one size fits all approach isn't appropriate. Let me distinguish 3 categories of Christians who disagree with some or all of the findings of science related to origins.

1) The YEC cadres or professionals, people like Ken Ham, who devotes their time & energy to convincing people that evolution hasn't occurred, the earth is young, &c & in some cases to claiming that you can't really be a Christian unless you accept their views. The chances of their ever being personally "converted" to acceptance of evolution &c are very small & that can't be our main goal in confronting them. Our purpose should rather be to refute their claims & minimize their influence. Their arguments should be opposed as strongly as possible and without qualification, with language as critical as it can be without becoming ad hominem. (& "ad hominem" should be understood in its precise & relatively narrow meaning. It is not an ad hominem argument to call somebody's claims stupid if reasons are given for that assessment.)

2) There are conservative Christians who like the give & take of debate about these matters & there are plenty of forums in which that takes place - the asa list among them. They've thought about the issues & know some of the options. Their opposition to evolution &c is primarily intellectual. Your approach can work OK with them - if you can convince them then they'll make the necessary adjustments.

3) But the folks I'm more concerned about are those who haven't really thought a lot about these issues & don't know the science, but have been brought up to believe that rejection of evolution, young earth, historical Adam &c are all essential for Christianity. "If we can't believe in Adam then why should we believe in Christ" &c. It's necessary to proceed carefully & pastorally with them. (I don't mean by that that only ordained pastors can do it.) You really have to be careful not to destroy their faith. If that means letting them live in an intellectual halfway house for awhile, fine - that's better than overwhelming them in such a way that they despair of the truth of Christianity entirely or, on the contrary, become militant about their opposition to science.

(Some may ask, if it's risky to try to convince them about evolution, age of the earth &c, why try? Why not let them remain in ignorance about those matters? Because congregations of such Christians produce
    a) more ignorant people, including the toxic variety in category 1, as well as
    b) young people who are brought up with YEC views but eventually learn the truth & as a result abandon the Christian faith altogether.)

Again, though, I emphasize that I'm not suggesting that we lie to people, just that we don't have to tell them the whole truth all at once. If a former YEC says, "Maybe the days represent geological ages" - well, that is a symbolic way of thinking about Gen.1 that could lead in the right direction, though it falls apart if you try to make it work as a detailed schema. It's certainly better than 24 hour days. & realize as well that this person may have thought that up himself & may see it as a great discovery. If so then quickly demolishing it may in fact make him feel foolish, regardless of how loving you try to be.

But this is a matter of tactics, not principle. You need to know the person you're talking to, which is part of being pastoral.

Shalom
George
http://home.neo.rr.com/scitheologyglm
----- Original Message -----
From: Dehler, Bernie<mailto:bernie.dehler@intel.com>
To: asa@calvin.edu<mailto:asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 1:40 PM
Subject: RE: (post?) [asa] promise trumps biology (accepting biological evolution for Adam)

George said:
"OTOH your insistence that she see everything your way & the implication (whether you like it or not) that she's stupid if she doesn't is likely to turn her off permanently. If you just want to win a debate, your approach may be OK. If you actually want to persuade the other person it isn't."

But isn't what you call "my way" the same as the way you see it and it is actually reality? As far as implying stupidity- why would that be the case if done in love and compassion? And if done in love and compassion, but the person still feels stupid, why feel bad about that? If that was the case, how could you teach anyone anything new??? No, I don't want to "just win a debate." However, you can't persuade anybody towards the truth if you don't give them the whole thing to consider. One thing I would refuse to do is to give them a false sense of security, such as suggesting that the YEC feel comfortable in being an evolution-denier... letting them feel comfortable, in your example, that they have a "half-way house" (in false belief) where they can comfortably live for a time being.

Maybe I'm just fed up because of people who held back on me- because it took me that much longer to find the truth for myself. Wasted years. But then again, the people I hung out with- the Pastors- really do deny evolution. I don't know if I know anyone who knew better but never told me because they were afraid of hurting my faith. If so, they really never did tell me.

Nothing personal- I just hope I can get you to see some damage caused by being too compromising.

Sure- people won't go to hell for not understanding origin's correctly. But I would never go on the defensive to defend ignorance. I would never say "Hold back on teaching them the whole truth because of so and so..."

Emails lose the personal touch, so I hope you don't misunderstand me and think I'm angry or anything. I'm just expressing some opinions and value your insight. I really want to attack thoughts and it isn't personal.

The more I talk to Christians about science, the more deplorable I find their understanding. Unfortunately, the movie "Religulous" made this point well: the average man in the pew is pathetic when it comes to reason and science. Maybe it is the attitude of compromise by some Pastors that are facilitating this? I love evangelism, and talking to atheists. They have no patience for any garbage (compromise) at all. I think we need to awaken the sleepers.

...Bernie
________________________________
From: George Murphy [mailto:GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com]
Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 10:15 AM
To: Dehler, Bernie; asa@calvin.edu
Subject: Re: (post?) [asa] promise trumps biology (accepting biological evolution for Adam)

Bernie -

The whole point of my 2 recent PSCF articles is that the basic teachings of the church about humanity as God's creation, sin, and salvation can be maintained in an evolutionary picture in which humanity does not originate from a single couple. That's what I meant by saying that an "historical Adam" isn't a fundamental issue.

On the question of how to deal with Christians who don't accept an old earth, insist on an historical Adam, &c: I think you're quite unrealistic about how to go about persuading people to consider & accept ideas that go against their established ways of thinking. Nobody is going to go to hell for believing that the world was created in 6 days, let alone 6 long periods of time, or for thinking that everybody is descended from Adam & Eve. The type of conversation I sketched (Yes, I meant "long" rather than "wrong") is likely not to be the last time the person will be confronted with these questions, & having moved a significant step away from YEC she may be ready to move further if she talks with me or someone who holds views similar to mine in the future. OTOH your insistence that she see everything your way & the implication (whether you like it or not) that she's stupid if she doesn't is likely to turn her off permanently. If you just want to win a debate, your approach may be OK. If you actually want to persuade the other person it isn't.

You seem to think that I'm hesitant myself to accept human evolution. I'm not - I think I came around to accepting that early in my college years, maybe 1961. (& it wasn't all that traumatic.) I'm also very much interested in persuading Christians that evolution should be dealt with adequately in the ways they think about the world & their faith - that was the purpose of my first book, published 22 years ago. The question is how to go about doing that. I've had 25 years of pastoral experience, a good deal of it devoted to teaching Christians of various ages about science & theology, & evolution & theology in particular. I have a bit of an idea of priorities & about what works & what doesn't.

Shalom
George
http://home.neo.rr.com/scitheologyglm
----- Original Message -----
From: Dehler, Bernie<mailto:bernie.dehler@intel.com>
To: asa@calvin.edu<mailto:asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 12:35 PM
Subject: RE: (post?) [asa] promise trumps biology (accepting biological evolution for Adam)

Hi George- below you say "historical Adam isn't basic one way or the other" (to sin, salvation, etc.). I disagree. There's a lot of theology that flows from these basics- such as the origin of sin and death. You get radical different theological ideas depending on whether Adam evolved or was made unique.

You give a specific example, saying:

"Suppose I'm trying to convince a YEC that the authority of scripture doesn't depend on 6 day creation & he/she finally says, "I guess each day could have been millions of years wrong (Bernie note: I think you meant "long" not "wrong")." Should I say, "No, that would make the sequence of fossils all wrong, the sun was formed before the earth, &c"? Or "That's one way of thinking of it"? Allowing people a stay in a halfway house is OK.""

Yes, I think you should have brought up fossil and other evidence, and I think you are doing a disservice by allowing them to continue to think wrongly. If you go all the way, you are at least planting seeds that may later come to fruition. By condoning their wrong thinking, you are giving them some comfort to stay where they are at. We all need that burr under our saddle to keep us growing. I think that's a huge problem with too many pastors still teaching milk in churches... we have milk coming out our noses. Maybe part of the problem is the fear of being rejected by the people in the congregation? Is there a fear that the people can't handle the truth? Can't the truth be taught in love and compassion? What would be wrong in telling the YEC in your example the truth, full-bore, in love and compassion?

Maybe part of the difference between us is that I see no possible scientific way for an alternative to standard evolution in the creation of humans, and you are holding out thinking there is some uncertainty- God may have created humans differently than standard evolution theorizes. In that case, you rightly hold back because you aren't 100% sure, and therefore think it is speculative and peripheral.

I just think that since we now have the DNA decoded, the secret is out, and we Christians have to get the message out- there is no longer any dispute that humans evolved from apelike creatures according to standard evolutionary theory. People like Francis Collins have detailed the DNA argument in their books. Ten years ago this was not the case; we are in a new era now, the "DNA-aware" era.

...Bernie

- - - - HISTORY - - - - - - -

George said:

"I knew a lot of my readers would be concerned about the historicity of Adam and I saw no reason to turn them off right away by insisting on a point that isn't essential to my argument. But observe that I still made this concession in a very qualified way. & I was making a concession to others"

Bernie said:
"I don't understand why you are compelled to give a concession... please explain that. Maybe this point is essential (overall, maybe not to the specific point you are trying to make), because what one believes on this point will affect hermeneutics in general biblical interpretation. You make it sound like it is a reasonable scientific hypothesis that Adam was a unique biological creation... but then also indicate that you don't believe that personally."

George replied:
"First, the "concession" I make is not "Yes, you're right" but "it's unlikely but you could be right." But why do I make any concession? Because what I want to convince people of is that basic Christian doctrines - creation, sin, salvation - can be held within an evolutionary scenario, & whether or not there was an "historical Adam" isn't basic one way or another. It would be counterproductive for me to give people the impression that they couldn't accept my core argument unless they accepted peripheral matters along with it. Another example. Suppose I'm trying to convince a YEC that the authority of scripture doesn't depend on 6 day creation & he/she finally says, "I guess each day could have been millions of years wrong." Should I say, "No, that would make the sequence of fossils all wrong, the sun was formed before the earth, &c"? Or "That's one way of thinking of it"? Allowing people a stay in a halfway house is OK."

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Received on Fri Dec 19 11:08:33 2008

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