Re: [asa] Youth leaving churches because of old earth

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Fri Aug 07 2009 - 01:50:38 EDT
This is sorta late in the game, but I miss-sent it earlier today when it would have appeared closer to the relevant context. JimA
Good conversation, y'all.
One consequence of the "catechismic" approach to propagating a faith position is that the particular catechism is susceptible to a house-of-cards failure. As y'all have sorta said, it is pretty close to an intrinsic problemm a problem which Willow Creek Community Church (for example) identified as a failure to nurture their own into becoming "self-feeders". While in all other aspects of life, the growth toward adulthood is expected to include a certain elasticity and independence, ...a transition to the ability to flexibly encounter, consider, draw conclusions and make choices independently. Yet, by and large, there seems to be remarkably little felt need or overt methodology to nurture this transition to a fledgling internalized faith in much of church life. The more rigid the catechism, the greater the risk of abandonment of the whole catechism when any single aspect of the taught(!) fabric develops a rift. That little tear may or may not be about the YEC matter, but the stress can clearly concentrate there for the relatively modest numbers of those who enter the sciences or technology disciplines.

Regards - JimA [Friend of ASA]

Schwarzwald wrote:
Heya Dave,

I've seen that claim from some YECs (If a YEC interpretation of Genesis is wrong, then the whole bible is wrong!), and I consider it not only incorrect, but tremendously harmful. I also happen to think that addressing that view is the single most important goal in the entire inter-Christian origins debate. In other words: Whether or not an individual or congregation is YEC should be a secondary concern to their accepting that YEC simply is not the only rational and valid option. I've also encountered some who think that if humans are "just apes" then someone God doesn't exist, or doesn't love us, etc. That view is a strange one, and yet another that deserves a thoughtful response.

Either way, I'm simply trying to point out that the reason for circling the wagons around a YEC position strikes me as multifaceted, and does not reduce to a single naive theological viewpoint. There really seems to be a greater fear of what accepting "evolution" inevitably leads to spiritually and intellectually - and that on a certain level, it's hard to fault them for making that association. My worry is that there's a tendency among many non- and ex-YECs to react to YECism by simply pounding on "You're wrong, wrong, wrong! about science!" when there are other dimensions to the issue, and the science (While in my view correct, or at least closer to the truth) isn't or shouldn't be the main focus besides. As you've noted, they think that if evolution is true, then that implies something necessarily degrading about humanity - that should be argued against. They think that if evolution is true, then a panoply of negative views are either justified or necessitated - that should be argued against.

I'd also agree with Richard Blinne that "de-politicizing" faith is important. Though I'd also stress that "de-politicizing" (not that he implied otherwise) does not simply mean "moving left", but disentangling the Church from partisan politics. I'd also add that there are many cases where I agree with the "religious right" on a specific issue, but strongly disagree with their approach or even rationale on such issues. But questions of politics and approach is a larger, thornier question on the whole anyway.

On Thu, Aug 6, 2009 at 9:03 AM, Dave Wallace <> wrote:
Schwarzwald wrote:

And take a look at the survey Ted linked to here. Notice that the concern isn't just that accepting an old earth (and I would assume evolution by extension) leads to young Christians leaving the church, but just what their social lives and outlooks on the world become as well. So I think it's a big mistake to think YECs and people like Ham are totally motivated by a simple theological difference of opinion. The perceived spiritual repercussions and effects of accepting evolution - even if the link is a contingent rather than a necessary one - is also a motivating factor, and not so simple to write off.

It seems to me that part of the motivation is typical YECs belief that if any part of the Bible is not literally true then the whole reliability of scripture unravels.  I read Francis Schaeffers "Genisus in Space and Time"  quite a few years ago.  Although Schaeffer took the view of scripture above he still found room for an old earth and a number of other options, as best I recall.
Another issue for many YECs is that they have a horror of being descended from what they see as a banana eating jungle monkeys.

In the survey it referenced conservative evangelical churches.  I wonder how many of them were actually fundamentalists who years ago often rejected the label of evangelical.  My experience was that such churches often absolutized what imo was clearly relative, frequently limited the application of Christianity to church meetings and Sunday and pretended to a perfection they did not live up to and were highly anti intellectual.  After university my wife and I came close to packing it in with Christianity as what I describe above was frequently what we had been exposed to.  I found Schaeffer's critique of fundies very much too the point and reading his (and his associates) books and visiting L'abri was the start of turning things around.  IVCF and their books was also a huge help  both in high school and university.   In 1966 a year or so after finishing my masters in applied math we moved to New Jersey where I was employed by RCA.  We bought a distressed house in a new subdivision next to a negro family.  We ended up attending a liberal church as most of the more conservative churches enthusiastically supported missionaries to the African benighted, but had NO negros in the congregation and I could not stomach such organizations.  Many similar churches exist today and I expect their young people have left at a very young age, even though they are forced to attend church till they leave home.
Although my father was not YEC, the church's we attended were. Thankfully as part of a survival strategy, I had learned to keep some of my thoughts and beliefs to my self when I attended "Christian" boarding schools  (kindergarten thro grade 11) so I just ignored the YEC part of their propaganda.  At boarding school we were frequently forced to attend what in essence was a Sunday school held in the afternoon.  I found that experience highly destructive as we were patronized, talked down to, fed pabulum and on and on.   It does not surprise me that those who attended many Sunday schools are the first to leave as I expect they have already mentally and emotionally left by the end of elementary school.  Fortunately, at least in Africa we were taken to a service Not run by people from the boarding school where the preaching was much better as the minister  as it happened to be was a seminary trained Presbyterian.   We also attended Sunday school there which was not destructive.
Thus overall I think that an old earth view while it may be the proximate cause of someone leaving is often only the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Being picayune over that is what is turning people from Christianity - not  any one particular idea about origins.  This is what Chuck Swindoll calls "peanut butter Christians"  in his book The Grace Awakening.
As I don't read Swindoll I have no idea what he means by "peanut butter Christians".  I admit my lack of enthusiasm for Swindoll could well be a cultural reaction and others might find him helpful.  I much prefer writers like Martin Lloyd Jones, CS Lewis, Carl Henry, Packer, Stott or Francis Schaeffer.  
Dave W

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