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

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Sat Aug 08 2009 - 16:36:58 EDT
David - I think you've described the situation pretty well in your first paragraph, except I don't think that it's just a layman's movement. Instead, in my experience at least (a 70 year perspective), it seems to be more a matter of - as you describe it - certain subjects "not deemed worthy of a potential church split." 

There is a core "standard" offering of mainstream topics that are offered from lecterns and pulpits in most churches, which though perhaps uncomfortable in their specifics are nonetheless expected and accepted by the congregations.

But there is surely also a set of phantom topics which though broadly held, osmotically comunicated, and in some cases even broached in seminaries, that are nonetheless just not dealt with from the pulpit or lectern for precisely this reason. Even in my experience in western expressions of Southern Baptist church life, I would be safe in saying that the majority (most by default, I think), but certainly not all, are inclined to the Young Earth Biblical interpretation. But I've never heard the subject broached in any intentional way, one way or the other. For some churches, controversial matters are dealt with by inviting a third party, some domain expert to come and expound on a subject. That provides both additional expertise (whether perceived or genuine) and a bit of insulation for the pastoral/teaching staff.

For most, though, it is a simple risk/reward calculus. Controversial topics are of little to no interest to most, but a passionate and polarizing issue for others. Given that, and the wealth of other topics to engage with less controversy and risk, one need not open a door to potential disharmony over a more controversial matter. So the beliefs that underlie such controversy become a sort of tacit theology/doctrine/tradition (such fine distinctions are not made by most), quite real in its presence and influence, even though not formally taught and or challenged.

Moreover, the tacit theology/doctrine/tradition thereby is generally essentially unrecognized for any contribution it may have to negative stereotyping by the world at large, and the collateral rejection of the more overt messages.

I think it is a serious error, though, to not engage a topic simply because it is controversial, even if it has to be treated off-site or via some other means that provides a moderating influence on the passions that may be involved. The very fact that a topic is controversial says that it is of importance in some way. Abortion does find its way to the pulpit, but seldom in a tempered way. The whole respect for science thing, including evolution, is almost completely absent. The H word - which is filtered on this site - is a true hot potato, and yet for many younger folks, this is a point of departure, both philosophically and literally - as indicated for example by the Barna surveys that prompted the book, "unchristian". For these and other "unmentionable" matters which impact the spiritual life and trajectory, it is hard to make a case that they are really too far from the more conventional and less controversial teaching/preaching core to warrant serious consideration and discussion by the both of Christians.

It's pretty clear that the baby/bathwater impact of such tacit theology/doctrine/tradition is accentuated for students who encounter any of the standard sciences - most of which embody contradictions with the Young Earth or other tacit positional models - is just not understood or greatly under-appreciated. It seems to me that this baby/bathwater problem is even more serious right now because of a seemingly growing inclination among many of the young to instantly turn off the voice of (respect for) anyone who self-compromises their message by uttering something that immediately registers as untrue, is accompanied by an unwelcome (to the hearer) agenda, or fails to connect however tenuously with the questions floating around in the hearer's recently discovered and dynamically growing internal worldview.

David - I too was tempted to depart the church. It was a complicated and long-term confluence of things that precipitated a departure from church life in the particular form I had known for so long. But I was fortunate in time to find a new church life that was tolerant, thoughtful, even fosters engagement and conversation around those big questions (without necessarily demanding answers, simple or otherwise), organizationally disposed to focus more essentially on the teaching and example of Jesus, and so on. It had less patience for aspects of church life that dissipate so much initiative and energy with so little meaningful result in transformation/redemption of lives in the world we live in (readily admitting the subjective and personal nature of "meaningful"}. And it really does accept people who "come as they are". Is it perfect - e.g., in translating Micah 6:8 and related NT admonitions into action? Well, ...uh, But it is better, and it's small and it's immediate and dynamic. And, it provides at the very least a sojourn for now, with community involvement, and wide-ranging conversation, and (dare I say?) rejuvenation for me. And though I am quite a different person and in a different place spiritually than I once was, I find myself neither abandoning in toto nor judging unduly the meaningful and benevolent past church life that sheltered and nurtured my evolutionary(!) spiritual path to what and where I am today. So, in short it feeds me, and I have found new ways to be a steward in its context.I hope that you might in time find such a community as well, if you feel the need. They exist, but they are probably small and not necessarily easy to find. At least that's been my experience.

JimA [Friend of ASA]

David Clounch wrote:

I asked the question because what I don't know is whether the YEC movement is a doctrine held by some denominations, or whether it is a para-church movement. And thus a layman's movement.  My  exposure to  the subject is limited to the Evangelical Free Church, the Baptist General Convention,  the Conservative Baptist Convention, and various non-denominational churtches.  My experience is that in all of these the subject is generally avoided as a doctrinal issue, but the members may individually may hold to a YEC position.  The denomination avoids the issue because it inevitably leads to churches splitting, and the subject is considered to not be worthy of drawing that sort of line in the sand.  Most protestant churches do not believe that a particular position about the age of the earth is a salvation related issue.  Thus it is not deemed worthy of  a potential church split.

 Ted Davis mentioned in First Things  that many adherents to the Nicene Creed, for example, accept evolution.  Supposedly a church that teaches the Nicene creed could have YEC's, OEC's TE's, and some other beliefs among its congregation.  What becomes a problem, then, is whether these  folks can tolerate each other holding  different viewpoints.

I asked about denominations taking doctrinal positions  because around the world Christians tolerate  other denominations.  If there was a YEC denomination this perhaps could even be healthy.  It would  be legitimate to say "you go to a different church and have a different belief, so lets not bicker anymore."   We do this  daily on many doctrinal issues. Origins would be no different.  We don't usually find churches willing to sue each other in court over a doctrinal   disagreement.  Yet the lawsuits seem to continue.  My observation is this is generally Christians suing Christians.  But it is not a denominational dispute.  Christian positions on origins seems to be a lay movement that spans denominations and infects each denomination sort of like a virus.

BTW, I have left the church entirely, primarily because of intolerance of my views by YEC's.  Their  attitude seems to be similar to Mike Steiner's:  adherence to the Nicene creed is not enough for salvation,  instead one must have the proper idea of the age of the earth. I think this sort of thinking is a heresy because it is the opposite of the true biblical teaching on justification and is an abomination - a false sort of Christianity.   Perhaps I am overreacting here, but then again I am not the one constantly going around  peppering  other Christians with a salvation litmus test just because they aren't anti-evolution. 

I was harrassed last night by a YEC friend (a political friend who happens to be YEC) who brought up evolution once more. And she suggested I should go to BSF (Bible Study Fellowship).  But she said I wouldn't like the study on Genesis.

I told her I have no problem with Genesis. I have a problem with people who inject man-made doctrine into Genesis in order to distort its meaning, the way AIG does.

My own idea is I'd rather take biblical studies courses at a local  Christian liberal arts college instead of BSF.  I  don't trust  the exegesis of a lay movement, and isn't BSF a lay movement?  (I dont know much about BSF so I cannot judge).  Somehow I don't think they are going to teach hermeneutics.

The same person suggested last year I should go to The Truth Project.  She is always talking about truth. Truth truth truth truth truth.  That is what makes a lie by a movement so terrible.  To tell a lie or a deception in the name of the truth...and never admit you could have made an error in your

Just so you know, I myself think in terms of the teachings of Dwight Pentecost (Things Which Become Sound Doctrine, which is out of print).  Doctrines like Justification, Positional Sanctification, Experiential Sanctification, etc.  In the last 20 years I have never heard any of my Baptist friends mention these principles.  But many of them  are so  very certain that AIG sure has the corner on truth.   I don't trust  anything  they say about the Bible.  

So, I have come to appreciate the thousands of years of scholarly tradition in the Catholic Church...something protestantism seems like it struggles to recognize.

On Fri, Aug 7, 2009 at 8:28 AM, Bill Powers <> wrote:
Just a question.

Jim and others indicate that "YEC" congregations somehow instigate and emphasize this "debate" or tension between modern science and Scripture and what constitutes the Christian faith.

I have been a member of two churches that were either officially or de facto YEC churches, and yet the issue hardly ever came up.  In the LCMS, at least conservative LCMS, the church is doctrinally YEC, and yet the issue never comes up.  It is simply quietly presumed, and, as I said in a previous post, there are much larger fish to fry.  The other church was a E Free church.  Many members were individually much concerned with apologetics related to YEC and evolution issues, but in the church per se the issue hardly ever arose, again, for the same reasons given above.

So I suspect that by "YEC churches" something very different is meant than that the members of the church generally espose a YEC and anti-evolutionary view.  Rather what is meant is that the church dedicates a significant amount of its time and effort in espousing and defending this view against contemporary criticism.

My question is: what is intended by and characterized by a "YEC church"?


On Thu, 6 Aug 2009, James Patterson wrote:

John: Your bias with regard to anything RTB or Hugh Ross says is well
known.if there is any arrogance anywhere, it is yours. I have never seen or
heard arrogance from Hugh Ross, and don't believe you have either. Do you
think your personal attacks are helpful? See point 2 below.

As to this thread:

1.      Ken Ham is being true to form.

2.      I agree with previous authors that the division amongst camps and
the general origins debate may help accelerate the exodus. However, I think
it's clear that youth see division and lack of unity and use that as yet
another reason to leave. There are many other reasons, however. They all
sense the moral law written on their hearts, and sense that atheism is
wrong. They all sense that the politics of religion, and the division of the
origins debate are wrong, and get even more confused. Then the world
provides the impetus to be diverted into any number of other possible
answers that lack the fulfillment of Christ.and off they go. The most
critical juncture is college. Easily convinced of whatever, and free to
follow, and chagrined by the conflict in the church.

3.      I see this every day in my work as in emergency psychiatry. It's
been happening more and more since the 60s..and it's accelerating. We've had
three generations now. See this PPT:

The breakdown in the values of our society are overwhelming.


From: [] On
Behalf Of John Walley
Sent: Thursday, August 06, 2009 7:23 PM
To: Schwarzwald;
Subject: Re: [asa] Youth leaving churches because of old earth

Incredibly, YEC's are not the only ones to fall to the tempation of this
prideful self-delusion. When Dr. Ross visited FL a few years ago, he was
interviewed by a local paper and made the comparison with Paul's statement
that if the resurrection wasn't true then the gospel wasn't true, by saying
that if the RTB Testable Creation Model wasn't true then the gospel wasn't

I couldn't believe the arrogance of that and we took them to task on it on
the apologists list but the response given was that he really didn't say
that although that is exactly what  the article printed him having said.



From: Schwarzwald <>
Sent: Thursday, August 6, 2009 11:46:57 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Youth leaving churches because of old earth

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 <>

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
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

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
Dave W

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