This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/guest/5-tips-for-thriving-in-a-church-with-a-different-view-of-creation-than-you
Thanks for this article. I’ve been struggling with this question for a few years now- we had been deeply involved in a church that felt like family. Then the pastor told me that I couldn’t speak or teach at any level because I wasn’t a YEC (not because they thought I would use my platform as a teacher to be dissentious but because they said all teachers had to be able to answer any doctrinal question in class in line with the church’s doctrinal statement- not answering questions about YEC and referring them to the pastors wasn’t sufficient) and when picking up my 6-year-old daughter I overheard her teacher telling the class that anyone who believed evolution was an athiest.
My husband is still doing well at that church, but it’s become increasingly difficult for me (turns out my perspectives are different than theirs on multiple issues). We have been splitting our time between two churches. It’s helped me to hold the old church’s positions in a broader Christian framework, but it also means that we’re not deeply invested in either place. I would love to hear more about the conditions under which people felt they needed to leave their YEC churches. Also, does anyone else tried splitting their time between churches, and what has made that experience successful?
Thank you for the article. I recommend throwing yourself into evangelism in your community. Your position shines imperceptibly as you make disciples.
My personal thoughts on this matter are: don’t make evolution your starting point. I can not stress this strongly enough: there is a lot of cultural baggage around evolution coming both from YECs and new atheists and you have to be careful in how you approach it otherwise you’ll scare them off.
Instead, make the focus of your position on getting your facts straight. Make it clear that while rejecting science may be faith, misrepresenting science is lying, and will just undermine your credibility. Point out that anything that they require you to claim can be easily fact-checked by simple Google searches by anyone with a smartphone, so you need to be sure that any evidence you cite stands up to scrutiny, and that you are ready and able to give a response to the objections that come up in any such Google search.
For this reason, I don’t rule out the possibility of a young earth or non-evolution, but I do make it clear that such a position would require God to have created evidence for a history of events that never happened. Personally I don’t think such a position is Biblically defensible, but you’d be surprised how many YECs are more comfortable with it than with evolution.
Where I would draw the line is when they start expecting you to tell demonstrable, objective, indisputable falsehoods. For example, if they tell you to claim that the majority of radiometric results are out of kilter with each other (they aren’t), or that “evolutionists” throw out any results that don’t match their expectations (this would be unrealistically expensive) or that the amount of salt in the sea or bent rock layers are evidence for a young earth. These claims are all demonstrably untrue; they are matters of fact and not opinion or interpretation; and I would not be able to make them with a clear conscience.
There was very helpful. Not long ago I heard a brother (not knowing anything about me) give a variant of the "you can’t “believe” in evolution and be a Christian argument. I bit my tongue.
I would never recommend splitting time between churches. It sounds like you are in a difficult place. Not because you don’t want to be involved, but because you are being prohibited from being involved. You are being restricted from being a good church member.
One question I asked Sandra was, “If you were not a member of this church, and you visited the church and learned everything you now know about the church, would you stay and join as a member?” If the answer is “no” it could be time to start looking for another church.
Great thoughts! Thanks!
Ten years ago I got married and started attending a church my wife had been part of for a year. I eagerly joined a casual men’s morning coffee group. Somehow we got on the topic of Genesis and creation and I said I accepted evolution as God’s means of creation. So, word of that got back to a pastor who collared me and sat me down for a long lecture on how “evolution is a failing theory”. I said I disagree and that something like 99 percent of scientists in biological fields are in agreement. He just looked at me like I was speaking gibberish. As time went by I heard more of what I would call an anti-intellectual theme and a deep commitment to the culture wars. One of the last straws was teaching through the “Truth Project” videos. It got to where I spent my time in church grinding my teeth instead of worshiping God.
It was time to go.
We tried an American Baptist church just down the street. Night and day difference. This pastor encouraged questions and did not enforce a strict church orthodoxy. We had a lot of great conversations and were soon exchanging books to read. I became part of a small group that read “The Language of God” together. After a year I taught a class based on Peter Enns, “Genesis for Normal People” that offered a way to understand scripture that allowed for evolution. The pastor taught a series on Genesis and I got to collaborate on his research. One sermon on the flood even made it onto the Biologos website!
My suggestion is that if the church you are attending is closed to new ideas and not generous in orthodoxy, you will have no impact on them by staying there. Move on. Find a church that celebrates diversity instead of punishing it. The evolution issue is no longer a sticking point point for my faith life. I have moved on and blossomed in a new environment. If conflict over evolution is inhibiting your worship, I would shake the dust off my sandals and find a church without that distraction…
Wonderful article. I have been fortunate in that my church while diverse in their views, has not made it an issue. A close family member in contrast had to change churches as their pastor did force it, and made it a central teaching in the children’s program as well.
I have always been a little sheepish about the issue in the past, but as time has gone on, while I do not initiate conversation, have been open with my viewpoint when asked, and share a lot of Biologos posts on Facebook. I have seen no real difference in the way I am treated, though I can tell the staff is very hesitant to openly address such issues, for good reason, I’m afraid.
What I have found, in my experience, is this is typically because staff don’t want to offend/hurt people with opposing views. This can be a double edged sword. We want to challenge people to grow without putting a stumbling block in their way. While some may believe that it is possible for evolution to be a “gateway” belief into atheism, I don’t really see that being the case. More often than not (again, in my experience) pastors are just looking to avoid controversy.
Yes, and far too much of this is going on. All you have to do is glance at the website of Albert Mohler. The president of the largest SBC seminary (and maybe largest seminary in the world) spends all his time and energy on the Culture Wars. The blind leading the blind …
Such a great point. I have found the same thing to be true as far as politics goes. I used to be very partisan, but have moved more and more independent as I realized that our testimony as Christians should be much more about being truthful when it comes to parties, candidates, news, and political opinions, than it is about being a member of the “right” party or taking the “right” position on everything (perhaps that is something that actually helped lead me away from YEC). My position toward politics was very similar to my position toward evolution at the time – that the resulting “correct opinion” was more important than the means used to get there.
My church uses AIG curriculum for Sunday School, so while nothing’s come up yet, I am a bit stressed about how to handle it when it does, because I’m sure it will. I do want my children to understand that we are Christians first, and that Christians can disagree on many issues and still love each other. I would hope that is the goal for others too, but we’ll see.
My husband has attended our church for decades before I came along. He had told me about some pastors they’ve had, things that have been said/done that would be absolutely infuriating to me, and yet he’s still there. He loves the people and has connections to the community. He may not accept EC, but he is an inspiration to me when it comes to holding love above differences.
I wouldn’t shy away from exposing your kids to the YEC position. It is important for them to know and experience a wide variety of positions (and not just on the issue of creationism!). As a parent, you can follow up with your kids and ask them what they learned and what they think about what they learned. Then you can bring other perspectives to their attention and encourage them to keep learning and pursuing understanding. Depending on their age and reading level, you could even have them read book on the subject. Chris Stump has a couple of great posts about children’s books that teach evolution.
Part of the struggle is that my husband would still choose this particular church if he was on his own. The teaching and support he’s gotten there has been life-changing for him and built him into the amazing husband, father, and man he’s become. I’m so thankful for that. But he’s more laid-back than I am, and able to just take the good and leave what he disagrees with. I, on the other hand, really struggle with some of the comments about politics, science, education, psychology, and gender that come from the pulpit- they end up distracting me so I have a hard time paying attention to or trusting anything else. We’re just in different places and are trying to honor each other’s journey, but also wanting to be active participants in the local body of Christ. But from your comments it sounds like I need to expect that this will be a hard journey. Thanks for your feedback!
If I may be so bold, I would suggest that the real long-term problem is your daughter, not your husband. The aggressive YEC teaching and focus on the politics, gender, science, etc., from the pulpit (no less!) is what is driving the younger generation away from church. Take a look at the following and discuss it with your husband:
Thanks for the book recommendations! You’re right that I shouldn’t shy away from YEC views… in fact, several times when I’ve felt tempted to, I have recognized that that’s exactly how I grew up viewing evolution – as something to censor unless it wasn’t possible to, and if not we’d just roll our eyes or mentally substitute something else for it – very rarely did we honestly and openly engage with it. In other words, very fear based, and I know I don’t really want that for my own family.
Children can often take a very black-and-white view of things, so I guess the trick is to teach them what we believe, and that we don’t need to fight with others about they believe, without communicating that both views are the same.
I very much sympathize with your experience, and I agree with your decision. However, I would suggest using a phrase other than “shake the dust off your sandals.” Jesus used the phrase to describe what you should do when a community completely rejects the teaching of the kingdom of God. In my opinion, churches that defend YEC are in error both with respect to hermeneutics and with respect to science. But I don’t think that constitutes a wholesale rejection of the message of the Kingdom.
Grace and peace,
Yes, it is a hard journey. But, as you’ve pointed out already, this isn’t really about YEC. This is about you and your husband working together toward a creative solution. It is possible. Our prayers are with you.
No it does not rise to the level of rejecting the gospel. Except for many of the YEC only churches.