My family has been deeply involved in a local church that teaches YEC for over five years. I believe that Scripture teaches that we are to be involved in a local body and don’t want to become a lone ranger. Nor do I want to jump ship over secondary issues. Recently I was told that I could not have any teaching position in the church (even two year old Sunday School) because of my views on evolution, but was encouraged to continue serving in other ways. I am struggling with the dissonance I feel between my views and those of my church. Do you attend churches that teach YEC, and, if so, how do you deal with the friction? Or have you purposely sought out churches that allow for an old earth/evolution? When picking a church, how does the creation/evolution issue compare to other doctrinal issues? Thanks so much for your help!
I live in an area where there are a great variety of churches, but few if any take a YEC view. Perhaps the situation is different for you. Have you been looking at different churches? (Personally, I wouldn’t be able to tolerate the kind of church and situation you describe.) You have my sympathy!
Is this a core issue or a secondary issue?
I would classify the divide as secondary, and my church would agree. But their position is that it signifies a significant disagreement in how we interpret scripture that has implications for the doctrine of sin (is there a historical Adam, how would the lack of a historical Adam affect the development of Paul’s argument in Romans?), which has implications for how we think about the gospel; and that these differences culminate in my being disqualified to teach at my church. When we first got involved, I was under the impression that the circle of permissible interpretations would be a bit broader. I live in a conservative part of the country where the vast majority of churches have a similar fundamentalist bent.
So maybe this issue is secondary for you, but core for them. Maybe for you the core issue is your own opportunity to be included, serve, flourish, etc.
In my home church, it would be considered a secondary issue that people would be asked not to teach directly on. When we were doing a confirmation meeting for a youth pastor candidate ten years ago, someone asked him his views on YEC and historical Adam, and as soon as he got to, “Well, Christians have different ways of reading Genesis…” the head pastor interrupted him and said that the church was not going to advocate one particular reading of Genesis because even people on the pastoral staff saw things differently, moving on. So basically, no one ever talks about it, so as not to cause division. This causes its own kind of problems, but what can you do. At least now we are starting to talk more about race and women, so you have to take progress where you can get it.
I’m pretty far over on the side of the continuum that says church is family and you should expect to put up with a lot of frustration and diversity, as long as it’s not toxic or abusive. I have been loved really well in churches that have also really disappointed me at times. If your church is saying that because you disagree with YEC you aren’t qualified to teach that Zaccheus climbed a tree to three year olds, they are making it a central issue. I have never in my adult life gone to a church that I felt totally fit me, but I’ve always felt I could contribute. I think the point of being in a church is to use your gifts to serve and to be taken care of by other people using their gifts to serve. If it gets to the point where you are significantly limited in how you are allowed to contribute, then maybe it’s time to look for somewhere else. If you can say, well, teaching isn’t really what I want to do to serve anyway, and the situation doesn’t make you bitter or angry, than maybe you can find reasons to stick it out.
I just wonder If your fellow church members realize that the new Young Earth Creationism was started by the “prophetess” who started the Seventh Day Adventist church.
Thanks so much for sharing here, @bel6363. I actually have a very similar personal story. I was told I could not teach Sunday school because of my views on evolution. I also had my salvation questioned in front of all the Church elders. Up to that point, I had always felt welcome and affirmed, but this particular discussion seemed to bring out the sharp edge of the sword. I decided to leave that church several months afterward, for a variety of reasons (including that experience). I have a calling to ministry, and I realized that it was not helpful for me to be at a church where I was not allowed to teach.
Related to your own experience: This might sound strange, but I actually can understand how your church could come to the decision to prevent you from teaching (although I don’t know how your beliefs on evolution affect your ability to help toddlers). This doesn’t mean that I agree with your church’s perspective on origins, but young-earth creationism is not just an interpretation of Genesis. It’s a way of looking at the world. It comes close to a total worldview. YEC books make this incredibly clear. So, whether you mean to or not, you’ve told your church that you have a different worldview than them. To an extent, this is likely correct. To embrace evolutionary creationism is to draw the lines between “sacred” and “secular” in much different places than YEC—and line-drawing is a big part of a worldview. This doesn’t mean that you disagree with the church’s doctrine per se, but your understanding of how to live out these beliefs in today’s world is probably different than the YEC folks in your church. YEC and EC both agree that the Bible is authoritative and inspired, but our understandings of how its authority is applied to science in particular is massively different.
So even if you could teach at that church, you will likely find that your EC beliefs make it challenging. YEC are taught not to trust “evolutionists”, so it is difficult to see how you could be trusted as a teacher. I’m not saying this to disparage your ability to teach. I’m only pointing out how difficult these issues really are. If the church simply included many people of YEC views without itself being officially YEC, that would be much different. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case.
So should you leave? Well, it depends on your options. If you go to a mainline protestant church like the UMC or PCUSA or Episcopalian Church, they will probably be pro-evolution. But personally, I would not go to these churches because I disagree with them about certain key issues, so I couldn’t effectively serve in that context. I used in live in a very conservative area of Pennsylvania, but even there I could find a small number of evangelical churches that were open to different beliefs on origins (or simply didn’t make a big deal out of it). And that number is growing. Do some research and see if you can find a church like this. Don’t look for “pro-evolution” churches. Look for ones who are dedicated to Christ, grounded in orthodoxy, and open to a conversation about how to live out orthodox Christianity in our times. And make your voice part of that church. And if you can’t do that, then still make your voice heard in your church in whatever way you can. Be gracious, but firm. YEC is a bad worldview. Evolution is not a threat to Christian faith.
To be evangelical and pro-evolution is to be an orphan, of sorts. It sucks. It’s really hard. But it’s really, crucially important that we help evangelicals understand evolution better, for the sake of the gospel. Can you do that in a YEC church? Maybe. But don’t feel like you’re a failure if you move on.
Brad, you have committed the same error that you accuse YEC churches of, which is a type of intolerance. Frankly, YEC is not a bad worldview, whether it is factually correct or not. Evolution as a worldview is much much worse. Yet, because of the divergence of understanding of the nature which God created, we perhaps ought to be somewhat tolerant of a divergence of views. Nevertheless, even a Christian evolutionist needs to agree with YEC theology in terms of man’s responsibility for sin, God’s promise to redeem, God’s creative powers, God’s supremacy over man and over his creation, and the special relationship that man has with God, compared to all the rest of creation.
But it befuddles me how understanding evolution better will give us a better understanding of the gospel of Christ.
You’ve already got some really good advice from others above. I’ll only add this …
If you do decide to stick it out where you are, even though you aren’t allowed to teach there, it sounds like they already know something about your position, and that too may spark some productive conversations outside of formal Sunday school settings. E.g. there may be others in the congregation quietly struggling with these issues but that don’t have the courage to voice their doubts given the “second-class citizenship” that they know will come bundled with any such outward expression. Your known presence could provide somebody with a listening ear that they can’t find among all of the more “compliant brethren”. In short you may be the yeast that begins to work through the dough (the positive version of that metaphor from our perspective here.) Of course, any zealous and sensitive leadership is also hyper-aware of any of these subtle influences, so if they label you as an agitator, you may be asked to leave anyway.
But as Brad and Christy said above, if you are starving for a church family that pursues both truth and loving relationship, you gotta do what you gotta do.
I should hastily add … I’m not actually promoting agitation for its own sake, though pursuit of truth sometimes unavoidably comes to that. But if you are able to pull off being a loving presence that shines a loving light without fomenting any rebellion or fostering condescension towards those who can’t yet “ask those kinds of questions”, that would put you among an elite few who can pull such things off. You could come back and tell us all how to do it! But don’t try such things at the expense of your own family or spiritual health.
Disagreeing with each other ≠ being intolerant of each other. You think I’m wrong. I’m fine with that. I understand. I think you’re wrong. You should be fine with that. No intolerance was stated or implied.
This isn’t “YEC theology”. This is orthodox theology. You’re demonstrating my point.
Two ways, for starters. It helps us understand the meaning of the incarnation, and the relationship between the transcendent/immanent God and his material creation. If you want to talk in more detail about this, start and new thread and tag me so we don’t derail this conversation.
Yes, this is orthodox theology. But it is also YEC theology, since it is accepted by YEC people. In fact, it is part of the reason why they are so strongly YEC rather than evolutionary. You may disagree with their logic, but that is a different issue. You might think that evolutionary thought also accepts this theology, and that is my point, that you would have to agree with YEC on that (not that they alone had some implied exclusive ownership of this theology).
I’m glad you are not being intolerant. However, just stating (without rationale or explanation) that YEC is a bad worldview, gives the appearance of intolerance, similar to saying that evolutionists cannot be Christians. It may also imply that all YEC have the same worldview, which has not been demonstrated either. But if their basic worldview is Christian, that the whole world belongs to God, and we have been created by God, and thus are answerable to God, then an explanation would be required as to whether this is a bad worldview. I would expect Christians who believe evolution to still have the same worldview.
Thanks to everyone who responded. I found your comments helpful. It’s so nice to know that I’m not the only one wrestling with what it means to live in a unified way with folks who strongly disagree with you. Thank you for sharing your stories, experiences, and insight!
Eddie has started this new thread… so have at it.
Don’t frame the debate as being about creation versus evolution, but about the need for honesty. It’s indisputable that the Bible has far, far more to say about the need for honesty than about either the age of the earth or evolution.
One thing this means in particular is that if they are claiming that a young earth is supported by scientific evidence, then any evidence they present must meet the standards required by the scientific method – it is simply not honest to call it scientific evidence if it doesn’t. This is especially the case if they have some scientific training: I would personally be most disappointed to hear a physics graduate espousing accelerated nuclear decay, for example.
That’s too easy–calling those that disagree with me “liars.”
It’s not helpful.
Whether or not something is “easy” is irrelevant.
Sometimes we must call someone “not honest” because that is what they are. (Yes, the truth does hurt sometimes. But truth is truth.)
“It’s not helpful.” Truth can be very useful.
I usually start by giving somebody the benefit of the doubt. But once they’ve been shown the science but choose to misrepresent it, there comes a point where “They are simply ignorant of the evidence” doesn’t make sense any more. Eventually, if truth has any meaning, we are called to speak the truth and calling a spade a spade. And sometimes the spade is dishonesty.
If someone says “My reading of Genesis requires me to decide that the earth is young”, I can accept that. But if they keep saying, “The majority of the scientific evidence indicates a young earth”, they are either ignorant of the scientific evidence or they are lying. To agree or to be tolerant of false statements is not helping anyone. Truth matters.
If someone maintains, “I don’t find science trustworthy”, I don’t argue with that. They have honestly expressed their feelings concerning science. Feelings are feelings. They matter to the person and I respect them. But I don’t change my view of science because of their feelings. No matter how sincere.
As all of you know, I am a Southern Baptist. Many of those in my church our YEC; however, they know I hold an OEC view and what type. Are there any problems? None at all.
Charles Miller, BA, Old Dominion University; MAR, Liberty University Theological Seminary
You are right.