Broaching the EC topic to family members

(Amanda F) #1

Hi, all! I wanted to introduce myself and ask about experiences sharing EC with YEC family members.

I’m Amanda. I’m a homeschool graduate currently pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Applied Linguistics, with the desire of being involved in the linguistic aspects of minority language Bible translation (which, as I understand it, @Christy is involved in?).

To make a long story short, I grew up in a Christian home and was homeschooled all the way through high school. I was introduced to YEC through a conference by Ken Ham at a megachurch near me. I was about 13 years old at the time and I was fascinated. I got hooked on apologetics in general, and creationism specifically, in my early teen years.

My senior year of high school I had the privilege of learning speech & debate from a retired professor of communications (and retired assistant pastor) at my local homeschool co-op. He was a brilliant man, and a strong proponent of Intelligent Design. But he always pushed us students to fearlessly and relentlessly seek the truth. We got uncomfortably close to controversial issues in that class, and it changed my life. The last topic we tackled that year was evolution and creation, but we weren’t able to get very far into it. Just enough that I began to look into “the other side.” I had learned from my teacher just how important it was to never assume you understand the other side without truly searching it out for yourself.

My freshman year of college at a public research university, I took two general science classes: Intro to Earth Science and History of Life on Earth (evolution 101 + formation of the world, etc.). I entered the first class expecting a battle, and determined to relentlessly pursue the truth. Unexpectedly, I ended up developing a fantastic relationship with my professor, and two months into the semester, I told her my beliefs about evolution. She was kind but firm and immediately assured me that she would never belittle my beliefs, but that in her class I was expected to learn what the evidence said. She told me that science and faith were not at war and sent me to BioLogos. Over the course of that semester and the following one, also taught by her, she was incredibly patient and supportive of all my questions broached in office hours, class, and emails. Without the relationship I had with her, I would not be where I am today.

I wanted all the loose ends tied up by the end of that second semester, but I didn’t get that. I did, however, discover the book How I Changed My Mind About Evolution and I cried my way through it. That book plus 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 gave me the peace I needed by the close of that class.

“And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

It took about a year of processing after that class before I decided for good to accept the “messy solution” of God as the creator and evolution as my current best understanding of God’s mechanism. I wrote a more detailed version of my journey about two months ago, and I gave it to my professor (who I still have a great relationship with) a couple weeks ago. She cried, I cried, and it was beautiful and painful at the same time.

And now? I don’t know how to interact with my family (and friends, and church) in this area. I hate feeling like a fraud for sitting silently when YEC stuff comes up in sermons, family discussions, etc. I write for an apologetics website which is not strictly YEC, but most of the members heavily lean towards it. I don’t know how to walk out the life change that comes with a mind and heart change.

Any experience or wisdom would be appreciated. Thank you already for all those who contribute to BioLogos and the related books, etc.

(Christy Hemphill) #2

More linguists on the forum, yes! (PM me if you ever want to talk Bible translation or want to do some networking. :slight_smile: ) There are a few others of our special brand of nerdiness hanging around here too.

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. Many people here have walked a similar path and share your current struggles relating to a community that does not at all appreciate where you are coming from.

I think the hardest part for me is that I have years worth of reading on this topic to shape my thinking, but often when I try to address some small thing, the people I am talking to have zero common knowledge to build understanding on. And it’s not like I memorized the thousands of pages of compelling stuff that made me change my mind. So there is never a good answer when someone says, “How can you possibly think that?” Where do you even start?

I usually just say that after lots of investigation and research, I have changed my mind about who I consider trustworthy. Many Christians I trust, Christians who have spend decades of their lives studying the world God made, Christians who value the Bible as much as I do, have convinced me mainstream science is reliable and YEC has a track record of not dealing honestly with facts. I usually try to leave it at that, because unless people are willing to do their own “relentless pursuit of truth” as you say, it’s not like I can transfer my current understanding to them in a ten minute conversation.

I generally keep my mouth shut unless I am directly asked or unless I feel like just letting it go or letting people’s wrong assumptions of agreement stand would be proactively deceptive in some way.

What I have noticed is that we are all fundamentally pretty ego-centric. I am usually thinking, “Oh, man, if this person knew what I really thought, they would judge me or not like me as much.” But other people are thinking about themselves too. So if you say, “I think young earth science is nonsense,” probably their first thought is defensive and self-protective, not aggressive.

So the more you can broach the topics in a way that preemptively responds to other people’s fears and defense-mechanisms and acknowledges your own vulnerability, I find the better it goes. It even helps to preface with your own fears and insecurities, like “I hesitate to share this because I have a very real fear that it will cause you to think less of me or make you feel defensive or belittled, but I have really been wrestling with this issue since I took such and such a class or read such and such a book, and this is where my thinking stands right now…”

(Mitchell W McKain) #3

My answer is rather simple. Don’t.

It just isn’t important enough. Family is more important by far. This is something you really should let other people do and let them take the heat for it.

Of course… if THEY broach the topic then that is a very different question.

(Laura) #4

Thanks for sharing your story, Amanda! It’s always encouraging to hear from others in a similar boat, and that’s so wonderful that you were able to develop such a good relationship with your professor – so much in this messiness comes down to relationships and trust, not just facts and figures.

I have struggled with the same question when it comes to talking to family members, since I was also raised with AIG’s apologetics. I started the process of changing my mind at least a couple years ago, and I’ve only told one person about it (not counting everyone on the forum here :wink: ). I’ve had to really question my motivations for wanting to tell others – so often the apologetics mindset can be an argumentative attempt to “win” against others, and I know how easy it can be to revert to that, so I’ve pretty much stayed quiet. I think so far that’s one of my biggest pledges for moving forward is that no matter how this topic comes up, I should never get too invested in a desire to “convert” someone else to my view for the sak eof winning an argument. Easier said than done though!

I wish you the best as you navigate this new terrain!

(James McKay) #5

I’d just start by raising concerns about the poor quality of many young-earth claims.

Point them first of all to’s list of arguments that creationists shouldn’t use. Explain that if we’re discussing the matter, we need to make sure that our facts are straight and that our approach to measurement in particular is honest and accurate. (Deuteronomy 25:13-16). Explain also that we need to make sure that our own house is in order before we attempt to confront “evolutionist lies” – after all, complaining about “evolutionist lies” when your own facts are not straight is hypocrisy (Matthew 7:4-5). From there you could go on to raise concerns about various specific YEC arguments that aren’t on the list. Point out that there are specific standards that scientific arguments have to meet (i.e. mathematics) and that any that don’t meet those standards simply can’t be said to be honest.

One good way to approach it is to ask them what they make of the RATE project, with its admission that squeezing the radiometric evidence for the age of the earth into 6,000 years would have raised the Earth’s temperature to 22,000°C. I’ve had some YECs tell me that they thought it was some sort of atheist parody, but it wasn’t – it was the most expensive, extensive and thorough YEC research project every conducted, being sponsored by the Institute for Creation Research, the Creation Research Society and Answers in Genesis (that is, three of the Big Four YEC organisations.) Basically it’s the crown jewels of young-earth research – yet its conclusions pose a MASSIVE (or let’s just say it: deal breaking) problem for the young-earth timescale.

(Amanda F) #6

Great point, thank you.

I do like this approach! I have definitely grown in humility and vulnerability in my discussion with people over the past several years. And I’m slowly learning to be okay with not having all the answers :slight_smile:

I definitely agree that causing strife with family members isn’t worth it. However, it’s the very quality of relationships I have with my family members now that makes me feel terribly too close to like I’m being deceitful, even if I’m technically not.

Exactly. I’m just not sure what I consider them broaching the topic, other than the obvious if they were to directly ask me my opinions on something. But does general living-room discussion, which I’m participating in, when it turns to evolution and such count? Because those are really awkward situations to be in right now, and they happen more frequently than I would like.

Absolutely! Relationships make everything scarier, messier, and/or more wonderful.

I’ve only told two people outside of my professor about it, and even then, I only told them what I was dealing with at the time, not that I’d made a decision one way or another. But this definitely makes me feel better that it’s a slow process!

I definitely understand that… I have that tendency at times, for sure! At least so far, that’s not been my motivations or concerns in wondering if I should say something. But I will definitely watch out for that.

That’s an interesting approach, but it would definitely seem rather out of the blue coming from me. I hadn’t heard of the RATE project before, though–that’s fascinating, and rather sad. Thanks for sharing!

(James McKay) #7

Thanks Amanda. For me, the question of quality is the whole issue in its entirety. It doesn’t really bother me how old the earth is, or who or what did or didn’t evolve from what, but it does bother me intensely when I see well meaning but badly informed fellow Christians churning out nonsensical and easily falsified arguments, or encouraging sloppy thinking and turning a blind eye to falsehood. After all, if you tolerate (and even demand) sloppiness and falsehood in historical science, you will end up with sloppiness and falsehood in operational science (where it could kill people) or even in business dealings and the workplace (ditto). And that kind of thing definitely needs to be opposed.

(Randy) #8

That’s what eventually led me to discuss things with my pastor 2 weeks ago. I had thought he was saying in a couple of sermons that evolution was an example of people trying to deny their creator. I admitted to him that I was convinced by overwhelming evolutionary evidence, but that I really thought that we (and folks like Dr Collins) praise God with good sincerity. He clarified that he meant that some people use it to avoid obedience; and that it’s taught like that in the school. I don’t agree with him there, (not that some couldn’t), and I want to reassure him. He was kind and willing to discuss. I’m not trying to convert him–just trying to reassure him that Christians and others can keep an open mind to science without a sinful attitude. I think he is open to that. He admitted that he once thought that Christianity and evolution could be compatible, but doesn’t think so now.

However, I am trying to keep this quiet with him–I am afraid I would cause others to really have a hard time if I made this public. I also think that he would find much more stress than he deserves if he talked about this with me in public. He’s a nice man.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #9

In anticipation of these sorts of “discussions”, it might be helpful to think back to early parts of your journey of change, and to think of some open-ended question that you faced then that helped you begin to re-evaluate how you see things. If it’s an obviously leading question that is really a thinly-disguised challenge, that wouldn’t be best - but an open and real question may be a good way to help diffuse a potentially tense moment. You always have the right to deflect a direct question with “well - I’m not ready to answer that - but let me ask you this…” (How many times did Jesus answer direct questions with questions of his own - or even long stories!)

Questions could be something like “so how many creation details to you think a person needs to have figured out or agree on to … have a relationship with Christ … or be in good standing at our church …”, etc. Or another question might be, “How much or how little room should there be to have different understandings of ____ in the Bible?” And a followup: “so why is so-and-so’s take the only legitimate one?” That last one may feel a bit confrontational, but there are less in-your-face ways to present these. You can ask similar questions reflecting things you really want to know from your family - even if you know their answers likely won’t match your own present ones. But if they are questions that were formative in your early launch through this journey, then that may be a more gentle way to urge them to think through the same things without you escalating things.

(Phil) #10

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I also think that he would find much more stress than he deserves if he talked about this with me in public. He’s a nice man.

Pastors are in a pickle, at least in a typicle moderate church. If polls are to be believed, about 1/3 of American evangelical churchgoers are YEC, about 1/3 accept God Guided evolution, and about a third don’t have a strong opinion or are ID or OEC. So no matter what you say as a pastor, you irritate 1/2 the congregation. I have told my pastor my beliefs, and he has expressed his opinion that EC is within orthodox belief, but does not speak of his position. I have not pressed at all, respecting his position, and wanting to be able to truthfully deny knowledge of his position if asked by an inquisitor.:wink:

Regarding family, I have no real experience, as many of my family don’t really care, but I have a number of friends who are YEC. Like you, @amanda, I used to sit quietly by and did not contribute to the discussion but now am comfortable easing into the discussion and generally find most people are pretty gracious.
I find asking questions about some of the big inconsistencies in YEC helps in the conversation to soften positions and help others see your viewpoint, especially age of the earth questions which are less emotional and very hard to deny (though some do). That can lead to discussion of how that impacts interpretation of scripture and theology. I really feel the theology discussion is more important and less threatening.
Again, not to try to convert them to your position, just to allow them to see your position as faithful. One of my best friends at church is a big Reasons to Believe (OEC) advocate, but we get along fine with each other’s position, having some common ground.

(Marshall Janzen) #11

Yes! This is a great reason to not swear off these discussions with family members. I’ve participated in a lot of online creation discussions, but of the two people I know I had a role in moving to EC, one is in my family and the other is a long-time in-the-flesh friend. We’ll probably have more impact with family and close friends than anyone else.

My attempts to discuss creation in real life go best when I don’t try to follow a train of thought to a slam-dunk conclusion. That’s hard for me because I want to be understood and make sure the other person gets my point. But hammering it home backfires while being patient enough to progressively unwrap a different view, giving it years if necessary, tends to increase the odds that the relationship will survive those years!

Also, to the extent that you get a chance to set the direction of the conversation, lead with what you know and personally find compelling, even if it isn’t what seems to be the major issue for the other person. For me, that means I talk about how I read different creation passages: how they speak to me more powerfully now than when I just mined them for historical details. But whatever the area, focus on what you’re passionate about and can speak naturally about – probably because you’ve done your homework on it. Excitement is contagious. Regurgitations aren’t. Yes, they might eventually want you to address their main dealbreaker issues, but I’d suggest waiting until they ask rather than trying to anticipate and speak to issues beyond your own interest.

(Mitchell W McKain) #12

And some like myself realize just how terrible we are a doing this and that is why we don’t see any attempt at broaching this subject as ending well. And this is despite the fact that I don’t even have any family members which are any kind of creationist and never have as far as I know. If anything I had more of the opposite problem where I would have to be wary of broaching any topic that goes against the most liberal beliefs and ideas.

(Randy) #13

Maybe it matters a lot about personalities and relationships. Everyone is different. I am sure some of my family are fine with EC, for example (my aunt, who was a child of the 60s); but not so much for my grandma. I do encourage discussion of this between dating couples, as it can be thorny with kids afterwards…one more item for the long list of premarital discussion points. :slight_smile:


I’ve recently been having to deal with this, mostly with friends/church leadership, not family. Usually I emphasize that I come to the same theological conclusions as them. In my case, I do believe the Genesis 1-11 accounts are real and are about real people. So that usually eases the discussion quite a bit. I’m very thankful that the individuals I’ve discussed it with have been very gracious. A couple friends have seemed slightly concerned, but the elders I’ve talked to have not. We’ve had good discussions and have all acknowledged that our goal is to find the truth.

I haven’t posted things publicly on Facebook or anything like that. I don’t advertise my beliefs right now. But I do talk about it with close individuals.

I have a lot of emotional baggage associated with YEC, so that has colored some of my conversations, especially with elders at my church. They know what I’ve been through and I’ve explained how and why it affects me. Our discussions have been good. We’ve talked about things observed in nature or history that I couldn’t fit into a young earth model, and evidences for old earth and common descent. More such discussions are planned, and I’m looking forward to the shared dialogue, not to try to convert anyone to my thinking, but to put it out there that the Bible and evolution aren’t mutually exclusive, and we don’t have to have a false dichotomy of either you’re YEC or atheist.

The hard part for me is approaching the subject with humility. If you can do that, it will go better. I try to do that. I’m not always good at it, as I can easily get into “debate mode”. And that’s why I haven’t commented on things on Facebook when a fellow brother or sister in my congregation posts anti-evolution stuff. I get carried away by debate too easily online. In person, I’m less likely to do that, though I still have to choose my words carefully. Reading this forum is helping me a lot with that!

(James Stump) #15

Welcome to the Forum Amanda! I hope you’ll find an encouraging community here (virtual though it is). The moderators (@Christy @Elle @jpm @pevaquark @Merv) do a fantastic job keeping this a place where important conversation can occur without all the snark that so often plagues online discussion. And it is definitely encouraging to us to hear that the BioLogos resources and the HICMMAE book (as it is acronym-ed in the office – and pronounced HICK-may) were helpful. And a great big thanks to your university professor for pointing you our way!

As to your question, everyone’s circumstances are different, so don’t think there is some formula that always works. But you’ve already heard from others some of the general principles we’ve found helpful in such conversations. I’ll add a couple things from my own experience.

  1. It is very sad, but unfortunately true, that this issue does strain relationships. Undoubtedly there are some people in your circle who will respond positively and with affirmation, but others who won’t. It is threatening to group identity when there is someone in their midst who doesn’t see what is so obvious to the rest of them. And that can have fairly drastic consequences (as perhaps you saw from my own story in HICMMAE). But the good news is that it appears evangelical culture is changing in this regard.
  2. It has been my experience that no amount of scientific data about evolution or the age of the Earth is persuasive, until they understand how a high view of Scripture can be maintained by evolutionary creationists. Key in this is realizing how many different interpretations of Scripture are maintained by different communities who take the Bible very seriously. And I don’t mean just about origins issues. Sometimes that can allow people to relax a little bit the tightness and ferocity with which they hold their own views.

Anyway, so good to hear some of your story.

(Mitchell W McKain) #16

It is always interesting to me when someone introduces me to a issue/term I hadn’t heard of before. Looking up “high view of scripture” took me to the intro of the book by Craig Allert with this name (adding a question mark) which tells of the related “verbal plenary inspiration view.” Such issues are particularly interesting for me in order to determine where I fit in the spectrum of things. As usual I think I tend towards an intermediate position, rejecting inerrancy as unsupportable, but my assertion that the Bible is the word of God means we cannot think that we could write the book better than He did sound a lot like the verbal plenary inspiration view. I certainly believe science should inform our reading of the Bible, but I think many go too far when they then decide that Adam and the story in Genesis isn’t a real person or real events at all but just a metaphor altogether. I certainly don’t think consistency with scientific findings require doing anything like that.

(Amanda F) #17

These are really great, thank you! For sure, good questions were monumental in moving me forward on this journey and they shouldn’t be discounted now.

Absolutely! That’s really the biggest thing I’ve learned from this whole experience so far–that I do not have all the perfect and exclusive answers. God doesn’t have an exclusive deal with me to be the sole holder of all that is right and true. (Seriously, the arrogance I learned to hold is staggering.) My main concern in all I’ve been through is how this topic was presented to me as a litmus test of a true believer.

Definitely. I think this is so visible in my own story as it was in huge part due to two people who encouraged me to pursue truth that helped influence me to even be willing to take a good look at what I considered “the other side.”

Interesting! This is a great point because then it’s more authenticly me sharing what has impacted me, rather than falling into the trap of trying to lecture or evidence-bash.

I think that’s definitely the conclusion I’m gathering from this thread. :smile:

Exactly! This is what has caused most of my own emotional turmoil, so to speak: this dichotomy being presented that is really troubling.

Thanks for the welcome! Yes, I am really grateful she knew about the ministry even though she isn’t a Christian herself. And I cannot remember where I encounted the book, but it was hugely beneficial to me as it helped me see the journeys others walked (and are walking) that were both similar to and different from my own. Especially because I had no one in person I felt comfortable talking this journey over with, other than my professor to some extent.

Yes, this is the way I grew so much on this road… in humility and in awareness that humans studying God and His creation are flawed, and that I can be personally convinced about one interpretation, yet still hold that conviction in humility. On this and other issues, as you mention.

Thank you again to everyone who has so graciously shared their perspectives, experiences, and advice here! I think where I go from here will be to cautiously consider when and where to chime in on these conversations, rather than necessarily starting them myself in most cases. And to bathe my speech always in humility and in a desire for others to understand that there are other perspectives held by people who still love and serve God.

Today I was able to have an hour-long chat with the founder of the apologetics website I write for. He was very gracious in his response and emphatic that it is fantastic that I’ve walked this road and been willing to follow the truth as revealed in God’s word and God’s world, wherever that may lead. He also assured me that there is a range of positions held within our small team on this and other issues, and that he was sure the others would be supportive of me as well. He also pointed out that the lessons I was describing are ones that should be shared with the Christian community, and that I was more than welcome to write posts to share those things I’ve learned in whatever way I feel most comfortable with. I’m thanking God today for His people who love Him first and foremost, and therefore love others even when they disagree.

(Randy) #18

Interesting! Maybe you can share the site with us. Thank you for your gracious dialogue.

(Amanda F) #19

Sure, Randy, it’s A Clear Lens. We don’t really cover Genesis topics much–we mostly focus on the “hows” of having “gracious dialogue” with nonbelievers in a way that makes Christ clear. It’s a privilege to be involved with the team and I’ve learned so much alongside them.

(Darek Barefoot) #20

Amanda, as you can probably tell from previous comments, many–probably most–of us here continue to struggle with how much to say to our Christian friends and family, how to say it and when, etc. We want to pursue peace, yet we want to be honest in all areas. It just is not easy.

I don’t offer my belief on the subject in group discussions or conversations. If I feel that for the sake of conscience I have to level with someone–and if I judge that they are capable of at least listening with courtesy–I arrange to speak one-on-one in private to them. I let them know that I don’t speak my mind on the subject with everyone because I know that believers can have strong opinions and emotions become aroused easily.

I have sometimes been suprised by the kindness of those who hold strongly to a YEC position. My own father thought I was treading on the border of heresy (he has since passed away) but did not withold affection or fellowship. My mother, who was once dyed-in-the-wool literal creationist in her views, has gradually come around to EC and has even become fascinated with the science. So you never know.

Fortify yourself for problems with some believers you are close to. I doubt you will be able to dodge every bullet.

My prayers are with you!