Good example. I wonder if you or anypne else looking has had difficulty regarding being able to carry on in usual church activities…for example, Sunday School? I know that @jstump and another person recently stepped down from their job (the most recent had to leave his seminary). I teach 4 and 5 year olds and am on the missions committee. I do have a different perspective on Genesis and other passages, but do not change the lesson at all (“The rain came down, and the flood came up”)… I do not intend to make those kids struggle, but after talking with my pastor about my views for the first time, I wonder what will happen. He is a nice man, but if it got out, it might be a problem. I don’t think he would give me difficulty.
That’s a tricky one too, Randy, and going back to the OP I assume that’s a good example of feelings of “dishonesty” – even if no one straight-up asks you how old you think the earth is, those of us in these environments know how much things like that are simply assumed, and so knowing that you’re deviating from the general assumption can feel a bit like you’re hiding something even if that isn’t the intent. I’ve wondered about how I’d deal with that too if I ended up helping out in the children’s ministry (or with the teens where they’re expected to learn YEC “apologetics”) – honesty and sensitivity are so important because I wouldn’t want anyone thinking I was being “subversive.”
That is certainly uncomfortable when in a situation where it is assumed you are one of the tribe but are not. I’ve had that happen in the past when less open with my views, and snide comments were made about evolution thinking I shared the same sentiments. Sort of the same way you feel when Uncle George makes an inappropriate joke at the dinner table.
Yes. That is a really tough question. I don’t actually do the teaching–I lead the singing once a month, and someone else who is YEC does the teaching. (usually it’s parents with younger children who take turns; the class ranges from 8 to 16 in the 4-5 year old group) I do squirm a lot with the songs. We have sung them with my own kids. That opens a whole 'nother can of worms–both of us really struggle about teaching the OT stories to our kids. The kids love the “Joshua Fit the Battle” songs, etc, at church–especially with actions. At home, we try talking about how Jesus would act, and try not to focus on the Israel conquest, etc. It actually has been a relief to my oldest son, who has been asking questions, to hear me question that the Flood and the genocide happened, while focusing on the fact that Jesus is God’s greatest revelation.
Regarding the songs, the roots of “Joshua” and “Only a Boy Named David,” with the Flood, are pretty much rated “R,” and probably should not go in detail to any children. However, I noted that the kids get into the struggle depicted in the stories–the walls come tumbling down, or Goliath does. It reminds me of GK Chesterton’s quote about how stories’ purpose is not to tell children that monsters exist–they already know that monsters exist. It’s to tell them that monsters can be beaten. I am hoping that that is all that comes across–I remember as a child, that’s all that I really grasped, till later.
I’ve honest in signing on to mission statements. I’ve been turned down in an application to the mission I grew up in about 2 years ago, after I wrote out my statement of faith. My discussion of (how I can’t accept) inerrancy in regard to Numbers 31 (where the virgin women are shared out among the Israelite soldiers) and also some difficulty with the Fall, penal substitution, etc, was too much of an obstacle to the mission board. It was difficult; but especially as some of the members who discussed this with me were “aunties” and others who have known me since I was a child, it has been cordial. They are still willing to talk–but I don’t think it will go anywhere.
I have avoided being an elder or deacon, for concern that this would come up. It’s probably a work in progress. It’s helpful to hear how others approach this with honesty. I would not want to be untrustworthy with my friends who attend church with me, either.
I do mention in our own Sunday School, from time to time when others criticize evolution, that I’ve met godly Christian teachers who believe in evolution; and things like that. I am not sure that they know what to do with that.
Yes, it is exactly what I meant in the original post… The idea of “when common beliefs are assumed, and I know this and don’t say anything to the contrary, where is the line of deception?”
But then again, it’s also like the cliche situation of when someone’s wearing an ugly dress, singing its praises to you, assuming you agree. They even tell their friends that you agreed it was the most beautiful dress you ever saw, too. Do you say something?
As statements of faith and missions boards have been mentioned, I’ll go ahead and clarify that my concerns about the implications are further reaching than just friends and family. That’s why I called the head of the organization A Clear Lens–to see if this was “okay” and within the statement of faith of the organization, which is a litttle vague. But since I’m preparing to become involved in overseas missions, this question quite literally affects my future. I’ve already started wondering if it will become the determining factor in which organization I apply to join; the ones my church usually supports missionaries from would almost certainly not accept my position as within their statement of faith. (For reference, I’m in an independent, conservative Baptist church)
This strikes me as sad, and a hard pill to swallow. But I’m reminded that God never called us to the easy path. My job is to trust Him, that He will be enough, and that His plans for me are still good.
Very thoughtful and wise of you. I, too, attend a conservative, independent Baptist church; we love the people there.
I guess that if I can do this discussion without causing a stumbling block, it will perhaps help others not to find science such a stumbling block–such as kids who leave the church. However, that’s not my mission to do right now :). I need to be really careful here. It seems like the Clear Lens is a young ministry, with young leaders–maybe more open to this, and the target audience is probably more millennial. You are probably an asset in that way.
It would be interesting to discuss missions that are open in that way.
I’ve been thinking about this a bit, especially in conjunction with teaching preschool and early elementary versus middle school and teenagers. @Kathryn_Applegate (and @Christy) may want to weigh in briefly with some thoughts, since BioLogos is developing educational materials for older students.
In teaching the OT stories to kids under the age of 10, I think it’s not only acceptable to teach them the literal understanding, it’s the proper way to introduce little ones to the Bible. Children typically acquire the capacity for “metaphoric thinking” between the ages of 8-10. Prior to that age, they’re just not ready for a “symbolic interpretation” of the text.
So, I would advise a parent or teacher of young kids to begin with a literal understanding of the story, which is the natural place to begin. Let them master the basic facts before expecting them to go “deeper” into the text. The difficulty comes in the transition from one to the other, which can be particularly tricky in a classroom setting. (Some kids are ready, some are not, and most aren’t paying attention!)
I certainly agree. I taught 11 year olds for several years, and some were able to relate to symbolism in the text, but a lot were not, and we had to explain what it meant, especially to the boys who lag a bit. But, it is important to start teaching it as if you don’t teach them to look, they will never learn and much of the Bible gets filed away as children’s stories.
With my own kids, we read story Bibles for children when they were little, and they basically just told the stories, without much commentary. I don’t know that I would say I “taught them literally” so much as I just let the kids hear them how they heard them and answered questions as they came up. I think it’s true that children have different takeaways than adults. We read a lot of stories and I don’t think they had a concept of “fiction/non-fiction” or “literal history/myth” until later, so they aren’t wondering what categories to impose on the Bible. Stories are just very real to children.
I do think it is judicious to skip parts of the O.T. with young kids. The homeschool curriculum I used in first grade had us “reading through Genesis in a version of our choice.” But no first grader needs to hear the story of the mob at Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot sleeping with his daughters, or Noah cursing his son because he didn’t cover his drunken nakedness, just in the name of building biblical literacy.
I commend you for your position here, and I do not envy you.
For what it’s worth, not every mission board has a problem with the EC position. I’m sure you know that Wycliffe for one does not, although there are certainly variations within the broad EC camp that are outside the lines they have drawn for members, mostly those who go beyond the inerrancy of original manuscripts. (Chrome, you’re so quirky. Really? Inerrancy isn’t a word?) But Wycliffe isn’t for everyone.
Before starting down the path to leave Wycliffe, I kept my identity semi-veiled here, first name hidden. That’s why I still today have an animal (an Ethiopian Wolf, since I was a Wolfe serving in Sahelian Africa, aren’t I so clever) as my avatar. This is because I feared retribution not from Wycliffe, but rather from certain quarters of our monthly partnering team. The senior pastor of our sending church once sat me down over breakfast and expressed real concern over my Facebook “like” of BioLogos. Not an article posted, not a controversial personal appeal, just a “like.” I respectfully smiled and nodded, and dissembled that I liked to get diverse views showing up in my Facebook feed. (Technically true, but, as a regular Forum poster and avid ECer, certainly misleading.) Not my proudest moment—but I didn’t want to lose the monthly contribution from the church budget or many of his parishioners.
My unsolicited recommendation for you on that front is to consider attending, as soon as possible, a church whose views align with yours, and become a member in good standing. Yes, it’s hard to make that shift now, but far better now than later. A lifelong career is a loooooong time to hide your views under a basket, and there may come a time when your views evolve still further or something comes up and your conscience compels you to speak out on an issue of our time that does not toe the party line. It is possible to be silent in the interests of a perceived greater good of your life’s work — I have, for the last ten years — but it is not without cost.
— another of those “special brand of nerds” Christy alluded to
On my application (don’t know if it has changed since 2009) they asked “what do you believe about inerrancy?” on the theology section. I said I thought it wasn’t a useful construct and I thought the Bible clearly had “errors” of certain types (scientific, grammatical, historical discrepancies). They still let me in. Maybe it depends on who reads your application.
I recently submitted an article to the ASA journal and one of the two reviewers was someone who holds a senior consulting position with SIL. The Vice Chair of the Wycliffe Board is also on the BioLogos Board. All this to agree that it is the supporters you need to worry about.
Good way to put it.
Yep, I do know that not every mission board has a problem with that. I meant the ones I’m more familiar with (the ones from which my church normally supports missionaries) do.
Great point–I suppose that really would be the bulk of the concern, wouldn’t it? Reading this caused me to think back to several conversations I’ve had with folks involved in overseas missions who told me about things that irked their supporters. And for far sillier reasons than this would be. (A photo of the family eating at a restaurant, for example.)
Thanks for the “unsolicited recommendation.” It definitely bears consideration. There are a number of huge considerations before I would take that drastic step, though. Just a few:
- I still live and go to church with my family. (I’m in college, and commuting to school, so there’s no reason for me to diverge from them just yet.) Changing churches would 100% cause a strain on my family relationships and would merit a full explanation which I have not yet given.
- I am new to EC myself and don’t yet know what a “church whose views align with yours” would be, as I don’t even fully know what my own views are yet.
- If I were to change churches without moving out of the area, the church would be concerned about the reason and it would likely destroy all the relationships I’ve been building with people who would currently like to be my supporters someday soon. I would have to start over in every sense of the word.
Yeah. Just “yeah.”
This made me laugh.
I definitely know where you’re coming from here. I also have found that, more than likely, the churches that would most align with my current views on EC would probably diverge quite a bit from my views on other subjects, so it really comes down to which ones I believe are most important. There are also others here who have expressed the “awkwardness” of feeling like a liberal in some areas but also conservative in others – it’s not always the neat little boxes some of us grew up imagining, but that would be boring anyway!
Fair points, all. I knew it was not likely to be feasible, and was probably more a projection of my own retrospective hangups. But with a grain of salt, it may be useful advice some day; who knows? Meanwhile, I’m sure God will illuminate your path step by step, and your original post was about your family, which is doubtless the more pressing matter. God’s grace to you in that!
If you do end up serving overseas long-term, your partner base can to some extent evolve with you. I always sought out new connections to likeminded churches and friend-networks on furloughs, though it wasn’t always easy to get a foot in the door when I had little in the way of personal connection and feared being branded from the first introduction as a potential budget drain. [Edit: In my better moments, I was quite confident that the value of participating in my exciting and meaningful language development work far outweighed the “budget drain.” I shouldn’t be such a pessimist! ] It is possible, though!
Hope you feel free to chime in here on the Forum. Always nice to hear from fresh voices. Blessings to you.
To some degree you are always accommodating people. Whether this feels fraudulent or something more along the lines of Paul’s “becoming all things to all people” depends on the person and situation. If you are going to get involved in cross-cultural work you will always be filtering yourself in some ways and constantly changing the hats you wear to adapt to the cultural expectations of your host country and sending partners. And your closest ministry partners on the field may not be of your same theological persuasion on lots of issues, many of them more important and relevant to daily life than origins views.
I have friends who send out two versions of their newsletter, one with only KJV scripture quotations and free of pictures of women wearing pants because the church that the husband came to Christ in has very strong views about those things and they figure that if it is not that big of a deal to avoid offense in that way, they should try.
We don’t work on a missionary visa, we are “language development workers” so when we are working with educators and academics and government officials we definitely put more emphasis on the literacy and language preservation aspects of our work than when we talk to churches, where we emphasize the “Bible in the heart language,” Scripture engagement, and culture transformation aspects. We are always adjusting to the audience.
This is where I’m at. My church leadership is not openly hostile to EC, but a good percentage of the membership probably would be. I also have different views than most on women in marriage and the church, am much more ambivalent on LGBT issues, and would probably disagree on almost every political issue with the majority of the congregation. But they love Jesus and are doing the important things well. It’s the church I grew up in, I have a history there, and I love them and they’re my family. I think as far as it is possible you owe something to the community that brought you to faith and if you can stay there and be relatively healthy, that’s a good thing for everyone involved.
Missions funding is being re-evaluated in lots of organizations, questioning whether the model of member-raised support is sustainable in the future, but it seems like it will be a while before any large scale shift. But most people who raise their own support are not receiving funding directly through many different churches anymore, most of it comes from individuals. So the more you can do to expand your networks, have people in lots of different circles get to know you and trust your character, the better that is. But you can do that through parachurch involvement or volunteer work as well as church membership. The key thing is to put yourself out there and get to know lots of people with lots of different connections.
You are such a geek! That’s great. My brother absolutely loved the fauna of the Sahel, and he would have liked that avatar. I’m going to let him know–I never even knew there was such a thing.
Therein lies the conflict for any follower of Christ - where both sides need lots of time to explain their position to the less informed. The listener however, who hold scripture as paramount may perceive both arguments as a secular intrusion and a challenger to biblical theology.
I am curious how others would act. Suppose that you are convinced that there was no worldwide Flood, based on (very good) evidence; and that the idea that God would kill men, women, and babies, with all plants and animals that could not swim (other than those that could fit on an Ark) is repugnant to you, and possibly damaging to image of God in adults’ eyes, let alone children’s… If you are asked by your YEC church to teach the Noah and the Ark story to children, what would you do?
- Ask someone else to do it
- Teach it as per the Sunday School, with no embellishment
- Teach it with an embellishment explaining that it’s not necessarily true (and split your church
What do you teach your own children?
At present, I do struggle with even singing the songs about Noah. I have not personally been asked to tell the story, but I work in the 4s and 5s class that regularly teaches that one. I think I can pass it off to someone else. We do have a huge poster of a smiling Noah, his wife, and (smiling) animals at the Ark on our church wall.
This is a conundrum that I suspect will occur more and more as science becomes better understood. Yet, Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone;” and we should not major on the minors. I appreciate your insight and thoughts.
We don’t avoid these bible stories in our church (which is predominately not YEC). I think our running, defacto presumption is that we want our children to be biblically literate and there is something important to learn from any bible story. There is nothing to be gained by avoiding major stories and themes that are there. Society won’t be avoiding them - after all; and even rehearse some of those themes and stories up as exhibits towards other agendas (and often from a biblically subliterate understanding). So how much more should we be knowledgeable about what’s in our own book! Younger classes are pretty much just told the story as it is - not much mention (if any) of all the grownup controversies about literalism or historicity. They’ll get that when they’re ready. I think it’s a mistake, though, to treat such stories as if they are things we need to mitigate or apologize for (though what some have done with all that through history certainly needs mitigation and apology in the extreme!) Instead, why not search for what the Spirit would have us learn from knowing that history through the fresh perspective of Christ’s eyes?
All that said, our church certainly does not treat the bible as a flat book to be equally and indiscriminately presented to young eyes - R-rated parts and all. But the flood account (as gruesome as a realistically graphic presentation of such a thing actually would be) is such a part of our cultural consciousness by now that there is nothing ‘R-rated’ about that any more. Lots of death - yes. But what part of our history or lives has ever been bereft of death? (average death rate for every generation prior and since has also been … let’s see … yep! 100% - with no signs of abating.) So there’s no use trying to pretend even to our growing children that death doesn’t exist.