Churches and Personal Integrity


#1

So over the past few years or so, my views have changed a lot due to various things, BioLogos being one of them. When I look for churches now, I’m not quite sure how to proceed. Many of them differ greatly in views from me now in things such as evolution. In study groups I wonder if I speak my mind as much as I used to, would I be lectured as to why they think I’m wrong in these regards? I don’t mind the notion of being lectured, clearly I still have much to learn, but some of these things I’ve thought about a lot and I don’t intend to change my mind on, such as the things this site covers.

What is your view on these things, and how do you handle being honest in these matters without causing contention-as these matters can be quite divisive. I hope I’m not being melodramatic here but I wonder how these matters relate to integrity.


(Laura) #2

I don’t think you’re being melodramatic at all… this is something I’m still trying to muddle through myself (though I’m committed to my church, so my issue is more how to have beneficial discussions with the other members of the body). Obviously there are some situations where speaking your mind is a beneficial and others where it isn’t… and if you’re me, you often don’t discover which is which until after you’ve already opened your mouth. :wink: So in that regard I’m hanging back a bit… not really wanting to speak much since I’m still figuring things out.

One distinction I would make though, is the difference between “speaking our minds” and speaking the truth (a distinction which I was made a lot more aware of due to statements made by a political figure I won’t name). If anything, my mental shift on creationism has made me look at the truth differently – as less of an agenda to be defended at all costs (though there are times for that) and more as something to be continually seeking – knowing that Jesus is the ultimate truth and foundation.

I don’t think I would mind being lectured either, but it would be a lot more difficult if those doing the lecturing were using it as a fear tactic to try and keep people (especially children) bound to their faith. That bothers me.

I guess the way I’m looking at it, going forward, is that it is important to speak the truth, but not always to speak my mind. That doesn’t mean I always know the difference, but I’m trying. Sometimes I think speaking the truth simply means being willing to ask questions and really listen, to try and get a feel for someone else’s view of the truth… or to toss a statement out there that points to Jesus as the foundation of our faith (rather than a young earth), without having to bring up evolution at all.

Those are some of my thoughts anyway. Still trying to figure this out! :slight_smile:


(Christy Hemphill) #3

This is a great paragraph. I totally agree.


(James McKay) #4

Well my personal approach when talking with folks at church is to focus simply on the need to make sure you know what you’re talking about and that your facts are straight. As I keep saying, it may be faith to reject the scientific consensus, but misrepresenting it is lying, and will ultimately undermine your credibility and cause untold damage.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a good idea to adopt a line of “evolution is a fact, get over it.” Nor even to adopt a line of “the earth is billions of years old, get over it.” Instead, I leave the option of a recent creation with the appearance of age open to them, though I do make it clear what that implies theologically: we’re not just talking about a mature creation, but evidence for a history of events that never happened.


(Christy Hemphill) #5

In situations where topics come up and I am pretty sure my thoughts either 1) can’t be expressed with the appropriate nuance or justification in a couple sentences or 2) are likely to be misunderstood and judged or 3) are different than what my present company assumes is the default Evangelical position (and my origins views would meet all three of those criteria), than I usually ask myself why I want to say something.

If my reasons for speaking up are essentially selfish or less than honorable (I want to feel validated or vindicated in some way, I want to put someone else in their place because I think they are being an arrogant jerk, I want to be right, etc.) than I try to keep my mouth shut. But if I am with people that I have a close relationship with and I feel like something someone has said is hurting their Christian witness because it is blatantly racist, sexist, anti-poor people, homophobic, xenophobic, or anti-science, I am more likely to spend my social capital and reveal my potentially unpopular thoughts on an issue. In those cases I feel it is a matter of integrity and justice to address the issue. It’s kind of rare that anti-science attitudes rise to the level of what I would call sinful though, or maybe I just care more about gender, race, and poverty-related issues, so I am more willing to risk my reputation as a respectable Christian woman over them.

If people ask me directly about what I think about Genesis or young earth creationism, I’ll tell them. But I definitely don’t delve right in just because someone else states their view or the topic is being discussed around me, especially if I think it would derail the real purpose of a class/meeting/discussion.

If I were looking for a church, I would look for one where people were getting off their butts doing things to make the world a better place in Jesus’ name, where the leadership was humble and open to learning and didn’t think they had everything all figured out, and where I sensed people were accepted and appreciated and pushed to be more Christ-like even if they disagreed on minor points of doctrine or Christian lifestyle choices. I would not make “agreeing with my views on origins” a deciding factor, though if they were militantly YEC that would be a red flag and probably a deal breaker. I have never gone to a church where I agreed with the church’s official position on everything, and it hasn’t usually been that painful.


(Laura) #6

This is a great point, and the desire for “validation” is something I don’t watch out for enough in my thought processes. Growing up in a YEC environment, we were validated for going against evolution (sometimes even for flat-out mocking it). With my shift of views, even though I believe it’s for a good reason, I still am aware of the fact that I have lost that likelihood of ever having the majority of my family/church friends validate my views on this particular subject again. I just have to be okay with that, and let go of the need for vindicating anything in their eyes. I still love them, they still love me – if the subject comes up and I decide to speak what I believe is the truth, then we will disagree, and that’s okay, because it’s not the foundation of my faith anymore.


#7

How do YEC dominant congregations view the role of creationism in evangelism?

If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well, and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books [Scriptures], how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? --St. Augustine, “The Literal Meaning of Genesis”, 4th Ccentury AD

Do congregations make an effort to downplay creationism as part of their witness to non-believers? How does that fit into the equation?


#8

That seems like a wise assessment, I’ll try to keep that in mind. I agree that the willing to learn perspective is respectable, and I fear that too often concerns are rebutted with “it’s not about what we want to be right, it’s about what we know is right.” Not that I think that’s never applicable or anything, but I don’t think it’s very prudent to immediately jump to that statement when it comes to challenging ideas as often as people do.

@T_aquaticus to my experience young earth creationism is pretty secondary. Telling people it is essential comes later, and people are expected to agree to that but no one’s really pushed to look into it. I hope I didn’t oversimplify that but that’s just my context as to how it works.


#9

That makes perfect sense. Thanks. I didn’t know if some congregations viewed YEC as a necessary belief or not, or how much stress they put on it as part of the conversion process.