Does acceptance of "deep time" or evolution imperil Christian belief?

Some people say it does (you can probably guess who).

I decided to comb the survey data to find any evidence for or against that hypothesis.

Here are a few excerpts:

Is there any connection between a person’s acceptance of mainstream scientific theories on origins and the strength of their Christian faith?

Indeed, many relationships are possible.

  1. According to some young-earth creation advocates, any acceptance of standard time scales for the age of the earth and universe, and any acceptance of macroevolution, sows doubt in the reliability of Scripture and leads to deconversion and apostasy. Conversely, faith is bolstered by strict adherence to the young-earth paradigm.

  2. Some theistic evolutionists see the mainstream scientific position less as an explanation of how things happened than as a description of how God created. They hold a high view of Scripture and perceive God as taking an active role in the creative process. Evidence of a designer is seen in the fine-tuning of the universe and the origin and complexity of life. They see no conflict between “secular” science and faith.

  3. Other theistic evolutionists take a more deistic position. For them, evolution sufficiently explains the existence of life in all its forms, but God set the whole process in motion in an initial creative event. Evidence of a designer is seen in the universe, but life requires no additional explanation. They feel no tension between science and faith, but squaring the complete evolutionary paradigm with historic Christian theology requires a certain amount of intellectual contortion.

  4. Progressive creationists accept mainstream time scales but are generally more skeptical toward macroevolution, attributing the saltatory nature of the fossil record to more or less discrete creative events. There is some tension between faith and secular science regarding the scope of evolution. Some who hold this view argue that the findings of modern science actually strengthen Biblical reliability.

    At least three hypotheses explaining the connection between enduring faith and science should be considered.

Hypothesis #1: Because the Book of Genesis authoritatively teaches a young earth and universe, the earth and universe must, therefore, be young, and any acceptance of mainstream positions undermines trust in Scripture and is harmful to faith.

Hypothesis #2: The Book of Genesis and the Book of Nature can be interpreted in many consistent ways without undermining Biblical authority. Some are compatible with the mainstream scientific position. There is little, if any, connection between one’s view of origins and one’s Christian faith and practice.

Hypothesis #3: Scientific evidence for so-called “deep time” – i.e., billions of years – is irrefutable. If the Bible authoritatively states the earth is young, then it must be in error. Teaching young people the young-earth position potentially undermines Scriptural authority and is harmful to faith.

Hypotheses #1 and #3 are contradictory. The former suggests that accepting geological time scales imperils faith, while the latter suggests that not accepting geological time scales imperils faith. So which is it?

In the article linked below, for your interest, I look at data from Answers in Genesis, Pew Research, Barna Research, The Great Dechurching data, additional sources, and anecdotal data.

What emerges as most surprising was that the data from the AiG survey of 2009 actually undermines their own position:

When asked, “Has secular science dating the earth 6 billion years [sic] caused you to doubt the Bible?” a plurality of 46% answered “yes.” As for the 42% who answered “no,” it could be either because they still believed in a young earth or because they never believed in it and saw no conflict. Those results included both Sunday school attenders and nonattenders.

The subjects were also asked what most caused them to question the Bible. A plurality of 33% responded “nothing.” But the most common reason, given by 25% of respondents, was “Earth not less than 10,000 years old.” This is almost double the rate for the second most common response (“too many rules,” 12.8%).

Conclusions

For hypothesis #1 – that acceptance of “deep time” or evolution imperils faith – there is at least anecdotal evidence that this indeed happens. Some feel forced to choose between Scripture and mainstream science and choose science. But this finding begs the question of why the conflict exists. Does it arise from a faulty interpretation of science – or a faulty interpretation of Scripture?

Hypothesis #2 – there is no conflict between faith and science – seems to describe the vast majority of persons. In most surveys, only a relatively small minority attribute their doubt or skepticism to conflict over origins. Very, very few name it as the primary cause. [Only AiGs Already Gone survey found a stronger effect].

Our third hypothesis was that a conflict between faith and science would be mostly limited to those inculcated in the young-earth interpretation and that young-earth-oriented teaching might be the cause, rather than the cure, for doubt and loss of faith. While none of the studies cited above directly addressed that question, the data does seem to lean in this direction. Pastors, parents, and teachers should be cautious in anchoring Scriptural authority to a view of cosmogony and geology that is easily and inevitably challenged.

Full article here:

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Screenshot 2024-01-19 at 09-01-43 Family Feud Survey Says - YouTube

  • What?! No Absolute Time and Absolute Space? Why am I not surprised? :rofl:

It’s interesting to see Michael Tuomey, as part of the introductory material to his report on the geology of South Carolina, asserting that thinking that old-earth geology was in conflict with the Bible was a thing of the past in 1848.

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‘Deep time’ and evolution do not and cannot imperil Christianity because Christianity is about reality and truth. They may (and do) imperil Christian belief in those who merely affirm Christian doctrine and principles and whose hearts have not been changed, and there may be (and is) distress and trauma among Christians who do not understand the dual and nonconflicting realities of spiritual truths about God and physical truths about his creation, revealed in the Bible and in the cosmos.

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Scientific findings only imperil faith in the Bible if that faith does not allow for human authors using the knowledge and myths of their time and place to write meaningful stories about human relationships to God and each other. Certain views of Biblical “inherency” try to make something historic that was meant symbolically and spiritually. Inspiration of scripture does not mean or require inerrant dictation. it is a rigid view of inherency that imperils faith and is likely to increasingly deter many from a reasonable faith and belonging on the church.

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When the Apostle wrote that men moved by the Holy Spirit wrote he was not saying God moved their hands, but their hearts.

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I’ll just note what I’ve pointed out before, that back before Galileo ever assembled a telescope Hebrew scholars examined the text of Genesis 1 and concluded that the universe started out smaller than a grain of mustard (i.e. the smallest thing possible), expanded rapidly beyond comprehension, and was filled with a fluid up until God called light into existence; that the Earth was ancient beyond counting and the universe by far more ancient still. They didn’t have any problem with deep time, and since their conclusions rested on the text then I have to conclude that the text is not threatened by the concept of deep time.

When I read in Hebrew, even though I don’t see what they saw I nevertheless find no problem between the text of scripture and deep time.

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I think what actually imperils faith is realizing what you previously accepted as true from people you trusted is probably not true. People then wonder what else they were misled about. The “acceptance of deep time” part usually goes along with a reassessment of many beliefs and is a symptom of a deeper deconstruction, not the cause.

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It might be the trigger? Of an avalanche, for some, sadly.

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Does acceptance of “deep time” or evolution imperil Christian belief?

No.

How can this be when I have the counter example of those like myself who started with the scientific worldview and only found Christianity believable because of evolution?

Many object to evolution because it is so cold hearted and careless of life, requiring suffering and death for life to exist and develop. Many object to the Bible because the God of Bible looks so cold hearted and careless of life requiring the suffering and death of so many. Does anybody see the irony here? Frankly evolution and the God of the Bible are a perfect fit to each other – like peas in a pod. The only thing which doesn’t fit is the fantasy concocted by the creationists of a world before the fall where there is no death and suffering. This fantasy doesn’t agree with everything we see in the sky and the earth or in the biology of all living things including ourselves.

Yes the acceptance of “deep time” or evolution imperils the creationist fantasy. Opening your eyes and looking at the world always imperils fantasies like this.

Yes. Building a faith upon lies and fantasy is setting people up for a collapse of faith. And such lies and fantasy tend to multiply into irrationality, conspiracy theories and a general break from reality.

But I think we can look forward to a future where people build a new faith in Christianity from the scientific realities, where honesty and rationality are what multiplies in Christianity instead.

The odd thing is that many people who reach that point fail to question the assertion of those teaching YEC that if Genesis 1-2 aren’t historical then the whole thing fails. That’s where even otherwise intelligent scholars have abandoned Christianity. I have to ask them why they believe that if what they were taught about scripture v science is wrong then the reasoning that if one part of scripture isn’t literal then the whole thing is false should be trusted. This astounded me when I was listening to Bart Ehrman saying that he had to face the conflict between the strong inerrancy he was taught and the thousands of variant readings, so he concluded that inerrancy was wrong – yet it was plain that he never bothered to ask whether the claim that if scripture “fails” in one way then the entire Bible is untrustworthy has any validity. Listening to other videos by him it seems to me that he has dedicated his life to attacking the trustworthiness of the scriptures and I have to wonder at his motive; it seems sometimes he’s just trying to justify his initial rejection of the Bible.

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Those holding to inerrancy do not claim that for the manuscripts. Ehrman must know that. And strangely, he concludes his book, Misquoting Jesus by saying that we can have confidence in the translations we read, as most of the variants can be resolved through textual criticism. In additional comments at the end of a later edition he claims to be puzzled that when people read that book, they think he is claiming the contrary. But as I read his book, it seemed that he was teaching that the variants are so many that we cannot reliably reconstruct the original text. Even his title seems to say that.

Gerald L. Schroeder, is an orthodox Jewish physicist. Schroeder received his BSc in 1959, his MSc in 1961, and his PhD in nuclear physics and earth and planetary sciences in 1965, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He identifies himself as an applied theologian and has written extensively on the writings of Maimonides and other Jewish commentators. He finds that they teach that the universe is simultaneously billions and thousands of years old, depending on the position of the observer. And he also finds this consistent with his science. Interesting conclusion.

Naturally, most of my interactions are with young earth creationists as I am one. And I have heard and read many accounts of people who were doubters about scripture because they found evolution and deep time contrary to what the Bible seems to clearly teach. But these doubts were resolved when they met creationists who were able to show that there is no conflict between the evidence of science properly understood from a young earth perspective and scripture, properly interpreted.

Of course, because I am connected to the YEC community, those are the testimonies I would hear. My point is that there are many whose faith has been strengthened by YEC teaching. I am simply reporting from what I hear from those who are members of the YEC community, and not to reignite a discussion of the validity of that position which has been argued ad infinitum and ad nauseum in many other discussions in the BioLogos forum.

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  • Naturally.
  • “Reporting here what you’ve heard elsewhere”, you’re a little far “from home”, aren’t you?
  • If you’re not here “to reignite a rehash of a position that you have heard elsewhere and that you yourself hold, presumably”, … a minority position from what I can tell, BTW; it seems to me that you lack clarity or honesty about your purpose here. Which is it?

That is great! God strives to meet us where we are, thankfully. And of course, here on the forum we are likely to hear the stories of where the Bible is integrated with evolutionary thought and ideas, and how that brings many closer to God. We tend to forget that it is the relationship with God that is important, not the way we relate to the physical word, though that impacts us as well.

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This would be consistent with everything known about the human psyche. Motivated cognition, confirmation bias, and a number of other factors reinforce our beliefs whether right or wrong. Only a very small number of those brought up in the YEC environment are ever going to be exposed to significant rebuttal, or ever come to the point they can seriously weigh the arguments without appeal to authority.

My review in the linked article would certainly allow that to happen, although the reverse is well-documented (and I give examples). That’s one reason anecdotal evidence is the weakest kind, and why I sought survey data instead. It’s certainly intriguing that Ken Ham’s own data actually indicates the teaching may be detrimental.

On the grand scheme of things, I think the impact of the young earth/old earth divide is miniscule compared to one’s beliefs about sexuality. Something I’ve been warned to stay away from here. :smiley:

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Probably true. At least in my church, more people struggle with that issue more than evolution, as it is a topic that affects their daily family life. It is just that those discussions evolved quickly to dumpster fires in the past, and are tough to moderate, as well as detract from some of the topics more central to the core of the organization’s focus. Perhaps there will be a time and means through which we can address it in the future.

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Nothing that I know of precludes the possibility of a Private Thread “dedicated”, as it were, to the topic of Christianity & Sexuality, is there?

How do those work?