Former YEC's, what made you change your mind?

(Heather Wentzel) #1

I was just interested in hearing from former YEC’s on this site, as I know there are many. How did you end up changing your mind? What was it like explaining to friends and family members that you changed?

I wasn’t exposed to the YEC teachings until I was an adult, and was amazed at how much it had infiltrated a lot of churches. I heard that those that leave YEC end up losing their faith.

I would just be encouraged to hear from those who haven’t lost their christian beliefs, and what your story is.

(Jay Nelsestuen) #2

During my senior year of high school at a conservative Christian school started by a PCA church (whose senior pastor is now the headmaster), I took a Christian Philosophy and Apologetics class. The teacher was (to my mind at the time) rather liberal; he did not believe in strict inerrancy, he accepted the evidence for an old earth and evolution, and he was Anglican (those baby-baptizers - lol). Anyway, about midway through the year he began presenting his arguments in favor of a non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and the evidence for an old earth (specifically, the many independent dating methods which demonstrate the 6,000-year-old earth hypothesis drastically untenable). This put a burr in my saddle and made me curious; so I began researching for myself and came across BioLogos. I can confidently say that I never made YEC the foundation of my faith, and when it was shown to me rather clearly that Genesis is not intended to be a scientific record of the earth’s beginnings, but rather a counter-story (polemic) against the other ancient Near Eastern cultures, I had no problem then accepting the evidence for an old earth and evolution. It made no sense to put Genesis in opposition to something that it wasn’t in opposition to. Crisis of faith averted.

I know many others have had it rougher than me, but when Christ is the foundation, then a change of mind on creation should have no ill effects.

If you want to read more of my story, I wrote a blog post about it, but what I’ve written should give you a general idea:

(Peaceful Science) #3

The tipping point for me was Scripture and Jesus. Seeing these two things clear gave me confidence to see the obvious genetic evidence for evolution and change my mind. Without Jesus, I would still be a YEC, or maybe an atheist.


Two things pushed me over the edge:

(1) My study of the Hebrew text of Genesis was quite jolting. I saw that ERETZ usually means “land”, “country”, “nation”, and sometimes the KJV Bible even translated it as “wilderness of _____” To translate ERETZ as “earth” in the sense of “planet earth” was a jarring anachronism. Even today, ERETZ YISRAEL refers to the “Land of Israel” or “Nation of Israel”, not “planet Israel”. And when I started reading new Bible translations in the 1960’s and 1970’s, sure enough, the translation footnotes at the bottom of each page of Genesis 1-10 kept making that clarification about ERETZ.

(2) My study of KJV English led me to realize that in 1611 even the English word “earth” had a meaning much closer to ERETZ. That is, at the time of the KJV translation, a mention of “earth” was not so much about “planet earth” as “the opposite of sky” and “the ground”, the soil one tilled to plant a crop. I realized that “the heavens and the earth” was not so much cosmological as a simple reference to “everything above and everything here below.” I realized that the ancient Hebrews weren’t thinking in terms of “planet earth”. Their cosmology was a very simple one. They lived on a soil ground, the land, and they saw the heavens above. We must resist reading modern notions of “planet earth” into the text.

(3) As a Young Earth Creationist, I was increasingly troubled by the deceptive quote-mining of my “heroes”, people like Drs. Morris, Whitcomb, and Gish. I watched them mislead audiences and promise to correct errors that they never corrected—and would actually repeat a few weeks later at another Bible conference. They were resistant to giving up discredited arguments. My blind trust in people who happened to agree with my Bible doctrines was shattered. I began to realize that their agreeing with my interpretations of the Bible and praying fervently was not a guarantee of honesty or reliability.

Frankly, it was not until some years later that I finally had time to really investigate the scientific evidence more thoroughly. But it became obvious early on that there was zero evidence for a global flood—neither in God’s creation nor in the Hebrew text of Genesis. I couldn’t shake the enormity of that discovery. And I became increasingly aware of the many silly blunders of “pop exegesis”, such as the false claim that “the circle of the earth” refers to a spherical planet earth. (In Hebrew it clearly refers to the horizon which encircles every observer looking around at a 360degree view of one’s surroundings.)

Realizing that there was a lot of scripture ignorance and scientific ignorance within my “creation science” community was hard enough—but coming to grips with the deception and dishonesty was truly crushing.

(Brad Kramer) #5

So I was only really a YEC during elementary school, when my mom (who homeschooled us) gave me YEC materials because she didn’t know any better (in homeschool catalogs, it’s usually the only origins-related material available). The game-changer for me was encountering the books of Hugh Ross, an old-earth creationist. My aunt, who was (and is) a biology teacher, gave me the books and told my mother that YEC is craziness and she should stop giving me their materials. My memory of those times is not crystal clear, but I remember the “distant starlight” problem being a big factor that helped convince me. I just couldn’t fathom why God would create the universe in such a patently deceptive way.

It helped that my family and church community were not dogmatic about YEC, although they were universally anti-evolution. The evolution issue proved to be much more difficult than the age of the Earth. I didn’t become an evolutionary creationist until reading The Language of God in my first year of college.

I wrote my story out in greater detail here:

(Christy Hemphill) #6

I was also homeschooled through fifth grade, and YEC/ID books were the books that were available. But we also spent lots of time at the museum and library and watched PBS, and my parents weren’t militant young earth and they didn’t censor other materials. My pastor growing up was old earth. He liked the gap theory and that is what he taught us in junior high Sunday school. In high school, my mom who was an RN, used to read my biology text book because as she said, “They didn’t even know about most of this stuff when I was studying biology and organic chemistry in nursing school.”

I went off to college and took Biology at Wheaton. The professor spent a class talking about the various Christian approaches to origins and said he personally thought God used evolution and the world was very ancient. I thought that was interesting, but I didn’t think much about it. One of my friends was a geology major and she would argue the pants off anyone who suggested the earth was young, so by that point I was pretty convinced what I had learned as a kid about the age of the earth was completely suspect, but I honestly didn’t care that much.

My brother majored in physics at Taylor and came home and told my parents young earth creationism was a bunch of hooey and he could explain why. They basically said, “Well, go ahead and use your own brain, that’s fine with us. You’re the one studying science and your professors know more than we do. We like young earth creationism though, so we’ll stick with it.”

I got married and my husband had never been taught YEC and he and his brainy family thought it was beyond ridiculous, though evolution was a different thing. But his sister went to med school and she was like, “No evolution makes lots of sense.” We didn’t argue with her, but we were still a little skeptical.

For me the “crisis” that shifted my perspective on how to approach the Bible was not instigated by science, it was secular feminism. I was in grad school. The entire department was female professors. I was studying discourse analysis and sociolinguistics and a big part of what we were learning centered around analyzing how power dynamics are established and maintained through language use and culture. I also had classes that focused on anthropology and cross-cultural communication which really opened my eyes to how differently people experience the world. The narrative that Christianity is a tool to oppress women and maintain unjust sexist systems was very salient. So, I read thousands of pages of conservative complementarian theologians and Evangelical feminist theologians trying to deal with the cognitive dissonance I felt from growing up in a complementarian denomination where women were definitely kept in their place by certain ideas of “biblical womanhood” and the new information about systemic sexism and the construction of race and gender that made lots of sense intellectually and experience-wise.

Those thousands of pages on women and the church helped me understand in a much deeper way the idea of cultural contextualization of Scripture, the exegetical process, the idea of a redemptive hermeneutic, and the concept of narrative theology. I unpacked my baggage and rebuilt my worldview for a good five years or so.

All that to say, I had done that hard work by the time I started reading BioLogos white papers when they first started the website. I was really only interested in the Bible interpretation ones. Since my approach to Scripture had already been challenged and overhauled, nothing I found there was particularly troubling, just thought-provoking and informative.

Then we moved to Mexico and I had to start teaching my kids, and all the homeschool curriculum was YEC and anti-evolution, so I decided I better figure out how I was going to approach evolution. I read Falk’s Coming to Peace with Science and so did my husband. So we kind of felt like we had been lied to by all the anti-evolution folks, but it seemed like a no-brainer when all the evidence was laid out for us. I kept reading BioLogos articles to try to become less ignorant about the science I missed growing up, but I’m still really most interested in the Bible interpretation aspects of it all.

(Phil) #7

Enjoying the stories. I can’t say I ever was a real YEC believer, but grew up in a conservative rural church and family where the Bible was taught as literal and inerrant, which drove interpretation and the presentation of Genesis into a defacto 6 day creation scheme, though I don;t recall any of the 6000 year old earth stuff being presented when growing as a child in the 1960’s.
However, if asked, I am sure every member of our church would say creation took place over 6 days, and Noah and the ark was literal. My parents were high school educated, and really never discussed science or theology other than the basic nuts and bolts, but I was blessed by their being open to education, and spending a big chunk of of change on several sets of encyclopedias, including a science encyclopedia. That really opened the door to me to another world than the farm.
As I grew to a teenager, I was aware of some of the conflicts with evolution, and was somewhat fluid in my belief as to young vs old earth, but an event that sealed the deal was when we drilled an irrigation well on the farm, and the test pumping from the Ogallala aquifer 400 feet under my feet below the seemingly endless plains, revealed sand and crustacean shells. The true geology was beyond my knowledge, and would have made me marvel more, but knowing that deep within the earth at my feet at one time in the distant past was a shoreline with seashells, even though we were 500 miles from the nearest beach, and 3000 feet above sea level, made any consideration of a young earth out of the question. My dad also marveled at those shells, expressing his amazement of creation, and gave me them to keep, where they remain in a pill bottle in my dresser drawer today.
Certainly, there are more vivid examples of ancient creation, but to see and hold those shells is still a marvel to me. I feel that sort of personal experience and physical contact is important and encourage others to get out and look at the world around them, instead of playing on their computer. Which is something I need to do now.