Honoring our brothers and sisters

(Matt Honig) #1

Continuing the discussion from My Trip to the Ark Encounter:

Hi Jim (@jstump),
For many, many years I have operated on the assumption that YE was the one theory that a Christian could get behind. Not having a degree in anything physically scientific and being suspicious of the secularizing tendencies of our culture it was easy to hear just enough YE argumentation to assure me that, if I did have the right expertise and if I came at things from a “Christian” perspective, I would find for myself that the YE view would make the most sense of the data and that my YE-based faith need not be shaken.
In recent years, however, I have become more interested in the topic as my kids have started getting into high school. In doing more research to help them and others in our youth group with the question of evolution, which is wrongly posed by teachers as necessarily God-nullifying, I have come to see that there are other potentially legitimate ways of understanding God’s creation of the universe. I myself am trying to take my time coming to absolute conclusions because I realize my limitations, and I find myself processing the claims of all: YE, Ancient Creation w/o evolution, Intelligent Design, Theistic Evolution, and everything in between from the standpoint that we need to be humble as we attempt to unravel what God has done and what has happened in the past.
At the same time I have come to the conclusion that no matter which theory gets us closer to the truth of how things happened, there is no situation where believing in one or another puts us in a position to have to question God’s existence. Philosophically there is no ground we need to give to atheism, and the fact that we have is largely our own fault.
So I fully expect to see Ken Ham, Hugh Ross, Michael Behe, and Francis Collins around God’s throne one day. My concern, however, is that there will be some who might have joined us except for our propensity for in-fighting. I’ve read a fair amount by people from each point of view, and watched interviews of the authors on Youtube, but what I have found the most instructive, and at the same time most disturbing, have been debates between proponents of each. I found the YE crowd to be especially insulting and unkind, and I have had to continually remind myself to listen to their perspective thoroughly if what I truly wanted to seek was truth and not to dismiss their ideas just because they treated their brothers in Christ so badly.
For a long time I have found representatives of the other views to be more patient with one another as they discussed and debated, often taking the high road when an inappropriately rude comment or judgment came their way. It was partly this even-handed expression of your belief in Theistic Evolution that made it comfortable for me to peruse Biologos in my search for truth. Since “Liking” your page on Facebook several months ago (somewhat of a risk for someone from certain Church circles), I’ve seen Biologos posts show up nearly daily on my feed, and I have often opened them eagerly to see what you might have for me to consider that day. Still unsure of evolution itself, early on I used to regularly “Share” your posts to my page for my believing and unbelieving friends to see and also consider if they had more to do with the idea that God and science aren’t actually opposed to each other, or like topics. I’m still grateful for the ways you have stretched and challenged me, and for all the fascinating articles about history and philosophy as well as science.
Lately, however, it seems the tone has changed significantly. It’s likely due to the opening of Ark Encounter since so many articles seem to be centered on that, and perhaps its publicity has caused YE proponents to lash out at you or your organization, emboldened by their new, YE-affirming Mecca? I don’t honesty know. What I do know is that Biologos’ own stance has now shifted to the negative as well. I actually see very little to object to in your article here, but did you realize that this posts on Facebook with the Subtext “The obsessive focus on “realism” at the Ark Encounter only highlights the absurdity of their scientific claims.”? Or that in the text under the picture you call the YE perspective “contrived,” and insinuate that they are not serious? Isn’t there a better way to promote your view and to express your concerns over the ramifications of the YE view and their parks than this? Why does it seem that so many Biologos articles are using insulting and aggressive, anti-YE language lately?
I haven’t tuned out the YE argument because of the behavior of its proponents, and I’ll keep considering TE as well because I’m looking for truth. I do, however, hope that Biologos will remain a God-honoring source for truth in how it also honors its brothers and sisters in Christ.
Thanks for listening,

(Christy Hemphill) #2

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on this issue.

We are striving for “gracious dialogue,” but it is challenging sometimes to take a firm position against a viewpoint and still come across as honoring the people who have the viewpoint.

Is there anything else besides the “The obsessive focus on “realism” at the Ark Encounter only highlights the absurdity of their scientific claims” FB and Twitter tagline that you can point out as an example of this increased negativity you notice?

@BradKramer (Tagging you so you see this feedback on the FB page content.)


For some people when their faith in something is challenged it appears to be very personal, even if not intended. In response there may a sense of anger and protectiveness about one’s own faith and position Historically there have been many divisions in the churches based on very small differences. So a modern dau debates on science and Genesis etc also carries the same danger of being personalised and angrey
Ultimately our being in heaven (or not) won’t depend on our view of creationism or evolution but on whether we have actually lived in the Spirit and graciousness of Christ, with His love as part of our being.

(James Stump) #4

Hi @Matt_Honig , thank you for your careful and thoughtful post. Gracious dialogue is something we take very seriously at BioLogos. This post about the Ark Encounter went through several drafts with three of us involved (though I’ll ultimately take responsibility for it). We tried very hard to find the right tone in which to express our position that conveys both the depth of our concern about what this is doing to Christianity, as well as the common ground we have with AiG. We too believe that one’s position on origins is not a matter of salvation. But we hear from people almost every day for whom the YE perspective has become a stumbling block for their faith. AiG and BioLogos have very different perspectives on what to do about such people. They think building an ark will show that their doubts are unfounded. We think the ark has made it even more difficult for a lot of people to consider the claims of Christ.

You’re right that we’ve devoted a lot of blog posts to the Noah story lately (though only two specifically about the Ark Encounter). That has been a seasonal theme, and we look forward to moving on.

(Matt Honig) #5

Hi Jim,
Thanks for your response. I can imagine the frustration you must feel, feeling as though people are losing their faith over this issue. Working as a volunteer with our youth I feel it myself! I dare say that it’s the same reaction I hear from the YE side, though, even while they attempt to insinuate that other views or even people who hold them are less than Christian. They see people losing faith, and though I feel like their attempt to solve this problem is misguided, not necessarily in its scientific conclusions, but in its representation of the narrative and its judgment of the faith of others, their goals and concerns are the same as yours.
To that end I applaud your engagement of the issues, and even your visiting Ark Encounter to give an honest appraisal of the event and of your concerns over its implications for those whose faith you see hangs in the balance. These are all good and necessary things! And I do see a continued effort to be kind and even-handed in expressing your differences overall. Thank you! I am grateful that I could write you confident that I’m merely trying to reaffirm what you already obviously value. I’ve just been concerned to see frustration seeming to leak out in certain ways, but I’m glad to know you’re on top of it.

(Wookin Panub) #6

My wife and I rejoiced when the ark was finished. What was so amazing was hearing reporters marvel in amazement in how large it was. Mission ACCOMPLISHED! The truth is what brings people or repels people from Christ. The ark is true as recorded in literal history in Genesis :slight_smile:

(Matt Honig) #7

Thanks Christy,
I appreciate that difficulty, and have no doubt that contributors to Biologos’ site are trying to be gracious. This Ark Encounter issue, however, seems to be putting a lot of pressure on some at least. As someone who peruses a fair amount of creation and apologetics-centered content I would have a hard time pointing to specific articles at this point. I’d just been accustomed to a non-aggressive tone here, but in the last month or so I’ve run into terms like “absurd,” or “so-called,” or “obsessive” what seems like regularly. I’m confident, though, that Biologos will do its best to keep things less personal as it has.

(Casper Hesp) #8

Hi Matt, thanks for sharing your honest concerns. This is important because BioLogos seriously aims to follow up on Paul’s exhortation to let one’s conversation always be gracious and seasoned with salt.

The subtexts are often intentionally seasoned a bit spicier to trigger one’s curiosity. The internet is an overcrowded place these days, unfortunately requiring such methods to reach people, for example those who else might remain forever in their YEC information bubbles. Sometimes a single clear-cut sentence turns out to be more useful than a 100-page book (especially if one is too busy to read the book). Such sentences hopefully trigger the question marks, which might invite further exploration.

The articles themselves are supposed to be much more nuanced than the subtexts/taglines, in order to give appropriate context to the sentiment expressed in the tagline. But I understand why they may come across as too harsh at times. As a guest author on BioLogos, I must admit I’ve even felt a bit uncomfortable with some of the taglines of my own posts. I just needed to get used to the idea that the tagline can only be correctly understood in the context of the article, it cannot and should not be taken by itself. Reminds me of how we interpret the Bible… Always examine the context of the claim.

Maybe you could make a list of those elements of previous posts that you found to be too provocative and send it to Brad? It’s good to receive this kind of feedback.

Thanks for the kindness expressed in your post!

(Phil) #9

I will confess to at times getting irritated, defensive and snarky in my posts. And you should read some of the posts I write and cancel before posting!
I think a lot of it can be avoided by stepping back and avoiding feeding the obvious trolls who are common on the internet, who post only to get a reaction and be an irritation, but have no real desire to further understanding. Although, I admit they do tend to make me examine the issues at times. and serve some purpose by illustration of the negative.
I think we do have some responsibility in exposing false interpretation, and that can lead to conflict, so there has to be a balance.

I might add the here is a thoughtful blog on how to engage these issues:

(Brad Kramer) #10

So I’m the one who chooses the teasers that go on social media, and I acknowledge that some of my choices are intentionally provocative. Today’s tagline/teaser on Facebook was too provocative. It has been changed, and I offer a public apology. It was not in line with our best standards of graciousness.

However, there’s a couple of things that frustrate me about conversations like this (talking to everyone here, not one particular person):

  1. The number of people who comment on the teaser/tagline without reading the full post in detail.

  2. The least charitable interpretation of the tagline/teaser is assumed.

  3. The tagline/teaser is nitpicked as to whether it precisely communicates the exact thesis of the entire post. That’s not what teasers are for. We have a half-second to catch someone’s eye on social media. That’s the online world we live in. Teasers and titles (and images) are chosen to catch the eye. If you want the full message, read the post (see point 1).

Again, I’m sorry for the times our taglines have not reflected excellence and graciousness. I welcome and appreciate the feedback of everyone here. We are always open to more thoughtful feedback from anyone.

(Matt Honig) #11

Thanks everyone! Lots of thoughtful feedback. I can certainly understand the need for “provocative” teasers. Catching peoples eyes is a difficult task, made all the more difficult by our call to love our neighbor. I guess part of the question is what you want to provocate. By using terms like “obsessive,” “contrived,” “serious” (implying they’re not), and “absurd,” I would think you’d only manage to draw people who already agree with you and the trolls who are only looking for a fight rather than a productive discussion. If you really want to engage people who are open to discussing your view, far from getting used to lowering our standards of decency, I would think it would even be more effective to find a way to be provocative without being insulting.

(Phil) #12

regarding provocative teasers, one downside is that sometimes I see an article that I would like to share with my YEC leaning friends on facebook, but the teaser is a little too “in your face” so I do not share an otherwise good article.

(James McKay) #13

I understand exactly what you mean. There’s one article in particular that contains a message that I really think YECs need to hear – the blog post “Can Young Earth Creationists Find Oil?” on Jonathan Baker’s Age of Rocks blog. It makes the point very clearly that old-earth dating is not motivated by anti-God ideologies, but simply by a desire to find oil. Unfortunately it starts off far too confrontational in tone for me to be able to share it on Facebook.

Another problem I have stems from my work as a software developer – a profession where it’s considered perfectly acceptable to tell someone that they’re wrong in very forceful terms. In fact, this is even considered by some to be a form of respect, because at least they’re taking the time to teach you to get it right rather than just fobbing you off with a four-letter instruction to consult the documentation. You get used to it after a while, but it can be really intimidating at first, and many YECs would probably be completely bowled over by it. It’s all too easy for me to forget that, especially when you’re discussing it over the Internet where you don’t get the non-verbal feedback on how they’re reacting to what you’re saying.

Kinder, gentler article wishlist

Matt Honig - thank you for your thoughtful and appropriate post. Like you, I noted the offending sentence. That being said while people should be treated with dignity and respect every idea/theory/model does not. I agree with the author’s perspective while wishing that the sentence could have been less charged.

My journey is somewhat similar to yours, perhaps not quite as immersed in YEC as yours appears to have been. However, evolution and the non-historicity of Adam/Eve would not have been entertained within my circles.

Like you I do not have scientific training. However, I do have graduate level theological training from evangelical institutions (Fundamentalists may label them liberal). I see that you have explored the various options regarding young earth, theistic evolution and so forth. Since you don’t mention any of your theological training, if I may, let me suggest you also read some theological works which explore biblical criticism, hermeneutics and biblical theology (as apposed to systematic theology).

Authors like John Walton, Scott McKnight, N.T. Wright, Peter Enns, Kenton Sparks would give you insight into the development of biblical thought. Having explored these authors I believe you would understand the biblical texts and your faith in a deeper, more profound way. Not that you would not need to perhaps rethink things like Jesus’ self-understanding, the Fall and how Paul treats the 1st and 2nd Adam

You may come to understand that the early chapters of Genesis can be viewed as the Hebrews in dialogue with their Ancient Near East (ANE) neighbours. The term ‘in dialogue’ means that those chapters in Genesis begin to become clearer when understood as a critique of other ANE creation stories and the way that Israel came to its’ self-understanding. Having done so, the young earth model looses all credibility. Especially when scientific issues such as the inconceivably immense universe we find ourselves within, distant star-light, the earth’s geology are viewed through mainstream science.

Much more could be said of course. Enjoy the journey, be brave - question everything. Continue being the kind of parent who does not shut down your children’s minds.

kind regards Larry Schmidt

(Matt Honig) #15

Exactly. Thanks!

(Matt Honig) #16

That’s why it’s so important to consider audience at every step. Am I thinking of myself and my own chance to vent my frustrations (justifiable or not), or am I trying to reach someone else?
Your work sounds like a hard place!

(Matt Honig) #17

I agree that ideas and theories are fair game and should be challenged. Those that hold them should be treated with respect and kindness, but also expected to be adults about how they handle analytical conversations. It’s a tight rope to walk sometimes, but worth the effort!

Thanks for your suggestions for further research. I’m familiar with Walton, Enns, and Wright, but not the other two. I also have graduate level training in Bible and Theology as well as Linguistics, and have found that background helpful in critical thinking on this and like topics of interest (apologetics, politics, world religions). Everything is a process of discovery, so much is interrelated, and there are so many learned understandings and interpretations. Civility in the midst of it all is so important and so hard to come by. Unfortunately it’s often the case that only the brave take the journey beyond their own borders to see what else is out there. Yes, trying to exemplify that same attitude for our kids. The path to solid conclusions should be tread carefully and thoughtfully, but there’s no reason to be afraid of truth.

As for the “in dialogue” concept, I’ve run across that before and it seems promising. I haven’t coalesced my reaction into something coherent yet, but Walton’s book in that regard left me pretty cold. Unfortunate since I feel like it’s the explanation at least some in Biologos have hung their hats on. I’m sure there’s probably other similar explanations I’ll run into at some point that seem more likely. I’ll keep reading and watching. :slight_smile:

Appreciate it,


Hi Matt

I appreciated your gracious reply to my post.

Now I am curious about what you felt was lacking in Walton’s approach. Can you expand?

FYI I found Walton’s “Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible” a great help in understanding ANE.

Dr. McKnight runs Jesus Creed blog. You may find it interesting.

The term “in dialogue” isn’t mine. It comes from Dr. Iain Provan (Regent College) via his course on Genesis which I purchased and listened to via Regent Audio. I believe I used the term in the way Provan did.

Anyway, all the best I enjoy interactions like this.