Is There a Better Way to Persuade EC Skeptics?


(Carl W. Treleaven) #1

Supporters of evolutionary creationism (EC) want our fellow Christians to accept the idea that God created the world nearly 14 billion years ago, and He employed the process of evolution by natural selection over that time to accomplish this. Unfortunately, many of our fellow Christians, themselves young earth or old earth creationists, have maintained their skepticism. Could the reason be that we simply haven’t given them a good enough reason to want to change their minds?
Ever since Darwin and Father Georges LeMaitre, the author of the Big Bang Theory, we Christians have had to decide, should I accept these scientific theories or reject them? Many of us have said, yes, these ideas are compatible with the Bible. Others have said no, and many have said no with much stronger language!
Unfortunately, it always seems that our arguments are based upon the idea of compatibility, but nothing more. In the mind of the skeptic, all we’ve done is say, you should embrace the science because the science is good and, moreover, it’s compatible with what the Bible is saying. For many of us, we’ve concluded that that is a good enough argument. Others, however, have said, that still isn’t a good enough argument; and many have been even more turned off when we say, “by the way, Adam and Eve weren’t historical figures”.
In my mind, the case for evolutionary creationism is solid, but not persuasive enough for lots of people to embrace it. It’s well known that people believe things for their own reasons, not those of the one doing the persuading. Assuming that’s correct, how might the evolutionary creationist argument be framed in such a way that it could be more attractive to young and old earth creationists?
I think the key is to show the EC skeptic not so much that the science is trustworthy but that evolutionary creationism reinforces other things that the Christian already believes – that it fits into their existing mental model. That makes sense, but what would it involve?
My argument is that EC provides a better way to explain original sin and the fall of humankind, as well as the reason why humans cannot overcome sinfulness on their own. These twin ideas are the underlying reason for Jesus coming to Earth and dying to atone for human sin. It’s a better explanation than the idea that Adam and Eve were specially created, sinned against God, and that the stain has somehow been transmitted to everyone else. The process of evolution created the sin nature that Adam and Eve, and every human thereafter, has; and because that sin nature is embedded in all of us through the process of evolution, we can’t overcome it on our own.
If this idea can be presented to Christian skeptics, I think there is a greater chance they’ll be persuaded to embrace EC. The reason I say this is because EC will serve as a way to reinforce something the Christian skeptic already believes – that the original humans sinned, that that sin nature has been transmitted to everyone else, and that no human can overcome that on his or her own. It will be more appealing because EC becomes a way to reinforce something the Christian already believes. The problem with the current approach is that we’ve asked Christian skeptics to change their minds about something very important, but we really haven’t given them anything in return, other than “good science”. Good science is both necessary, and sufficient, for many of us, but it isn’t for many others. This approach can change the nature of the debate because the science becomes the tool for reinforcing core, underlying beliefs the skeptic already held.
I believe the science of EC is way better than YEC, OEC, or Intelligent Design. But to persuade the un-persuaded, I think we need to show them how EC reinforces things they already believe. I’m confident it can be done. What do you think?


(Jon) #2

Outside the US, in what we refer to as “the vast majority of the planet”, most Christians accept evolution and have done so for a long time. In the rest of the planet, YEC is a tiny aberrant minority, and acceptance of evolution is the norm.


(Curtis Henderson) #3

Thanks, Carl, this makes a great deal of sense, and I agree that it is important to provided reasons why the theology of EC is acceptable, and possibly even preferable. I have a hard time believing that most YEC scientists hold their positions on creation because they believe the science better supports a young earth than an old earth. Rather, I think they first choose to believe in a young earth, and attempt to look at science in such a way that their views could be considered possible.

You have mentioned that the sin problem is best viewed from an EC standpoint and I completely agree here, too. I don’t believe there is sufficient Biblical support to say that each individual is doomed to sin because of what Adam and Eve did because it reduces our own responsibility for our actions. Rather, the allegorical picture of Satan tempting Adam and Eve is relevant, accurate, and important to our own individual lives every time we are confronted with choosing either our way or God’s way. Our sin is a result of our own choices, not Adam’s or Eve’s.


(Phil) #4

Great thoughts, Carl. I tend to think of your ideas much as I think about apologetics: they are meaningful for believers, and help reassure us that we are on the right track, and are not nuts, but are of limited use in reaching non-believers, as they are not argued into believing, but must be led by the Spirit. Still, it seems that the field of EC apologetics is pretty sparse, and these ideas are good to grow.


#5

As you and the others have said, I think this is a good assessment. If I recall correctly, I was once reading the Matthew Henry Concise Commentary, and encountered a passage that said something around the lines of: “if the science doesn’t support what’s in the Bible,then it’s not real science.” I hope I paraphrased that correctly, but I believe that’s a good example of the general perspective among YEC’s. From their context, science isn’t helping us take steps to get closer to the truth, in some respects it is in opposition to the truth. This also demonstrates how this angle would take more of the Bible in a literal sense.

Personally what helped me think of these things in an alternate light was an emotional appeal from a friend. Eventually I reached the conclusion that I believe strongly in the love and integrity of my cause, so I decided that these things would bring me closer to grace and truth which my faith supports.


(Carl W. Treleaven) #6

I agree with you, YEC is, historically speaking, largely an American creation. However, it isn’t exclusive to the 50 states. In fact, I’ve read that significant efforts are underway to persuade non-American Christians that YEC and OEC are worthy. I commend to you a book edited by Ronald Numbers entitled “Galileo Goes to Jail, and Other Myths About Science and Religion”. Numbers, himself, wrote the chapter in the book about creationism outside the USA. He develops the argument that, contrary to the broad perception, there’s a lot of interest in YEC, OEC, and ID outside the USA.


#7

I’m sorry I keep posting this. This is the last time.

But this is a great video I think for a YEC to see. It does exactly as you suggest, it reinforces other things they already believe, and then explains EC into that.


(Jon) #8

Of course it isn’t. I simply pointed out that outside the US it’s a tiny minority.

I own the book and I’ve read it. I know what he says there. But the facts remain that in places like Australia support for YEC among Christians, or even anything close to YEC, is still around miserable 24%, and rejection of evolution among the entire population stands at an insignificant 9%.


#9

I am not sure EC skeptics can be pursuaded if so much of their theology is bound up with a view of bibical infallability. The problem is I think partly fear that it is a thin end of a wedge of questioning the reliability of scripture. It becomes a whole question of what we mean by revelation and what is essential about saying scripture is God’s revelation.

It may be a bigger problem in the US (although there is many Orthodox objectors too) but I can’t help thinking its a repeat of history when we consider the church’s famous reactions to Copernicus and Galileo. I think that time will settle the matter. There may remain a small minority who cling to some direct creationism but there will come a time when EC will be more accepted by the majority.


(Jon) #10

The root of the issue is Biblical literacy. See “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” (Mark Noll), and the more recent article “The Deeper Scandal of the Evangelical Mind: We Are Not Allowed to Use It” (Peter Enns), for details.


(Carl W. Treleaven) #11

Yes, I believe you’re right, the support is fairly low outside the USA. As I recall, however, the point Numbers and others are making is that while YEC, OEC, and ID support is low outside the USA, it’s growing. In my mind, if that’s happening, we should be concerned.


(Jon) #12

In Australia Christianity as a whole is in steady decline, and YEC numbers are not growing.


(Albert Leo) #13

There is no reason why we Christians cannot learn from atheists. Dawkins coined the term, ‘Selfish Gene’, an over-simplified but catchy title for an important result of natural selection in the process of Darwinian evolution. I believe God used some as-yet-unknown epigenetic mechanism to transform one (or more) of our ancestor’s brain(s) into Mind and Conscience, granting us free will. Thus he gave us the ability to overcome the ‘dark side’ of evolution, our selfish genes, to fulfill His original purpose for humans–to become His Image Bearers. It is all too easy NOT to rise above our animal instincts, and we need to follow Christ’s footsteps to succeed.
Al Leo


(Ronald Myers) #14

Carl Treleaven has issued a worthy challenge. The common ground that Christians who believer evolution is a mechanism that God used and YEC and fellow travelers share is Scripture and a love of Jesus and His ways. So the way to reach them is not yet another discussion of science.but theology. To this end it needs to be explained what it means for creation to be good and separate human death from animal death (Jesus, the sinless one, was not known as a vegetarian), then explain how we became fully responsible for our actions then the the fall in evolutionary terms. In the process, what it means to be be fully human will need to be understood. For example,those creatures who were anatomically human but not behaviorally so, did they bear God’s image?. Did Neanderthals who among other things cared for their injured and buried their dead carry the image of God?

Such an endeavor would be proactive rather than reactive; it should bear much good fruit.


(Jay Johnson) #15

Yes, I agree. The YEC believer discounts the science because they “believe God rather than men.” In order to change their minds, they must be shown that EC does not contradict the teaching of Scripture. How? Well, the first step would probably be to call a truce in the Culture Wars, because the average YEC believer has been taught that evolution is an atheist plot to bring down the church. As long as evolution remains a battlefront in the political war between left and right, and as long as the evangelical church preaches politics rather than the gospel, things will continue as they are.


(Jon) #16

How? Improving Biblical literacy just has to be one the first steps. This is why work by Walton and others is so valuable. Many Christians are just not used to doing proper Bible study and reading the Bible the way it read to the original audience. I agree with you about ending the culture wars (less of an issue outside the US of course), but you need to give them a reason to do that.


(Carl W. Treleaven) #17

I also agree with you when you say that we should declare a truce in the culture wars. Amen, brother! Whether or not we can accomplish that goal is somewhat debatable. This raises the question, why would parties to a war want to declare a truce? The key reason, I believe, is if one could show each party to the war that they would be better off to cease the conflict than to continue it. With that in mind, why would each party to this war want to call a truce?

Liberals/progressives might consider a truce if conservative Christians would acknowledge that the science of Darwin, what conservative Christians have been fighting, is valid/correct. In a sense, that would offer liberals/progressives a form of victory. They certainly could claim a victory if it meant we stop teaching “junk science” in schools. So why might conservative Christians want to provide that victory to them?

I think conservatives could claim a “victory” in the following way:

  1. acknowledge that Darwin and LeMaitre were right (i.e., evolution is correct and the Big Bang is correct)

  2. out of that acknowledgement, however, make the argument that sin is a by-product of evolution (the argument I’ve been making)

  3. if sin is a by-product of evolution, then humans cannot overcome their own sinfulness, so Darwin becomes a form of evidence that what Christians have been saying all along is correct (i.e., reinforces Biblical principles).

It becomes a form of intellectual jiu jitsu. In jiu jitsu, one uses your opponent’s force against the opponent (at least that’s what I understand, as I haven’t studied jiu jitsu). In this case, Christians use the force of the argument about evolution against non-Christians in the following way. Christians can say, you non-Christians are absolutely correct about Darwin and LeMaitre - some of we Christians have gotten that wrong up to now - but we are taking your arguments about Darwin and turning them around to make the point that they actually reinforce what we Christians have been saying all along (i.e., that mankind is inherently sinful and cannot overcome that sinfulness on our own).

Thus, each side can claim a form of victory. Liberals/progressives can benefit because we can end this argument about evolution and the age of the universe, and conservative Christians can claim a victory by the argument that it reinforces what we’ve been saying all along about the Bible.

However, with respect to conservative Christians who’ve resisted Darwin, there won’t be movement unless and until they feel they’ve gained something. Unfortunately, the strategy we’ve largely pursued to date - that Christians should accept the science because it’s good, and it doesn’t contradict the Bible - provides them no gain, at least not in their minds. The science can be right “all day long” but it doesn’t give one a reason to change his/her mind. That’s why I believe if we really want to have a wholesale change in conservative thinking on this subject, we have to provide YEC’s, OEC’s, and ID proponents a reason they should WANT to change their minds.

Now I’m confident that even if we reach a detente about this issue, we’ll keep arguing about something, probably a bunch of things, but we’ll at least stop arguing about this.


(Jay Johnson) #18

Again, I think you’re on the right track, and I am headed the same direction with my own work.

Perhaps there will be movement when they also realize what they are losing – their own children. The number of “religious nones” among 18-29 year olds has increased from 23% 10 years ago to 39% today, and the majority of these have grown up in households that attended church at least once a month. So far, the greatest casualty in the Culture War is a self-inflicted wound.


#19

Did anyone watch this video? Or was it too long?

I can’t believe no one has been impacted by it as much as it impacted me. It is the first and best case for evolution I have heard that is from a Biblical standpoint, no science required (though it doens’t nullify science either). Though just as one can make up their own science to explain their YEC views, one can also interpret passage differently to maintain ther YEC views if that is their intent. But I think with an open mind and being pointed out the many parallels, this is a great way to persuade.

Evolution is even very scripturally accurate/logical, in that the old creation would have also been a slow ans strange process that resulted in a blossoming fruition (in humans being image bearers), like the new creation was a slow and strange process like that of a mustard seed. And if we base the old creation (what we don’t know a lot about scripturally speaking) off of the many things we were taught (from Jesus) about the new creation, evolution also makes sense. It wasn’t great changes at once (from no animals to animals in 1 day), it was on a smaller level, the Israelite’s and individuals here and there changed a lot over a long period of time (sure a few thousand years vs. a few billion, but large changed none the less)

They evolved from a nation that didn’t have a covenant with God (though a promise for a future covenant), to a nation that did, through many years of slavery. To a nation that had a covenant with God and a tight relationship with Him, to one that didn’t trust God and challenged Him. It was just 10 spies that went to Jericho, and that changed/evolved the next 40 years of their life and relation with God. To a nation that was exiled from God’s land, to a nation that never wanted exile again and thought to grow the nation through good deeds and strict adherence to the law.

All this to say that we observed this tiny seed growing (of the new creation), some crazy things occurred. There was genetic/spiritual drifting, there was natural/spiritual selection with legalism, there were individual prophets that changed a few greatly (genetic/spiritual mutation). Many allusions to the agents of evolutionary change in the second creation that what science tells us the first creation story used . When the mustard seed came to fruition of spiritual evolution and blossomed, Jesus showed us the kingdom of heaven, the second creation. Just like humans being image bearers brought fruition of physical evolution upon Adam and Eve. Both new and old creation showing a mustard seed-like creation.

Jesus says, with John 3
How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit.

The first birth is physical, through physical evolution, and the second birth is spiritual through spiritual evolution. Physically, we once had to follow our animal instinct, we couldn’t chose different, until given image bearer status. We needed to evolve, or grow like a mustard seed.
Spiritually, we once had to follow the law to be justified, until given justified by Jesus status. We needed to spiritually evolve.

After Adam and Eve becoming image bearers, we are now all born image bearers. After Jesus dying for our sins, we can now all be justified of our sins.


(Phil) #20

It is a great talk, and I think it has been impactful (is that a word?) on many, perhaps it has been around awhile but always good to be reminded of it.