Is there any legitimacy to the claim that EC leads to atheism?

@DennisVenema posted this blog post on FB the other day.

I think it raises (again) the major points of contention that you hear in exvangelical deconversion stories lately. It’s worth discussing and paying attention to, IMO.

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YEC represents a version of Xtianity which is detached from reality and therefore vulnerable to a “waking up” to reality and thus making people throw Christianity out with the bathwater.

As someone who came to Christianity from a scientific worldview, it is an absurd idea that an accommodation with science is necessarily going to lead one away from Christianity. That is only going to happen if you have equated Christianity with things which are incompatible with science. If you stop equating Christianity to such things then that solves the problem right there.

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My cousin went the opposite route. My parents grew up in the conservative holiness movement and I did as well at least until I went to Bible college. Because we are both Arminian, he expressed doubts over whether salvation was ultimately “up to” him and found comfort in KJV-onlyism and the sort of fundamental baptist beliefs (the P from TULIP). So I see some people react the opposite way of craving even more certainty perhaps in Reformed theology as well. One thing I struggle with is that most people I might ask would say doubt is from Satan. Also, plain observation says that atheists searched for truth relentlessly to end up where they are. To say, they were “suppressing” truth is a theological idea that may very well be true but it’s hard to square with reality.

Friend,

Thank you for answering. So, these two gentlemen were YEC, and it seems that they could not break out of the mold that faithful, Bible-believing Christians could have any position other than YEC. But because they also believed science, they came to a point of crisis in their faith. Unfortunately, they couldn’t see through the false dichotomy that our society often espouses (faith vs. science), and ultimately “chose science over faith”.

Let me start by telling you this–Jesus loves you. Whatever doubts you may be experiencing, whatever confusion there may be, He loves you. He has died for you. God, the creator of this vast universe, died for you. There is nothing more beautiful than this. Never lose sight of it.

Now then–your Muslim friend is right. Anything can take someone away from God. YEC can leave science-loving Christians confused and skeptical, and this can be a turning point for them when it comes to leaving the faith. Likewise, EC can lead to questions that Christians are ultimately unable to resolve, and thus they walk away from the faith. Personally, I am skeptical that these two gentleman left the faith simply for intellectual reasons, though. I think that’s true of just about anyone who leaves the faith, if you’ll pardon what might come off as an assumptive generalization. The intellectual reasons may have played a significant role, but leaving the faith is a very complex and complicated process that often takes time. We don’t necessarily know all of the factors that made them leave the faith.

Evolution is NOT the first step in an inevitable domino effect that ends in atheism. It simply isn’t. I have seen this argument, too. I once held the position of YEC, and this was a common warning. I remember seeing a picture of a man walking down stairs, denying various theological positions until, finally, he was an atheist. The thought terrified me. Denying the Jesus I love? I imagine you have a lot of questions and you might even be scared. If you are scared, please don’t be. There is nothing to fear about God’s creation, and there is nothing to fear about science. Science is nothing more than the study of God’s creation. In fact, we can only conduct science because God made a universe that follows consistent and reliable laws, patterns, and so on.

The fact is, evolution does not necessitate: 1) the denial of the authority, inspiration, and inerrancy of Scripture; 2) the denial of the existence of Adam; 3) the denial of the existence of miracles. YECs will tell you that it does, but this is because they insist that their interpretation of Scripture is the only faithful one, that their hermeneutic is the only one that is true to the Bible. But that’s as false as a Dispensationalist saying that Dispensationalism is the only hermeneutic that’s faithful to Scripture.

The Theory of Evolution is nothing more than a rigorous, scientific observation of how God created. The problem is that some materialists/naturalists (atheist is too broad) smuggle in their philosophical position along with the science. This might leave Christians wondering, and the problem is exacerbated, oftentimes, by dogmatic YECs who insist that their way is the only way and that anything other than their way is a denial of Scriptural truths and will lead to apostasy.

If you’re having trouble, consider John Walton’s books on Genesis, like The Lost World of Adam and Eve, and so on. I think you will find those books helpful. And understand this–YEC has not been the position of every Christian throughout the ages. Origen, Augustine, and B.B. Warfield are all examples.

A note about hell: Christian Conditionalism and/or Annihilationism is a completely acceptable doctrine in the vein of Evangelicalism. It’s not liberal at all. Just look at John Stott. So don’t be down on yourself about that.

I hope that all of this helps you. I will say a prayer for you, that God will guide and comfort you.

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I never really thought about it from the other perspective. If you endure a few articles on Answers in Genesis, the “science” I thought was so evident is just a bunch of presuppositionalism and Scripture verses. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the Bible but even before I was thinking about evolution I always had issues with “inerrancy” as it’s described by so many evangelicals. Think about it like any other religion. We have the truth and everybody else who is led astray just couldn’t trust God and have enough faith. It might be a crude summary, but I think that’s accurate from my background if I would have pursued it years ago.

All of our faith traditions have gaps and areas of weakness and I think its pretty normal to seek out things that fill those gaps or address those areas of weakness when you leave home. Because like you say, you crave what you didn’t have. I grew up low church Baptist where Bible preaching was definitely much more important than spiritual experiences, and when I went to college I really got a lot out of attending a charismatic Anglican church for four years.

We had a good thread on that a few weeks back, if you’re interested.

I agree. I don’t think where people end up is a reflection of their sincerity, character, or how hard they have pursued truth.

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I came to Christianity from the scientific worldview via a number of stepping tones. Existentialism is one of them and I suppose the writings of Scott Peck (like “The Road Less Traveled”) is another. It was his observation as a clinical psychiatrist that people tended to have breakthroughs when they tried a significant shift in their worldview like either from the religious to atheist or the reverse from atheism to religious. It seems that sometimes we just need to make a break from all those presuppositions and reconstruct our thinking from the bottom up. And there is a spiritual (or at least psychological) as well as intellectual value in skepticism (just as there is in faith), for I remind you that a fair portion of the Bible consists of criticism of religion and the considerable spiritual danger in some of the things that people have bought into EVEN within the Judeo-Christian framework! So this is not just about one religion being the truth over others but about the numerous pitfalls that lie await in whatever religion you happen to be a part of.

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I don’t have anything to add to the excellent responses you’ve got to your main question, but I did want to jump in on this:

I agree. While annihilation/conditional immortality deals with one half of the problem (the punishment out of proportion) it doesn’t fully deal with the other half (the unfairness of earth’s circumstances giving unequal chances to avoid this fate).

On the second, I’d highly recommend looking into the early Christian tradition of Jesus’ descent to the dead. In brief, all will someday see Jesus as he truly is, even the dead, so all are confronted with a real opportunity to respond. (1 Peter provides some biblical backing to this tradition, particularly in 2:12, 3:18–20 and 4:5–6.) Hebrews states that it’s appointed for all to die and face judgement, and if we allow that to be a true judgement rather than skipping to punishment for a judgement that has already been made, then what awaits after death starts to look a whole lot less unfair.

For me, C.S. Lewis’ writings were the gateway into rediscovering this early Christian belief that has been all but lost among modern Protestants (although it still hides in the Apostle’s Creed – “he descended to the dead”). Perhaps in our culture, for 3rd- or 4th-generation Christians, it doesn’t really matter if we don’t have an answer for how Jesus is good news for those who never hear. But among early Christians who felt a deeper tie to family (which is also the case in many places today), Jesus had to also be good news for the grandparents who died before the good news arrived.

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Thank you for the kind words, Joshua. I’ve watched a couple apologists reaction videos to Rhett and Link’s story. The apologists tend to hammer down that evolution is a side issue and I can kind of agree with that. It bothers me that my own mother who is in her mid 50s didn’t know some Christians believed in evolutionary creation until a week ago. And this is someone with two masters degrees (albeit in completely unrelated fields). I think the focus of Rhett’s video was this sentence tumbling through my mind frequently now: “If I don’t have to believe this, why would I? If I don’t have to believe that everyone on earth who doesn’t come to believe in the exact right understanding of God goes to hell for eternity, why in the hell would I believe that?” In college, I read a book called “What about those who have never heard?” I can’t remember the term, but I still believe God will judge people based on what they know and while I wish I knew what that meant, I have a measure of comfort that God is still good. Not sure if Rhett ever looked into annihalationism, but it’s seems more Biblically sound to me so far than universalism although that’s very much a matter of interpretation.

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Interesting read from the atheist perspective. It’s the same language of doubt vs certainty, but as Joshua mentioned, leaving a religion is a very complicated process. Rhett said this process was over a decade long. More specifically than understanding this doubt/certainty dichotomy was just “tearing” apart my beliefs. In other words, if I look at all of atheism, there are some things they don’t have the answers to and don’t claim to while Christianity offers those. I would love a miracle or to hear God’s voice, but I think I’m waking up to the fact that I’ll have doubts until the day I die.

Jared,

You are welcome, brother.

Honestly, I don’t think that switching from Christianity to atheism because of hell is a very good trade off. Consider the untold amount of injustice and suffering–and for what? In the end, nothing. Nothing. I have heard it said that childhood leukemia is a good reason not to believe in a loving God. I think it’s the opposite–the presence of such a thing is a very good reason to believe. With God, there is purpose in suffering, and ultimate justice, and love. Without Him–you still suffer, but there is no purpose behind it, and there’s no ultimate justice, either. As for love–well, a Godless universe certainly doesn’t care about much of anything, let alone love us humans.

You might want to look into Molinism. That might help you. Personally, I believe that people who have never heard, for example, will have the Gospel preached to them when they die. Or perhaps God, in His mercy, will save them based on what they can know. I’m not certain, but I think there is mercy extended to those who have not heard. Consider, for example, what Paul says in Romans 4:15 and Romans 5:13. I don’t think the same can be said of those who have heard and rejected the Gospel message, however.

I think Marshall also offered a helpful comment above. I’m sure you’ve seen it.

Don’t be afraid to wrestle. But take heart, and have faith. We know He is love, because He died for us while we were yet His enemies. If you have seen God’s good character demonstrated in what you know you can understand, trust His character when there is something that you don’t understand, or that doesn’t sit well with you.

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I’ve seen stories from both sides. An atheist became a Christian through philosophy and ultimately a change in behavior. A Muslim man named Nabeel Qureshi has a fascinating testimony of growing up in Islam and having Jesus revealed to him in a dream. So while it is intellectually concerning that so many atheists reach their conclusions through reasoning and education, there is no middle ground. Lukewarm water is worse than hot or cold. One cannot be 50% Christian and 50% atheist. So while people can argue that atheists only look to disprove every argument, the Christian doubting can come to a place where we decide living as a Christian is better than to not. I can’t have cartesian certainty about God. Even through a miracle, I could still doubt. There is a small chance of us being in the Matrix right now so it doesn’t make a difference. There’s also a chance God has given humans an innate longing for the divine through our consciences and emotions.

I think sometimes we throw the baby out with the bathwater, letting the pendulum swing from one end to the other. That’s not EC’s fault.

When I lost my faith, it started out with realizing YEC wasn’t true, and that led me to question everything else I’d been taught - basically, it caused trust issues. And since I didn’t talk to anyone about it, I ended up in some wrong places, and after several months, documentary hypothesis type stuff pushed me over the edge, and I was an atheist. When I later talked things out with an elder at my church, I was able to get back my faith and much of my understanding of doctrine. I have a few differences than I did before, but I’ve reevaluated everything and continue to study it all. I’m firmly in the EC camp, but I’m theologically pretty conservative as I was before. Funny thing is, EC didn’t ever cause me to doubt God’s existence prior to falling away. But Genesis 1-11 and how to fit it with science was a big deal when trying to get my faith back. I had to see that there were some possible legitimate interpretations, even if I didn’t know which one was necessarily correct (I don’t think we can know that).

I had a million things to deal with besides Genesis, since I had gone down the atheist rabbit hole about a month after losing my faith - the point at which I gave up trying to see God and embraced atheism. Now I regret doing that, because that stuff still clouds my mind. I have to deal with each thing bit by bit. Thankfully, I’ve had a ton of support from the elders at my church, and I can discuss anything with them, even things we disagree on (they’re all YEC).

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Brother,

I don’t think you should be too concerned about atheists reaching their conclusions through reasoning and education. Like I said, there are many factors that play into becoming an atheist. We also know that not everyone will believe. It’s inevitable. That doesn’t mean they are right, or that they know something we don’t.

It also doesn’t mean they’re more open-minded than we are, or more intelligent. Someone above even mentioned that certain atheist circles are just as dogmatic as the staunchest, hellfire and brimstone Southern Baptist church. This is definitely true. They also have their own assumptions and presuppositions. I remember watching Kyle of Secular Talk explain that Dr. Francis Collins is both a Christian and scientist only because he separates the two, leaving his faith at the door. That’s not what I’ve seen from Dr. Collins. Quite the opposite. This statement says more about Kyle than it does about Dr. Collins. It reveals that Kyle’s unfounded presupposition, presumption even, is that no one who is an intelligent, educated individual can believe in religion and what science tells us about creation without compartmentalizing it, without leaving one’s brain at the door, as it were. Atheists are just as prone to presuppositions, biases, and a priori dismissals as we are.

It’s okay to have doubts and struggles. Think about Jacob’s name–it became Israel. Israel is “one who wrestles with God”. For many of us, doubts are inevitable. But we have faith. Consider what the man with the possessed son said to Jesus in Mark 9: “I believe, help my unbelief.” Trust God and ask Him for help and comfort.

You’ll be okay. :slight_smile:

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The end of Tim Keller’s book, The Reason for God, comes to mind again (I just posted it the other day). If our faith is merely intellectual assent, then it is really only religion. Keller has said elsewhere that Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a Person. I would encourage you to seek and be found:

During a dark time in her life, a woman in my congregation complained that she had prayed over and over, “God, help me find you,” but had gotten nowhere. A Christian friend suggested to her that she might change her prayer to, “God, come and find me. After all, you are the Good Shepherd who goes looking for the lost sheep.” She concluded when she was recounting this to me, “The only reason I can tell you this story is—he did.”

Tim Keller, The Reason for God, p.240

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I listened to the podcast (Rhett’s in particular, since we were told by multiple sources that he talked about BioLogos, I tuned in.) the other day.

It wasn’t really that disturbing to me overall, some people have just deconstructed faith all the way into not being able to find Jesus tenable anymore. Which is a bummer, in my opinion, but I hope they’ve found their peace.

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Yes, Rhett specifically talked about this. He felt like he had been lied to about other stuff, also.

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Maybe the starting place is ‘old time religion’, though – recognition of God’s purity and his rights, and our sinfulness (disobedience), and personal remorse and repentance, followed by at least a desire for obedience.

By this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments.

Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.

 
And there is reward – God can and does reveal himself to us, miraculously. I love the present continuous tense of the YLT:

He who is having my commands, and is keeping them, that one it is who is loving me, and he who is loving me shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

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(Providence is miraculous – see Maggie’s wonderful sequence, and gbob’s translator.)

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Responses on this thread have been a joy to read. Like others I would encourage you to keep asking questions. Dont be tempted to repress or wallowing in your doubt, allow it to do its job which is to motivate you to find the truth out for yourself (which you seem to be doing). I believe, when handled correctly, doubt can actually be a powerful means of grace. So I’d encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to wield those doubts for your good to his glory.

My two pennies worth on the fate of the lost - it is a tricky one. I also think it is easy to miss an important factor: God’s justice is not punitive but restorative. In other words, it is not so much about punishment for punishments sake as much as it is setting the record straight and righting wrongs.

Take the exile of Israel and Judah. God’s justice comes down upon them not as the revenge of a rejected lover but as the consequence of their actions. Namely, covenant unfaithfulness expressed in rampent idolartry, opression of the poor and needy, and abuse of the land’s resources. God then uses Assyria and Babylon and his tools too recover the honour of his name; bring justice to the oppressors; and give the land rest.

Hell, whether eternal conscious torement, conditional imortality, or simply a place where sin is unrestrained and God is total absent is not so much about revenge but setting the record straight. The honour of God’s name is restored; the wicked are brought to justice; and the earth is given eternal rest by way of new creation.

I’m not saying it resolves the problem of hell, but seeing at as restorative justice (Making things right) rather than punative (revenge) does go some way to reconcilling it with a belief in God’s goodness and love. We don’t expect a good and loving person to seek vindictive revenge and call it justice. We would expect a good and loving person to desire to see wrongs made right for sake of justice and fairness.

That said, I personally believe that in the case of those who genuinely have never heard the gospel, at the final judgement they will be judged on what they do know of God. Whether that condemns or excuses them, I do not know. What I do know is what Abraham knew even as he asked the question. “Will not the God of all the earth do what is right?” Yes, yes I believe he will.

Edit: I wrote this earlier and posted before hitting refresh. I see the conversation has since moved on. I hope the above does not take things off topic.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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