My church seems to be endorsing YEC. How should I approach church leaders?

My church is organizing a series of trips to a nearby geological formation. Each trip involves a (paid) guided tour of the formation put on by a company that attempts to show evidence of a young Earth (6-10K years, YEC and all that) through features of the formation. The tour company has pictures of Ken Ham enjoying the tour and supportive links to AiG on their website.

Some background on myself (not critical to the question, just FYI): I grew up in the 80s and 90s assuming YEC was the only truly “Christian” way to interpret the Bible, in a community that never really challenged that belief. Through college, after encountering clear evidence of an old earth in my science classes and elsewhere, I came to the conclusion that the universe was either really old, or God made it look old upon creation (I know this has some official name). Shortly after graduating I went overseas (for the first time) for a job and my carefully constructed world view sort of…collapsed. After a bit of a crisis of faith, I basically reconstructed my faith from the ground up. I knew there was a God and I needed salvation, and that was about all I was sure of. Everything else had to be re-verified. Through that re-verification journey I’ve come to see YEC as not only wrong, but misleading, destructive, anti-intellectual, etc, etc, etc. I abhor the YEC movement’s core tenets and want it to die out as quickly as possible (by loving, understanding, and teaching the adherents of course!). So that’s the position I’m coming from.

I saw the announcement of the trip series in our church’s weekly email update. The organizer of the trip series works for the church, but I’m not sure if our church actually endorses the tours and/or the tour company or if they’re just facilitating the trips. I have a meeting with the organizer on Monday afternoon, so I’ll ask that question.

My question to this forum is: what’s the best approach? My ultimate goal would be for the church to cancel the trip series, cut all ties with the tour company, and publicly denounce YEC (the church’s Statement of Faith is silent on the issue). I know I shouldn’t just waltz in there demanding all that. But I do want to convince the organizer that the trips are a bad idea, and I want the head pastor to know that the endorsement – implicit or explicit – of a YEC organization like that is ultimately harmful to our local church community and even to “The Church” globally.

Right now my plan is to start by asking questions like “What’s your history with YEC? How well do you know the history and origins of the YEC movement?” And then…what? I’m familiar enough with the subject matter to know where I stand, but I’m not ready for (nor would I want it to become) a debate. So where should I start and how should I approach the conversation? Is there a guide to this sort of situation?

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There is no guide, but good luck. I think most people here would not even be in a position where they could go to leadership and say “Did you realize this is YEC?” and get much of a hearing, so if that is where, you’re at, that’s a positive. Minimally, maybe you could use it as some sort of “both sides” thing. If the church is set on doing this, would they welcome a book study or speaker that challenges YEC to offer another perspective, or is this trip an endorsement of an unwritten church belief?

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Welcome, and wow! I am not envious of your situation. There is not the nice clean answer that you would like, I’m afraid. It would depend a lot on the individuals involved – my pastor knows I am a heretic (tongue thankfully in cheek), but I more or less casually mentioned the antiquity of the universe in a Sunday School class a couple of years ago and got some strong pushback from one person. So I pretty much hold my tongue (not in cheek ; - ). Since COVID, there hasn’t been as much likelihood of discussion about YECism… or anything else. My community is not big on precautions, though, and since I am ‘older’ and my wife has some disability, we are ultraconservative and haven’t had opportunity for much discussion on the topic with others.

Thanks, Christy, that’s a good question. If the church is explicitly endorsing YEC (which would actually be quite a surprise to me, in light of my previous conversations with the head pastor), I’ll definitely propose a study or speaker that would challenge it. Great idea!

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(And of course @Christy meant “good luck” in the strict theological sense of the term. :grin:)

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The head pastor and I have had conversations about each of us being intellectually-driven (for lack of a better phrase) before, so as I mentioned in my reply to @Christy, it would be quite a surprise to me if the church was fully aware of the implications of their facilitation of the trip series. That said, I do live in a conservative area of the country so YEC beliefs may be assumed and unchallenged (like they were where I grew up). Anyway, thanks for the response!

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That’s great that you’ve already had conversations with the pastor - which I gather means he/she knows where you stand, and they know that there are members (or at least one of you!) who do not accept those teachings.

One other consideration then is that you might try to imagine this from the pastor’s point of view. They may have heard from you, but if they’ve heard from ten others that this is pretty important and that it’s a “no-brainer” to rally the congregation around it, then there is pretty immense pressure on the pastor to be “on-message” for anything that helps unify a congregation. That doesn’t excuse a pastor for promoting false teachings; they shouldn’t do that even if 100% of their congregation is all for it. So this isn’t a justification. But it should help people understand the kinds of pressures that pastors feel (some of them with small or dwindling congregations). If you are the only one who’s been a “squeaky wheel” there in an otherwise large congregation, then get ready for the onslaught. The writing may be on the wall in that case. But if there are others like you who want to see reality beyond the narrow party-line, then you would be doing the church and its leaders a service to make them aware that it isn’t just you who has low tolerance for nonsense. So I guess I would continue to make noise by word-of-mouth to friends so that other more science-minded lurkers in your church who may have been just drifting with the flow might be encouraged to seek you out and maybe even speak up themselves.

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Good stuff. Thanks! FWIW, I’m primarily referring to a conversation I had with the head pastor where I was trying to get a sense of the church’s approach to politically-charged issues. For example, I asked what their stance on gay marriage was. His response was something to the effect of “We prefer to be for things rather than against things” (meaning pro-heterosexual rather than anti-homosexual relationships…he elaborated on that well but it’s a topic for another post). That leads me to think the church would tend to be open to YECist perspectives but would not explicitly endorse either side. That would normally be an acceptable resolution for me, if not my ideal, especially given the pressures you mentioned.

However, my main complaint about AiG and other YEC groups like them is that they completely reject any interpretation of scripture that deviates from their own in any way. They use terms like “heretic” and “propaganda” to dismiss criticism. I really don’t want my church to be associated with organizations like that, even if the church doesn’t outright reject the beliefs of said organizations.

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The “ for rather than against”’still typically means they are against something just a bit more careful on how they go against something. They are probably pro YEC based off of what you’ve stated. Which is almost every church. My church knows I accept evolution. They know I’m fairly open to stuff like transgender issues. They know I’m anti theocracy and typically land on the liberal side of stuff when it comes to social freedom and nature. They know some of the others are. They don’t really mind us doing our own things as a small group but they would never allow us to lead a sermon on genesis being a myth and evolution being scientifically sound. I don’t really care either since it plays such a small role in typical sermons. It’s not like most YEC accepting pastors constantly hound on that subject.

One thing on how you approach this really depends on what you know. Without a smartphone could you speak the jargon , convey the thoughts and accurately teach evolution, healthier biblical interpretations and geology. If not then best thing is probably to just keep studying and sharing your views as non confrontational as possible.

I would go on the trip and have fun. I would look at it as fellowshipping, and see what the guide knows and believes. If you are confident in what you know I would go and while having fun I would bring up “ placing him on the spot” type of things. As mentioned before magnolia trees have been around since Pangea and are now natively found in China,Japan and eastern USA. I would bring up questions on previous super continents and if the area you’re in was ever considered being under water , like southern alabama is , and if they said yeah it shows it’s been underwater some many times I would ask which geological era was that? How long show as that? I would never state my position and pose a bunch of questions that they probably can’t answer. Or I would point out facts I know that indicate an old earth without directly saying it.

Or I’m honestly bit of a prick at times and I would make a handful of snarky comments while hiking. Like “ hey remember 300 hours when we started the hike” and then explain I’m not sure how they figure time since they ignore the science around it and so on. I would find out which members did not believe in YECism or had questions about it and set up time as friends to talk about it.

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First question that I would ask is: Is my church getting a financial commission for each of its members who sign up for the trip? If the church isn’t, who among my church’s members, is?

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I agree, it’s not a huge deal to me if they don’t actually say much about it. That’s effectively pleading the fifth, which I think is usually fine for a pastor of an intellectually-diverse (intellectually-ambiguous?) congregation.

If it was just a matter of going, yeah I would probably love to do that. But it’s almost $100pp so I won’t go because I don’t want to support, financially or otherwise, the tour group.

I’m not really one to stage an ambush. I like the other posters’ suggestions like a book study or speaker – planned events where both sides can fairly prepare for it and participate in it.

Excellent point. I’ll bring that up in the meeting on Monday. Thanks!

I don’t view it as much as an ambush as putting them on the spot. A tour guide , just like any other professional , should not be a hack. If someone was building my house, I would question them about building codes and the efficiency and warranty of various materials.

If your church is willing to bring in a opposing expert, and you can find an opposing expert then great. But for the majority of congregations and people that’s just not really an option. I do interdenominational Bible studies at least once a week with groups of people. It’s organic and not hierarchical and sometimes some of my friends who are professors may even pop in. Even then it’s hard for us to just find some qualified expert for low to free pricing to just pop in and do a study or series. Maybe convincing them to get a book series or something is possible.

I sometimes lead hikes focused on Alabama’s natural history and a emphasis on plants. Often yecist tag along and will pose questions. Sometimes the talks are more theological and sometimes more scientific. I never feel like I’m being attacked, and accept the challenges as just the nature of the game.

You believe the congregation will go for a evolutionary creationist approach to balance out the YEC one?

The reason for my approach?
I used to work for the Internal Revenue Service. During one of my earliest training sessions, the teacher told a story about a Revenue Agent who was assigned an individual’s personal tax return to audit. The IRS computer had identified the return as audit-worthy because the taxpayer’s “Charitable Contributions” were huge, almost as much as his income.

When he asked the taxpayer for documentary evidence of the contributions, the taxpayer handed him 52 weekly checks, written by him and made out to the Church, with “Offerings” and the date paid noted on each, and the Bank’s stamp acknowledging receipt and deposit of the checks into the church’s bank account.

Still troubled, in spite of the checks, the Revenue Agent went to the taxpayer’s church and asked to speak to the pastor, whom he asked about the taxpayer. In response, the pastor told the Agent that Mr. X was one of his most valuable members and congregation leaders. When the Agent asked what duties or other activities, the taxpayer performed, the pastor named a good number of things, … including “Senior Usher”.

“Senior Usher? What does that involve?” asked the Agent.

The pastor replied: "As the ‘Senior Usher’, Mr. X trains all new ushers, maintains a schedule of their dates of service, and deposits each Sunday’s offerings in the church’s Bank Account.

The Revenue Agent verified that Mr. X was not embezzling church funds. Mr. X’s motive? The huge tax savings by claiming the church’s total Offerings as a Charitable Contribution.

“Ambush” was probably too strong a word, maybe I was just picturing it as more confrontational than I’d naturally be. I agree that someone claiming to know stuff should…well, know stuff.

That’s a really good question. I honestly have no idea as I’ve never spoken to any other regular members of my current church about serious or controversial theological issues. I might start doing it now, though!

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That’s an incredible story. Incredibly awful, but incredible nonetheless!

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“evidence of age” or “mature earth”.

I’m curious. What formation/deposit? was it specified? Also “deposit” would probably be a more technically accurate term. “Formation” refers to a distinct layer that is mappable across a region.

(In case you haven’t seen any of my posts, I am into invertebrate paleo)

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Thanks for the “official” name. As for the “formation”/“deposit” in question, I was ambiguous on purpose since identification of the tour organization, the tour location, or my church would allow fairly easy identification of the church employee I’ll be meeting with. Just trying to maintain their relative anonymity in the context of a potential confrontation (that’s probably too strong a word, but I hope that’s clarifying anyway). Are there DM’s on this forum (I’m new here)? If so, I can let you know the location in private.

Not sure what a DM is but you can private message anyone and invite others to your message. Just touch their name and follow the prompts.

Welcome to the forum! The forum really is made for this sort of question to help people negotiate their way through what can be a difficult time, and provide support.

As to your problem, remember that churches sometimes have to accommodate a lot of different views on non-critical issues, and hopefully your church does not consider evolution and age of the earth a major issue; Personally, i would not make a fuss, but rather discuss it as you have with the pastor, to better help him understand the issues and lead the church in unity.
We had an issue in one of the Bible study classes where one member wanted to get up a trip to the Ark Experience. A couple thought it a good idea, but others voiced that they thought it not appropriate. I know several of the ones that opposed it are pretty active either with Hugh Ross’s group Reasons to Believe, with is old earth and progressive creation, or with the ID movement, which is mostly old earth , and (whatever it is ) So, there are a lot of factions that may not be apparent, and YEC may just be one of many the pastor has to keep happy. So long as it is a voluntary pleasure trip, I wouldn’t oppose or worry about it. It may lead to some having questions, and provide an opportunity for discussion at a later date.
My personal feeling is that discussions of those type are better done in para-church settings. Of course, if the YEC contingent was pushing to do something like change your Bible study curriculum to YEC based, more serious internal discussions are necessary.

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Do they do that?

“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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