Similar to one of the topics here “Struggling to believe”, posted by Evan, I think I might be going through a similar crisis. I have read a few replies on that thread and have found that helpful, but felt the need to start my own thread too given that we seem to struggle with slightly different issues. So hopefully this thread doesn’t count as a double-up.
I didn’t grow up in the church, in fact I am an immigrant so I was born in a non-Christian country and moved to a “Western” country (I won’t reveal where, because it’s not all that relevant).
Started coming in contact with Christian ideas since about teenage-hood and I believe came to faith in my young adult-hood. And still am a young adult now (not that age really matters. I don’t see this problem going away with age). I was a YEC at the start and slowly moved away from it.
I feel like anyone coming to faith has to have a lot of trust for the Christians to essentially to get it right, and I saw integrity in the people who presented to me the Gospel, and trusted there must’ve been good evidence for believing. Some of my distress started when I saw one of the Christians who presented the Gospel to me, grossly misrepresent/understate the evidence for evolution… and just won’t listen to correction.
I am deeply troubled by how YEC Christians around me seem to be living in a constant state of cognitive dissonance and are ok with it. I believe most of them see at least some of the evidence for old earth but would kill their rationality by saying something like: the physical laws could’ve been different or that the flood would’ve changed the conditions so we can’t be sure of the original conditions. I don’t think they lack integrity, but perhaps it is quite hard to go against something that you’ve been taught since childhood. So much so that evidence that seem to contradict their worldview wouldn’t bother them. And I think that no amount of evidence would ever be able to make them give up the YEC view. To me, that is not a sign of a healthy belief.
When I raise what I see to be good evidence for old earth/ common descent, many would point out that human reasoning is flawed and we shouldn’t base our faith on evidence. This is disturbing, because rational thinking is what helped lead me to Christianity in the first place, or else I might just as well be believing some certain Eastern religion (I won’t bother to name it because it’s not all that important) from my country of origin. Do they expect me to follow evidence/use rationality up until it convinces me of Christianity, and then throw away my rational thinking altogether? It doesn’t make sense. If you don’t use rational thinking, how do you even decide which religion is the true one?
Those few Christians that seem to accept Genesis as something that can be interpreted non-literally do help resolve my conflict a little, but I don’t think they completely are off the hook in terms of believing in contradictory things either. I think it is somewhat of a cop-out to say that the apparent contradictions between how the natural world seem to have been created and the Genesis account, is because we shouldn’t be reading the text literally. How is this different from the YECs who are trying to explain away evidence against their belief as they see fit?
And also I fear what it means for Biblical inerrancy. Even if interpreting genesis non-literally doesn’t go against inerrancy. It seems like it would be quite easy to prove by counter-example that the Bible isn’t inerrant. And I’m not naive enough anymore to think there are no such examples. Some would say that inerrancy isn’t a critical issue - but I am reluctant to agree.
And most of all, I suffer from a general lack of trust for any Christian materials now. I know of and have been reading apologetics material, but a lot of them seem greatly exaggerated. I don’t doubt the sincerity or the integrity of Christians who present the materials, but the selection bias is so strong in the YEC community, and now that I have observed the possibility of intelligent people continually living in cognitive dissonance, how can I trust Christians on any other issue?
One thing I am quite sure of is the reliability of the new testament… the dating of the manuscripts, the eyewitness accounts, the resurrection, the historicity of the NT as a whole. And this all leads me to conclude that the most parsimonious explanation is that Jesus indeed did rise from the dead and that He is who He claimed to be.
However I am less sure of the historicity of the old testament. I am currently weary of the field of Biblical archaeology because it seems like it is a relatively new field and might suffer from the same “throw away evidence that doesn’t fit and only keep the ones that do” from the YEC community. I actually trust the scientific peer review system quite a lot. So more inclined to believe Biblical archaeology if the results are properly peer reviewed, and undergo critical examination by non-Christians. I have read on apologetics websites big claims like “Archeaology has never found anything against a Biblical account.” and I’m just not sure if that is true. I seem to recall a few instances that might indicate otherwise.
Finally, I have read some things about humans quite prone to find patterns where there is none. Also, it can be argued that people really WANT to believe in an afterlife, because it feels better to believe in that, that there would be enormous selective bias. I used to think that this need wouldn’t affect rational thinking too much. But I can see just how much this can affect someone’s thinking now in how YECs twist and turn the evidence to fit what they want to believe. Maybe not intentionally. But that’s the scary part… it seems you can easily live with contradictions in your head as long as they fit your spiritual need. It doesn’t have anything to do with intelligence.
- What is the relationship between evidence and faith in Christianity?
- Is human reasoning really that unreliable? How else are we supposed to arrive at the conclusion that Christianity is true and other religions are not?
- Saying we can interpret Genesis non-literally, isn’t that a type of contradictory thinking?
- Is the Bible really inerrant? How important is it?
- Are some areas of apologetics as heavily tainted with selection bias as the selection bias that goes on in the YEC community?
- Can I trust the historicity of the OT? Is Biblical archaeology trustworthy as a field? Are there any books you can recommend?
- How do we know that we are not just cherry picking the evidence we want to see, given that we might have a spiritual need that incline us to want to believe in the afterlife.
I am really just on the hunt for truth. And finding it hard to relate to Christians around me that seem completely sure of their faith without needing evidence. Also, I hope I don’t come off as condescending to YECs - almost all of my Christian friends hold to that view and they are very lovely people. Finally, feel free to correct me on anything you think is incorrect thinking. I really welcome opinions/material from skeptics too. I am resolved to tackle doubt head-on.