What is Accommodationalism ? Does it work?

The link below has an old article featuring Karl Giberson:

The article has two moving parts:

If Americans are becoming less religious, then there are fewer people to move from Young Earth
Non-Evolution Theism to:
OLD Earth Evolution Theism.

No matter how you count, according to the article, there are fewer and fewer theists.

And - -

“Accommodationalism doesn’t work.” I think the author is trying to say that YECs rarely convert to Theistic Evolution.

Is that what is really meant? And if it is, does the evidence support the statement? We recently had a thread on some favorable survey results that seems to contradict at least one of these moving parts.

Any opinions on this 2 pronged theme???

I don’t think it’s really an indicator of whether or not accomodation works. I think any switch is more to do with mainstream viewpoints getting more of the attention as opposed to a view like Giberson’s . Personally, if I had to choose between YEC and atheism at this point, knowing what I know about science and the Scriptures, then I would probably choose atheism (or a lack of belief in any gods).

  • YEC or Evolution? Most Christians have no idea the impressive theory they are actually up against. Separate anyone from his fundamentalist youth pastor and watch it all fade away like a distant memory (all but a few - even Giberson tells of his initial zeal as does Lamoureux who was initially won over and ready to become a trained YEC scientist as he writes in his book Evolutionary Creation)
  • Even God directed vs. non-God directed - This is annoying for someone like myself who knows there is absolutely no scientific way to prove that God directed the process - I am perhaps more deistic in this sense though don’t find the loaded dice idea too appealing either - the mechanisms and laws behind it all move me to worship
  • I think accomodationalism is a good idea - but does this mean in the sense that God accomodated to his original hearers in terms of their historical and scientific understanding? Or what does it mean in this sense? I agree in part with Coyne in that it does not wow and amaze the audiences like Ken Ham or Duane Gish did or Hugh Ross does today (someone actually argued with me yesterday that Duane had two Nobel Prizes in Physics and didn’t even believe me as I showed him the wikipedia article and continued to do the Gish Gallop in our conversation)
  • Theistic evolution is in a hard spot perhaps in that it tells people the Bible has ancient science, there are no direct scientific arguments for God (though perhaps some hints), and evolution is a good theory - All the while they are lumped in with Atheism by most of the Christian community - I think this community exists because its where the evidence led them
  • Giberson probably should not be so surprised as he aims most of his efforts against evangelical Christianity and tends to side more with atheists on mostly everything (though I probably would agree with him and even feel similarly about evangelical Christianity) - someone who is not so black and white and is okay with people being Muslim or whatever, isn’t necessarily going to be winning over tons of converts to his particular brand of faith, but he (and this is heretical in some sense) might actually be bringing more people closer to God


But remember the audience. While you would choose Atheism, I think much of our audience would choose YEC… maybe even me.

To me, God-guided is generally appealing, because that would be the logical appeal of having a divine reference point in my life.

The sheer mechanics of what we do seems more about replacing the YEC idea that the Bible must be perceived as inerrant … vs. the idea that an Errant Bible is not really that scary an idea.

But there are BioLogos folks who would not accept any form of errancy any more than the YEC’s do, and that the key is showing the YEC audience that what was long considered the point of Genesis is actually some other spiritual instruction.

What Theistic evolution is this? Not the sort we find around here I shouldn’t think! I’m under the impression that most Christians who are comfortable frequenting this forum are busy trying to disabuse others from looking for science in the Bible. That would be concordists’ game and a lot of theists here will go through whatever contortions necessary to prove they aren’t concordists. If I’m wrong about this, I’m happy to be corrected.

Anticipating that I may again be thinking of science more restrictively than you are, then okay --we can see evidence in Scriptures that ancient peoples had good and accurate awareness of some processes in creation – awareness that we now label as scientific knowledge. But they weren’t writing the Bible to impart those things. They were using those things as commonly understood at the time to make other more important points quite apart from any science. When people around here claim that “the Bible is not a scientific textbook” --I’m pretty sure they mean it. (I know I do.) That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have incidental mention of things we now lump in with science. But that’s a far cry from insisting that the Bible is taking aim at or affirming some kind of ancient science (in case that’s where you are going with that).

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@Mervin_Bitikofer, thank you. I missed this part!

@pevaquark, here are the problems I see in this particular section:

  1. Theistic Evolution does not teach that the Bible is ancient science;

  2. Nor does it rely on any need for science to demonstrate the existence of God; and

  3. I’m not so sure that the majority American Christians lump Christian Evolutionists with the Atheists.

But, nice effort! :smiley:

I’m inclined to agree, George, though I think anyone could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. In the U.S. a fairly noisy group (majority? minority? --we’ve seen stats on this, but I’m too lazy to refer back to them just now) might want people to think that acceptance of evolution is tantamount to atheism. But there is a less vocal, yet sizable Christian group [such as many here] whose mere existence shows otherwise.


Back on the O.P. – I caution anyone, George, against thinking that effectiveness signals truth (or that winning should be confused with truth like some politicians apparently do). Yes, there is long-term effectiveness which can positively count as evidence; but even there it cannot stand by itself. So if you are asking what crowd is growing biggest or fastest, that is only a way to find what is culturally popular at the moment. Truth may take a long time getting its shoes on while rumors fly wild, but those shoes, slow as they are, end up being some pretty heavy boots in the end.

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It is a tough time in American history for those in the middle, what with extremism seemingly being the norm.
I supposed most of here supporting BioLogos could be called accomadationalists, though it seems to imply that foul word oft used by Ham of compromises, when if fact I feel it a more complete and more consistent theology, integrating physical reality with spiritual reality. In fact, it is the ability to avoid compromise of either faith or science that makes it attractive.
Does it work? Guess we will see. As you mentioned, another recent poll indicates it may be gaining, but only time will tell if that is statistical noise.

  1. I think maybe the phrase of ancient science is misleading. In other words, that is the science of their day. There are different versions of this, but all of us acknowledge some of the ancient science in the sense I mean it to a degree. Like the poetic descriptions of the sun rising were yes, from the perspective of the ancient writers but also in accordance with the science of their day, i.e. the Earth is flat in a 3 tiered cosmos.

That’s perhaps part of why it is not extremely persuasive for those in the YEC camp. Making the claims that all the statements of the Scripture are 100% accurate in every way (like all YEC and anti-evolution OEC). That’s a pretty remarkable claim and seems to be particularly persuasive for many. The theistic evolution camp I think captures the theological significance and beauty in this work of art almost that we call Genesis.

How many Christians are fundamentalists? I imagine most actually do. I feel embarrassed to even say that I think evolution is mostly true or right in just about every church I’ve gone to. Maybe it feels like more to me since I am at the top of the Bible belt and every where I seem to turn there’s a bunch. Many of them, when finding out what I do proceed to teach me about how the Bible describes the creation of the Earth 6,000 years ago and praise Ken Ham, ICR, CMI, etc.


Maybe it’s a toss up?

Here’s a graph I found based on a poll in the last few years:

Though, if we just look at pie sections… the 46% could whip my pa’s butt, who is only at 32%… while the 15% atheist figure would just stand around and watch!

These numbers have been recently updated… and if I recall correctly … the green 46% has dropped down to 38%!!!


" I skirt around the YEC argument as it’s all around me, with awkward excuses allowable in special relativity. To be honest, I feel trapped and are some what stressed out that anybody would find out what I truly believe"
(For some reason the quote function does not work properly with my iPad, so excuse the cut and paste.)
@pevaquark, I feel much the same way, but as I have gotten older and near retirement, really do not worry about it much. I tend to answer honestly, though am seldom asked, as my liking BioLogos on Facebook pretty much makes my views public to the community. I am have been open to my pastor, though I suspect about half the staff are YEC. The other half have attended moderate seminaries, and are at least open, though again, it is a subject that seldom sees the light of day. There are a few fairly vocal YEC guys in church, but it seems they have been more low key lately.
Hopefully, things will progress to where it is not a significant issue in faith, though the various YEC organizations have to keep it alive to survive. In any case, I think for those of you in ministry jobs, you have to be low key and focus on the theology rather than the science, as you have alluded to.

That also describes me. Those who aren’t YEC often are satisfied to just to see the significance of the issue fade (i.e. stumbling block successfully removed) and don’t have a need to see everyone come around completely to their point of view. And perhaps, as Phil notes, more YECs are adopting that attitude as well. I don’t push the issue in people’s faces but am satisfied to answer when asked. The teacher in me is getting better (with much improvement still needed!) at not just feeding students my own answers but turning questions back toward them so that they can practice processing for themselves. Just dumping my own thus-far-developed positions on them is not so much something I’m afraid to do, as it is a temptation to avoid. But I also am a practiced conflict-avoider, so maybe I do remain conveniently silent when I shouldn’t. In any case @pevaquark, I sympathize – especially if you are in a position where you are forced to regularly address divisive issues in a scheduled sort of way.

The OP was based on the 2014 Gallup poll. The 2017 Gallup poll was posted on Dr. Haarsma’s blog just a short while ago and leads to an entirely different conclusion than Giberson’s.

New Gallup Poll Shows Significant Gains for BioLogos View

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A rush to judgement!

Here you go:


That graph shows something happened in late 2012? What?


Are you reading the graph correctly? I don’t see a graph that is chronological. If you are looking at a linked graph, which one?

Post the link so we all know which one…

I think he means from 2010/2011 to 2012 there’s a big jump in ‘God created man in present form’ - in other words, what happened in those years to create that jump?


Thanks for your helpful comments.

Without any framing detail I wasn’t sure what he meant.

Frankly I think the political cycle itself is able to push responses to some specific questions. It’s not until we see trends survive the election cycles that we can be sure a trend is real or lasting.

Could be statistical noise.