The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

The tragedy of “creation evangelism”

Creation evangelism: using young-Earth creationism (Earth < 10,000 years old, most of geology is the product of Noah’s flood) to win people to faith in Christ.

There are many people who have come to faith in Christ through young-Earth creation ministries such as Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research, and a multitude of smaller organizations. I rejoice when people come to Christ or have their faith strengthened.

There is another side to this, however. These same organizations also needlessly drive perhaps millions of others away from Christ. The arguments presented by the young-Earth creationists for a young Earth or a global flood may be convincing to those who don’t know much science (and specifically, geology), but when critically examined these arguments are far from persuasive. The result is twofold. First, scientists (and other scientifically-minded people) are driven away from Christ. They are basically told that in order to become a Christian, they have to check their brains at the door. The second result is that many of our young people eventually leave the faith, not because of what the Bible actually says, but because of what the young-Earth organizations have given them as solid evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible. When they see that these arguments are not valid, they often chuck their Christianity along with their young-Earth creation dogmas.

Here’s a tragic story, illustrating the failure of “creation evangelism” from Internet Monk: Niki Made Her Choice and, Apparently, So Did We.

Her name is Niki. (Not her real name.) She’s a Japanese student who lived with an American family for a year and attended a Christian school. She took a year of Bible. She attended worship and heard lots of preaching. The Gospel was explained to her many times. She was well liked and sociable.

A very smart girl. A great student, much advanced over the average American student. She made A’s in everything, including Bible.

She left America after graduation and went back to Japan.

She came to America an atheist and she returned to Japan an atheist, and very aware that she had rejected Christianity.

Before she left, she talked with one of her teachers.

“I am an atheist because I believe in evolution. When people here explained to me what they must believe as Christians, I always ask them about evolution, and they say “You cannot be a Christian and believe in evolution.” So I cannot be a Christian, because I believe that evolution is true.”

No doubt, Niki has met many Christians who told her that she could not be a Christian and “believe” in evolution. No doubt, few, if any, of those Christians took the time to explain what they meant by evolution. Most probably meant that the Bible teaches that the earth is 10,000 years young, that no biological death of any kind happened before sin and the major Creationist ministries such as AIG have all the answers to the hard questions of physics, astronomy and science. (”Were you there?”)

——————————

Was Niki ever told about the the thousands of Christians in the sciences who believe the “Big Bang” is evidence for creation by God? No, she wasn’t. Was she told of the many conversions to Christianity among scientists who have been moved by the evidence for God as creator now available in astrophysics? No, because that would complicate the views of Creationism she was told were non-negotiable.

Was Niki ever told that the vast majority of Christians on planet earth don’t believe now and haven’t ever believed science and Christianity answer the same questions in the same way? No, she wasn’t.

Was Niki told that millions of Christians believe in some form of evolution? (For Catholics, it’s in the Catechism!) Some form of an old earth? That millions of Christians do not accept the claims of the Creationist ministries as representing the Bible accurately or correctly? No, she wasn’t.

Was Niki told that even atheists are largely agreed that evolution does not equal atheism, and atheists like Dawkins are wrong to claim that is the case?

——————————

Niki, who heard about Jesus for weeks and weeks in her Bible class, could not bring herself to believe in creationism, so she cannot be a Christian.

Many are zealous defenders of young-Earth creationism. They try to use it to try to win non-believers to Christ, and blame Satan when it doesn’t work. But how much of this resistance to the gospel is due to Satanic blinding, and how much is due to the errors of young-Earth creationist teachings on topics such as the age of the Earth, the geological work of the flood, or biological evolution?

With love for the body of Christ and unbelieving scientists.

October 4, 2009 - Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , ,

16 Comments

  1. If y’all haven’t been keeping up with the blog post, more specifically the comments associated with it, you guys are missing a treat.

    There’s a guy, Joel Hunter, on there that is advocating the one and only TRULY consistent and literal understanding of the Bible – GEOCENTRISM!

    He IS being sarcastic, though you wouldn’t know that if you didn’t already know the guy. He is putting forward a completely serious advocacy for geocentrism and is railing against those who compromise the Bible for the sake of science by accepting the Copernican lie. Those YEC people claim to believe the Bible, but they have horribly mangled the basic statements of the Bible in their desire to compromise with “science” by accepting the “science” that purports to claim Earth isn’t the center of the solar system and universe as the Bible so clearly states.

    He does his sarcasm so sincerely and so very well that he has gotten a few people to take him seriously. It’s pretty good comedic fodder!

    Like

    Comment by WebMonk | October 6, 2009

  2. WebMonk:

    Thanks. I saw that too and wasn’t sure where he was coming from.

    Unfortunately, there really are “Biblical geocentrists” out there.

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | October 6, 2009

  3. Nowadays Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles IS the Gospel.

    This guy Christ (who’s supposed to have something to do with the Gospel, right?) got thrown under the YEC bus long ago.

    P.S. There are even “Flat Earthers” out there, Heroically Defending SCRIPTURE (TM) Against Godless “Science” since Victorian time.

    Like

    Comment by Headless Unicorn Guy | October 6, 2009

  4. This type of stuff is really frustrating for me in the small PCA church I attend. I try my best to bite my tongue when I hear the AIG people and Ken Ham praised to the skies and Hugh Ross labeled as an idiot, or worse. My pastor is even insistent that the Westminster Confessions teach YEC–it does NOT, as Scott Clark points out in his excellent book, “Recovering the Reformed Confessions.” I guess it amazes me that we actually have ANY mathematicians (like Vern Poythress) and scientists in our churches with the pervasive attitude of YEC-types.

    Like

    Comment by Richard | October 6, 2009

  5. Richard:

    I attended Covenant Seminary (PCA) in St. Louis part-time for a year. Dr. John Collins, professor of OT, is an old-Earther. I’m sure he has taken a good amount of criticism for this, but he is highly respected.

    His books on science and faith include:
    Science and Faith: Friends or Foes?
    Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, And Theological Commentary

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | October 6, 2009

  6. Kevin–thanks for the info. I’d like to check out the Covenant Seminary web site as well to see if there are any downloadable lectures from Dr. Collins. The usual argument I get is that people like Ross approach the Bible laden with their scientific presuppositions, which interfers with sola Scriptura. This is supposed to have blinded people liek B.B. Warfield, as well.

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    Comment by Richard | October 6, 2009

  7. Richard:

    Covenant Seminary has a number of its courses available as iTunes podcasts, but unfortunately I don’t see anything by Collins.

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | October 6, 2009

  8. I tend to be quite sympathetic to the position that the same standards which require the Bible to speak of a 6000 year old Earth also require a geocentric position. However, it’s not a slam dunk.

    The basic premise (at least the best one, since I’ve heard a few different ones) for why we are NOT Biblically required to hold to a geocentric view while we are Biblically required to hold a YEC view goes something like this:

    The statements of the earth being central were strictly common-use, descriptive phrases, not intended to be taken as scientific statements. After all, we still today talk of a sunrise and sunset even though we know it’s not the sun that is moving. Some of the references are also very obviously poetic and metaphoric, whereas Genesis 1 is not poetic or metaphoric. The geocentric verses are descriptions of what the author saw, not scientific descriptions, and the same general principle holds true for Genesis 1, an accurate description of what would have been seen – a Creation that lasted for six, 24-hour days.

    While I tend to think that there are holes and incorrect statements in that explanation, it’s not a completely stupid explanation.

    I appreciate the humor of what Joel Hunter said, but I certainly don’t think it’s of any efficacy in changing anyone’s mind. To the YEC person, there is a perfectly good reason to reject geocentrism but still hold to a YEC. They view the “then-why-aren’t-you-a-geocentist” argument to be punching at a straw man.

    I think that “straw man” has a living body, but that’s part of the argument.

    Like

    Comment by WebMonk | October 6, 2009

  9. For those who are fans of InternetMonk, he has tacked on a post on the topic, explaining his own views on the subject: http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/imonk-101-to-be-or-not-to-be-or-why-im-not-a-young-earth-creationist#more-4684

    (Geo, if you don’t want quite so many discussion being like “Hey, go to this other blog,” just email me or something, and I’ll cut it back.

    Like

    Comment by WebMonk | October 6, 2009

  10. I clicked on this article because it looked interesting, but having read it I am left frankly baffled and amazed!

    WebMonk cites ‘Niki’ as saying:

    “I am an atheist because I believe in evolution. When people here explained to me what they must believe as Christians, I always ask them about evolution, and they say “You cannot be a Christian and believe in evolution.” So I cannot be a Christian, because I believe that evolution is true.”

    But Geo, you don’t believe in evolution either (meaning biological evolution unless I say otherwise). So how would your approach with her, had you been there, have resulted in any other conclusion for her? Given this, why are you citing this case history?

    Further, WebMonk opines:

    “No doubt, Niki has met many Christians who told her that she could not be a Christian and “believe” in evolution. No doubt, few, if any, of those Christians took the time to explain what they meant by evolution. Most probably meant that the Bible teaches that the earth is 10,000 years young, that no biological death of any kind happened before sin and the major Creationist ministries such as AIG have all the answers to the hard questions of physics, astronomy and science. (”Were you there?”)”

    Hang on a minute – as far as the reader is concerned, all this is just WM’s imagination. Does he have any objective evidence for any of this? If so, why not cite it? Until this is cleared up, I don’t know how to take this seriously.

    “Was Niki ever told about the the thousands of Christians in the sciences who believe the “Big Bang” is evidence for creation by God?”

    – but who go on believing in evolution at every level of the universe!

    “Was she told of the many conversions to Christianity among scientists who have been moved by the evidence for God as creator now available in astrophysics?”

    Christianity isn’t deism. Astrophysics can’t convert anyone.

    “Was Niki ever told that the vast majority of Christians on planet earth don’t believe now and haven’t ever believed science and Christianity answer the same questions in the same way?”

    Neither do YECs – we go out of our way to specify what science can and can’t tell us. One thing it can’t tell us is unobserved origins, which we can never know unless God deign to tell us – which he has.

    “Was Niki told that millions of Christians believe in some form of evolution?”

    Again, Geo – why are you as a creationist citing this?

    “(For Catholics, it’s in the Catechism!)”

    If Niki were to be told this she should equally be told that in that case, Roman so-called Catholics now hold a doctrine of creation which not a single Catholic Father believed!

    “That millions of Christians do not accept the claims of the Creationist ministries as representing the Bible accurately or correctly?”

    But have no coherent, consistent, cogent Biblical argument why not, and in point of fact do it for extra-biblical reasons (as Geo himself freely admits).

    “Was Niki told that even atheists are largely agreed that evolution does not equal atheism, and atheists like Dawkins are wrong to claim that is the case?”

    Again, Geo, I don’t see what purpose this point about evolution serves in your article.

    “Niki, who heard about Jesus for weeks and weeks in her Bible class, could not bring herself to believe in creationism, so she cannot be a Christian.”

    So does this mean that Geo too is part of the problem?

    “Many are zealous defenders of young-Earth creationism. They try to use it to try to win non-believers to Christ, and blame Satan when it doesn’t work. But how much of this resistance to the gospel is due to Satanic blinding, and how much is due to the errors of young-Earth creationist teachings on topics such as the age of the Earth, the geological work of the flood, or biological evolution?”

    How do YEC and OEC teachings on biological evolution differ? Are they both wrong, and so are OECs also guilty of driving people away needlessly?

    Fact is, our first duty in evangelism is to be faithful to the Word, not to fret about why some people might be walking away. Results are God’s. Sure I am that Paul would never have regarded one smallish class of people (scientists) as of far more worth evangelistically than any other (cf. 1 Cor. 1:26 ff.).

    Like

    Comment by Dan | October 15, 2009

  11. Dan: Internet Monk and WebMonk are two different people.

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | October 15, 2009

  12. Dan:

    You should not be baffled. You already know that I think AiG/ICR/Dr. Dino young-Earth creationism is bad apologetics and gives many non-believers an easy excuse to reject Christianity. Your befuddlement seems to be the assumption that by describing myself as an old-Earth creationist, I am an anti-evolutionist like Hugh Ross. The fact of the matter is that I am non-committal on the issue of biological evolution, as the Bible itself does not place a limit on biological change. If God used evolution as a major part of his creative process, then so be it.

    “And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation.” “And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures.” “And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds.” (Gen 1:11,20,24 ESV). Each of these verses implies God-ordained process.

    The YEC case against evolution, as far as I can tell, is based on two things:
    –Animals reproduce after their kind — I think it is a bit of a stretch to say that this phrase excludes biological evolution, and the current trend is for YECs to advocate hyper-rapid evolution after the flood anyways. Are there limits to biological change? Perhaps, but the Bible does not state what they are. I am content to leave the degree to which God used evolution to build biological diversity as a scientific question rather than a theological question.
    –No death before the fall — I have stated my thoughts on this elsewhere.

    In regards to evidence for a Creator from astrophysics, you said “Christianity isn’t deism. Astrophysics can’t convert anyone.” That is correct; but that does not mean that we should ignore evidence from astrophysics. The creation can point us to the Creator (as in Ps 19 or Rom 1), but it cannot point us to the Gospel. That is the role of Scripture.

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | October 15, 2009

  13. Thank you for posting this. I agree that when we treat a YEC view as an “Essential” (which, sadly, many YEC’s do) we are distorting the gospel and putting up unnecessary roadblocks in the way of people coming to faith. What’s even more frustrating is how YEC’s treat OEC’s act as if we are heretics, when we affirm all the essentials.

    Like

    Comment by Neil | October 23, 2011

  14. Hi Geo,

    Thanks for putting me straight re. my confusion of two different posters, and re. your own position on biological evolution. I understand the distinction between your position and Hugh Ross’s, and accept that it means that he might regards bio. evo. as incompatible with Scripture while you wouldn’t insist on saying that.

    And as a matter of fact, for what it’s worth, I too doubt whether the words of Gen. 1 can really be pressed to rule out significant bio. change over time, *given* enough time, which of course is another issue as we know.

    I’m surprised you think YECs have only two Scriptural reasons against bio. evo. – I’d have thought the most obvious one was the time limit. They do generally use the first argument you mention, but I personally don’t place much weight on it. On the other hand the no-death-before-the-Fall argument is theologically serious and as you say is dealt with elsewhere.

    There are other arguments too though, e.g. that all old-earth views end up confusing God’s works of creation and providence, cf. Gen. 2:2-3, Heb. 4:3. And that spending ages doing something one could do much quicker is hardly conducive to manifesting one’s glory which is God’s overarching aim in his acts in history.

    Meanwhile, a search shows that you have so far made no comment on the 14-theologian symposium “Coming to Grips with Genesis” although it came out over two years ago (before Snelling’s work which you’ve noted). It covers every conceivable relevant theological aspect. Please note that until you get to grips with this volume of essays, your repeated claims that the Bible allows a very old earth will appear ungrounded and naive.

    Also, it being now over two years since you referred to Snelling’s work, I’d have hoped for a review by now?

    Like

    Comment by Dan | October 23, 2011

  15. Dan,

    Yes, the years go by quickly, and it has been a while since I wrote much about Snelling’s work. His arguments haven’t changed since then. I would like to dig deeper into his Earth’s Catastrophic Past here on The GeoChristian, but not sure when I’ll be able to get to it.

    God could have created the Earth in six literal days 6000 years ago (I’ll grant that this is one possible legitimate position), he could have done it instantaneously (as Augustine claimed), or he could have done it over a period of six quadrillion years. Each of these would have glorified God and demonstrated his providence in a different way. God manifests his glory through many things: creation, judgement, animal predation (Job 38-29, Ps 104), salvation. Who are we to say “God wouldn’t be glorified by taking billions of years to bring us to the present place?” The YEC argument in this case comes down to “I don’t think God would have done it that way.”

    I have paged through Coming to Grips with Genesis, but haven’t read it. The arguments there don’t look like they are new, and so I don’t think I am either ungrounded or naive in regards to the arguments of young-Earth creationism. Young Earth creationists over-read the Scriptures in the past, and it looks like they do it in this book as well. (By over-reading, I mean going beyond what is written; adding things or assuming things that are not stated).

    Like

    Comment by Kevin N | October 23, 2011

  16. I’m closing comments on this post. If you wish to comment further, please do so at my recycled version of this post: https://geochristian.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/the-tragedy-of-creation-evangelism-2/

    Like

    Comment by Kevin N | October 23, 2011


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