The Old-Earth Christian homeschooling vacuum

At times it seems like the young-Earth creationists have a virtual monopoly on science curriculum materials for the Christian homeschool market. There are popular homeschool magazines that ban advertisements from curricula—secular or Christian—that teach an old Earth or biological evolution. The same goes for homeschool conventions and curriculum fairs.

At the extreme in the homeschool movement are those who want to build walls around their children to protect them from all evils, such as evolution. We were part of a homeschool parents’ group in St. Louis whose leader had a rather dominating personality. I think one of our last appearances at the monthly meetings was when she stood up and virtually forbade members of the group from taking their kids to the St. Louis Zoo because of its new talking statue of Charles Darwin. That didn’t stop us, of course, from taking our kids to the zoo, even with the animatronic Darwin. My anecdotal experience is that the outcome for families who took the build-a-wall-around-our-children approach to homeschooling was not positive, either academically or spiritually.

We homeschooled our children in their early elementary years and they all have done very well in middle and high school, and in college. One of the primary sources for our material was Sonlight Curriculum, which has been banned from some homeschool conferences and magazines because they carry old-Earth material along with young-earth. John Holzmann of Sonlight has written an excellent article: Young- and Old-Earth Creationists: Can We Even Talk Together? A quick search for “Sonlight curriculum evolution” in your web browser will turn up a multitude of “We don’t use Sonlight because it includes evolution” blog posts and articles.

The Atlantic has recently posted an article entitled Old Earth, Young Minds: Evangelical Homeschoolers Embrace Evolution. Here are a few excerpts from the article:

Take Erinn Cameron Warton, an evangelical Christian who homeschools her children. Warton, a scientist, says she was horrified when she opened a homeschool science textbook and found a picture of Adam and Eve putting a saddle on a dinosaur. “I nearly choked,” says the mother of three. “When researching homeschooling curricula, I found that the majority of Christian homeschool textbooks are written from this ridiculous perspective. Once I saw this, I vowed never to use them.”

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The assertion that anyone who believes in evolution “disregards” the Bible offends many evangelicals who want their children to be well-versed in modern science. Jen Baird Seurkamp, an evangelical who homeschools her children, avoids textbooks that discredit evolution. “Our science curriculum is one currently used in public schools,” she says. “We want our children to be educated, not sheltered from things we are afraid of them learning.”

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Meanwhile, professors at evangelical colleges that attract homeschoolers often have to deal with objections from Young Earth proponents. “We do have to address some one-sided perspectives in biological science that some of our freshman biology majors come pre-loaded with,” says Jeffrey Duerr, a biology professor at George Fox University, a Christian university in Oregon. “But we do this by first addressing why science and Christian faith are compatible and then by teaching biology to them.”

I think that at present  finding an appropriate homeschool curriculum for middle school or high school Earth Science would be a real challenge. The choice seems to be between selecting a secular textbook that is not very homeschool-friendly, and one of several YEC textbooks that are homeschool-friendly but contain numerous scientific inaccuracies and questionable biblical interpretations.

My experience from teaching in Christian schools is that it is far easier to undo any shortcomings in secular textbooks (the shortcomings were not all that many) than it was to undo the bad science and questionable biblical interpretations I saw in Christian textbooks. But I was able to do this based on a solid education in geology and secondary education and years of thinking about Bible-science issues. Most homeschool parents don’t have that background.

What is the solution? What are some good curriculum options for Christians who want to give their middle school or high school students a semester or year of Earth Science?

Grace and Peace

HT: Martin Lack

26 thoughts on “The Old-Earth Christian homeschooling vacuum

  1. We are old earth creationists. We use articles and books from our religion, secular texts, and christian texts. Obviously the materials from our religion didn’t have as much of the systematic approach a text has. When I taught Apologia Biology to a group of kids (14), I simply said I wasn’t touching the one chapter with a ten-foot pole. Seriously. I said it was up to each parent to handle young earth creation, old earth creation, evolution, or any other belief themselves! I really found the curriculum okay to work with though. Mostly, we’ve simply used mainstream texts, usually college materials. Yes, there are things we don’t believe. But the detail also allows us to see the power and wisdom of God as the materials aren’t watered down.

    I believe my kids are better served by knowing what various other people believe and why; so they can make informed decisions themselves. And sometimes, it is a lesson in logic. We can see where people have taken a bit too much liberty in running with the facts. When we look back in history, we see that many times this doesn’t work, that those people end up being wrong. Of course, speculation is human. We simply need to be wise enough to remember truth may take awhile (hundreds, even thousands, of years even) to bear out. Instead, we can enjoy the complexity of creation.

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  2. I am skeptical that the solution is that we must have a full-blown Christian old-earth curriculum. The science would be virtually all the same as a secular curriculum. It’s overkill. Plus, it robs students of the opportunity to get mainstream education.

    Personally, I think all that’s needed is a supplement on strategic topics. Reasons To Believe plans to work on that as a 2014 project. This year we’re doing an evolution supplement for students. We’re rolling it out in the first half of the year: http://www.reasons.org/education/educators-help-desk/ttl.

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  3. I can’t believe there are still Christians w/o a biblical worldview, embracing old earth and evolution as if it possible to have both a Christian Biblical worldview and old earth evolution view. Why would a Christian expect to be able to teach a Christian child something outside the Bible, giving anything other than the Bible authority over what is clear in it is ridiculous. If I were an old earth creationist, I would really step back and pray to the God of Abraham Issac and Jacob in the name of Jesus and really ask for a heart transformation or ask themselves if they really believe what the Bible tells us is true. If you’re picking which parts of the Bible you like and skipping parts you don’t like because it doesn’t support your evolution, then something could also be wrong with how you interpret the rest of the Bible. Study Hermeneutics.

    Also, could you please point me to a good (scientific)resource or article that explains why a Christian can believe in old earth creationism? Something with Bible verses to support it.

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  4. I totally agree with your post. Nice to know we’re not alone! Friends of mine & I make it up as we go. Since they are scientists by trade and Christians by faith, we do a fairly good job. Still, this area is definitely lacking in the homeschool curricula.

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  5. geochristian

    James,

    If one spends all of their time listening to YEC teaching, then one will think that only YECs have a biblical worldview. I don’t know if that describes you, but I have met many YECs who did not know that there was such thing as an old-Earth Christian.

    Here are some prominent old-Earth Christians: Francis Schaeffer, Charles Spurgeon, J.I. Packer, C.S. Lewis, Timothy Keller, William Jennings Bryan, B.B. Warfield. If you want, you can try to convince me that none of these people have a Christian/biblical worldview.

    One can come to an old-Earth view from the Scriptures by using ordinary rules of hermeneutics. For a couple of examples of how I have done this, you can read my writing on death before the fall or the extent of Noah’s flood. These are foundations of young-Earth creationism, and in both of these cases I look at what the Bible actually says about these topics without reading something into the text that is not there. I think that old-Earthers often dig deeper into the text and apply hermeneutic rules such as letting Scripture interpret Scripture better than do the YECs.

    A good online summary of various interpretations of Genesis, including the “literal” YEC view, can be found in the Report of the Creation Study Committee of the Presbyterian Church in America. All of the scholars who contributed to this document believe in biblical inerrancy.

    The standard definition of inerrancy is found in The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. This document purposefully excludes the age of the Earth from its definition of inerrancy. The scholars who composed the document were almost unanimous in their conviction that a young age of the Earth was not an essential part of believing in the truthfulness of the Bible.

    I also recommend books such as:
    Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary by Collins
    Three Views on Creation and Evolution edited by Moreland & Reynolds
    The Genesis Question by Ross
    Creation and Time by Ross
    The Battle of Beginnings by Ratzsch
    Creation and Evolution by Hayward

    I listed them in order of my preference; I have found the writings of Collins to be most useful.

    I hope you find this useful.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Martin Lack

    James – I have quite a few books on my shelves that you might like to try and track down (they are all a bit old now): e.g. “Creation and Evolution” by Alan Hayward, or “Creation and the Flood” by Davis Young. However, The Rocks Don’t Lie (by David Montgomery) is brand new. Also, I think you need to take on board the words of Thomas Aquinas that I quoted recently on this very blog:

    “Holy Scripture can be explained in a multiplicity of senses, [and] one should adhere to a particular explanation only in such measure as to be ready to abandon it if it be proved with certainty to be false, lest Holy Scripture be exposed to the ridicule of unbelievers, and obstacles be placed to their believing…” (Thomas Aquinas).

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  7. A well put and timely post. I have looked at some of the books that my kids have been using at their Christian school now and what really amazes me is how the Christian world view is sometimes just sprinkled on top of what is otherwise a fairly typical science book. In one book there are side boxes that give the “christian” perspective but the rest of the text is fairly typical stuff. Some texts bring in YEC thought throughout but even something like the Abeka books tend to talk about volcanoes and earthquakes and give the explanation for their origin then in a special chapter talk about the flood and plate tectonics. The authors seem to have a complete disconnect in the way they deal with content. Its as if they really believe that as long as a subject isn’t directly talking about origins then they believe and present essentially a secular explanations. But they don’t realize that these secular explanations for geological phenomena don’t make sense in the young earth context. They end up with huge contradictions throughout the text and seem oblivious to it. Personally, I think the Jay Wile Exploring Creation…. series is probably the best of the YEC texts with respect to the accuracy of the facts and presentation of most ideas. My kids really haven’t come home with much of an idea of what YEC is even though the school they attend has staunch YECs teaching the science classes. It doesn’t bother me that much although they won’t be taking any trips to the creation museum. Got to draw the line somewhere:-)

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  8. I love some of the links you provided. Very resourceful. And I agree, believing how old the earth is dosen’t have anything to do with salvation, as long as those interpretations you read into the Bible doesn’t infect the passages on Salvation.

    All of the scholars you mentioned are post-darwinism/origin of species and the invention of the evolution theory. So obviously they brought something else to the table to help them interpret the Bible. As much as I love those guys, I still have to put the Bible 1st, even if I do live in a culture that’s fallen for “scientific” theories.

    I think it would be really interesting to find an ancient church father or pre-1800’s scholar that found some type of scripture to support the old earth theory. Because the Bible is where this millions of years old theory would have to derive from for it to be true right?

    I just hope you aren’t out to disprove the Bible, rather than trying to convince people that the Bible supports your thoughts. Leading others into thinking the Bible isn’t enough is dangerous. At least a YEC doesn’t bring outside sources to help them translate the Bible.

    I loved your blog for a long time and I really appreciate the resources you provided.

    thank you

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  9. geochristian

    James,

    Yes, most of the scholars I mentioned are post-Darwin. The only exception is Charles Spurgeon, who included references to millions of years as early as 1855. There are a number of biblical scholars back to the 1700s who accepted or advocated a very old Earth.

    I cannot point to earlier Christian scholars who advocated an age for Earth in the millions of years, but there were certainly those who believed that the days of Genesis 1 were not literal, 24-hour days. One example is Augustine.

    This parallels another Bible-science controversy very nicely. Just as you cannot find many Bible scholars before the late 1700s who advocated an old Earth, one cannot find Bible scholars before Copernicus who advocated that Earth is not the center of the universe. It wasn’t until Christians were confronted with evidence for heliocentrism (sun-centered solar system) that they took a closer look at what the Bible actually says and doesn’t say on the topic. After going through this same process regarding the age of the Earth, some biblical scholars are sticking to a young Earth, and others are recognizing that the Bible is ambiguous on the topic. Those of us who advocate an old Earth are not reading science into the Bible any more than you are if you accept external evidence that the Earth goes around the Sun.

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  10. There’s nothing in the Bible to contradict the earth rotating around the sun. But there are plenty of contradictions to an old earth and zero contradictions of a new earth.

    So those long chapters in the Bible saying this guy begat this guy that begat this guy and lived this age and that age are pointless verses you just skip over?

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  11. geochristian

    James,

    The geneologies may be helpful to point back to the timing of Adam (though even some YECs will acknowledge that there may be gaps in the geneologies), but they don’t necessarily point us to the age of the Earth.

    In the middle ages, geocentrism (Earth-centered universe) was an accepted dogma of Christianity. Here’s the proof:

    Psalm 93:1 — Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

    Psalm 96:10 — Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

    Psalm 104:5 — He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved.

    Here are three verses that teach that Earth does not move. I cannot point to a single verse in the Bible that teaches that Earth does move. Am I reading science into the Bible by believing in a moving Earth (i.e. that Earth moves around the Sun)? Or is it that science has forced us to take a closer look at the Scriptures, and that we have concluded that these verses are not trying to teach us about astronomy?

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  12. Martin Lack

    James and Kevin – The maternal and ‘paternal’ genealogies of Christ (in the synoptic gospels) are mutually contradictory and incomplete (i.e. generations are missed out). Thus neither of them can or should be taken as being literally true. They therefore do not help to establish the time of Adam and/or if he was a real person… The only problem with not treating such things as literally true is that ‘only sinners need a saviour’. However, I cannot and will not allow theological dogma to force me to believe something that can only be true if most of what geology and cosmology now tell us is all develish deception.

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  13. Jacob

    If I had children and I were homeschooling them, I would use conventional, secular science textbooks. It would just be too hard to untangle the stuff in a YEC textbook just to say I used a “Christian” book. I would teach them about atheistic materialism and other worldviews and introduce them to good Christian apologetics. I would teach them the different views Christians have. I would teach them about YEC, Old Earth, theistic evolution,etc. They would understand the reasons people believe what they believe but hopefully they would have a broad enough education that they would not have a crisis of faith over science.

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  14. geochristian

    Jacob — I have taught in three Christian schools, and used secular textbooks in two of them. As you said, it was much easier to deal with problems in the secular textbooks (and there were not that many problems) than to screen out and re-teach the bad stuff from the Christian textbooks.

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  15. Pingback: Parents beware – Christian homeschool publishers increasingly including evolutionary theories | Christians United Against Apostasy

  16. Charles

    Young-earth vs. old earth DOES determine your view on salvation. Old earth assumes there was death and destruction prior to the fall. However, at the end of the sixth day of creation, God said “It was very good” (Genesis 1:31). How can everything be “very good” in God’s eyes, but still have death and destruction before the end of creation. Even if you believe the lie of non-literal creation days, this doesn’t fly. So, what then does this say about the fall, sin, and a need for a savior? For a full explanation, read Chapter 11 of “The New Answers Book 3” by AIG. Understanding creation and the fall and its impact on salvation is critical.

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  17. geochristian

    Charles,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Most young-Earth leaders would disagree with you. People like Ken Ham clearly say that believing in young or old Earth does not determine whether or not one is a Christian. It is faith in Christ, according to the Bible, that makes one a Christian. I’m sure you can find some fringe YEC teachers who teach that what one believes about the age of the Earth determines whether or not one is saved.

    The creation is good. It was good in Genesis 1, and it is still described as good in 1 Tim 4:4, even after the fall. However, the Bible nowhere teaches that there was no animal death before the fall. Take another look at Genesis 3, Romans 5, Romans 8, and 1 Corinthians 15, which are the relevant passages. They relate human death to the fall, but say nothing about animal death.

    As an old-Earth Christian, I believe in Adam’s real fall into sin, in my own sinfulness, and in my complete dependence on the grace of God through Jesus Christ for my salvation.

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  18. Charles

    geochristian, thank you for your reply. I will dig deeper into the scripture references you listed, but I think you are taking some of the scriptures out of context, specifically 1 Tim 4:4. In this verse, Paul was responding to the false teachers’ teaching against marriage and abstaining from certain foods. I just want to clarify that I also do not believe young-Earth belief determines whether or not one is a Christian. I agree with you that it is by grace, through faith in Christ, without works (Ephesians 2:8). I said that it determines your “view” on salvation, mainly the views on sin, death, and redemption.

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  19. Charles

    I would also add that the meaning of the word “good” in 1 Tim 4:4 means “as God made it”. So, it makes sense in terms of the context (1 Tim. 4:1-3), but also it doesn’t mean that it “remains” good after corrupted by man. Regarding the other references, there are reasons why animal death before the fall doesn’t fly with scripture, with two of those being God’s creation of humans and animals originally to be vegetarians (so, humans would not kill animals for food, but supposed old fossils showing animals eating animals) and the idea that sickness that killed animals is caused by disease, etc. that would be inconsistent with God’s creation before the fall.

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  20. Jennifer

    As a Christian homeschooler (whose father is a pastor in the Baptist faith) I have not located a single World History, or Science curriculum that comes anywhere close to aligning with our Christian, old earth belief. I also find no comment here which embraces the idea that God has recreated many times. Yes, I said recreated. He is fully capable after all, without any need of touting His credentials. Evidence of the earth being far, far older than young earth Christians want to believe is truly inarguable. One cannot simply throw science out the window. Anymore than we can argue that it took an extreme intelligence to design the entire world, humans, animals and the heavens in utter unison and perfection. We can take the flood as a perfect example of God wiping the slate clean. You think He hasn’t done this before? Likely over and over again. He isn’t incapable after all. Our Bible is our guide. OUR GUIDE. The information given to us on an “as needed” basis. I describe it as pertinent to US.. and no more. Pertinent to our time on this planet. Beginning with OUR chapter. Needed for OUR Salvation. It begins with “creation”. Or more suffice to say in my opinion.. recreation. Fossils of perfect leaves and animals found massively deep in the earth tell us the earth has been around a very, very long time. Far longer than a mere 6000 years! Were dinosaurs in Eden. No. Wrong chapter. It isn’t evolution, or young earth. One need only open their eyes to the truth that nothing exists without God’s power. He is full authority. He knows what we do not. We have evidential scientific truth and the Word of God. Therein, we are given all we need. Science isn’t evil. It is a fascinating reflection of God’s amazing power. Evolution in itself isn’t evil, but very real definitively, as all things change over time. No species evolves into another. All the shaming from young earth believers is as deplorable as the political arena.

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  21. Charles

    Jennifer, why are you injecting your opinion and assumptions into Scripture? I would recommend you stick to the evidence and not philosophical preconceptions. I would recommend AIG and ICR for excellent materials to answer the questions you may have. I have seen no scientific evidence to refute what the Bible clearly teaches as a young earth view of the world, and that includes evidence from the flood, fossils, distant starlight, etc. The Bible is clear on the meaning of the word “Day” (context is important), sin and the fall (including no death and destruction before the fall), the flood (worldwide and dramatic), among other topics that support an approximately 6,000 year old earth, and are consistent with the scientific evidence. You can see some of my other comments above from 2014. Thanks and God bless.

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  22. Charles:

    There is plenty of evidence that Earth is considerably older than 6000 years, as I have outlined in a number of articles here. I won’t go into the arguments, as you can look for yourself.

    The Hebrew word “yom” (day) is used in at least three ways in Genesis 1:1-2:4. In 1:5 it means “daylight” as opposed to night and in 2:4 yom covers the entire creation period. The rest of the times it is in the “there was evening and morning, the nth day” phrase. A complete Hebrew day was considered to be sunset to sunset, not “evening and morning.” This unusual wording is one reason why many Bible-believing scholars believe Genesis 1 should be classified as being in some genre other than standard historical narrative.

    As I have pointed out elsewhere (just search for death before the fall), and as many others have pointed out, the Bible nowhere teaches that animal death began with Adam’s sin.

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  23. Charles

    geochristian:

    I appreciate this forum and that it is civil, as opposed to many other social media forums today. I will continue reading and learning. At this point, we will probably just have to agree to disagree. For example, my studies on “yom” lead to somewhat different conclusions:

    1. Outside Genesis 1, “yom” is used 359 times, and each time it means an ordinary day.
    2. Outside Genesis 1, “yom” is used with the word “evening” or “morning” 23 times. “Evening” and “morning” appear in association, but without “yom”, 38 times. All 61 times the text refers to an ordinary day.
    3. In Genesis 1:5, “yom” occurs in context with the word “night”. Outside of Genesis 1, “night” is used with “yom” 53 times, and each time it means an ordinary day. “Yom” used with “light”, too, and it means an ordinary day.
    4. The plural “yom” does not appear in Genesis 1. As a plural, it can be used to communicate a longer time period, such as “in those days”.
    5. In Exodus 20:11, a number is used with “days” and refers to six earth-rotation days.
    6. There are other words in Hebrew (“olam” or “qedem”) that are very suitable for communicating long periods of time, or indefinite time, but none of these are used in Genesis 1.

    There are many issues with the Gap and Ruin-Reconstruction theories. AIG (Answers 1) and ICR present excellent arguments. There’s the population growth formula, mutation rate, earth and rock layers (why do they have fossils if it takes them millions of years to form; no erosion ruts), proteins mummified in fossils, but proteins don’t last millions of years, plus many other examples related to the universe (comets, Saturn’s clean rings, spiral galaxies, bright blue stars, etc.).

    Thanks again for this forum.

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  24. DCW

    I’m a new homeschool mom and was searching for Christian curriculum for my 4 children that teaches from an old earth perspective, came across this in my search and am captivated by this conversation. I understand that everyone’s views are shaped by their experiences and what they have been taught and how and when they were taught it so I respect those who do not agree with my views but I was surprised to find that people still believe the young earth views and also how hard it is to find curriculum that teaches creation in any other way. I do have a question (a very simple one) for YEC: we know for a FACT that, say, a Labrador retriever, originated in the 1500s. Before that, there was no such thing as a Labrador retriever and yet now there is. That’s a fact. So that means that God did not create a Labrador retriever in the “seven days of creation”. So, if there is even one single exception to the idea that all of creation was created in seven literal days, then wouldn’t you need to consider the possibility that just maybe there is more to it than that? Labrador retrievers are not the single evolutionary anomaly in all of creation otherwise they would be some sort of “god” themselves, right? If they occurred outside of God’s creative process… So one single exception is enough to at least raise consideration to the fact that maybe evolution has its place somewhere in creation. And if it has its place somewhere in creation, then that is enough to raise consideration that just maybe the YEC view should reconsider some other things as well because like I said, if there is even one exception, then more should be considered. It doesn’t mean you have to just buy in because Labrador retrievers exist now, but maybe just think in broader terms and try to think from the other side. It’s how I process things at least. If I believe one way, then I always try to think in opposite ways and even to disprove my beliefs to find any gaps or errors in my thinking. I just always want to understand the other side of things and not just try to validate my own beliefs. I want to know what it is that compels people to believe things that I don’t believe. Just a thought. This has been a great dialogue to read through and I love how everyone strongly believes what they believe and is still able to argue civilly and respectfully. It’s the only way your views will actually be heard and I enjoyed both sides of things. Thanks!

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  25. Charles

    DCW, I’m not familiar with the history of the Labrador Retriever, but I believe that this particular dog would fall within the “dog kind” (creation) and be the result of “micro” evolution, but not “macro” evolution. Keep in mind that the created world does “adapt” to surroundings, environment, etc., and experience change because of this (e.g., short beak vs. long beak birds), but they don’t change their “kind”. Also, mutations always result in loss of function, never gain (although I know some would disagree), not to mention the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. I would also say that our beliefs should not be driven by our experiences, but maybe that’s not what you meant. Even the Bible says our belief, or faith, is based on “evidence”. I too am glad we can have the conversation, even if we disagree. Blessings.

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