CC image courtesy of Flickr, Tim Evanson.
Editorial note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog, Love, Joy, Feminism. It was originally published on February 17, 2016.
Earlier today, Answers in Genesis posted an article titled There Is Hope for Atheists! In this article, Ken Ham writes about witnessing to atheists. He explains that when he reads the “blasphemous and vitriolic” comments of atheists he understands that most of them have never heard sound apologetics arguments.
At Answers in Genesis, through our resources, conferences, and other outreaches, we do our best to defend the Christian faith using apologetics against the secular attacks of our day. But in doing so, we need to also point people to the truth of God’s Word and challenge them concerning the saving gospel. We use apologetics to answer questions and direct people to God’s Word and its message of salvation.
There’s no greater thrill in this ministry than to hear how God has used what has been taught by AiG to touch someone’s life—for eternity. Last week, I was introduced to one of our new volunteers, Donna, who is helping sew some of the costumes for the figures that will be placed inside our full-size Ark. She had responded to my Facebook post asking for seamstresses.
I discovered that she became a Christian in 1993 after attending one of my seminars (called “Back to Genesis” with the Institute for Creation Research ministry) at Cedarville University in Ohio. The Bible-upholding seminar was such an eye-opener to her about the reliability of the Bible that she became a Christian.
We asked if she would share her testimony.
Donna begins her testimony as follows:
The Lord opened up this atheistic evolutionist’s eyes decades ago, through exposure to Ken’s ministry.
I was a die-hard evolutionist, completely convinced that the fossil finds in Olduvai Gorge supported the “evidence” that we evolved from less-complicated, early hominid creatures, like the so-called “Lucy”.
To keep a long story short: I attended a Creation Seminar at Cedarville College [now Cedarville University], sat in rapt attention as Ken Ham told me “the rest of the story,” and I realized that all of the fossil finds I believed supported evolution were, in all cases, misinterpreted. I was blown away! So, learning the truth about evolution preceded my realizing that God was real (after all!) and that the Bible was His Word. I became a creationist before I became a believer in Christ.
Ken Ham goes on to write that atheists are “walking dead people” and that he likes to remember, when witnessing to atheists, that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and that even so God’s Word can convert atheists. He finishes with this:
If the Lord has used AiG, including our Creation Museum, in your life to bring you to salvation, would you please let me know? Thank you.
So, here’s the problem. I actually credit an Answers in Genesis conference with letting the air out of the last of my young earth creationism. Yes, that’s right, in a sense you could argue that an Answers in Genesis conference led me to give up my creationism.
I was in college. It was there that I first truly came into contact with individuals who accepted evolution. The only time before this that I’d engaged a defender of evolution in debate was the time I was stuck in a car with my aunt for ten straight hours, and I’m pretty sure she was humoring me. I grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family. I read creationist literature from my church library starting when I was very young. I attended Answers in Genesis conferences as a teen and bought Answers in Genesis literature at homeschool conventions with my own money. I knew my stuff.
The problem was that when I was in college I came in contact with individuals who deconstructed my arguments without any trouble.
It was uncanny. I returned time and again to my creationist literature—the Answers in Genesis website received a lot of traffic from me during those months—and came back with new arguments and information to throw at my opponents, only to have those arguments soundly deconstructed as well.
There was one young man in particular—Sean. I later married him, as my regular readers will know. Sean and I spent hours debating the fine points of creationism and evolution. Sean had been a creationist himself some years before, but high school—and arguing on the internet—had changed his mind. But even as he pointed out flaws in every argument I could come up with, I had hope. I had an incredible amount of respect for Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis, and I was sure that if I could just get Sean to an Answers in Genesis conference that would do the trick. You may imagine my excitement when I learned that an Answers in Genesis conference was coming to a church in our area! Sean agreed to come, and I was sure our arguments were coming to an end.
That conference was an utter failure for me on more fronts than I’d realized going in. For one thing, Sean was unconvinced—and it wasn’t because he wasn’t listening, he was. But the real problem was that I was unconvinced. I hadn’t realized that hours of listening to Sean deconstruct creationist arguments would change the way those same arguments sounded to me when I heard going forward, but it did. I sat there in that church sanctuary with an instant rebuttal springing to mind for each point the speaker made, and I knew some of what he said was simply factually false.
I spent some time perusing the creationist literature they had for sale at the conference and kept running into the same problem—I knew rebuttals to everything I saw printed there.
I realized with growing horror that much of the material there was either flat-out lying or skillfully misleading people.
As we drove away from the church, I was quiet—shaken. I had seen this conference as a way of finally convincing Sean that I’d been right while at the same time reinvigorating my own beliefs, and it had failed on both accounts. Not only did this conference not give me new arguments and rebuttals, it shattered my trust in Answers in Genesis in particular and creationist literature more widely.
I spent a few weeks reading and researching, looking beyond Answers in Genesis’ materials to wider scientific resources. Answers in Genesis may have shattered my faith in creationism, but I still had a few questions about evolution that needed answering. After several weeks of study, I was satisfied. I left aside young earth creationism for good and became a theistic evolutionist. It was difficult, at first, because I was afraid my entire faith would fall apart after accepting evolution. After all, I’d heard Ken Ham repeat time and again that Genesis was the foundation of the Bible, and that without Genesis, the gospel story would collapse.
I’m no longer a Christian today, but evolution isn’t to blame there, strictly speaking. I spent some years as a progressive Christian, and even converted to Catholicism. I loved Catholicism’s embrace of the natural world and science, and its willingness to accept historical scholarship on the Bible. It was ultimately the fallout from a near-cult experience that led my faith to collapse. but in a sense, it was the collapse of my faith in young earth creationism that made me willing to see the beliefs I’d been taught as fallible, and open to asking questions.
I can’t speak for Donna, whose testimony is quite above—her journey is her own. Still, I find Ken Ham’s request to hear from his readers about the way “the Lord has used AiG . . . in your life to bring you salvation” highly ironic given my own experience.
Speaking as a professional scientist who is also a Christian, young earth creationism is just plain silly—and the Christian faith does not collapse without the two Genesis creation stories. It hangs together quite well without them. The place where people get into trouble with Genesis is when they read the Bible literally and choose to think it is an inerrant science textbook—something God never intended for it to be. The two creation stories in the Bible never happened because they are at odds with whole libraries full of solid scientific information to the contrary.
Personally, I have concluded that the two creation stories in Genesis are parables. You will recall from the New Testament that telling parables was one of the preferred methods Jesus used in teaching. Parables are “made up” stories designed to teach major spiritual points that God wishes to get across to humans. Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals deny the right of God to tell parables in Genesis. God is telling his parables there, but they will have none of this behavior from an insolent God that would dare to question their fundie wisdom while they sit in God’s rightful position on his throne. As the Genesis parable makes clear, the original sin of Eve was the desire in her heart to become God through her own actions. When a fundie like Ken Ham denies God the right to tell his parables in the Old Testament, he is sitting on God’s throne by doing it and committing the most grievous of all original sins.
Creation science and intelligent design are utter nonsense, and I have long taken the position that fundies who cling to this deluded nonsense are the biggest “atheist/agnostic” makers on planet Earth.
Please feel free to visit my Christian blog at the following link:
Isn’t the whole concept of Christianiy at odds with science? Jesus is God but he’s also human, he was born to virgin(!), he died, but he’s alive now, but no one can see him. Not to mention that Christians believe in a Trinity but somehow they aren’t polytheists. I don’t see how someone can accept some of it but not other parts, when it’s all equally improbable.
Not all Christians accept the Trinity of Persons. My own (Swedenborgian) denomination considers that doctrine to be the fundamental error upon which all of the other doctrinal errors of traditional Christian doctrine are based. And yes, we see it as basically a quasi-Christian version of polytheism. Oneness Pentecostals also reject the Trinity of Persons.
For a different view of what Father, Son, and Holy Spirit mean, see my article: a href=”http://leewoof.org/2012/09/17/who-is-god-who-is-jesus-christ-what-about-that-holy-spirit/”>Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?
In general, attempts to read the Bible in a highly literal fashion lead to major conflicts not only with known science and history, but also among various statements made within the Bible itself. Christian fundamentalists have come up with many ingenious arguments attempting to resolve those conflicts and contradictions, but none of them are convincing to anyone other than the fundamentalists themselves.
The reality is that the Bible is full of parables and symbolic language. Insisting upon a literal reading of everything that can possibly be read literally is contrary to the overall character of the Bible itself. And such a reading is relatively recent in Christian history. It is, in fact, a reaction to the scientific revolution of the last few centuries.
Before the modern era, it was generally assumed throughout Christian history that the Bible has deeper meanings. The Creation story, in particular, was interpreted by many Christian theologians to be about the spiritual development of humankind rather than about the physical act of creation.
Tho I’m not a Xian, I love dover1952’s comment above (especially his characterization of creationists), and agree with all or most of it.
«Isn’t the whole concept of Christiani[t]y at odds with science?» I don’t see how. My unbelief has little, if anything, to do with science per se.
Hi Dover1952. Quick questions just for clarity …
You said, “The place where people get into trouble with Genesis is when they read the Bible literally and choose to think it is an inerrant science textbook—something God never intended for it to be.”
My question is: What was God’s intent?
You said: “Personally, I have concluded that the two creation stories in Genesis are parables.”
My question: Why didn’t God use that opportunity to tell humanity the truth about how he created everything?
I grew up down South in Tennessee, so just for fun right now, I will respond the way some of my fellow Tennesseans:
“Because he didn’t won’t to?”
But seriously, I gotta go pick my son up at basketball after school. I will get back to you after that. Love your blog and plan to follow—but not to reconvert you. Think on thisfor a moment:
Batman – Lord of the Night
Robin – The Boy Wonder
Marco Rubio- The Boy President
Somehow, I just can’t go there, and while I love James Madison, I don’t think we need another President that short. How’s that for shallow?
BAhahahaaa! We say “wont to” too! And “necked”. :o)
Well Ms. Way. I always looked at it like this:
Joe: Would you like to go to the mall with me?
Jill: No. I don’t won’t to. I have to mower the lawn.
Whenever you “don’t” a “won’t,” the first negation cancels out the second negation, which equals a “Yes, I do.”
It would appear, Mr Dover1952, that you are pretty good at math!
Well, as a Fundamentalist Evangelical Christian: I agree mostly with you.
Yes: We’re not all alike. Try and not lump us together as such, okay?
Not okay. Read the article:
Pass. I agree with your sentiments here regarding the creation Story. Take care! 🙂
As a Christian myself, this man’s efforts really, really irritate me. My conviction is that I should quietly witness for Christ via the actions and words in my life … Ken Ham seriously tests that quietness by making me want to scream at him “STOP THIS!!!”
I believe this is called a “strawman argument”? Because none of this applies to me, yet you are acting as if it does.
And why would I visit your blog?!
Thank you. That was lovely. No one can really understand your journey unless they’ve been on a similar one – but I admire your courage to ask the real questions and to face whatever answers you meet. “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
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