How Answers in Genesis Shattered My Faith in Creationism

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.

Farris: Patriarchy Makes Kids Gays and Atheists

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on June 4, 2014.

If you read my blog, you’re probably aware of the Christian homeschooling subculture’s patriarchy problem. A variety of prominent Christian homeschool leaders have been promoting patriarchal family structures at homeschool conventions and in homeschool publications for well over a decade, and two of those leaders—Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips—have recently fallen, engulfed in scandal. Michael Farris, another prominent Christian homeschool leader, has since come out criticizing these leaders and the “patriarchy” they taught. Now Farris has openly criticized “patriarchy” as part of a keynote address while keynoting at a homeschool convention in Florida.

Here is a clip from Farris’s speech, followed by a transcription. In this section of his speech, Farris speaks of homeschool graduates who grew up in patriarchal homes.

The majority, I think, are walking with God. A significant minority, however, have rejected God entirely. A significant number are way way out there. And the critics that we’re seeing arising from inside the homeschooling movement—from young people in their twenties, mid-twenties mostly are the oldest group that are loudly criticizing homeschooling on the internet and so on and in other venues—were almost all raised in these kinds of homes, almost all, and there is no pretense of christianity in most of their lives. There are open homosexuals involved, there are atheists involved, there are people that utterly reject everything that we believe in and make no pretense about it. And so the idea that people are going to create generational patriarchal legacies, that didn’t work out for them very well. We’re not seeing that. You erect a false view of god for your children, don’t be surprised if they reject god entirely. That ‘s what’s going to happen. So what do we do as a movement first I would suggest that we run as far away from patriarchy and legalism as we can.

Okay, wow. I have been excited about Farris condemning patriarchy because, regardless of his motives, his words may prevent at least some families from going down that toxic rabbit hole. But this? The patriarchy turns kids into gays and atheists? That is why he’s condemning it? Not, oh I don’t know, patriarchal homeschooling hurts people? Farris has read the stories on Homeschoolers Anonymous (or at least is aware of them), but his conclusion is not “patriarchal homeschooling is toxic” but rather “patriarchal homeschooling turns kids into gays and atheists”? For serious? 

Is Farris unaware that this is still formula parenting? Farris is saying homeschool parents should run away from patriarchy because it will turn their children gay and atheist. He’s acting as though you just have to find the right form of parenting and then, viola! Your children will not be gaytheists.

What Farris apparently does not realize is that for many of us our parents’ insistence on us adopting their exact religious beliefs was just as constricting and painful patriarchal aspects of our upbringing, if not more so. My troubles with my parents started not when I rejected patriarchy but rather when I determined that God had used evolution to create the world. Ardent young-earth creationists, my parents all but disowned me. That they could treat me like that, and that they could insist on young-earth creationism in the face of clear scientific evidence, made me realize I needed to think through everything they had taught me, because any bit of it could be wrong. That path didn’t lead straight to atheism, taking me first through some other flavors of Christianity.

If anything “made me” an atheist, it was not my parents’ belief in a patriarchal family structure but rather their insistence on blatantly unscientific beliefs and their decision to value their religion over their children, punishing me emotionally for any step I took away from their party line. But I sincerely doubt we will hear Farris speak out against any of this, because frankly, he’s the one who planted these seeds in my parents in the first place.

Farris told homeschool parents, including my parents, that they were the Moses generation, removing their children from Egypt (the public schools) and educating them in the wilderness of Sinai (homeschooling). We children, Farris said, were the Joshua generation, raised up to take back the promised land of Canaan (aka to “retake America for Christ”). But then some of us, myself included, rebelled against the entire purpose we were being raised for and decided Canaan was just fine the way it was and that slaughtering its inhabitants sounded like a very bad idea. That is what provoked our parents’ backlash against us, as they sought for something to blame for our utter failure. That is why we felt suffocated, as our parents blamed us for falling short of the lofty goals Farris had fed them.

But you know what? I don’t see Farris backtracking on any of that.

For more on Farris’s suggestion that patriarchal homeschooling turns kids gay, I’d point you to Kathryn Elizabeth’s excellent piece on the topic, “We’re Here, We’re Queer (and patriarchy had nothing to do with it).”

But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another problem with Farris’s speech, and that is how he defined “patriarchy.” If Farris were telling his audience that they should give up their belief in male headship and female submission, even if he were saying it to prevent children from turning out as gaytheists, I would be honestly and truly impressed. Why? Because Farris has for years taught that wives must submit to their husbands even if their husbands tell them not to go to church, or not to listen to tapes of sermons at home. Farris rejecting the belief in wifely submission so common to the Christian homeschooling subculture could be game-changing. And his stern rejection of “patriarchy” ought to indicate that he’s doing just that, right? Wrong.

In his speech, Farris stated explicitly that wives are to submit to their husbands. Farris may be oblivious to this fact, but that is patriarchy. Farris made this statement to eschew what he apparently thought was patriarchy—the belief that every woman must submit to every man. But this idea was never taught by anypatriarchal Christian homeschool leaders. Think you that Doug Phillips would have had his daughters submit to the man they walk by in the grocery store? No. In fact, Phillips’ argued that if everyone woman remained in submission to her god-given male authority, he would protect her from the wiles of other men. Similarly, Gothard coined the term “umbrella of authority” and promised his followers that if they submitted to their god-given authority (singular), they would be safe from the storms of this world.

In other words, Farris set up and knocked down a straw patriarchy and endorsed actual patriarchy in a speech ostensibly condemning patriarchy. Can you tell I’m frustrated? This thing writes itself like a comedy sketch.

But by all means, Farris, make the real problem gay and atheist homeschool graduates (hi!), not the actual suffering caused by toxic ideologies. I should point people back to my post on Monday, because this is yet another example of a homeschooling parent making homeschool graduates like myself the problem rather than actually engaging our concerns. In other words, it isn’t that Farris has a problem with the toxic ideas we’re calling out, it’s that he has a problem with our existence.

But you know what? At least we have their attention now.