Young Earth, Young People, and Abandoned Faith

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on July 10, 2013 with the title, “Ken Ham, Young Earth Creationism, Young People Abandoning Their Faith: My Daughter’s Story.”

This story pains me.  It’s a personal one.

Parenting is very challenging. Homeschooling children has also been a challenge. When we began homeschooling our children, we chose to do so for a number of reasons.  We wanted to have better oversight over the curricula our children were taught because we wanted to give them a solid Christian foundation.

As typical Christian parents, we did not want them to have “worldly” influences. We got support at homeschool conventions, conferences. I spent time on the internet in e-mail groups, message boards, etc, and got support and information there. In the Christian homeschooling arena, Creationism was taught in the science curricula. Evolution was labeled as evil and we needed to protect our children from those false ideas.

Ken Ham spoke on the homeschooling circuit and we went to his seminars.  Others echoed his ideas and if you were a Christian homeschooler, you very likely taught your children Young Earth Creationism (YEC), as this was the primary science taught in the available Christian homeschooling texts – at least that I saw in my circles.

Science has never been my “thang.”  I don’t need to know the process of how we got here. The Bible told me how we got here.  I believed what it said and that settled the issue for me.   I didn’t need to discuss it further.

My husband, however, is an engineer.  He is very interested in knowing the process of things. I can’t imagine him not wanting to know how things work.  Engineers live and breathe processes.

Teaching creationism was a perfect fit for my husband.  He took the kids to creationism seminars over the years, bought quite a few creationist books about dinosaurs and the origins of the earth, and the kids soaked it up.  I found our eldest daughter devouring the books just for fun. She was sold. It was a foundational issue for faith, just like Ken Ham always said.

Here is a quotation by Ken Ham to students at Bob Jones University:

 “The majority of Christian colleges in this nation won’t take a stand on a literal Genesis, as you do here at Bob Jones University,” he said. And that compromise, according to Mr. Ham, is the very reason that some Christian young people are abandoning their faith. He said, “We have increasing numbers of people who have been led to doubt the history in the Bible, and so they don’t believe the Gospel based on that history.”

A couple of months ago, my older kids and I were at a restaurant and Hannah, 26 yrs old, shared with me a pivotal experience.  I hadn’t heard this story before.  Remember, science bores me.  When she talked this time about science, I was not bored.  I listened with great sadness and also understanding.  It made sense to me.  I asked Hannah if she would share her story here and she agreed.

I do not agree with Ken Ham anymore.  I hope my daughter’s story will open your eyes to another side of the story which Mr. Ham would not dare to admit.  His intentions may be good in holding so strongly to the YEC teachings, but we cannot dismiss that his ministry and possibly livelihood depend upon it.

I don’t care if people believe in Young Earth Creation or not.  To me, it is not a salvation issue or gospel issue.  But the YEC-only way of believing did not work for my daughter, it backfired. I think it’s important to take a closer look at this issue.  Hannah’s story follows.

*****

My Experience with Young Earth Creationism

by Hannah Smith

While on a break between classes at the local community college, a previous homeschooled friend I knew from church and I were sitting at a table chatting in the main lobby. I honestly have no idea how the subject came up, but we were talking about YEC and evidences for it. I was trying to explain Carbon-14 dating (it’s not the easiest thing to break down off-the-cuff, but I was pretty sure I knew the very basic fundamentals of it in order to have it make sense to her.

As I was trying to explain it, one of my classmates overheard our conversation and came over and joined the conversation. He very efficiently sliced-and-diced my YEC “points” and “evidence”, but since I felt I hadn’t brushed up on the subject in a year or two, I’d investigate it more in the light of the contradictions he’d brought to surface. I wanted to see if I could do more in-depth research on the topic and figure out if and how much of what he was saying could be verified and where the disconnect between our two viewpoints occurred.

So after I went home, I dug up our trusty creationism-is-true-sort-of books commonly found in good Bible-Believing Homeschooling YEC family’s libraries. After reading the articles and chapters, I did what my father always said to do and “checked the source” – probably more to see if there were books completely dedicated to the topic of Carbon-14 dating that I could look up in the local library.

Flipping to the end of the book with the citations I was shocked that pretty much all of the sources for their proof was from other Christian YEC-believing books. So I quickly determined that they were just quoting what other people who believed similarly where saying, rather than going to scientific journals and scholarly articles written by secular authors and scientists. For example, take a look at the following excerpt taken from an article at Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis site (Doesn’t Carbon Dating Disprove the Bible?):

In 1997 an eight-year research project was started to investigate the age of the earth. The group was called the RATE group (Radioisotopes and the Age of The Earth). The team of scientists included:

    • Larry Vardiman, PhD Atmospheric Science
    • Russell Humphreys, PhD Physics
    • Eugene Chaffin, PhD Physics
    • John Baumgardner, PhD Geophysics
    • Donald DeYoung, PhD Physics
    • Steven Austin, PhD Geology
    • Andrew Snelling, PhD Geology
    • Steven Boyd, PhD Hebraic and Cognate Studies

That looks very impressive – every single person, a PhD. But they probably all have a vested interest in this – 3 of those 8 people have written books advocating YEC and you can find that information one simple mouse-click away from the article.

Look at the sources quoted at the end of the article – they go back to other Christian Scientists with published books on the subject (the scientists above) – unless they are quoting the opposing viewpoints for comparison.

I found this info out in about 1 minute while I was writing the first paragraph above, about the same amount of time it took me five and half years ago, when this originally occurred. This kind of circular reasoning raised (and honestly still raises) major red-flags for me from a logical and scientific standpoint. If they can’t find outside sources, how does them quoting from their friends make it true?

This was the starting point of me doubting my faith. I never recovered from it.