Pastors Unconvinced … Now What? (RJS)

The question of Adam and Eve has come up often in the discussion of the relationship between science and faith. While it has no impact for the unbeliever from the science side of the question, it is a serious issue from the Christian side of the question. We’ve discussed it at length through C. John Collins’s recent book, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care, and will return to the question once I get a copy of Pete Enns’s book, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, published just this month.

On this general topic there is a recent poll by LifeWay Research, brought to my attention by a reader. (HT DA) It is worth some discussion here.

Poll: Pastors oppose evolution, split on earth’s age (and another version of the article here.)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — Pastors overwhelmingly believe that God did not use evolution to create humans and think Adam and Eve were literal people, according to a survey by LifeWay Research.

The survey of 1,000 American Protestant pastors, released Jan. 9, also found that ministers are almost evenly split on whether the earth is thousands of years old.

“Recently discussions have pointed to doubts about a literal Adam and Eve, the age of the earth and other origin issues,” said Ed Stetzer, vice president of research and ministry development for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. “But Protestant pastors are overwhelmingly creationists and believe in a literal Adam and Eve.”

Most pastors both believe Adam and Eve were literal people and doubt that God used evolution to create people.

Do any of these findings surprise you?

Most of the findings in the LifeWay poll are unsurprising. The overall results on the evolution of humans and on Adam and Eve are not much different than I expected. Nor is it surprising that that pastors in the Northeast are most likely to strongly agree that God used evolution to create humans (25%) but pastors in the South are least likely to strongly agree (8%), or that education plays a role, with more highly educated pastors somewhat more favorable to an old earth and evolution in general.

Others results are more surprising – like the link between age and conviction on the age of the earth. The negative construction here is a bit confusing – but younger pastors are more likely to accept a young earth.

I must admit that this last one both surprised me and concerns me. Pastors are split on the age of the earth with about 43% disagreeing that the earth is 6000 years old, 46 % agreeing that it is 600o years old and 12% unsure. However, the age distribution suggests that the protestant church is moving toward the young earth position rather than away from it.

As a Christian and a scientist, this does not seem to me a trend that bodes well for the future.

What do you think? Is this a real trend?

If so, why do you think this trend exists?

What can or should be done about it?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]

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  • DRT

    Please help me if this sounds too harsh, but it seems to me that the primary reason for believing the earth is young is because someone is, more or less, brainwashed into thinking so and as one gets older one gets less susceptible to such things.

  • Krister S

    I don’t see a trend, based on Age of the Earth chart, that the churches are moving toward young earth creationism. I suspect what we are seeing here is a tendency for Protestants to move towards an “old earth” view as their views of God and his revelation in the Bible mature. That is, as they grow older. Just like I did and many of us who comment on Jesus Creed. My question would be, how many of these pastors will “come out of the closet” and teach their flocks as their views progress?

  • Rick

    Krister S #2-

    “I suspect what we are seeing here is a tendency for Protestants to move towards an “old earth” view as their views of God and his revelation in the Bible mature.”

    I hold to an old earth, but saying they are immature is not helpful language for dialogue, nor is it necessarily accurate.

    That being said, you question is an interesting one, and not just about this issue. I would be interested to see a poll on what pastors do when their views change about certain high profile issues/beliefs.

  • Paul

    The inability to see multiple options for creation as aligning with the Christian faith could be part of the problem. As seminaries & Christian colleges “take a stand” on this issue then you would expect younger pastors to be taught YEC as the most faithful belief.

  • Jason Lee

    If this is a sample of Protestant pastors that is a mixture of denominations, then the data seem exactly right. Mainline Prot churches are in decline and will have older clergy (on average). Conservative Prot churches are holding their own or in some cases growing; they will have younger clergy (on average). The current state of affairs in the US is that more liberal (and moderate) churches are dying out. What’s left are more strongly conservative ones. It’s a hollowing out of the middle.

  • Jason Lee

    As far as the future, it may well be that the current conservative churches (eg, SBC) will become the new Mainline as their members and clergy become more educated. Thus, YEC may shrink as a proportion of what pastors espouse. In other words, these things may go in cycles.

  • Anna

    I’d be interested to see:

    1) How they worded the questions

    2) How they coded and analyzed the responses

    I once answered a survey where the questions set evolution and God’s creation in opposition as accounts of origins. However, I think God creates through evolution. So I would have been categorized as a ‘creationist’ if I answered that God created and I would have been categorized as someone who believes God had nothing to do with the process if I answered for evolution.

    Question wording and data analysis is everything when it comes to survey research.

  • Very much agree with Anna#7 here. I’m suspicious of the methodology (especially with the negative construction RJS points out. I wouldn’t put much stock in this, given we don’t know how random the sample is, either.

  • RJS


    Lifeway surveyed a thousand pastors from a distribution of denominations. The sample of 1000 is small enough that some of the comparisons between groups may be inaccurate because the subgroups were too small.

    Another interesting comparison was size of church vs. the position of the pastor. Pastors of large churches end to be more conservative. This isn’t unsurprising for a variety of reasons.

  • RJS


    The full details are not in the article I linked, but a fair amount of this information is there, either in the article or in the material available for download. The form of the question is certainly important.

  • Bill

    Yes, I’d like to see more research date as well on this study. Are more conservatively raised young people more likely than ever to enter the ministry? Are fewer ‘liberal’ educated men and women entering the ministry? Has there been an increase in the number of ‘conservative’ seminaries? Personally, and I’ll admit up front that I’m from the North East, one would need to have grown up in a ‘cradle to the grave’ conservative ‘bubble’ to believe in a young earth.

  • By Protestant, do the pollsters focus primarily on Evangelical clergy or clergy across the board. I would expect that most mainline clergy would not be in this camp.

  • George

    The age of the earth response is interesting. I wonder if it might be evidence of the idea that the that more the “science” gets discussed, the less convincing it is. The older generation grew up in a time where the scientific end was pretty much one-sided from the evolutionary side. The young earth side was just saying “Believe it.”

    Now those assumptions and resulting assertions are being challenged across the board with solid science, and the age of the earth is not nearly so convincing in the face of counterarguments. In addition, the old “we don’t know yet” line from the evolutionary side is being countered by evidence that they have not considered or at least have not been forthright about. The evolutionary line has become “Just believe it” and the creationist line has become “Let’s look at the evidence.”

    In the age of the internet, people are less likely to accept the word of the so-called experts, when they find out so many other knowledgeable people present another side. So the explosion of the internet, and the corresponding failure of the “science” community to provide convincing responses has led to a time when more and more and questioning the “scientific consensus” precisely because it lacks the virtues of science.

  • The more I learn about the Bible, and about science, the less I trust science and the more I trust the Bible. If that is the trend in the church today, praise God!

  • EricW

    With the way technology and science and medicine are proceeding, largely based on an evolutionary understanding of genetics and biology, will this even be a question in 50 years? I.e., will a sizable number of pastors be able to make a serious case against evolution without being ignored or laughed out of the room or the pulpit?

  • Bill

    Rather outrageous ‘cultic’ notions have a peculiar ‘staying power’ that defies reason – as is clearly witnessed even in our Western countries even among otherwise well educated folks. I suspect the ‘ridiculous’ will remain rather mainstream for the duration.

  • Remember when Copernicus and Galileo tried to foist that liberal heliocentrism nonsense on us? That would have undermined the Bible and the Christian faith. Good thing the pastors didn’t fall for that!

  • James

    Here’s a question. Many of the older ministers are old-line denominational pastors, and many of those are more open to old-earth/evolution ideas as a body. Most younger pastors are evangelicals. Would that not have a quite an impact on the graphs?

    I was surprised by it, too, but I think this just might have something to do with it.

  • Jon Altman

    I am a 52 year old United Methodist pastor who believes that evolution is God’s way of creating and that the earth is billions of years old. Lifeway did not “survey” me. I have no idea of they surveyed anyone like me.

    That said, I began life as a Southern Baptist. When I began college in 1977, I was influenced by a school of evangelical thought (from the Intervarsity movement) that said Christians needed to “engage” the university/intellectual culture. The formal term for this is “apologetics.” That meant at least taking seriously what scholars said, understanding on what basis truth claims are made and responding with respect. The result of this engagement, in my case, led me away from the dogmatism of my original faith group.
    My impression is that “evangelicals” (at least the fundamentalist wing) no longer see any need for such “engagement,” or for serious involvement in the discipline of “apologetics.” Instead, “political organizing” to outvote the “liberals” is the order of the day. This began in the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979 and continues through to the current day in both church and society (including in the Republican party). The aim is no longer to persuade or engage-just to “win.”

    The price of that will be, I think, to have the church be engaged only in a conversation with itself. The real “Good News” of the Christian gospel (which has nothing to do with the age of the earth and the historicity of “Adam” and “Eve”) will then not be heard.

  • Taylor

    I’ll throw out an alternate theory as a relatively young person, who wouldn’t consider myself to be brainwashed.

    I’m not opposed to an old earth. I’m somewhat dubious of Darwinian Evolution as the means of creation by a God whose entire revelation to man outside of nature speaks to a character that empowers the weak, and uses the things that aren’t the fittest or have the most potential in earthly terms. It seems to pit His creative nature against His redemptive nature. I’m entirely unable to agree with a metaphorical Adam (or, more accurately, a metaphorical Fall). No cataclysmic, fall from grace leaves us with options that don’t fit the story. Did God created us flawed? I have not need for a God as prone to error as that. Did generic man reject Him over a period of time God as the rest of creation stayed the same? Then my gospel is purely soterian, because the rest of the earth is more or less as it was always intended to be. Creation doesn’t groan. And what exactly would a new heavens and earth look like anyway? Why expect a miracle the next go around if it’s out of the question that one happened the first time?

    At this point, I’m forced to think outside the box about either orthodoxy or science regarding Adam. I’ll take my chances with science. And since it isn’t particularly helpful to adopt a theistic evolutionary view and then reject the data on human DNA, why bother believing that either?

    It’s easy to say that those of us who choose to accept a Young Earth understanding of origins are brainwashed or ignorant. But it’s neither helpful, or entirely accurate. Something can be possible yet scientifically improbable.

  • Fish

    I was on an online dating site and one or two of the questions were actually about belief in evolution vs creationism. Obviously it’s an important indicator of compatibility.

    It would be difficult for me to have a relationship with someone who took Genesis to be literal, but on the other hand I might be able to use that OT-literalness to show her that I ought to have multiple wives, lol.

  • Matt

    In the North American evangelical culture, where celebrity-pastors are treated and perhaps are convinced themselves that they are biblical scholars (!) – not to mention the theological boys’ club atmosphere – is this really surprising? I think a question that needs solid answers is how do real biblical scholars and scientists, who are not arrogant, but firm yet gentle in their approach, make their conclusions and proposals accessible and attractive to pastors. What you do here, RJS, is fantastic, but we need a wider scope and influence.

  • Rick

    Taylor #20-

    “I’m forced to think outside the box about either orthodoxy or science regarding Adam.”

    Although there may be interesting theological questions that come up, what would cause you to go outside “orthodoxy” in regards to Adam? Historic orthodoxy is not very specific when it comes to Adam.

    Fish #21-

    That’s pretty funny.

    You also said,

    “It would be difficult for me to have a relationship with someone who took Genesis to be literal”

    I wonder if that when it is phrased like that, it causes many to be suspicious. It sounds like you are saying “literal v. not trustworthy”, rather than questions about “genre”. I am just trying to see what keeps some at arms length from taking certain positions (old earth, evolution, etc…).

  • Kevin Glenn

    Great discussion. I think a big snag occurs when attempts are made to read Genesis and other creation accounts (yes there are several throughout scripture) as scientific texts rather than the artistic and exquisite narratives they are.

    Another snag is the fear factor used by many young earth Creationists, “if you don’t believe in a literal seven day creation account then you do not believe the Bible at all”, my paraphrase of the general belief. But to quote David Platt when asked about a literal seven day creation during the first Elephant Room conference, “it’s a Gospel issue”.


    Great resources on these issues are:
    The Lost World of Genesis One – John Walton
    Seven Days that Divide the World – John Lennox
    In the Beginning, God – Marva Dawn
    Genesis: A Translation and Commentary – Robert Alter
    Creation, Science and the Bible – Richard Carlson and Tremper Longman

  • Fish

    Good point, Rick. It could have been worded better to get at how we all believe Genesis to be truth.

  • Ben

    I wonder if Catholics were included in the study. I don’t see anything in LifeWay’s story to indicate they were. If not, I wonder what difference (if any) it would have made to the results.

    Re. the % of younger Christians who embrace YEC…could this be related to homeschooling’s rise in popularity over the last few decades? I don’t want to draw too many conclusions from my own personal experience, but I was homeschooled for several years. And the science curriculum I had practically made YEC a litmus test for orthodoxy.

    That said, I don’t know how many younger pastors have come out of a similar context.

  • phil_style

    @ Joey Elliot:
    “The more I learn about the Bible, and about science, the less I trust science and the more I trust the Bible”

    This statement is so full of assumptions about both science and the bible that I don’t know what you’re even saying here.
    The Bible “says” (or at least it reports) that boats float on/in water. Science also “says” that boats float on/in water. If you had not read the Bible, but learned that from science would you not believe that boats float on water?

  • Amos Paul

    @17 Brian,

    Remember when Copernicus and Galileo tried to foist that liberal heliocentrism nonsense on us?”

    Copernicus was acceptable hospitably. Galileo’s dispute was more of a vendetta between him and the pope than it was whether or not the church should actually consider helicentrism. Copernicus is a much better example of presenting science.

  • Scot, I love this blog. That is all.

  • I blogged my views on creation and evolution recently.

    Here’s the gist:

    I accept the conclusions of modern science regarding the general age of the earth and the universe, understanding that these conclusions are subject to further research and review. I also accept the account of Scripture that there is a God who created all things, brought order to chaos and called it “good.” This universe is His temple and in the age yet to come He will be known to inhabit it fully. New Heavens, New Earth.

    I’m troubled at the thought of young earth creationism becoming the norm for evangelical churches, but have hope that we’re just in a shift where evangelicalism as we know it is shrinking and a new evangelicalism is being born.

  • a

    how did they obtain their sample? that would likely explain a lot of the results.

  • Jerry

    Do the findings surprise me? No. Sadden me? Yes. I am a former “young earth creationist” who used to engage in the apologetics of evolution v. creation. The science, true science, didn’t support young earth creationism and I became a theistic evolutionist (I still accept the first article of the creed).
    Nevertheless, I don’t talk about this much in my congregation (I am an ordained minister) because the people would look at me as if I’m some kind of heretic. I know many churches where I would get neither a hearing or hired if I revealed my views on creation/evolution.

  • Taylor

    Rick #21,

    I’m less attached to Adam than the ramifications of no Adam, if that makes sense. How do the doctrines included in Fall, Redemption, and Restoration work without an initial sinner? I’m tired of all the focus on how Paul believed in Adam so he must have been real. The deeper question is what happened instead?

  • John W Frye

    I affirm Matt’s comments (#22) and also give a hearty thanks to you RJS for giving all pastors who visit Jesus Creed a place to learn, respond, and be challenged. I think the sample is way too small (1000 pastors) and I am not sure I trust the (alleged) denominational diversity.

    In the evangelical (fundamentalist) realm (USA), the tie of secondary issues to primary issues presents a real problem to serious curiosity about and pursuit of other views than those deemed to be 100% bomb-proof. Evangelicals tie too much extraneous stuff to “the Gospel” (if God didn’t create the universe in 6 24 hour days then Jesus didn’t rise from the dead) or its tied to “a legitimate view and use of the Bible (and, for some, to inerrancy)”.

    Knowing the polarizing effects of this topic, curious and growing pastors (age does not have to be a factor here) are skittish about flying their flag on the issue. Why? Pastorally, it is the real tension between (one’s view of) truth (about human origins) and the unity of the body of Christ. Many pastors don’t think it’s worth the fight about YEC or God’s use of evolutionary processes. I am so saddened by those (more conservative/ fundamentalistic) who want to make this ‘fighting’ stuff at the same level of the deity of Jesus, his atoning work and his bodily resurrection. We lose the opportunity for beneficial conversation. So, when we fight among ourselves, the unconverted rightly conclude, “Who needs that? We’ve got enough of that already in our lives.”

  • Jason Lee

    Yes, the fact that YEC pastors were more likely to be in bigger congregations fits the story I mentioned. Conservative Prot pastors (who are less educated, younger, and come from a YEC subculture) are more likely to be in (numerically) stronger churches. Mainline Prot-type pastors are in shrinking denominations (and churches), are older, are more educated, and do not come from as strong of a YEC subculture.

    This is a simple story, which the data seem to support. I don’t know that we can try to extrapolate more from it than that.

  • Dr. Paul Copan recently wrote a blog with this subject in mind. I believe it is very relevant:


    Roger Sharp
    Confident Christianity Apologetics Ministry
    Houston, Texas

  • Kevin in #24 said: “Another snag is the fear factor used by many young earth Creationists, “if you don’t believe in a literal seven day creation account then you do not believe the Bible at all””

    Kevin, as a counselor to pastors, I do believe fear may be at the core of their struggle with the Old Earth/Young Earth discussion. But I don’t think it is a simple fear-based problem. It is a little more complex than that.

    In seminary, I took a course in Emerging Theologies from Dr. Carl F. H. Henry. In that course, he gave us a unique perspective on his friend Karl Barth. Barth is considered Orthodox by liberals and liberal by Conservatives. In some ways, he is a hybrid. He grew up with an understanding of the Bible that takes more liberties with interpretation of genre than a conservative could ever live with. But Dr. Henry told us of a conversation he had with Dr. Barth on the authority of the Scriptures. This is what Dr. Barth said: “For those of us who preach, we cannot stand in the pulpit endlessly doubting and questioning the veracity, authorship and authority of individual Scriptures. That will not preach.”

    Similarly, for today’s conservative pastor, calling the Genesis accounts mythological, allegorical or a story-board version of the facts is the beginning of the slippery slope away from the Authority of Scripture. If one story from the Bible is questionable, how can we not examine every one of them that way? I personally know that most conservative pastors, when they think about the historicity of the Genesis Origins, have their personal doubts. But they store these away (even from themselves) because they know if the doubts take over, they will strip away a lot of the authority of the Bible.

    If you don’t think that is a real scenario (the slippery slope) look at the life of Charles Templeton and see his journey. It was the reality of Evolution that led him away from preaching. Once he stopped preaching, he questioned everything about his Christian faith. Once that happened, this man, who counted Billy Graham as one of his students, gave up on following Christ entirely.

    I think this is what many conservative pastors fear: That opening the door to a mythical explanation of Creation and Adam is going too far – no matter what the facts seem to say.

  • @phil_style

    I was speaking from personal experience that my study of the text of Genesis, and the entire Bible, next to my study of scientific theories such as radioactive dating of fossils, pseudogenes, genetic similarity between different species, etc., has resulted in my trust in the authority and accuracy of the Bible, even as early as Genesis 1, to be increasing all the time. In fact, in many cases, I have looked at these scientific issues by themselves, without even comparing to Scripture, and have come away unconvinced by many widely held scientific “facts”. I have looked pretty deep, and am yet to find any scientific thought that conclusively contradicts the truth of Scripture. Conclusively. I am dead serious about that.

    That is just my experience, and I am no scholar. However, I am not afraid of being laughed at in 50 years, as one commenter assumed. Perhaps, this research shows that many pastors share my experience and willingness to defend Scripture where science, and cultural winds, seem to contradict it. Praise God for that!

    I have not yet spent much time with boats, and don’t completey understand your question, but if Scripture and science seem to be saying the same thing, it appears to be an irrelevant hypothetical for this discussion.

  • Ron Spross

    I don’t understand George (#13) and Joey Elliott (#14). George: “I wonder if it might be evidence of the idea that the that more the “science” gets discussed, the less convincing it is. … Now those assumptions and resulting assertions are being challenged across the board with solid science, and the age of the earth is not nearly so convincing in the face of counterarguments.”

    If that first statement were true then wouldn’t one then expect that the people who discuss science the most (erm, that would be the scientists?) would be the ones who are MOST uncertain about the age of the earth? Or, say about, global warming? But in fact the opposite is the case on both counts, as checking in with the American Geophysical Union, the American Physical Society, or the National Academy of Science would show.

    I have an alternative suggestion: there is a lot of “science” out there on the aforementioned topics that is bogus, but you hear/see it on the internet and on tv as if it were as legitimate as the “real” science (particularly those channels, left and right, that have a political, religious or economic agenda to push). The media present various points of view on a scientific subject as equally valid (post modernism wins after all), as if the position of American Physical Society on, say, global warming, should carry no more weight than the position of the American Enterprise Insitute or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The public, in its turn, has been told, and believes to a distressingly high degree, that people with PhDs in physics or chemistry don’t have any more to bring to the table on scientific topics than, say, George Will or Rick Warren. Public knowledge of basic science is often insufficient to be able to sort out the true from the dross, by another method than argument from authority.

    I teach physics, and one of the things I do occasionally is show a video from a TV newscast highlighting an inventor who claims to have built an internal combustion engine that runs on water instead of gasoline or methane (there are several examples of this on the internet). Any high school chemistry or physics student should, at the very least, suspect that this is absolute hooey no matter how many fancy symbols and equations this under appreciated inventor writes down on paper. But the tv reporter and station nevertheless credulously pass this on to the (equally credulous?) public. We scoff at this video in class, but it is treated much more seriously in the “mainstream” media. And in turn we blithely accept that when that reporter and TV station tell us that opposite points of view on the age of the earth or, even more importantly, on whether it is heating up, are equally valid scientifically.

  • Jason Lee

    John Frye:
    While there may be good reasons to be suspect of the quality of a Lifeway survey, 1000 is not necessarily too small for a national survey. That’s the amazing thing about the science of surveys…you can make estimates about large populations based on relatively small samples. So you’d have to give us a specific reason as to why 1000 is too small. Perhaps the confidence intervals would have to be too large around point estimates for the differences by age not be due to chance (I don’t know, I’ve not calculated them). These things may be true, but it may be the case that they’re not true. Then you’d have to give us specific reasons why 1000 is too small a sample size. Just saying it’s too small may just mean you’re not familiar with the standard survey techniques.

    Also, why do you assume the representation of denominations is bad. You don’t know that “Lifeway” was in the title of the survey. And if anything more conservative pastors are more likely not to answer the survey because they are on average less educated (more educated people are more likely to answer surveys).

    I’m not trying to defend Lifeway… I imagine if we looked at their techniques, we’d find some problems (eg response rate), but the sample size of 1000 isn’t necessarily a problem in and of itself.

  • PLTK

    Wow–the 6,000 year old world responses really threw me–I can understand a belief in a young earth, but the 6,000 year old figure is just illogical and has no basis. It conflicts with recorded history!

  • Over here in the UK someone holding a young earth creationist position is considered to have more faith than someone who does not in an evangelical church. Even if the person making that judgement themselves does not. In other words, its a self fueling thing.

    Having said that the percentage of evangelicals who hold a YEC position has eithetr plateued or fallen slightly over the past ten years here.

  • Robert A

    Curious how the post seems to leave people who accept the biblical teaching of a literal Adam as intellectual Neanderthals who clearly have nothing to contribute to society or ministry.

    I’m a minster in an evangelical church who believes that creation awards to be very, very old but does accept a literal Adam, Eve, and Garden. I actually have a PhD in theology from a prestigious university that has done significant work in these issues. While I am open to evolution as a mechanism my conclusion is that there simply is no way of knowing with any degree of certitude, anything about cosmology and origins. We all make faith statements…science or religion.

    The Lifeway survey is probably not too good…but really, what do you expect from them. Look at the age break outs. 18 – 44 isn’t a refined category. Also, their sample size is too small to be meaningful. That said, using the data we have I’m not too surprised.

    It isn’t irrational (epistemically) to posit a literal Adam. Though I don’t think all is lost if he and Eve didn’t exist like other evangelical theologians, we do need to balance the biblical text with the experience we encounter.

  • Jon G

    I agree with DRT in #1…that was my thinking as well.

    As the pastors age, they probably learn more about such issues and how to read Scripture…hence the belief in an old Earth.

    I think what you are seeing is simply the product of American Christianity influencing these young pastors. It will change as they mature.

    What I’m concerned about is how many of these young pastors will lose their faith as they realize the folly of the ways they were taught to view Scripture…

  • Rick

    One thing to keep in mind that even though some say they believe in the young earth, that does not mean they are dictating that to the congregations. I have heard pastors openly say in their sermons that they believe in a young earth, but that Christians have a variety of views on the issue(s), and that such differences are not worth dividing over.

  • @Jon G

    What is the “folly of the ways they were taught to view Scripture”, referring to these young pastors?

    There seem to be a lot of guesses on here as to why the research shows pastors questioning evolutionary thought. Maybe these pastors are just looking at it closely and realizing much of it is not classical objective science (as George #13 alluded to). That is at least possible.

  • AHH

    I wonder how strongly the results would correlate between these results and results about “inerrancy”.

    I think a lot of the problems the church has with these issues stem from the expectation that God has given us a “perfect book” which must almost by definition therefore be perfect in its science. If the church could, while maintaining commitment to authority and inspiration, be weaned away to a position that corresponds to the Bible we actually have (rather than how moderns assume God should communicate), that would be a big help in these matters. And probably other matters too.

    Reminds me of a good recent blog post from Pete Enns:

  • phil_style

    @Joey “these pastors are just looking at it closely and realizing much of it [evolution] is not classical objective science”

    It this is the case, then why have they not been able to publish any peer reviewed material to demonstrate this? I would suggest that “these pastors” simply aren’t reading or understanding the science.

    I can understand why they might take a theological stance in spite of the science, but to suggest that these pastors are all better scientists than all of the professionals who contribute thousands of works to peer review journals all over the world is a dramatic and rather fanciful leap.

    What other areas of science besides geology and biology can we expect our pastors to have more informed views on?

  • DSO

    Robert A @43, unfortunately you are right about the attitude toward folks who hold to a literal Adam.

    I wonder what the polls would reveal if the question was for a literal Exodus of 600,000 (Exo 12:37), or about a host of miraculous events described in the Bible. The intelligentsia will argue that though the Bible seems to teach these things happened there is no archaeological evidence for the plagues or the exodus. Therefore those in the church who still hold to such outdated notions must me minimized and mocked as being ‘brainwashed.’

  • Jon G

    Joey #46 – “Folly” refers to the way they are reading Scripture without a concern for context, genre, alternate theories, etc. I believe it is folly to read Gen. 1 as a literal/scientific text. If one thinks critically (in my opinion) about how to read the text, I don’t think they will come up with a YEC stance.

    Coming from that position myself (YEC), I believe this is due to the way they (I) were raised to believe the words on the page without really digging deeper into the text as to symbolic imagery, mythologized history, historical context, etc. I would bet that most of those claiming the YEC stance have flawed hermaneutics or exegesis. Of course this is just my opinion, and I’m thankful for having a forum like this in which I can share said opinion.

  • @phil_style

    I was just suggesting that maybe that is what is happening. You took out the maybe when you quoted me. I am not suggesting that these pastors are scientists themselves, but just that maybe they have looked into the topics enough, and based on the evidence, and some support from those more informed than themselves (and in some cases, who are published, i.e Henry Morris, Douglas Kelly, Albert Mohler, John MacArthur), they formed their stance.

    The idea that you have to have your own published work to have an intelligent, educated (and even correct) opinion is ridiculous. I am saying that maybe these pastors have an educated opinion that evolution is not entirely classical objective science. That would not be a fanciful leap.

  • @Jon G

    Thanks for your clarification. And although I disagree that a critical reading of Genesis 1, with proper hermaneutics and exegesis, will lead away from a YEC view, I also appreciate this forum.

  • phil_style

    Joey; “The idea that you have to have your own published work to have an intelligent, educated (and even correct) opinion is ridiculous. I am saying that maybe these pastors have an educated opinion that evolution is not entirely classical objective science. That would not be a fanciful leap”

    Sorry, this isn’t what I meant. What I meant is this; why is it that a body of individual from a single profession (pastors) all seem to have a dis-proportionate view of a certain issue that is;
    1. outside their field
    2. highly technical with respect to the sciences involved
    Relative to the rest of the population AND at significant odds with almost all of the professionals that do practice the relevant sciences?

    It would be just as curious if 90% of nurses were reportedly of the opinion that the ventri effect was not partly responsible for projection in clarinets. One would be forgiven for not, in this case, questioning the science, but questioning the possible motives (or any non-scientific commitments) of nurses as a group, with respect to this particular topic.

    For the record of course any individual can form an intelligent and correct opinion. I just happen to think that it is the 20% who strongly or somewhat agree that “God used evolution” are the correct ones in this survey.

  • phil_style


    “The intelligentsia will argue that though the Bible seems to teach these things happened there is no archaeological evidence for the plagues or the exodus. Therefore those in the church who still hold to such outdated notions must me minimized and mocked as being ‘brainwashed”

    And those who do consider evolution to accurately describe the history of life on earth will be likewise mocked as “intelligentsia” and “not doing proper (classical) science”, and will be held at arms length for “lacking faith” or “trusting in man’s understanding”… name calling goes on, on both sides.

    However, somebody is wrong. At least referring to those who you are convinced are wrong as being “brainwashed” treats that person as a victim. Accusing someone (or entire groups) of being the “intelligentsia” or a “minimizer” is worse, because it is a direct slight at their character and their moral intentions.

  • RJS

    Robert A (#43)

    You said

    Curious how the post seems to leave people who accept the biblical teaching of a literal Adam as intellectual Neanderthals who clearly have nothing to contribute to society or ministry.

    I am sorry you felt this way, because it was not the impression that I intended to convey on any level. I think the evidence for an old earth is so strong that it is not really debatable. Thus I found the trend on the 6000 year old earth concerning. Those I know who hold to a young earth will generally acknowledge that the evidence for great age is overwhelming, and take a mature creation view or simply admit that they will go with scripture over the scientific evidence. Even Dr. Mohler said essentially this in his speech a couple years ago.

    The question of human evolution, and Adam and Eve specifically, is more complicated. John Collins in the book I linked in the post holds to a literal Adam, as did John Stott, as does John Walton, and I could list others here. I don’t think they are “intellectual Neanderthals,” all make the argument based on theology and scripture rather than science, and most take the science quite seriously. I tend to think the arguments retaining a literal Adam are a bit convoluted – but the argument is in essence theological and hermeneutical, not scientific. I’ve maintained this position on many posts throughout the years on the blog.

  • DSO

    Phil @54, I’m not seeing too much mocking of those of you who think Adam is figurative or a myth on this blog. Maybe you are thinking of a different blog where you are ridiculed. OTOH, the very first response to the OP said those who believe in a literal reading of GEN 1-2 are ‘brainwashed.’ Poor dumb fundy. Can’t even think right. Go back and reread how those who hold a more conservative view are treated here. Please.

  • @phil_style

    All I’m saying is we all should give these pastors a little more credit. They may not be naive, or immature, or uniformed, or unwise. They don’t happen to be scientific experts. But they may be right. And so what if they are? The Bible becomes more trustworthy, and the Gospel becomes more truthful and relevant. How about that.

    If they are wrong, so be it. Not going to change the Gospel. I, of course, don’t think they are. Either way, I would be personally offended if a Biblical stance I held and had developed through intense prayer, study, discussion, debate, and an objective survey of basic evolutionary theory, was considered folly or brainwashing just because I wasn’t a scientist with a journal. We should be supporting and encouraging these pastors who would hold up the Bible so highly, and perhaps, as @Rick #45 suggested, aren’t really even imposing this belief on their congregations as essential to the Gospel anyway.

    The only way to answer your question about dis-proportionate views on this topic from pastors is that they hold the Bible over science. God forbid! And the Bible happens to contradict some scientific findings. Secular culture has adopted some of the contradictory scientific findings, and so by going away from the scientific professionals, they have also gone against secular culture, which should not be surprising or concerning. Jesus told us that would happen.

    Some may take the Bible at face value and not worry about it. I am suggesting that perhaps most have challenged that, studied the contradictions, and have come out closer to the Bible, which also should not be that surprising or concerning.

  • phil_style

    @DSO “the very first response to the OP said those who believe in a literal reading of GEN 1-2 are ‘brainwashed.’”
    No, you are wrong the first response on the blog said “Please help me if this sounds too harsh, but it seems to me that the primary reason for believing the earth is young is because someone is, more or less, brainwashed into thinking so”
    You then re-caricatured this further by adding in some devices of your own “Poor dumb fundy. Can’t even think right”

    If you disagree with the first comment, then the approach I suggest you take is something akin to the following:

    @#1, I do feel you are being to harsh assuming that he primary reason for believing the earth is young is because someone is, more or less, brainwashed into thinking so. I would suggest the primary reason is X.

  • DSO

    Look, phil, you were the one who caricatured those who are ‘brainwashed’ as victims, not me. You can say you are being kind because ‘we should be kind to victims’. To me it reads as condescending. I would hope you can see that I was responding to your particular response.

    I have other things to get to today so you can have the last word.

  • phil_style

    @ Joey “And the Bible happens to contradict some scientific findings”

    But you stated that the science wasn’t science in your earlier posts, this is what I am taking to be the reason why you thought these pastors did not accept evolution – because they had done better science. Like I said earlier, I can understand if pastors wish to contradict science on theological grounds (probably most of those pastors disagree with each other on various theological points too) But I don’t buy it when folks claim “the science behind evolution is NOT actually scientific” as being their reasons for doing so, when their real reasons for doing so are theological, not scientific – which is what you confirm with your statement that they “hold the bible over science” – so no matter how good the science is, they will always reject it int he case of a perceived contradiction with their interpretation of the Biblical materials.

  • phil_style

    “I have other things to get to today so you can have the last word”

    Actually kind Sir, you have the last word.

  • Fish

    Go put forth a position that Adam was not literal on a Calvinist blog and see what kind of reception ensues. It would make what transpires here seem like a tea party held by charming 5 year old girls. Just sayin’.

  • phil_style

    I would like to express dismay at the assertion that I am resorting to condescension. Especially given that my accuser has dropped that bomb before leaving the discussion.

  • @phil_style

    You are correct. I was suggesting that maybe some of these pastors reject evolutionary science as bad science. This perhaps in addition to theological differences.

    I agree it is confusing and inauthentic to say you disagree with something scientifically, when in reality you disagree only theologically. I happen to disagree with much of evolutionary thought on both grounds, and suggest that many surveyed may as well. Either way, we should at least give them the respect and encouragement they deserve.

    Thanks for your clarification on what I was saying – very helpful for this dialogue.

  • phil_style


    OK I see what you’re saying now too. I personally have walked the path from defending the YEC position very fervently to now being the opposite. Yet I still know many people who are YEC who are, of course intelligent people. However there is one consistent thing I find to generally represent WHY myself and my friends who are YEC have different views;
    1. A different theological commitment to me
    2. A different understanding of the role of the Bible for christian life (related tot he above, but not the same)
    3. This is probably the most controversial, but I must say this is only representative of my experience – most of my YEC friends still hold to “scientific” arguments that I consider to have been conclusively debunked. My YEC friends and I no longer consult the same sources. All of them still reply on the AiG web material and books like that of Lee Strobel and the “popular” christian evangelical apologetic quick-answer type statements that I was absorbing at high-school.

    I’m not saying this is the same experience across the board, or that it constitutes an explanation of the survey findings, but I do submit it as a form of anecdotal evidence 😉

    As a related point: It is frustrating for me to have conversations with my YEC friends when they say things like “yeah but carbon dating is inaccurate”, or, as AiG reports a supposed “to ten evolution myth” – “The “slam dunk” proof for human evolution is, according to evolutionists, the claimed 98% similarity between human and chimp DNA and the evidence of chromosomal fusion”.

    I know these particular objections (and many more like them) are not valid, yet I still come across them often. It’s hard, I think, to prevent the frustration of having to explain this kind of stuff over and over with people who simply aren’t consulting the same resources that I am.

    I think it’s partly this frustration, and the repeated times we encounter it, more than anything, that leads some of us to assume that all YECers are operating similarly.

  • DSO

    Phil @63, a little bird told me I ought to come back one more time, especially since I was appreciating the comments by Joey.

    It looks like I am not going to be able to extricate myself until I have repented with ashes for offending you. It seems anything I say is being taken as as some attack by you and that is not my intent. I said that you calling those who hold to a literal Adam are victims read to me like condescension. Hear me clearly: That is how it reads to ME. It is my opinion. You might be the nicest person I have ever met but I still interpret your comment as condescending. Again, that is my opinion of your statement. My participation in this discussion has been respectful and I have participated repeatedly on this blog since the beginning. I am not a bomb thrower. Somewhere along the line you are going to have to accept that some will not agree with you and it is not an insult.

  • @phil_style

    I understand your frustration. Truly, I don’t know – many of the pastors surveyed could fall into the same boat as your YEC friends. I just wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, because I know some who are different.

    I couldn’t tell – were YOU saying that the 98% argument is a slam dunk, or were you saying that your friends and AiG reference this when incorrectly offering an objection?

    What resources are you consulting that your friends overlook, if you don’t mind my asking?

  • phil_style

    @DSO, cheers for the clarification I likewise apologise for taking offence. I have no intention of condescending. I honestly feel that if people are “brainwashed” then there is no harm in us recognising it. I truly feel that those who are “led” to believe something are much less responsible than those who do the leading. As I said to Joey, I know plenty of YEC people (in fact every single YEC person I know personally, a number in the tens at a minimum) simply do not consult the same sources I do when it comes to the sciences of origins. I also know for a fact that their pastors do not either and that they rely on the likes of AiG to be authoritative on this matter. I do consider these people to be “brainwashed” in the sense that they are being told that a position is well established when they are simply not being directed to what I would consider to be the appropriate information by those who make the claims (their pastors).

    I also want to make clear that both sides of this debate have their own sets of name calling terms that they use for their opposition. I know my YEC friends aren’t stupid, but some of the arguments they rely on are. I know not all “evolutionists” are arrogant, but some of the stuff they say sure is. We must be careful not to label each other, but focus on the material.

    BTW, of course I accept that we disagree. That’s quite clear 😉 But disagreement is no reason not to be chums now is it?

  • phil_style

    Hi Joey #67,

    Sorry I was saying that AiG claim that evolutionists claim that the 98% argument is a slam dunk and they go on to show why it is not a “slam dunk”. I’ve never seen a science journal that makes the claim that AiG proports is being made. If have YEC friends that will rely on this “hear say”.

    Good on you for giving these surveyed pastors the BoD. I should have done the same. We should – after all try to think the best of people when possible. I shall put my hand up and say that my experience with YEC/evangelical chrisatianity has burned me badly.

    As for sources, I would recommend published journals from biological/ geological scientific associations – and certainly not any “ten reasons evolution is true” websites. These journals can be expensive though, as they usually only supply documents by purchase! (scoundrels!). What you can do, is (as I do) keep an eye on journal aggregators such as
    They publish the summary extracts from loads of origins related research results, and they producing new findings with respect to paleontology, biological origins and paleao-geology all the time. You can normally link through to the publisher of the full research where you’ll be able to interrogate all the study’s assumptions and data sets. New stuff is coming out on at least a daily basis.

    They also have loads of great non-origins related science too (I mostly read the environmental science reporting, because that is my field). Some of the research is just plain amazing!

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    The findings are very very disappointing, and as rjs noted, “concerning.” If this trend continues, Christians who reject sound science will be increasingly marginalized. Many will lose their faith.

  • @phil_style

    Thanks for the link. I’ll take a look at it. I will be honest though: my intention is to gain an intelligent understanding of arguments that seem to disprove the Biblical account of creation, origins, Adam, etc., so that I can more adequately and objectively defend the Biblical account. I think this is very possible.

    I have made the bold claim to those I’ve been in discussions with that I am confident that no scientific finding can conclusively contradict Biblical truth. So far I have been successful making this claim, as it relates to arguments about genetic similarity, pseudogenes, and radioactive dating – although I will now admit that some of these arguments may not come from the sources you are citing.

    Some who discount Christianity altogether do so because of these claims that you are saying no relevant scientific journal makes. So these bogus claims need to be refuted, as I’m sure you would agree, more so for non-Christians who are doubting the Bible in general. If they don’t become YEC, thats ok, just so they take the Bible seriously, and understand the Gospel, you know? I have found that generic beliefs about eveolution are a major hindrance to the Gospel.

    I wonder the basic differences though, between these commonly cited evolution claims, and what your sources argue? Do your sources say there is 95% similarity, instead of 98%? Do your sources say that radiactive dating is accurate, all the time? I guess I’ll have to find out.

    I realize I am entering dangerous ground making such a claim in light of the expertise you have linked me to. Yet, I proceed nonetheless, with the firm conviction that there is nothing new under the sun, the Bible is true, and Jesus is everything. Wish me luck! One thing I am confident of – contrary to the concerns expressed here, I will not lose my faith and I am not concerned about being marginalized for questioning some scientific findings. As a Christian, such response would only convict me that I’m on the right track.

    To God be the Glory…

  • RJS

    Joey Elliot,

    I write on Scot’s blog and bring these questions up because I am a Christian. I believe that God created the world, that he created humans in his image. I believe in the incarnation, resurrection, and the future hope. The Bible is the revelation of God’s interaction with his people and our primary source for our knowledge of God’s work, purposes, and nature. I take the Bible very seriously.

    I am also a professor and a scientist with a pretty firm understanding of the strength of the evidence against a young earth and for some sort of evolutionary history of common descent. The sources that have been mentioned here, such as AiG, have no credibility for me at all because their arguments and evidences simply don’t stand up. I am concerned about this issue because I think the only way forward is to come to grips with the fact that all truth is God’s truth and we don’t need to be afraid of following the evidence where it leads.

    There are many who discount Christianity because of this issue – and my goal, like yours but from a different side and approach, is to show that this is entirely unnecessary.

    I don’t expect you to simply take my word and change your view, but I did want to put this out into the mix.

  • phil_style

    Hi joey,
    “Some who discount Christianity altogether do so because of these claims that you are saying no relevant scientific journal makes” – yes I agree with you. People discount faith for many of the same invalid reasons that others hold on to it.

    “I wonder the basic differences though, between these commonly cited evolution claims, and what your sources argue? Do your sources say there is 95% similarity, instead of 98%?!
    The DNA similarity is 98% between chimps and humans, but that’s no “proof” of evolution. And certainly no “slam dunk”. There are some stronger genetic evidences for common decent, but the DNA similarity is only one of them and as I’m sure you are aware, it can be argued around with some applied theological elastics (i.e. god used the same template type thing).

    “Do your sources say that radiactive dating is accurate, all the time?.”
    You’re right, carbon dating has it’s limits, but good research acknowledges these limits and designs experiments to eliminate the variables associated with these limits. That’s what science does. Plus there are many more dating methods besides carbon/radiation dating. You can also use one method to test and/or corroborate the other.

  • Tom F.

    (24) Mike-

    I can’t find at all any links to what you are talking about with Templeton. I know a little about Templeton and so I was very surprised to see what you are talking about. I can see why people would place Templeton outside of orthodoxy, but its not at all clear that it was “science” that led him there. There does not seem to be a narrative of a “fall from grace”, rather Templeton seems to have had a broad view of how “science” might lead to the development of Christian faith and religion from the get go. Since there’s no change, it isn’t fair to blame “science” for Templeton’s stance towards orthodox faith.

    I point this out because the slippery slope narrative is too simple and unhelpful. Danger is not only in one direction; why couldn’t it be argued that a trending upwards in evangelical belief in YEC is a slippery slope back to fundamentalism? I say this not because I think it is, but just to say that slippery slopes are thought of as fallacies for a reason.

    If evangelicals gradually pull back from science, and the mainline dies out, that would essentially mean that Christians in the US will have little to nothing to do with scientific increases in knowledge about the world. And that is a disaster, plain and simple. That’s worth being concerned about, even if it isn’t a slippery slope.

  • RJS


    I think you may be mixing up John Templeton and Charles Templeton.

  • Tom F.

    My apologies, as I was reading over the posts I realized that there are some Catholics here in discussion as well. Didn’t mean to imply that evangelicals + mainline = Christianity in the US. Very unecumenical of me. 🙂

  • Tom F.

    RJS- Yep, you’re right. I feel a little sheepish. Sorry everyone, especially Mike.

  • DRT

    DSO#56 (I am only that far in reading the comments…), you are distorting my statement. I said nothing about taking Gen 1-2 literally. I said that people who believe in a young earth have been taught something that makes no sense given the evidence therefore, they were brainwashed into thinking the earth is young.

    I believe there is a lot of literal truth in Gen 1-2. God made everything. There is only one god, the creator. He made males and females etc etc.

    All evidence points to an old earth, there is no two ways about it. The only way someone can hold to a young earth and be intellectually honest, once they are informed of the science, is to say that the earth does indeed look old but god must have made it to look that way for some reason. It is irrefutable that it looks old via every conceivable method.

    I also think the brainwashed word choice is good, considering what is going on. There is a group of people who are choosing to educate others in a false belief without grounding the belief in evidence. I call that brainwashing.

  • Val

    Mike #24 – Slippery slope? You know where that’s been tried before? – the old arguments about a heliocentric solar system and a moving earth – all very unscriptural to the medieval church AND reformation church (Calvin was an exception on this – he didn’t see it as a problem) – were opposed on this (old) slippery slope argument. How did ‘sticking to the Bible’ work out for them?

    50 years ago – the time of creation was the hot issue (7 days or more)

    30-20 years ago – the concept of evolution vs. each species individually created was (microevolution) was the debate

    10 years ago – intelligent design ( huge gaps in evolution) vs. theistic evolution (evolution as God’s mechanism).

    today – God at the origin of life on earth vs. Life materials from the Universe landing on earth

    A much bigger concern than slippery slop arguments is the idea that the only place we can find God is in the gaps of our knowledge. If the only way we can read the Bible is to see God where science hasn’t been fully explored, we end up pushing God further back into time and place. Instead, if we can see God in what we do know, rather than what we don’t, we have a stronger ability to engage in the youth, non-believers and Bible as a Book about God with us and our knowledge, not God trapped in a conspiracy theory to replace Him with science by an evil world.

  • DRT

    After reading this all I can say is I am glad we are not trying to get people who believe in a flat earth that we live on a ball in space. Just imagine how hard *that* was to convince the average person. Trying to convince people of an old earth should be easy!

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    “Do your sources say that radiactive dating is accurate, all the time? I guess I’ll have to find out.”


    Try here for a complete anaysis of the accuracy of radioactive dating from a Christian perspective.

    “Radiometric dating–the process of determining the age of rocks from the decay of their radioactive elements–has been in widespread use for over half a century. There are over forty such techniques, each using a different radioactive element or a different way of measuring them. It has become increasingly clear that these radiometric dating techniques agree with each other and as a whole, present a coherent picture in which the earth was created a very long time ago. Many Christians are completely unaware of the great number of laboratory measurements that have shown these methods to be consistent, and they are also unaware that Bible-believing Christians are among those actively involved in radiometric dating. This paper describes in relatively simple terms how some dating techniques work, how accurately the half-lives of the radioactive elements and the rock dates themselves are known, and how dates are checked with one another. In the process the paper refutes some misconceptions prevalent among Christians today.”

  • DRT

    This reminds me of a lesson I learned in developmental psychology many years ago. The were trying to teach us how people think and asked us what we should do if the child walks over and pulls the drapes down. Well, if you simply forbid the kid from pulling the drapes down they will keep walking over there and pretending to do it so they can get the reward of the interaction. So the key is to forbid them from getting near the drapes.

    Here, those who teach YEC (and I have more to say about that in the end) are not allowing people to get close to the really interesting issues in our religion. They are forcing people to believe in things that don’t make any sense. When I was in church one day I asked someone if they believe in the talking snake because I don’t. Their response was “Where is your faith DRT?”. They accused me of not having faith. That is the point of all of this. The brainwashers are not allowing people to get to the important questions in their faith, and instead are making the people into pure followers of the teachers, not Christianity.

    phil_style said above that he puts the fault into the hands of the teachers. I would like to say a similar thing but much more strongly. The people who are educated in the science and are in responsible positions of education need to be called out for the atrocity of lying to our youth if they teach unqualified YEC. Let me define a couple of the terms I used.

    First, unqualified YEC. I was furious at Al Mohler a couple years ago for teaching YEC because he is well connected enough that he should know better. But on close examination I saw (RJS pointed out), that he is actually acknowledging that all evidence (outside of some people’s interpretations of the bible) points to the earth being quite old. In other words, he does not dispute the science at all. What he does say is something like “Why does the earth look so old if it is really young?” And his qualification in YEC teaching then, is that the earth and all science really indicate an old earth, so there is a mystery as to why god would create an earth (and universe) that clearly looks old.

    Second, people who should know better. People who have the education and obvious intellect of Al Mohler should know better, and he does. Professors of theology from good schools should know better. I can’t tell you where the line is but I can tell you that those who attend a conservative YEC seminary are not on the “should know better” side of the line automatically.

    The people who should know better and teach unqualified YEC are being unethical.

  • AHH

    Joey @67 and @71 wanted resources for understanding.

    For the best presentation I know of, from a Christian perspective and accessible to non-scientists, of the scientific evidence for evolution as God’s means of creating, I would strongly recommend reading Darrel Falk’s book Coming to Peace with Science.

    I don’t run so much in YEC circles to deal with age of the Earth issues, but I’d say two books to start with there are Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies: The Age of Earth and its Cosmic Surroundings by G. Brent Dalrymple, and The Bible, Rocks, and Time by Davis Young and Ralph Stearley. Young and Stearley are Calvin College Geology Profs and also deal with the Biblical issues; Dalrymple is a secular geologist and sticks to the science.

  • DRT

    I like what Joey said “Some who discount Christianity altogether do so because of these claims that you are saying no relevant scientific journal makes”

    One of the primary reasons my teens are now atheists is because of the outlandish claims like YEC. I take my Christianity seriously and do not want to see people who should know better teaching others things that lead people away from faith, like my kids. That is part of the reason I have so much passion about this. People whom I love are led astray because of these teachings.

  • DRT

    I am curious what other science educated people would think of recommending Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything to doubters. I believe nearly all of the book is accurate, and it also gives good insight into the interconnectedness of scientific evidence and examples of science in action. One of the problems I see in these conversations is that the non-scientists have a difficult time appreciating the truly integrated view that science has assembled. Instead they look at biology and geology as separate things and radio carbon dating as a particular thing that can be falsified. Radioactive decay as a dating tool is far more than that, it is an integration of physics, biology, geology, statistics, empirical evidence, it is a complex web of disciplines that converge to help make a single tool useful. And as someone above said, as long as people use it responsibly, which they should know how to do at this point.

    So, I recommend A Short History of Nearly Everything to help give that appreciation of the interconnectedness of the various scientific pursuits.

  • TJR

    (71) Joey,
    I wish you luck and the Lord be with you but be careful, you said: ” my intention is to gain an intelligent understanding of arguments that seem to disprove the Biblical account of creation, origins, Adam, etc., so that I can more adequately and objectively defend the Biblical account.” I know another person who had that same intention, Denis Lamoureux. He studied evolution to debunk it but found the evidence for it to be overwhelming. You should check out his book or you could visit his web site.

    As Columbo used to say “just one other thing” What did you mean by ” I have found that generic beliefs about eveolution are a major hindrance to the Gospel” what are generic beliefs did you mean genetic? Evolution is not a hindrance to the Gospel as I understand it

  • DSO

    Phil, I hear where you’re coming from. I suppose disagreement can be the spice of life. We can still be chums.

  • Joey Elliott

    RJS, thanks for the words. I do appreciate your heart and efforts on this blog.

    To all, I really hear your concerns and especially about people close to you denying Christ because of these issues.

    My prayer in these things is that we as Christians would be as impressed and driven by the Word of God as we are by scientific findings. More would be nice, but at least as impressed and driven. If someday YEC can be conclusively proven incorrect, which i dont believe to be today, than I hope we can still love and depend on the Word of God more than what I’m hearing on this blog. I trust God will honor that in our families, schools, businesses, and communities in the salvation of people. This 6000 year old earth or 45 billion year old earth is passing away, but the Word of the Lord will last forever.

    I’ll check back in after I’ve done more reading. Thanks for all the resources!

  • AHH

    Joey @88,

    Blessings on your reading.

    Please remember as you go along that most (maybe all) who have disagreed with you here “love and depend on the Word of God”. The difference is not at that level, but rather on the interpretation of Scripture (and maybe on hermeneutic principles that guide our interpretation).
    One of the worst things I see in some of the YEC movement (present company excepted, I hope) is the tendency to equate “believing the Bible” with believing their interpretations of the Bible.

  • Bill

    I am 60 years old, a Christian (former Catholic, now loosely Baptist. I have a political science degree and accept evolution and an old earth. I am not a biblical literalist, but believe the Bible is inspired. My experience is the more I studied and read the Bible, the less I could accept YEC.

  • Karl

    RJS, to your question re. whether these findings surprise us, I would say “no.”

    Anecdotally, I recall that in the early 90’s when I took an “Origins of Life” chemistry class (soft chemistry credits) at Wheaton College, the professor was a theistic evolutionist and he candidly told the class that there wasn’t a single member of the Wheaton Science faculty (at least at that time) who believed in a young earth, but that there were a good number of professors in the Bible/Theology dep’t who did.

  • DSO

    DRT @78, yes, we sure have had a lot of responses to this post. It shows how interesting and important the topic is.

    I appreciate where you are coming from in your view of an old earth. I too believe in an old earth and in the Bible. We do see God using developmental processes in all sorts of things, not the least of which is the incarnation.

    The problem I have with the use of the term ‘brainwashed’ is that it is never used in a neutral sense but always in a negative. Imagine the topic is not theology and biblical interpretation but politics. Imagine if one were to say of those who supported (and still support) the President were brainwashed. The Gallup poll of 1500 people for this week has his approval ratings at 42% with about 47% disapproving. To describe those approving of him as brainwashed would be insulting. As you state at the end of your response, “There is a group of people who are choosing to educate others in a false belief without grounding the belief in evidence.” Many would argue that is what is going on with the Washington press corps. But even if this is happening, calling those who support the President ‘brainwashed’ comes across as unkind and looking for an argument. It does not make those so described feel like they will get a fair hearing.

    FWIW, I disagree with you on a lot but you’re one of the participants here that is starting to grow on me (I can identify a lot with your response about masculinity the other day).

  • DRT

    DSO#92, the difference between the YEC and politics is that the one can be shown to be true, objectively. The other is always subjective. I also agree with phil_style, it is appropriately negative toward the brainwasher, and neutral or better to the brainwashee.

  • Chris Criminger

    Hi Everyone,
    As I overhear the discussion, I suspect that people are trying to understand these issues from what they believe is a proper understanding of scripture. Here are a few of my questions or comments as I listen in on this discussion:

    1. Why does the creation account have to either be historical literal or mythological and symblic? Are these the only two choices? Where in the Bible does it say we are to split or divide the literal from the figurative? It seems a lot of false dichotomies and issues are being imposed onto the scriptures rather than coming from the scriptures.

    2. Where in the Bible does it say how old the age of the earth is? What kind of hermeneutics are people coming up with to arrive at these “proofs” and “facts.” Is the Bible even a book about proofs and facts?

    As I listen to those who are so sure about these issues (not about those who are more modest or tentative in their conclusions) that maybe our conclusions say more about us than they do concerning the scriptures.

  • Susan N.

    I think it was after I read ‘The Blue Parakeet’ that I searched on the Internet and found the Jesus Creed blog. At that same time, I was in a tremendous time of transition in terms of my theological perspective. My family and I had severed our ties with the evangelical church which we had attended for 4 years. I was also questioning so many things that I had been influenced by in the conservative evangelical homeschooling sub-culture, and from early on in my faith journey, the fundamentalist indoctrination I had received. I know that I was very angry and confused, as I attempted to sort out what to keep and what to throw away. What now? For a year and a half, my family did not attend any church. We visited a few at first, more conservative evangelical flavor, and our sense of being fish out of water got even worse.

    On this issue of YEC vs. theistic evolution, my main struggle has been how to reinterpret my theology as a result of embracing the latter view. Scientifically, I really have no problem with theistic evolution.

    I, like Rick (#3), wonder how a conservative evangelical pastor is to have the freedom and integrity to openly admit that his theology has grown/deepened, and possibly changed significantly as a result? What if the congregation freaks out, and half of the church bolts? I truly think that I *can* imagine the risk of not only position and livelihood, but also of fracturing the unity of the church. But, where does that leave people who question such matters?

    When I “came out” publicly to take a strong position on several key issues that vastly differs from the predominately conservative evangelical homeschooling community with which we have been involved, we lost a lot in terms of “belonging.” And there’s no going back.

    RJS and her blog topics focused on articulating and reconciling matters of science and faith have been a lifeline for me over the past few years. It’s given me a place to start in learning to break out of old ways of thinking, or at least thinking in more open-minded ways. I could have just gone out and purchased some books on the subject, but I really needed someone to talk to about my questions. At times, I’m sure my dialogue has been unsophisticated, and reflective of the anger that I have wrestled with — toward those who deliberately practiced to deceive, and my own gullibility to get sucked into it. Forgiving ourselves is the hardest thing to do, in my experience.

    Being in a very diverse (congregational demographic) mainline church for a little more than a year now has helped me, because I feel *more* able to ask questions and hold what may be considered unorthodox views, at least for a time, and not have my faith in Christ or Truth questioned.

    I thank you, RJS (and Scot) for having the courage to even bring up these difficult subjects.

  • RJS – Can you elaborate on why you consider AiG not credible?

    @Unapologetic Catholic – thanks for the link on radioactive dating. Just out of curiosity, how would you respond to the comment by Richard Dawkins, “Evolution could so easily be disproved if just a single fossil turned up in the wrong date order”? It seems that there is at least some evidence to show that these dating methods are not perfect, so this is a surprising comment from an evolutionist. Perhaps he never actually said it! Ha! That would keep me humble, and prove @phil_style’s point.

    @DRT – In response to your comments on teachers knowing better, and YEC limiting people from seeing the really interesting things about the Christian faith, could I suggest that the problem is not just YEC interpretations of the Bible, but other Biblical interpretation issues that do not acknowledge the glory, deity, or grace of Jesus Christ in the Gospel? The Gospel is the interesting things about our faith. Period. My whole point is if we start considering scientific findings, even if they reveal God’s hand in creation and evolution, as more exciting and impressive than the Gospel of salvation, new life, and new earth, as revealed in the Bible, we are in trouble. YEC with a sound Gospel presentation should not be a hindrance, just as old earth / theistic evolution beliefs alongside a sound gospel presentation should not be a hindrance. And the reason is because the gospel issues should stand out in our presentation (in our life), not the science issues. If any teacher teaches YEC as gospel, shame on him. That doesn’t mean that a humble and informed YEC argument can’t be made – it just shouldn’t be made as if it was the gospel.

    @AHH – thanks for the encouragement, and the warnings. I will remind myself that Christians who disagree with me here do still love and depend on the Word of God. I just hope I hear and see that more. I hope I don’t have to force that out of them, which in some cases has been my experience. I hope I hear as clearly – the wonders of God’s grace in the Gospel and the corresponding authority of the Bible for life and godliness – as I hear the “amazing” geological and biological findings indicating evidence for evolution and an old earth. I also hope those who consider that “believing the Bible” is the same as “believing their interpretation of the Bible”, do so on matters of gospel essentials, in which areas there is either a right or a wrong interpretation, and the right one is very important.

    To those who have been burned by confusion or ignorant imposing of beliefs in these areas, my heart breaks. I just want to offer a friendly warning of the dangers of an evolving theology in matters that are once and for all true. Evolving our theology and understanding of Scripture is a dangerous discipline to train ourselves in, and I worry that this happening in the science arena could be the beginning of more devastating Scripture-reinterpretations.

    If this is only about reconciling science with a sound orthodox theology, and primarily about the beginnings of Genesis, than ok. But let’s not let it get more expansive than that, like into the New Testament where we may be tempted to abandon belief in the deity of Christ or the exclusivity of Jesus for salvation, which is where the culture would take us. Separation from how the world sees the things and promises of God should be our confirmation and our hope, not indication that we need to change.

  • My sense is that the “young reformed and restless” crowd find it easier to dismiss science as just another myth because they’re steeped in postmodernity. We’re also going through a time in which Biblical literalism is a loyalty test / identity marker within the culture wars. So yes, I do find this trend disturbing because it’s representative of the idolatry of ideological purity in today’s church.

  • It’s apparent that the universe is (at least) 13-15 billion years old, and the earth seems to be about 4.5 billion years old (it its present state).

    That is not contradicted by anything in the Bible, it’s only contradicted by Theology/Dogmatics.

    The more actual Biblical Studies we do, the closer we get to meaning, and the more we can shed unhelpful systematics.

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    “Just out of curiosity, how would you respond to the comment by Richard Dawkins, “Evolution could so easily be disproved if just a single fossil turned up in the wrong date order”? It seems that there is at least some evidence to show that these dating methods are not perfect, so this is a surprising comment from an evolutionist.”

    This is a fair comment but not originally by Dawkins. The pre-Cambrian Rabbit was suggested by Haldane, not Dawkins. Dawkins expanded a little more accurately that finding modern animals such as hippos in ancient times before the advent of mammals would serve to disprove evolution, but he basically agreed with Haldane’s premise.

    The example demostrates two important points. First, Dawkins is confident enough about radioisotope dating, gelology and biology to suggest something that would throw all of those disciplines in disarray. The fact that he can articulate an event that would discredit evolution does not mean that event is inevitable or likely to happen, so his comment cannot be taken as evidence that radioisotope dating is not accurate.

    Second, Dawkins and Haldane offer some evidence that, if demostrated to be true, would cause them to change their minds. This is a hallmark of science.

    YEC apologists do not do this. None of them suggest evidence, that if demonstrated to be true, would cause them to change their minds. One reason for this is that there is already enough scientific evidence to cause a rational person to reject YEC.

    Instead, YEC apologists must minimize the science, quote mine comments from the media and, frankly, often misrepresent the data (There’s no polite way to put it.) As one example of “minimizing,” here’s AIG squirming to suggest that dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time:

    They’re just wrong. If dinosaurs and humans actually co-existed, then our understandings of geology, astronomy, physics, chemistry and biology are all hopelessly wrong. Since the understandings in those fields appear to be very fruitful, leading to advancements in technology, medicine, agriculture and others, we know those fields are more or less on track.

  • @Unapologetic Catholic – is the following evidence bogus by your understanding?

    “Our modern dating methods are based on faulty assumptions about earth’s past, leading to these kinds of discrepancies. Faulty interpretation also accompanies study of the fossil record. For example, claimed ‘transitional’ fossils are not truly transitional. This is the case with horse evolution. The famed ascendance of North American horses from small three-toed varieties to the modern one-toed kind is in reverse in South America, where three-toed horse fossils are buried in ‘younger’ rock than the rock containing the one-toed variety. Thus, South American horse fossils almost appear to show the more ‘primitive’ horses evolving from the more ‘modern’ one. Rather than showing evolution, these fossils are better interpreted as showing variations within animal kinds, similar to the variation present in today’s dog breeds. No one today would say that Chihuahuas are the ancestors of Great Danes, but if these two dogs were discovered as fossils, they would give the appearance of evolution from the small to the large. So such ‘transitional’ fossils prove more problematic for evolution than helpful, suggesting that a better explanation of their origin should be considered.

    “Even the general appearance of progression from relatively simple creatures to higher forms in the fossil record is not consistent. Fossils often are not ordered in the rock layers according to the evolutionary sequence. Horse hoof prints are in dinosaur strata in Uzbekistan, dinosaur footprints mix with human-like ones in Turkmenistan and Arizona, and fossil insects with nectar tubes are dated 25 million years older than the alleged emergence of flowers. Nearly 200 more examples of ‘wrong-order formations’ occur in America alone, as compiled by Walter Lammerts in the Creation Research Society Quarterly.”

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    “Unapologetic Catholic – is the following evidence bogus by your understanding?”


    For example, this—“Horse hoof prints are in dinosaur strata in Uzbekistan, dinosaur footprints mix with human-like ones in Turkmenistan and Arizona”—bears false witness.

    What you have proffered disgraces Christianity.

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    Now, a question for you.

    What did you think about the radiometric article?

    Do you agree that multiple methods of radiometric analysis converge on an age for the earth in excess of 4 billion years?

  • @Unapologetic Catholic

    Can you prove that it bears false witness? Just trying to get to the bottom of this to be fair. I’m far from convinced.

  • DRT

    Joey Elliot, I don’t know if this will help you or not, but it might.

    First, you will always be able to find someone with some sort of credential that says any given theory is false or wrong. I bet you could even find people who will testify that what I just said is false or wrong. So bringing up a single point or claim is not considered to be compelling evidence.

    So, science tends to operate using the perspective of consensus view with the consensus view being established through multiple avenues and from multiple perspectives.

    In your case, it seems that you are not reading people who represent the consensus view. You are reading a fringe element (like AiG) that are explicitly outside of the consensus view.

    This wiki article has a pretty good (and short) explanation of the scientific consensus

    It is important, perhaps imperative in my view, to get comfortable with the scientific consensus methodology that is operative in our world today. That is the way things happen.

    So my unsolicited advice is to read up on the process of scientific consensus, then do your own due diligence on what you are reading to determine whether it is within that framework or not.

    I, along with unapologetic catholic, can tell you the articles you have quoted are hooey. The reason I can tell you that is because science has been a lifelong hobby and fascination of mine and I do have some training in its methods (my BS is in mechanical engineering). I feel studying science is worship of god. I am studying what god has done and made and it is good! The text you quotes is outside the scientific consensus on those issues.

  • @Unapologetic Catholic

    Read the Radiometric article. A few comments:

    1. I could easily just say its gibberish. But seriously. I could. It’s like if I wrote you a letter in another language you didn’t speak and asked you to sign off on it in full agreement. Would you? Of course not. I’m not naïve. There could be a lot of bad science in there. I would need several degrees to determine conclusively for myself. I, however, won’t make that accusation. I will give it a chance and stretch my brain as much as I can. Still waiting on your defense of my sources being bad science. Your disgrace comment was pretty harsh by the way. I’m just lifting up the Bible and trying my best to proclaim the truth once for all entrusted to the saints. Even if I’m wrong about the earth, I think I’m far from a disgrace. Not really that concerned what people think though.

    2. Am I crazy, or does that article clearly leave open the possibility that the dating of rocks (though accurate) could indicate an age that may not actually be reality, because of God’s ability to create with age?

    “It would not be inconsistent with the scientific evidence to conclude that God made everything relatively recently, but with the appearance of great age, just as Genesis 1 and 2 tell of God making Adam as a fully grown man (which
    implies the appearance of age). We only note here that an apparent old earth is consistent with the great amount of scientific evidence.”

    “Today there are many Christians who accept the reliability of geologic dating, but do not compromise the spiritual and historical inerrancy of God’s word.”

    I know we don’t want to get theological here, but this seems pretty harmless. Yes, the data is accurate. Yet, it may not tell us anything, because God could have created things with age. So I could believe radiometric dating, yet still be a YEC. What’s the problem?

    3. On second thought, why is theology off limits? Why is bad theology not as dangerous as bad science? By putting theology to the side in these discussions, theistic evolutionists get themselves off the hook on some pretty important stuff. Have you ever shared Christ with someone and convinced them they were sinful based on a theoretical fall? If so, good for you. Seems disingenuous to me. The Word is still going to endure forever, and this earth is not, in its current form at least. Maybe we are spending too much time figuring out how old the earth that is eventually being made new is. Maybe we should spend more time figuring out how to get to the new earth. My point about the automatic acceptance of evolution leading to a theological creep on more important issues of the faith is still hanging out there unaddressed. More important than the age of the earth is whether Jesus is the only way to salvation. They may not seem to go together, but we should be careful following the world. There is nothing new under the sun.

  • DRT

    Just to be clear, I do not worship creation. Creation does bring me wonder and joy and fascination and I think god wants me to experience that.

  • @DRT

    Thanks for the info. Understand completely the concept of scientific consensus. Seems logical enough. Don’t know enough about AiG, and actually the article I quoted was not from them. But I understand your point. Not sure why AiG hasn’t done more to achieve consensus with like-minded folks. I mean, they are right and all.


  • DRT

    Joey#105, says

    2. Am I crazy, or does that article clearly leave open the possibility that the dating of rocks (though accurate) could indicate an age that may not actually be reality, because of God’s ability to create with age?

    “It would not be inconsistent with the scientific evidence to conclude that God made everything relatively recently, but with the appearance of great age, just as Genesis 1 and 2 tell of God making Adam as a fully grown man (which
    implies the appearance of age). We only note here that an apparent old earth is consistent with the great amount of scientific evidence.”

    “Today there are many Christians who accept the reliability of geologic dating, but do not compromise the spiritual and historical inerrancy of God’s word.”

    I know we don’t want to get theological here, but this seems pretty harmless. Yes, the data is accurate. Yet, it may not tell us anything, because God could have created things with age. So I could believe radiometric dating, yet still be a YEC. What’s the problem?

    If you want to maintain that god created everything relatively recently but with the appearance of great age then I cannot argue with you on that. That is a rational perspective. But you would then need to answer the question as to why he would do such a thing.

    It just seems to me that it is more likely that he is not trying to deceive us and it really is old.

  • @DRT

    Thanks for offering the common ground. Perhaps God meant for us to trust Him at His Word, even though that would be very difficult, and crazy to some. Worth it though.

  • Kevin Glenn

    Mike #36
    Thanks for the reply, but I find the slippery slope argument, and the fear on which it’s built to be at best an impractical approach to the exploration of Biblical studies. At worst, it’s a form of manipulation used to indoctrinate students of scripture. I find the slippery slope approach comes into play when one is no longer able to provide reasonable responses to the challenges against their position.

    Keep in mind this survey comes from the same denomination that recently voted to denounce the latest edition of the NIV, and whose bookstores would place “read with discernment” labels on books authored by Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Tony Campolo, William Young (The Shack) and others they considered questionable.