Moving Right is Sometimes Wrong: Why Ken Ham and Shelby Spong Are Equally Destructive

It is, fellow conservatives, possible to be too conservative.  And moving too far to the Right can be just as destructive as moving too far to the Left.

Scot McKnight comments at Jesus Creed that evangelicals with “conservative” theological commitments have a “special radar” for those who are moving Leftward.  He offers three points for discussion:

Among conservative evangelicals moving to the right seems never to be wrong.

Moving to the left, however, is either on the way to being wrong or is in fact already wrong (for the right).

To the left is a slippery slope, to the right is faithfulness (even if it is extreme).

These are great starting points for conversation.  Scot always offers his thoughtful best.  But these statements are not quite right — even though they’re onto something very important that I want to affirm.

In the first two statements, if you replaced the word wrong with the word dangerous, then they would be correct. Conservative evangelicals frequently act as though moving Right is sometimes wrong but basically harmless, whereas moving Left is not only wrong but dangerous.  Or, put differently (and in this sense Scot’s principles could be correct), moving Rightward can be factually wrong but not morally wrong, whereas moving Leftward is both factually and morally wrong.  Let me give two examples:

Example 1: Old Earth Creationists (who believe the Genesis account of Creation is mostly literal, but the cosmos is very old) will generally regard Young Earth Creationism (in which Genesis is literal and fixes the age of the cosmos at something like 6000 years) as an error but a basically harmless one; yet they will generally regard Theistic Evolution (which takes a less literal view of Genesis and believes God deployed the evolutionary processes that produced human beings) as not only wrong but spiritually treacherous.  OEC’s will smile and nod at YEC’s; they will (generally) not feel a burning need to convince YEC’s of their error.  Yet they will feel a burning need to convince Theistic Evolutionists that evolution and Christian theology are incompatible.  Moving to the Right is harmless; moving to the Left is dangerous.

Example 2: Evangelicals who are moderately conservative politically will often view their more conservative brethren (say, dominionists) as wrong, maybe even embarrassing, but benign, while they view their more liberal co-religionists as not only wrong but dangerously wrong.  If you are Center-Right, you may disagree with those who are very stringent on issues like crime and immigration, or who can go on for hours about the evils of Washington and government power, but you don’t feel obligated to argue against them.  On the other hand, if you hear someone advocating open borders, or the legalization of marijuana, or someone who wants to massively expand the government (split infinitives are sometimes helpful), you think their ideas are trending in a dangerous direction.

So, why is this?  Why do moderately conservative evangelicals (like myself) show little concern when someone goes too far to the Right, and lots of concern when someone moves too far to the Left? Let me offer three reasons.

FIRST, it partly has to do with the very nature of conservatism.  One of the handiest ways of distinguishing conservatism and liberalism (and it’s false if taken to an extreme) is that Conservatism believes that the True, the Good and the Beautiful are in the past, while Liberalism believes that the True, the Good and the Beautiful are in the future.  As a rule of thumb, conservatives are trying to conserve a heritage that was handed down — by God, by Moses, by the Early Church, by the Founders, etc.; liberals are trying to progress to an ever-better realization of always-evolving ideals.  It’s conservation versus progression.  While conservatives allow that some changes and developments have led to better expressions of the truths and values that were given to us, they’re instinctively suspicious.  Sometimes one has to step down the slippery slope just a little bit — but those “old-fashioned” views (i.e., Young-Earth Creationism or unforgiving attitudes toward law-breaking) are higher-up the slippery slope, while the “progressive” views are further down the slope, gathering a momentum that may be hard to arrest.

SECOND, it (also) partly has to do with the very nature of modern evangelicalism.  Modern evangelicals view the surrounding culture (and not without reason) as rife with temptation, sin and falsehood.  It is generally (again, note that this is a generalization) believed that Jesus Christ suffered persecution and crucifixion not because of an accident of history.  He didn’t just happen to find himself in a time and place when his message was rejected.  Rather, there’s a fundamental opposition between the ways of righteousness and the ways of the world.  There are basically different values, profoundly different believes, and thoroughly different worldviews that animate the Church universal and the world.

Since evangelicalism is generally more conservative than the surrounding culture, a movement to the Right is a movement further away from the world while a movement to the Left is an accommodation, and it establishes a harmful precedent of compromising with the world.  Isn’t moving toward the world, becoming more like the surrounding culture, a surrender of our distinctness, a harm to our witness, and slinking in the direction of unfaith?  So evangelicals would rather fall to the Right than fall to the Left.

THIRD, moderately conservative evangelicals are frequently warned of the dangers of straying too far down the slippery slope, of too much compromise with worldly values — that is, they’re warning about the dangers of growing too liberal, but they’re very rarely made aware of the dangers of being too conservative.  The truth is, of course, that becoming too conservative can be just as damaging to faith, and just as damaging to our witness, as becoming too liberal.

I have to agree with biblical scholar Peter Enns, for instance, that Young Earth Creationism, especially when it argues that a Christian cannot accept evolution, is both “wrong and harmful.”  The truth is: our minds and our hearts and souls all together can rejoice in the truth and redemption that are delivered by Jesus Christ.  But this kind of attitude creates a false Either/Or for many young Christians: either they must accept what seems compelling to their minds, or they must accept what their parents are passing down to them.  Many youngsters raised in the church, given this false and completely unnecessary Either/Or, will choose to leave their faith.  Anything less, they’ll feel, would be intellectually dishonest.

I would also agree with sociologist Bradley Wright that when we insist on unquestioning conformity to traditional Christian teachings, we’re going to lose our young people.  It is not so much faithfulness as it is fear when we encourage our children never to question the beliefs we’re passing down to them.  It is damaging to our witness — hugely damaging — when we show fear of open inquiry and respond in reactionary ways to questions and criticisms about the faith.  We are called to conserve the fundamental truths and values that God communicated to us through Jesus Christ, but always also to reassess how we understand and apply those truths and values in the light of the best knowledge available to us.  That’s why we understand, today, that it is more Christian to oppose slavery than to support it.

The truth is, and this is where I agree with Scot McKnight on the deeper truth of the matter: the slippery slope falls away on both sides of faithfulness. On the Left side, we fall toward conformity and licentiousness and abandonment of the faith.  On the Right side, we fall toward paranoia, legalism, and a cold and fossilized faith that is really no faith at all.  We cannot trust in the systems of the Right or the Left.  We cannot trust in systems at all.  We have to trust in a Person, not in a Predilection or a Philosophy.  That Person will lead us forward, along the ridge-top above the slippery slopes.

I am conservative, measured against the American median.  But I don’t seek to be conservative. I don’t want to be conservative; I don’t want to be liberal.  I want to be faithful.  Sometimes that faithfulness will require me to hold fast to an ancient belief in the face of the world’s mockery; sometimes faithfulness will require me to let go of my hidebound forms of understanding, and venture forth into an unseen and unstable future.

I hate to say this, but I sincerely believe that Ken Ham does just as much damage as Shelby Spong.  Neither one is harmless; both need to be corrected.  One leads people away from the faith by repulsion.  The other leads them away from the faith by attraction.  But the outcome is the same.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • But a Christian cannot accept evolution if his/her acceptance of evolution includes the denial of a historic Adam and Eve. If belief in them is good enough for Jesus and Paul, yet not good enough for you, then you likely fall outside of orthodox Christianity.

    • The fact is, however, that many Christians DO accept an evolution that assigns the biblical first parents to the realm of mythology.

      The question that hangs thereon is whether, apart from that, their commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour is adequate for their salvation.

      • The Roman Catholic church officially “is open to” evolution, but also insists that the human race is descended from one set of first parents. I heard a priest on TV the other day say that some scientific study in the 80s established that all humans today can be traced back to a single woman WAY back. I don’t know if that study is still accepted (it’s crazy how often “facts” of science change on us!)

        Much more interesting to me is the view put forth by C.S. Lewis in “The Problem of Pain” in which he imagines a hypothetical situation wherein God uses evolution to bring forth a first Man, who was truly “rightly ordered” – his spirit actually governing his physical body under the will of God, but who fell and passed the consequences on to his descendants (us) like a genetic disorder. You may find that Lewis’ account a bit unorthodox (he doesn’t call this Man “Adam” and seems to accept THAT the Biblical story happened, while allowing some of the details to be mythic) but I find it quite interesting, it certainly stirs some thought.

  • Jeff Greenberg

    I wrote a commentary in 1995, WHAT IF THEY DEBATED AND NOBODY CAME? for the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation. My hypothetical, “tongue-in-cheek” analysis of the debate between extreme left and extreme right in the age-of-earth controversy, concluded that each party was equally radical and really in philosophical frame, using the same poor methodology to argue. I would certainly add today that these extremes and their advocates are equally as dangerous concerning the truth. The far-right proponents are actually quite cultic (meant in the modern derogatory sense)in their behavior over origins. Their behavior HAS proven destructive in many ways. Also, the far-right advocacy against environmental stewardship has been a disaster and threatens the very life that the Lord created.

  • “Yet they will feel a burning need to convince Theistic Evolutionists that evolution and Christian theology are incompatible.”

    Was not Mr. Christ a creationist? Christians who accept evolution are admitting the dead Jeebus they worship was scientifically illiterate. Doesn’t that make evolution incompatible with Christianity?

    One more thing. Why do Christians use the adjective theistic for biology and only biology? Perhaps they realize evolution makes their god fantasy unnecessary. To solve that problem they use the adjective theistic to stick their magic fairy into science.

    The truth is evolution, like any other natural process, does not need a supernatural inventor or user. “believes God deployed the evolutionary processes that produced human beings” is a ridiculous fantasy, about equal to what the brain-dead Ken Ham believes, equally stupid.

    A quote from the physicist Lawrence Krauss: “If you look at the universe and study the universe, what you find is that there is no evidence that we need anything other than the laws of physics and the other laws of science to explain everything we see. There’s absolutely no evidence that we need any supernatural hand of god.”

    The world’s theists should admit their god fantasy is childish and unnecessary. Unfortunately they are too cowardly to throw out their magical heaven so they will invent any excuse to believe in the most anti-science idea ever invented, a supernatural god with unlimited magical powers.

    • Two notes – Darwinian evolution describes a mechanism called “natural selection” as the sole guiding force of evolution (‘evolution’ simply means change over time, in and of itself it does not imply a cause for those changes); theistic evolution sees the processes involved as guided or nudged along by the hand of the Creator. Of course, if you accept natural selection (survival of the fittest) as the ultimate guiding force for our species you end up with some severe moral problems (for example, genocide and eugenics become not only “not bad” but potentially “good”). Most people find this morally unacceptable and even “untrue” to the world they know.

      Interestingly we have found that religious faith actually contributes to health and happiness and other evolutionary “advantages,” which makes us wonder why so many Materialists (who think that natural selection/evolution explains everything) are so determined to stamp out religious faith. To do so would seem to contradict their own convictions about fitness. Deep irony there (the sort of thing religious believers have come to expect from God).

      Secondly some physicists would agree with the statement that “given the laws of nature, what we have was inevitable” – but then you still get the question of “why those laws? what is there source?” where they inevitable because of some higher law? In which case what is it’s source? If you want to avoid an infinite regression (which is impossible) then you need some foundational cause “The Ground of Being” to answer the famous question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” This is why many believe in God. And if you accept that there was a Creator God to begin with, you get to the next BIG question that all religious faith gets at: Why – What does it all Mean? (which is different from the scientist’s question of Why, that is, ‘what are the material causes?’)

  • John Haas

    Good thought-provoking question.

    Perhaps it has something to do with being “far,” as in far-left or far-right. The more “far” you are in either direction, the less you’re threatened by anyone going “farther,” because they will generally be fewer as a result, and so less of a threat. Whereas anyone moving toward the center will be joining a large coalition that could defeat you in various circumstances.

    I’m thinking in terms of politics, but so many of our church battles are political in some way: either interfacing with the culture wars, or involving power (of seminaries, denominations, etc.)

    So, if you’re an Old Earth Creationist, the Young Earthers aren’t going to be able to link up with anyone to crush you, whereas the Theistic Evolutionists will side with natural evolutionists on questions of the science curriculum at your Christian college, or whatever.

  • Duncan MacLeod

    I liked the first point about the location of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful – it is interesting in Christian tradition that the location of the true, good, and beautiful is both ahead and behind, both in the past and in the future. The Garden represents things as intended, as does New Jerusalem. The beginning and the end. Perhaps this implies that the conservative and the progressive both have a legitimate role and view, and both have an incomplete view without the other?

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Great comment, Duncan. And by the way, did I used to see comments from you at Contentions?

  • Kubrick’s Rube

    Excellent piece, Tim.

    I think this is a broadly applicable aspect of human nature- the notion that “our” kooks are misguided but “their” kooks are dangerous. It’s somewhat of a variation on fundamental attribution error.

  • Grant from Houston

    i do agree with the main thrust of the article- some beautiful statements btw and insights! however, i thought it sad for Ken Ham and Shelby Spong b/c they were named and stated that they need to be corrected yet not much was given to describing their erroneous behavior/teaching. I feel like the author used those two more as figureheads or attention getters in the title instead of treating them as actual people. i will close this comment with my fav passage though from this article: “I don’t want to be conservative; I don’t want to be liberal. I want to be faithful. Sometimes that faithfulness will require me to hold fast to an ancient belief in the face of the world’s mockery; sometimes faithfulness will require me to let go of my hidebound forms of understanding, and venture forth into an unseen and unstable future.”

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Good comment, Grant. Thank you.

    • Bob Apjok

      Id just like one example of how Ken Ham teaches anything other than what the bible explicitly states. “and the evening and the morning were the first day”, “and the evening and the morning were the second day”…If you simply read what it says, it becomes pretty clear.

      • William

        When the bible says “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out”, are we supposed to surgically extract our eyes to avoid sin?.


  • Esther

    Thank you! I love that someone is pointing this out! I think so often YE people are blind to the amount of people who leave the gospel and never realize you can believe in an old earth and believe in Jesus Christ without one view canceling out the other. much of my ministry as a Christian counselor is often cleaning up the messes left behind by conservative Christians who trample over people for the sake of their views.

  • Brian Scarborough

    You make some interesting points, but I think they go to an extreme. Can we really say that Ham and Spong are equally dangerous? I would say that a person who faithfully follows Spong’s philosophy will end up in Hell while someone who follows Ham’s would go to Heaven even if they were wrong about how old the earth is.
    These are not essential issues. Give me someone a little extreme who gets Jesus right rather than someone who gets everything right except Jesus.

  • “Among conservative evangelicals moving to the right seems never to be wrong.

    To the left is a slippery slope, to the right is faithfulness (even if it is extreme).”

    I think both of these statements of McKnight are questionable and difficult to support with facts…There is, of course, some truth in these statements!

  • P.S. In any case – I appreciated your article!

  • Have you heard of Bishop Shelby Spong? Here is a quote from him:
    ” “I live on the other side of Charles Darwin. And Charles Darwin not only made us Christians face the fact that the literal creation story cannot be quite so literal, but he also destroyed the primary myth by which we had told the Jesus story for centuries. That myth suggested that there was a finished creation from which we human beings had fallen into sin, and therefore needed a rescuing divine presence to lift us back to what God had originally created us to be. But Charles Darwin says that there was no perfect creation because it is not yet finished. It is still unfolding. And there was no perfect human life which then corrupted itself and fell into sin, there was rather a single cell that emerged slowly over 4½ to 5 billion years, into increasing complexity, into increasing consciousness.

    “And so the story of Jesus who comes to rescue us from the Fall becomes a nonsensical story. So how can we tell the Jesus story with integrity and with power, against the background of a humanity that is not fallen but is simply unfinished?” (

    It is interesting to see the way those who vehemently oppose the biblical creationists have been trying to portray us lately. I was recently accused of being ‘liberal.’ And then the ridiculous accusation I was really a closet ‘atheist.’ Well, now I am being compared to the destructive heresies of Shelby Spong! In a new article on the web we read:

    “I hate to say this, but I sincerely believe that Ken Ham does just as much damage as Shelby Spong. Neither one is harmless; both need to be corrected. One leads people away from the faith by repulsion. The other leads them away from the faith by attraction. But the outcome is the same.”

  • I think you are definitely on to something, but I think I would phrase it a bit differently. I don’t mind labels as such, but our fealty isn’t to what the label may represent, but to the truth. When I was a young Christian I was strongly influenced by Francis Schaeffer. He talked and wrote a lot about disaffected young Christians who were raised in Christian homes but would go off to college and jettison their faith. I had a hard time comprehending that. If you are raised in a Christian home how could you let some secularist/atheist/agnostic professor steal your faith?

    As I’ve raised three children now and as I’ve thought a lot about life and faith for over 30 years (yikes!), I think I understand it better, and the concept of “truth” is the key. Our faithfulness, as you mention, to our faith is grounded in one thing and one thing only: we believe it is The Truth. Christians are not relativist, no one “truth” for me and another “truth” for you. That’s why Christianity was so completely explosive in the ancient world: it claimed exclusivity! And that claim is just as “controversial” today.

    The reason my kids are securely grounded in their faith is because I’ve sold them on it, that it is the most rational, reasonable, and logical explanation for reality. In other words, it is The Truth. The evidence for this, while not absolute—nothing can be absolutely proven—is not only plausible, it is compelling; I cannot NOT believe. So there is no piece of knowledge that will come to light that will somehow shake me out of the Christian faith. And it is my commitment to the truth that gets me beyond labels or believing things because of labels.

    To take one example you brought up, creation and evolution. The reason I believe Darwinian macro evolution is bunk is not because it threatens the Genesis creation story. The reason is because science cannot prove that random mutation and natural selection create new species, among many other reasons. I’m also dubious because evolution is a very convenient creation “myth” for the atheist; seems a bit too convenient for me.

    But because I am committed to the truth, when I recently read “The Lost World of Genesis One” by John H. Walton, I was completely open to his argument that Genesis 1-3 has nothing to do with the material creation of the universe. Thus God could very well have used some sort of evolution. So the issue is not that a Christian cannot accept evolution because it’s not the accepted conservative position. What we should do is accept it or reject it based on the evidence and the facts. (Where someone like Peter Enns goes too far is in suggesting that Adam may not have been a real, historical person. If Jesus and Paul believed Adam was real, he was.)

    • richard williams

      If Jesus and Paul believed Adam was real, he was.

      is this necessarily true?
      there is no evidence that God taught Jesus or Paul anything different about the physical world than was believed by their communities. whether flat earth, geocentricism or illness caused by demons or the basic rightness of slavery.

      Jesus did speak out against divorce, but not against polygamy. Paul did speak out against abuses of slavery but not against the institution.

      there is no evidence of any revelation to the NT writers concerning germ theory, human rights, deep time and space etc. why should the NT talk about genetics of population and the impossibility of a single progenitor pair? it would have been less than nonsense to those 1st c folks.

      • Clark Coleman

        I wonder what kind of Christology requires God to “teach Jesus” something before Jesus would know it.

        • richard williams

          one that starts with God taking on a true human nature and being born of a woman. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men”. that kind of Christology.

  • Yes, yes, and Amen. What does it mean for Truth to be a Person? The conservatives are uncomfortable with the truth not being a system of universally valid propositions and the liberals are uncomfortable with the truth existing at all. We have a lot of conversations to have over the next few decades…

  • Mary

    I have read your article and agree with some of what you said, but think you have not given Ken Ham nor others in the creation science movement their due. I find it hard to believe that you’ve done more than read what others have said about them and what they believe.

    My experience is apparently different from yours. I was 43 and enrolled in a course evolution. I had been steeped in evolution all my years of schooling. However, I had recently undergone a mystical experience leaving me with no doubt as to the existence of God. I had recently prayed, “If creation is true, why do all the scientists believe in evolution?” The fact is, I had enrolled in another class to avoid evolution, but that class had low enrollment so was canceled, so I had to take the course in evolution. A couple of weeks into that class, I was told that a couple of creation scientists from Australia were going to speak at a local church. I decided to go. It was Ken Ham and his then-partner, John Mackay. All through their presentations showing that a lot of the subjects of geological and paleontological study were formed by the Genesis flood. They had demonstrations and explanations, and shined a light from a scientific perspective on the fallacies of secular scientists. It was all very enlightening.

    Evolution creates confusion in the mind of the Christian. The confusion creates doubt in the veracity of the scriptures. When Christians aren’t able to answer the questions raised by evolutionists regarding scriptural matters, kids figure there are no answers, and they choose to believe the scientists whose collective experience goes no further back than a few hundred years, rather than the scriptures which make the claim of being the word of the everlasting creator God.

    It all boils down to whose word you’re going to take: that of Jesus, or that of the likes of Charles Darwin and his followers, many of whom are or were atheists. I’ve chosen to believe Jesus, who spoke about Noah by name and of the flood (See Matthew 24); and I share my reasons for that belief with anyone who will listen as well as with a lot of people who won’t.

    Do I believe that belief in a young earth is vital to salvation? Frankly, I don’t know. I’m not so “married” to the “young earth” as I am to the worldwide flood in the days of Noah. But, if there was a worldwide flood in the days of Noah, that pretty much precludes evolution “from goo to you via the zoo,” because there wouldn’t have been time for that following the days of Noah. I do know that the Bible states that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Evidently God places a lot of importance on being believed. In fact, if you do a concordance search of “believers” vs “unbelievers” you’ll find some dire predictions for unbelievers.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I’m actually pretty familiar with the creation science movement. I read a fair amount of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis growing up. I am a creationist in the most general sense that I believe God created all things. I could also call myself an intelligent design theorist insofar as I believe that an intelligence designed all things. I also don’t think that intelligent design is intrinsically unscientific. There’s nothing unscientific about observing a wide range of phenomena and inferring to the most reasonable explanation.

      I’m glad Ken’s work had a positive effect for you. You’re not alone. For many, however, and I think their numbers are increasing, the effect is negative. If I must believe *this* in order to be a Christian, they say, then I cannot be a Christian, because I cannot simply will myself to believe this. Unfortunately, I fear the way in which Ken and his colleagues have gone about answering these questions has created a tremendous amount of intellectual dissonance for many people, young believers in particular. I believe Ken has the best of intentions, but I think the costs of his actions have been quite high.


  • Chris

    I don’t find Ken Ham destructive I just him to be wrong. Genesis as literal doesn’t fit with Judaic, historical, or translation apects of creation.

  • Larry

    “FIRST, it partly has to do with the very nature of conservatism. One of the handiest ways of distinguishing conservatism and liberalism (and it’s false if taken to an extreme) is that Conservatism believes that the True, the Good and the Beautiful are in the past, while Liberalism believes that the True, the Good and the Beautiful are in the future”

    Timothy, that doesn’t comport with my view of conservatism … nor do I imagine myself alone in that reckoning. I view conservatism as a philosophy centered in timeless principles which, regardless of time or place, enjoy relevance largely because of its willingness to embrace the reality of the human condition.

    It is this willingness to accept the flawed state of mankind which contributes to a certain humility … a necessary humility and an inherent distrust in our ability to consistently act apart from self-interest. From individual rights to the very structure of our governing institutions, self-interests are balanced by competing self-interests (Hofstadter’s conclusions aside).

    How may one be too conservative in their fealty to such propositions? I am a conservative. I am a vocal proponent of legalizing narcotics. Not because I believe that they’re harmless, but because of government’s tendency to recklessly apply power over its citizen’s in pursuit of enforcement goals. It’s capacity for doing harm simply outweighs any benefit it might offer (because of the human condition). I find this principle consistently adhered to by thinking conservatives.

    I am a literalist. Yet I feel no compunction to imagine that the Genesis narrative demands a view of creation at odds with true science. I do believe that evolution is at odds with true science in the most fundamental way. If, that is, science restricts itself to observable phenomenon … which which invites and survives the scrutiny of scientific method.

    Evolution, at least as it is popularly presented, is a discredited theory … or one which has, at the very least, been thrown into serious doubt as a legitimate theory and called into question by true science.

    Cosmologists offer compelling proof of an earth which is more than three billion years old, situated in a universe more than four times that age. I find no conflict in scripture with that notion.

    I am a conservative who finds silly and unhelpful the notion that one can be too conservative as long as truth has any meaning and relevance to life and the manner in which it is lived. That point of view will doubtless throw me into conflict with others from time to time … OK and so what?

    Where a way forward can be found between two perspectives, fine … but not at the cost of truth. I can be too slow, too fast, too early, too late. Too stupid, too smart (by half), too small, too large, too full, too cold, too hot … well, you get the point. But too conservative … no, not by a long shot.

  • Paul D.

    John Shelby Spong is awesome, thank you very much. A brilliant and compassionate man who probably knows his Bible better than any of us do.

  • As a point of information, author Gorman Gray presents a strong scriptural case for a possibly old earth and cosmos, and a definitely young biosphere. See his website,, and click on Book Contents. From the home page: “Does a literal interpretation of the Bible require a young universe? Author Gorman Gray says, “No,” as he confronts many damaging yet widely accepted assumptions about the young age of the universe. At the same time he defends Flood geology, recent creation of life and literal, consecutive, 24 hour days of biosphere preparation as described in Genesis. Simple, difficult to refute interpretive devices force the issue to a showdown in this controversial but insightful treatise.”

  • Katherine Harms

    I think you do a great job of getting past the labels. When we argue about the labels, we always miss the point. I agree that as a follower of Christ, I want to be faithful. I want to shape my life and my words and my actions by truth, not labels. As human beings we have a tendency to want labels, because otherwise we must examine everything a person says. That attitude always gets us in trouble.

    • jason taylor

      Katherine, there are several billion people in the world. If you demand to examine everything everyone says you don’t examine anything.

      And the term “labels” is a shorthand way of describing the process of organizing thought, usually one with a bad connotation. It is in fact a “label”

  • Great thoughts, Timothy. You’ve adequatley revealed the flaws in some of my own emotional responses, while showing that the extreme of either position can so easily lead us away from faithfulness.

  • Kyle Koppenhoefer

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I enjoyed reading them and agree with your main thesis. I was curious about your choice of Spong as the liberal example, though, because of his denial of essential Christian doctrine. Would it have been a better choice to identify someone on the left that does not deny essential doctrine, but does deny secondary doctrine (e.g., evolution, divorce, homosexuality)?

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Yes, that may have been better. Thanks, Kyle.


  • … that only social democracy works reasonably well; AND that the 30-year rise of neo-laisse-z-faire “conservat-ism” (although it is anything but conservati-ve in any correct – that is, Burkean – sense), with its casino-cap-italist economics, politicall-y supported willy-nill-y through deceptivel-y stoking religious and other kinds of divisive passions among “low-infor-mation” people, is bringing about a serious environent-al crisis in the United States, to be accompanie-d by a widespread decline in living standards and some pretty nasty fighting over “ownership-” of dwindling resources. It’s deeply political and cultural and I don’t see any practical means of stopping things from getting much much worse. times sport