god’s big bang

May 14, 2009 at 10:26 pm 12 comments

imagesMy 10 year old asked me tonight about how the earth was formed. My next oldest enthusiastically bounded into the room with, “God made it with a big bang!” I thought that was a reasonable syntheses of beliefs for our household. Probably most of their young friends are taught some form of “6,000 years ago” anyway, so a theistic form of 4.5 billion years ago doesn’t sound so bad to me for now.

I googled up a kid’s intranets site on the formation of the earth. A few minutes later I was being asked about what the site meant about evolution. I said, “I think that’s pretty much what happened.” “But Dad, the bible didn’t say Adam and Eve were monkeys.” I explained the bible didn’t necessarily say anything about evolution, maybe Adam and Eve were the first humans, but they evolved that way (I want to take that one back, going to push for a symbolic interpretation to that story). “But Dad, you don’t know that is what happened.” “That’s true son, but…”

Anyway, my point. In conservative Christian circles it is hard for Christians to come out of the closet and say they believe in an old earth. Why? To a large extent, Answers in Genesis (AIG) and their like have been successful in painting their opponents as atheistic, God-hating scientists. Now as a conservative Christian, who are you going to side with, a bunch of god-hating atheists, even if they seem to be speaking good science, or a bunch of maybe pseudo-scientists, but who “love the Lord”? And look, a lot of Christians believed the atheist scientists and fell away from the (conservative) faith…

Picking the lesser of two evils, many at best hedge their bets and say, “Well, we can’t really know what happened. Those are just theories out there. Or they just feel compelled or coerced to believe those godly people who are studying the issues.

I know this is what happens, because I was thinking about this after talking with my kids, and then my wife asked me about what we had been talking about. I told her and, even though she mostly believes in an “old earth”, she proceeded to tell me, “We can’t know who is right, you shouldn’t say you know that.” Funny, that sounded familiar…

I talked a bit about scientists, and statistics in their fields, and peer-reviewed publications, and… and predictably I was politely cut off a few minutes later for making the conversation too intense. “But you brought it up!” Yeah, that didn’t get me anywhere. :^)

Good times! While we won’t have the big and comprehensive conversations I may want, each one is an opportunity to lay a little bit of information out there. Like fitting together puzzle pieces, the picture doesn’t look like much in the beginning, but over time it begins to take shape and starts to look like…something. And there should be a compelling picture over time. We’ll see.

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Entry filed under: fundamentalism, life, science.

the silver bullet night to night reveals knowledge

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. makarios  |  May 14, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Ain’t parenting fun? Good luck.

  • 2. The Jesting Fool  |  May 15, 2009 at 12:29 am

    Hey, I was taught to think for myself…except, oh yeah, I was taught that within a fundamental Christian worldview, so it was more like “Think for yourself how stupid atheism is.”

    I’ve wondered how I would raise kids if I ever decided to have any. Your situation seems to be a little tricky, but it sounds like you’re taking it seriously and having fun with it at the same time.

    (Answers in Genesis? You mean those guys are for real? Oh, all this time I thought they were doing satire!)

  • 3. freestyleroadtrip  |  May 15, 2009 at 12:51 am

    Wow. You have hit home in our house. Except, my wife and I are on the same page. We have both left fundamentalist Christianity. Although I was first, and it made for a tricky few years.

    We had our kids in a Christian school until about 9 months ago. It was a good school academically with nice people for the most part so we tolerated the indoctrination, reversing it at home, until it just got too ridiculous. Our kids had been told that if their parents talked about Santa Clause as real, they were being lied to. Easy enough to get around. They were also told that on Halloween there were witches and evil people prowling around killing other people. A bit harder to get through as it terrified my now 11 year old, but still manageable. So we continued.

    Then the creation science started. My oldest was taught that the earth was 5,000 years old and that evolution was of course false. But he also thought, when I expressed a bit of doubt about these statements, that I was going to hell for believing differently. It was then that we realized that our kids were being taught to lie to themselves, to buy the fundamentalist doctrine without questioning it, and we had to get out. Incidentally we are now in our neighborhood school and their academics have skyrocketed to the tops of their classes.

    I recently read a great book called “Saving Darwin” which is written by a professor at a Nazarene university in Boston. This is the very denomination that I left. It was amazing to read his take on how the bible and evolution blend very well. He of course has been harshly criticized from the Nazarene elite. Another great book which deals with this briefly is Antony Flew’s, “There Is A God.” Both very good and maybe helpful for you as you try to blend your agnostic/atheist slant with the Christianity of your wife.

    Thanks for the post. It’s good to know others are in the same boat.

    Oh. One other thing. You mention how hard it is for conservative Christians to be willing to accept evolution. My own take on why is this: Many in this camp believe in a very literal interpretation of scripture to make their systematic approach to God fit together in a nice little package. Well if the first few chapters of Genesis are not literally true, the house of cards on which the theology is built will crash to the ground. There is no room for them to believe otherwise without the whole bible having to be rethought. And humans don’t really like to exist in that kind of uncertainty although I maintain that being comfortable with uncertainty and being willing to ask honest questions of everything is the place where you encounter the most truth.

  • 4. atimetorend  |  May 15, 2009 at 9:16 am

    TJF, glad you picked up on the having fun with it part, I was hoping that would come through, ’cause I am.

    I was going to put an AIG comic at the bottom of the post but forgot to. Lets try this:

    If that didn’t work, click this LINK for this url:

  • 5. atimetorend  |  May 15, 2009 at 9:22 am

    FRT: Yes, my kids have come home from their Christian school with little tidbits like that too. You are right, it really just indoctrination, especially at that age. We have already decided they are not attending next year.

    I drafted a post on just that, about an inerrentist/literalist perspective needing certain supports to keep from knocking down the house of cards. Exactly, there is an understanding there that the worldview would need to be rethought, and that seems like a scary and dangerous thing. Better to avoid the danger and save your soul, or so the thinking goes.

  • 6. TitforTat  |  May 15, 2009 at 9:36 am

    I think this one is pretty appropriate for you guys. It is a song from the Musical South Pacific.

    You’ve got to be taught To hate and fear,
    You’ve got to be taught From year to year,
    It’s got to be drummed In your dear little ear
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.
    You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
    Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
    And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.
    You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught!
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

  • 7. Zoe  |  May 15, 2009 at 11:59 am

    I remember when I made the transition from YEC to OEC by reading Dr. Hugh Ross’s books. It helped be breathe a sigh of relief, because the whole YEC just wasn’t making sense and I needed to find born-again Christians who believed more like me. Mind you, I wasn’t an astro-physicist like him, but I found his books fascinating at the time. I once asked Henry Morris (this is back in the 1990’s, so I think that’s his name) how he reconcilled his YEC with Ross’s OEC, being that they were both born-again Christians. He immediately bristled and curtly replied, “Read your Bible!” Then he walked away.

    Left me there in shock and feeling like I’d been a bad Eve.

  • 8. atimetorend  |  May 15, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Zoe, that is sad, but telling, that you would have received a response like that. It reminds of a story a friend experienced, different subject (homeschooling), same kind of smug response, all they received was a bible verse in reply to an honest question, as though that verse was the be all and end all of the discussion, all it took to hold to that person’s “right belief.” The arrogance and hurtfulness make me want to cry.

    I came into and left the faith still holding a solid old-earth perspective, but really struggled when confronted by YEC folks who told me I had to believe what they believed. Had to find a way to articulate why I thought they were wrong. I finally ended up reading a lot of Hugh Ross as well. I still appreciate that Ross can honestly approach the scientific evidence, even if I no longer hold to his theological perspective.

  • 9. Lorena  |  May 15, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    “We can’t know who is right, you shouldn’t say you know that.”

    What is wrong with that answer? At least your wife isn’t saying that you should believe in creation.

    She is at a better place than my husband. I can tell you that much.

    I would probably tell my kids that how the earth came to be no one knows for sure, but if they’re interested in the topic, perhaps when they get older they can study the many books written about it and reach their own conclusion.

    Dad doesn’t have to know everything, does he?

  • 10. atimetorend  |  May 15, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Lorena, are you saying I don’t know everything? ;^(

    You are right, and I did affirm to both my son and my wife that they were right, I can’t know those things. But I did talk about why I believe them.

    The problem is the young earth creationists teach that you *can’t* evaluate evidence apart from the bible. And they are so strident in demonizing their opponents they make Christians afraid to speak up and afraid to evaluate evidence and think for themselves. Scientific fundamentalism.

  • 11. atimetorend  |  May 17, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Thinking about the day-age creation argument last night, that there are 6 days of creation, but each day could be an indeterminate age instead of a literal day, so we really could have an old earth, which is basically what I used to believe. And I was struck by how much the day-age theory still is trying to hold on to an inerrant reading of the bible. It’s trying to hold to “all scripture is God breathed.” I think it is possible to find more meaning in Genesis ch. 1 when one lets go of the all scripture is God breathed part. It holds value as seeing into the minds of people trying to understand the world about them, while we need not hold to the same beliefs they had, either literally or symbolically. I guess that’s the philosophic view vs. the theological view.

  • 12. Ben Sanders  |  September 7, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    There isn’t enough I could say about this. This is my current challenge in my search for answers. My wife would be so hurt and betrayed if I told my kids about evolution I think my relationship might be better off if I just went out and had an affair. Not that I would, just an illustration. I spent some time in denial, thinking I had plenty of time to jump in before the indoctrination set in, but was disabused when I found my 4 year old calling his cousin names for having different ideas about God. I wish I had answers; Hell, I wish I could have fun looking for answers. For that I laud you, and your wife.

    Best of luck with that whole parenting thing.

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