Leaving the Fold and Young Earth Creationism

Webmaster note:
This article was originally written on Aug 9, 2002, as a follow up to Ed's testimony (located here) about his intellectual journey from beliefs in a young earth creation and his struggles leaving the fold.

I held onto my young-earth beliefs just as everyone who is comfortable with their beliefs holds onto them, making allowances and qualifications for micro-evolution of course, and other allowances and qualifications, until finally (after having read collections of well-focused questions by the likes of Robert Moore and others) my YEC "died the death of a thousand qualifications."

You can add many qualifications and sub-qualifications within any general framework of belief. That's why it is so difficult to "argue" a person into switching their general frameworks.

Another way of putting it is to say that people avoid change until the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of changing. In my case it was painful drawing away from the fold but even more painful trying to accommodate a host of new data and new questions to fit within my old framework. It grew painful to even introduce myself as a young-earth creationist when I could no longer believe in young-earth creationism. I say "young-earth creationism," but my doubts were far from limited to that subject. Having studied Genesis 1 and 2 in the light of how ancient near easterners in Moses's day would have understood it, the Bible appeared to contain verses perfectly attuned to prescientific notions of cosmology, and far more easily recognized as reflections of ancient prescientific ideas in general, than as "accommodations" in an old-earth creationist sense. (Even concordism died the death of thousands of little bits of info I learned about Genesis 1 and 2.) I was challenged by Will Bagley to read books about the sincere spiritualities of people of other faiths, and so I read books like THE INNER EYE OF LOVE by a Jesuit in Japan who compared Buddhist karnua/compassion with Christian agape, and who compared praying to Christ for salvation to praying to Amida Buddha for salvation (Pure Land Buddhism). There were others I also read at that time, suggested by Will. This was all after college when I was trying to win Will and Bob back into the fold. Bob was Robert M. Price, who challenged me to study N.T. prophecies drawn from the O.T. and check what each O.T. verse originally said and compare that with what the N.T. authors said they said. He also challenged me to study Jesus's apocalyptic predictions.

Such challenges compelled me to qualify my beliefs further and further: For instance, I realized that some people of other faiths and their awareness of love and goodness were more like my own than I cared to admit. And more and more prophecies seemed typological instead of dead on. And I tried to argue in a host of ways that Jesus's apocalyptic predictions referred to anything but a near apocalyptic prediction of the world's final judgment. During my last few years in the fold I tried more moderate forms of evangelicalism and Christian liberalism (like the works of Robert F. Capon, HUNTING THE DIVINE FOX, THE PARABLES OF JUDGMENT, etc. Capon wrote in a very Chestertonian style and even admitted Chesterton's direct influence --His works had been suggested to me by a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary whom I met in the library there by chance one day yet who discussed religion with me a bit while he was busy at the copier, copying some pages from Capon in fact! I read some of them and was amused and curious enough to read more. Amazing what chance meetings can lead to.) But I grew increasingly suspicious of the alleged perfect unity of Old and New Testaments, and of the alleged unity of the Bible with science, and of the precise meaning of Jesus's predictions, and of the apocalyptic genre and of the hellish destination of "unbelievers," and of other specifically Christian matters. The faith that had once come so easy to me as a sophomore in high school had undergone change, it got stretched by new ideas and never fully regained its original shape.

Ed Babinski: But I'll take things one paragraph at a time for now. I responded earlier that as a young-earth creationist I knew of the "so-called" evidence for evolution, but I had read Morris, Gish, Weston-Smith, ICR Impact articles, CRSQ articles, Bible-Science Newsletter, Evolution Protest Movement pamphlets, and I had answers ready for each and every "difficulty" (just like Kent Hovind does today).
It seems to me that you are as much a reality-denying fundamentalist now as you were then. The only essential difference is that you have swung from one reality-denying extreme to the other.

Calling me a "reality-denying fundamentalist" is not an argument. It just means you've met someone who denies your particular view of reality and likes to debate it, just as you do. I have always loved ideas, debating them with others or with myself. From my perspective you are making claims to having found surer answers than me. So who remains a smidge nearer to still being a "fundamentalist?" I wonder. You've got answers about God, the Bible's infallibility, how to be saved, and believe also that every tapeworm, every exploding bee's penis, and every asteroid impact, fits in with a perfect Designer, somehow. Maybe you even admit you don't know how, in which case you choose to concentrate instead on the marvels of bacterial flagellum, and dream sweet I.D. dreams each night. That reminds me of how well I slept at night too as a young-earth creationist, concentrating and marvelling over things I had read in Wysong's book about polystrate tree fossils disproving the existence of geologic time; or about human and dino footprints found side by side; and a host of other things that I felt were so obviously and undeniably true that I was certain old-earthers had no answers for any of them, and never would. This was before the web, before young-earth creationism made it all the way to a U.S. Supreme Court case in 1987. (My college years were 1974-1979), before evolutionists were even writing books questioning "scientific creationism" as Morris called it. Before Creation/Evolution Journal. A lot would be written by evolutionists just prior to and following that U.S. Supreme Court case in 1987.

But in the case of "Young-earth propaganda" it takes two to tango, i.e. the "propaganda"-isers and the "propaganda"-ees.

Yes, I actively feasted on young-earth literature. Not until I had read Robert Moore's special issue of Creation/Evolution Journal, "The Impossible Voyage of Noah's Flood" -- after college -- did I begin feasting on articles that directly quoted and replied to the arguments of Morris, Gish, et al. That's when it became a matter of "debate" in my mind. Here were people citing the very authors I held most authoritative and asking them questions I had not previously considered, even introducing some new data I was previously unacquainted with. That's when it became a matter of "debate" -- when I encountered the works of people directly debating one another. And I've enjoyed debates ever since. Though none of the major debates I have read about has ever solved anything: Douglas Dewar, a biologist and old-earth creationist, debated the famed British biologist Haldane in a series of letters in the 1940s, nothing was solved. (A flat earther also had debated Haldane, and again neither said could get the other to agree on the meaning of the evidence provided by measuring the curve of water in a canal many miles long.) A "Pope of Fundamentalism" in America, Stratton, debated the leading Unitarian Minister, Potter, in Carnegie Hall of all places, in the 1920s and packed the place every night, while they debated the authority of Scripture, the divinity of Christ, etc. and in the end neither side convinced the other of anything. Huxley debated Owen in the late nineteenth century and neither of them ever agreed on the topic of evolution. I've read numerous debates between Farrell Till (a Skeptic and former minister) and various Protestant Bible believing ministers. Neither side has ever convinced the other of anything it seems. They might give in on a little point but quickly discover a way to qualify it or a way to doubt the solidity of the other person's interpretation of that point. There are debates galore between well-known skeptics and well known ministers that you can read on the web at both Christian and Skeptical websites. Kent Hovind the young-earther, sells videos of debates between himself and old-earth creationists, theistic evolutionists and atheistic evolutionists. Yet none of the people whom he has debated in any of his debate videos has ever changed sides that I know of. Still, I have viewed such videos, a lot of them in fact, when I prepared for my own debate with Kent. And he was kind enough to take them back and return my money afterwards as he guaranteed he would if I was not impressed or satisfied enough with them to want to keep them. Most of my knowledge of debates and reading about them came after my own "exit from the fold." And they demonstrate to me that change is not the rule, even after vigorous debate. It's more likely that each side will simply offend the other rather than either side will change. I know of some young-earthers who changed like me. But informed young-earth creationists are naturally a small minority of any population. I know of a lot more fundamentalistic Christians in general who changed like me. I'm not proposing an argument based on testimonies. Testimonies can lead in all directions. That's what you find out reading testimonies. While reading debates you find out that they settle very little and change their participants very little.

And I personally know how difficult my own exit was, and how powerfully my framework of beliefs held me during my last two years of high school and four years of college and several years after that. So when I meet someone else who is as sure of themselves as I am, I no longer hope to change them, I merely hope to be able to communicate with them, share stories of our respective intellectual journeys. Communication, not conversion. If anyone does "convert" it still surprises the heck out of me, like when I sent one young-earther a bunch of articles in my files on the Greenriver formation and he read them, and changed to old earth. It was freaky having been involved in that sort of change. I mean it's another person's life, and they just up and changed and told me I had something to do with it because I was the one who sent them the papers on Greenriver. Then that person proceeded to change from a Christian to a total atheist overnight, and again I was concerned. And he experienced pain and guilt to boot. We talked and he went through further changes, not sure where he is now, having spoken in a while. But he seems to have grown a bit more stable. Maybe the pendulum isn't swinging so far right to left anymore and is coming down somewhere in the middle. I hope so.

The Bible does not teach "no death [i.e. animal death] before the fall", so this is one YEC "views" (perhaps the most basic one) which is not based squarely on the Bible".

So in rejecting this and other YEC un-Biblical teaching, you have `thrown out the baby with the bathwater'.

I'm not going to argue YEC teachings concerning death and the fall, or which Bible verses YECs base their ideas upon. You can study their arguments for yourself in THE TWILIGHT OF EVOLUTION, and, THE GENESIS FLOOD or at the AIG and ICR websites. You can read debates on the subject on the web. And you can write YEC's and convert them in the thousands to "what the Bible says" if it were as easy as you believe it to be. (By the way, I was a sophomore in high school when I first read YEC books handed me by a highly intelligent history teacher whom I respected. What did I know? Or should I ask rather, what's Morris's excuse for continuing to believe what he believes about death and the fall?)

As for citing the old adage, "Throwing out the baby with the bathwater," it proves nothing. It only reiterates something you already think about people who "go to far," which means in this case, further than you.

In the light of what later happened, it would have been better if you had learned to walk before you ran. You are just another case of someone whose rapid growth was not supported by a depth of root and so could not withstand the full light in the real world outside the college hot-house world (Mt 13:5-6; 20-21).

Or to put it another way, you did not heed Jesus' warning but built your "house" upon "sand", without taking the necessary time to lay down adequate "foundations" that could withstand the storms that inevitably come later (Mt 7:26-27).

Another adage? ("Walk before I run.") Everyone has an "explanation" for why other people's beliefs change in ways they find unacceptible. There's a site on the internet in which a Muslim explains (using Scriptures from his faith) "why some Muslims leave the fold." Henry Morris thinks you are the one who has not studied Scriptures to the same "depth" he has. And from my own point of view it presently appears that you have not studied the Bible nor the historical millieu of Gen. 1 and 2 to the same depth that I have. I don't have that early manuscript of mine up on the web, DOES THE BIBLE TEACH SCIENTIFIC CREATIONISM? All I have at the moment are Paul Seeley's articles that I can send you in attachment format if you care to peek at them. They were written years after I had already left the fold, but they discuss many of the same questions I raised in my manuscript. And Paul Seeley remained a Christian, even an evangelical. It would seem that he hasn't studied those additional questions I mentioned above, or perhaps hasn't read the same books on those subjects that I have. He's stuck to examining Biblical cosmology, the Tower of Babel, concordancy theologies, etc. He's a
Christian evolutionist I believe. But he remains firm in his belief in the N.T. being accurate.

In my case, in my earliest years as a Christian, while I read mostly mainstream evangelical Christian books that built up my Christian understanding in a more balanced way. Creation, while important, is not "the weightier matters of the law" (Mt 23:23) that a young would-be Christian should first attend to.

As a young Christian I read mainstream evangelicals too, not simply YEC books. Among the first books I read by mainstream evangelicals were John Stott's BASIC CHRISTIANITY, C. S. Lewis's MERE CHRISTIANITY, Francis Schaeffer's ESCAPE FROM REASON, and a few Andrew Murray books on Christian spirituality, the Blood, etc. I also read lots of Christian testimony books including ones by Richard Wurmbrand (tortured for his faith who today runs Christian Martyrs), Sadhu Sundar Singh (famous Sikh convert to Christianity), BrotherAndrew (who smuggled Bibles into communist Russia).

Quite frankly I still find this "unbelievable". It was in the *1960's* that evolution began being taught in all "B.S. in biology" course in public schools and universities in the USA.

I'll try and make this as clear as possible so even a doubter like you can get a feeling for the historical millieu of my personal intellectual journey. It wasn't until 1987 that American scientists and educators awoke to discover that the question of teaching young-earth creationism in public schools had gone as far as the SUPREME COURT OF THE U.S. Stephen J. Gould spoke on behalf of evolution of course. That case was Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) In a 7-2 Court Decision, the Court invalidated Louisiana's "Creationism Act" because it violated the Establishment Clause. Have you read accounts of it? It was like living through Scopes II over here, and America's educators took action just prior to it and after it.

In the mid 1970s when I began college, it was over ten years BEFORE Edwards v. Agullard, and the Viet Nam draft ended only a year after I entered college. Vietnam was still fresher in everyone's minds than any other particular controversy. Evolution was taken for granted by all my profs, none of whom had even heard of the young-earth creationists I'd been reading. They didn't feel threatened or a need to teach evolution in any great detail. We had to learn the names of all the Phyla along with some classes and orders and distinguishing characteristics of each. And they showed various slides of branches of the tree of life linking them. But the discussion was very generalized and I already knew what Gish had to say about any minor mentions that were made of say, "mammal-like reptiles," etc. Besides which, my first two years were spent in a state community college atmosphere where everything was dumbed down. It was a two-year school, not even a four year college. I got an Associates degree in biology there before going on to Fairleigh Dickenson for my final two years and B.S. degree. It was easy to pass with honors with very little study. I was the only one who went up and spoke to my biology professor after class, questioning him and handing him a copy of THE ORIGIN AND DESTINY OF MAN by Weston-Smith. He took it, but he was not interested in debating or arguing, none of my profs were. Creationism wasn't recognized as, say, a creeping threat to American education by any of my profs during the years 1975-1979. Even profs today at Furman where I work, aren't discussing creationism or I.D. in the lunchroom, they are more interested in their pensions or travels or their own personal lives or sometimes a funny teaching experience or anecdote. Only one biology prof has ever even debated a creationist on campus. (A religious student association brought in the creationist and arranged the debate.) I faced more evolutionary evidence in my courses in anatomy and embryology with Dr. Sebenyi at Fairleigh Dickenson, a private university. But the discussion wasn't linked to a discussion of geology or different types of fossils over time, it was just comparative anatomy/physiology/embryology. So my "Flood geology" explanations never even needed bringing up. An nothing my profs said impressed or challenged me. Even Dr. Sebenyi just told me he wanted me to learn the material, not agree with it. And the books by evolutionary biologists that were to challenge young-earth views only followed the young-earth controversies in the higher court in the U.S., the keystone court case being the Supreme Court's one in 1987, over ten years AFTER I began college. So literature that directly debated Morris's and ICR's "scientific creationist" arguments wasn't in abundance. None of my profs even pointed me to something to read. Even after I had graduated from college in 1979 it wasn't for another 8 years until the U.S. Supreme court case made educators sit up and realize that reports of the death of creationism after the Scopes Trial in the 1920s had been highly exaggerrated to say the least.

My biology profs didn't go on and on about Gaylord Simpson and his books on evolution nor even Dobzhansky and his fruit fly experiments, though I'm sure they were footnoted somewhere in my college texts at that time. Neither would quoting Simpson or Dobzy have altered my views at that time, since Gish quoted them too, and made them look silly. (It wasn't until I started getting suspicious of my own YEC views, a few years after college, after reading Creation/Evolution Journal, that I began to double-check quotations in context and saw for myself what Gish, Morris, et al, were leaving out.)

Neither did my profs have much to say about the latest hominid skull discoveries. They weren't all that spectacular. In fact Zinjanthropus was the major find back then, a robust very apelike Australopithecine with a very thick jaw and very sloping forehead. And Gish assured me that Homo erectus fossils in China were simply those of an ape whom real men had cooked and eaten. And only a tiny homo habilus skull (#1470 I believe) had been found by the time I was ready to graduate from college. In other words, no LUCY, no ancient small footprints in ash of an Australopithecine family walking erect, no Homo erectus skeleton in Africa (which would blow away Gish's clams that Homo erectus fossils in China were misunderstood and it was just another small brained ape).

And not very many early bird fossils at all, in fact I seem to recall Archeopteryx being the only really early bird fossil back then. And Gish argued that Archie was "100%" bird. "It had feathers, it flew! And a few modern birds have teeth and claws, like the Hoatzin and Ostrich (which has claws)!" A bit later some creationists said the opposite, that Archie was 100% reptile and the feather impressions were faked! I gleefully pointed out that either argument could be used to demolish Archie, making him doubly shakey as evidence for evolution. After all, better two arguments against evolution than simply one! (Only later, after my YEC days, did I learn about the full range of skeletal characteristics of Archie that made it so much like ancient reptiles and unlike modern birds. And I realized that even with its feathers, it had many characteristics that would not have made it a very efficient flyer at all. Today I think how silly it was for me to even try to use both of those creationist arguments at once because it should have struck me even then, "Hey wait a minute, if Archeopteryx's fossilized remains could be interpreted as either 100% bird, OR AS, 100% reptile by different creationist authorities, then maybe it did contain some 'transitional' characteristics after all?"

During my college years Gish was also pounding on how ridiculous Cetacean evolution sounded to him, showing slides of a cow jumping into the water and becoming a whale. There were no fossils from Pakistan of Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, Rhodocetus, etc. in my college

The difference is that "Henry Morris" (like Kurt Wise, like "Duane Gish and others of his standing"), is well aware that "his own [YEC] ... side contains difficulties":
"When I visited the Institute for Creation Research towards the end of 1978, it was not difficult to discover some of the reasons why so many people find its message appealing. ... The institute's director is Henry M. Morris, who has a PhD in hydraulic engineering from the University of Minnesota. .... The associate director is Duane T. Gish, who has a PhD in biochemistry from Berkeley. ... Considering that I believe living things have a common origin and have evolved over a long period of time, and Duane Gish doesn't, there turned out to be a surprising amount of shared around between us. ... Duane Gish and others of his standing are well aware of this problem, but in the end they let their faith over-ride it. When I asked him what were the biggest difficulties for creationist science the points in a debate which he felt least comfortable in answering - he answered after a moment's thought that it was the apparently great age of Earth as shown by the fairly recent advances in radiometric dating; and that the the fossil record could be interpreted as showing ecologically complete ages - the age of invertebrates, the age of fishes, the age of reptiles, and so on up to the present. " Hitching F., "The Neck of the Giraffe: Or Where Darwin Went Wrong," Pan: London, 1982, pp.115-121)

But in your case you seem to be saying is that your "belief in young-earth creationism" rendered you unable to even *see* that "own side contained `difficulties'"? And when you did finally see that "own side contained `difficulties'" you, unlike "Henry Morris" gave up not only your "belief in young-earth creationism" but in Christianity itself!

You cited Gish in 1978 as stating that there were difficulties with "recent advances in radiometric dating." I graduated from college in Jan. of 1979, probably just months after that interview and talk of "recent advances." Now show me in any of Gish's books or ICR materials where I could possibly have learned of these "recent advances?" Nearly everything I knew about radiometric dating I had learned from some early ICR monographs, and from Morris's book titled, SCIENTIFIC CREATIONISM [public school edition], or Wysong's young-earth book, or, Weston-Smith's young-earth books. All of them were young-earthers who explained to me the "questionable assumptions" and "problems" with radiometric dating without discussing its accuracies or ways to cross-check results. Gish's forte by the way was not debating the age of the earth, he left that to others at ICR. His forte was stretching the gaps in the fossil record, denying that any truly intermediary forms or characteristics had been found in the fossil record, and also claiming that evolution violated the 2nd law of thermo-d.

I knew about radiometric dating and the supposed succession of ecologically complete ages in the geologic record. But in YEC literature you read about all the questionable assumptions involved in radiometric dating, and you hear about gross errors in radiometric dating and also read about young-earth ecological zonation hypotheses and how the Flood could sometimes pick up whole ecological zones and bury them as it shows in the geological record. And I also heard about polystrate trees, dino-human tracks together, and how evolutionists used fossils to date the strata and vice versa, and I read about unaccountably reversed strata, and other supposed mix ups of the "imaginary geologic column." Did I read about young-earthers dropping like flies and fleeing by the dozens to an old-earth view due to the "recent advances" Gish spoke about? No. And Gish remained a member of ICR his whole life thus far, a place where you sign a statement of belief that says you believe in a six-day old earth and a young creation.

Furthermore, giving up on Flood geology and a young-earth was not an adequate factor in and of itself to make me leave the fold. I studied Genesis 1 and 2, compared modern cosmology and biblical cosmology, Biblical prophecies, Jesus's predictions, and comparative religion. Those factors together with endless letter discussions with past believing friends, over a period of five years of intensive study and reading [this period was after college] precipitated my leaving the fold. It's in my testimony chapter in LEAVING THE FOLD. And that chapter in itself, even with all the footnotes, doesn't cover everything I debated with myself and others prior to leaving the fold. Neither was it easy to leave, not for me. But I could no longer believe what I could no longer believe.

Thanks for this admission! This fits my thesis that you have the ability to "not `understand' ... "difficulties" if they are "contrary to what you wanted to believe".

Your "thesis?" I've grown as weary of trying to further explain/defend myself. It appears to me that you haven't the ability to "get outside yourself" enough to understand the amazing relativity of people's different visions and understandings based on their different beliefs and limited ranges of knowledge. Maybe some day you will. But right now, to you, my entire intellectual journey appears beyond the range of your understanding. You also say I "wanted" to leave the fold. And you will never know how wrong you are until the day comes when you too find you don't see the point in former beliefs you once held and you simply cannot hold them any longer. (So, you "wanted" to accept common descent, didn't you? It's as easy as telling yourself, "I wanna!")

So if you were aware of "old-earth excuses for the Lewis mountain overthrust, etc." then you *were* aware "that your own [YEC] side contained "difficulties":

The major "difficulties" that I saw in the case of the Lewis Mountain formation lay on the side of old-earthers. If you recall, I had limited no courses in geology, and had only read about the Lewis mountain formation in YEC materials where they explained page after page that there were no "good" old-earth ways to make the Lewis Mountain "overthrust" a genuine overthrust, because to all appearances it wasn't an overthrust at all but reversed strata for hundreds of miles. Of course the YECs carefully described to me only those appearances that fit their scheme. None of them ever mentioned "inching" of strata, sliding in tiny waves, or how cooked or how non-cooked the minerals in the top and bottom layers of the reversed strata were, nor did they mention the Rocky Mountains rising behind it and propelling it forward. I learned all of that after college in books that tackled these and other young earth "proofs.

1 comment:

  1. The only problem that I have with people talking about millions of years is the same one that I have with people talking about hundreds of years, and the same one that I have about people who talk about something they have never experienced.

    While any system of knowledge might sound plausible, theories are attempts to explain something based on opinions and not laws that are proven. An observation of a number of facts does not prove a theory if it cannot be demonstrated to be true in the present (e.g. throw an object up and it will come down, or, place your hand in boiling water and you will feel pain).

    Pain and reality need not be the same, but for most people they are. When we feel pain we are motivated to avoid it. However, on this Earth, pain is unavoidable, so we endure the pain, and can even acclimatize ourselves to becoming accustomed to the pain (even if it is only the pain of knowing we will eventually die).

    When we experience pain coming from different sources, the greater pain will motivate us the most. This applies to both physical and psychological pain. Hence many people who grow old suddenly decide to call out to the Creator God on their deathbed, even so-called atheists have a change of heart if they get the opportunity and are not killed in an untimely fashion (aircraft accident or on the road).

    People who argue over the age of the Universe, who are not cognizant of the reality of their own demise and do not recognize that the Universe exists within the I AM of existence, merely fool themselves if they do not seek out the Creator of the Universe. Even if an individual wants to believe that everything came from some ball of energy; that ball had to exist within the Infinite One. To not seek the Infinite One and rely upon the imagination of men, who are liars (as I am in that I have lied on more than one occasion) is to play the fool at our own expense. Relying upon our own imagination may seem more creative, only the end is just as tragic.

    As for people who try to defend their faith or their belief system, little do they know that it is the fruits of their faith that we examine, not sound of their bark. Many tell others what they think, be they atheists or religionists. Unfortunatel for atheists or agnostics, they have no power in their beliefs because they are inherently futile, as is anything that is born to merely die.

    As for religionists, most seem to say by their behavior, "We are hypocrites with big mouths and really do not know what we are talking about."

    If you are one: "Woe to you," said Jesus, your lot will be a matter of experiencing the reality of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    Jesus said, "You will know them by their fruits." Does it beg the question to ask, Why?