I knew from the moment it hit my inbox what it was. I am a subscriber to more than one creationist blog and I shouldn’t have been surprised. This unnamed magazine (they don’t need any more publicity) started off with a familiar accusation:
“You’ve likely heard the statistics that around 2/3 of children who grew up in Christian homes are leaving the church. And now there are ‘Christian’ organizations trying to ‘deconvert’ our children by causing them to stop trusting the Bible.”
As I used to be a creationist I recognized the vitriol. I’d like to offer up some comments that I hope will prove helpful.
Let’s start with the unsettling statistic that two thirds of kids raised in Christian families are leaving their faith behind when they reach adulthood. There are several possible reasons for this unsettling trend.
One possibility is that they don’t believe God actually exists. While this is a valid reason for playing hooky on Sunday morning, my hunch is that this is the exception rather than the rule. Rumours abound of systemic hypocrisy being the culprit. Some will place the blame for this exodus on shoddy worship music, dated sound systems, poor use of in-service lighting, lame use of colour on interior walls, lack of rain forest certified coffee in the foyer, and a complete absence of video gaming options in the youth room and/or jets in the baptistry. I believe that for more than a few, the problem is much deeper. But totally fixable.
Many of our kids have real questions about God and science and we’ve told them to trust in Jesus and forget about science. Sadly, most christian parents and pastors are not prepared, or equipped to tackle these questions.
The final comment in the quote from my Creationist blogger sums it up nicely. “And now there are ‘Christian’ organizations trying to ‘deconvert’ our children by causing them to stop trusting the Bible.”
Apparently any discussion about science that doesn’t line up with a literal creationist viewpoint is equated as not trusting the Bible.
There is no middle ground. I get it.
I used to live in a 10,000 year old universe where dinosaurs lived on Noah’s Ark along with the millions of other species that have ever existed, and the Grand Canyon was formed in a few short weeks after the flood. Only one problem with this ‘literal’ view of creation. It doesn’t stand up to reason, evidence or any other method we have of measuring reality. It’s not even ‘literal’ unless you can prove that the ancient Hebrews interpreted it that way.
This ‘literal’ 10,000 year old universe doesn’t exist. God didn’t make one anything like this. The only universe he made that we know about can be investigated using all the powers of reason that our creator has endowed us with. And it is very old. Very, very, very old. And you don’t even need a Bible to learn any of this. Got a shovel? You’re good to go.
The problem is that the young earthers have failed to mesh their Biblical worldview with a scientific worldview. (If something is scientifically true it is also, necessarily theologically true. Relax people.) They don’t perceive this exercise in integration as part of the faith journey. They call it heresy. But a Biblical worldview CAN fit with an established scientific perspective. When all parts of life fit together in a unified whole to make sense of all the pieces of this puzzle we call existence, we call this integrity.
For too long our conversations on faith and science have included too little “let’s talk about how your perspective on cosmology, anthropology and biology fit into the Jesus story” and too much “your perspective on cosmology, anthropology and biology don’t count for spit. Here’s the Jesus story. Take it or leave it.”
We shouldn’t be surprised they’re leaving it.
Two thirds of them.
But are they leaving because the Jesus story is unbelievable or are they walking away from faith because they can’t reconcile the Jesus story with everything else they know about the physical world? And whose fault is that?
Another question while we’re at it:
Why is it that people who interpret a verse differently than I do suddenly “don’t believe”?
Every time each of us read the Bible, we interpret it. It’s what we do when we read anything. Our folly has not been in the reading but in the interpretation.
Here’s an example from the new testament that should make the predicament obvious.
When the subject of adultery came up, Jesus offered the following piece of advice:
“…If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell…”
We can all read Matthew 5:29 and agree on what the text SAYS. What we seem incapable of doing is agreeing on what the text means.
Has your pastor ever suggested during a Sunday morning sermon that we take Jesus words ‘literally’? (insert joke about why there aren’t more one-eyed Christians stumbling around).
Of course we don’t take it literally.
- we call on metaphor or hyperbole to explain the text.
- we don’t want to take it literally because most of us would have to give up our drivers licenses and stop watching movies in 3D.
But the metaphorical eye gouging that Jesus refers to is only the beginning. Jesus completes the thought by suggesting that our whole body will be thrown into hell. And this is also metaphor. Oh it’s not. Why not?
You see the problem. We can all agree on what the text says, but coming to a consensus on what it means leaves us battered and bruised. So when I hear one group of Christians calling other believers heretics, while they reach for the lighter fluid and torches I get nervous.
So back to the original thought. Do they really want to convert your children?
Well, “they” are me, and yes, I would like to convert all of your children.
I want them to believe in a God that created a universe 17 billion years ago, and watched gleefully as it unfolded over eons, until creatures pretty much like us took over the place and broke it. I want them to believe that God gasped with a broken heart like any parent gasps when their child walks away. I want them know that God, refusing to give up on his creation stepped in, in the person of Jesus, to live with his creation, restore and reclaim us as his children.
It’s called the Gospel. Good News. A compelling story grounded in the stuff of science, history, human drama, and God’s forgiveness. Now, let’s go find those missing 2/3rds.