It’s that time of year when students gear up for back to school and a new crop of high school grads prepare to ship off to university. It’s also the time when many of those first-year students from conservative Christian backgrounds will find their faith being shaken through the first semesters of university. In some cases, their faith will never recover. And yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. Three years ago, I wrote an article warning parents and youth leaders about this problem and the other day I tweeted out a link to that article:
As a new crop of evangelical kids prepare to go to university, here's a sober warning from my article: "How evangelical kids can get their faith shaken on the first day of university" https://t.co/xrtsSUA4Os
— Tentative Apologist (@RandalRauser) July 24, 2019
I received several tweeted responses from folks who said that the description of the article represented their experience. Today, I retweeted the comments of one of those individuals who concluded like this:
“If what I was taught about christianity was true…why did my parents and churches and youth leaders and so on… Need to defend it with so many lies and misrepresentations?”
Among the points to which he was referring (and which I referred to in the article) was the claim that Christians should be young earth creationists coupled with a claim that there allegedly isn’t good (still less, overwhelming) evidence for the core claims of evolutionary theory: the ancient age of the earth and universe and common descent by way of random mutation, natural selection, and other selective pressures.
This prompted a young earth creationist named Joel to suggest that the real problem is not teaching creationism but rather failing to teach creationism well.
Or, is it the other way around? Is it that churches weren’t prepared to present a robust defense of biblical creationism, and students were caught flat-footed by the confidence of their evolutionist biology professors in high school and college?
— Joel (The Think Podcast) Settecase (@joelsettecase) July 25, 2019
As you can imagine, I could not disagree more. In my view, Joel’s position is akin to a corporate executive circa 2005 arguing that rentals are declining at Blockbuster because of bad advertising: “Launch a new campaign and folks will be streaming back to rent video cassettes and DVDs!”
I suspect somebody did argue like that because 2005 saw the launch of the “No late fees!” advertising campaign at Blockbuster.
And we all know how that went: bankruptcy five years later.
I’m sorry if this sounds harsh, but at this point, young earth creationism is deader than Blockbuster Video: the universe is not six to ten thousand years old, there was no global flood, and all suffering, predation, carnivory, and death did not begin after the primordial sin of two individuals in a verdant garden somewhere in the fertile crescent.
Of course, this is not news to most Christian academics. Nor is it a shock to mainstream Christian denominations which have since adapted to modern views of science just as they adapted at an earlier time to the theories of Copernicus, Aristotle, and Ptolemy.
But not everyone got the memo: North America continues to see a vocal subculture of young earth creationists who take Joel’s line: the problem, they insist, isn’t young earth creationism, per se; rather, the problem is that we aren’t teaching it well enough.
So let me throw down the gauntlet:
If you persist in cultivating what is, in essence, something akin to a conspiracy position which entails that a fundamentalist high school teacher from Australia and his fundamentalist parachurch organization and other fringe groups like them, know more about biblical interpretation than the world’s leading biblical scholars and that they know more about science than the world’s Nobel laureates in the natural sciences, then you are doing nothing more than setting up kids for an even harder fall when they go to university and discover an entire world of brilliant scholars and powerful arguments and evidence to which they were never exposed.