Monday, January 13, 2014

An Adam Quest apology (and another one)

I don't really want to write this post, but I really need to set the record straight.

Most of you dear readers know that I've been involved with the Colossian Forum for several years, as we work to develop a new way for Christians to discuss our differences over origins.  This effort has led to an ongoing, in-person conversation between myself and Darrel Falk.  That conversation has been eye-opening and shocking and enriching in ways I could never have imagined.  I am grateful for the opportunity to participate.

At the same time, I have friends and colleagues who look on our conversation (from the outside) with much suspicion.  I've been told that nothing good will come of this.  I have been asked point blank, "How do you know TCF isn't just using this conversation to promote acceptance of evolution among evangelicals?"  I've had difficulty answering that, because it appears quite plausible.  After all, TCF has grants from pro-evolution BioLogos and the Templeton Foundation, and the very nature of "conversation" means that we have to figure out a way to get along with evangelical evolutionists.  So I could only say (lamely) that I'm pretty sure that TCF is NOT just a kinder, gentler version of BioLogos.

That's why I was looking forward to Tim Stafford's book The Adam Quest, which is a collection of short biographies of Christians who have very different perspectives on the creation/evolution question.  When Stafford was trying to convince me to grant him an interview, I noted that he seemed to be singing the same tune as TCF.  I was encouraged, and I thought that in Stafford's book I would have a tangible example of the sort of conversation that Darrel and I are trying to develop with the help of TCF.  So I promoted the book sight unseen here on my blog and to the Core Academy constituency.

Then I read the book, and I was very, very unhappy (still am).  I feel that I owe an apology to our constituency, lest there be any misunderstanding about Stafford's book and my opinion of it.  I hope you will forgive my lack of discernment.

My biggest concern about the book is the concluding chapter, wherein Stafford wrote, "In this concluding chapter I'm going to tell you what I think."  So what does he actually think of young-age creationism, now that he's spent so much time talking to three of us (me, Kurt Wise, and Georgia Purdom)?
... YEC presents a stark choice: you can uphold a traditional belief in the literal, historical reading of Genesis, but only at the cost of rejecting mainstream science.  Yes, you can become a creation scientist, but there really isn't much science there: no labs, no experiments.  The only career in science you can aspire to is teaching about creation science. (p. 204).
Creationism is anti-science, eh?  I've heard that one before, and it's not a very insightful comment.  Let's face it, it's very easy to fall back on the old chestnut of "science vs. faith."  From my perspective as a creationist, it would be very easy to say that by accepting evolution as he does, Darrel Falk has denied the faith, but that would be false and deeply offensive to Darrel.  It's just not fair to him.  Likewise, I think it's just as bad to say that creationists have denied science for their faith.  It's just as ludicrous and just as offensive.  We don't have labs?  We don't do experiments?  What nonsense!

And the bit about my career?  That's really hitting below the belt, don't you think?  But maybe I'm a little over-sensitive about that.

I spent the weekend doing a lot of soul-searching.  I was supposed to be working on this month's Core Academy newsletter, but I was furious.  Why was I taking this so personally?  After much thought and prayer, I realized I'm angry at just assuming that Stafford and I understood each other well enough.  I assumed that I understood his objective with the book.  I assumed he understood me well enough not to make such a ridiculous judgment.  Man, was I wrong.

As I said, I was hoping that Stafford's book would be a model of a "new way" of interacting between creationists and evolutionists, and what I got was the standard, patronizing, dismissive conclusions.  "Creationism is anti-science, and our 'hope' should be in making peace with evolution."  Well, I'm sorry, but that's not the kind of conversation I want to be a part of.  My idea of meaningful conversation involves mutual understanding and respect, and I don't think Stafford understood me at all.

Of course, perhaps Stafford thinks the way he does because of his personal history.  When you read the first chapter of the book, you learn about Stafford's geologist son, who was driven away from faith by insensitive young-earth creationists who pestered him about the age of the earth.  Given all that, I don't know that I can be angry with Stafford, but I can be angry with me.  Because if I was wrong about Stafford, could I be wrong about TCF?  It's possible.  My wife suggested that my reaction to Stafford's book could just be a devilish attack to derail what we're doing.  That seems plausible, too.

Whatever's going on, I can tell you this: I'm not backing down from the TCF conversation.  My reason is simple: I believe that the Spirit of God is moving in these conversations.  Evidently, I'm a lousy judge of human characters, but this sheep knows his Shepherd's voice.  And if I'm right about that, then I can't risk dropping out.  Something great just might happen the next time Darrel and I are together, and I don't want to miss it.  I'll just have to pray earnestly that God will protect me from being used, and open my eyes if I am.  I think that's probably a good prayer for all of us.  And if we're vigilant and persistent, and if we commit together to practice love and faith and grace, I think God will bless beyond what any of us could expect.

To those who bought The Adam Quest on my recommendation, please read with caution.  I vehemently disagree with the conclusions of the book.  I don't agree with the author's assessment of young-earth creationism, and I certainly don't agree with dismissing 90% of evangelical Christians (that do not accept evolution) as "anti-science."  I am sorry that I was not more careful with my recommendations, and I will strive to do better in the future.

I also want to apologize to AIG and David Menton for my comments that were included in Georgia Purdom's chapter.  I was attempting to make an epistemological point about how all of us in the modern world are limited because we no longer know what Adam and Eve or Noah's family looked like.  None of us can be absolutely certain that we've judged the fossil record inerrantly.  Georgia pointed out that the way I phrased this in the book could be taken as a personal insult against Dr. Menton.  That was never, ever my intention, and I'm taking this opportunity to publicly set the record straight and apologize.

I guess that's enough apologies for today.  God bless, and I'll see you around the internet!

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.