Ask GOE: Is it a good idea to date a young-earth creationist?

Can a relationship work despite a disagreement over origins? (Image via Shutterstock)

From a reader, who asked to remain anonymous:

Tyler,

Is it a good idea to date a young-earth creationist? I’m pretty sure I’m one of the few people in my church that isn’t a YEC. I know that I can’t be picky because a female theistic evolutionist who also likes baseball, snorkeling and footlong chili cheese dogs doesn’t just walk in to the sanctuary every Sunday. But on the other hand, I don’t want our views to be a grounds for arguing which would be unhealthy for a relationship.

Thanks!

This is a great question, one that highlights one of the most important aspects of the whole “evolutionary-creationists-being-part-of-the-church” thing, and yet, it’s often overlooked, even by those of us who write all the time about the whole “evolutionary-creationists-being-part-of-the-church” thing.

Now, let me say up front that I’m not a dating or marriage expert. Hang on, I should probably put that in bold: I AM NOT A DATING OR MARRIAGE EXPERT. There, that’s better. Anyway, I’m delighted to share my thoughts, my best advice based on my own experience, and whatever biblical knowledge and wisdom God has been pleased to give me, but when seeking guidance on something as weighty as dating and marriage, it’s always advisable to cast one’s net as widely as possible and beg the Lord for discernment.

That being said, what I think this really comes down to is less a matter of beliefs and more a matter of how a person handles his or her beliefs — what you might call their “posture.” I’ll use my wife and me as an example. She was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist church, in the great young-earth tradition. She was indoctrinated in the idea that evolution is not only factually incorrect, it’s “WRONG” in the theological and moral sense, as well.

When I decided, my senior year of college, that I was definitely not a young-earth creationist, or an old-earth creationist, or a progressive creationist, or a special creationist, or any other kind of anti-evolutionary creationist — and that I planned to be quite open and, shall we say, “assertive,” about these beliefs, my then-girlfriend and I had a few of the most painful conversations we’ve ever had. We don’t fight very often, and we didn’t really “fight” even then. Instead, we had a series of very serious, very scary talks about our relationship and our views of origins and whether or not we could actually make it all work.

I don’t recall that we ever discussed breaking things off, but I do remember thinking that it was the only time in our relationship that I thought such an outcome was not only possible, but likely. It didn’t exactly help matters that she had no shortage of friends at her conservative Christian school who were, in fact, begging her not to marry a man who was obviously a godless heathen (namely, my handsome self).

Obviously, we made it through that little rough patch, and we’ve since enjoyed almost four years of deliriously happy(ish) marital bliss. For the most part, my wife’s perspective on evolution can still be better described as cautiously testing the waters with one toe, rather than diving in head-first alongside me. Even so, we quarrel far more often about things like me leaving my socks in the living room than we do about Darwin’s theory on the origin of species.

So, how do we make it work? This brings me back to what I said at the beginning, and I think this is something that applies to any disagreement, whether it’s over our origins, baseball or footlong chili cheese dogs.

I can’t imagine you’ll ever find a partner who will agree with you on everything. So, the real question is: Is she (or he) the kind of person who can separate the chaff from the wheat? In other words, can she reasonably differentiate between the values, principles and beliefs that are absolutely “essential” to her, and those that are, well, not so much?

In our situation, my wife could, and it helped enormously that we had already laid a strong foundation. We had served in minstry together, we had prayed for each other and we had helped carry each other’s burdens in countless ways, long before the evolution question ever reared its head. She trusted me, and she had no doubt that my faith was the most important thing in my life, so she knew that all her “friends” who were telling her I “wasn’t a real Christian” were full of it.

Now, in your case, you must be able to keep various issues in perspective, too. But you also have to ask yourself, “Am I the type of person that will be OK being with someone who doesn’t agree with things that — essential or not — I know to be true?”

That was the way that I had to change in our relationship. Basically, I had to let go of the idea that everything that was obvious to me would be just as obvious to everyone else. And, if you’ll let me frank, I had to stop being such a dick about that kind of stuff, because I was making someone I love feel like she was stupid for not automatically agreeing with something that I thought was so perfectly clear.

Maybe some of those who think I’m too harsh on this site would say I haven’t yet gone far enough in that regard, but I really am a lot less abrasive than I used to be.

In closing, I would simply say that this can and does work. I personally know plenty of other people who have also built successful marriages despite harboring disagreements over evolution or any number of other issues. If you can forgive me for using the Ultimate Marriage Cliche™, I honestly believe that, when it comes right down to it, all that matters is love: real, self-sacrificial love, as described in 1 Corinthians 13.

Love is patient, love is kind. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things, and it never fails. And if you can’t commit to trying your very hardest to be that to another person, then I’d respectfully suggest that you really have no business marrying anyone, regardless of whether they believe the universe was made last Thursday or 14 billion years ago.

Tyler Francke

  • OK, but why on earth would you leave your socks in the living room?!

    Jokes aside, I think there is evidence that the kind of dogmatism associated with young-earth creationism is toxic to marriages, which involve a partnership that continues to be shared even as we become other people. A view that is going to consider you a heretical compromiser is not going to serve as a good foundation for a positive relationship. And young-earth creationism involves deceiving yourself about the fact that you are a worse heretical compromiser than those you so label. I think that the author of this should hold out for someone who is not likely to treat him with the disrespect for which young-earth creationists are notorious.

    Of course, some people are YECs because they have uncritically accepted comlete garbage that someone else passed on to them. While also not a good sign, we all fall for something sooner or later. The writer of the letter should talk about these things prior to marriage. If the significant other is open to learning and changing her mind when evidence requires it, as they both should be, then that will be more important than a shared love for chilli dogs of any size.

    • I absolutely agree: If a prospective partner is completely convinced that the earth is young, and believes that anyone who doesn’t agree is either stupid or a heretic or a Satan-worshiper or all of the above, then yeah, don’t date that person. Or talk to them. Or be around them.

      OK, sort of kidding on the last two points, but I see what you’re saying. Thanks for commenting!

      • Then again, if the person thinks those things and is still dating you, then they clearly find the notion that you are in cahoots with the devil a turn-on. Not sure what to make of that…

        • A case of “Twilight” love and art imitating life is all that is 😉

  • Leslie Donovan

    May God go with the man who wrote this, and bless you, Tyler, who took the time to reach out to him. I think it highly unlikely that I could ever be a compatible marriage partner for a YEC, but everyone’s siutation is different. I also think it’s important to raise the issue of what vision a couple has for raising their children, both with respect to views on origins and to any other other matters that both or one of the partners deems highly important.

    • Definitely. Children do provide a bit of a wrinkle in disagreements like this. We plan on just being open-minded about it with them: “This is what some people believe about it, and why; this is what other people believe, and why,” and so on. Thanks for the comment, Leslie!

  • Paul Braterman

    Well said. “Basically, I had to let go of the idea that everything that was obvious to me would be just as obvious to everyone else.” A less on for all of us discussing evolution with those who just don’t get it. But one quibble: Don’t say “Darwin’s theory” unless you’re talking 19th century history: see http://wp.me/p21T1L-c2 for why.

    • Oh, OK, thanks, Paul. I get tired of saying “evolution” over and over again, so I try and mix it up. But you’re absolutely right about how much the theory has changed and been improved since the days of Darwin and Wallace.

  • Jesse Herb

    <—That pretty woman with me in the pic is a YEC. And yes we have had some heated discussions and continue to do so, but we are happily married. It is a bit more interesting with kids in the house. They hear mom and dad bicker about it, and I think it leaves them more confused than encouraged. On the flip side, they also see two people disagreeing yet loving each other anyway. Slowly, my wife is starting to chew on some of the points I make, but I have gotten to the point where she is ready to read books along the lines of Finding Darwin's God, or John Walton's Lost World of Genesis. For whatever it's worth, others are going through similar experiences yet making it work. Thanks Tyler for opening up the conversation. Peace.

    • Thanks for sharing, Jesse. I appreciate your honesty, and I have no doubt that two faithful people who love each other can have a strong marriage regardless of each partner’s thoughts on evolution. Children does make the picture a bit murkier though. We plan on just being open-minded about it with them: “This is what some people believe about it, and why; this is what other people believe, and why,” and so on.

  • FredClark

    You can’t date a young-Earth creationist because they’ll never accept the legitimacy of any of your dating methods.

  • Preston Garrison

    Hey, if you think you had a hard time, think about what faces a real honest to God, flat earther. I read someplace about a guy who was one. He was a real flat earther, and as he was wandering in an alternative book store in San Francisco, he met a woman visiting from Australia who turned out to be one of the few other flat earthers on the planet. Of course, he married her. Which I take as evidence that God even cares about flat-earthers and is willing to arrange ridiculously improbable encounters for them. Either that or sexual selection has really good unconscious radar at its disposal.

  • Mark McCarrion

    I could never date or marry a creationist. Having that belief already says so much about the level of intellect of the person you are with. A Creationist is also going to be a devout faithful Christian, which means that they will also believe in miracles and people walking on water and rising from the dead, and they will believe in Sky Daddy and the Devil too. NO WAY. I would be embarrassed to date such a person.