‘Fundamentalism robbed me of my Christianity’: A testimony

The only options of fundamentalism, if you follow them to their natural conclusions, are fanaticism or nihilism.

Today’s testimony comes from a friend and fan of GOE. I trust you will benefit from the sharing of his thoughtful experiences.

My name is Kevin Long, and I’m a Christian. Given that my only real vice is my occasional pottymouth, one might even say that I’m a pretty conservative Christian. I am not, however, a fundamentalist. Not anymore, anyway. I used to be.

I was plenty fanatical in my depressingly non-wayward youth: Church three times a week, went to a series of Baptist schools (though I was never a Baptist myself), was the anchor on our Bible Bowl team. Did time as an overseas missionary, even. My zeal was complimented by those much older and wiser than myself. I believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of The Living God, my Lord and Savior.

And then fundamentalism robbed me of my Christianity.

Paradoxical, I know. You see, part and parcel of being a fundamentalist is that you’ve got to be a literalist. You have to believe that every word of the Bible is literally true. That means that if the Bible says God made the world in six days, then that’s how long it took. There was no debate on the subject. The Bible said it, I believed it, and that settled it. This, of course, put me on a collision course with modern science, because modern science ain’t having any part of this “One week creation” business. No surprises there.

That’s not what did me in, though. Refusing to accept science is not sinful, nor is it even dangerous, though it is undeniably a goofy thing to do. No, the danger of my fanatically fundamentalist youth wasn’t science, it was the mindset that something can only be true or false, with nothing in between. Let me put a finer point on that: Things can only be literally true, or they’re nothing but filthy lies of no value to anyone.

The problem with fundamentalism wasn’t that it made me accept creationism over evolution, it was that it made me accept the idea that anything not absolutely literally in line with the Bible was evil, stupid, misguided and worthless.

As I have limited space here, we’ll ignore the obvious logical fallacy for the moment and move on. Maybe if Tyler’s willing, I could revisit that at some point in the future. For now, though, I’ll restate extremist Christian fundamentalism in its most basic terms: Either the Bible is exactly literally true, or else life is meaningless and we’re just wasting our irrelevant lives play-acting our way through some absurdist drama that no One’s even watching anyway. Those are the only options of fundamentalism, if you follow them to their natural conclusions: Fanaticism or nihilism.

Kinda crappy set of choices, don’t you think? Kinda crappy outlook? Jesus tells us that he came that we might have “Life and more abundantly,” yet extreme fundamentalism replaces joy and freedom with fear: the fear of getting it wrong and going to hell, or the fear that nothing matters anyway.

I am not the smartest, nor the most learned person in the room, but I grew up believing what I was taught about evolution being a lie. The evidence I was given to support that notion was more on the lines of propaganda than science, but I accepted it because I was a kid and didn’t know any better.

Eventually, however, it became apparent that there were a lot of logical errors in the arguments my creationist brethren used to “win” arguments. For instance, how does the coelacanth NOT being extinct somehow disprove evolution? How does the relative absence of dust on the moon disprove evolution? How does Charles Darwin’s alleged deathbed recanting of evolution somehow disprove evolution? These were not logical arguments.

I was a fanatically Christian kid. I was not going to knowlingly use an argument I knew to be false. That’d be lying, right?

That’s not to say I rolled over meekly. I looked for my own “proofs,” my own arguments. I did a lot of research. I wrote a paper in tenth grade about how none of the currently accepted theories for the formation of the moon really accounted for observable data. My science teacher — not at all a religious man — said it was brilliant, and that I was the only creationist who had ever given him a science-based argument he couldn’t immediately refute. He pronounced me “not a doofus,” and I got an A-plus for original thinking. I fought it, brother. I fought evolution as hard as any sane man could.

Over the years, however, I became more and more aware that the evidence was stacked against a literal interpretation of scripture. I had to do intellectual backflips to allow myself to continue to learn, and maintain my viewpoint. Gradually, these backflips became more frequent, and more elaborate, and I had to do them while squinting, if you’ll allow the metaphor. In any event, this kind of continual conflict between facts and faith caused a great deal of psychological stress — as it does in pretty much everyone — and it just got worse over time. This was not healthy. Not only was I denying the presence of the elephant in the room, I was spending several hours a day scooping up its feces, and then pretending that didn’t exist either.

Three years into college, the breakdown came: Evolution. Was. True. There was simply no logical way around it. This then led to me completely losing my faith, and a brief, terrifying slide into atheism. Why? Because I had it drilled into me that if something wasn’t literally true, then it was a lie. My own fanaticism turned against me, I was forced to judge the Bible by that same standard, and I no longer believed anything.

But this, too, was a logical fallacy, of course, and I was eventually able to resolve it (I am a Christian, as I said at the start, so obviously, I got my faith back), but it was a long and arduous process that lasted decades. All that hell I put myself through for a small-minded, shallow interpretation of scripture that didn’t even logically proceed from the text.

And that, in the end, is the danger of fundamentalism: It’s not the denial of science, or the paranoia, or insularity, or the fear.

No, it’s the cavalier way in which its rigidity utterly destroys the faith of anyone who gets in its way.

Kevin Long is a Christian, and an evolutionist, and a science fiction writer. His stories tend to go in all kinds of weird, disquieting directions, though, and have a lot of bad language in ’em, so they’re probably not for everyone. If you’re feeling adventurous, however, you can find them here. You can hire him for various writing projects (with or without cussing) here. He blogs here and is the co-founder and former head writer of Republibot.

  • Larry Bunce

    I’m sorry you had to go through such a difficult struggle to find your faith, but I’m sure the faith you now have is even more unshakable than your childhood teachers hoped fundamentalism would be for you. Some of the most outspoken atheists began life as religious fanatics. I remember seeing a statistic that a large percentage of 1960s campus radicals had been strongly for Barry Goldwater in the ’64 elections. You are lucky to have found balance in your life.

    • Yes, unfortunately, it appears stories like Kevin’s are the distinct exception. So many flee the toxic atmosphere of extreme fundamentalist sects and too often, they never return to faith of any kind.

      • Why is that unfortunate, Tyler? Faith works for some people, yet is incompatible with others. There’s no point clinging to something you regard as extremely unlikely to be true.

        • I think it’s unfortunate that a person would leave their faith tradition as a result of abuse of whatever kind from an authority figure, or because they learn they were lied to about some non-essential aspect of said faith tradition. If someone does leave or change their faith, it should be because of a conscious, personal and independent decision — because, to borrow your phrasing, it “doesn’t work for them,” not because of some jerk who thinks he is God’s mouthpiece to the world.

          • I’d agree I’d prefer people approach their faith, or lack, that way. I find it unfortunate most people never question the tradition they were raised in.

            It should be noted that such abuses can instigate the questioning process – e.g. the Catholic church is in a state of collapse in Ireland as its abuses and coverups have been uncovered. Only today, I was incensed by a bishop who still believed he was a moral authority on marriage, abortion or the family, when his church has been criticised by the UN for it’s inaction dealing with child abuse.

            I’m intrigued by the comment about “never returning to faith of any kind”. I know of a few such individuals – Nate Phelps would be the highest profile one. On the face of it, he’s much the better person for it. I’d consider that a good result.

          • Matt

            Tyler, do you think the authority figure would agree with you that portions of what they teach are a non-essential aspect of their faith tradition or are we more fundamentally dealing with differing opinions of what is an essential aspect of a particular faith tradition?

            Most established faith traditions have a tipping point where the believer lapses into heresy. I imagine there is another faith tradition that would embrace them as a member of the fold. At the same time each group feels the need to hold some boundary to their system; a place, a belief held, where someone is no longer an insider.

          • Hey Matt, thanks for the question. I have yet to meet a Christian, young-earth believing pastor or teacher who will admit to thinking you must agree with him about the age of the earth to be saved. They’ll say all kinds of other stuff about how it’s a compromise, or “not trusting God,” or “not accepting his authority” and so on, but they won’t say you have to believe the earth is young to go to heaven. So yeah, I think for all intents and purposes, “nonessential.”

          • Matt

            So I guess that brings us back to your point that this is all a bit of “having their cake and eating it too”. If the issue being focused on is not an essential part of the faith tradition why spend so much time and money on it? For example: if not believing in a young earth is really about not trusting God then show me how that plays out in the essential parts of my faith.(?)

          • Exactly. That’s why I describe it as talking out of both sides of their mouth. It’s like they’re saying, “It’s not essential, it’s just really, really, really, really, really, really, really important.”

  • Adão Lincon Bezerra Montel

    This is a very interesting story. I’d like to translate it to Portuguese to disclose it in Brazil with his permission, of course. This is a revealing account because it shows the suffering of the fundamentalist viewpoint . But I have a doubt: the bible literalist have no problems with other passages of Scripture, such as, for example, the verses Luke 23:43 (Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”) and John 20:17 (“Jesus said,” Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.”).? If taken literally, there will be no contradiction too?

    • I think that’s a wonderful idea. I can forward your request to the author, or you may feel free to contact him on your own, but I’m sure he’d be delighted to grant his permission to such a request.

  • It’s a pity Kevin did not continue his journey, clinging to his superstition as he did.

    “This then led to me completely losing my faith, and a brief, terrifying slide into atheism.”

    – I’ll state it plainly; atheism is not a bad thing. The initial stages of loss of faith can be scary or bring a sense of grief. However, every atheist I know who has experienced it came out the other side a happier, more intellectually honest person.

    “Why? Because I had it drilled into me that if something wasn’t literally true, then it was a lie.”

    What other truth is there than literal truth? Everything else surely falls under ‘opinion’.

    As I’ve said before: World created in 6 days? Cobblers. Dead man rises after 3 days? Seems legit.

    It is the uneven application of critical thinking to religious dogma I find so maddening in otherwise intelligent, educated people.

  • Tim

    “Either the Bible is exactly literally true…”

    Great strawman. No one actually holds this position.

    What fundamentalists (and EVERYONE else in the world including atheists) believe is that SOME parts of the Bible are meant to be understood literally, and SOME are not.

    • Matt

      I don’t know that this is a fair criticism of his story. He is directly speaking to what he experienced and the direct quote is “I had it drilled into me that if something wasn’t literally true, then it was a lie”, and he did not speak to how the entire Bible must be understood.

      I agree with you Tim about the application of literal meaning. Kevin is stating his experience with the double edged nature of rigid fundamentalism.

      And in the end isn’t the rub the same? What is meant literally and what is not? And if we disagree about what is meant literally how do we then treat each other and how to we treat those parts of each other’s faith?

      • Tim

        Matt wrote: “he did not speak to how the entire Bible must be understood”

        Yes, he did.

        This is a very common caricature of fundamentalism. I run into it all the time in discussions. Its not unique to his situation, he is parroting a line I’ve heard countless times.

        By mischaracterizing
        those whom he criticizes, he can try to avoid admitting the
        truth…..that he and they hold the same position (i.e. some parts of
        the Bible are literal, and some aren’t). So, no the result isn’t the same if the claim is that they hold different positions.

        Is it too much to ask of an author to accurately convey the position of those with whom he disagrees? I don’t think it is. I think its the foundation for any honest discussion afterwards.

        Lets be clear about what fundamentalists believe.

        Ask any fundamentalist “Did Jesus teach in fictional stories called parables?”, and they will of course answer “yes”.

        Ask any fundamentalist “Does the Bible use figures of speech and symbolic language?” and they will answer “yes”.

        Fundamentalists DON’T teach that “every word of the Bible is literally true”. They never have.

    • What fundamentalists (and EVERYONE else in the world including atheists) believe is that SOME parts of the Bible are meant to be understood literally, and SOME are not.

      Very true. The lovely thing about too many fundamentalists is that they add the part about how if you disagree with them about what parts of the Bible are meant to be understood literally, they call you a heretic and a servant of Satan.

      • Tim

        well, Tyler the use of the charge ‘heretic’ isn’t only among fundamentalists, as you well know. So what else is new?

        When I left the RCC for a Protestant church, my beliefs were heretical to the RCC. The priest dismissed my questions and my beliefs by telling me it didn’t matter what I believed because in the end the RCC would rule the world.

        I don’t think its too much to ask someone like Kevin who claims to expose the ‘logical fallacies’ of fundamentalism, to actually be honest about what they teach and not indulge in an overheated, emotional misrepresentation of what he thought he heard when he was a kid.

        • I can’t speak for the author, but I believe he’s being hyperbolic in the portion that you find so offensive. No, no one believes that every single word of the Bible is literally true, and I don’t think Kevin believes otherwise. However, fundamentalist young-earth creation proponents like Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis do absolutely put forth a false dichotomy that says certain passages of the Bible, e.g., the book of Genesis, can only be literally, historically true or “lies.” I point out an example of this fallacious argument here, if you’re interested.

          • Tim

            Lets put this in broader context, however.

            Ken Ham makes it very clear that agreement or disagreement with his view of Genesis isn’t at all the basis of what makes someone a Christian, or what makes them accepted in God’s eyes.

            You’re fully aware of this, I would expect. But I’m not sure that many of your readers would be, if they don’t actually read or listen to what Ham says, but only know of it second or third-hand.

          • I am aware of Ken Ham’s take on this matter. I’ve discussed it numerous times in articles (here’s an example), and there’s even an ongoing discussion about it taking place on our Facebook page right now, which you’re more than welcome to be a part of if you choose.

            Fundamentally, I think he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth. He gives lip service to the idea that a certain view of evolution or Genesis is not required to be saved, because he has to. It’s simply not supportable biblically to say otherwise. At the same time, the fact that his organization pours millions of dollars every year into doing nothing but propagating the idea that the earth is 6,000 years old shows pretty clearly where his real priorities lie, and what he actually thinks is the most important aspect of the Christian faith.

          • Tim

            wow, really Tyler?

            Ken is just a hypocrite, saying one thing and believing another?

            Are you serious?

            Is that the best you can do, just simply painting anyone who disagrees with you as a liar?

            So to summarize, you think he teaches the correct Biblical view (i.e. creation is an issue that is non-essential to salvation) but doesn’t believe it.

            Tyler, you yourself spend a lot of time and effort on the evolution/creation issue. One could argue that it shows where your priorities are as well.

            What if someone said “Well, Tyler SAYS the issue is a secondary issue, but look where he puts his time. He’s talking out of both sides of his mouth.” Would that be a fair criticism of you? (I don’t think it would).

          • Ken is just a hypocrite, saying one thing and believing another?

            I don’t know what Ken Ham really “believes,” I’m simply discussing what he teaches.

            Are you serious?

            Yes.

            Is that the best you can do, just simply painting anyone who disagrees with you as a liar?

            That’s not what I did. I have presented direct evidence, in his own words, and indirect evidence, in the way he allocates his substantial resources, to support my claim.

            So to summarize, you think he teaches the correct Biblical view (i.e. creation is an issue that is non-essential to salvation) but doesn’t believe it.

            No, that is incorrect. My position is that he gives lip service to the idea that a certain view of evolution or Genesis is not required to be saved (because he has to), but the vast majority of his teachings, and the way he spends his time, say otherwise. Again, I don’t know what Ken Ham “believes,” but he teaches that young-earth creationism is a hugely important issue, and a prerequisite for being a “true Christian” (i.e., one who trusts God and accepts the authority of his word).

            Tyler, you yourself spend a lot of time and effort on the evolution/creation issue. One could argue that it shows where your priorities are as well.

            What if someone said “Well, Tyler SAYS the issue is a secondary issue, but look where he puts his time. He’s talking out of both sides of his mouth.” Would that be a fair criticism of you? (I don’t think it would).

            In contrast to Ken Ham, my goal with this site is not to promote the idea that one must accept my view of Genesis and evolution to be a true Christian, or that my views are essential aspects of the Christian faith. Quite the contrary, my goal is simply to show that it is possible — despite everything that Ham and his organization teaches — to be a passionate Bible-believing Christian and accept the idea of evolution. It is a rebuttal to Ham’s mischaracterization of the Christian faith, and yes, I do believe rebutting such harmful views is important and well worth my time.

          • Tim

            Tyler wrote: “he teaches that young-earth creationism is a hugely important issue, ”

            Yes, he does. And you basically agree with him that a correct understanding of origins in relation to the scripture is a hugely important issue, right?

            Tyler wrote: “and a prerequisite for being a “true Christian” (i.e., one who trusts God and accepts the authority of his word)

            No, he doesn’t. I think you are reading between lines that aren’t there. On that, my brother, you and I will have to disagree.

            AiG teaches that to be a Christian one must receive Christ and be born again. https://answersingenesis.org/gospel/salvation/what-does-it-mean-to-be-saved/

            AiG does not teach that a correct view of Genesis (or acceptance of a YEC point of view) is essential to being a Christian. https://answersingenesis.org/gospel/salvation/knowing-youre-saved/

            You need to show clear evidence, not your just opinion that he isn’t honest.

            Unless you have some direct quotes that clearly contradict (not a tangential inference) what thousands of people have heard him say in person over a period of many years, and read from him in his books and online…… then what are you basing your conclusion on? Are you a mind reader, and you can tell that what he’s saying and what he’s thinking arent the same?

            I’ve cited evidence of what he does believe.

            Where is your evidence that he doesn’t believe that at all, but believes the opposite?

            Tyler wrote: “my goal is simply to show that it is possible — despite everything that Ham and his organization teaches — to be a passionate Bible-believing Christian and accept the idea of evolution”

            I don’t disagree with that. I don’t doubt someone’s faith in Christ if they believe in evolution.

            But since you seem to have a somewhat mistaken idea about what AiG actually teaches, it might be a good idea for you to take a step or two back and find out.

          • Mark

            AIG has expressly stated it’s position on this question here: https://answersingenesis.org/theistic-evolution/is-it-possible-to-be-a-christian-and-an-evolutionist/. While they do affirm that belief their view of creation is not essential to be a Christian, they do say that if you aren’t a YEC then you don’t take the Bible seriously/aren’t a “biblical” Christian, arguing that “one can be a Christian and an evolutionist, but such a position is both scientifically and biblically untenable.” There’s also evidence that AIG sees its interpretation of Genesis as the foundation of the gospel (summed up in this cartoon: https://answersingenesis.org/media/cartoons/after-eden/side-issue/ ).

            AIG/Ken Ham are basically saying that you don’t need to agree with them to be a Christian, but agreeing with their view of Genesis is the foundation of the gospel and is necessary for a “biblical” understanding of Christianity. This is a fine line (and it may not technically contradict), but I think that this position can lead people to reasonably conclude that AIG sees the YEC view of Genesis as being a prerequisite for the Christian faith.

          • Tim

            Tyler,

            Thank you for posting the link to Dr Gish’s explanation. It is crystal clear, and shows that AiG doesn’t draw a ‘fine line’ at all, but a bright bold line:

            ———–

            Dr Gish wrote:

            “Christians may differ on the interpretation of certain doctrines…….These are important matters, and they have occupied theologians for centuries. But should one’s salvation depend upon getting all the answers right? Must that be done to “believe on Christ’?

            No, not at all! God did not make salvation difficult to understand and to obtain. Our faith is simple, like a child’s faith in a father.”

            ————-

            If someone concludes that AiG sees a YEC view as being essential to become a Christian, it will be because they have either not researched what the AiG position is, or that they have purposely ignored it.

            I don’t think it serves the Body of Christ well to come up with conspiracy theories like “Well, he is hiding what he really believes” If anything, fundamentalists are known for wearing their doctrine on their sleeve and being eager to tell anyone and everyone what they believe and why they believe it.

            Yes, AiG teaches that the origin of sin and the origin of a promise of a Redeemer is foundational to understanding the gospel. How could it not be?

            But again, *understanding* all the details of the gospel is NOT a prerequisite to bowing one’s heart in childlike faith to the King of Kings. And AiG makes that perfectly clear.

            Tyler, I want to thank you for engaging in and graciously hosting this discussion.

            I’ll go ahead and let you have the last word on the thread, (unless there’s something else you want me to comment on or a question to answer and then you can let me know.)

          • Mark

            Hi Tim, Just to clarify, I’m not Tyler – just another commenter like yourself.

            I agree with you that AIG, like all Christians, are compelled to hold that justification is not based on understanding certain theological propositions to be true. After all, that would be relying on our own effort to reach God rather than trusting in and relying on (that is, having faith in) the work done by God through Christ. I also have no reason to doubt that Ken Ham and others at AIG hold to that view.

            Unfortunately, I think that message gets lost when AIG publishes articles and makes public statements that depict all who disagree with their particular interpretation of Genesis as somehow not submitting to the authority of scripture or trying to twist what God has revealed to us. Statements from AIG that theistic evolution is “biblically untenable” and “[ir]reconcilable with Scripture” show that they’ve confused affirming the truth and inspiration of the Bible with affirming that a YEC interpretation of the Bible is the only true and inspired interpretation.

          • Thanks, Mark. And, just if we needed any more, here is Ken Ham teaching that the truth of the gospel is dependent on the earth being 6,000 years old: http://www.godofevolution.com/creation-today-and-answers-in-genesis-get-the-gospel-wrong-in-three-dimensions/ And here is Ham all but admitting that his own faith in God and Christ is based in the belief in a young earth: http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/02/10/gospel-according-young-earth-creationist-ken-ham

          • Tim

            hi Mark

            Sorry my bad not to have paid closer attention to the name on your post.

            Yes AiG does indeed affirm that their interpretation of Genesis as historically correct is the only correct interpretation.

            But theistic evolutionists do affirm that their interpretation of Genesis as NOT historically correct is the only possible correct interpretation, do they not?

            Under what scenario do you propose that nobody would affirm that they are right?

          • Mark

            You’re right that people who have taken the time to develop a view on a scriptural (or really any) topic will tend to think that the view they’ve developed is correct (otherwise, I suppose, they’d change their view). But thinking your position is correct is very different than saying that there is no other biblically tenable position.

            For example, I do think that YEC is wrong, that it reflects a misinterpretation of scripture based on reading into the text a modernist perspective that would be foreign to the biblical authors, and that it ignores what God has revealed through his creation. That said, I don’t think that YEC is an unreasonable interpretation of scripture or is “biblically untenable.” Of course I think that my interpretation is more accurate and more reasonable – but I have to approach my understanding of scripture humbly and ultimately must submit myself to Christ; not to my interpretation of what He’s revealed.

            Put another way, I think absolute truth exists, and because of what God has revealed through general, special, and natural revelation we can gain a much clearer picture of what that truth is. (See Rom 1:20, 2:15, 2 Tm 3:16). But deciphering that picture is tricky – I think there are some areas that are revealed in different ways (for example, we can learn some things about God by studying his special revelation that were not revealed in creation and vice versa), and there are other areas where God, in His wisdom, has intentionally left things mysterious (maybe to encourage us to never stop digging and learning about who He is, or perhaps because we would simply be incapable of understanding). (Cf. 1 Cor. 13:12). On top of that, understanding what God has revealed requires fallen humans to interpret that revelation, and we make mistakes.

            As a result, there’s a lot of room for disagreement and discussion and I don’t think my (or anyone’s) interpretation of God’s revelation is “the only possible correct interpretation.” While there is only one correct reality, there are plenty of “possible correct” interpretations of what that reality is.

          • Yes, AiG teaches that the origin of sin and the origin of a promise of a Redeemer is foundational to understanding the gospel. How could it not be?

            You’re equivocating, just like they do. I certainly believe that human sin is the reason we all have need of redemption, the redemption offered in Christ Jesus. What possible logical or biblical evidence is there that one must believe the earth is 6,000 years old and our first parents were named Adam and Eve to recognize the existence of sin and our need for a savior?

          • Tim

            Tyler

            I will be glad to answer your question.

            No, its not an equivocation; its a clear distinction between the *origin* of sin and the *existence* of sin. It is you who has equivocated by ignoring the distinction I clearly gave.

            No, we don’t have to believe the earth is 6000 years old in order to understand that we are sinners. And AiG doesn’t state or imply that this is necessary, so why would you pose the question as if they had?

            And no we don’t have to know that our first parents were named Adam and Eve in order to understand that we need a savior. And AiG doesn’t state or imply that this is necessary, so again why the unnecessary inference that some conspiracy to hide their ‘true view’ exists?

            God didn’t have to give an explanation of the *origin* of sin. He could have simply told us of His law and therefore the *existence* of sin in our lives.

            But He chose to give an explanation for sin’s *origin*, did He not?

            So the question is, what do Christian evolutionists do with that explanation? Do they treat it metaphorically? (As you know, fundamentalists treat it literally. But both recognize the *existence* of sin and therefore both can present the gospel as God’s remedy for sin.)

            Ham and AiG have clearly said that they do not believe that acceptance of a YEC view is essential for salvation. You have charged them with lying about their view, and its now incumbent upon you to withdraw the accusation since the evidence clearly shows that your statement doesn’t reflect what they believe.

            In Genesis, the Bible gives a clear explanation for sin’s *origin*. Scripture also clearly indicates that sin came into the world thru one man (Rom 5:12) and that many died thru one man’s trespass (Rom 5:15 1 Cor 15:22) The scripture goes even further as it compares Adam to Christ in that just as one sin could affect many, so could one Man’s righteousness redeem many.

            I’d be interested in hearing your explanation of what that means and how the metaphorical (or other) treatment does this justice, but again I would appreciate it if you would correctly represent the position of AiG and discontinue the accusations of lying. I don’t think that those are helpful at all.

          • No, we don’t have to believe the earth is 6000 years old in order to understand that we are sinners. And AiG doesn’t state or imply that this is necessary, so why would you pose the question as if they had?

            And no we don’t have to know that our first parents were named Adam and Eve in order to understand that we need a savior. And AiG doesn’t state or imply that this is necessary, so again why the unnecessary inference that some conspiracy to hide their ‘true view’ exists?

            Now, you’re just ignoring the articles that are being presented to you. How many examples of AiG describing their 6,000-year-old view of earth history as the “foundation” of the gospel and the Christian faith do we have to show you before you accept that that is their position?

            But He chose to give an explanation for sin’s *origin*, did He not?

            No, he did not. He gave us a story about two people whom some believe were the actual “first sinners.” Nowhere in that story did he say that, hence forth, all people would be born sinful and spiritually dead in his eyes because of their single act of disobedience. Later, after the coming of Christ, he told us how (in Romans) how each one of us is separated from him and in need of redemption because of our own personal choice to sin, and in James 1:14-15, he describes exactly how this happens for each individual person.

            I interpret Adam and Eve as metaphorical representations of all mankind, “stand-ins” if you will. Their disobedience represents, speaks to and prefigures each one of our own disobedience before God, and their eviction from the garden of Eden represents how our own sinful choices severs our relationship with our Holy God.

            I respect that other people, some far more learned than I, have different interpretations of Genesis 2-3, but I do not understand how anyone could read those chapters as teaching that, because of a single act of disobedience, all of humanity is now born spiritually dead and separated from God, under the curse of sin.

          • Tim

            So, because the verses in Rom 5 and 1 Cor 15 aren’t contained within the text of Genesis 3 then they don’t count?

            Don’t we use the New Testament to explain and interpret the Old?

            ————

            Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men[e] because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

            15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

            18 Therefore, as one trespass[f] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness[g] leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’sdisobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

            ———-

            1 Cor 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

          • Of course they “exist,” but that doesn’t mean they are completely unambiguous in their meaning. Like Genesis 3, there is more than one reasonable way to interpret and understand these passages, without any deference whatsoever to the gospel message, the core of the Christian faith or the overall message of scripture.

            First of all, even Romans 5 does not teach that all people are born spiritually dead and separated from God because of what Adam did. Read it carefully: “so death spread to all men because all sinned.” It seems to be saying the reason death spread was not because of “the curse” brought on by Adam and Eve’s actions; the reason death spread to all people was because all people chose to sin (like the passages in James and Romans and many other places teach).

            Now, you will probably say something like, “Well, what about verses 18 and 19?” I think we should be careful with these verses, and with 1 Cor 15:21-22. I think we should also be consistent in how we interpret them. For example, I presume you interpret the first parts of these passages very straightforward and literally: “as in Adam all die” means that all people, regardless of what they do, die and are condemned because of what Adam did. But you don’t interpret the second part of these passages that same way, do you? You do not interpret that “so also in Christ shall all be made alive” as meaning that all people, regardless of what they do, are saved and have eternal life because of what Christ did. I could be wrong, and maybe you are a universalist unitarian, but something tells me you are not.

            All I’m saying is that if we are OK with having some nuance with how we understand and interpret the “so also in Christ shall all be made alive” parts of these passages, we should also be OK with having some nuance in how we interpret the “as in Adam all die” parts.

            And finally, what does “death” mean in these passages? Does it mean physical death, or is Paul talking about something different. Given the other ways he speaks of “dying” in theological contexts, the evidence is overwhelming that he is not talking about physical death. To give just one example, turn the page in Romans to 7:9: “Once I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.” Paul was not physically dead when he wrote the Epistle to the Romans, nor was he encouraging suicide with his repeated exhortations that we “die” to ourselves and so on.

            We could also look at other books of the Bible, like Hebrews, and how they treat the subject of physical death. For example, Hebrews 9:27 says people die physically (once) not because of a punishment for something that transpired thousands of years ago, but simply because God “appointed” or “destined” us to do so. It was how he set it up.

            So I believe the passages you reference here are referring to spiritual death. You are most welcome to disagree with me, but it’s one perfectly reasonable interpretation that is consistent with the canon of scripture.

          • Tim

            So, lets go with your interpretation that spiritual death is what is meant.

            How could a nonexistent person confer spiritual death on anybody?

            Why would the Bible say that you are spiritually dead as a result of something that (you say) never happened?

          • I believe the Bible teaches spiritual death arising as a consequence for our personal sinful choices, as established by many passages, e.g. James 1:14-15. I think I made this abundantly clear.

          • Tim

            so just ignore Romans and 1 Cor, then?

          • K, I’m just going to copy and paste what I wrote above, in response to the same question. Perhaps you’ll read it this time. If you wish to critique my interpretation, then by all means, but I’d appreciate if you didn’t pretend like I haven’t addressed the passages at all.

            Of course they “exist,” but that doesn’t mean they are completely unambiguous in their meaning. Like Genesis 3, there is more than one reasonable way to interpret and understand these passages, without any deference whatsoever to the gospel message, the core of the Christian faith or the overall message of scripture.

            First of all, even Romans 5 does not teach that all people are born spiritually dead and separated from God because of what Adam did. Read it carefully: “so death spread to all men because all sinned.” It seems to be saying the reason death spread was not because of “the curse” brought on by Adam and Eve’s actions; the reason death spread to all people was because all people chose to sin (like the passages in James and Romans and many other places teach).

            Now, you will probably say something like, “Well, what about verses 18 and 19?” I think we should be careful with these verses, and with 1 Cor 15:21-22. I think we should also be consistent in how we interpret them. For example, I presume you interpret the first parts of these passages very straightforward and literally: “as in Adam all die” means that all people, regardless of what they do, die and are condemned because of what Adam did. But you don’t interpret the second part of these passages that same way, do you? You do not interpret that “so also in Christ shall all be made alive” as meaning that all people, regardless of what they do, are saved and have eternal life because of what Christ did. I could be wrong, and maybe you are a universalist unitarian, but something tells me you are not.

            All I’m saying is that if we are OK with having some nuance with how we understand and interpret the “so also in Christ shall all be made alive” parts of these passages, we should also be OK with having some nuance in how we interpret the “as in Adam all die” parts.

          • Tim

            Actually it was my post that got ignored.

            You said “So I believe the passages you reference here are referring to spiritual death”

            So I asked “How could a nonexistent person confer spiritual death on anybody?

            Why would the Bible say that you are spiritually dead as a result of something that (you say) never happened?”

            And you blew it off.

          • I didn’t blow anything off. You’re just ignoring my views. I explained to you in detail how I interpret the passages, and why I believe they teach that spiritual death arises from the individual’s choice to sin. As even Romans 5:12 says, “death spread to all,” not because of what Adam and Eve did, but “because all sinned.” Then, after explaining my views, you asked me two questions that are completely nonsequitous. You asked me how a nonexistent person could confer spiritual death on anybody and why the Bible would say we are spiritually dead as a result of something that never happened — neither of which were things I professed to believe. I didn’t “blow off” your questions; I just pointed out that they don’t apply to my views. I can’t explain positions that I do not hold.

          • Tim

            I didn’t say you believed it.

            I said the scripture teaches it, that this is a result of Adam.

            How could ANYTHING be a result of someone who never lived?

            v 12 ” sin came into the world through one man” How if he never lived?

            v 15 “many died through one man’s trespass” How if he never trespassed?

            v 16 “the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation” How if that sin never occurred?

            v 17 “because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man” How if he never existed?

            v 18 “as one trespass led to condemnation for all men” How if the trespass didnt happen?

            v 19 “by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” How if he never disobeyed?

          • v 12 ” sin came into the world through one man”

            Well, there certainly was a first sinner. Every one has sinned, so it only stands to reason that if you went back in history far enough, there was somebody who had the dubious honor of being the “first.” And I think it could be said, therefore, that death “entered the world” through this person without deference to my theological position.

            v 15 “many died through one man’s trespass” How if he never trespassed?

            A difficult verse for my position, to be sure, but it can’t be divorced from verse 12 (“death spread to all because all sinned”), which is a difficult verse for yours.

            v 16 “the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation” How if that sin never occurred?

            See my explanation on verse 12, above.

            v 17 “because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man” How if he never existed?

            Spiritual death comes as a result of sin. It happens to us today, it happened to the first sinner. This verse is no trouble for my position.

            v 18 “as one trespass led to condemnation for all men” How if the trespass didnt happen?

            v 19 “by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners” How if he never disobeyed?

            Verses 18-19 I already responded to. Which reminds me, you never said, are you a universalist unitarian?

          • Tim

            “Well, there certainly was a first sinner. Every one has sinned, so it only stands to reason that if you went back in history far enough, there was somebody who had the dubious honor of being the “first.” ”

            Wait a minute. Was the first sinner also the first human? Or were some humans actually sinless?

            Scripture says “all have sinned” that would be everybody, right?

            If the first sinner was also the first human, then we have a story that is starting to sound very much like Adam and Eve, do we not?

            If the first sinner was not the first human, then ‘all haven’t sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’

            So, which is it?

          • If by the “first human,” you mean the first individual who had a spiritual nature, the ability to consider the things of God and a moral responsibility before him, then yes, I believe you could call the first sinner the “first human.” I just don’t believe Genesis 2 and 3 were meant to convey historical information about who these “first humans” were. I believe they convey theological truth through metaphor, much like the parables of Jesus. If by “first human,” you mean the first Homo sapien, the so-called “Y-Chromosomal Adam,” then no, I don’t think the two are necessarily one in the same. I think what C.S. Lewis put forth in “The Problem of Pain” is very possible:

            “For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man: it may even have been clever enough to make things which a modern archaeologist would accept as proof of its humanity. But it was only an animal because all its physical and psychical processes were directed to purely material and natural ends. Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say ‘I’ and ‘me,’ which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty, and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past.”

          • Tim

            “I believe they convey theological truth through metaphor”

            Lets see, in a metaphor one thing represents or stands for another (symbolically)

            met·a·phor

            ˈmetəˌfôr,-fər/

            noun

            a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.

            Here we have a first human, and he represents the first human

            We have a first sinner, and he represents the first sinner

            We have the first sin, and it represents the first sin

            That’s not metaphor, that’s narrative. Its history.

          • Wow, your gift in biblical interpretation is matched only by your giftedness in word definition. You truly are the total package. Thank you for including the correct pronunciation, as well (so many people leave that out these days).

            I said I believe there was a first sinner. This is a simple logical exercise. If there are sinners now, then logic dictates that, working backward, you would eventually come across the “first.” I did not say I believe Genesis 2-3 were intended to convey any historical information about the nature, identity or biography of the “first sinner.” I have already told you I view Adam and Eve as literary representatives of humankind in general, and their story speaks to our loss of innocence before God due to our disobedience and rebellion.

          • Tim

            Except that Romans 5 repeatedly tells us that we bear consequences stemming from a mythical person, right?

            The words of Jesus also bear witness to the historicity of Adam and Eve both, as well as to the historicity of Adam’s son Abel.

            In fact, Jesus’ genealogy is traced from Adam.

            If Adam were a mythical person, how can he have descendants which include Jesus Christ?

          • Except that Romans 5 repeatedly tells us that we bear consequences stemming from a mythical person, right?

            No, I don’t believe it does. Simply for the benefit of anyone else reading — since I know you’re not listening — I’ll reiterate that I have already explained my view of Romans 5:12-19. For the most part, you have simply ignored my interpretation as though I have absolutely no answer for the passage.

            The words of Jesus also bear witness to the historicity of Adam and Eve both,

            No, they don’t. On one occasion, Jesus alluded to theological teachings of Genesis 1 and 2 in answer to a question about divorce. Not creation, not earth history, and not the proper interpretation of Genesis, but divorce.

            as well as to the historicity of Adam’s son Abel.

            Right, he mentioned Abel once, again, when he was making a theological and moral argument. And if I ever said something like, “That guy is as strong as Hercules!” or “This is a Sisyphean task,” it means I believe Hercules and Sisyphus were real historical figures, too, right?

            In fact, Jesus’ genealogy is traced from Adam.

            Only in Luke’s genealogy. Matthew’s goes back only as far as David. And we know the genealogies are not all that they might seem to our 21st century eyes. We know there are gaps in them, and we know that there are significant differences between the two genealogies, even over such an elementary question as the name of Jesus’ grandfather. I think there are differences because they have different purposes. Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, traced Jesus’ lineage back to David to establish his rightful claim as both Messiah and leader of the Jewish people. He also constructs his genealogy in three sets of 14, both numbers being numerologically significant to the Hebew people.

            Luke’s genealogy, instead, seeks to establish Jesus’ humanity and his link to all mankind, and thus, he traces it back to a man who the human author and his human readers had ever reason to beleive at that time was the first person. Luke did not then know of the evolutionary history of life on our planet (just as the author of Genesis 1 displays no knowledge of other planets, other galaxies, quasars, black holes, micorbial life or the subatomic world) and the Holy Spirit obviously chose not to correct him, because it didn’t matter. The point that is being made is a theological one — Jesus is not just God, but fully man — not a scientific one, and the theological point is not changed by what we now know of evolution.

          • Tim

            yes, ALL of Jesus’ statements were on theological topics, so I guess on that basis you can (and possibly you do) imagine that Moses, David, and the prophets of Israel did not actually exist either, even though He spoke of them never giving any indication that He thought they were fiction. Did the Holy Spirit ‘choose not to correct’ Jesus also?

          • It would depend on the context. In the case of Adam, Jesus’ one-time, vague allusion to “a man shall leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh,” in answer to a question about divorce, is not very strong evidence that he believed Adam was a real historical figure, nor does it indicate that he thought the question of Adam’s historicity is a doctrinal issue of any real importance.

          • Tim

            Vague allusion? wow its getting worse.

            Tyler, its a direct quote from Genesis. There is nothing vague about it. The audience knew exactly who and what He was talking about. None of them walked away saying “wow, that was vague, I wonder what He is talking about?” Where did you get the odd idea that this was ‘vague’?

            None of His audience doubted Adam’s historicity. That’s why He didn’t have to say ‘oh and btw y’all know Adam really lived, doncha?’ Adam’s historicity is assumed by Christ, without needing to be proved.

            Moreover He quoted both from Gen 1 and Gen 2. You are aware, I’m sure, that many modern writers seem to think these two chapters somehow don’t agree, or that they are contradictory. But Jesus quoted them both as authoritative and binding.

          • The audience knew exactly who and what He was talking about. None of them walked away saying “wow, that was vague, I wonder what He is talking about?”

            I thought you hated assertion, Tim. Guess it’s OK when you do it, huh?

            Where did you get the odd idea that this was ‘vague’?

            It certainly is not vague as a direct quote of Genesis or in its theological teaching and context. It’s “vague” as a reference to Adam, which is how you presented it.

            Moreover He quoted both from Gen 1 and Gen 2. You are aware, I’m sure, that many modern writers seem to think these two chapters somehow don’t agree, or that they are contradictory. But Jesus quoted them both as authoritative and binding.

            I, too, believe they are contradictory, but only when read incorrectly.

            And just because a text is metaphorical in nature does not automatically mean it is not authoritative or binding. The Psalms, the books of the prophets, Christ’s parables and so on, are no less authoritative, instructive or divinely inspired by virtue of them being metaphorical texts rather than historical ones.

          • And you basically agree with him that a correct understanding of origins in relation to the scripture is a hugely important issue, right?

            Not in the slightest bit. I think it’s a shame that some Christian teach lies out of some misguided sense of duty, but in the end, I don’t think it matters one iota whether you believe the universe has been around for 14 billion years or was created by God around the same time the Mesopotamians first began brewing beer. This is something I’ve reiterated several times on this site.

            What I do think is important is that obstacles are not placed before the precious good news of Jesus, especially not demosntrably false obstacles, like the idea that the earth is 6,000 years old.

            No, he doesn’t.

            Yes, he most certainly does. Your article wasn’t even written by Ken Ham. The one linked here was, and in it he writes, “Even though it is not a salvation issue, the belief that earth history spans millions of years has very severe consequences. … This approach puts man’s fallible ideas in authority over God’s Word. As soon as you surrender the Bible’s authority in one area, you “unlock a door” to do the same thing in other areas. … A Christian’s belief in millions of years totally contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture.”

            So, to sum up, you can be saved, you’re just confused, and compromising, and not accepting the authority of God’s word and, in fact, “totally contradicting the clear teaching of Scripture.” Or, in other words, “Sure, you can be a Christian and believe in evolution! You’re just not a very good Christian.”

            He clearly says you have to agree with his interpretation or you are contradicting scripture. You honestly think this is not placing an obstacle before the gospel and the Christian faith?

          • Tim

            Ken says if you disagree with his historical interpretation, then you are wrong.

            You say if someone disagrees with your rejection of the historical interpretation then they are wrong.

            You object to his dogmatism, ok. But what about your own?

            Is it possible the either one of your attitudes could be a hindrance to presenting the gospel?

            You are saying the same kind of thing about Ken (“Sure he’s a Christian but not a very good one. He’s confused and misinterpreting scripture”) that you object to.

          • Ken says if you disagree with his historical interpretation, then you are wrong.

            You say if someone disagrees with your rejection of the historical interpretation then they are wrong.

            Ham says if you disagree with his interpretation of Genesis 1-3, then you are a compromising Christian who “totally contradicts” God’s word.

            I say if someone disagrees with my interpretation of Genesis 1-3, then, yeah, I think they’re wrong, but it doesn’t really matter that much, as long as they’re not teaching that people must accept their view or be a compromising Christian who “totally contradicts” God’s word.

            See the difference?

            Is it possible the either one of your attitudes could be a hindrance to presenting the gospel?

            I think it’s way beyond a “possibility” that Ken Ham’s attitude could be a hindrance to the gospel.

            You are saying the same kind of thing about Ken (“Sure he’s a Christian but not a very good one. He’s confused and misinterpreting scripture”) that you object to.

            This is not about an individual’s beliefs. If Ken Ham were just an ordinary guy I knew down the street, I would not be talking about him on my website. This is because he runs a multi-million-dollar media organization that is dedicated to making the church draw a line in the sane on a non-essential (and demonstrably false) doctrine.

            That is why I care: He and his organization mischaracterize and misrepresent the Christian faith and scripture, and they do it from a position of claimed authority as Bible teachers.

  • You’ll never convince people who take God’s word literally by having a testimony of someone who admits to being profane.