Is the tide turning against young-earthers in the evangelical church?

Is the tide turning?

In March, The Atlantic published an illuminating report by David R. Wheeler on the growing number of homeschooling evangelical Christian parents who are demanding textbooks with real science inside them that they can use to teach their children.

The article was fascinating, and for me, very encouraging. Wheeler profiled Erinn Cameron Warton (also a scientist) and Jen Baird Seurkamp — both evangelical mothers who homeschool and actively avoid using books that reject or attempt to discredit evolutionary theory.

“I nearly choked,” Warton was quoted as saying, recalling a homeschool science textbook that showed Adam and Eve (presumably with their unclothed genitalia hidden behind a strategically rendered bush or hippo) putting a saddle on a dinosaur. “When researching homeschooling curricula, I found that the majority of Christian homeschool textbooks are written from this ridiculous perspective. Once I saw this, I vowed never to use them.”

So Warton, who admitted she gets “a lot of flak” for not using Christian textbooks, was forced to pull together a curriculum of her own. The other mom, Seurkamp, said she utilizes the same science textbooks as public schools: “We want our children to be educated, not sheltered from things we are afraid of them learning.”

The article goes on to discuss a handful of efforts by publishers and other organizations to offer textbooks that present content from an orthodox Christian perspective without twisting or ignoring certain facts of modern science. I encourage everyone to read it.

Here’s the problem: None of my evangelical readers who reject evolution will (read the article, that is). And if they do read it, they probably won’t buy it. We are talking about The Atlantic, after all — the liberal media! “Well, that’s exactly what they would write, isn’t it?” a hypothetical young-earth creationist — who fervently believes most of the world is conspiring against them — might say. “Anything to promote their anti-God, pro-everything-else agenda!”

That’s why I was thrilled to see a very similar piece posted on Christianity Today’s website this morning. Headlined “A New Creation Story,” the article by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra is slated to appear in the May issue of one of the most influential media outlets in the evangelical church.

I applaud CT for publishing something I’m certain that at least some of their conservative readers will hate. Like The Atlantic’s piece, Zylstra notes initiatives by the BioLogos Foundation to bring to market new textbooks aimed at homeschoolers and written by college professors who wholeheartedly accept, or are at least open to, the scientific consensus on human origins.

The CT report ends with this:

Sonlight [Curriculum] cofounder John Holzmann believes the books will find a market of homeschooling parents who perhaps aren’t shifting views so much as becoming more polarized and public with their previously hidden positions. “At this point there is more ‘coming out,’ if you will.”

Indeed. Is young-earth creationism’s stranglehold on the American evangelical church finally beginning to weaken? Is the tide finally starting to turn? More and more evidence is suggesting that yes, it is.

And all I can say is — now more than 150 years after a Christian religious leader, John Henry Newman, wrote of Darwin’s theory, “I do not [see] that ‘the accidental evolution of organic beings’ is inconsistent with divine design — It is accidental to us, not to God” — it’s about time.

Tyler Francke

  • Ron Spross

    Perhaps they will also buy the physics books that show global warming is anything but a liberal hoax as well?

  • Rick Allen

    Nice to see the Holy Spirit doing his work 🙂

  • Alden Smith

    I starting to evolve in faith about evolution, but I’m a Church of Christ boy so thats not easy since we take the bible to be the literal word of God and while I really love how we take the Bible we know as whole better them most to the point there is a joke about us. I just don’t want to sacrifice my believe in the Bible;

    • Hey Alden! I definitely understand the challenges of holding a minority viewpoint in a church, especially when one’s church is very important to them. I certainly wouldn’t want you to sacrifice your belief in the Bible, and I think it’s entirely possible to come to an accurate understanding of the theory of evolution without compromising in the view that scripture is God-breathed and infallible. If you have any specific questions, I’d be happy to try to help. You can email me directly at tyler @ godofevolution .com (remove the spaces). Thanks!

  • truecreation_dot_info

    It’s very encouraging to hear of Christian education materials which teach evolution. I purchased Test of Faith when it came out, and I found it to be very dry except for the book that came with it, with articles by scientists sharing their testimonies. I hope that forthcoming Christian studies on science at least have some pictures and a format that is more engaging. The materials produced by YEC organizations are well-organized and lavishly illustrated (with false teaching). It’s difficult to compete with that, because they give a strong impression of truth and authority.

    On a side note, I notice that the image that is attached shows a link for the Web site of Michael Dowd (the author of “Thank God for Evolution”). I have not read his book, but I have heard that he is not a Christian, rather that he is a deist. Are you familiar with his work, and if so, what do you think about his teaching?

    • Dowd is a progressive Christian, who seems to lean toward Unitarianism/Universalism, so we definitely have some differences in theology there. I’m also not sure what his views are on the Bible. That’s why I don’t have him listed in our Links tab at the top of the page. I just thought it was a funny picture 🙂

  • Dylan

    Are there any Christian textbooks that teach evolution? I ask because while I am young (only 21) I am considering homeschooling my kids once I eventually marry and have children.

    • Hey Dylan! I think there actually are a couple in the works, but just to play devil’s advocate a bit, I’d ask you, why do you think you need a “Christian” textbook that teaches evolution? Would you want a Christian textbook for math or physics? Why wouldn’t you be able to simply use good, secular resources for the “nuts-and-bolts” instruction of science and other subjects? I mean, after all, if God is the creator of the universe, then any book that honestly looks at the natural world — whether it’s explicitly “Christian” or not — is a study of his creation.

  • QuiCreva

    Stumbled upon this quite by accident, three years after it was first posted. Better late than never, right? This is great news if true. There really is no reason for orthodox Christians to reject a theistic view of evolution. In fact, when Darwin first proposed his theory, it was embrace by many members of the clergy (and repudiated by many members of the laity). A mature and humble appreciation for Scripture permits the sincere Christian to admit that many passages are more meaningful and spiritually robust when taken metaphorically rather than literally. This is part of accommodation theology – the proposition that God meets us where we are and speaks to us in words we can understand. Since the ancient Hebrews did not have the scientific background to understand physics and the Big Bang, God gave them the parable of the Garden of Eden instead. Centuries later, God the Son would also speak to people in parables, and for the same reason.

    • Thanks for the comment, QuiCreva, and for sharing some of your thoughts. I totally agree.