Ken Ham asks, ‘How do we stop the youth exodus from the church?’

"Departure of the Israelites," by David Roberts, 1829, via Wikimedia Commons.

Great question, Ken Ham. Say, here’s an idea.

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This is the great irony of Ham and Answers in Genesis, that they pretend to be concerned about, and fighting against, a trend that the movement they’re part of is largely responsible for. It would be like Tim Cook criticizing people’s preoccupation with handheld touch-screen devices, or the head of McDonald’s publishing an op-ed ruminating on America’s obesity problem and how in the heck fast food became such a significant portion of most of our diets.

This is not just my opinion. Research shows that one of the primary reasons my generation is losing interest in Christianity is the church’s perceived (and too often, actual) antagonism toward scientific inquiry, scientific progress and science in general.

It doesn’t take a genius researcher to figure out where these perceptions are coming from. They’re not intrinsic to the Christian faith. They come from organizations like AiG and their representatives, who deliberately misrepresent the gospel and True Christianity™ as being somehow dependent on the modern idea of a 6,000-year-old universe, and more importantly, the thousands of churches who mindlessly parrot their teachings and present their materials as the “biblical” viewpoint.

This is not to say I believe young-earthers should just shut up about their views. It is all about the posture in which those views are presented. If your posture is, “This is what I believe, and what I believe the Bible says, but I respect that some Christians have different beliefs on this subject that are just as valid as mine,” then more power to you. On the other hand, if your posture is the Ken Ham-patented, “This is what the Bible says, period, and if you disagree, you’re a worse Christian than I am (and you probably hate your kids, too)” — well, I think that is not just unbiblical, but profoundly harmful.

I don’t know for sure, but it may say something about the American evangelical church that Ham has been able to make a living offering a snake-oil cure for a problem that would probably not even exist if he and others like him were a tiny bit more open-minded (and hence, truer to the scriptures they claim to represent).

Tyler Francke is the founder of God of Evolution and author of Reoriented. He can be reached here.

  • Charles Weston

    Excellent post, Tyler!

    Why so many churches want to jump into bed with the YECs and their dishonesty is beyond me.

    • Thanks!

    • Trent Lammins

      I haven’t a clue either. At my church book store, under apologetics is Ken Ham’s terrible “new answers” book series.

  • D. Humeston

    A perfect article. My daughter in Portland is an example of a young intelligent person who has fallen away from her faith because of the nonsense teachings. Yet, even within my own family I have some who believe the 6000 year old earth myth and scoff at science and evolution. A faith that needs to cling to these false doctrines, being afraid of considering anything else, is a very weak faith in my personal view.

    But where do you point young people to? What church exists that teaches Jesus Christ and respects science? Those that accept science seem to water down everything so that Christ is optional. Where is the rational moderate church?

    Not in South Florida, I can assure you of that.

    Again, great article!
    DH

    • DH: Brief summary: try the Anglican/Episcopalians and Methodists.

      During my undergrad. degree course in Geology, I was privileged that my teachers included at least five Christians, each actively involved in their local churches (and one nationally). All were fully accepting of scientific understanding.

      I know, and have worked with, many research scientists who are lively Christians; none is YEC. There is hope. At least, here in the UK, there is. (Actually, I am aware of, although do not personally know, one university UK scientist/Christian who professes to be YEC.)

      You might also explore the (UK) “Christians in Science” website:

      http://www.cis.org.uk/

      But, to return to your question: try the established denominations. Each tends to be broad, so try a few (not just one) local congregations.

      Hope that helps.

      • D. Humeston

        Thank you David. Both of those denominations have been on my radar, so now I will explore them more. Thanks again!

      • Thanks for the reply, David. Awesome perspective!

        To add my 2 cents, Dart, believe it or not, almost all of the major established denominations are, at the very least, open to the possibility of evolution and an ancient earth in their doctrinal statements. If I remember correctly, the Southern Baptist Convention is the only significant denomination whose dogma explicitly rejects evolution.

        However, I also totally understand that it doesn’t often feel like that is true, and I think the reason for that is because 1) many church members do not know or even necessarily agree with the core tenets, traditions and doctrine of their denomination, and 2) the posture and preaching of most churches is heavily dependent on the views and individual beliefs of the senior pastors, who do tend to lean toward young-earth creationism (as to why that is, that’s a whole other conversation).

        So, while the latter is discouraging, it is also reason for hope. It means, essentially, that all a young person needs to do is find a good pastor who believes the Genesis accounts are not meant to be interpreted literally, or at the very least, is open to that possibility. They do exist, I promise!

  • ashleyhr

    My post timed at 23.47 at this link is an email I sent to various YECs and anti-YECs after reading some Facebook drivel by another key AiG speaker:
    http://forums.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=2967&start=1635

    • Professor_Tertius

      I am grateful to ASHLEYHR for sending me the URL to Tyler Francke’s great article on a topic of great concern to me.

  • Alan S

    Great article! It’s been a while since you’ve posted anything, so I’m glad to see you’re back in action! 🙂 Also, I like the new look of the site.

    • Hey, Alan! Thanks! Yeah, I’ve been away too long and was missing it! I think the new format will be more conducive to shorter, but more frequent posts, which was the idea. Glad you like the look 🙂

  • Professor_Tertius

    I have often mentioned in my blog how many distraught undergrads from Young Earth Creationist backgrounds came to me during my office hours who weren’t my advisees and weren’t even students from my own classes. I had a reputation for being the token outspoken evangelical professor in a science department of that particular American university (although not many knew that I had also come from a YEC church background similar to theirs.)

    Most had hopes that I could somehow give them reasons to hold on to their wavering faith, a heart-crushing, mind-boggling dilemma precipitated by a “crisis of confidence” in their Christian parents, pastors, Sunday School teachers, and youth ministers. It wasn’t always about The Theory of Evolution per se, as Ken Ham et al would like to think. It was the fact that they realized they had been fed a lot of lies and half-truths about science.

    To a degree many were willing to grant grace that at least some of those who had taught them “creation science” while they were growing up were themselves the victims of origins-ministry entrepreneurs/liars, their own naivete, and a lack of basic science-literacy. Yet, even those more gracious students tended to be far more harsh on their pastors and others who they rightly felt had a responsibility before God to fact-check and not be so easily led astray by destructive tangents and distractions from the Gospel from the *real* priorities of Biblical teaching.

    What I found most fascinating and frustrating was that even after figuring out from a study of the evidence, and comparing the arguments from both sides of the origins controversies, many of them nevertheless continued to assume that Ken Ham et al were correct in saying, “You must choose between God and His Word and man’s ideas and materialistic science.” Most of them (and most Christians in general) have no idea that even the presumed “historical conflict between Science and the Bible” is both relatively recent and, to a significant degree, exaggerated and artificial. Indeed, the same could be said for many aspects of the presumed “war” between the Bible and The Theory of Evolution and even the ridiculous vilification of Charles Darwin as evil incarnate.

    My evangelical students especially were almost always very surprised to learn that Benjamin Warfield, the famous champion of Biblical Inerrancy, was a huge fan of Darwin’s theory and that the Darwin family was known as the biggest financial sponsors of American Abolitionist ministers and the mass distributions of scripture-filled, anti-slavery tracts. Indeed, when Charles Darwin died, American newspapers which routinely published the Sunday sermons of their communities’ most respected pastors included impassioned and glowing eulogies delivered from pulpits on the next two Sundays as news spread through the continent. (Of course, I’m not claiming that every Protestant minister in those days loved Charles Darwin and evolution. Yet, it was not all that difficult to find plenty who did.) The same voyage of THE BEAGLE which brought Darwin to the wonders of the Galapagos Islands also exposed him to the horrors of South American slavery. His eyes were opened to “that great evil” and many of his book royalties were directed toward aiding “the oppressed African in his miseries”. Of course, Ken Ham & Co. will never mention any of these historical facts to their audiences. It would entirely detract from their efforts to portray Darwin as “racist” and allegedly responsible for genocide and the horrors of the Holocaust. Of course, they also have trouble explaining why those allegedly evolution-loving Nazis banned and burned all of Darwin’s books and any other which taught anything about The Theory of Evolution! These are just a few of the facts which distressed so many university students from “creation science” church backgrounds when they finally learned of so much scientific, scriptural, and historical evidence which had been kept from them for so many years.

    Probably the saddest face I recall from those disillusioned students was the young lady who asked me, “Have I been part of a cult?” Without going into the tangent of parsing the denotations and connotations of that highly charged term, it is easy to understand why a student from some of today’s most extremely Young Earth Creationist churches could be prone to react in extremes. Many have decided that EVERYTHING they were taught at church was just as filled with disinformation and lies as the “creation science” propaganda nonsense they had little choice but to naively absorb as vulnerable young children.

    It is easy to understand why the Apostle Paul was so insistent that his message be solely focused on the Gospel of “the cross of Jesus Christ.” Sadly, while Paul wished to be known as a fool solely because of “the foolishness of the cross”, the “gospel of creation science” in North America today has led many to assume by default a kind of Christian gospel which is full of foolishness and dishonesty in general. (For years now I occasionally Google the phrase “lying for Jesus” to see how the hits continue to escalate.)

    Some students talked to me before they had completely rejected the things of God and allowed their disappointment and even bitterness towards their church and parents to completely poison their thinking. But as to those who had fully accepted Ken Ham’s false dichotomy and refused to budge from it, I’m not so sure I know exactly why they came to see me. I hoped that they still wanted someone to punch holes in their thinking and in their decision to abandon God and the Bible. Perhaps they were still grasping a tiny hope of their own that their new understanding of the science still left some kind of room for a Biblical faith.

    Fortunately, today there are many more quality resources to help such distraught students than there were a decade ago. (For that matter, when I had students coming to me even a quarter century ago, there was virtually nothing geared towards their circumstances and questions.) I often recommend Gordon J. Glover’s Youtube videos. I don’t necessarily agree with Glover on everything in his 13-part series but he provides an excellent overview of so many important points, such as the differences between Ultimate Causation in theology/philosophy and Proximate Causation in science. Also, he exposes the equivocation fallacies in confusing the methodological naturalism of the scientific method with the philosophical naturalism of some types of atheism. (Unfortunately, the most vocal anti-theists who agitate Ken Ham and others tend to obfuscate and err on those topics in many of the same ways as Ham!)

    Ken Ham’s book on churches losing the younger generation brings to mind the classic Pogo exclamation, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

    {I hadn’t intended to write an entire essay for this comment but the theme of your article has been one of my greatest concerns for a very long time–and the thoughts keep coming. The excesses and errors of the “creation science” movement have become major impediments to the Great Commission for entire generations. And because I was all too much a part of the movement back in the 1960’s and 1970’s–as a speaker/debater inspired by Morris’ & Whitcomb’s THE GENESIS FLOOD–I feel a personal responsibility to do what I can to mitigate that damage as much as I possibly can. Sadly, I must share in the blame.}

  • “6,000 year old earth? Nonsense.

    Dead man rising? Seems legit.”

    All of Christianity is based on anti-scientific supernatural phenomena which never happened. The YECs are just much more obviously ridiculous.

    All the denominations except the most fundamentalist are in decline. Ken is an easy target and he certainly doesn’t help, he’s not the sole problem. Your complete lack of evidence is. Concentrate on the positive philosophy, dispense with the belief in magic and gods, and you might have a chance.

    Sorry, there’s no way to sugarcoat that.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Ken Ham asks, ‘How do we stop the youth exodus from the church?’

    But Ham prefers the Brezhnev Answer: “Increase Political Consciousness — I mean Young Earth SCRIPTURE — Indoctrination!”