Why I’m mad at Brandon Withrow: Thoughts on deconversions

Brandon Withrow (via The Curious Ape).

Let me be brutally honest with you for a second: I’m mad at Brandon Withrow.

I know I shouldn’t be mad at him. I know I have no right to be mad at him. I know it is wrong and petty and incredibly unfair for me to be mad at him.

But I still am. Here’s why.

Brandon Withrow is an author, academic and blogger who specializes in early Christian history and literature. Also, he was once a regular contributor to the BioLogos Forum and is, or was, active in the creation-evolution debate.

The verb tense gets a little messy, because Withrow has recently gone public with his deconversion from Christianity to secular humanism. In so doing, he also made the decision to leave his non-tenured faculty position as an assistant professor of historical and theological studies at Winebrenner Theological Seminary.

So, because of that, and because he has always been a writer and commentator on a far-reaching variety of subjects, it’s not entirely clear at this point what conversations he will remain active in, and which ones he might add to his repertoire.

Let me say up front that I don’t know Brandon Withrow, except from his writing. We’ve had no real interaction other than a few Tweets here and there (which, actually, I think means we’re best friends. So never mind).

But there is only a handful of smart, well-educated theological types who write unapologetically against the Hamites and their ilk, and there is an even smaller handful of those who do it well, and there is only, like, I don’t know, zero-ish of those who are — how do I put this delicately? — not, um, a lot older than the young people who desperately need to hear this message.

Of that select group, Brandon Withrow, was the only one one of the best, and one of my favorites. He was a good writer, down to earth and clearly passionate about the intellectual pursuits in which he was engaged.

To hear him tell it, it was that last bit that was his faith’s undoing.

On his blog, which was once known by the now-ironic title The Discarded Image and is now called The Curious Ape (with a much cooler logo), and in a couple opinion pieces, Withrow has offered some crumbs, but few specifics, as to what caused him to reject the faith he once adhered to.

From The Chronicle of Higher Ed:

Like many of the unaffiliated in America, my problems with religion included biblical, social, personal, and scientific issues, the fine details of which are beyond this short article. I can say, however, that my path to faithlessness began by putting my religion under the academic microscope. (I recognize that many religious academics would not see my disbelief as a necessary conclusion of this process.)

The more my approach to my field became academic, the less I stayed an adherent. Why? As K.L. Noll describes it in “The Ethics of Being a Theologian,” the “religion researcher is related to the theologian as the biologist is related to the frog in her lab.” The theologian defends and propagates a religious perspective, but the religion researcher will “select sample religions, slice them open, and poke around inside,” which “tends to ‘kill’ the religion.”

I became both researcher and frog. By poking around in my religion, I discovered what made it tick and found a creative but entirely human faith. I also dissected my nonexistent soul and its motivations and concluded that the faith I was handed as a child was not one I could embrace as an adult.

All right. So, why do I care? And, more to the point, why am I mad at Brandon Withrow?

Well, because of this. And this. And this.

The inescapable fact of the young-earth movement is that it, at its core, is not driven by a faithfulness to God, nor Christ, nor truth, nor even the very text it claims to uphold above everything else. No, if you peel away everything else, you will find that the one thing that animates young-earthism, that unifies its proponents’ messages and that ultimately drives believers into its fold is this: fear.

That’s why their arguments don’t make any sense. They don’t need to, when fear is their ace in the hole. Reason is in many ways the enemy of fear, and fear has no use for it.

So, whereas a well-laid critique of the literal view of the Genesis creation accounts, demonstrating, for example, the bizarre contortions it requires of the text and traditional Christian theology, might otherwise be effective in loosening the stranglehold young-earthism has on the modern American church, a fallacious but nevertheless rhetorically powerful counter-punch is, “Don’t become a theistic evolutionist because it will make you and your children atheists.”

And against that message, Brandon Withrow was once not only an ally, but a valuable counter-example. Now, Withrow is, as he eloquently puts it, “many statistics.” But the most troubling for me is that he is now a weapon the young-earth charlatans will use to attack everything this site represents and to draw more people into their shallow, reality-denying bubble: “See? Evolution and Christianity don’t mix. Theistic evolution is just one step on the road to atheism. Told you so.”

I don’t know how much evolution really played a role in Withrow’s deconversion, or if it did at all. Based on what I know about his writing and fields of study, I suspect his loss of faith probably had more to do with higher criticism of the Bible, but that’s just my guess.

At any rate, his story plays right into the overall narrative that smart people don’t become — or in this case, stay — Christians, and good Christians don’t look too closely or too intellectually at their own faith. And evolution or not, that narrative is at the heart of what we at GOE fight and stand against.

Let me be clear here. This is not a public shaming. (Unlike this.)

No, I’m not actually mad at Brandon Withrow. He made a very courageous and intellectually honest decision, and there is much to admire in that. And I also appreciate the terms in which he has couched his decision. As the above quote shows, he has sought to explain why he came to the conclusions he did, while simultaneously acknowledging that other valid conclusions may be drawn, and that other smart, reasonable people whom he respects have drawn them.

I am upset, but if I’m being honest — and I’m trying to be — the reasons I’m upset have nothing to do with Brandon Withrow and everything to do with me.

Simply put, this makes me mad because I do not understand it. I just don’t get it.

Do I have doubts? Absolutely. I have doubts about my theology, my understanding of scripture, my views of the Christian faith and its doctrines.

At times, I have serious doubts about parts of the Bible that seem to defy any efforts to understand them or make them comport with the huge, loving, merciful and imminently rational father I believe God to be. Perhaps Brandon Withrow struggled with some of these same passages.

But these aren’t doubts about God. These are doubts, ultimately, about whether a feeble, easily distracted mind such as my own could ever be capable of grasping things that are wholly beyond me, that are cosmically enormous and unfathomably mysterious.

I do not doubt God. I know him. He is real to me. And I do not doubt I’m a sinner, in desperate need of his grace.

I doubt me. That is my trouble, but also his gift. Because it is in this self-doubt that I believe I know what it truly means to be human, and it is also in that place that I feel closer to God than I ever have.

And who knows? Maybe, someday, Brandon Withrow will come around again. And maybe he won’t. But I do believe he will keep exploring, keep thinking and keep being honest, both with himself and his readers.

And, in the end, that’s really all any of us have the right to ask of him.

Tyler Francke is founder of God of Evolution and author of Reoriented. He can be reached at tyler@godofevolution.com.

  • Nadine Sikkema

    Thank you for writing this.

  • JG

    Thanks for this post. I am visiting this site often.
    I miss a ‘print’ option (reading on my kindle). A good print option/button would exclude all irrelevant content. I miss that.

    • Thanks, JG. And I’m sorry it’s not more visible, but if you look at the top of the post, just below Brandon’s picture, there actually is a little, light green “PrintFriendly” button in line with the square social media icons. If you click on that, it will generate a version you can print or PDF without the comments and other secondary content on the Web page. Let me know if you have any trouble!

      • JG

        I can see the icon quite clearly today – couldn’t yesterday 🙂 The icon could be a bit clearer, but it is fine. Thanks!

        • No worries. You know, I could make it more prominent, but honestly, I don’t think people print stuff that often anymore. I still do, and obviously you do too, but I think we’re in the distinct minority. Nevertheless, have you seen a site that displays its printing and sharing buttons/options really well? If you share a link, perhaps I can emulate it. Thanks!

  • Thank you, Tyler. I think you speak for a lot of us.

    I’m also concerned that we’ll hear a lot of “Aha! See? Evolution makes you an atheist!” stuff, as if we don’t already hear that all the time.

    But as you well know and have articulated many times, we can’t accept or reject things based on the possible consequences. If YEC helps people stay in the faith, that’s no good if YEC is actually false.

    Truth is just dangerous. And as you poke and prod at it, there’s always a danger that, as those childhood assumptions slip away, that we’ll end up as nihilists or atheists or agnostics or any other kind of -ist or -tic. But that’s the risk of pursuing the truth.

    And who knows? Today, Brandon is deconverting. Who knows where he’ll be five, ten, or forty years from now? If my experiences with faith and unbelief among the people I know teach anything, it’s that the journey to and through faith is often an erratic and unpredictable one.

    • Thanks, Phil. I’m just surprised it’s taken this long without the YEC groups pouncing on the opportunity. Brandon Withrow responded to our post yesterday and he said he was surprised at that as well. It was actually something he and his wife had discussed before he decided to go public.

      In response to your point about truth, I believe God actually calls us to pursue him and seek truth recklessly, rather than sit safe on the sidelines to protect and preserve some limp, atrophied shadow of “faith.” I know I’d rather have truth with risk than “faith” without depth.

  • D. Humeston

    I just finished reading Jason Boyett’s book, “O me of little faith”. I always say there are 100% Christians and 98% Christians. Some people are rocks when it comes to faith, they believe 100%. Myself and my wife, we are 98 percenters. But the real cause I think is so much crap that man has added to the faith over the last two thousand years. It is frightening to some to reject a basic principle like a six day creation. Many Americans don’t want a well thought out faith. They want to go to the God Store and pull off the shelf a fully created religion. They don’t want to have to work out what is true and what is not. Unfortunately, in order to get closer to God we must do just that, work out our own salvation through serious thought.

    I’ve managed over a very long time to shed many of the doctrines that were added by men, and while it scared me, at the end I was able to see God and Jesus so much clearer that it created a sound and solid faith that works so smoothly, and gives me such great hope. I think that America needs a new revival, but one based on the truths that Jesus spoke of, and not all the stuff men added through the years.

    – Dart

    • Timothy Swanson

      I’m on the same journey myself. Even the bible itself has so much cultural baggage to sift through, and then the rest that has been added over the centuries.

  • Jim Cole

    Thanks for writing this, Tyler! It’s too bad that it will probably be used to foster more fear, especially when the reverse is really true — it’s YEC views that tend to drive people away from the faith when they encounter truth.

    Your statement at the end about knowing God hits the nail on the head. I think this reflects the real danger that science presents: We become so familiar with the general success of rational thought that we believe it’s the foundation for faith, as well. Theology is great, but it’s not a replacement for relationship.

    I draw a comparison with being married. If my wife wrote a book that expressed her heart, full of poetry and narratives of her relationships with other people, then I’d read the book to get to know her better. I’d talk with her about its contents, and maybe talk with others who knew her and the book. All of this done out of love for her, to know her better.

    If someone then proved that she had borrowed from others when writing the book, I might be confused and angry, but it wouldn’t cause me to leave. If someone produced proof that we were not really married after all because of some legal technicality, it wouldn’t matter. Perhaps science will someday prove that love stems from biology and socially-wired cognitive processes, but I wouldn’t care. Decades of walking through life in a real, loving relationship trumps all that, and handily.

    So it is with God. No amount of rational argument or historical critique can change what I know to be true. WHO I know to be true! Like you, my doubts have to do with my own brokenness and inability to grasp the Divine.

    I fear that some will encounter the Lord and, to paraphrase Matthew 7, say “Lord, Lord, my hermeneutic was conservative and my exegesis flawless!”, yet He will say that He did not know them.

    • That’s a beautiful illustration, Jim, and I agree with it very much. I don’t believe faith and rational thought are mutually exclusive when it comes to the Christian life. I believe you need both, because we reach different points where one or the other is inadequate. Either our faith runs dry and we’re saved by our minds and a rational affirmation of what we know to be true, or we encounter things that don’t make sense, and our faith pulls us through.

      In that way, I think it’s very like the push and pull of love and commitment in the context of marriage. You can’t have a successful marriage without both, because one or the other will, at some point, be lacking.

      • Jim Cole

        Good points about both faith and rational thought being important. There are a also bunch of Scripture passages that describe the activity of both spiritual and rational activity in the believer’s life. Your parallel with love and commitment is a great picture of that necessity.

    • Or Habakkuk 2:4, “The righteous shall live by his correct soteriology.”

  • myklc

    “I doubt me.”
    Me too. Perhaps when we stop doubting our own wisdom and power we might wind up on either loony extreme?

  • Timothy Swanson

    Disclosure: I am a Christian (and a Theist), and I tend to believe generally along the same lines as you (Tyler). I sympathize with this post in so many ways. I’m not disagreeing with it at all.

    But, just a thought, born of my own fears of deconversion combined with my own musings (and a bit of C. S. Lewis on the side…)

    I find the idea of willfully denying proven truth worse than deconversion.

    To deliberately shut down the part of one that thinks and learns so one can preserve “faith” seems to be more of a moral violation than to conclude that one cannot believe in God. Again, this is just my own idea, but if I were God, I would rather someone doubt than that someone would believe at the cost of of intellect and conscience. It would be like my wife having sex with me out of duty and in spite of her better judgment rather than desire. Who wants that? Like Lewis, I believe that all shall become real in the end, and as we see what is real, we can truly choose communion with the Divine when we shall see Him as he is. That’s one reason I believe there will be many atheists and agnostics in the Kingdom of God, but fewer of the theologically “faithful” than they would like to believe.

    • Hey Timothy, thanks for your comment. I agree with it in many ways. I too believe, and have often thought, that God would rather have an intellectually honest person than a “faithful” one whose faith is rooted in cowardice. He gave us our brains, after all. I’m pretty sure that was not in the hope that we would forego using them.

      If you’ll allow me to quote something I said to another commenter above, I do think it’s relevant here as well: “I believe God actually calls us to pursue him and seek truth recklessly, rather than sit safe on the sidelines to protect and preserve some limp, atrophied shadow of ‘faith.’ I know I’d rather have truth with risk than ‘faith’ without depth.”

      • Timothy Swanson

        That’s a great line.

      • summers-lad

        When Christopher Hitchens died, I heard that he deliberately maintained his atheism in the face of impending death, as he had his conviction and saw no reason to retract it. However, if there really is a god, he said, I hope he’ll be impressed that I didn’t try to curry favour.
        I think this is a position of integrity, and more honest than some of our so-called evangelism. It’s also close to the ethic of your comments, although from an opposite position.

  • Rob Braun

    It is disturbing. It raises so many questions. I wonder if you might want to reach out to him to get clarification. I’d love to read about that conversation.

    • I’ll ask him, Rob. I get the feeling that he is being very slow and cautious in how he discusses this part of his life publicly, but there’s no harm in putting out the feelers.

  • Karl Goldsmith

    Let go of your delusion.

  • Nick Hodgetts

    Hi Tyler, It’s sad that Brandon has come to this point, but I expect you are right in guessing that his views on evolution have little to do with his ‘deconversion’. My faith is sometimes as small as the proverbial mustard seed but I do at least know that whatever science produces, there is no chance at all that it can derail it completely. Science is a wonderful thing, and the ability to explore God’s universe one of his greatest gifts, and it hurts so much when the Ken Hams of this world fool Christians into parking their brains!

    • I think it’s a crime that some Christians advocate such caution and even fear when it comes to scientific inquiry. I like to say that science, which is simply the study of the natural world, has about as much chance of disproving the existence of God as a study of “Romeo and Juliet” disproving Shakespeare.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    At any rate, his story plays right into the overall narrative that smart people don’t become — or in this case, stay — Christians, and good Christians don’t look too closely or too intellectually at their own faith.

    i.e. “The Holy Nincompoop” narrative.
    The Christianese version of this little momento from classic Dr Demento:

  • Larry Bunce

    I recall a survey of belief among college professors that showed those in philosophy and psychology were more likely to be atheists or agnostics than those in biology. Perhaps religious zealots should try to suppress those fields rather than evolution.

  • AmbassadorHerald

    You nailed it in your conclusions Mr. Francke. Scientific Creationists know that if you disprove any of The Holy Bible, you lower the entirety of it to imperfect. Atheists know this too, which is why they are trying to disprove each and every part of it they can, with supposed “historical contradictions” and “scientific inaccuracies”.

    Why do you think atheists never compromise with us? Why don’t they ever say, “Okay, we’ll meet you halfway, we’ll accept the possibility of an Intelligent Designer, if, you accept the possibility of said entity using Evolution to do it’s creating.” Why do they only ask us to budge a mile and never give a millimeter in return?

    It is because evolution is opposed to God and all things related to Him. You can never point to a single Christian who got the idea that the 6-Days recorded in Genesis are not literal based solely on reading The Holy Bible. The Ten Commandments utterly deny it in Exodus 20:11, which God wrote, and Jesus said that you have to believe Moses or you cannot believe Him in John 5:45-47.

    You either believe God is Almighty, able to use people the same way we use a pen, or you believe He let people write as we want. You either believe Jesus spoke the absolute truth in Matthew 19:4-6 (and Mark 10:5-9) or you believe He lied and played to the crowd. Why would God allow 6,000 years of people believe falsely about history using His Own Book?

    You like to mockingly say Genesis 1 is being changed by literalists. Well why don’t you, with all your language and evolutionary expertise, show how Genesis 1 supports evolution? Or perhaps write us up a version that would be better compatible with evolution, and then explain why God did not allow that to be written by Moses instead?

    You can be mad all you want, because the choice Brandon Withrow screams in your face that Scientific Creationists were right all along. That atheists were right all along. The atheists at least openly mock God at His face and will burn for it. Theistic evolutionists are the ones trying to please the crowd. “Look, see, we accept your opinions, now you need to accept ours.”

    Never going to happen. You accepting evolution is exactly playing into atheistic hands. In their minds, you’ve confirmed that evolution is undeniable and so their resolve against God grows stronger. There is a “god of evolution” and his name is Lucifer (2 Corinthians 4:4).

    • You nailed it in your conclusions Mr. Francke. Scientific Creationists know that if you disprove any of The Holy Bible, you lower the entirety of it to imperfect. Atheists know this too, which is why they are trying to disprove each and every part of it they can, with supposed “historical contradictions” and “scientific inaccuracies”.

      Your reading comprehension leaves a lot to be desired. But I certainly agree that young-earth creationists and militant atheists share a lot of similarities in terms of their theology, both its content and its (lack of) complexity.

      Why do you think atheists never compromise with us?

      Probably because your view of earth history is demonstrably incorrect.

      Why don’t they ever say, “Okay, we’ll meet you halfway, we’ll accept the possibility of an Intelligent Designer, if, you accept the possibility of said entity using Evolution to do it’s creating.”

      Because they’re not negotiating a contract?

      Why do they only ask us to budge a mile and never give a millimeter in return?

      Because you’re wrong?

      It is because evolution is opposed to God and all things related to Him.

      Saw that coming.

      You can never point to a single Christian who got the idea that the 6-Days recorded in Genesis are not literal based solely on reading The Holy Bible.

      Augustine, Origen, Thomas Aquinas. Is that enough, or do you need more?

      The Ten Commandments utterly deny it in Exodus 20:11,

      Jesus did not take Exodus 20:11 literally.

      Jesus said that you have to believe Moses or you cannot believe Him in John 5:45-47.

      I do believe Moses. I just don’t believe your misrepresentation of Moses.

      You either believe God is Almighty, able to use people the same way we use a pen, or you believe He let people write as we want.

      Pretty sure there are other options besides those two.

      You either believe Jesus spoke the absolute truth in Matthew 19:4-6 (and Mark 10:5-9) or you believe He lied and played to the crowd.

      I believe he spoke the absolute truth.

      Why would God allow 6,000 years of people believe falsely about history using His Own Book?

      We have not had the Bible for anywhere close to 6,000 years.

      You like to mockingly say Genesis 1 is being changed by literalists.

      Indeed.

      Well why don’t you, with all your language and evolutionary expertise, show how Genesis 1 supports evolution?

      First, you show me how Genesis 1 supports the existence of microbes.

      Or perhaps write us up a version that would be better compatible with evolution, and then explain why God did not allow that to be written by Moses instead?

      Why would I do that? Genesis 1 is perfect as is.

      You can be mad all you want, because the choice Brandon Withrow screams in your face that Scientific Creationists were right all along. That atheists were right all along.

      Whoa. Young-earth creationists and atheists have been saying all along that Brandon Withrow would deconvert to secual humanism. You guys should write a book of prophecy.

      The atheists at least openly mock God at His face and will burn for it.

      Yeah, I just cannot figure out why you and your atheist friends don’t get along.

      Theistic evolutionists are the ones trying to please the crowd. “Look, see, we accept your opinions, now you need to accept ours.”

      Sorry, but that doesn’t really sound like me.

      Never going to happen.

      Seriously. Book of prophecy.

      You accepting evolution is exactly playing into atheistic hands.

      Trust me, buddy, if the militant atheists understood how good the young-earth creationism movement was at destroying people’s faith, they would be firmly in your corner.

      In their minds, you’ve confirmed that evolution is undeniable and so their resolve against God grows stronger.

      Wow, I never realized how dependent atheists were on me and my views.

      There is a “god of evolution” and his name is Lucifer (2 Corinthians 4:4).

      That’s not what 2 Cor. 4:4 says.

      • AmbassadorHerald

        Me: “You can never point to a single Christian who got the idea that the 6-Days recorded in Genesis are not literal based solely on reading The Holy Bible.”

        —–“Augustine, Origen, Thomas Aquinas. Is that enough, or do you need more?”

        Need I remind you that Origen was a heretic because, A) he did not believe in a physical resurrection of Jesus, and B) he believed all people would be saved regardless of their rejection or acceptance of Christ (universalism)? Plus, he did not get his nonliteral interpretation of Scripture from The Holy Bible but from Neoplatonism, which is just philosophy. I asked for true Christians, Mr. Francke, not heretics masquerading as believers. Origen does not apply! http://www.ovrlnd.com/Universalism/Origen.html

        Epic Fail #1!

        Augustine wrote four extended commentaries on Genesis—“On Genesis: A Refutation of the Manichees”, “The Unfinished Literal Commentary on Genesis”, “The Literal Meaning of Genesis”, and the last 3 books of his “Confessions”—though he did write on it in numerous other works as well. Half of these top four are based on an instantaneous creation, the other half is more or less literal. https://answersingenesis.org/reviews/books/augustines-commentaries-on-genesis-one-and-modern-theology/

        The first commentary Augustine did was a refutation of the Manichees, who were hyper-literal. As a result, it is a figurative and instantaneous Creation. Many years later Augustine realized literalism was plausible, but not hyper-literalism. So he started his first literal commentary, but for some reason never completed it. Later still he wrote his Confessions, which were a commentary on himself, not on Genesis as is often assumed. Genesis 1 was used figuratively to reveal the new life Jesus had put inside himself as a Christian. The final commentary on Genesis was also longer than all three of these put together and took a pretty literal stance. Since Augustine’s most mature word on the subject of Genesis is literal, this should be seen as his official stance.

        Application time: an instantaneous creation does not help your cause, because you need billions of years, and the basically literal creation does not help your cause either, but supports Creationism. Regardless of which timescale he used, Augustine always believed Genesis really happened, despite what you teach at “God of Evolution” that it didn’t. And again, he did not get his ideas solely from Scripture, he was heavily influenced early in life by the hyper-literal Manichee sect, which inspired him to go figurative at first. He also leaned towards Neoplatonism and was relying on the faulty “Vetus Latina”, or Old Latin text, which added to his confusion on Genesis 1. You have accused St. Augustine falsely!

        Epic Fail #2!!

        Thomas Aquinas was far from a non-literalist. He attested that the days of Genesis 1 were natural and of 24-hours. He attested that plants were made before the sun, which demonstrated that the sun was not to be worshiped. He attested that man was created from the “slime” of the earth, based on a faulty translation in the Vulgate. And he attested that God built Adam’s rib into a woman. Evolution has no room in these proclamations, and so Aquinas is falsely accused. http://creation.com/thomas-aquinas-young-earth-creationist

        Epic Fail #3!!!

        Three strikes, you’re out! But, if you think you can still provide ACTUAL Christians who really did not believe in literal days WITHOUT external influences, then feel free to try.

        —–“Jesus did not take Exodus 20:11 literally.”

        Unsubstantiated assertion.

        —–“Pretty sure there are other options besides those two.”

        Yup, compromise. Life is black and white, stop trying to make mud.

        —–“I believe he spoke the absolute truth.”

        I refer you to my Answer #10 for this, read up:
        http://www.godofevolution.com/10-theological-questions-no-young-earth-creationist-can-answer/#comment-2131190333
        http://www.godofevolution.com/10-theological-questions-no-young-earth-creationist-can-answer/#comment-2131191304

        —–“First, you show me how Genesis 1 supports the existence of microbes.”

        Aha! So you agree it doesn’t clearly mention them? Guess that rules out evolution right there.

        —–“Why would I do that? Genesis 1 is perfect as is.”

        I agree, which is why I call for people to trust it, rather than doubt it like you do.

        • You are mistaken about many things (why am I not surprised?).

          Origen

          First of all, Origen’s “De Principii,” on which most of the controversy about him is based, was written to present a number of different arguments, not all of which he believed. The purpose was to spark debate among mature students of theology and philosophy. He specifically said this in his introduction to the work.

          That being said, Origen did not deny the resurrection of Christ. Indeed, he considered this event to have been the utmost expression of God’s glory in the whole creation: “[R]aising our Lord Jesus from the dead is more magnificent among the praises of God than the making of heaven and earth, the creating of angels, and the establishment of the heavenly powers.” (Origen, Commentary on Romans).

          Nor did he deny the resurrection of the faithful. What he wrestled with was exactly what the nature of the resurrection body would be, based on the teachings in passages like 1 Corinthians 15. If you ever actually engaged with scripture, rather than simply clinging to and parroting the things you’ve been taught or presupposed to be true, you would understand this.

          The same is true of what you call his belief in “universalism” (a term and concept that would have been utterly foreign to him).

          Finally, regardless of what you think about his theology, to say he was not a true Christian is completely absurd. I certainly don’t agree with everything he wrote or believed, but I have no doubt about his devotion to Christ and to understand the scriptures. This comes through plainly in his writings and in his life.

          Augustine

          Oh, I see how this works. Your question is unanswerable. No matter who is presented or when they lived, you will simply say their views weren’t based “solely on the Bible,” because their mother read “Curious George” to them when they were a toddler or whatever. Well, that’s my mistake for falling into your trap.

          At any rate, you asked for Christians whose idea of a non-literal creation account were based on scripture, and Augustine is clearly one. Even if he personally adhered to the seven-day view, which I do not believe, the mere fact that he devoted so much time to the instantaneous, non-literal view — and to many other non-literal applications as well — demonstrates that he saw validity in them, and that was all that was needed to answer your question.

          an instantaneous creation does not help your cause, because you need billions of years, and the basically literal creation does not help your cause either, but supports Creationism.

          Actually, the point is not the time scale at all, but the interpretation of Genesis. If the faith falls apart without interpreting the first six days of Genesis 1 as literal, 24-hour days, then we have a problem. If they are meant to be a literary framework, and not six literal days, then this view allows for a cosmology stretching back billions of years just as easily as it allows Augustine’s instantaneous model.

          Honestly, I don’t understand how you can be as thick as you are purporting to be here. For your sake, I’ll presume you are just pretending, in order to irritate me.

          Regardless of which timescale he used, Augustine always believed Genesis really happened, despite what you teach at “God of Evolution” that it didn’t.

          I have never once said I don’t believe “Genesis really happened.” Obviously, creation occurred, since the universe exists and all, and I believe God created it. What I don’t believe is that Genesis 1 was ever meant to be read as a literal, historical account of that creation.

          Aquinas

          Aquinas discussed at length both the seven-day view and Augustine’s instantaneous view in his “Summa Theologica,” and seems to express that both are valid to hold. While I’d be willing to grant he probably leaned toward the seven-day view, the point I made above in re: Augustine also applies here.

          And he also explicitly rejected the ideas that mankind was created immortal and that predators did not eat meat before the fall (which is good, since both of those ideas are incredibly stupid, not to mention unsupportable biblically). So even if he was a young-earther, he wasn’t your kind of young-earther.

          Finally, no one says “epic fail” and really means it any more.

          Unsubstantiated assertion.

          Far from it. Read John 5. Jesus performs a miracle on the Sabbath. The religious leaders got mad, because of their literal interpretation of passages like Exodus 20:11. They believed that God literally rested, so people should literally rest, too. But what did Jesus say to them? “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” An explicit rejection of the literal view of God’s “rest.”

          Yup, compromise. Life is black and white, stop trying to make mud.

          Good thing no one ever told Jesus to not make mud (John 9).

          I refer you to my Answer #10 for this, read up:

          Ah, yes, your “Answer No. 10,” or as I call it, “AmbassadorHerald’s Stupidly Long Comment, Words No. 14,137 through 15,662.”

          Aha! So you agree it doesn’t clearly mention them? Guess that rules out evolution right there.

          Um, that is not a problem for my view. You, on the other hand, have to explain why they exist if Genesis 1 is literal history, and yet says nothing about them.

          I agree, which is why I call for people to trust it, rather than doubt it like you do.

          You don’t call for people to “trust” Genesis, you call for them to read it shallowly like a small child, then turn off their brains and ignore all the contradictions, both within the text itself and the natural world. Pretty sure that is not the kind of “faith” in God’s word that he is interested in.

  • Daniel Carroll

    I hear you. I am not familiar with Brandon’s work and certainly have no idea why he de-converted. But, as a Christian intellectual with agnostic parents and feet in both the evangelical and the “liberal” mainline world (never fitting in in either), I have had close friends de-convert or fade away. Outright de-conversions are more common among the conservative types, as they are unable to accept that our God is mysterious, needing the certainty that come with Biblical literalism. While many will attempt to embrace a more liberal view for a time, sometimes people are unable to reconstruct their faith and reconcile everything they have internalized over their lifetimes (or over their faith lifetimes). I’ve had the good fortune to have never internalized fundamentalism, while still being able to hear and evaluate their claims

    Either we place our faith in our doctrine, or we place our faith in a person. Our doctrine will fail us, but the person will not. At the end of the day, it is that relationship with God that carries us through the dark nights that will inevitably come upon us, not the words in our doctrines.

    • Love this comment. Thanks so much for sharing, man.

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