Yes, we are protesting a young-earth creationism conference. Here’s why.

AP photo from a September 2013 pro-science demonstration in Texas.

Birds fly, fish swim, ants make complex little networks of tunnels underground, and young-earth creationists host conferences (and, less frequently, open museums). This is just the way of the world.

Atheists, secularists, scientists and educators might occasionally make a fuss about such routine happenings, but they have a vested interest in the YEC movement (namely, the interest being that unscientific nonsense not be taught as unchallenged scientific fact). Most folks just ignore such events, and get on with their everyday lives.

So why have I and a small but amazing group of people banded together to put on what might be the first organized, Christian demonstration against a young-earth creationism conference? Good question.

First of all, this is not about “hating” young-earth creationists. We love our brothers and sisters in Christ, even if we disagree over their views of science, the book of Genesis, effective models of evangelism and what the church’s witness to the outside world should look like.

Neither is this about the freedom of speech or religious belief. I’m a journalist, and a huge supporter of the First Amendment. I’ll be the first to defend the Northwest Creation Conference organizers’ rights to believe whatever they want, and to share those beliefs with others.

Our concern is that conferences like this, and creation museums, and debates like the one last month, and well, just about everything else associated with the young-earth creationism movement, put the message out there that you must reject a select few, very mainstream scientific ideas in order to be a ‘real Christian,’ and that’s simply not true.

To teach otherwise is to put a barrier before the gospel, a barrier that is very real and has, consequently, contributed to the mass exodus of many young people from a church that they believe is antagonistic toward science (and with good reason).

The basis of the Christian faith is, and has always been, nothing more nor less than the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God. The question of how old the earth might be is not a salvation issue; theologically, it’s not even a particularly important issue. It is somewhere way out on the extreme outer limits of the foundational concepts of the Christian faith — if it even enters the picture at all.

So, obviously, we disagree with the Northwest Creation Conference, which thinks the age of the earth is so important that Christians should spend a whole weekend talking about it exclusively, and being trained on how to share their new-found “knowledge” with others. We disagree peacefully, lovingly, graciously — but very, very strongly, and we want as many people as possible to know about it.

To that end, please join our protest, if you can. If you can’t, that’s OK, but please pray for us. And please show your support for what we’re doing on the event page or in the comments below. If you feel so inclined, you could also share information about the event with any interested parties, either using social media, or any of the free, downloadable documents below.

Thank you.

Speak Out! flyer (black, for digital sharing)
Speak Out! flyer (white, printer-friendly)
Speak Out! press release

Tyler Francke

  • Paul Braterman

    As an atheist, I deplore the silence of so many believers in the face of corrosive Creationism. Thoughtful believers have more reason than anyone to oppose it, and to be seen opposing it, since, as Augustine pointed out, it brings religion itself into disrepute.

    • Thanks, Paul! We agree. Always great to hear your thoughts!

  • EvidenceBasedDecisions

    What an interesting reasoned argument, which makes it all the more
    puzzling. For an ideology (religion) that embraces faith (i.e. the rejection of
    reason), why doesn’t the article justify the position but based on faith – which
    supposedly is “better” than reason ?

    • Well, I disagree from the outset that faith is antithetical to reason. The Bible itself exhorts us toward mature and reasoned thinking: “My dear brethren, do not be childish in your thinking. Be innocent in evil, but in your thinking, be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20).

  • Tim

    “contributed to the mass exodus of many young people from a church that they believe is antagonistic toward science ”

    Nonsense. The churches experiencing the largest exodus are not the conservative (more likely to embrace creationism) churches. They are the liberal churches. The conservative segment of Christianity is still growing, the liberal version not so much.

    The stats you cite are that 1/4 of the young people feel the church is anti science. Do I need to point out that this means an overwhelming majority (75%) do not? The stats indicate the exact opposite of the impression you are trying to create.

    • Hey Tim, thanks for the comment. First of all, do you have any evidence to support your assertion that “the conservative segment of Christianity is still growing”? Keep in mind that the issue at hand, which your quote concerns, specifically pertains to young people. I would be stunned if you can present evidence that indicates that the youth populations in conservative fundamentalist churches are growing faster than those of more moderate congregations, but I’ve certainly been wrong before.

      Also, the study that I referenced was examining the reasons young Christians after the age of 15 are leaving or temporarily detaching from their faith. The fact that “only” 25 percent of respondents highlighted anti-science sentiments does not indicate to me the rest believes Evangelical America is wildly pro-science; it simply suggests that these respondents found other aspects of evangelicalism even more distasteful than its hostility toward the theory of evolution.

      Furthermore, even if your interpretation is correct, I don’t understand how you could write it off as a non-issue. If any other organization found out it was losing a significant number of its young adherents, and 25 percent of them were leaving because of Reason A, I guarantee you the sane people running the organization would be analyzing and doing whatever they could to “fix” Reason A.

      • Tim

        For the sake of discussion Tyler, lets assume you are a conservative
        pastor who sees the 25% statistic and says “But our church is NOT
        anti-science. That’s a misconception about us.” What would be your
        course of action to ‘fix it’?

        • The perception of the conservative pastors, hypothetical or otherwise, is not pertinent to the discussion. The issue is about what is being conveyed to the public — and young people in particular — that is driving people away from the church and, consequently, the good news of Jesus. I don’t really care how “pro-science” Pastor So and So thinks his church is. The crazies at Westboro think that what they do is an act of love, but that doesn’t make it so, does it?

          • Tim

            Of course self perception is pertinent. A problem (if it is a problem) can’t be ‘fixed’ if the problem isn’t perceived to be problem.

            If 75% of the people don’t think you are anti-science, and you as pastor don’t think you are anti-science then the natural response when a small minority views it a different way is “I wonder how they got the wrong idea about me and the church?”

            So, if you were the conservative pastor how would you ‘fix it’? Do you see the quandry? What you would see as ‘broken’ is not your own pastoral view, but the view of a (relatively) small number of people.

            The comparison with Westboro is way off base. You understand that, don’t you?

            Because 99% + of survey respondents would express a view that differed from the Westboro church leadership. But in the case of the science survey, 75% were in agreement with the church leadership’s self perception.

          • Again, you’re misrepresenting the study. Just because 25 percent highlighted evangelical culture’s anti-science tendencies as the main reason they left the faith, and 75 percent did not, it does not follow that the 75 are therefore in complete agreement with the church’s views of science. It just means there are other aspects of evangelicalism that they found even more distateful.

            And, again, any organization that has even the slightest desire for self-preservation would be concerned about its youngest adherents leaving the fold, and would take the utmost interest if 25 percent of the people leaving highlighted a single cause — regardless of what it was.

            A church should behave even more this way than a secular organization, because we are supposed to be ministers of God’s grace to the world, and the primary mechanism through which that grace is dispensed. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus, and we are meant to be the way to Jesus.

            Even Paul talked about how he would “endure anything rather than put an obstacle before the gospel of Christ.” So yes, I think a pastor who believes his personal views of a non-essential issue, if his views happen to be in the majority of his church, trump the perception of a quarter of young people who are leaving the fold of God is way, way off-base.

            Sorry, but are you going to be able to present the evidence of the younth populations growing wildly at conservative fundamentalist churches any time soon?

          • Tim

            Couple of things.

            First, 25% cited a perceived antagonism to science. But 35% cited “Christians think they know all the answers” Would your dogmatic presentation of evolution as THE correct answer qualify as this? I think it might. How flexible are you willing to be with your presentation of evolution? Is it possible that you are wrong about evolution?

            The study didnt say that this was the reason they left ‘conservative’ churches but the reason they left ‘any’ church. Are we assuming this only means conservative churches? I doubt that it does.

            If dogmatism of ‘any’ kind seems to be a ‘turn off’, then should churches (in the interest of keeping the kids at any cost) shift to a know-nothing position and present no answers? Shall we get completely squishy?

            Second, if you want to talk about possible stumbling blocks, isn’t it true that it can cut both ways? Should nonconservative churches (and nonconservative Christian individuals) lay aside their presentation of nonessentials like evolution?

            Third, I dont think I stated that conservative youth groups were growing at a wild rate, but rather that conservative churches were growing. And a simple Google search will confim that, if its that important to you. Here’s one to get you started. http://journalstar.com/lifestyles/faith-and-values/conservative-churches-grow-while-mainline-churches-struggle/article_4ab1fe17-57c9-5c81-9cf0-1a4748e3c13a.html

          • Would your dogmatic presentation of evolution as THE correct answer qualify as this?

            Yes, I’m sure that my crazy opinion, that the 99.9 percent of all scientists who study this stuff for a living know what they’re talking about, has driven away countless thousands from the church.

            Is it possible that you are wrong about evolution?

            Of course it is. It’s possible that 99.9 percent of all scientists who study this stuff for a living are terribly mistaken. It’s possible that they’re all involved in a vast shadowy conspiracy to undermine belief in God. It’s possible that God or the devil put the evidence in the ground for them to find to test our faith or lead us astray, respectively. But, all things considered, I think it’s more likely than not that the scientists are right.

            The study didnt say that this was the reason they left ‘conservative’ churches but the reason they left ‘any’ church.

            That’s true. You were the one who introduced the concept of “conservative churches” vs. “liberal churches.”

            If dogmatism of ‘any’ kind seems to be a ‘turn off’, then should churches (in the interest of keeping the kids at any cost) shift to a know-nothing position and present no answers? Shall we get completely squishy?

            Certainly not on that which is essential to the faith: God’s loving, just redemption of sinful man, offered in the sacrifice of his one and only Son, Christ Jesus. But on nonessential matters, like whether Genesis 1 should be read like a history book or a theological metaphor? Yeah, we shouldn’t be dogmatic about that.

            In essential things, unity; in nonessential things, freedom; in all things, Jesus Christ.

            Second, if you want to talk about possible stumbling blocks, isn’t it true that it can cut both ways? Should nonconservative churches (and nonconservative Christian individuals) lay aside their presentation of nonessentials like evolution?

            I’ve addressed this elsewhere.

            Third, I dont think I stated that conservative youth groups were growing at a wild rate, but rather that conservative churches were growing.

            No, that’s true, but you stated that conservative churches are growing in response to my statement that young people are leaving the church in droves, which you called “nonsense.” So I presumed you had some research that directly refuted the idea that young people, specifically, were leaving the church because of its anti-science views (or that they were leaving churches that were more likely to be perceived as anti-science).

          • Tim

            “my crazy opinion, that the 99.9 percent of all scientists who study this stuff for a living know what they’re talking about”

            well Tyler, the unanimity that you imply doesn’t exist. If there were one explanation that they all accepted, that would be a strong argument.

            But the fact is that evolutionists are quite divided into theistic and non-theistic evolutionists.

            Why is that significant?

            Because one group has a theory of evolution that is based solely on natural processes, and the other has a theory that requires supernatural initiation and/or guidance.

            The real philosophical argument within science isn’t creation vs evolution; its natural vs supernatural.

            Now if I understand correctly, you apparently are on the supernatural team. You are essentially a creationist. You believe that God created the universe in some way or other (possibly using a Big Bang to do so?) , that He caused life to come into being, and that evolution was the method He initiated to develop living things, and that it would not have happened without God. Is that correct?

          • No, I’m sorry but I have to disagree. When young-earth creationists take issue with evolution, it is not simply “natural vs. supernatural.” They are insisting that life does not share common ancestry, and that the history of life does not stretch back over millions of years. And virtually every single scientist in a field remotely related to biology would disagree with them. They say the evidence, completely separate from the question of whether or not there is a God, demonstrates quite clearly that life emerged through a process of common descent that lasted millions of years. And I completely agree with them.

          • Tim

            “No, I’m sorry but I have to disagree.”

            Really?

            ” When young-earth creationists take issue with evolution, it is not simply “natural vs. supernatural.” ”

            Oh I see. You are disagreeing with something I didn’t say. No prob.

            What I said was that the real philosophical argument in science isn’t YEC vs evolution. It is natural vs supernatural.

            Its a philosophical argument because it can’t be resolved scientifically. Science cannot prove or disprove the operation of a supernatural being.

            But the fact is that the supposed unanimity isn’t there. The question of origins is much more nuanced than most evolutionists care to admit.

            Evolution is a description or attempted explanation of ‘how’ something supposedly happened. That ‘how’ is very different depending on whether or not the explanation includes God initiating and/or guiding a process or processes.

            So simply saying “99.9% of scientists agree” paints a false picture. They don’t agree.

            You might reply “well 99.9% agree that the answer is evolution”. Yes, but they mean something very different from each other while saying it.

            And theistic evolutionists, whether they like it or not, are in the same boat as YECs. They propose a supernatural cause that science cannot test or verify.

            Get used to it. You are basically a creationist. The good news is that creationists are the majority.

          • Oh I see. You are disagreeing with something I didn’t say. No prob.

            Right. You said the philosophical disagreement that underlies the evolution controversy is “natural vs. supernatural,” and I pointed out just one example of where that is not the case. Young earth creationism is not simply a philosophical postulation. It makes objective truth claims, with which people can agree or disagree — regardless of whether they believe God exists. For example, young earth creationism theorizes that the earth is around 6,000 years old. As an objective truth claim, learned individuals can evaluate this claim on the basis of the factual evidence that is available to us. And again, what these individuals think about God does not matter. This is why almost as many Christian scientists oppose young earth creationism as do non-Christian ones: Because one’s theological opinion need not come into play in looking at an objective factual claim and determining whether it is correct or incorrect.

            To those who reject young-earth creationism do so out of a philosophical disagreement about the supernatural is simply wrong, plain and simple.

            Its a philosophical argument because it can’t be resolved scientifically. Science cannot prove or disprove the operation of a supernatural being.

            Exactly right. We believers have nothing to fear from the process of scientific inquiry, so why don’t we let the scientists do their jobs and follow the evidence wherever it leads?

          • Tim

            I do let scientists do their jobs.

            However, the phrase ‘follow the evidence wherever it leads’ is usually code for ‘Don’t question the conclusions I (or they) have drawn’.

            As we saw in a different thread, you have a tendency to confuse evidence with conclusion, so this is a genuine problem not something I simply manufactured.

            I’m not afraid of science. I love it. And I’m not intimidated by people who think that inquiry should be closed off and conclusions accepted as is.

          • I do let scientists do their jobs.

            Of course you do. As long as it doesn’t impinge on your pre-existing interpretation of the first few chapters of Genesis. Correct?

            As we saw in a different thread, you have a tendency to confuse evidence with conclusion,

            And you have a tendency to misinterpret people and be immune to any efforts to correct your misinterpretations.

          • Tim

            Unless you can cite an instance where my actions or speech have impeded a scientist from doing his job, my statement stands. I do let scientists do their jobs.

            ——————-

            I don’t think I misunderstood you Tyler.

            You said evidence and conclusion were very similar. And they aren’t. Not at all.

            So what I did was correct your misunderstanding.

            Perhaps it isn’t comfortable to have such correction, but it was necessary and I did it as kindly as I could. I didn’t name call, or hurl gratuitous insults or call into question your sanity, intellect or character. If, after all that, you still think I could have done it better, you are probably right. I know I’m not perfect.

          • Unless you can cite an instance where my actions or speech have impeded a scientist from doing his job, my statement stands. I do let scientists do their jobs.

            Right, I’ve already acknowledged that you do. You may assert that they are categorically wrong about the foundational theory of biological science, but you don’t try to impede them in any way.