Re: [asa] A graduate student speaks out

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Mon Jan 21 2008 - 21:26:34 EST

In a recent study by The Barna Group, one criticism of Christians by
"outsiders" (unchurched in the 16-29 age group) is that of being
"sheltered". Quoting from the book, "UnChristian" by David Kinnaman and
Gabe Lyons, this criticism is interpreted in part as, "Christians are
thought of as ...out of touch with reality. not respond to
reality in appropriately complex ways, preferring simplistic solutions
and answers. ..." To whatever extent this a legitimate response based
on the most visible faces of Christianity (arguably the YEC-ish
community being that most visible face), it is indeed a matter of
simplification, accepting what is offered as correct, as well as being
understood within the boundaries of the listener's level of interest in
the topic and preconceptions. This would appear to comprise a much
larger group than just those "engaged" individuals that I think are the
subset being discussed here. So I would argue that within this larger
simplicity-seeking group, there would be few overt espousers of
"terminological inexactitudes" (a la Winston Churchill). Instead, most
are simply stalwart defenders of their belief system, however
underinformed it might be, because it works for them, is shared and
rehearsed by their immediate community, and because belief systems are
by nature tall-walled and moat-surrounded fortresses that we all defend
vigorously whether we do so consciously or subconsciously.

Along these lines, I would argue that with rare exceptions, even the
"professionally promoting YEC" are neither delusional or dishonest.
Their internal compass just (in our view) has some nearby magnetic
influences that prevent it from pointing to true magnetic north. The
evidence to the contrary can accumulate and build up in the awareness of
these folks, but two things have to happen to cause a change of
perspective such as this. First, the weight of contrary evidence and
persuasion has to be truly immense to have the possibility of overcoming
the inertia of the existing mindset (heartset). Second, time is usually
required for this persuasion to take root and eventually take bloom.
However, if there is also a consciously proactive defense against this
intrustion, that penetration of persuasion can very effectively be
fended off by something as simple as a relentless refreshing of the
existing perspective. Only things like proof texts and other
substantiations the fit with the existing system are afforded entry. All
else is rejected.

So, fitting into the latter (proactively defended) case, I would say
that even the more prominent of the "professionally promoting YEC"
(again with perhaps a few exceptions) could not legitimately be
characterized as delusional or dishonest. They might be poorly informed
because they resist absorbing better information, or incapable of the
required degree of critical thought, or they may be "wish fullfilling".
But the bottom line is that something heart-felt as critical must be
ceded in order to make room for another perspective. As long as the
consequences of that surrender are too great to contemplate, for
whatever the reason, be it poor information, false logic or premise, or
simple mantra repetition, the individuals holding those positions are
simply incapable of surrender. These are what the books call simply,
"True Believers".For them, the possibility of change in those parts of
their belief systems is far over the horizon, out of view. As flawed as
their belief systems may be (again, in our view), I resist interpreting
this as delusional or dishonest. It is a matter of faith, and even in
the category of a "test of faith". That represents near hopeless inertia
in at least some cases.

Finally, these individuals might in reality be hosting isolated areas of
concern for contemplation. It is normal for there to exist such tensions
while we are sorting out contradictions and assessing new ideas that
don't quite "fit". Indeed, it is a necessary precursor for a change of
mind. But such near violations of a typical YEC's belief system would be
completely invisible to us, particularly if anyone in their community
were in a position to register such considerations as "slippery slope"
or even threatening with respect to the contextual community norms.

Or so it seemeth to me. JimA [Friend of ASA]

David Campbell wrote:

>>Ok, I'm not defending YECism, but.... I'm really not comfortable with this kind of characterization. My impression is that most serious YECs are doing their best to support what they believe is a correct interpretation of scripture. I think we have to be very careful about calling that a "delusion," particularly as the "delusion" and "wish-fullfillment" memes are applied heartily against all of us theists by the new atheism. We all believe at least some things on the basis of scripture that are hard to reconcile. I believe the scriptural interpreation of my YEC brothers and sisters is unsustainable and that they are wrong, but I don't think most are deluded. Now, there are a few professional YECs whom I believe are just dishonest, but that's another matter. <
>I mean to identify those who are professionally promoting YEC or are
>generating new "scientific" arguments as being classifiable under the
>delusional or dishonest headings, as opposed to the average YEC who is
>simply accepting what he has heard. I would make that identification
>on the basis of the consistently rotten quality of the arguments. I
>think if I were out to deliberately make things up, I'd do a better
>job of making internally consistent arguments that matched known
>physical evidence.
>I'm not so concerned about how old one thinks the earth is. I am
>concerned that the scientific data be treated honestly. "I think the
>earth is young and don't really know anything about science" is a
>consistent position. "I think the earth is young even though the
>scientific data all point the other way" is also a consistent
>position. "There are scientific data that support a young earth" is
>While those on the list generally have issues with young earth
>interpretations of scripture, the real difficulties about honesty are
>associated with the efforts to have the appearance of scientific (or
>other, e.g. eisegesis of unrelated verses, misrepresentaitons of
>history, etc.) backing for one's claims.
>I have great difficulty in envisioning an honest explanation for clear
>misrepresentations. I'm not talking about out of context misuse of
>statements that sound somewhat amenable to a young earth view-one can
>genuinely believe that they are chinks in the vast left wing
>conspiracy that promotes evolution-but rather direct misrepresentation
>of what has been stated. For example, the Answers in Genesis
>arguments that should no longer be used page cited van Till et al.,
>Science Held Hostage, on moon dust but claimed that the argument was
>being withdrawn based on young earthers considering new evidence, when
>in reality it was old earthers pointing out the old evidence never
>supported the claim.

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Received on Mon Jan 21 21:27:36 2008

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