Monthly Archives: December 2012

Why I Left Evangelical Christianity, Part 2: Worthy Prayers

In my last post, I described what a wake-up call it was to realize that the “godless evolutionists” had been right all along. Still, I continued as an evangelical Christian who had more than made his peace with evolution. I even led a study at church based on the pro-evolution, pro-God book, Finding Darwin’s God. (Kudos to my pastor for allowing me to do so!)

I do not say I emerged from the creation/evolution wars unshaken. Although I was still firmly in the evangelical camp, I had learned that my method for discerning truth had been flawed. I knew that in the future I should require more evidence before believing something, even something that seemed to be God-honoring.

And I had a new question: Why would God allow creationists — some of the most devout Christians I knew — people who assiduously submitted their every thought to their Creator — to make such a colossal mistake? I could understand how I could fall into error, but Duane Gish and Henry Morris? Why hadn’t God granted their prayers for wisdom and guidance? All prayers aside, why had God allowed such an important falsehood to take hold among people who loved him and sought him?

It was not long before another area of mysteriously declined but worthy prayers would reveal itself.

In late 2007, I visited a web forum on Christian marriage. I had some questions about my own marriage and wanted guidance from other believers. Much of the discussion was positive and it was clear that many Christians were enjoying their marriages. However, I was shocked to see how many serious problems there were.

The most heartbreaking posts were from spouses who had been completely refused sexually for years or even decades. I had had no idea such problems existed in the church. One poor husband who lived in the country didn’t even like to go into town because there he would see young couples in love, and he would weep all over again over what his marriage had lacked for its entire 20-year course.

The Bible says that healthy sexual relations are God’s will for a marriage. So why hadn’t God granted the prayers of this man and so many other refused spouses? In some cases, it was the refusing spouse who was praying for normal, loving desire, but still … nothing. Where was God?

I realize that these anecdotes do not represent a scientific sample, much less a scientific study. And they did not move me away from my faith. Still, on the heels of learning the truth about creationists, I could not help feeling that something was amiss. Does God grant worthy prayers or not?

(And let’s have none of the cop-out that I’ve heard so many times: “God always answers. Sometimes he answers Yes, sometimes No, and sometimes Wait.” Verses like James 1:5, John 14:13 and Matthew 17:20 know nothing of that. They are talking about God granting prayers, not just “answering” them.)

It may have been at this time that I had a new take on the denominational divisions within Christianity. I had always thought it a good thing that we had a variety of worship styles, etc., to choose from. But by and large, don’t the tens of thousands of denominations also represent tens of thousands of holy people seeking God’s will and being led in contradictory directions? No matter who you believe is correct, that’s a lot of error. James 1:5 promises that God will give wisdom generously to those who ask in faith. Why had he not done so? (In this connection, you may also recall my recent post on the changing evangelical position on abortion.)

Although God had not granted the devout creationists’ prayers for wisdom and discernment, and he had not granted the pleas of so many on the forum for healthy marriages, and had not given the promised wisdom to many illustrious denominational founders, I had heard of scientific studies that proved he did respond to prayers for healing.

In a bid to strengthen my faith, I decided to look into them. That will be the subject of my next post.

Why I Left Evangelical Christianity, Part 1: The Wake-Up Call

A few months ago, I told the story of my becoming a Christian. Today, I’ll begin the story of my departure.

If you know any home-schooling, church-going, large families who earnestly seek God in all they do, you have a good picture of my family in my faith-filled days. Ironically, the chain of events that culminated in my loss of faith began because I took my duties as a Christian father seriously.

It happened when my kids started to progress out of our home-school, and eventually out of the private, Christian high school most of them attended. It was time to think about college. My wife and I wanted to give good advice about colleges, and the question came up: should we endorse only creationist colleges, or a broader array of choices?

In our home-school, we taught that God created man; he did not evolve him. I had some questions about creationism, but my allegiance was still with it. I cheered when creationists scored points and pooh-poohed the arguments of evolutionists.

I realized that not all of my children would take readily to the idea of a creationist, and therefore hyper-conservative, school. If I were going to take a strong stand in favor of creationist institutions, I knew I had to resolve once and for all my lingering questions on the subject. It was my duty as a father. (You might well observe that it had always been my duty, and it should not have taken me so long. As you’ll see in my story, sometimes we need a wake-up call.) I decided to do some serious research.

It’s not like I was totally uninformed. I had been reading creationist books and literature for 20 years. We had subscribed to the monthly publication of the Institute for Creation Research (now available online), and I had devoured each issue.

I had also read a few books by the likes of Carl Sagan, but had been able to chalk up their conclusions to their atheistic assumptions. I had never read a scientific, comprehensive case for evolution by a non-Christian.

And why should I have? Evolutionists were generally non-believers, so they were biased against the truth. Creationists were Christians, so not only could I trust them to present their own case accurately, but they would tell me the real truth about evolution. Right?

Maybe, but with the serious question of college choices in front of me, I decided I should stop and listen to both sides. I browsed the shelves at Barnes & Noble and found a book that seemed germane: Scientists Confront Creationism. The book consisted of essays from scientists in various fields, each explaining how the evidence in his own discipline supported evolution and/or refuted young-earth creationism.

After decades of creationist input; after countless denunciations of evolution from conservative, Christian speakers; after knitting myself into a culture that was anti-evolution; after most of my close friends were creationists; and most of all after investing my entire adult life building a creationist family — with every motivation not to be convinced of evolution — that one book was all it took to convince me that evolution, including the evolution of humans from non-humans, was a reality. The interlocking, independent lines of evidence were that persuasive.  It was not the conclusion I wanted, but it was inescapable. Either God was deceiving/testing us by planting mountains of evidence that were contrary to what had actually happened (that seemed unlikely), or evolution was a fact.

The truth of evolution was the least of my problems. Plenty of people manage to be both evangelical and evolutionist. Much more serious was the realization that the people I had trusted the most — the conservative, Christian leaders at the top of the young-earth creationist movement — had been lying to me. These men are not stupid, and they are well-read. Even now, about six years later, I cannot make up my mind as to whether they know they are lying, or whether they are just so committed to one point of view that they are beyond the reach of evidence. Either way, I had learned that I could not trust them.

I felt enormously betrayed. I had spent countless hours with my children in my lap, reading creationist books to them, and now I found out that the authors were more concerned with pushing an agenda than with honestly evaluating evidence.

Even more acute than my disappointment with the conservative Christian elite was my disappointment with myself. The evidence for evolution had been there the whole time, but I had chosen not to seek it out.

It was a real wake-up call.

I had managed to maintain an uneasy sleep through many of the questions that bother a lot of believers — why does God allow so much suffering; why doesn’t God grant seemingly worthy prayers; how do we know the Bible is inspired — but I could not sleep through this betrayal of my trust.

Long-dormant questions began to reassert themselves. In most cases, the answers I had been going on were based on the word of evangelical authorities and that was no longer good enough. I had learned that they could be just as untruthful as anyone else. I also realized that I was prone to believe the things I wanted to believe and ignore contrary evidence.

I resolved to do better.

Over a span of four years, I sought answers to my questions. I’ll tell you what they were, and what I discovered, in the next post.