In the last post, I accused creationists of being “dishonest” in the way they handle scientific evidence. That’s a serious charge, but “dishonest” is actually a fairly tame word considering the hellishness of the theology that, as they emphasize, has strict creationism at its foundation.
Yet at the everyday level, the creationists I have known are decent people. In fact, they think it’s important to proclaim truth regardless of the ridicule they may suffer in response. What could be more noble than that?
What accounts for the discrepancy between their wish to pursue truth and the epic fail of the outcome?
The following paraphrases part of a conversation I had with a professional Christian apologist on another subject where the conservative Christian understanding is at odds with the facts: biblical slavery. I had heard over and over again that, although slavery exists in the Bible, God never condoned it. When I studied the issue, I found this was not true. The apologist had written on the subject and was kind enough to spend an hour on the phone with me. I was seeking his response to the disturbing passages that I had found.
Apologist: Slavery was a fact of life in Old Testament times, but God never condoned it.
Beagle: But what do you make of passages like Deuteronomy 20:10-15, where God commands his people to enslave the residents of distant cities — cities that were not part of the Promised Land (whose residents were to be exterminated rather than enslaved)?
Apologist: “Enslave”? Where does it say that?
Beagle: Well, verse 11 says that if the residents are smart enough not to put up a fight, they are to be “subject to forced labor.” That’s slavery, isn’t it?
Apologist: Hmmm. I never thought of it that way. I guess it is.
Beagle: So why, in your book, did you say that God never condoned slavery?
Apologist: Well, I based that on what I’ve read by other Christian authors.
My conversation partner was not some random pastor who had dabbled in apologetics when not distracted by caring for his flock. He was (and is) the full-time director of an apologetics institute. He writes extensively and articulately. I have met him in person and believe him to be a very good, intelligent, and thoughtful man. Exceptionally so, in fact.
Yet, he had published his findings on biblical slavery without critical consideration of the primary source material. Instead of digging deeply into the Bible for himself, he relied on what other people said about it.
No doubt he trusted them because they were Christians. This is what I call the Christian Echo Chamber.
Returning to creationists: If a professional apologist had not read his own Bible thoughtfully, how likely is it that the average creationist in the pew has spent much time reading books by evil evolutionists? How much less likely that he has read them with a desire to learn something rather than to refute them? I think of myself as an intellectually active person, yet I only got to that point of openness when I was practically forced into it.
I speak of the average creationist in the pew. Based on my 40 years of sitting in the pew next to them, I do believe most of them are good, trustworthy people.
Their life centers in the church, which I can tell you is a very comfortable place to be. What I miss most about the church is being able to visit a room of relative strangers (at a newly formed Bible study, say) and having an effortless assumption of friendship and trust between us — the instant feeling that we’re all on the same side, working for an important cause in the service and love of the very Son of God.
When that atmosphere is contrasted with all the evils of the world, the instinct is to shut the doors and bar the windows. Thus the Christian Echo Chamber.
But how do the echoes begin? Someone must state the falsehood before everyone else repeats it. That will be the subject of the next post. Take a deep breath, because it’s going to be harsh.