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Answering close family on creation questions
Published: 14 April 2012(GMT+10)
Biblical creationists are used to the outright rejection and ridicule of our stand on the Bible that is so common in today’s world. However, it can be very hard to deal with when it occurs in one’s own marriage. In such cases, extra grace and tact is clearly a necessity in approaching the debate, because it can undercut the God-designed unity of the marriage bond testified to in Genesis. Dr Jonathan Sarfati helps point a believer to some of the information that may be helpful in moving the debate forward.
I want to start by thanking you for your valuable ministry. One of the reasons that my wife is no longer a Christian because she accepted the millions of years picture of history and couldn’t fit the Bible into this with any consistency.
I have always been open to a 6 day creation, world-wide flood and so on, but have considered myself open to various possibilities, such as some combination of creation and limited evolution. However recently, I done some significant research, including reading your articles and watching Creation Live TV, and am now firmly convinced that the world is only thousands of years old.
The only problem with your view is that my wife now knows that I subscribe to it, and she is no fan of yours! She is very concerned about me and thinks that I am in a bad state (midlife crisis??). Evidence for a young earth is great for my edification but has been almost useless in our recent discussions as she refuses to listen to a word and thinks that it’s all biased and ridiculous.
In general, she thinks that I am closed-minded and when she asks me to investigate an issue, that I only look at the material that supports my viewpoints. She thinks that I am scared to openly investigate the truth of the Bible. She has given me a few issues to investigate but stipulated that I do not go to ‘Christian’ sources for answers but look up books, encyclopedias, etc. I fear that whatever response I give to her, it will not satisfy her need for me to show ‘open-mindedness’. I really don’t know how to deal with this.
This is a complex issue because although she has fallen for the millions of years sucker-punch and refuses to listen to me, she is otherwise very intelligent. I would love your assistance through this process.
CMI’s Dr Jonathan Sarfati replies:
This must be a very hard time for you. Also for CMI in a sense, because we can provide information, but advice on dealing with loved ones is another thing.
I think in this case, the most important thing is to deal with the point of facts v interpretations, and the myth of neutrality. These are the main problems with her approach, and need to be addressed.
Even if you don’t show her these articles, the points can be made from them. Then you could gently point out her double standards: she doesn’t want you to go to sources from “your side”, Christians (very open-minded to refuse even to consider Christian sources), but then why should you take heed of sources from her atheistic side? Make no mistake, this is just as biased (and I would say ridiculous). The above articles document the strident anti-theistic bias of many evolutionists.
Of course, if we were never to go to Christian sources, we had better not discuss the laws of motion, gravity, spectroscopy, cooling, since they were discovered by the creationist Isaac Newton. Nor should we ever have MRIs, because it was the creationist Raymond Damadian who first discovered that diseased tissue produced a different signal.
Also, when it comes to bias, the scholar N.T. Wright made a point about the New Testament writers: yes, they were biased, but why were they biased? He argues that the only thing that could have produced such a bias, in the face of cultural norms and outright persecution and even torture and murder, was unshakable witness to the Resurrection of Jesus. There are at least 17 factors that meant Christianity could not have succeeded in the ancient world, unless it were backed up with irrefutable proof of the Resurrection.1
Another point about bias was made by C.S. Lewis, who coined the term “Bulverism” for a common type of logical fallacy:
“you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became to be so silly.”
For more, see Is Belief in God a case of Christian wish fulfillment? as well as this explanation of the genetic fallacy: the error of trying to disprove a statement of fact by tracing it to its source.
OK, what if she goes to a theistic evolutionary source, to claim something like, “look, even Christians accept millions of years and evolution, so it’s not an atheistic conspiracy”? But then it would be worth showing that it’s disingenuous to promote them, on the lines of, “These authors claim that evolution and Christianity are compatible, but you clearly don’t believe that. So why should you expect me to read books that don’t even convince you of their main conclusion?” Also, this is not really independent confirmation, since these churchian evolutionists really have views of origins that are indistinguishable from those of atheistic evolutionists, for all practical purposes.
Finally, I would point out that all our books and articles cite secular sources. And my latest book The Greatest Hoax on Earth? refutes the best arguments by world champion Darwinist and atheist, Richard Dawkins. So you will “get the other side” by seeing his arguments and my responses.
I hope these points give you some help, and wish you all the best.
Thanks Jonathan for your quick and considered answer.
I will read your links. I have your book The Greatest Hoax on Earth and loved it. I will read it again though.
My wife’s strongest suggestion to me is to look at history, as she feels that this is more likely to show that a ‘literal’ reading of the Bible is not valid. For instance, she says, “There were 14 million people in China at the supposed time of Noah’s ark. Do you think they were all destroyed by a flood and started again?” So I’m looking closely at finding the source material for Chinese History—she believes that there is written documentation proving that there were 14 million people in China (and many in India) around 2500 BC or so. Most likely, I will find that the source material is not documentation but artefacts and fossils which are dated using flawed methodologies. Then I can point out that I accept the basic tenets of Chinese History but am not convinced by the dates.
My real fear is that nothing will convince her that I am open-minded enough. If I give her answers, she says that she doesn’t want answers. But if I don’t have them, she says that I can’t answer her questions and it shows that the Bible is not true. I am also scared of mentioning the Tower of Babel as an explanation for the spread of people groups. If she treated me with such disdain when I said that dinosaurs were on the ark, what will she say when I mention the Tower of Babel!
Jonathan Sarfati replies:
One must wonder about how anyone would know there were that many people in China, and of course the dating methods as you note. However, the Encyclopædia Britannica says on China: “The first dynasty for which there is definite historical material is the Shang, or Yin (18th–12th century BC).”2 Also, studies of the earliest Chinese writings on oracle bones show that they were based on events recorded in Genesis.3 See also Dating of “oldest pottery” from China is based on assumptions (and the related issues in How does Göbekli Tepe fit with biblical history?).
Well, it really seems that something else is going on here, and these pseudo-intellectual arguments are a smokescreen. It might be worth trying to find out what is really her beef with Christianity or her apparent anger towards God. I am no pastor or biblical counsellor, yet this sort of expertise might be what is needed.
After all, supposedly you are not open-minded, but she closes her mind to any Christian source. She apparently thinks that her questions are unanswerable, but then doesn’t want your answers. I suppose Christians are intolerant, yet sensible explanations about dinos on the Ark are treated with disdain (including the recent discoveries, published in the leading secular science journals, about dino growth spurts and multiplying dino names—see How did dinosaurs grow so big? and Dino ‘puberty blues’ for paleontologists). The Tower of Babel perfectly explains the distinct language families.
Chandrasekaran M., Australia, 14 April 2012
Attacking a person instead of the real issue and “Bulverism” do not help for a reasonable discussion on any issue of concern. Unfortunately politics of democracy thrives on such tactics nowadays even in countries with Christian background. Laws passed by people who practise such tactics do not address the real issue either. A worldview one holds will either embrace or reject such tactics. A worldview one holds does not only affect scientific outcomes, laws passed but also friendships and marriages. During Old Testament period men living under Old Testament could divorce their wives on any ‘fault’ men might find. Nowadays in countries with Christian background women could divorce their husbands on the ground of irreconcilable difference and men are automatically alienated from their children and possibly lose family home and other wealth and one third of income. Is it worth holding on to the Bible worldview which is being branded as unscientific worldview? No other worldview could give mental peace and joy in the mist of injustice and heartaches. The Bible is the only book in the world which describes, ruthlessly honest sometimes, the real people in real circumstances over a period of four thousands years.
Terence T., South Africa, 14 April 2012
Hi G.B. My prayers are with you. I don't know if this will help, but sometimes taking an interest in your wife's sources and letting her teach you will give you a chance to ask subtle questions. Evolutionary literature is full of contradiction and with your keen interest in Creationism you will see illogical statements to question. In nowhere near the same catergory of pain you are going through, I had this same struggle with my sister when she was studying Biology at university. One day I was watching a National Geographic documentary on how dinosaurs evolved into birds. I called her and said, "Check this out, they say dinosaurs evolved into birds". She jumped at the chance to explain this whole thing to me and I listened. When she was finished I asked her, "but weren't the dinosaurs wiped out by a meteor? How did they evolve into birds?" I'm sure there would be arguments against my question but I think God set that whole thing up and you being a man of God can pray for the same. Today my sister teaches Biology in a secular school but adds the Creationist viewpoint even though it is not part of the curriculum. All because God used a question I asked to totally alter her mindset. Listen to your wife's sources, there will be questions in those sources to confuse her. Sometimes questions work better than direct refutation. Again my prayers are with you.
Shawn M., Canada, 15 April 2012
Yes, I would encourage G.B. to re-read The Greatest Hoax on Earth. I am presently on my second time through it and am enjoying it just as much or more than my first time through. I've never been much for re-reading books, because it seems to be a waste of time, but Hoax is definitely an exception.
Susan W., United States, 15 April 2012
Thank you for publishing this interesting dialogue. I have had some issues with family members, and even my church family, questioning my belief in a young earth as described in the Bible. I have found "The Genesis Files" to be very helpful when I shared it. I have bought 5-6 copies to give away. It describes PhD scientists who see the fallacy and bias of evolutionary science, and gives their rebuttals in a concise and easy to read manner.
I am so grateful that my PhD physics professor in college was a Bible believing brilliant scientist. That was 20+ years ago since I last saw him, and unfortuneately, Christians like him are not in every town or church, so I can feel the letter writers loneliness. I pray he can find a local group of like-minded Christians, and also pray that his wife's heart and mind is softened away from the materialistic and dod-eat-dog worldview that is evolution. God Bless You for your ministry!
Paula S., United States, 15 April 2012
G.B., that is a tough situation and my prayers are with you also.
It sounds as though your wife's objections are probably more emotional than intellectual. Unfortunately, no amount of reasoning regardless of it's soundness will get through an emotional blockage. I tend to agree with Dr. Sarfati, that her pseudo-intellectual arguments are a smokescreen.
As important as it is for us to understand the scientific arguments for and against Christianity and/or the Bible, I think that we sometimes forget that the Bible can be it's own best defender. If God's word is in fact 'living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword', then it can be the most powerful and effective tool we have in helping others see past the lies of Satan and overcome wrong-headed objections which are not based in truth. So, I would say to be sure and give as much time to your Bible as to creation science studies, and pray without ceasing that God would open her eyes to His truth as He gives you the words to say to her.
Jonathan Sarfati responds
Josef L., United States, 15 April 2012
I agree with Dr Sarfati; something else seems to be bothering G.B.'s wife and she is using "intellect" as an excuse not to believe. This is evident in the way that she has put stipulations on G.B. which make it so that she can never be falsified (she'll only accept information from anti-Christian sources and isn't the least bit interested in hearing what Christians have to say to her objections).
I think perhaps a more presuppositional approach might be more fruitful. This way G.B. can show his wife how atheism (or any non-biblical worldview for that matter) destroys itself, without having to get into the evidence issue.
Deb B., New Zealand, 15 April 2012
Arguments are not enough! For Christians with anyone on a contentious issue - loving people has to come first, and prayer, asking God to give you the right things to say is next. There is material in any good science that will help - good science looks for the truth and reports this. So: a secular scientist has to admit that any one (two!) of us has enough genetic material to replace the human race in all its variations. So: a secular biology book admits that the proof for evolution is about the same as for 'religion'. But there is a blindness here - a desire to control and contain knowledge in our minds - a fear that if we let this go, we could go mad... That's why love has to come first, and any actions and arguments come out of that! God bless and help your wife! Shalom, Deb
Nicholas P., United States, 15 April 2012
Excellent responses Jonathan. You answered with sensitivity and tact, and as always, with lots of knowledgeable and helpful responses. I know this was encouraging to him. G.B., God be with you and bless your relationship with your wife, ... may the Spirit touch your and her life in this. You might take courage from the story of Emil Silvestru, with CMI, whose wife was maybe more like in your shoes now (at least in that he wasn't saved, and not a creationist). May God really touch her heart.
On the link to 'Caged Lions', I'm glad to see this response from CMI. I think such thinking sounds nice, but really can end up being harmful, as the article makes clear.
Brian H., Canada, 17 April 2012
I too will do my best to remember you and your wife in my prayers.
S. S., Canada, 17 April 2012
I know someone who was a Christian and lost his faith because of the 'facts' of atheists. His wife is a Christian who remained in her faith and they ended up in divorce. His complaint was that his wife was condescending towards him. I am not implying that you are condescending to your wife but maybe you can look at the argument from her point of view out of love. Perhaps she cannot stand by her argument because she is intelligent and she knows that the argument is really about faith and not facts. Perhaps this is causing her to feel that your arguments are condescending and so she chooses not to lose the argument by not even listening to your side. It’s hard not to sound condescending as even these last three sentences can sound condescending to an atheist. Whatever it is, it seems she does not want to have the debate at an intellectual level because there is something greater bothering her at an emotional level. I think that your debate is a very important one but maybe you need to take a break from the debate as the love ordained by God between husband and wife might be more important than the evolution/creation debate, to you and your wife at this point in your marriage. Perhaps she will feel that your desire to concentrate on your love for her exceeds your desire to win a debate and that your love is not condescending.
Tineke D., Australia, 20 April 2012
I fully agree with s.s.and deb B that love is far more important than for her to see your ppint.Also in the eyes of her friends she will be seen as very "uncool" if she believes in creationism.Leave it to God who has ways of suddenly open her eyes to his truths--as has happened to all of us! Tineke.
Jonathan Sarfati responds
“Leave it to God” sounds nice. But in His written Word, the Bible, God has also told us
to deal with such things, as explained below, by giving a reason for our faith, and demolishing arguments against it. Compare an answer to someone who advised us re progressive creationist Hugh Ross
: Why not let God deal with him?
Lourens M., South Africa, 20 April 2012
After all this, whether we accept a young earth or an old earth, we must firstly remember that none of this has anything to do with our salvation. Jesus Christ came to fulfill all of 'the past' so that we can know that the Kingdom of God was established for us by just accepting Jesus as our saviour. Lead a person to accept Salvation through grace alone, then all the other things will come together. Love for one another is so far more important than whether there were dinos in the Ark.
Jonathan Sarfati responds
This it just the either-or fallacy (cf. Is charity more important than apologetics?
). “All you need is love” is a Beatles number, which should not be confused with a biblical teaching (cf. John Lennon II?
). The Bible tells us how this love should be worked out.
Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
Love for God is “the greatest commandment”, coming before love for neighbour (Matthew 22:36–40). To be consistent, this should include believing His word even if modern ‘science’, especially as Jesus affirmed the reality of the Ark and Flood and Noah (Luke 17:26–27). Also, as He said “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35)
, it follows that we should obey its commands to defend the faith and demolish opposing arguments (see Christian Apologetics Questions and Answers
This must logically include dinos on the Ark, since the affirmative is a logical deduction from biblical propositions. The “how” is really quite easy
, so there is no excuse for Christians to allow this atheistic excuse to remain undemolished.
As for “none of this has anything to do with our salvation”, this is only half true. Yes, one can be saved without believing in a young earth, as we have often said
. But this doesn’t mean that old-earth teaching doesn’t have a baneful effect on the consistency
of one’s faith. In particular, it undermines the teaching that death is the result of Adam’s sin, which is the basis for the death and resurrection of Jesus, “the Last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15
). See for example The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe
Dennis M., Portugal, 20 April 2012
Jesus himself said, "A man´s foes shall be those of his own household." Matthew 10:36 So this is not anything new, but the enemy of our soul often attacks our beliefs through those we most love. It is not your wife that is attacking your faith, but the enemy. You could use the power of prayer. Prayer is part of your spiritual armory. Not only could you be praying for your wife and her openness to the creation message, but also for yourself to know when to speak and when to reframe from speaking. Like someone else mentioned, Paul noted that the greatest of these is love, so make sure your ways are in occurrence to the law of love which is to do unto others as you would have to do unto you. I recently made a power point critique of my daughters 7th grade science book. The main point I tried to show was the difference between empirical science which can be tested and observed, and assumptions about past events. Much of what is presented as science is in fact, historical science of philosophical science and outside the realm of empirical science. But all that to say, baptize whatever you do in prayer. Have united prayer with other Christian friends who can support you and your wife in prayer. A spiritual battle is being fault, and the enemy will not give up willingly and will do all it can to not lose a convert. "It is not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord." So use your spiritual armory. Walk in love. Be prayerful. God will answer prayer and show you exactly what to do if you follow him closely!
Carol M., United States, 21 April 2012
I agree that showing love to your wife is more important than any arguments you can make. Assure her that you are committed to her and want nothing more than her well-being and happiness. You can agree to disagree and still have a good life together. My Sunday School teacher shared recently how he was won to Christ out of Eastern religion. He was loved by Christians and saw that he was not capable of that kind of love himself. He also came face to face with personal evil, and realized that there could also be personal good. The fact that your wife is so hostile to truth is a good sign, because it means that she is fighting conviction. Keep praying and love her unconditionally. She can't resist that forever!
G. B., Australia, 24 April 2012
Thanks for all your prayers.
I don't try to convince my wife of anything, but work towards being ready to respond as well as possible when I am asked. My wife is not ready for this conversation yet (her antagonism towards the Christianity in family members makes that clear), so I pray that her heart will be opened to consider these things. Until she is ready, I avoid these discussions, as they only cause to harden her heart further.
The reality is not that she senses some truth in Christianity so is defensive. It really just shocks her that I can be so 'naive' to believe these 'fairytales'. She is firmly convinced that they are. After all, if you are convinced the earth is millions of years old, the bible really does appear to be a fairytale.
But you are all right - her real objection to Christianity is not intellectual - otherwise she would listen to my arguments. There is a lot of deeper stuff going on.
Thanks again for all your prayers and your suggestions. It is greatly appreciated.
Richard L., United Arab Emirates, 12 May 2012
My prayers are likewise with you. May I please offer you a further thought about how you could approach your wife?
It is highly probably that fear of loss of integrity has a contributing role in your wife being gun-shy of a fair consideration of these vital issues. Thus, very helpful is the suggestion of an earlier feedback-er that you should first ask sensitive questions.
Please don't limit yourself to questions about her sources and her perception of the boundary location between hard facts and speculation. Please also ask what her concerns and fears are in undertaking the investigation you wish her to undertake. Chances are that those fears reside in her at a sub-conscious level. Please be prepared for it to take a while for those fears to be consciously identified.
While praying for the Holy Spirit's help in this and while waiting, a helpful prompt can be, "Do you think that I am inviting you to violate intellectual honesty, intellectual integrity?" In my experience, that fear exists both in people from a church background who have walked away from faith and in people from a non-church background.
Colossians 2:8 warns us that we can become spoils of war, captured in intellectual spiritual-warfare battle for potentially lifelong slavery. This slavery exists when we become captured by false obligation to "hollow deception"--to claims or notions of scientists that on the surface seem to be true but upon deeper study turn out not to be true.
The most subtle form of untrue truth claims are wrong speculation--where the untruth is not immediately obvious. And the most subtle form of wrong speculation is wrong interpretive presupposition--where one can easily be distracted by the large core of true hard facts present, distracted away to untruth-in-conclusion by the surrounding shell of wrong interpretive- presuppositonal filters.
In Colossians 2:8, the wrongness in this is signaled by the expression "of this world", the biblical prhasing indicating the existing system of fallen and corrupt thinking, actions and attitudes. "Foudational principles" is the expression Colossians 2:8 uses for interpretive presuppositions. The combination, here, signals "wrong interpretive presuppositons".
When we don't successfully identify the presence of wrong speculation in certain (wrong) truth claims advocated by scientists, our desire for integrity traps us into believing that we have to hold onto those wrong notions. The greater one's love for truth and integrity, the more tightly one is trapped by that false obligation.
I strongly suspect that your wife is so trapped. (Most probably, she doesn't see--can't afford to see--that she is being unfair in how she wants sources to be used.) Therefore... at a time indicated by the Holy Spirit, please lovingly and gently challenge her regarding her fears and, at the outset, reassure her that you are not attempting to have her violate her intellectal integrity. It may also be helpful to point out that the commands of 1 Thessalonians 5:21, to which you are bound, dovetail beautifully with the highest standards, ethics and protocol of scientific investigation. May this help.
(I am making assumptions here