Majoring on Minors
In 10 years I built an email list of 275,000 people. I engaged in literally tens of thousands of conversations about faith and science with any reasonable person who would have a civil dialogue. Most of those discussions happened in the privacy and safety of email. A few years Later, those conversations moved into public in the blogosphere. This site now has over 10,000 comments.
I did this because I wanted to share my faith. But having grown up a pastor’s kid in an ultra-conservative Christian community, I was troubled by lot of questions myself. So I had a deeper motivation:
I needed to find out: If I put Christianity on the anvil… and if I invite everyone in the world to smash it with the biggest sledgehammer they can find… will it hold up? Or will it shatter into a million pieces?
A few years before, when I was drinking from the Amway / Multi-Level Marketing pink kool-aid machine, I had done a similar experiment. MLM ruptured. It’s not even a real business. That realization was my “growing up” moment in business.
For about a year, I wasn’t too sure how my reliability-of-Christianity experiment was going to turn out. I suspected I might “grow up” out of faith, much as I had graduated from rah-rah MLM motivation rallies.
But after some time, my confidence in Christianity emerged intact. (After a LOT of slag had gotten pounded off.)
What I found was: core assertions like the historicity of the Old Testament and New Testament, the resurrection of Christ, Biblical archaeology and history broadly speaking, are quite solid. And bucket loads of documented miracles, both ancient and modern.
But I also found you can’t major on minors. A whole list of things that I could not possibly defend no matter how hard I tried.
I found, for example, that if you maintain that the Bible is inspired – that there is something very unique and special about this document, that it has made some astoundingly correct prophecies, that it laid the foundations for modern equality, human rights and science; and that it has a great deal of accurate, verifiable history – you are on rock solid ground.
But I also found that if you try to defend the Bible as “inerrant,” you will doom yourself to an eternal game of whack-a-mole that you will never win. Smart skeptics try to draw you into that. If you take the bait… you lose.
Sufficiently reliable to get the job done? No problem.
Inerrant? Not a statement you can reasonably defend.
You can say “the original documents were inerrant” and that could be true… but we don’t have them, so fine-grained Biblical interpretation is always messy. Not everyone is prepared to acknowledge that.
An inerrant Bible is not even necessary in the first place. You don’t need twelve decimals of absolute precision to trust the Bible. One or two digits is plenty. The gist is the same regardless of language or translation.
My single biggest discovery was that I could not defend assertions of a 6,000 year old earth or a global flood.
A massive regional flood in the 3000BC to 5000BC time period is indisputable. (Alan Dickin and Richard Fischer have documented this well.) And without much difficulty, you can also find reasonable ways to harmonize the narrative in Genesis with modern science and anthropology.
But to make a credible case, in public, that the earth was created in six literal days, and to support your statements with clear facts and evidence… I’ve never encountered a way to do that. I have no lack of facts to support the resurrection of Jesus, or that King David was a real person. I can offer reasonable evidence that the Hebrews lived in Egypt for a time, and proof that the Old Testament was accurately transmitted; we can verify dozens of precise historical details in the gospels and Acts.
But I have not found a way to defend a young earth.
If you teach Young Earth Creation to your kids and they go into ANY field of science, engineering or technology… or psychology, sociology or anthropology, you are more likely to convert your kid into an atheist or agnostic than keep them in Christian faith.
I’d have a hard time naming anything that has fanned the flames of atheism, or fueled the war between science and religion, more than dogmatic insistence on a hyper-literal interpretation of Genesis. Numerous other interpretations are on offer, all of them well reasoned.
The other thing I discovered is that if you fight against evolution, you are looking through the microscope backwards.
First of all, everyone necessarily embraces evolution. Why? Because even the most conservative literal reading of Genesis has all animals descending from a population that would fit on an ark. Which requires 100X to 1000X multiplication of species. (That’s not “micro evolution” – that’s MACRO evolution, at hyper-speed.)
No fact in biology is more impressive than life’s ability to generate new species at high speed.
Therefore conservative Christians who say there’s no evidence for evolution are not even consistent with their own interpretation of the Bible (let alone live botany experiments). Does not the scripture say that God said, “Let the land produce living creatures after their kinds”? How is that a statement against evolution? It sounds exactly like evolution to me.
And that’s the minor point. The major point is: the best evidence for a divinely ordered universe is evolution itself. Life is engineered to get better and better with time.
If Microsoft knew what bacteria know, their stock would spike 10X. Maybe 100X.
Windows can’t evolve without programmers. But bacteria evolve by themselves in minutes. Botanists create new species literally every day through symbiotic and hybrid mergers. What do bacteria know that we don’t?
My book Evolution 2.0 in two sentences: “Darwinists underestimate nature. Creationists underestimate God.”
In time I became comfortable with God’s two books: The book of scripture and the book of nature. CS Lewis said, “You don’t have to defend a lion, you just have to let him out of his cage.” This is true for both the Bible and nature. They speak for themselves quite well, thank you very much.