I grew up in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist community where I was saved at the age of five. We didn’t have a TV, go to movies, dance, or go places that served alcohol—and we tried our best to avoid those who did.
My parents encouraged my twin brother and me to read and learn. We devoured encyclopedias and library books and anything else we could get our hands on. That included “Acts and Facts”, a regular publication of the young-earth Institute For Creation Research. Young-earth creationism (YEC) was really the only position we were taught for how to relate the biblical worldview with the sciences. The YEC perspective fit nicely inside the perceived cultural battle between “true Christianity” and the evil world outside. The first movie I remember seeing was Footprints in Stone, which my church showed when I was about seven years old. The film concerns humans and dinosaur footprints that were supposedly found side-by-side in the Paluxy River in Texas. Many young-earth creationists at that time used this “finding” as proof that dinosaurs and humans lived together. At the time, it was a simple and powerful argument, and it had a lasting impact on me. The earth was young. Evolution was false. The Bible said it. Science proved it. It couldn’t be more simple or clear. And I liked that.
Around this time, I had a school assignment to map out my family tree. During the exploration of my ancestors, I learned that my grandparents grew up in a church that taught that the earth was flat. This led me to a study the cosmology of the Bible, which really set the stage for my realization that Christian beliefs about science and the Bible had evolved over time. For many years, I ignored that nagging thought. I refused to believe that Christians, who were supposed to be the enlightened ones, had actually believed in things like a flat earth. That was just things claimed about Christians by a world that was trying to make us look bad, I told myself.
My safe, simplistic childlike acceptance of what I had been taught in Sunday School came crashing down in my late-20s. I remember this moment just as clearly as I remember my salvation. I was listening to my regular afternoon Christian radio show and the host was interviewing Hugh Ross about his new book Creation and Time, and it rocked my world. Christians not believing the Bible and what it said about the age of creation? What? I had to find out more about this heresy! I immediately found a store with a copy of this piece of printed sacrilege and started a skeptical review of it. I was sure that I’d find the logical flaws in the arguments and could re-build my happy place. But the case for an old earth was overwhelming and compelling. Against my will, I was convinced. It hurt my pride. It hurt my head. And it hurt the foundation of my faith.
This rapid transition to old earth creationism (OEC), the view set forth in Creation and Time, was the first step in my transformation as a creationist. I reasoned that if my pastor and the leaders of these creationist para-church ministries had deceived me about what was claimed to be the very foundation of the faith, there’s no telling what other beliefs of mine are supported by deceptions. Over the next few years, I studied over two dozen different interpretations of Genesis. My views migrated a bit over this time. But the biggest change I made during this time was not in an answer to one of these questions, but in an approach.
When someone gives you an interpretation of something and tells you to then read some passage of the Bible, what you see when you read it is what you have been told it says. My reading of the Bible would simply fit whatever interpretation was fresh in my mind. After a lot more time with the text and after revising how I approach other’s interpretations, I came to realize that Genesis 1 is not written as a proof-text against an old earth. It was never intended to disprove evolution. It is about God. It is theology. It is about Who and Why, not today’s debates of When and How.
This 20+ year process has led me to two more recent conclusions. First, as the issue shifted from the age of the earth to the validity of evolution, I realized that I already believed in evolution. Back when I was a YEC believing in a global flood, my creation model required a massive amount of evolution from common ancestors in a very short period of time after the Flood. Of course I didn’t call it that, but I am forced to accept that life does adapt and change in evolutionary ways. New species do originate. So the debate isn’t so much one of whether evolution occurs, but whether there is a limit to what it can be responsible for.
But the second realization is what prompted a new focus on evolutionary science. I realized that I was still rejecting things like universal common descent based largely on what I had been taught about it from folks that I no longer trust. For years I had been telling YECs that they should follow Proverbs 18:17, which says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” We should let both sides put on their case and question the other side. Yet, I had not applied the same approach to evolutionary creationists. So I sought them out. I asked questions. I purchased way too many recommended books. But when I got to places in the books where I wasn’t liking what was being pointed out, I sat them aside. I chickened out. I realized that I was still dismissing something that I have no good arguments against.
This led me to a final realization. I wanted the YEC view to be true, even as I accepted that the universe was much older, because it made for a much simpler worldview and interpretation of the Bible. I didn’t want the messiness of not knowing all the answers. And, frankly, I didn’t want to face the theological implications of Adam not being the first/only original man, but instead related to other creatures. I knew there are authors and books and websites that addressed these challenges, but, in all honesty, I was purposely avoiding these resources. I was, afraid of what I might find if I turn over certain rocks, so I just refused to do so. Until now.
But just as creationism itself has evolved over time, and just as my approach to Genesis has evolved, I’m wanting to be open to the idea of changing my mind about the topic of evolution as well. As a Christian, I believe I have nothing to fear from truth.