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Finding Harmony | Garrett & Amanda

The stories from two young people who were deeply connected to young-earth creation—that is, until they started to see some cracks developing in their reasoning, which sent them on a journey to discover how to reframe their scientific view of the world while holding closely to their Christian faith.


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The stories from two young people who were deeply connected to young-earth creation—that is, until they started to see some cracks developing in their reasoning, which sent them on a journey to discover how to reframe their scientific view of the world while holding closely to their Christian faith.

Description

In this episode we tell two stories of finding harmony in faith and science. The stories come from Garrett and Amanda, two young people who were deeply connected to young-earth creation—that is, until they started to see some cracks developing in their reasoning which sent them on a journey to discover how to reframe their scientific view of the world while holding closely to their Christian faith. Both found their way through the next phase of their spiritual journey in different ways but their stories help us all to appreciate the humility that is required to change one’s beliefs, and the wisdom that comes from realizing that we can’t know the answers to all of life’s questions.

Thanks to Rick, Ruth, Frederick, Jody, Brian, John and Barbara and to everyone else who shared their stories of harmony with us at our conference in Baltimore.

Transcript

Stump:

Welcome to Language of God. I’m Jim Stump. Over the past 23 episodes you’ve heard from all kinds of experts—astronomers, doctors, renowned theologians and biblical scholars, particle physicists and paleontologists—they have provided wise insight on following Jesus and satisfying a curiosity about the world through science. And often, they have told us about their own journeys too, about how they found their way through questions or doubts to a place where faith and science can be in harmony.

A few years ago we published a book called How I Changed My Mind about Evolution. It contains a bunch of stories of such people. But not all who have worked through these issues are professional scientists or theologians. Today we bring you two stories—the first from Garrett and the second from Amanda—two young people who have been on a journey of change themselves.  

We wanted to tell these stories for a few reasons. Hearing from other committed Christians who have asked hard questions and have found their way through, with their faith not only intact but sharpened is helpful for those of us who are confronting these questions. And…for those of us who have never gone through such a period of change, it is good for us to recognize that change is possible…so that we will better know how to support someone else in the midst of change and be more open to changing our own minds and recognizing that we too probably have some beliefs that need to be changed.

Garrett and Amanda have much wisdom to provide and they do so with humility and the recognition that their journey is not yet over. We’ll also take a quick break in between these stories to hear a few snippets from some others about their journeys to discover harmony. 

Here’s our producer Colin with Garrett’s story. 

Part One: Garrett

Hoogerwerf:

Garrett was raised by a loving, conservative Christian family. Like a lot of kids, he had some interest in science…

Garrett:

I liked science and astronomy and the weather…

Hoogerwerf:

But it didn’t go much deeper than that. At least not until he was about 16. 

Garrett:

And what happened was—I’m a total bookworm—and so one day I was thumbing through a Christian book catalog and I saw this book listed in there that really intrigued me and it was written by a, come to find out, a creationist. And the premise of the book was that the true scientific evidence supports a young earth and a literal seven-day creation and that essentially the theory of evolution is a big hoax.

And so I was fascinated by that. I totally was convinced by that book and for the next several years, just tried to get my hands on as many creation-science books and magazines and DVDs as I could.

Hoogerwerf:

Before reading this book, Garrett had virtually no interest in creation or evolution. But afterward he was hooked and the next season of his life was one in which young earth creation started to become attached to his identity. 

Garrett:

I think the thing about the young creation view that I’ve been realizing is that it’s just a very satisfying worldview and I think it really resonated with me as a young man. Here you have just a very nice tidy explanation for where the universe came from and where humans came from. And not only that, but where death and suffering and sin came from. And it also gave me as a young Christian, sort of my marching orders.

Hoogerwerf:

Garrett felt like it was his job as a Christian to show people that the evidence really did support a young earth and a global flood and that the theory of evolution was compromising the mission of the church. There’s a deep attractiveness to simple explanations. Professional marketers know this and it’s why simple advertising slogans are so successful. It’s why the fine print is fine—because when you add nuance and complexity to an issue, it takes much more processing power and can be much harder to convince someone of the position.  

The young earth creationist view gave Garrett a lot of those neatly packaged answers and that was really satisfying for a while. But somewhere along the way, Garrett started to feel like maybe it wasn’t as simple as he had been made to believe. 

Garrett:

I’m not sure exactly what it was, but maybe it was me getting more exposed to the internet and different articles out there or maybe going through university at Texas Tech was part of it too. But I reached a point when I was 21 or 22 when I thought, you know what? I don’t want to believe what I believe just because it’s the only thing that I know. I want to really spend time doing my homework and fact checking stuff and making sure that I’ve heard out the other sides of these arguments, especially creation versus evolution, the age of the earth.

Hoogerwerf:

As so he went where he always goes. 

Garrett:

Like I said, I’m a huge bookworm, so I went to my local library and I found about three books that were written by scientists in favor of evolution. And that’s where my beliefs started to change. 

Here for the first time were arguments and evidence that were compelling and that laid out the evidence for evolution. And I realized what I had known about evolution before then was mainly caricatures of the theory and straw-men arguments. And so this is the first time I really looked into the evidence for evolution from someone who actually believed in it.

Hoogerwerf:

At that first visit to the library Garrett checked out several books by some very well known scientists who also happened to be some of the most outspoken atheists and critics of Christianity—books by Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins and Bill Nye. 

Garrett:

That trio of books shot a torpedo to my faith because I had bought into this mentality that either you can be a Christian or you can accept evolution. There’s really no middle ground there. And so it was really, really devastating spiritually to read those three books.

It just felt like the foundation, my faith had been ripped out from under me. I’d say during the worst of it I was for sure thinking about leaving the faith. I just couldn’t reconcile what I was reading about science and what I had thought to be true about Christianity. So during the worst of it, what really intrigued me was Deism. This idea that maybe God is real, but he’s not really involved in the day to day process of my life. And he just got the universe going and kind of kicked back and watched it unfold. So that line of thought really intrigued me. But for sure I felt like there was all out on the table and I was not feeling good at all about my faith and I wasn’t sure where it would lead. It was a scary time.

Hoogerwerf:

When someone changes his or her mind about something big, a major belief like that, I don’t think we give enough credit to the hardship that can go along with it. In my own life, there are many things I believe to be true and it’s natural to want other people to come around to my way of thinking. I’m quick to applaud the deconstruction of someone else’s beliefs that I think are wrong and I am slow to deconstruct my own beliefs, let alone go searching for cracks or faults in what I believe to be true. I don’t think that’s unusual. But Garrett found that he couldn’t sit back with these inklings that he might be holding up something that didn’t feel true.  

Garrett:

It’s never easy to re-examine something that you’ve taken to be true for a long time. And to even open up that door and say, you know what, maybe I am wrong. It’s not fun admitting that you’re wrong and it’s especially not fun when you’ve been really enthusiastic about one particular point of view and largely built your worldview around that. So it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t easy. But at the time, and I definitely believe this now, I think it was very worth it. Because I love the feeling of saying you believe something and feeling confident that you actually do. And I think I’d reached a point where I would give lip-service to certain things, but deep down had this uneasy feeling that maybe they weren’t tested after all.

Hoogerwerf:

Fortunately, Garrett did not end his quest for truth after reading the first couple of books written by prominent atheists. At some point along the way he found some other books including The Language of God by Francis Collins and The Great Partnership by Jonathan Sacks. 

Garrett:

And so slowly but surely reading those books and others like them helped me realize, you know what—faith and science, they ask, for the most part different questions. And like Jonathan Sacks puts it, Faith is all about asking why, whereas science is all about asking, you know, how and when and what. And so the epiphany that I had eventually was that you can believe and feel confident about your faith and also have a curiosity about science that isn’t damaging to your faith. It’s not like you have to surrender your faith in order to get into science.

Hoogerwerf:

The other thing about changing your beliefs is that it has a tendency to isolate you from those closest to you. We often share our deeply held beliefs with family members, friends, our church community, and so suddenly Garrett found himself needing to find his way through a new relational landscape. 

Garrett:

I’m someone who hates disagreements and it always makes me feel uncomfortable when I realize I don’t see eye to eye with somebody. So I’m definitely not one to be just terribly outspoken about it. I definitely do have some close friends and a couple of relatives who agree with me that the theory of evolution is pretty strong. And so it’s refreshing to talk to them, but it’s definitely something that I’m careful with and I don’t want to cause other people to stumble. But at the same time, I feel like I’m afraid that other people would go through a similar preventable series of doubts based on their beliefs. And so the challenge I think for me, and I’m sure for other people who have reached a similar point is like, how do you make people know that it’s okay to be a Christian and be comfortable with evolution but not cause a huge stink in the process and not, you know, destroy friendships and cause division. So it’s a tough line to walk and I can’t say I found a perfect balance, but it’s something that’s on my mind a lot for sure.

Hoogerwerf:

It’s been several years since Garrett went through the hardest part of this particular chapter of his faith journey. Now he’s in a place where there are questions which remain unanswered. There are unknowns. His faith is not as tidy as it once was. 

Garrett:

Yeah, it is…it is harder. And there are still for sure questions

Hoogerwerf:

But that’s a place he’s ok to live in for a while and he’s even found some places where his faith has been strengthened by all of this. 

Garrett:

First of all, it’s humbling and you realize you don’t understand everything and you don’t have to. I was a very confident young-earth creationist and was not the most humble guy at the time. I thought I had the world figured out and that it was my job to convince other people to agree with me. But now I think God’s definitely humbled me through this process. And it’s secondly, I think God’s helped me realize that trust is so important. It just made me realize, in our relationship with God, it’s so important to trust him even in the questions, even in the doubts, even in the hard things, when life is not clear. And I feel much more dependent on him now than I was five or six years ago, which is a blessing.

Hoogerwerf:

And along with a new sense of humility comes a freedom to look around and find awe in a world that is expanded by scientific knowledge. 

Garrett:

It helps me just look around at life and creation in the world with a heightened sense of wonder for sure. And just the ability to appreciate the amazing findings of science, without being afraid that the next scientific discovery or breakthrough will, you know, destroy your faith. I think it definitely does help me look around and appreciate the world and just marvel at what’s out there. And then too, like I mentioned earlier, just to be humble about it and realize, you know what, I don’t understand everything about biology or chemistry or astronomy. And there are lots of brilliant men and women researching those fields who know way more than I do. And so it’s fascinating to read what they have to say and hear them out instead of just assuming, okay. You know they’re way off or whatever. So I guess it does help me look around with more of a sense of wonder.

[musical interlude]

Interlude:

Stump:

Hey Language of God listeners. Jim Stump here again. Last spring BioLogos was in Baltimore for our conference called Beyond Conflict. While we were there we talked to a number of people about their own journeys to find harmony with faith and science. We asked them to look back over that time and reflect on both the struggles and the joys that came out of it. Here are a few of those reflections.

Rick:

So I grew up in a very young-earth creationist, um, fundamentalist background. And basically a couple of years ago I went through a worship school called ten thousand fathers. And through that had a lot of healing and that really opened me up to look into the questions that I had been suppressing. And then through that I ended up, you know, searching around, found BioLogos and others, and the journey just kind of went from there. 

Ruth:

He’s actually the one that introduced me to a lot of the, what he was learning and he’s bringing home and you know, you gotta see this. And so I would watch it with him or you know, listen to different commentaries or podcasts. And for me, I mean, it kind of felt like we were dropped in the deep end of the ocean, just going against everything that we had been taught to be real. But then there was a lot of, I don’t know, clarity, I guess that came from it as well. And yeah, I feel like a lot of questions were answered.

Rick:

I felt very much joyful and like exploring a whole new world, a whole new universe that I’d never realized was possible before. The struggle comes with then how you’re perceived by those you love and having to deal with some of the emotional difficulties surrounding, you know, being looked at with confused looks and all that kind of stuff. So that’s where some of the struggle comes in. Yeah, and I’d say like, my taste for wonder is greater than my distaste for discomfort. And so that opens up a whole world of possibilities and things that I’m willing to try and, you know, despite some of the fallout that happens.

Frederick:

Well, it’s been a long journey. it’s been more of a struggle than a joy, although it’s something that for most of my life I’ve put on the back burner. This afternoon we sat through the presentation of Adam and the Fall, uh, that is still difficult because although they gave several ways in which to interpret this, it was still, uh, yes, we don’t know. But then there are lots of things that we don’t know and we just have to accept on faith. And I’m quite happy with that. I’m 78 and I’m still journeying, but that’s okay. 

Jody:

The more I immersed myself in biological studies, the more I realized that there are questions that are beyond what science can initially answer. And so one day in graduate school I found myself wandering into a church and just being overwhelmed by the majesty of it all. And I took that back to the laboratory with me. And as I peered into microscopes looking at cells and their interactions, I realized that, that there is a creator who has gifted us with the ability to intellect and reason to try to learn more about these processes that go on at the cellular and molecular level. So I have a PhD in cell and molecular biology and the more I learned about the biology, the more I just kept praising God for the awesomeness in the truest meaning of that word, the awesomeness of life and our ability to study it. I think biology is a wonderful way to realize that there is unification in the diversity of life and that in itself, I think points to our creator.

Brian:

I think the more I have understood about God’s creation, the more complex and nuanced and beautiful my faith appears to me. So when your faith is filled with Sunday school answers that are simple and straightforward your faith ends up simple and straightforward. And eventually most of us, at least speaking for myself, I got to the point where that wasn’t satisfying anymore. And so then the alternative is, the options are, to leave the faith or find a more complex and nuanced way to live out my faith. And I think seeing more complicated solutions to how science and faith interact was the answer for me in terms of finding a more complex and enriching faith. 

John:

It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been very challenging. When you grow up under a very stagnant, traditional view of God and scripture and creation, to blossom out of that and open up your mind and, and your heart and your faith. And I was afraid initially that it was, you know, it was gonna create issues with my faith, but it does just the opposite. You just, when you look at the creation, you learn to appreciate God a little bit more for how awesome he really is. When you discover that there’s a different way to look at scripture that still honors scripture and honors God, then I think you can begin to understand that harmonious relationship. People my age have a difficult time doing that.

Barbara:

We’ve only been married three years. We both lost our spouses to cancer and we met in the widows and widowers group. So even though we both were born in the same church and religious views are the same, this is all new to me. This is a new journey. Just since I met him, have I started on this journey. And I’m not as far along. This is a lot to, for me to, for where I grew up and believed my whole life because I’m in my seventies. So it’s taken me longer to accept and get used to all this. I will continue on this journey and hope that I get to the place he is. Almost there. 

[musical interlude]

Part Two: Amanda

Hoogerwerf:

Our second story today comes from Amanda. Amanda grew up in a Christian home. Her parents had become Christians later in life, while raising children and they attended mostly Baptist churches in their area. Amanda was a homeschool student and when one of the large churches in her area held a conference for home school children, they decided to go. It was there where Amanda first learned about young-earth creation and the tensions that can arise between science and religion. Like Garrett, Amanda had really never considered that there would be any issues between science and the church prior to that. But she found it fascinating. 

Amanda:

And I think I kind of already at that age really loved the idea of having all the answers. And so having someone say, “oh, it’s really this simple, here’s all the answers that everyone else is missing,” I really kind of liked that notion and thought, oh, well this is so cool. I mean that I have this opportunity to learn and understand this thing that maybe other people just are missing or they just don’t want to see it. It’s so obvious, but they don’t want to see it.

Hoogerwerf:

Being a curious and eager student she jumped in reading books and articles to learn what she could.

Amanda:

From that point on, it was very prevalent and it was just a normal part of life.

Hoogerwerf:

In her senior year of high school, she and a few other girls from the home school group took a speech and debate class from a retired professor. The professor had high expectations for Amanda and the other students and pushed them to do rigorous work, studying both sides of an issue in order to make their arguments.

Amanda:

Because of that experience I was able to really realize just how many questions you needed to ask and how deep you needed to go to be sure that your answers about something were right. And also just asking yourself the kind of questions that really challenged the way that you had been thinking, in order to get at all the different sides of an issue that there were. Which was not something that I had really done previously or had seen anyone else do.

And so starting to realize that this was the kind of way that you needed to think about these huge overarching issues like that and think about all the impacts that they have in different areas of life as well was something that was really important for me at that time.

Hoogerwerf:

With this class still fresh in her mind, Amanda graduated and headed off to the university. She had been trained over the years to expect push back on her religious beliefs at a public university and so she went in unsure of what she would find, eager to learn, confident that she would hold strongly to her beliefs, though maybe a bit wary that it might take a fight. She wasn’t going to be a science major but the university still required two science classes and she had been pre-registered for one—Intro to Earth Sciences. 

Amanda:

It is one of my favorite parts of how this story all started is because I was late and I was late to class that first day because I had misjudged the traffic and the parking situation. And at least in my university, there’s a rule that if you do not make it to class the first day you get dropped from the class and it’s a big pain trying to get back into it again.

So I was really concerned and I was actually all but running across the parking lot, trying to get to this classroom. And thankfully I already knew where it was, but I charged straight up four flights of stairs and kind of tried to catch my breath a second before ducking into the classroom. And I was the last one there of course. And everybody turns around and looks at me of course, because that’s how these things go, just like if it’s in a movie, right? And so I just walked in and sat down and the only spot there was left is pretty much right at the front of the class. And my professor was, she had already started talking. But she noticed that, here I was, the straggler coming in and so she stopped for a second and just went over there and gave me a piece of paper that she said was kind of like a, a pre-evaluation, and that I needed to fill that out and turn it in by the end of class to be marked present for this first day attendance thing.

Amanda:

And so here I was trying to dig my notebooks and pens out of the bag and pay attention to whatever she was saying and fill out this pre-evaluation all, you know, still trying to catch my breath and everything from running up the stairs. And I looked down at the paper and the first question that I see on the page is “approximately how old is the earth.” And I just kind of chuckled to myself and thought, here I go, this is exactly the sort of thing I was expecting. And I just wrote, shrugged and wrote down the only answer that I would have known to put down anyway. I had told myself before I started this class that I was going to be honest. I was going to, you know, learn the material and answer questions on the material, but I was not going to pretend that I believe something that I didn’t. And so I wrote down 6,000 years because that was the only answer I had, and that was the answer I believed.

Hoogerwerf:

As the class went on she got more comfortable and even started to enjoy it. And she started getting to know her professor, chatting before class began about how their weeks were going. And they found they had similar interests. Amanda had been interested in geology since she was a kid and had been building a small rock collection. So when they came to the geology section of the class, Amanda decided to go visit office hours. 

Amanda:

I brought my rock collection to show her and ask her what some stuff were. And she enjoyed that and I enjoyed that and I told her a little bit about my educational background and growing up as a homeschooled student and that this was the first sort of actual science class had ever been in.

And then from there, I just kind of flat out told her that I’m a Christian and I don’t believe in evolution. And I distinctly remember what she said cause she looked at me and said, “you mean to say I don’t believe the evidence supports evolution.” And I sat there and I wanted to smack myself on the forehead because that’s exactly what my debate teacher would have corrected me and said. I don’t really remember much about the rest of the conversation we had that day, but I know that the way that she went with it was that science and religion don’t have to be a conflict and that it was okay for me to not accept the evidence for evolution yet, but that my job in that class was going to be to learn the material presented and to—within the boundaries of that class—give the correct answers. 

Hoogerwerf:

It’s not the way these conversations always go. Her professor didn’t launch into the data on a mission to persuade, didn’t shut down or laugh or antagonize. And so a door for a conversation remained open. 

Amanda:

I know that leaving her office that day, I felt much more comfortable with how the rest of the class was going to go. And I felt that that kind of made it safe for me to ask her questions or to really explore those kind of ideas in a way that I wouldn’t have felt like I could otherwise.

Hoogerwerf:

That afternoon in the office began a new journey of exploration for Amanda. And it was a journey that was initiated by listening and an allowance to ask questions. Too often when someone shares a belief we disagree with, we respond with disdain or disregard. We all do it, whether our beliefs are right or wrong. We do with religious beliefs, ideas about politics, ethics, science. And no one is helped. Each side leaves only more sure they are right, but with no new tools to discern the truth. But in this case both Amanda and her professor were able to listen to each other and move ahead, each learning something in the process. In Amanda’s case, this meant digging deeper into the science of evolution.

Amanda:

So as I got more towards the back end of this and after my other science class, which was more about evolution and kind of finished wrestling through as much as I felt like I could come to a resolution, I started thinking, okay, so if I’ve decided this, then what am I going to do with it now? I mean, I’m not in the middle, so much of this anymore. I mean, part of the resolution that I came to was, okay, I’m never going to have all the answers and have to be okay with that. Which I think is the biggest thing I learned through all of it is not so much what scientific conclusions I came to, but just that kind of replacing that childhood, oh cool, this gives me all the answers thing with, okay, all right, maybe I don’t have all the answers, but that’s a better position to be in and a humbler position to be in. But really having then to deal with that idea of, okay, so am I just never gonna— How am I going to interact with people differently because of this?

Hoogerwerf:

And so for a while Amanda kept quiet about this. 

Amanda:

I felt like I couldn’t really talk to anybody about it while I was going this whole process because, while I never felt like this was causing me to doubt my faith or doubt, or certainly never doubt the existence of God. I knew that other people might not see it that way and they would see it as, okay, she’s having these questions, that must mean she’s considering leaving the faith altogether, just like we said would happen to anybody who goes to a secular college. And I didn’t feel like that was going to be helpful for me at the time. 

When it does come up and it is being talked about as if everybody in the room must agree with you 100%, like can I just sit here not saying anything? You know, growing up I had always been told not to not say anything or do anything when something, you know, wrong is happening is the same as participating in it yourself. 

So then I had to wrestle with, okay, would this be helpful for me to say anything or is it just going to cause unnecessary strife?   

Hoogerwerf:

That meant deciding how important this issue really was. What were the consequences of letting her friends, her family, the young women she mentored at church, go on with the idea that there is a war between science and religion?

Amanda:

But the way that someone had taught me to think about those kind of different issues would be, is this a fuss, a fight or a funeral? How critical is it of an issue that you must agree on with everyone. And so I’m still kind of trying to deal with, okay, based on where I place this issue, I would say that it’s not a funeral. It’s not something, it’s not a hill to die on. But it’s more than a fuss because it has so many implications about really how we’re going to interact with others that don’t share this faith or others in the professional world or the academic world or that kind of a thing. So I’m putting it in the middle category—a fight—which doesn’t mean literally fighting about it, but something that is definitely worth having a serious discussion about. But what I haven’t decided yet is, okay, if it’s in this category, does that mean that I bring it up or does that just mean that I’m willing to talk about it and share about it if it does come up. And so I haven’t got the answer to that one yet. When it does come up, I’ve been carefully sort of adding a little bit of my experience in there and then with a few people that I do know and trust, I have brought it up since then and it has gone very well. And they’ve been very understanding and have been curious even about what it is that I’ve learned because they know enough about me and my circumstances and my situations and surroundings that they know it wasn’t something that kind of decision that I would make lightly. And so that has been helpful in opening doors to start kind of having some of those conversations.

Part Three: Advice 

Hoogerwerf:

Each of us is on a journey through this life, trying to figure out what it means to be a disciple. Sometimes in those journeys there are places that are more strenuous than others. And both Amanda and Garrett have come out on the other side of some of those rugged areas. And not that they don’t continue to face challenges, but they have gained a certain amount of wisdom in their experiences and I wanted to know what kind of advice they would have wanted as they looked around at the terrain and wondered whether they would ever find smooth ground. 

Garrett:

I think, one thing I wish I had known that I would tell myself if I could back then was doubts are a lot more widespread than I realized. And I would go to church on Sundays and Wednesdays and hang out with my friends and see these smiling people who seemed to have life all figured out and they seem to be so confident and cheerful. And so there wasn’t really a place I felt for my doubts in the midst of that. But I’ve since realized, once you get to know people and you dig under the surface more, doubts are very common and you realize people struggle with stuff and it’s okay. It’s okay to be honest and open up. And honestly, those are some of the most meaningful conversations you can have when you just get raw with someone and get vulnerable. 

Amanda:

I wish I had heard from others who would say, you know, you and your views are going to change some, but that’s okay. And that’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean you’re going to lose your whole foundation. And that you should go in kind of expecting the best of people, but being prepared for disagreement, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that that disagreement is going to be against you personally. And that I would have been better prepared in expecting to have disagreements that weren’t personal attacks kind of a thing and how to manage that in a better way. Kind of the idea that Jesus sent out his disciples with of be wise as serpents, but harmless as doves and that you shouldn’t, you shouldn’t be totally naive. But that you shouldn’t be in there with your fists up ready for a fight either.

Garrett:

I tend to be a pretty optimistic person so I’ve been trying to find the silver-lining behind all this. And one thing that I’ve really appreciated looking back and that I try to share with people who are also going through doubts is that Christianity is often presented as a big package, like this all inclusive package where you have yes, the teachings of Jesus and like the fundamentals of the faith plus all these other cultural views and political views and often views on science and whatnot. And so as a young believer, it was hard for me to walk away from any part of that because I felt like walking away from any of it was me walking away from my faith and I felt like my faith was broken if I didn’t agree with my family’s political views or my church’s views on science or whatever.

But I’ve realized Christianity is so much stronger and so much more solid than any one person’s opinions. And no matter what doubts or struggles we go through, I think we can always come back and circle back around and stand on the fundamental, primary issues of the faith. Like the creeds talk about like, can we believe that Jesus was real and that he was God and that he died for us and that he rose again. I mean, it’s really not that complicated. We will walk away from secondary things all the time. That’s good, that’s healthy, that’s normal. But my encouragement would be just try to sift through that and realize you inherited a bunch of stuff along with your faith that’s not critical to Christianity. And it’s okay to walk away from it if you realize it’s not as true as you thought it was. So I wish growing up I had more of that perspective. I’m thankful that I do now and I’d love to have other people kind of have the aha moment too.

Hoogerwerf:

Both Garrett and Amanda were able to find people in their lives who were willing to listen. In a dialogue, listening is at least important as speaking. And it’s the people that are often the first to be approached with these questions that can make a big difference in opening a dialogue: pastors, teachers, parents, friends. And so I wanted to hear about that side of the equation too. How can we all be better listeners, better supporters when it’s not us going through a period of questioning, but someone who comes to us with questions. 

Amanda:

Even before I gave any real consideration to the facts, I needed the understanding and really the gentleness of a person to listen to me. And so what I would tell someone else is really to keep in mind that just because someone has very firmly embraced these ideas that seem to be illogically inconsistent or factually incorrect, first of all, does not mean that they are incapable of being logically consistent or factually correct. It just means that there must be something else going on there. And so rather than seeing that as kind of a, this person is just not willing to be reasoned with and they just can’t deal with reasoned thinking or anything or anything like that, but to see that and just think, okay, red flag, there’s something else at stake here. I mean that is something that has been really helpful for me even in dealing with others since then is recognizing that it wasn’t that I was incapable of spotting logical errors or anything like that. It was that there was something else going on there. And so just recognizing that in a person and realizing that, okay, there will be time for this, to discuss facts and evidence later. But first what they need is someone to listen, probably, and someone to care. And for them to be very sure that you do care.

And just just be patient and answer questions as they come up. But just really recognizing what the root of the issue is behind that and, and then know that if you make yourself be this sort of trustworthy person that someone can bring questions to, eventually they will and they will start to be more factual or evidential or reasonable questions. But if at first they aren’t, it’s probably because there’s just a lot more that they need to work through first.

And I would say be honored that they came and talked to you about it cause it was probably very scary. And don’t feel the need to have all the answers, similarly, if they’re asking questions that you don’t know the answers to and maybe they just wanted a listening ear and that it’s ok if you don’t, if you’re not an expert in it or anything. Or it’s okay if you don’t have the right resource to plug them into to get their questions answered. But just letting them know that you are there for them and that you want what’s best for them, as well, and that they can continue to, to wrestle with it and to try to find out what the truth is. Because I think that a lot of people who probably are going through this kind of a thing don’t feel like they can ever say anything about it because that was kind of my experience is that there were very few people I felt like I could actually talk to about it. Not necessarily, I thought they would cast me out of the church or anything for having doubts or something like that. But just that I don’t really think that there’s anybody who would understand or I don’t know what they would do if I said something about this. And I don’t think it would be helpful because I don’t think they’ll really listen and that kind of a thing. And if we can start trying to change that sort of climate, that will be helpful for all of us. And in more topics than just this one. Yep. I think that’s about it. 

Credits

BioLogos:

Many thanks to both Garrett and Amanda for talking to us about their personal journeys. This is our last episode of 2019. We’ll be taking a short break over the holidays but we’ll be back with more episodes next year.

Language of God is produced by BioLogos. It has been funded in part by the John Templeton Foundation and more than 300 individuals who donated to our crowdfunding campaign. Language of God is produced and mixed by Colin Hoogerwerf (that’s me). Our theme song is by Breakmaster Cylinder.

We had help from Truth Works Media and our previous intern Nathan Mulder for the interviews in the middle of this episode. 

We are produced out of the BioLogos offices in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you have questions or want to join in a conversation about this episodes find a link in the show notes for the BioLogos forum. Find more episodes of Language of God on your favorite podcast app or at our website, biologos.org, where you’ll find tons of great articles and resources on faith and science. Thanks for listening!


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