Date: 5 Jul 95
O.K. folks, hereʼs my former fundie story in a nutshell…
I was confirmed Catholic, stopped going to mass, then was “born again” after reciting the “sinnerʼs prayer” with my best friend at the time (we were in high school). And I began attending an independent fundamentalist church in town that was known for having a great preacher, Pastor Earl V. Comfort. I was rebaptized.
In college I was elected president of the most evangelical group on campus. I got into the charismatic scene, living room meetings, and Anglican charismatic prayer meetings. I also studied all the Christian apologists I could get my hands on, to try and convince fellow students and professors of the truth of Christianity. I read everything by C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton (about thirty books in all), all of Francis Schaeffer, some Os Guiness, Josh McDowell, and some Reformed Presbyterian writers too (who believed in the strictest “presuppositionist” apologetics). So, it was difficult for me to think my way out after having “thought my way in” so deeply.
I began corresponding with two former evangelical friends, both of whom had left the fold in college. One had opened up to a more mystical universal belief, and the other had read about two hundred or more volumes of historical criticism and was getting his Ph.D. in N.T. Theology. I was caught between a rock and a hard place. We exchanged probably over three hundred letters at this time, and about halfway through our discussion I began to read some of the books both of them suggested. My eyes were opened. Slowly at first. I tried holding onto a more moderate and liberal evangelicalism, a al Robert Farrar Capon and Alan Watts (the books written when he was still an Anglican minister), and Conrad Hyers (the humorous spiritual writer). But to no avail. One of the final breaks occurred after reading Thomas Paineʼs little monograph on the prophecies, and reading a Jewish scholarʼs book that also pointed out that the early Christians were lying about what the Old Testament plainly stated, in order to make it conform to “Jesusʼ life.”
From: Ed Babinski
Date: 5 Jul 95
Subject: RE: Leaving the Fold
Isnʼt the “Toronto Blessing” the “laughter blessing?” Just wondering. I was a charismatic for a while, and can still speak in tongues whenever I wish. I believe Rob Berry can too. Just a note to let you know that thereʼs two books written by a former Pentecostal minister, one of which is called Donʼt Call Me Brother, which discusses a lot of the different “blessings” in the charismatic/Pentecostal genre which made the rounds at Jim and Tammy Bakkerʼs religious amusement park. An edited version of Donʼt Call Me Brother is found in my own recent book, Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists, by Prometheus Books, copyright 1995, hardcover, 460 pages, acid free paper, photos, index, retails for $32.95 (USA)
Leaving the Fold includes over 30 testimonies by former fundamentalists who are now either moderate evangelicals, liberal Christians, ultra-liberals, Wiccans, mystics, agnostics, or atheists. They tell their own stories, just as they wish, explaining how they entered into fundamentalist Protestant Christianity, and why they left it. Itʼs a book for anyone seeking to understand their faith more and struggling with it, be they Christians, atheists, or members of other religions.
One testimony is by Charles Templeton, Billy Grahamʼs best friend during the Youth for Christ years, and a former fellow evangelist. Today, Templeton is a “reverent agnostic.” And thereʼs Sam Keenʼs story (he is the author of Faces of the Enemy, which was also a PBS special), and some historical figures like Americaʼs “Great Agnostic” (Robert Ingersoll), and H. P. Smith the Presbyterian biblical scholar who was booted out of his denomination in a famous “heresy” trial, and modern figures like the moderate evangelical Christian editor of The Door (a sort of Christian National Lampoon), Mike Yaconelli (who went to the fundamentalist institution, Bob Jones University), and Farrell Till, former Church of Christ minister and now editor of The Skeptical Review. Thereʼs a big bibliography with lots of other places to look for further testimonies, an appendix of quotations regarding fundamentalism, an extensive index, and a section on the history of fundamentalism which explains how liberal fundamentalism has grown over the centuries!
Phone Prometheus Books for a free catalog, at 1-800-421-0351 (24 hours).
Best, Ed B
I would be interested in hearing more about Edʼs “intellectual journey”. In particular if he went fairly directly from YEC to “liberal evangelicalism”, or did he pass through an extended “old-earth” Progressive Creationism stage? If so, what OEC/PC books did he read during that stage, and what were his main problems with them?
LOL (at “extended” old-earth stage — an unwitting pun perhaps?) Iʼm afraid that my old-earth stage did not drag on as long as that of say, Glenn Morton who went from young-earth to a “middle-earth” stage(no, not Tolkeinʼs middle earth but his compromise with the fact the he wanted an earth was young as he could get it, but honestly couldnʼt find arguments that would bring it down under a couple hundred thousand years old), which he maintained for a while before finally becoming an old earther (an earth billions of years old)
Source: Glenn Morton
I was still a young-earther after I graduated from college with a B.S. in biology, after which a moderate/liberal Christian friend (he was moderate but grew more liberal over time) lent me Bernard Rammʼs book on The Harmony of Science and Scripture to read, and also lent me the special “Noahʼs Ark” issue of Creation/Evolution journal (I think that the National Center for Science Education on the web still has copies of them for sale). I read both of them, and recall being affected by Rammʼs admission that more and more early ape and hominid skulls were being dug up every year. Ramm proved correct about that prediction, even though he wrote it in the 1950s. The “Noahʼs Ark” issue of Creation/Evolution was my introduction to questions being asked of the Noahʼs ark story and of Flood geology. Prior to that I thought all the questions were being raised concerning modern geology. With the aid of those books I began to understand that my own side contained “difficulties” rather than simply all the difficulties lying on the side of old-earthers and evolutionists. I canʼt remember all the old-earth books I read, but two by Dan Wonderly stand out, his early work, Godʼs Time Records in Ancient Sediments, and also his later work, Neglect of Geologic Data (taking the young-earthers to task, Wonderly built his old-earth arguments on phenomena that take a lot of time to form, like fine clay particles that require still water and a lot of time to settle and yet thereʼs shale deposits from clay many feet thick sandwiched in places in the geologic record. And the time it takes microscopic organisms to form microscopic calcium-rich “shells” and then die and have their shells settle on the waterʼs bottom and form limestone many feet thick, even pelletized limestone from the fecal pellets of fish who ingested the microscopic organisms and then their fecal pellets collected in layers many feet thick. And the time it takes corals to grow and where they are found in the fossil record in situ, and other such arguments. Danʼs evangelical commitment and reasonable arguments even somewhat moved Henry Morris the young-earther because in Morrisʼs early works, Danʼs books are the only “old-earth” books Morris mentioned in his bibliographies. Of course at that early time, when Morrisʼs book, The Genesis Flood was just catching on in the mid-60s and early 1970s among conservative Christians, there were not a lot of geologists who thought it seemly to devote time to answering Morrisʼs arguments. Dan was one of the first to point out that Morris assumed trilobites were heavy creatures and hence sunk to the bottom of the Floodʼs “geologic column” very fast, but Dan corrected Morris and pointed out that paleontologists actually assumed that trilobites were probably as light as todayʼs sandcrabs. (I wonder if Morris assumed that a fossil of a creature was as heavy as the creature itself in the case of trilobites? Quite a blind spot Iʼd say, whatever Morrisʼs reasons.)
I have also read some other old-earth works, including one by Pattle Pun, and Alan Haywardʼs book, Creation and Evolution, and John Weisterʼs book on Genesis 1 and science.
What problems did I see with old-earth books? None concerning the old-earth science they contained. It was their attempts at a scientifically accommodating theology that I began to have a problem with. I knew the young-earth reasons for assuming that the creation account spoke of six literal earth days with evenings and mornings, even linked to manʼs work week in a verse in Exodus. And although I had read a number of attempts to harmonize the Scriptural account of creation with an old-earth, none of them seemed convincing. I mean, fruit trees created a day before the sun moon and stars? (Yes, I knew of the old-earth harmonization attempt that declared the sun, moon and stars “appeared” on day four as seen by an earthly observer through a sky in which the clouds had just broken, so it was argued, they were not “made and set” as it literally says in Genesis on day four. But to make the harmonization work you have to neglect the plain words that they were “made and set into the firmament above the earth.” And you have to delegate day four of creation as a day when God did little, a day of “rest” in the Middle of the creation week when He simply let the clouds roll by.
I also began to research the comparative ancient near eastern history of the Genesis creation account (writing a manuscript, “Does the Bible Teach Scientific Creationism?” that I sent to Dr. Henry Morris my former young-earth hero), to tell him that I had found nothing scientific in the Genesis account, nor in a lot of other verses in the Bible where I had previously seen “modern science in the Bible.” Instead, I began to see the creation week as a reflection of the ancient notion of the earthʼs primacy, everything created in earth days, in earth evenings and mornings, everything created for the earth, with the sun moon and stars as light bulbs made and set above the earth only after the earth was brought forth first, and to light the earth and for signs and seasons on the earth below.
Then came the creation of the fish and birds a day before the creation of land critters. Fish and birds together? This was apparently done to fill the two regions created after the waters were divided on day two, the sea and the sky “and the birds flew across the face of the firmament.” So Day Two of Creation parallels Day Five. But it seemed to me a poetic parallel having little to do with the actual order of appearances of creatures in the geologic record with fish first, then land animals, and birds later. And what about creating fruit trees and seed-bearing plants three days before creeping things (including the pollinating insects that such plants required).
Those are some of the problems I began having with the Biblical creation account, it was strictly a miraculous account with the earth being primary in creation with everything created for it alone, and in six earth days. The parallels between the Bibleʼs account and other ancient near eastern accounts were stunning and striking, especially in the ways they all assumed a flat earth and the earthʼs primacy in all of creation with the heavens created just for the earth and after it, and animals created by divine fiat out of the ground.
Such realizations led me at that time to abandon trying to harmonize Genesis with modern science, though I had read a number of attempted harmonizations. And there was the added difficulty of harmonizing the sequence of Gen. 1 with Gen. 2, since Gen. 2 seems to reverse certain sequences in Gen. 1.
The articles of the evangelical Christian Paul Seeley have served to convince me further that Genesis is not dealing with science at all. Seeleyʼs articles questioned a lot of old-earth attempts at harmonization, like his article on “Concordism and Genesis 1.” He is a member of ASA, an evangelical group of Christians who work in scientific fields, and his articles have appeared even in the conservative Westminster Theological Journal (Seeleyʼs alma mater). His best and longest articles are not presently on the web, though a number of them are available at the ASA website.
(You can also google search using) “Paul Seeley” creation (keep the quotations around his name)
Paul also sent me e-copies of his non-web published pieces for me to distribute to whomever is interested in what the Bible says concerning creation, its shape, age, and mode of creation. He has also researched what the church fathers taught (in his article on “Concordism and Genesis 1”). And written a new article on the Tower of Babel (that I also have an e-copy of). Even Biblia Sacra, the Dallas Theological Seminary publication couldnʼt fault him for his historical research though they disagreed with his conclusions. And at least one Christian homeschool group has altered their curriculum based on the impact his articles have had.
Paul revealed to me recently that “Evangelicals now have a commentary on Genesis available which not only takes the ancient Near Eastern context of Genesis seriously, itʼs stance on the relation of science to Scripture is very much in line with a lot of ASA thinking. It approvingly cites and quotes Howard Van Till, Glenn Morton, and myself, and perhaps others of the the ASA; and, it speaks specifically though not in an extended way against creation science. It is Genesis, The NIV Application Commentary by John H. Walton (past professor of OT at Moody Bible Institute, and now at Wheaton), published by Zondervan, 2001. Although it is not a technical commentary like Gordon Wenhamʼs, it is a solid scholarly piece of work. 759 pages, nearly half of which deal with Gen 1-11.”
I found out about Paul and his articles soon after writing “Does the Bible Teach Scientific Creationism?” and advertising it in my first zine in the mid 1980s, Theistic Evolutionistsʼ Forum. The zine contained articles by old-earth creationists and theistic evolutionists and covered both the creation account in the Bible and evolutionary science and critiqued various young-earth views. I sent free copies of the first few issues out to a number of creationist organizations. So I have as I said read, interacted with, and exchanged info with old-earthers. One issue of the zine also highlighted evidence for an old-earth and for evolution. There was a sister zine as well, Monkeyʼs Uncle. I did not argue for atheism in that zine, and donʼt argue for atheism today, despite all the questions I have regarding the “Design” hypothesis. After editing Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists in 1995, I couldnʼt resist editing a new zine, Cretinism or Evilution for about two and a half years. It was originally in paper, but some readers contacted me via email and asked permission to post them at the Talk.origins archive.
The increasing visibility of the Intelligent Design movement is interesting. I think it evolved because there was a niche for it, Darwinially speaking. There never was such a clearing house of theists before, YECs, OECs, TEs, who sincerely want science to prove the certainty of Godʼs existence, indeed, His necessity, and wipe the smiles off of every “presumptuous” atheist on earth. Seems to me like the theists who proudly declare themselves I.D.ers are doing it for the same reasons that people moving west would draw their wagons in a circle when Indians attacked. Science is universal now, people of all religions and non-religions the world round practice radiometric dating, dig for fossils in geologically appropriate areas and keep finding more interesting ones in the right places, and there are journals and institutes that study genetics, pseudogenes, retroviral genes, geology, paleontology, etc., that simply study the earth without mentioning “God” at all in journal after journal, conference after conference, article after article. They seem to get along pretty fine, those scientists, even atheists, agnostics, and all religious believing scientists. But I.Ders want more that this vast enterprise that doesnʼt highlight faith or religion, and they are highly sensitive whenever an agnostic or atheistic scientist spouts his views in essays or books about how he didnʼt find God in the details, but instead found natural connections. They are sensitive to their theism not being written into scientific treatises like Newton used to do. They want to make some noise for God in science. And they have an institute of their own, and talk scientific jargon, and claim they are going to uncover proofs of the truth of the Ages, of God, but right now they are simply gnawing on Darwinʼs trousers, attacking the “icons” of evolution. Do they have any genuine goal except to gnaw on Darwinʼs trousers together and Darwin-bait until their hearts content? Doing it all for a “God” who wonʼt help them out a bit even though some I.D.ers claims He popped millions of new species into existence over geologic time, or massively magically changed one species after another over geologic time. Still, this same God wonʼt put on a show right before modern day scientists and magically design one more new thing so they can see something pop or massively change right before their eyes? (He did it for Elijah and the prophets of Baal, a “show” that proved his point.)
Behe tries to gnaw Darwinʼs trousers too, mentioning how irreducibly complex many things in nature seem to him. But then Dr. Doolittle comes along and starts to show how the blood clotting mechanism could have evolved. Oops, Behe didnʼt know THAT! Beheʼs Empty Box.
Denton comes along and does some gnawing, trying out his “typological model” and boasting that there is no genealogical connection whatsoever — “no functional continuum” — between major “macro-evolutionary” groups. Oops, Denton admits to an interviewer he didnʼt know the full story about the mammal-like reptiles in the fossil record. And he says he would have written his book differently had he known that! He also discovers that his cytochrome-C arguments were wrongfully employed. He goes back to the drawing board and comes out with a second book advocating a Deistic anthropic principle. According to his latest view accepts a “tree of related [genomic] sequences that can all be interconverted via a series of tiny incremental NATURAL [my emphasis] steps.” So Denton appears to have done an “about face.” He now accepts something that he insisted before was utterly impossible, i.e., “a functional continuum” of common ancestry including “macroevolution.”
Berlinski, the philosopher cum mathematician cum theologian of the I.D. crusade gnaws on numbers. Mathematicians and computer scientists and statisticians are not impressed by Berlinskiʼs arguments and complain about his elementary errors, inaccuracies, misunderstandings, and lack of knowledge of the relevant literature, even literature stretching back over 40 years ago: A review of William DembskIʼs “Intelligent Design” by Gert Korthof
William Dembski. No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased Without Intelligence. Rowman and Littlefield. 2002 A Review by Jeffrey Shallit. Department of Computer Science. University of Waterloo. Waterloo, Ontario.
Personally, I have trouble with the fact that I.D.ers never defend any particular age of the earth or even manner of the Designer working. He could have popped new kinds into existence anytime anywhere, or massively changed one species into another kind, anytime, anywhere. Instead, he kept to the standard evolutionary script:
Employed evolutionary-like jury-rigged “designs” that seem less than perfect and less than wonderful. In fact some seem not only unimpressively awkward but also hideous.
Employed massive extinctions (creating new designs just to watch them die out, then designing new ones just to died out again and again — dinosaurs gone — marsupials mainly gone except in Australia and small populations found elsewhere on earth — millions of other species wiped out over geologic time either singly or in massive extinctions — all long before man arrived on the scene).
Employed ever escalating “arms races” (increasingly more hardy designs to defeat other designs, from the microscopic world to the macroscopic world)
Designed feather-like scales and/or feathers on bi-pedal dinos before creating winged dinos. Designed the first winged dinos far less impressively than later dinos, i.e., the earliest winged dinos had small keel bones, thick triangular reptilian skulls with teeth, solid bones, long boney tails (that create drag), unfused metacarpals, and other traits that made the first feathered fliers less adept than modern fliers with their smooth helmeted skulls, hollow bones, pigostyle tail stumps, fused metacarpals and enormous keel bones. Also designed apparently designed the lung and even the first simple boney feet in fish before he Designed the first amphibians. And even left ventral fish-like tails on the earliest fish-like amphibians.
The Designer didnʼt clean up the genome either, allowing pseudogenes, along with viral and even bacterial DNA to accumulate in genomes over time — the same genomic junk being found in critters that evolutionists believe shared common descent based on the fossil record and comparative anatomy. Didnʼt clean up the chromosomes either as can be seen by comparing manʼs with his closest living relative, the chimpanzee. Man has evidence inside chromosome no.2 that shows it was probably the result of two chimp chromosomes that fused at some point. You normally donʼt find telomeres inside a chromosome but at its ends. You normally donʼt find the remnants of centromeres above and below the central centromere of a chromosome unless of course it came about via the fusion of two separate chromosomes each with itʼs own centromere. A sloppy fusion by a sloppy “Designer.”
Life is fecundant beyond what Iʼd expect in a harmonious balanced design, in fact life is fecundant to the point of over abundance, perhaps to the point of obscenity, creatures always moving into new niches, taking them over, new species found in isolated caves in Yugoslavia, or creatures living near deep sea vents (creatures not apparently necessary to life above the deep sea level since they live off of bacteria that live off of sulpherous chemicals emitted by those vents). Perhaps weʼll discover simple life forms living on other planets or the moons of other planets (again serving no designed purpose, especially for life on earth, indeed, not even being mentioned in the Genesis creation account which only mentioned life on earth). Why so many seeds and sperms and eggs and fertilized eggs, etc. produced by each creature (the majority of which simply die)? If multiplicity is so essential to the Designerʼs plan does that mean the Designer was unable to Design things to have a relatively smaller number of healthy offspring instead of this huge scattershot approach toward providing for each new generation? Hereʼs point #6 in a nutshell: Even WITH the enormous potential of life to reproduce way beyond its means, most creatures STILL go extinct over geologic time to be replaced by new designs! (Sound fishily like Darwinism to me.)
Iʼve spoken many times with the prominent I.D.er Paul Nelson, and he assures me that unless I.D. comes up with some universally recognizable positive evidence for I.D. along with some genuine research program of its own (instead of just gnawing at Darwinʼs trousers) it will wind up going the way of the Dodo. I corrected him and pointed out that manʼs mind was more flexible than the Dodoʼs, and that I.D. fills a niche that unites a lot of trouser gnawers.
Do I think that Darwinism holds all the answers? No. But the evidence for common descent, along with the six categories mentioned above do raise questions that I think I.D.ers lack satisfactory answers to, unless they are willing to compromise and consider their “Designer” to be more of a “Tinkerer.” *smile* In which case, they would come eerily close to Darwinʼs views.
Best, EdLabels:common ancestor, common ancestry, darwin, darwinism, evolution, fundamentalism, fundamentalist, human genome, old earth, testimony former christian, young earth creationism
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