In my last post I kind of poked at those who use ridiculous notions of socialization to criticize homeschooling. Today, I’m going to sharpen my stick and point it in the direction of some of my fellow homeschoolers. It is my firm belief that an unfortunate number of Christian homeschoolers are putting their child’s future spiritual walk at risk in service to an idea which is not even necessary to the faith. I am talking, of course, about those who are teaching their children a from a creationist, anti-evolutionary POV. (Of course there are parents and churches who are teaching kids who aren’t being homeschooled the same things, but for the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to focus on homeschoolers who are doing this.)
Of course, one of the primary reasons some Christian homeschoolers teach their children that evolution, the big bang and such are wrong, is because they feel an obligation to inculcate a strong faith in their children. However, it is my very strong opinion, backed up by the experiences of many people who have been down this road themselves, that these parents are actually sowing the seeds of the destruction of their children’s faith in the future.
Those who are teaching their children using creationist curriculum are in particular danger of setting their children up for this fall. To see why, I’d like to offer a challenge. Take your child’s creationist materials and look at whatever footnotes and references are provided. Now take an evening and look up the names of the authors cited. Odds are excellent that virtually all of the authors are creationist scientists. Now, take the names of any mainstream scientists who are quoted or whose work is referenced and attempt to track down their work. Specifically, see if you can find the particular quotes used in your child’s materials. Google books can be a great way of doing this. Now, read through whatever you can find with an eye towards evaluating the accuracy of the quotes provided (ie are words changed, relevant sections replaced by “. . .”). Also try and honestly evaluate if the author of your child’s materials has accurately conveyed the substance of what the author is saying.
If you drink, you may want to keep some strong drink nearby to sustain yourself during this process, because I promise you, you will not be happy with what you find. Unfortunately, the only way creationist materials are able to create the appearance of validity is by only referring to the work of “creation scientists” (who don’t do research, BTW. Their work is limited to analyzing the work of others to look for potential holes which might be able to be seen as supporting a creationist perspective. This is not science.). When creationist materials do refer to the work of mainstream scientists, conducting actual research, they almost uniformly misquote and misrepresent them. If you do not believe me, then take a weekend or two and do the research yourself. The internet is a wonderful tool.
Now, if you take the time to actually look at the methods used to source creationist materials, you should already be disturbed by the idea that these purportedly Christian groups who produce such materials indulge in such blatant dishonesty to sustain their ideas. An idea which is true should not depend on deception. And if you can bring yourself to this point, perhaps the danger this teaching poses to your child will start to become clearer to you.
All to often, not only do creationist materials rely on deception, but they set up a dangerous and false dichotomy; one is either a Christian who embraces literal biblical creationism and rejects evolution or one is a fake Christian or atheist. Even if you are absolutely certain that biblical creationism is scientific fact, I think it would be foolish not to consider for a moment what would happen if your child, presented with the evidence which has been uniformly accepted by mainstream science, begins to question the veracity of creationist science. Are you setting your child up to experience a crisis, not only of trust in a particular set of beliefs about how God created the world, but in his or her faith in Christianity, the bible and God altogether? If you are educating your child to think that biblical creationism is the only acceptable opinion for a Christian to hold, then odds are pretty good that you are sowing the seeds of their spiritual destruction. Today, you may be able to teach your child creation science, as told from the perspective of creation scientist, but as they move out into the wider world, especially as science becomes more and more important to our everyday lives, this belief system will not be able to continue unchallenged. Even Christian colleges teach evolution, the big bang and old earth creation as scientific fact.
This has happened to many people.
Glen Morton who published more than twenty articles in the Creation Science Research Quarterly in the 80s says:
The data I was seeing at work was not agreeing with what I had been taught as a Christian. Doubts about what I was writing and teaching began to grow. . . day after day, my job forced me to confront that awful data. . . Eventually, by 1994 I was through with young-earth creationism. Nothing that young-earth creationists had taught me about geology had turned out to be true. I took a poll of all eight of the graduates from ICR’s school who had gone into the oil industry and were working for various companies. I asked them one question, “From your oil industry experience, did any fact that you were taught at ICR, which challenged current geological thinking, turn out in the long run to be true?” That is a very simple question. One man, who worked for a major oil company, grew very silent on the phone, sighed, and softly said, “No!” A very close friend that I had hired, after hearing the question, exclaimed, “Wait a minute. There has to be one!” But he could not name one. No one else could either.
Being through with creationism, I was almost through with Christianity. I was thoroughly indoctrinated to believe that if the earth were not young and the flood not global, then the Bible was false. I was on the very verge of becoming an atheist. [Emphasis mine]
Unfortunately, there are many who experienced the same thing who ended up leaving the faith altogether. Now, if you are a parent who is teaching your child creation science, are you prepared to say that insisting that they accept creation science as a essential belief of Christianity is really worth running the risk them of losing their faith altogether? It sure isn’t for me and this is one the primary reasons I will not even allow my children to be exposed to creationist teachings until they have a sound enough grounding in real science not to be tempted by these ideas out of a misplaced sense of Christian duty.
Now what I want to be clear about is that it is not learning about or accepting evolution and such which puts a person’s faith at risk. There are many faithful Christians who have no problem maintaining their faith while still accepting scientific findings. This includes a good number of scientists who see their work as uncovering the methods by which God chooses to work. What puts people’s faith at risk is creating the false dichotomy that one is either a Christian who accepts the biblical account of creation as being literally true (an odd idea in itself given that there are two biblical accounts of creation) or you accept science and are an atheist or weak Christian. By creating this false dichotomy, too many people are handing off to their children a faith built not on Christ alone, but on a particular interpretation of the Christian faith. A faith built on Christ alone will stand up to anything. A faith built on adherence to a particular set of ideas will fall when those ideas do.
Now, some who read this may not be teaching their kids strict biblical creationism, but instead are putting faith in Intelligent Design. Let me be clear that you to, are putting your child’s spiritual well being at risk. One of the main justifications for Intelligent Design is the idea that there are certain parts of creation which are too complex to have developed incrementally. Some cells, for example are seen to be so complex that if they were altered at all, they would not function, therefore these must be evidence for the intervention of a creator. However, as science advances, more and more of these things are being explained. And if you have been pointing to the gaps and telling your child, “see? That’s where God intervened”, then each time one of these gaps is closed, God is diminished. At some point, the gaps will become few and far enough apart as to render God irrelevant. Surely this is not your intention, but when one looks at how quickly science has been filling in the seemingly unexplainable gaps in our knowledge over the last 100 years, it is fool hardy to think the next hundred years won’t hold more of the same.
As a homeschooling mom, I fully support the right of parents to teach their children as they see fit, even if they are teaching their kids something which I find objectionable or false. However, I am quite alarmed that so many Christian homeschoolers, who in my opinion are raising a generation of kids who can really be salt in light in our culture, are putting their children’s faith life – the foundation on which we would like to see a better world built – in such danger. If you are teaching your children creation science or intelligent design theory, I’m not saying you need to stop, although I vehemently disagree with what you are doing. What I would say is that if you are going to teach these things to your children, it is imperative that you not teach them that this is what “good Christians” believe. If this theory of how God created the world is true, then it will stand. If your children come to the conclusion that it is not, then it is wise to leave room for them to reject this one teaching without endangering their entire faith walk.
For a little bit on how the ancient Hebrews probably understood the creations stories in Genesis, see here.