• My Letter to a Pastor, Re: “Evolutionists”

    I posted a few weeks ago that I started attending church services with my wife and kids. I go purely to be with my family. The services are awful, from the overwrought worship music to the uncomfortable mentions of “the Enemy” that surface in every sermon.

    Last week, a special pastor presented on his sense of dinosaurs. This guy is an Answers in Genesis type, a young Earth creationist, who says things like dinosaurs did not evolve into birds, that a few kinds of dinosaurs sailed aboard Noah’s Ark (only to die out because they couldn’t stand the new plants), that the Grand Canyon shows evidence of one or more global floods, and that ancient and medieval artwork indicates that dinosaurs co-existed with humans.

    This is all standard YEC stuff. However, what I found really objectionable was the pastor’s repeated use of the term “evolutionists,” a word never defined but referring to unnamed scientists who (I suppose) think evolution (not defined) is true and also (apparently) hate the Bible.

    The pastor’s use of the term bothered me enough so that I found his email address and sent the following note:

    Pastor,

    I was in the audience for one of your presentations at C– Chapel in C– last Sunday morning. You touched on many topics, from the relationship between dinosaurs and birds to dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark to dinosaurs and humans living in the same times and places.

    However, I feel compelled to email you not about the specific claims you made or the different artifacts you discussed. Anyone who is curious can do Internet searches on the same claims and artifacts and get a range of different perspectives on them. Instead, I am emailing to ask you to stop talking about “evolutionists” in your presentations.

    In the sermon of yours that I attended, you used the word “evolutionist” frequently — although, incidentally, I don’t believe I heard you present a clear definition/explanation of what the theory of evolution (as currently conceived) covers and describes. You used the word with obvious negative connotations and portrayed “evolutionists” as operating with a deliberate anti-Bible or anti-religious agenda, as if they performed science intentionally and mainly to undermine Judeo-Islamic-Christian religious beliefs.

    In other words, it seems to me that you characterize evolutionists as villains in your larger argument and narrative on the compatibility of the Bible and science. I find this characterization unfair, especially when actual biologists, zoologists, or geologists are not present to express a professional view of topics that reside in their chosen lifelong areas of expertise.

    I am also struck that your characterizations make evolutionists a scapegoat of sorts for the general decline of the Bible’s influence in the West. In my view, the Bible (by which I mean some combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Catholic/Protestant New Testament) is losing influence and credibility by its own words and its champions’ actions. As far as I am concerned, the Bible needs more defense against itself and its adherents than against any of the physical and natural scientific disciplines.

    My point to you, my only point, is that labeling a vague set of people as the “them” opposed to your “us” is unbecoming these days. We live in times when it’s more important than ever to use words to build people up rather than tear them down. I imagine that as a Pastor, you must feel a personal responsibility to be a light in the congregations, encouraging believers to hold their faiths proudly and to interact positively with all — yes, even with people who have reasons to reject this or that faith, or all faiths.

    Please consider dropping “evolutionists” from your talks and making them the bad guys. You can make your arguments and your points without scapegoating other human beings.

    Thanks for thinking it over.

    Larry Tanner

    Assuming the pastor reads the email (I have so far received no acknowledgment or response), I cannot imagine if he will modify his behavior or react in an unexpected way.

    But I heard something I found objectionable and spoke up. I think that’s a good thing.

    Category: Home LifeReligion

    Tags:

    Article by: Larry Tanner

    • Joe G

      Perhaps you should have referenced the alleged theory of evolution. I bet he can’t find it and I bet neither can you. Unguided/ blind watchmaker evolution isn’t science, Larry. It cannot be modelled. It does not produce any testable hypotheses nor predictions based on its proposed mechanisms. If “actual biologists, zoologists, or geologists” could support their claims then the Pastor would be wrong. But they can’t.

      BTW I read “Arrival of the Fittest” and it refutes JMS Pearce and his sidekick Andy Schueler wrt nested hierarchies.

    • lartanner

      No, referencing the theory would have been beside the point I wished to make — which concerned the pastor’s villainization of a vague group of people. I wanted to challenge him to be better in language, not contest his view of some artifacts.

    • Mister Two

      I believe they use the term “evolutionists” in trying to imply that it’s a religion. It’s also supposed to be a rejoinder to the term “creationist.”

    • Ryan

      I’d agree there’s no sense villainizing people for their scientific worldview or any other reason. It makes more sense to talk about the problems of a worldview itself, to critique its relative incoherence and lack of evidence, and contrast it with better alternatives. But as for people, we’re all in this together, seeking truth wherever the evidence leads. We ought to cling together and help each other in the search rather than throwing stones.

    • Gaujo

      Your writing a letter will be easily dismissed by the clergy as they are no doubt aware you are an atheist. You should go to a meeting when you have concerns, the bigger the better, and for goodness sake, get your family in a more reasonable church if you’re going to go! The vast majority of Christians these days acknowledge the reality of evolution. I mean the bible even says the orders of the animals being created as it matches the fossil records!