Jeremy Smith: I Disagree with Dr. Swamidass

My friend, Jeremy Smith, runs FaithAscent, and took the risk of inviting as a speaker me to their high school camp (Base Camp) for two years in a row. This month, I am keynoting their fundraising banquet, and here is how he announced it. This article is going to be of interest to many here, in light of several parallel conversations (@AJRoberts, @deuteroKJ, @pevaquark, @TWReynolds, @rcohlers, @LTBaxter, @Philosurfer, @joel.oesch, @Ronald_Cram, @purposenation ). I’m going to bold a major point of agreement I think is particularly important.

I Disagree With Dr. S. Joshua Swamidass…

S. Joshua Swamidass MD Ph.D. and Faith Ascent Ministries Director, Jeremy R. Smith.

I first met S. Joshua Swamidass MD, Ph.D. in 2016 at our monthly Reasonable Faith meeting. After learning that he was a professor at Washington University here in St. Louis, I asked him if he’d be willing to talk with me more about Christian teens and the challenges of University life. We shared a meal together at a little restaurant near his home in University City and we talked for a long time.

I discovered that our churches were different, our personal reactions to the riots in St Louis were different, and our views on the particulars of creation were different. In many respects, I thought Dr. Swamidass and I couldn’t be any more different. I remember leaving that meeting pondering the many things Dr. Swamidass and I disagreed on. But, at the same time, I was thrilled to meet someone who knew how to disagree so well. Shortly after that meeting, I asked him to be a panelist at a Faith Ascent seminar and a speaker at Base Camp!

To be clear, while we may disagree on a few non-essential matters Dr. Swamidass and I agree on the essentials of the historic Christian faith. More relevant to Faith Ascent’s mission, Josh and I also agree on these three critical issues:

1. Youth ministry is in serious need of a reformation.
2. Christians need to learn how to navigate disagreements better.
3. The central theme of the Christian gospel is not political or scientific. It is Christ prophesied, Christ crucified for our sins, and Christ resurrected and, now more than ever, we need to get this right.

Through these shared convictions Josh and I have grown closer both professionally and personally and I am very pleased to have him as the keynote speaker for our annual fundraising dinner on October 26, 2018. Together we’ll be asking and answering this critical question: What Guards a Student’s Faith?

Dr. Swamidass with astronomer and best-selling author Hugh Ross (Reasons to Believe).

In addition to his important work as Associate Professor of Laboratory and Genomic Medicine at Washington University in Saint Louis, MO. Dr. Swamidass was a featured speaker and panelist at Base Camp 2017 and 2018. He also speaks regularly for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and The Veritas Forum. He served as a Science Advisor to Concordia Seminary for AAAS Science for Seminaries and is a core member of The Carver Project.

Dr. Swamidass’ recent scientific work has built unexpected bridges between all sides of the origins debate by demonstrating that Adam and Eve, ancestors of us all, could have been de novo created less than 10,000 years ago somewhere in the Middle East. This work was presented, along with a working theological model, to attendees of The Dabar Conference last summer.

Dr. Swamidass with William Lane Craig (Reasonable Faith), Richard Schultz (Wheaton College), Dick Averbeck (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), Jack Collins (@jack.collins, Covenant Theological Seminary), and Ken Keathley (@kkeathley, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) at the Dabar Conference.

This brought high visibility to Dr. Swamidass, especially after Christian Apologist, William Lane Craig began a two year project on the science of Adam. Interacting directly with Dr. Swamidass’s work, Craig said this: “…some scientific popularizers have claimed that the genetic diversity of the present human population could not have arisen from an isolated primordial pair. Joshua Swamidass, a geneticist from Washington University… helped me to understand that this claim is completely wrong-headed.”>

Dr. Swamidass with FABC2018 students (working overtime answering questions).

For more information about Dr. Swamidass, dinner details, and sponsorship opportunities click here or scroll below. Can’t make the dinner? Please consider making a donation to this critical mission.

In grace,

Jeremy Smith
Executive Director
Faith Ascent Ministries


Jeremy, also, is not alone. Crosswise also took real risks inviting me too: Daniel Deen and Joel Oesch: The Lutheran Voice and Crosswise Institute.


Glad to partner with you (Josh) in this way. It wasn’t without controversy but we’ve seen a lot of fruit as a result of our various events featuring you. From Base camp 2017 and 2018 to our panel seminar with PCCA I’m really glad to have your position fairly and accurately represented in these conversations.


Thumbs up and blessings all 'round!


Glad you could join us @JSmith. I am looking forward to having an exchange with you on this topic. A few questions…

  1. BaseCamp is your organization’s reason for being, and very high visibility for you. Why did you decide to invite me as a speaker?

  2. How did the students and donors respond to this risky decision by you?

  3. Wy do you think it was all worth the risk?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Thanks.

My answers below…

1. Base Camp is your organization’s reason for being, and very high visibility for you. Why did you decide to invite me as a speaker?

Our mission is to reduce the number of professing Christian teens abandoning their beliefs in college and disengaging from the church. Base Camp is one of several programs including seminars and small groups designed to help college bound Christian teens to think through what they believe and why it’s believable. But yes, Base Camp is our biggest event of the year and our flag ship program for sure. We invited you because, in addition to questions about philosophy, history, culture, and sexuality, SCIENCE can be a big stumbling block for young Christians. Every year we invite qualified PhD’s, professors, authors, and pastors to Base Camp to teach and answer really heavy questions. We typically have 100+ students (ages 16-18), 15+ speakers, and 20+ lectures and panel discussions per camp.

Being a denominationally neutral ministry we are very open to different ideas and opinions under the broad umbrella of historic orthodoxy. As a matter of fact, we are convinced that exposing students to a wide range of Christian opinions on secondary doctrines and divisive topics is extremely helpful. There are faithful and smart men and women who love Jesus, love their churches, and hold the Bible in the highest regard but have slightly different perspectives. We really want our students to see and experience this brand of diversity before they leave their respective Christian bubbles.

As you know, differing perspectives on the age of the earth, evolution, and interpretations of Genesis have a tendency to divide Christians. Almost every year we have speakers with differing opinions on these matters representing their opinions in panel discussions and stand alone talks. We always make room for ID, YEC, and OEC perspectives but, after meeting you, I was convinced that we needed to do a better job of representing the theory of evolution. We always tell students to seek out the most competent representatives for an opposing position. Agree or disagree, I wanted to practice what I preached.

2. How did the students and donors respond to this risky decision by you?

Well let me start by saying that even our staff and board have a wide range of opinions on this topic. That’s helpful. As the Executive Director I have my board’s support in the decisions I make regarding the teaching ministry and we all agree that non-essential issues are important to discuss and debate but not to divide over. I am fortunate in this way.

To your question, the 200+ students we surveyed from 2017 and 2018 were BLOWN AWAY (in the most positive sense) by your participation on the panel discussions and your stand alone talks. Very few, if any, left believing “evolution is true top to bottom” but that wasn’t the point you were trying to make at all. The point you (and other panelists) made and the point that landed was that all Christians can and should lock arms on the essentials and all Christians can debate and even fight a little on the non-essentials without dividing.

Of course, I did have a few parents, donors, and past speakers express some concern. I had to do some email and phone call damage control behind the scenes but the trust I’ve earned with our parents and donors went a long way I think. If we’re going to lose any funding remains to be seen. Many of our major gifts are annual and I won’t be able to accurately assess any negative impact until December 31, 2018. Regardless, the positive feedback from insiders and outsiders I received was far greater. I was surprised to learn that even those who strongly disagree with your position were happy to know that we created space for you to express it and defend it.

3. Why do you think it was all worth the risk?

At the end of the day, controversy aside, I think you and the team clearly communicated that all BIBLE BELIEVEING Christians and many non-Christians can agree on these essential truths with regard to origins: 1. Nothing to something is a miracle. 2. Something to life is a miracle. 3. Life to mankind is a miracle. 4. Mankind is not like other life in profound and mysterious ways. (Sure there’s more to it but that summary stuck with me.)

Personally, just having that simple summary tucked away in mind, ready to use in heated conversations, was worth the risk. In my own circle of influence, with Christians and non-Christians, I’ve already seen this summary building bridges and closing gaps. Beyond that, I’m seeing real fruit in our personal and professional relationship working out towards His glory and our good.

Thanks for asking Josh…


@JSmith what a great night today. It was video taped, and I hope to share the video here when it is available. Can you summarize for Peaceful Science community what happened?

One of the most hilarious things of the night was a slide that Jeremy put up on the screen, with the caption:

Bill Nye dressing up as a scientist for halloween.

I laughed very loudly. I’m not sure if everyone go the joke. I fear many of them might have actually thought he is a scientist.



One week ago, On Oct 26th, 2018, confessing Christian and confessing scientist, S. Joshua Swamidass MD, PhD, shared a dangerous idea with over 200 people at our annual fundraising dinner. Based on post-dinner feedback, it seems almost everyone was swayed toward Josh’s point of view by his persuasive keynote speech, including me.

On Friday, at around 7:45 PM, Josh shocked and amazed our audience of pastors, parents, students, and donors by saying, "[At Base Camp] you’re letting your kids go to a place that is dangerous… in all the right ways. The students encounter a community of believers that are unthreatened by questions and disagreements. This is a good thing."

Other Faith Ascent speakers and I may disagree with Josh on a few non-essential particulars. However, we all agree on the essentials of the historic Christian faith and we all agree that students are better prepared for a university setting after being exposed to a wide range of answers to a wide range of questions while emphasizing sound Biblical hermeneutics, sound Biblical exegesis, and the centrality of Jesus to the Christian faith. If these are dangerous views, we certainly are not a “safe” ministry.

Sean McDowell, PhD shared a similarly dangerous view at our 2015 fundraising dinner. He said, A recent study showed that creating space for students to doubt and ask questions is critical. Ministries like Faith Ascent take students seriously and help them to think through the big questions.”
Dangerous Ideas & Dinner Donations

Reminds me of what Sean McDowell has said elsewhere:

This is how FaithAscent explains it to their audience:

Why does Faith Ascent have so many different professors, pastors, and teachers on the speaking team?
Our programs are designed to prepare students for the real challenges they’re likely to encounter at the university level. Best practices and common sense suggest that students are better prepared for a university setting after being exposed to a range of different positions while emphasizing sound Biblical hermeneutics, sound Biblical exegesis, and, most importantly, the centrality of Jesus to the Christian faith. This exposure fosters confident curiosity and thoughtfulness as students work out their own positions on debatable matters. Remember, the word “university” is derived from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium , which roughly means “community of teachers and scholars.” Exposure to debatable matters within the Church’s “university” draws us back to confidence in the person of Jesus and the centrality of The Gospel.

Great job @JSmith.


Nice work, Joshua. Keep it up and some day you will get a secular humanist award for helping all those indoctrined, science misinformed YECs.


Who knew that the missing ingredient was an encounter with Jesus? :slight_smile:

Also, to help explain to observers confused by this, I’m hopeful about A Secular-Confessional Society.

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Here is the video, just posted by @JSmith:

I note that my verbal ticks were higher than normal. I think I was nervous about Hong Kong. Pulled an all nighter right after this, and jumped on a plane at 6:00 am the next morning. Check out FaithAscent. This is an important ministry, doing good work, and is making space for good science in audience that often distrust it.


I think you did well despite the jetlag. You keep doing talks like this you will certainly get a secular humanist award. :sunglasses:


You did a great job Josh!

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I’m not sure how well the students really buy it though. When I talk to their base, they have a hard time sustatin the party line: Jeremy Smith: I Disagree with Dr. Swamidass.

2 posts were merged into an existing topic: David MacMillan: Ham’s Ark Embraces Evolution