Speaking at a Bob Jones Curriculum High School

Today I spoke to 500 6-12 grade students at a Christian School. They use the Bob Jones science curriculum. A large number of the kids are YEC.

They treated me with incredible respect. I explained my problems with Ken Ham’s castle metaphor, why I am a Christian, and that “secular” means “fair.” They had just learned about “fallen science” versus “biblical science”, and were pretty shocked when I compared science to a “secular” restaurant, that is there to treat people fairly.

Had about 3.5 hours with them for questions. Every question was about evolution, Adam and Eve, and Genesis. My book is going to be really helpful for this crowd. So interesting. The teachers were glad to have me and might have me back next year.

Remarkable. There is something good in this next generation of students.


@joshuahedlund, it turns out, was a student at this high school, I found out. Did you hear anything about it in your networks?


Yes, I don’t know what I have permission to share publicly but it sounded like the students were fascinated and at least some of the teachers were excited for the opportunity to encourage critical thinking in the students and expose them to different views. It is hard to overstate the magnitude of the event, as this is the same school where 15 years ago (wow, has it been that long!) we were repeatedly exposed to Ken Ham videos in the science classrooms, and Christians who believed in evolution (or even just deep time) - even merely as those to respectfully disagree with - were hardly understood to even exist at all. The general concepts of logical thinking and empirical evidence were encouraged at the school, but were generally deployed in the defense of a rather limited set of ideas.

So to welcome someone of Josh’s background “in the flesh” is astonishing and encouraging. I am only envious that the present students had the opportunity to have exposed so many false dichotomies in their thinking so much earlier than I did, and I am curious what kinds of questions I would have been asking if something similar had happened to me then.


@joshuahedlund they are still using Ken Ham science from K-10th grade.

I asked the croud, “no judgement, raise your hand if you like Ken Ham? Raise your hand if you do not?”

Most students raised no hand either time. The Senior class however, they loudly raised their hands on protest of Ham. I felt a bit uncomfortable for the handful of students rooting for Ham.

What do you make of this?

@jordan and @cwhenderson what do think about making one or two lesson curriculums for teachers in this context?

A great follow up question would be, aside from simply personality likes and dislikes, what they would articulate about their perception of this Christian brother, which informs their choice?
“Overconfident, combative, quick to judge, epistemologically narrow, an alarmist…” or whatever else?

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I’m interested enough to hear more about it.

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I am certain I was the first Christian most of them had ever met that affirms evolution.

I’m fairly certain the overwhelming emotion was surprise. After that, at least from what I saw, was an immense amount of relief. And a few students genuinely confused.

One of the most intersting was a detailed exchange with a student who tried to show me that Genesis taught a global flood. I pointed out that eretz is land, not the globe. He really tried to press me on this. I concluded it by saying, it is okay if you want to think different but I just know that we both take scripture seriously, and it is okay to disagree.

I come to find out though that this student had not been identifying as a Christian, but as an atheist. I think he had never had a chance to engage these topics with a Christian like me before. I don’t know if he was playing devil’s advocate or what, but that was quite an exchange, especially in retrospect.


Same here. I’m finding that “faith integration” is a whole lot harder than it sounds, and a lot of teachers could use resources and training. Not that I’m an expert, but I’m interested in helping where I can.

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Some of the teachers there were acutely aware that exposing students to only YEC material was creating immense problems for students as they graduated and went off to school. It seemed that the existing material out there, however, they did not trust or would not fly with their parents.

This happened, in fact, because of trust built through @JSmith and FaithAscent. Several of his kids can up to me afterwards just to shake my hand. You could see genuine excitement in the seniors too, who were done with Ham. They wanted something better.


Well @cwhenderson and @Jordan let’s get something on the calendar. It might be time to figure this out.

Highlty doubtful. You may be the first one they met to make a point of it.

What was he doing at that school? Forced by religious parents?

Fair enough. There may have been many in the closet. Keep in mind though that they had me there to speak at an all school assembly. I’m fairly certain that a Christian like me in a context like that was a first.

That is possible. Given that we are possibly talking about a minor, I suggest we leave speculation aside and focus on the larger picture.

I’m not talking about closets. I’m talking about people they may have met out in the world, where Christians who affirm evolution are plentiful. But when buying donuts you don’t generally discuss that question with the person at the counter or other people in line.

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Sure. I think you know what I meant and that I would agree with you there. How would you say it concisely?

It’s surprising how segregated those populations can be though. I’ve definitely had students make it all the way to college before ever talking to a Christian that affirmed evolution.


First time they had ever encountered a Christian arguing in favor of evolution?

I didn’t argue in favor of evolution. I don’t do that in places like this. I just explained who I was and why I believe Jesus rose from the dead. Whether evolution is true or not, and I think it is, I know God is exists, is good, and wants to be know through Him.

Then the avalanche of questions come. I don’t argue for my position. I just explain it, and it makes sense quite often to them.

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How do you distinguish between “arguing for” your position and explaining it, instead?

I genuinely and repeatedly assure them that I am not there to change their mind about our distant past. I’d they want to be YECs they can. My main concerns are:

  1. What ever Ken Ham says about the age of the earth he is just wrong about Jesus. The one who rose from the dead does not need my defense, their defense, or Hams defense.

  2. They do not have to accept evolution, but they have to accept me. I am a dignified member of the Church alongside them. In contexts like this, when I am an invited speaker I don’t have to drive the point home. It is clear I’m there as a respected member of the community, and that alone is world turning.

  3. I rarely argue that my take on scripture is correct. Instead I argue it is just as valid. They try and stump me but they can’t. I often mention the mystery outside the garden, and they are usually really interested in the notion of God creating the people outside the garden by an evolutionary process. Almost uniformly, they wonder about that already.

  4. The one exception is where YEC teaching deviates wildly from Scirpture (as It often does). For example on the “global flood” and “no death before the fall”, I tell them this is an anti scripture teaching. If they want to believe it they can, but let’s just be clear they did not get it from scripture, it actually contradicts the teaching of scripture, and I am not bound to mans word over Gods word.

  5. On science I just tell them my story, usually explaining that creation science never exposed me to whg I learned in biology. Seeing it for myself changed my mind. There are one or two brief explanations of the evidence I will give, and have yet to have a response. I never “go in for a kill” to get them to agree. I start with the presumption that they will no change their mind and it is a privilege to be invited among them, and it is.

  6. I encourage them to not make up their minds, but to follow proverbs advice. “Above all else, seek understanding.” I tell them Jesus doesn’t need their defense, so they can kick back and understand, and that will take time.

Of course, very often they do change their minds. That is never my goal.