Teaching Christian Apologetics in a MegaChurch (McLean Bible) with TE's, OECs, YECs

The megachurch where I co-lead the Creation Science ministry has a challenge in as much as the church has a mix of TE’s, OECs, and YECs. The church was once upon a time only 300 members large until Lon Solomon became pastor. During his tenure, the church grew to 13,000 and meets in a 100 million dollar complex funded by influential internet moguls that were Christians. Lon Solomon had an undergrad in chemistry from Carolina, an MS in Near Eastern studies from Johns Hopkins, and a PhD in a theological discipline from some religious school.

His conversion to theism is described here, and was because of his study of enzymes:

His conversion to Christianity about 6 years later is described here on Fox News:

Because of his scholarly background he became a Young Earth Creationist and was probably instrumental in the Apologetics Ministry at McLean Bible Church (MBC) where I teach.

In the audience of my monthly talks are some very well educated people. PhD scientists at the NIH, professors of physics. The two physics professors are YEC/YCCs, the NIH guys are OECs. One TE is a lawyer.

Church politics as well as my own view is that Christians of all 3 viewpoints need to be welcomed in the church. However, on the other hand this poses a dilemma as so much of Christian apologetics in the 21st century highlights the Design Argument of Paley as well as many of the anti-evolution arguments by OECs and YECs. My last talk, I pointed out Nobel Prize winner Richard Smalley eventually became an OEC.

So, I’m in the position of actually teach anti-evolution arguments while trying to make TE’s feel welcome. I haven’t necessarily figured out how to do this, but if I may relate something on a personal level…

I was raised in a Roman Catholic home and was a TE till about age 16. Then I became an OEC (while turning protestant a little later), and remained an OEC for about 20 years until I became a YEC. The point being, I was welcomed in Christian churches for a long time independent of my view on origins. I think that’s the way it ought to be…

On the other hand, because anti-evolution arguments based on theoretical and empirical criticisms (not theological criticisms) of abiogenesis theory and evolutionary theory, that I found the idea of special creation appealing, and hence remained in the Christian faith after nearly leaving it. So I think anti-evolution arguments are valuable to Christianity even though it is at odds with the TEs in the church.

I’ve been dis-invited by Intervarsity Christian Fellowship when I suggested evidence of the Bible could be argued through anti-evolution arguments. I got a cold welcome at a conference of Christian Biology Faculty where I was an invited speaker because I mentioned I was associated with John Sanford!

We could either avoid the topic of evolution altogether at MBC or find a way to maintain a dialogue. Two of the 3 viewpoints (TE, OEC,YEC) are wrong as a matter of principle. Yet people holding these views are vital to the church in general – John Sanford was a TE for about 10 years, and it was good he was welcomed in the church. Same could be said for many YEC/YCCs.

What I can only do is say YEC/YCC is my view and belief, and that the importance of the Creation Ministry in McLean Bible is to have a place where the discussion about the facts available to us right now can take place, even if we don’t have all the facts we want to settle the matter from an empirical and theoretical perspective.

BUT, I’m thinking at the next meeting, I’ll raise these hypothetical set of questions:

  1. Do you think evidence of the improbability of life would be favorable to your personal belief in Christ?

  2. Do you think evidence and theoretical considerations against evolutionary theory would be favorable to your personal belief in Christ?

  3. Do you think evidence of a literal Adam and Eve would be favorable to your personal belief in Christ

  4. Do you think evidence of genetic entropy would be favorable to your personal belief in Christ

  5. Do you think evidence of a recent global flood would favorable to your personal belief in Christ

  6. Do you think evidence of the fossil record being young would be favorable to your personal belief in Christ

  7. Do you think evidence of the Earthy being young would be favorable to your personal belief in Christ

  8. Do you think evidence of the Planets of the Solar System being young would be favorable to your personal belief in Christ

  9. Do you think evidence and theory explaining long and intermediate term radiometric dates
    and distant starlight such that even the Cosmos itself would be favorable to your personal belief in Christ

Ok, so the OECs would probably be on board with a good number of the questions above, and in fact, in my experience, most OECs have told me they would like to be YEC/YCCs if they could find better arguments for YEC/YCC. I believe them because I was there myself.

So if a good number of those questions are answered by my group in the affirmative, it would seem, the church is a good a place as any to be talking about this, and it shouldn’t be avoided to the extent we have evidence that may count toward the affirmative.

Some churches avoid the topic altogether in the hopes that it will avoid conflict. However, imho, I think first and foremost by doing this it is avoiding the search and exploration of truth, and that’s not good! We may not have all the facts we want to settle the issue today, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to learn more, and if God made the universe, Romans 1:20 promises that the facts will ultimately point to Him.

Lon Solomon preached on YEC topics, but he has since retired. He’s been succeed by David Platt who might be a YEC (as far as I know), but the question of whether YEC will be taught from the pulpit is still open!

We don’t know if YEC can even be taught in Sunday Schools regularly. I’m advocating discussion and examination of the facts available like detectives. The church doesn’t have to take an official stand on one viewpoint over another, but I think could take a stand on having the members explore the facts available at the present, and in the future, the facts that are available in the future.

Here is David Platt this year. To give an idea how much we have to walk on egg shells on various topics, many people left the church over what happened in connection with this photo:


At this point I don’t think that taking a hard position that can be heavily evidenced against in the future is wise. I think an approach like Behe takes is the wisest. We see evidence that a mind is behind all this. This then supports us being in a created universe. The next evidence for God is in scripture and overall it is quite powerful.

-the overall connection of the books with 40 authors and 66 books
-the prophecies of the old testament especially

This is a set of very good tools to improve bible literacy.https://thebibleproject.com/

Thanks for weighing in Bill, as you represent a significant demographic in our church – successful executives in tech companies!

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Curious as to what percentage of your 13,000 member church are successful executives in tech companies? Was that a particular ministry focus to attract successful tech executives? I would imagine that they are a relatively unsupported Christian minority. As a VP of a software company, I, for one, want to say bless your hearts for reaching the unreachable!!

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Small but influential… as in, that’s how we got a 100 million dollar complex to worship in. YIKES!

One guy (a social worker) quipped that the reason he dropped out of our church was because he felt so out of place with the guys driving expensive cars and attracting the young ladies away from him…ha!

The MBC culture is partly a function of the fact MBC resides in (on-and off) the richest county in the USA, Fairfax. It has the highest proportion of lawyers, scientists, engineers and people with graduate degrees of any place on Earth, even silicon valley, and it is near the NIH, Johns Hopkins and the Bethesda/Rockville bio-tech corridor. Last but not least, it’s right near Washington DC, and some high powered people pass through the church.

Even Lon Solomon’s kids went to Johns Hopkins, and one is a medical doctor. So MBC has a unique sort of church culture because it is in a somewhat unique geographical location.

Note that Behe agrees with universal common descent in addition to an old earth. TE, more or less. But you are quite opposed to that stance.

I don’t think there is much difference between my position and Mike’s. If the data more clearly supported Mike’s I would support it. When I discussed it with him together with Salvador his real position is that he does not want to argue about it because it is a trivial claim. If you like I can post the discussion.

For one is design if real like Behe believes it does not make any sense that a eukaryotic cell came from a prokaryotic cell. There are other origin events that look iffy from a common descent perspective.

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That’s because you don’t understand his position, apparently. He’s clear that the evidence is overwhelming. It may be that he doesn’t find it interesting to argue the point, because he’s more concerned with the reality of God than how God went about creating. Nevertheless, from a scientific standpoint, if that interests you at all, the difference is enormous.

Take it up with him. Good luck.

I understand his position and it is very clear from the conversation we had. I offered to post it. His choice not to delve into the common descent debate is to keep his position clear. He wants to talk about what he can observe and not history. The conversation is 1 hour and 23 minutes in.

Since I’ll be speaking this Wedenesday, I’ve been thinking of how to deal with the conflicting views in the church. Last time I spoke, during the Q&A, a TE got up and castigated me with a 10 minute monologue full of misrepresentation and suggested we avoid the topic altogether…I simply thanked him for his comment, said a few words and invited someone else’s comments and questions.

I think a succinct way to deal with the issue is, “If you can believe in Jesus and in evolution, then that’s between you and God, it’s not my place to judge. However, if someone is considering leaving the Christian faith because of the claims of evolutionary theory or abiogenesis theory, then it’s fair game to question whether to what extent evolutionary theory and/or abiogenesis theory are true or not. Same for questions of Old Earth or Noah’s flood, although, in my experience the question of Noah’s flood has not been high on the priority list of most Christians I know who are struggling with faith – same for the questions about the age of Adam (930 years) or Methuselah (969 years), or the age of the Solar System or Cosmos. The latter are low priorities, but the Design argument and abiogenesis seem to have high priority.”

So the mission of the Apologetics and Creation Science ministry, to the extent certain ideas (like Darwinism) that are formally outside of theology affect individual Christians negatively, and to the extent the theories make claims about physical facts (such as evolution), they are fair game for examination and consideration from a purely empirical and theoretical approach. I’m not claiming we have evidence to absolutely settle the matter about events in the past, but to the extent we can bring to light facts that have been suppressed in academia and the mainstream, we will do that.

We know the Bible is both story and history. Once I saw the incredible connection of the 66 books I realized the story is all about humans become like God. Though the law, straying from the law, being forgiven and then ultimately having their hearts transformed by the Jewish messiah. This messiah is described throughout the old testament but most vividly in Isaiah 52-12 through 53. Jesus fulfilled these prophecies. In my opinion whether A and E, Noah or Jonah are real or are stories connected to the coming of Jesus does not matter. The key to this realization is understanding how the message of the Bible connects from Genesis to Revelation. What parts are story and what parts are history does not matter.

This is where @swamidass has been wise all along.

And Behe represents another of the sort of demographic that attends my church! I certainly don’t want to alienate people like that!

Here’s some questions for YECs, based on this commonly asserted reasoning:

“Henry Cole and other opponents of the old-earth theories rightly understood and warned that the historical portions of the Bible (including Genesis 1–11) are foundational to the theological and moral teachings of Scripture. Destroy the credibility of the Bible’s history and sooner or later (it might take decades) we will see the rejection of the Bible’s theology and morality both inside and outside the Church. The subsequent history of the once-Christian nations of Europe and North America has confirmed the scriptural geologists’ worst fears about the church and society.”

  1. The moral lessons of the creation account in Genesis require a literal interpretation, resulting in a belief of a very young Earth.

  2. Even if the Old Earth reasoning is correct, this would unintentionally result in disbelief of Biblical moral authority.

  3. The past few centuries of Western civilization are proof of assertion two.

You appeal to a conspiracy theory mindset when you make statements like this, Sal. I am not surprised that statements like this stirred up division and anger with some in your class who accept consensus science.

Is it possible that consensus sciences affect some individual Christians negatively precisely because church leadership invests in the warfare narrative between consensus science on the one side and Christian faith on the other?

Youth attend a church apologetics ministry where the science is presented by someone who doesn’t deeply understand the field. Then they go off to a university where they learn physics from someone like @PdotdQ, not the apologist who doesn’t understand the implications of special relativity, neo-Lorentzian or otherwise, on starlight from a nearby galaxy that is in approximately the same frame of reference. They learn biology from someone like @NLENTS, not someone like Behe who makes sloppy mistakes with respect to mutations in the polar bear genome.

And then they ask themselves, “I wonder what else they lied about at my church?”

I am not making this up. I attended an Ivy League university. I saw this happening many, many times. It tears me up to think about it. I hate to see the well-intentioned but grave mistake in apologetics being repeated today.

A Suggestion

Since you asked for suggestions, I will offer one. I think there’s only one way to proceed in a situation like yours:

  • Find someone to represent each of the 3 positions.
  • Give each representative a couple of weeks to respectfully present his/her viewpoint.
  • Let the class ask respectful questions and discuss theological implications.

This would of course mean that you would have to give up considerable control. That might not be a bad thing. It would also demonstrate in beautiful fashion how Christians with different viewpoints on lesser matters can listen to one another and have respectful, fruitful discussions.

My $.02,

EDIT: Of course it was not Behe who was purveying anti-consensus viewpoints back in my day. Gish and John Morris were the guys.

EDIT 2: Your main responsibility in the class would be to act as tone moderator. Make sure folks don’t imply their fellow class members are idiots, heretics, etc. You might even encourage every participant in the class to sign a statement to the effect of, “I will listen carefully to what my brothers and sisters in Christ say. I will speak respectfully and assume the very best motives of all. I will address facts and interpretation methods, not ad hominem arguments based on associations.” Or something like that.


I agree with @Chris_Falter, this statement by @stcordova:

Appeals to unfounded conspiracy theories in mainstream science. I don’t know what goes on in other fields, but there is no suppression of non-mainstream ideas in physics. If your paper is not accepted in mainstream journals, it is because your paper sucks. Stop using an unfounded conspiracy theory as an excuse. To drive my point home,

Here are some (of countless) articles of very off-mainstream ideas that are published in extremely prestigious journals, and ended up with large numbers of citations.

Note that impact factor of a scientific journal gives an estimate of the quality of the journal. An impact factor of 4 is considered extremely good. Further, a citation of 100 is considered extremely good.

-) Speed of light is not the maximum speed limit (note: now debunked, but if true, this is very catastrophic to modern physics, and much more shocking than if e.g. there exists a preferred frame (as @stcordova prefers):

“Measurement of the neutrino velocity with the OPERA detector in the CNGS beam” - published in: Journal of High Energy Physics, impact factor~5.8. Cited by 374 papers.

-) Rotation curve of galaxy can be explained by modification of gravity instead of dark matter:

“A modification of the Newtonian dynamics as a possible alternative to the hidden mass hypothesis” - published in: Astrophysical Journal, impact factor ~5.5. Cited by 3159 (!) papers.

-) Cosmology can be explained by Bouncing Cosmology instead of Inflation:

“A Cyclic Model of the Universe” - published in: Science, impact factor ~41 (!). Cited by 650 papers.

-) Black holes can be formed not from dying stars, but from direct collapse:

“Formation of supermassive black holes by direct collapse in pre-galactic haloes” - published in: MNRAS, impact factor ~5.2. Cited by 636 papers.

-) That Black Holes are NOT Black: (note: impact factor of journal is lower than others in this list, but the humongous number of citations more than makes up for it)

“Particle creation by black holes”, - published in: Communications in Mathematical Physics, impact factor ~2.3. Cited by 11427 (!) papers.

-) The accelerated expansion of the Universe: (note: while now common knowledge, back then it was more popular to think of the expansion of the Universe to decelerate)

" Observational Evidence from Supernovae for an Accelerating Universe and a Cosmological Constant", - published in: Astrophysical Journal, impact factor ~5.5. Cited by 15274 (!) papers. Won the Nobel Prize.

-) Acceleration of stars in galaxies gives credence to Modified Gravity over Dark Matter:

“Radial Acceleration Relation in Rotationally Supported Galaxies”, - published in: Physical Review Letter, impact factor ~9.2. Cited by 261 papers.

Again, this is a very incomplete list, and heavily biased towards my field (astrophysics), and are the ones I know off the top of my head. Maybe @dga471 knows of examples from the more atomic/quantum side of physics?

Edit: I am sure the biologists (@swamidass and co) can also compile a similar list.


Nope. You need to produce a transcript of the relevant parts.

Have you taken into account the fact that YEC dogma has affected many Christians negatively, causing them to lose their faith when they find out it’s not true?


Yes, and I’m advocating more open consideration.

Biology or do you mean evolutionary biology. To paraphrase an the words of evolutionary biologist himself:

In science’s pecking order, evolutionary biology lurks somewhere near the bottom, far closer to [the pseudo science of] phrenology than to physics.

Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, Richard Smalley was a creationist. Some of the world’s top chemists like James Tour and Marcos Eberlin have strong skepticism of abiogenesis theory and evolutionary theory. I could also mention a formerly top abiogenesis researcher, Dean Kenyon too.

To quote James Tour regarding the collective achievement of abiogenesis theory research: “garbage”. Is he going to have a chance to publish why it’s “garbage.”

Remember the whole Proton Radius puzzle? Multiple contradictory measurements of a single quantity, all published in prestigious journals. Far from being suppressed, people were all talking about it for over a decade. Some theorists published papers trying to posit new physics to explain the discrepancy. The difference, I think, is that all the scientists involved here had a trustworthy reputation built from years of demonstrating competency in performing measurements that conformed to known physics. If someone like @stcordova really believes that there is something wrong with a belief in mainstream physics, they should learn the ropes of how the field works and slowly build up their reputation as well.