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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

From Atheist to Creationist: Several Have Made That Journey

Posted by jlwile on February 2, 2012

I receive a regular newsletter from Creation Ministries International (CMI), a young-earth creationist group made up of scientists from around the world. While I was reading the October, 2011 edition of that newsletter, I ran across an article entitled “Eternal fruit – from atheist to creationist.” According to the article:

Sai-Chung was an atheist activist attending church to study Christianity – so as to be effective at undermining it!

Well, it turns out that this man attended a talk on creation science given by Warwick Armstrong, who used to be a speaker at CMI but is now retired. Recently, Sai-Chung contacted CMI and told them that Armstrong’s talk (which was given in 2003) was instrumental in him coming to faith in Christ. He is now a youth group leader in the Chinese extension of one of Australia’s largest churches. He was actually contacting CMI because he wanted some assistance in polishing off his first talk on creation.

So here is someone who attended church specifically to learn how to undermine it. Obviously, then, he was not predisposed to believe what the Church (or the creationist speaker) was telling him. Nevertheless, what he heard was so convincing that he not only decided to put away his atheism and become a Christian, he also decided to become a young-earth creationist! That story, in and of itself, is quite interesting. It also got me to thinking: Sai-Chung isn’t the only one who made the journey from atheist to young-earth creationist. I made that same journey, albeit by taking a slightly different path.

Early in my high school years, I was a proud atheist. I was fairly talented in the sciences, even though I didn’t think I wanted to pursue science as a career. However, I admired the scientists who I studied, and I was under the false impression that the vast majority of them were atheists. Mostly, that’s because my school couldn’t tell me about the personal beliefs of the scientists who were Christians, but it could tell me about the personal beliefs of the atheist scientists. Thus, the only time I heard about the person beliefs of the scientists I studied, I learned they were atheists. As a result, I thought that most scientists were atheists, so I became an atheist myself. Interestingly enough, even though I was an atheist, I wasn’t an evolutionist, because even as a freshman in high school, I saw that the evolutionary hypothesis didn’t square with the available data. As a result, I was an atheist who simply thought there would eventually be a solid, scientific explanation for how we all got here – it just wasn’t available at that time.

All that changed when a young lady who I wanted to date (but who didn’t want to date me) suggested that we go to a debate between atheism and Christianity. I didn’t really want to go to the debate, but I did want to spend time with her, so I went. I was shocked to learn that both debaters were scientists. The atheist was a professor of biology, while the Christian was a professor of physics. Both of them taught at what I thought were very prestigious universities. I don’t really remember much from the debate. Partly, I really was in shock over the fact that a modern scientist was a Christian. Partly, I was still more interested in the young lady than the debate. Nevertheless, the Christian offered a challenge that did stick with me. He said that a scientist’s job is to look at all the facts in an unbiased way and draw the most logical conclusion based on those facts. He then looked out into the audience and said that he challenged anyone out there who claimed to be a rational person to investigate all the facts. He was confident that anyone who did so would believe in Christianity.

I decided to accept that challenge. I sought out books that were written by scientists who believed in God. These books discussed all sorts of data that I was never taught in school, and those data pointed strongly towards the fact that the universe and everything in it was designed. As a result, I became a creationist, but not a young-earth creationist. I realized that the data showed that the universe was created, but I didn’t know who the Creator was. As a result, I read material from several different religions, trying to find out about the Creator. I became convinced that Christianity was the most rational of all the religions, but I didn’t become a Christian until some personal issues (which I don’t really care to discuss here) pushed me headlong into the arms of Christ. After becoming a Christian, I became more and more interested in the details of how God created the world, and because of both theology and science, I ended up becoming a young-earth creationist.

Now it turns out that while my “atheist-to-creationist” story isn’t unique, it is personal. Others have made the same journey, but sometimes by a different path. For example, Dr. James Y. Hugg became an atheist at the age of 13. He says when he learned that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy weren’t real, he became skeptical about the existence of God. Of course, that’s a logical fallacy, but it was what started him down the road to becoming an atheist. He was a committed atheist from the age of 13 until his sophomore year at university, when he took a course called “Topics in Evolution,” which was taught by Nobel laureate Dr. Max Delbrück. His father’s death (which happened when he was 18) got him thinking about life after death, and Dr. Delbrück’s class on evolution got him thinking more deeply. He says:

As a result of that class in Evolution, I re-examined God and the Bible…I lost faith in Evolution, renounced atheistic humanism, and accepted God, His Bible, and His account of Creation as the truth in June of 1972.

So while the hypothesis of evolution held no sway over me when I was an atheist, it was obviously very important to Dr. Hugg. The article about Sai-Chung that I discussed at the beginning of this post didn’t go into much detail, but since a creation science talk was important in turning him from atheism to Christianity, I have to assume that the hypothesis of evolution was important to him as well.

Regardless of the specific path taken, the journey from atheist to young-earth creationist is not as rare as you might think. God speaks to all of us in a way that meets our specific needs. The question is, “Are you listening?”

Comments

15 Responses to “From Atheist to Creationist: Several Have Made That Journey”
  1. Sean says:

    Regarding the statement “He says when he learned that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy weren’t real, he became skeptical about the existence of God. Of course, that’s a logical fallacy, but it was what started him down the road to becoming an atheist.” — I view it as sort of a muscle — if you practice your doubt muscle, you make it stronger. And then the doubt muscle begins to be used in areas where it shouldn’t be. Not necessarily logic, rather a mental process or system that can be dangerous to engage in when not coupled with faith, discernment, wisdom and experience. (Hopefully this comment makes sense)

  2. jlwile says:

    Sean, your comment does make sense. I would agree that it is good to exercise your doubt muscle, even in areas of faith. As Robert Boyle (generally seen as the father of modern chemistry) once wrote, “He whose Faith never Doubted, may justly doubt of his Faith.” However, I think the doubt muscle should be engaged for logical reasons, and Dr. Hugg’s reason was not logical.

  3. Winston Ewert says:

    I do wonder, if you were an atheist who rejected evolution, what did you believe about the “origin of species?” What (if anything) did you replace evolution with?

  4. jlwile says:

    Thanks for your question, Winston. I didn’t replace evolution with anything. Even at a young age, I was rather data-driven. Since evolution didn’t fare well when compared to the data, I rejected it. However, I didn’t really feel the need to replace it with anything. I just decided that there wasn’t a good explanation for the origin of species at that time. I thought that science would eventually come up with something that would explain how we all got here and would also be consistent with the observed data – it just hadn’t done so yet.

    That may sound a bit strange, but it seemed more reasonable to me to ignore the question of origins rather than to believe an explanation that wasn’t consistent with the known facts.

  5. Eric H. says:

    Hello Dr. Wile, I would be interested to know if, when you were first analyzing the data, if you were confused at the apparent contradictions in it? Something that I had noticed even before studying the world around me in a scientific manner(like looking through a microscope, looking at the stars through a telescope, I realize we all make scientific observations every day, because we are always seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, and feeling various things in our environment) and looking at different scientific studies, was the bizarre contradictions I saw in the world that I observed from day to day. I noticed incredible beauty, amazing design, and everything seemed so divine, I was particularly into aromatherapy when I was younger.(highly recommended if you truly want to experience the creativity of our designer as well as the beauty) Without having a particular faith, I was absolutely shocked at the way I responded to the various scents and the complexity of the scents, each one seeming to be vastly different, completely unique, with a totally different experience of feelings as well as thoughts with every scent. I would compartmentalize all the various feelings and thoughts of my responses to the various scents, and play around with combinations of scents, yet I had a rather open world view and did not really concede to evolution or creation. I contrasted that incredible beauty and what would by all apparent reason, seemed to me, like I was built to notice the incredible array of scents and appreciate each one of them in different ways with the absolute contrast of death and suffering. I was rather pained and confused at what it all meant, it seemed rather cruel and unseemly if it was God, that he would make all this beauty just to torment us with death and suffering and yet at the same time if it was nature, it seemed just as cruel that the process of evolution would make all these features in the world just to ultimately lead to death, the extinction of the species over time, and the ultimate end of the universe. I was wondering if you, when first studying the world, came to these types of conclusions, the contrast in the world per say, without any faith or outside scientific opinions, persuading you to think one way or another?

  6. jlwile says:

    That’s an excellent question, Eric. When I started seriously studying the world around me, I wasn’t completely devoid of biases and preconceptions. I had read books by Nietzsche, Russell, and some other atheists. I addition, I had gone to church occasionally. So I obviously had both religious and irreligious ideas floating in my head.

    However, when I studied the world around me, I didn’t think in terms of whether or not God did it. At that time, I was certain God didn’t exist. Thus, as I started seeing the design in nature, I didn’t think in terms of divine design. I also didn’t think in terms of good or evil. I was just trying to evaluate what I saw. In my mind at the time, even the predator/prey relationship looked designed. Sure, it contained suffering and death, but many of the structures used in the process were incredibly complex and seemingly thought out very carefully. I looked at predators as well-designed hunting machines and prey as well-designed evasion machines. I even marveled (and still do marvel) at how perfectly balanced they are. The predators work at hunting, eating, and reproducing, while the prey work at evading, eating, and reproducing. Neither ends up “winning,” which benefits the entire ecosystem. So when I became convinced there was a designer, it only made sense to me that even the “bad” parts of nature were also designed, perhaps out of necessity.

    Now…when I went looking for who this designer was, that’s when the issues you discuss came to the forefront. As I looked at various explanations for the designer, I found some that seemed just plain silly and some that seemed plausible. Of the plausible ones, however, only Judaism and Christianity seemed to have a good explanation for the contradictions of amazing beauty and terrible suffering existing side-by-side in nature. The idea that it was once all amazing and then cursed by the Fall fit very well with what I saw. This was one of the many things that led me to recognize the God of the Bible as the Designer I was seeking.

  7. Eric H. says:

    Thanks for the reply. I completely agree that death really does look designed. I often times wonder if there was originally animal death in the world or garden of Eden before the fall. It would seem sort of weird that animals ate each other when he did give them the command to eat the green herb, but it is true that The Lord did not specifically mention weather animals did or did not eat each other. The Bible really does not make any specific mention upon weather animals died in the Garden of Eden, it certainly leaves it wide open for interpretation. Does the Bible ever specifically say that the death in the Garden of Eden of Adam was a physical one? It would seem odd because God seemingly had them set up for a test they had to pass, at least this is how I see it, since Genesis does squeeze a ton of information in a few chapters, I think that there is alot of information missing, that for whatever reason, God chose not to include. The choice seemed rather simple. Choose The tree of Life or choose the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil and choose death. Is there anything that is truly free? Could it be that the first gift, the tree of life, was not free, but had to be earned? But the second gift was a gift freely given? I don’t know. Maybe. Is it possible that there was animal death to give Adam an example of what would happen if they(Adam and Eve) chose the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil? The other thought that bugs me(pun intended) is weather or not animals ate insects in the garden of Eden. What is your opinion on this? It seems kind of funny to think of animals not eating bugs, especially mammals like the ant eater. Isn’t it true that alot of animals have their main sustenance in insects? According to the Bible, it would seem odd for insects to be one of the creatures who had the breath of life or a living soul. I wonder what the feed back mechanisms would have been in a world where no animals ate each other, How the population would have been controlled, think about populations that are removed from their natural environment and go wild. Was the land surface greater as well as the habitable landscape? Did plants grow much larger in order to accompany the larger population of animals? It would seem it would have to be dramatically so with no feed back mechanism of death. Something else that has me wondering is weather or not there was poison ivy before the Fall, I hope not, because I absolutely despise poison ivy.haha We do know for sure that thorns and thistles arose and that the ground was cursed, but all the relationships between different plants that are poisonous and the animals that are built for those plants, I wonder how God changed those plants to perform their new functions, possibly he had enough information for them to perform their functions properly, and then decayed the information for their new set functions in a fallen world? It just seems very confusing when I think about it in a practical sense. Another thing that has been floating on my mind is the impact of Human sin on animals. It seems for all apparent reason, like Animals must suffer right along with Humans. When The Humans thoughts were only of wickedness before the Flood, it was not only the men that had to die, the animals of the land had to die along with them. Is this why they had to die with the men, as an atonement for their sins?? Probably not, but it is an interesting thought. That was the purpose of the sacrifices, to take a lamb without blemish, without sin? and for it to be a substitute for their sins. What is your opinion on this?

  8. jlwile says:

    Eric, I think the first thing you have to think about is that animal death doesn’t necessarily mean animals eating one another. Animals die of old age all the time. Thus, it was possible there was animal death before the Fall, but it wasn’t associated with the predator/prey relationship. Also, there are many Christians who think that what went on the the Garden of Eden was not indicative of what was going on in the rest of the world. After all, Adam and Eve were banned from the Garden, which meant there was an outside world. That would sort of imply that what was happening on the outside was different from what was happening inside. Thus, the predator/prey relationship might have been in full force prior to the Fall, just not in the Garden.

    You ask, “Does the Bible ever specifically say that the death in the Garden of Eden of Adam was a physical one?” It depends on how you read it. In Genesis 2:17 we read, “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” According to some, since Adam and Eve didn’t physically die they day they ate the fruit, that tells us God was talking about spiritual death, not physical death. However, many Hebrew scholars say that the literal Hebrew there reads, “dying you shall die.” This indicates a future certainty, not an immediate certainty. Thus, it is possible God was saying that when you eat, you will start the process of physically dying, but actual death won’t happen right away.

    I don’t think that the Garden was a test or that any of God’s gifts had to be earned. I think that the trees were necessary for the Garden, and that the restriction was necessary for Adam and Eve’s complete happiness. Unfortunately, as is usually the case with people, Adam and Eve thought they knew better than God and decided to disobey Him. As a result, human death entered the world.

    In terms of animals eating bugs, it is possible (as I discussed previously) that what went on outside the Garden was more “business as usual,” and what went on inside the Garden was special. Thus, it is possible that no bugs were eaten in the Garden, but they were eaten outside. Instead, if all of Creation was like the Garden, life would have been rather different throughout Creation. It’s very possible that reproductive rates among animals were much, much slower back then, so that the feedback mechanisms we see in ecosystems today weren’t needed back then. It possible that plants grew differently and produced a wider range of nutrients so they could sustain all living things. In that same vein, if poison ivy existed back then, it is possible that its sap was quite different, not producing the allergic reaction it produces now.

    As far as what changed after the Fall, I don’t think that God necessarily actively changed anything. He might have, but I think what is more likely is that He took something away. He designed a world that would work well without his sustaining power, but with His sustaining power, it was paradise. When Adam and Eve sinned, He removed His sustaining power, and that caused the decay that has produced a lot of the misery we see now in the world.

    In terms of animals and their “punishment” due to man’s sins, I think the main point is to realize that Creation is made for people. The plants, animals, and all natural processes are there simply so that we can exist. It might sound a bit arrogant, but think about what happens to a couple’s home when they have a child. Changes are made to the home, many additional things are added, the parents’ lifestyle changes, all so that they can raise their child, whom they love. In the same way, God made Creation for us because He loves us. Because He made Creation for us, we should care for it, but ultimately, since Creation is for us, it is also subject to our sin and our punishment. Animals didn’t die for their sins – they died because of man’s sins. As a result, animal sacrifice was not a punishment for animals. It was a means of temporary atonement for man’s sins until the Perfect Sacrifice could be made for eternal atonement.

  9. gracekalman says:

    Along the lines of “thou shalt surely die”, keep in mind that God clothed Adam and Eve with skins. To quote my dad, “I’ve never seen an animal running around without its skin”. I think it likely that God made the first blood sacrifice ever, so Adam did not have to die. You have no idea how much this subject is discussed around here. Everyone seems to have their own opinion.

  10. jlwile says:

    Good point, Grace.

  11. Eric H. says:

    Dr. Wile, I definitely agree that animal death shouldn’t have to mean animals eating one another. In the pre-fall world, if animals, not having a spirit as man, would have died, they would have simply returned back to the dust from whence they came as flesh and not as spirit and I do not think this would have been the same as a human death, as man is created in the Image Of God. I’d have to agree that the predator/prey relationship most likely would not have been in place as Isaiah 11:6 says, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” That is an interesting thought as far as the outside of the garden goes and to be honest, I’ve never really thought about there being a big difference between the inside and the outside. God most certainly knows the beginning to the end. It would make sense that possibly God would have the prey/predator relationship set up, my question would be, would that correspond with a very good creation with his sustaining power still present? My opinion is that God had the predator prey relationship all set up because he already knew what was going to happen, he already knew that Adam would fall, I believe it is quite possible if the plants would have been different for the lions as well as all the animals to only eat plants. Just as God already knew that oil, was one day going to seep into the ocean and designed bacteria to clean it up, I believe he already had all the relationships set up to operate in the fallen world and as soon as his sustaining power or presence was withdrawn, then the predator prey relationship went into effect, this is just my belief, but it does make sense for the Garden and the outside world to be different, the Garden was especially made for Adam, his child, and God wanted to give the best to his children, Adam and Eve.

    I did not know that the original hebrew read “dying you shall die.” That certainly does give it a different twist. I have been studying up for a little bit and there is some biblical support that God always meant for people to live and not die. Luke 20:37-38, 38 reads, For he(God) is not a God of the dead, but of the living, for all live unto him.” I think I could find it hard to believe that God made MAN(not animals) to die originally since he is the God of the living.

    I’ve re-read the passage a few times, and I cannot find any time of mandate that they could NOT consume of the tree of life right away so I’m thinking that your assessment is reasonable.

    I like the idea of a slower reproduction rate. There could have also possibly have been a reduced amount of births as well for some animals?? This would be a reasonable change for A. A reduced death rate with no predator/prey relationship stared yet or B. A pre-fall world where animals did not die.

    Your next view would have some good evidence to back it up according to the Bible. After all, for forty years, the children of Israel wondered through the desert and nothing ever wore out. Obviously, the difference between Gods presence being there and not being there is enormous. The difference between weather God was or was not there would be tremendous, so I like this view Biblically.

    I agree that it really does seem like creation is made for man. When I think about the way we comprehend music, scents, the stars, the taste of food, the ways that our minds work scientifically to understand and comprehend everything in the world, to understand truth, and to appreciate everything, as well as the plants, animals, and all natural processes so we can exist, it also seems like they are made for our good pleasure. The Bible states that all things were made by Christ and for Christ, but we are made in the image of God, it naturally follows that everything was made for us as well. I personally do not think that it is arrogant. I think it is good to realize who God has made us and to acknowledge our role on this earth as stewards and caretakers of the earth and especially of each other. I for one, am incredibly happy and overjoyed that God would create so much just for us, it is mind boggling when I really think about it. Yes, that is what I was questioning about the animals, I really do think that animals have absolutely no concept of right and wrong. I, again, am so happy that we didn’t have to keep sacrificing animals for all eternity!! Jesus gave it all and became the last blood sacrifice and HALLELUJAH for that!!! And Grace, that is a good point. I’ve never really correlated that to mean the immediate covering of the sin, but it is possible that is what was meant. It does make sense that God made the first blood sacrifice to cover our sin just as he would make the last blood sacrifice to cover our sin. He is the Alpha and the Omega after all, the beginning and the end!

  12. jlwile says:

    Eric, you ask, “It would make sense that possibly God would have the prey/predator relationship set up, my question would be, would that correspond with a very good creation with his sustaining power still present?” You have to be very careful when it comes to the phrase “very good.” There are theologians who say that in Hebrew, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything idyllic. It simply amounts to God saying, “This is working exactly as I had intended.” I do know that if the Bible wanted to say that the world as it was initially created was perfect, it wouldn’t have used the Hebrew that it used. As Craig A. Boyd says:

    …the more interesting word in the [creation] narrative is tob. This word is Hebrew for “good.” Tob does not mean “perfect.” The Hebrew word for “perfect” is shalom. The authors of Genesis could have used shalom in these first three chapters of Genesis, but they chose not to. (Creation Made Free, p. 116)

    I agree that God could have engineered the planet so that it would survive once His sustaining power left. Thus, it is certainly possible that the predator/prey relationship was designed specifically to cope with the Fall of man. Whether the predator/prey relationship existed outside the Garden or was designed for the eventually Fall and held back until that time, I don’t see it as contradictory with a “very good” creation.

  13. Eric H. says:

    http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/27_good.html “What does “good” mean? The first use of this word is in Genesis chapter one where God calls his handiwork “good”. It should always be remembered that the Hebrews often relate descriptions to functionality. The word Tov would best be translated with the word “functional”
    From this standpoint, if the world was originally created to be very functional, then I would have to agree that to be very functional for the specific purpose God had created it for, mainly sustaining his Children, his family, it is reasonable to think that according to God’s plan, in order for the world to be very functional for his creation made in his image, he had certain types of death set up to keep it that way, for example plant death, cell death, and possibly animal death if it was needed to keep the world very functional according to his will. The thing that I am noticing is that the world was “very functional”. If the world was very functional, do we look at death as very functional? In a way it certainly does seem like it works pretty good for our current world as far as our eco systems go. The only problem is the contrast of the words Good and Evil. In contrast to this word is the Hebrew word “ra”. These two words, Tov and Ra are used for the tree of the knowledge of “good” and “evil”. While “ra” is often translated as evil it is best translated as “dysfunctional”.: : So evil in essence could be described as dysfunctionality, running against the original purpose, malfunctioning if you will. A verse that I will interject is that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” Evil is what causes sin and sin causes death. I would have to configure that it was the concept of evil that brought death to mankind and arguably to creation as a result of mankind. Some circumstantial evidence that this concept may hold true is Romans 8:19-21 “For the creation waits with eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope, hat the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” I believe this passage is referring to all of creation being subjected to decay, I believe that decay is part of death, almost the trademark of death. Just a thought. It was not the concept of Good, or functionality, that brought death to mankind, we can know that for sure, just how much this applies to animals is questionable. So from the analogy of the tree of good and evil, the concept of very good in creation in my opinion still seems to hold merit, according to the translation in the King James or newer versions. Does God look at animal death as dysfunctional? He certainly doesn’t take to much offense when a lamb is sacrificed for a person. Only God truly knows. I certainly could not be dogmatic about it though. I guess I would question, if the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil uses such a far contrast of opposites between the word, and the other tree was the Tree of life, do not death and life have a similiar contrast, just as good and evil, “Functional” and “Dysfunctional”? Oh, and thank you for being patient and responding to me, I really didn’t understand the meaning of the word in Hebrew, never really thought about looking at it, so I can’t say I did not learn something.

  14. Eric H. says:

    I want to clarify on the above and site that Functional means “according to God’s purpose or will” and dysfunctional would naturally mean “against God’s purpose or will” How God describes his purpose or will will clearly define just what the definition of the word Good is.

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