Stop Preaching?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, April 1, 2021 4 comments

by Steve Risner

Recently, I found some statements made by an evolutionist, likely a secular humanist, that I thought were worth looking at. I found this in a Facebook group called “Creationism” which I believe is most accurately described as an atheist troll den, but it has some good stuff posted from time to time. Let’s take a look at some of the statements this person makes and see if they hold water.

He began by explaining to “creationists” how they should discuss things in the group. He says creationists should not preach, use circular reasoning, use ad hominem arguments (arguments that are based on character assassination rather than the merits of the facts), or use strawman arguments. I thought this was amazing because I find more often than not that these very things are what I’ll call non-creationists have been doing in this group and others for years. I’ll admit that creationists, myself included, may participate in such things on occasion. However, I find it astounding that someone would make statements like this when they must know they are as guilty as anyone else for doing these very things.

He said in regard to things to avoid:
PREACHING: A discussion is much more persuasive; no one will be convinced by repeated unsupported assertions

I believe this is very true to a point. “Preaching” means to publicly proclaim or teach. It means to try to convince someone of a position or to advocate for a particular belief. Everyone does this to a degree —theist or atheist, Biblical creationist or evolutionist, or whatever persuasion you might be in this discussion. I don’t think “preaching” per se is a bad thing since that implies teaching. But I see his point, sort of.

His argument is that creationists, and apparently no one else, make unsupported claims in debates over origins. But this is crazy talk. He may not like the evidence presented or what kind of evidence is presented, but this in no way means a claim is unsupported. I’m sure he wants all claims to be “scientific” in their backing and nature, but this is impossible in a debate over origins. The debate over origins is not and never has been a scientific discussion. It’s about things science cannot ever answer. It’s about one-time past events that no one (save God Himself) witnessed or understands the conditions surrounding them. Science may be employed to give us some clues about some things, but it can hardly answer these questions with any degree of certainty. If you disagree, you’d likely enter into a preaching session and would violate this evolutionist’s first rule of engagement.

Science is very useful, obviously. It gives us things like microwaves, jet fuel, GPS, and cell phones as well as medical marvels and new, stronger, lighter metals. It allows for us to communicate around the world in a matter of a few seconds. However, origins and the discussion around it has nothing to do with any useful science. I know immediately that those who believe in universal common descent will say things like, “If it weren’t for evolution, we wouldn’t have modern medicines or antibiotics and we wouldn’t have used pig heart valves to do valve replacement in humans.” Other such statements, I’m sure, can be made. However, these statements are based on a classic bait-and-switch type argument known as the motte-and-bailey fallacy. What that means is a person mentions one idea and then proceeds to describe a different idea that may have similar details but is not at all the same thing. In this case, we would be confusing “evolution” meaning similarities and slight modifications over time with “evolution” meaning all life arose and diversified through purely natural means over billions of years and all life on earth is related through a single common ancestor.

To be sure, there are certainly similarities between a great number of organisms. We see this as evidence for design rather than random but lucky mistakes in copying genetic material. To suggest that an error (or, in reality, a billion consecutive errors that all work together) can lead to the immense complexity we see in the biosphere is silly. It’s just naivety, in my humble opinion, and wishful thinking based on a failure to understand or appreciate even the slightest bit of complexity we see in biology.

But, yes, we shouldn’t just preach at people. However, I feel it’s likely that when one person believes another is “preaching” at them, it often times means the other person is telling them something they don’t like or don’t want to hear. It’s easy to dismiss someone with a hand wave and exclaim, “Stop preaching at me.” In reality, that person is just expressing their opinion on a given subject, and often times this can be peppered with facts as well. If the conversation is strictly one-sided and the person “preaching” is talking down to another person as they preach, then yes, this should be avoided. I find this is often happening in groups like the one I mentioned above, but it’s almost always directed toward the Biblical creationist and not the other way around. We creationists can be snarky on occasion, but we understand that our message is important, and we want it to be heard. “Preaching” the way I’ve described here—talking down and that sort of thing—does nothing to promote good dialogue or in getting someone to understand our position. Of course, the eventual hope is for the other person to accept our position. But belittling and talking down will not produce such a transition. I regret that I can stoop to such levels when agitated enough. I don’t like that and I try to avoid it, but it does happen. God’s been working on me in this regard.

God wants us to preach (as in teach) and proclaim His Good News. Jesus told us to proclaim the Gospel everywhere. In Mark 16:15 He says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Paul tells Timothy, “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” An unbeliever may decide your statements have no support because you’re using the Bible to defend your position, but they reject the Bible, and this is no reason to not stand on it. Paul tells Timothy that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. This means the Bible is the foundation of Truth and cannot be abandoned regardless of who we are talking with. Paul goes further in 2 Timothy to tell him to preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. This is important enough for the Lord to repeat it in His Word from the pen of several different writers. We are expected to preach when necessary.

The next time someone says, “Stop preaching to me,” realize they may be right—you haven’t earned the right yet in your relationship with them or you may be talking down at them rather than trying to lovingly teach them something. However, you could also get this response because you’re hitting the Truth and this person is uncomfortable and they wish for you to stop shining a light in those dark places. At that point, it’s up to the leading of the Holy Spirit if you should continue or not. Be open. We’ll take a look further into these statements by this unbeliever next time.

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Anonymous said...

The most honest thing you can say, "I don't know". Mathematics helps explain the known,"God" helps explain the unknown. The Bible was created by Man to try to explain & define "God", a world Man struggles to understand.

Stephen Meiner said...

Very sincere and to the point ...well said. Thanks Steve.

Steve Risner said...

Dear Anonymous
You may be on to something. I believe God invented mathematics because it organizes and coordinates the universe--His laws for nature basically run on math. This is why science is possible. I don't think man uses "God" to explain what he doesn't understand. I think God explains Himself in a very limited fashion to us because He wants us to know Him and love Him.

Steve Risner said...

Thank you for reading and for you comment. I appreciate your time.