Fundamentalists Set Up Their Young People to Lose Their Faith

I came across a short blog with a great insight from An Anabaptist in Perth called Setting Up Young People to Lose Their Faith. I’ve encountered the same thing so thought it would be good to reblog it for others to consider. It’s fairly simple:

  1. Often taught as the single most important doctrine in evangelical fundamentalist circles is the inerrancy of Scripture (that it has no mistakes of any kind, including historical, scientific, mathematical, etc.)
  2. They also constantly drill into young people that they need to make the Bible central to their lives, reading every word literally.
  3. Many young people follow those instructions.
  4. Since they do, it doesn’t take long to discover something clearly wrong, like that the Bible says Pi is exactly 3.
  5. Therefore, since the central doctrine of the Christianity they’ve been taught says that the Bible is inerrant, either Pi is 3 or Christianity as a whole has to be rejected.
  6. Most quite logically opt for the latter, although lots go for the former too (and I’ve even heard of a small group who still believe the Earth is the centre of the universe).

I’ve also heard atheists use this same logic to try to show that all Christianity is blatantly wrong. They reason like the person above: the Bible read literally says that the earth is the centre of the universe, or it disagrees on what day Jesus died, or it goes against evolution, or it says Pi is 3, or it disagrees from one account to the next of the same story on the details, etc. Therefore, none of it is true. Usually they’re debating the evangelical crowd, so such flawed logic works well. Why? Because their evangelical opponent is operating on that same assumption that if the Bible has any mistakes of any kind, all of Christianity is wrong. So the debate usually ends up circling around whether it is possible to still hold science and the Bible both as true at the same time, and in my opinion the atheist almost always wins when that happens.

Imagine if it was debating a non-evangelical Christian who doesn’t hold to the historically-new doctrine of inerrancy, and the whole argument would fall flat on its face. The non-evangelical would say “I agree – the Bible being written 3000 years ago did not know that the sun was the centre of the universe. But that’s not the point of the story, so let’s get back to what the Bible is actually saying” and that would be the entire discussion. But instead, we see, as the Perth Anabaptist put it, that evangelicals have set up their young people to fail because it has instilled that same logic in them. Those young people usually don’t stop long enough to realize that the second idea (all Christianity is wrong) doesn’t flow in any way from the first (the Bible has a scientific mistake). Why? Because they’ve always had the two ideas tied together for them. They’ve always been taught that the Bible being inerrant is the centre, or at least a centre, of their faith. They end up having to choose, and it is no wonder that so many choose to leave faith behind.

Talk about throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The Perth Anabaptist’s suggestion is simple and I agree wholeheartedly. Evangelicals, you don’t even need to stop believing in the literal inerrancy of Scripture, although I admit I do have a hard time understanding why you do. All you need to do is show some ecumenism. If the young people in your church understand that the majority of Christians throughout history and even the majority today do not accept biblical inerrancy, then they’ll be a lot less inclined to throw away everything to do with Jesus when they find a scientific mistake. Just move biblical inerrancy out of being the centre – you can still keep it, just secondary to a centrality of the person of Jesus – by saying that others are Christians too who don’t believe the same. Then young people will have a much healthier understanding of Christianity as a whole, not to mention far more potential for a Christ-centred faith instead of a Bible-centred one.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.