What all atheists have to believe

Paving the way for apostasy


This is the pre-publication version which was subsequently revised to appear in Creation 37(2):44–46.
Illustration Caleb Salisbury Paving the way for apostasy

Have you ever had friends, acquaintances or family members who were coming to your church/youth group/Bible study etc., who began to come less often, until finally they stopped coming at all? Perhaps they turned hostile or just became distant to any conversation concerning God/the Bible etc.? Maybe they even used to profess that they were a Christian, that Jesus was their Saviour, but now they say they are an atheist. What happened?

Although every person’s story in every scenario like this will have certain differences, every instance of the journey from professing Christian to apostasy must include certain intellectual steps (unless the apostate just shuts down his/her thinking!):

  1. Belief that God’s Word (the Bible) cannot be trusted as plainly written.
  2. Belief in millions of years of time having occurred in the past.
  3. Belief in biological evolution of some sort.

Why? Since all atheists must have a way of explaining how they came into existence without God, evolution is a requirement for that belief system. Evolution (from pond scum to people) cannot have occurred quickly, so a belief in millions of years is also required for atheism. And of course atheists cannot take the word of God as plainly written because it claims to be the revelation from God, who they profess doesn’t exist!

The slippery slope to unbelief

Creation Ministries (and other creationist groups) is often attacked by other Christians or Christian organizations who do not hold to the biblical account of creation in the same way that we do. These groups sometimes characterize creationists as ‘alarmists’, saying we should not make a big deal out of this issue, and that we should just concentrate on ‘the gospel’ etc. Some have even tried to paint creationists as ‘anti-intellectual’ (a surprise to the scholars and scientists that work for our ministry) and say that creationists create barriers and mental stumbling blocks to people getting saved/accepting the Gospel.

But let’s think about this. Any other stance on origins other than biblical creation (such as theistic evolution, day age theory, gap theory, framework hypothesis, progressive creationists etc.) involves millions of years (MOY) and/or evolution.

Because the Bible does not support millions of years and actively teaches against it, a Christian that accepts that paradigm cannot claim to believe in God’s Word as plainly written and believes that ‘science’ should tell Christians what the Bible means.

As soon as a Christian adopts the concept of MOY they have already fulfilled requirements 1 and 2 (above) for accepting atheism. Because the Bible does not support MOY and actively teaches against it, a Christian who accepts that paradigm cannot claim to believe in God’s word as plainly written and believes that ‘science’ should tell Christians what the Bible means (‘science’ dictates their exegesis of scripture).

As soon as a Christian accepts the first two requirements for atheism they are now intellectually ‘open’ to accepting the third requirement—evolution. After all, if they accept the secular interpretations of scientific data in one area (MOY), there is no logical reason not to accept such interpretations in other areas (evolution).

Now these 3 requirements do not automatically result in apostasy, as there are many saved Christians who are evolutionists (therefore satisfying all the intellectual requirements for atheism). But they are much further down the slope leading to unbelief than their creationist brethren (who would have to skip ahead three steps if they were to turn from Christ to atheism). And of course many professing Christians who have already taken these three steps eventually become consistent thinkers and realize that if they already have a way to explain all of existence without God (evolution), then why bother believing in God?

Intellectual barriers?

Christians who do not accept Genesis as plainly written sometimes express embarrassment at us ‘unsophisticated’ Christians who do. It’s as if they think, in our modern scientific age, a belief in a plain reading of Genesis 1–11 (young earth, dinosaurs and man co-existing, a global flood, a talking serpent) is just too fantastic to believe, and so us biblical creationists insisting that the Bible is describing these things as reality brings shame on the Gospel and impedes our witness to non-believers.

But what about the talking donkey in Numbers 22? What about the dead people that came back to life and the virgin that gave birth in the gospels? Secular ‘science’ doesn’t support those either, so which other parts of the Bible should we be ashamed of?

Compromising Christians seem to forget that biblical Christianity requires far more than easy believing. Respected theologian and president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Dr Albert Mohler (considered by Time.com as the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S”, and interviewed in Creation 33(1) 2010) made a great point in an article:

“ … when we are told that we have to accept and embrace the theory of evolution in order to escape being considered intellectually backward, remember the opposition to Francis Collins. It just doesn’t work. When Collins’ elevation to the NIH (National Institutes of Health) post was announced, evolutionary scientist P.Z. Myers lamented, ‘I don’t want American science to be represented by a clown.’
“This is the predicament of those who argue that evangelicals must accept some form of theistic evolution—the guardians of evolution still consider them clowns.”1
Christians who do not accept Genesis as plainly written sometimes express embarrassment at us ‘unsophisticated’ Christians who do. It as if they think that … us biblical creationists insisting that the Bible is describing these things as reality brings shame on the Gospel and impedes our witness to unbelievers.

So despite all of Francis Collins’ achievements, qualifications, experience and the fact that he promotes ‘evolution as fact’ as vigorously as the most ardent atheist, he is dismissed by his evolutionary colleagues simply because he believes in God. (See also a review of his theistic evolutionary book The Language of God and a critique of the BioLogos organization he heads.)

As Dr Mohler states:

“Thus, you might think that the scientific world would have celebrated the elevation of Dr. Collins to the NIH. Not so. Harvard’s Steven Pinker declared that Collins is ‘an advocate of profoundly anti-scientific beliefs.’ Other leading scientists said far worse. Why?

As The New Yorker reports this week, Dr. Collins is “a believing Christian.”2

Sin factor

Some Christians claim that intellectual barriers are not the major reason why people turn away from their faith and claim it is primarily a ‘heart’ issue. Atheists who were once connected with a church often point to certain hurtful events which they say caused them to turn away from God. Some have simply confessed that God’s standards concerning sexual ethics, for example, conflicted with the way they wished to live, so they rejected the Christian faith. Many could not accept how God could allow a loved one to die tragically, and so concluded He doesn’t exist.

All of these stories have a ‘sin’ component to them, whether it was the person who was hurtful, the sin of the person turning away or the tragedy of death caused by sin.

However true these reasons may be (although many people have claimed it was simply intellectual barriers that caused them to drift), once a person is motivated to jettison their faith, they need a logical way to back up their atheistic beliefs and so must struggle to find a way to profess steps 1–3 to be able to embrace their new worldview intellectually. Those who are ‘already there’, so to speak, have a much easier time plunging headlong into apostasy.

Biblical creation (founded in an understanding of presuppositional apologetics) is one of the best immunizers against the atheistic worldview, and it helps Christians to be able to navigate around and through the hurts experienced in living in a sin-cursed world. And far from being a hindrance to the Gospel, it is actually one of the ways the Lord uses to win people to the Himself, as many have testified.

Published: 17 March 2011

References and notes

  1. Mohler, A., The Predicament—Francis Collins, Human Embryos, Evolution, and the Sanctity of Human Life, Friday, September 3, 2010; The Predicament—Francis Collins, Human Embryos, Evolution, and the Sanctity of Human Life. Return to text.
  2. Ref 1. Return to text.