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To Debate, or Not to Debate (and if yes, how): That Is the Question

by / November 17, 2015

Having grown up as a PK (preacher’s kid), accepting Christ as my Savior before becoming a teen-ager, and at the same time having been very interested in science from my earliest school days, I have been weighing the issues and facts, arguments, and beliefs related to creation and evolution for decades. I have also had many exchanges with people who believe in evolution in various ways and various degrees. Now I hope to share a few things I have learned.

First of all, seriously consider not getting into debates, discussions, or arguments with evolutionists if at all possible. Even if you’ve already started, if you find yourself struggling, try to get out of the habit, take a break, and wait until you’ve properly prepared yourself. If you haven’t had much experience with such encounters, it’s better that you don’t try, even if you think you are ready because you’ve become familiar with materials from creationist seminars, websites, and newsletters. Read through this and you may have a better idea if you’re really ready.

Jumping into arguments with evolutionists when you’re not really ready has several bad consequences. It can give evolutionists the idea that all creationists are relatively ignorant, to put it kindly. In blunt terms, it can seem to confirm their belief that creationists are stupid, anti-science and anti-intellectual religious nuts. This will also give them more confidence that they are right, hardening them against listening to creationists in the future. At least as bad are the effects on the unprepared creationist: the shock of learning everything isn’t as cut-and-dried as it may seem if you only know popular-level creationist material, combined with the strong anti-creationist bias and negative attitudes and expressions with which evolutionists can attack, can have long-lasting effects on your confidence or even the strength of your faith in the Bible. I’ve gathered a number of stories of conversion from one belief to the other, and when creationists become evolutionists, it often starts with learning one fact they weren’t aware of and they weren’t prepared to deal with it. (For evolutionists to become creationists, it seems to be more likely that a challenge made them look at the facts they knew in a different light.)

In this world it’s almost impossible to avoid debate, and it would be great if all creationists were as prepared as possible, although we can’t all be experts. So even if you don’t intend or expect to get into verbal tussles with evolutionists, you should prepare yourself in the following ways as far as the Lord leads you.

First of all, I would say you must be sure you are truly a born-again believer, having repented of your sins and called on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation (Luke 24:46-47, Acts 2:21, 38-39, 16:31, Romans 10:9-13 . Trying to argue for creation when you don’t have the Creator living within you (Col. 1:12-18, Romans 8:9-11) is asking for all sorts of trouble. I’m reminded of the attack the sons of Sceva experienced when they tried to cast out a demon when they were likewise unregenerate (Acts 19:14-16). Some of the most zealous anti-creationists once believed they were Christians, but their faith was destroyed and belief in evolution took its place.

Next, be sure you are very knowledgeable about the Bible – the whole Bible, and not just the passages relating to Creation, salvation, and the popular parts like Psalms and Proverbs. All believers should set aside time to read the Bible each day, and read through all of it (2 Timothy 2:15 and 3:16-17). As you ground yourself broadly in the Scriptures, you’ll want to get deeper into Scriptural apologetics, “reasoned arguments or writings in justification of” our trust in the Bible. Evolutionists who don’t know anything else about the Bible will recall all sorts of arguments against it, “contradictions” in the Bible, etc. Creation ministries have materials on a number of these, but other websites and books have lists focusing on the claims of “errors” in the Bible and other such arguments. When it comes to dealing with evolutionists, it can be even more effective if you can find secular sources that refute or defuse such arguments; for example, I’ve found websites offering answers to math questions that totally destroyed the claim that the Bible teaches that Pi = 3. Likewise, you can probably find secular sources refuting the claim that there’s no reason to believe that Jesus was real, or that the Bible has been translated through a series of many languages.

Meanwhile, see if you can advance your knowledge of creation science. In addition to their materials for the general public, Creation Ministries International, Answers in Genesis, and the Institute for Creation Research all offer “technical” materials on their websites and through journals, and the Creation Research Society  is a professional association that also offers student and supporting memberships, with a popular-level newsletter and exclusive e-mail list for sharing news items, discussing, and debating things that Young-Earth Creationists are still working on. That’s right, we don’t have all the answers yet, either.

In case you get roped into a discussion before you’re well-prepared in general (sometimes the debate will be practically forced on you), be sure to familiarize yourself with advice from creation ministries on “arguments to avoid.” It would help a lot if we could just eliminate comments on paleontology news articles saying things like “If we evolved from apes, why are apes still around?” Of course, if you do your research on what evolutionists actually teach and believe, you’ll know better than to use that one. Other examples (such as the Second Law of Thermodynamics) may seem to be very good ones to use, but require expert knowledge to use, and even then tend to become long and drawn out and perhaps not worth the effort.

Another thing to do is learn the weak points of evolution. You probably already know some, and know of creationist and Intelligent Design books that go into details of these. My personal favorites are the “Cambrian explosion” and (while acknowledging that it is not technically part of biological evolution) abiogenesis or the supposed origin of life by simple natural processes alone. I have also developed a concept based on several previous arguments that I call Systematically Organized Dynamic Complexity.  I haven’t read Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels myself yet, but the title makes it clear it is focused on the chinks in the armor of evolutionary beliefs. While the book Icons of Evolution is similar and shows that traditional arguments for evolution were not what they were cracked up to be, that’s not what I have in mind at this point.

If you’re capable and planning on becoming advanced in your ability to argue for creation and against evolution, of course you’ll want to study science in general. There are books and other materials put out by creation ministries, but I recommend also studying original documents and non-creationist works related to the history and philosophy of science, especially the relevant works of Sir Francis Bacon. While evolutionists downplay the fact, I believe it says a lot that all the major sciences were founded and progressing well, long before uniformitarian geology and Darwinism came along. Another point that creationists might bring out more than they do is related to something Bacon predicted: true science will eventually go from work that produces knowledge about nature to applications which bring blessings to man. G. W. Carver, for example, believed that the Creator of peanuts made them to be useful, and from his studies of the chemicals in peanuts he demonstrated that many useful products could be made from them (but not peanut butter, someone else had invented that). Likewise, look at how much we’ve learned and the practical benefits that have come about through chemistry, physics, electronics and aviation. In contrast, some areas of evolution have failed to find support after 155 years, and the practical benefits that can be claimed are compatible with a proper understanding of biological inheritance and variation within the creation framework.

Of course, you’ll want to study evolution in particular. I don’t think even the best creationist materials can fully prepare you in that area. On the other hand, I would recommend staying away from websites that are too zealous for evolutionism and anti-creationism. They can give a distorted view of the theory and available facts in their own way.  Rather, look for original research reports and used textbooks. Although evolutionists will point out that we’ve learned a lot since Darwin’s day, I recommend reading Darwin’s Origin, if you can wade through the heavy style and outdated technical terms. Darwin used rhetorical devices such as shifting the burden of proof, which evolutionists resort to today. Reading articles about evolutionary research in scientific journals (you may have to go to a college library) or the less-technical editor’s summaries, news articles and reviews will help you understand what actual data is involved and the kinds of changes over generations that are actually observed.

For the ultimate in debate ability, you could also study philosophy, logic, rhetoric and debate. These subjects will be a blessing to you in other ways, as well. Naturally it will be a lot easier for young people who have a lot of formal education ahead  of them, but anybody can advance their knowledge using the internet (carefully), libraries, bookstores and used book stores.

Finally, I wish I didn’t have to say this, but it’s what was weighing on my mind when I decided to write this essay. When you do talk with evolutionists, or even about them, please do so graciously, even when they are being disrespectful, spiteful, even hateful. If they’re being extremely bad, you might simply refuse to talk with them at all. Although they may call us names like “creatard,” let us not respond in kind by calling them “evolutards” or “EVILutionists.” Remember our instructions to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-45), and (Colossians 4:6) “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. ” Remember that although Jesus didn’t mince words when addressing religious hypocrites, He set a perfect example of forbearance (Heb 12:2-3): “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. ” In my studies of evolutionists converting to creationism and Christianity, I never saw one that was helped by a creationist resorting to name-calling or other harshness. On the contrary, a number were helped by Christian friends showing true love and friendship while also dealing with the scientific facts and philosophical considerations.

(All Bible quotations are taken from the King James Authorized Version.)

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