The Atlantic: Homeschooling Families Are Embracing Evolution

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The Atlantic claims more and more homeschooling families embrace evolution and need books to teach it.

The Atlantic last week featured an article claiming that “a growing number” of Christian homeschooling families are suffering from “inevitable criticism” of their acceptance of evolution and a dearth of textbooks to help them teach it. Offering only anecdotal comments from three Christian homeschool moms who teach their children to accept the claims of conventional evolutionary science, author David Wheeler provides no data or documentation to support his claim.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), based on a 2010 study by Dr. Brian Ray,1 estimates that there are over 2 million homeschooled students in the United States. HSLDA’s Director of International Relations Michael Donnelly estimates there are between 500,000 and a million more worldwide.2 Though the reasons parents choose to homeschool vary widely, a 2007 Department of Education study reported that the percentage of parents who homeschool in order to pass on religious or moral instruction had risen to 83%.3 And 36% listed religious or moral instruction to be their top reason.4 A substantial number of parents who home educate are Christians.

Many Christians erroneously believe that the Genesis account of our origins, the global Flood, and the biblical timeline for the age of the earth have been disproved by science.

Many Christians erroneously believe that the Genesis account of our origins, the global Flood, and the biblical timeline for the age of the earth have been disproved by science. Thus while Wheeler only offers anecdotal examples, it is no surprise that some homeschooling Christians accept mainstream evolutionary science with a belief in millions of years and teach that to their children. And whether or not that proportion is actually increasing, organizations such as BioLogos are pouring in “money and resources” to make that number grow. For instance, a recent BioLogos conference in New York City explored plans to counter “grassroots education (YEC) initiatives, often centered on homeschooling, [which] have won over the majority of evangelicals.”5

Wheeler writes that “a growing number” of evangelical Christian homeschooling parents are “dismayed” by textbooks that deride evolutionary beliefs. He cites “Answers in Genesis curriculum, which features books such as Dinosaurs of Eden” as an example and says an evangelical Christian homeschooling “scientist” was horrified at seeing the much-publicized drawing of a saddled dinosaur. In the first place, Wheeler is incorrect in identifying this children’s book as curriculum. It is not. It never was. It happens that the artist hired by the publisher to illustrate this informative children’s book opted to do so in a manner consistent with the popular Dinotopia6 series. Ken Ham has never taught children that people saddled dinosaurs but rather that they coexisted with them. (See for more.)

This same homeschool mother says, “We get a lot of flak from others for not using Christian textbooks.” Of course, homeschool parents who use textbooks that dispute evolutionary dogma certainly get “a lot of flak” from those who claim they are ruining their children by teaching them to think critically about evolution and to accept the authority of God’s Word. Disagreement among moms in homeschool support groups about curriculum choices doesn’t exactly qualify as persecution. And it isn’t like parents who insist on teaching their children to accept evolution haven’t had books available to them. Besides the availability of mainstream textbooks used in public schools, some publishers have long made materials available for this share of the market. (Christianity Today describes Sonlight as one that has long straddled this fence.7) Hoping to either tap into the evolutionary market share or to increase it, publishers like Christian Schools International out of Michigan are now promoting curriculum teaching theistic evolution.

Another homeschool mom Wheeler quotes says, “Our science curriculum is one currently used in public schools. We want our children to be educated, not sheltered from things we are afraid of them learning.” Yet Answers in Genesis and many other publishers don’t suggest isolating children from evolutionary claims. Instead, many products are geared to teaching children to discern the difference between testable, repeatable, observable experimental science and the worldview-based interpretations of historical science. To do so, the claims of evolution must be taught and examined critically.

Roger Patterson, a former public school teacher who is now a curriculum writer and editor of educational resources at Answers in Genesis, notes:

We do not want children to be ignorant of the evolutionary view of origins, whether cosmological, geological, or biological, but we present the biblical explanation as truth alongside the false ideas of the various forms of evolution. We try to help the students understand how their worldview influences the way they interpret the world, just like evolutionary scientists interpret the data from their worldview. Evolution is not incompatible with the existence of God, but it is inconsistent with the way God describes His acts of creation in the early chapters of Genesis.

Given that the desire to pass on moral values and faith is such a common reason people homeschool, Patterson adds:

Those Christian parents who have pulled their children from public schools because of the values taught there do not realize that undermining the truth of Genesis as actual history undermines the basis for those values. Without the truths defined in the literal history of Genesis 1–11, what basis do you have for sexual identity, marriage, modesty, idolatry, murder, et cetera? We write our curricula from the perspective that we can only understand historical science in light of the truths of Scripture. We understand Genesis to present an actual history, not just an allegorical or mythical one, so we teach that God actually created different animals as He described—we take God at His Word.

Wheeler cites David Montgomery, author of The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood, as support for the idea that the schism between Christians over evolution and the age of the earth is a fairly new phenomenon that followed in the wake of Christians who saw Darwinian evolution as an essentially atheistic view. He maintains that over time those who accept the history in Genesis as literal “came to reject both geology and evolutionary biology.”

But as Dr. Terry Mortenson, whose PhD is in the history of geology, explains, acceptance of authoritative biblical history is not a rejection of science.

Montgomery is correct that by the time Darwin published Origin of Species virtually the whole church had accepted the millions of years, although it was not because they had carefully considered the “compelling geological evidence.” Rather it was simply that they accepted (by faith) the claims of the scientific majority and the assurances of Christian leaders and scientists that there was no conflict between the Bible's teaching and the idea of millions of years. In other words, they assumed that since “all the scientists, including God-fearing Christian scientists” agree that the earth is millions of years old, then it must be so. As a result the gap theory and day-age theory of Genesis 1 were the dominant ways that Christians attempted to fit millions of years into Genesis. Montgomery is also right that many fundamentalists thought evolution was an atheistic hypothesis.

But he is not correct in saying that those who insisted on a literal interpretation of Genesis 1–11 (not just Genesis 1) “came to reject both geology and evolutionary biology.” Rather, such Christians rejected the naturalistic, anti-biblical assumptions that were used to interpret the geological and biological observations in a way that implied millions of years and evolution. They never rejected geology and biology as sciences, just as the Scriptural geologists of the early 19th century never rejected geology, but only the old-earth interpretations of the geological evidence.8

The only true foundation for the Christian faith is Jesus Christ, for 1 Corinthians 3:11 says, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” And Jesus Christ prayed to the Father, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” God’s truth in God’s Word should be the authoritative standard by which we evaluate our doctrinal positions and all that we teach to our children (2 Timothy 3:15–17). And if Jesus Christ is our Savior, shouldn’t we believe what He said? Be sure to read Did Jesus Say He Created in Six Literal Days? to learn more.

HSLDA was founded by Christians to defend the rights of all parents, regardless of their faith, to direct the upbringing of their children through home education.

HSLDA was founded by Christians to defend the rights of all parents, regardless of their faith, to direct the upbringing of their children through home education. HSLDA Attorney Michael Donnelly, echoes the fervent desire of many parents, saying, “Homeschooling is a great choice for all parents and in my opinion is the single most effective form of education that allows Christian parents to carry out their God-given duty to train their children in the way they should go. Nothing else comes close to allowing parents to disciple their children into a relationship with their Creator.”9

Therefore, the homeschool community, by and large, has been responsive to warnings that their children need a solid foundation for their faith. Many have embraced “young earth creationism” because they do recognize that God’s Word is true from the very first verse. And those who compromise on biblical authority, such as BioLogos, see the homeschooling community as a threat. It is vital that homeschool families resist the fear-mongering calls of those, whether government officials or evolution educators, who falsely claim that children will be failures if they aren’t educated to not just know, but to accept the claims of evolutionary scientists (shades of Nineteen Eighty-Four, anyone?).

When Christians compromise on the historical authenticity of the Genesis account of our origins, the global Flood, and the biblically attested age of the earth, they chip away at the very authority of the God’s Word, relegating it to the realm of allegory or philosophical speculation (Colossians 2:8). Thus they diminish its power to change the lives of our children. They erode their faith by encouraging them to distrust the source of all that God has told us. And they rob them of the answers for many of life’s greatest questions about the source of sin and suffering in the world and the reason we need to be saved.

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Footnotes

  1. nces.ed.gov/pubs2009/2009030.pdf
  2. Personal communication.
  3. nces.ed.gov/pubs2009/2009030.pdf
  4. nces.ed.gov/pubs2009/2009030.pdf
  5. www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/marchweb-only/biologos-new-york.html; and News to Note, April 7, 2012
  6. www.dinotopia.com
  7. blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2013/03/do-more-christian-homeschoolers-want-evolution-in-textbooks.html
  8. See Terry Mortenson’s DVD Millions of Years: Where did the idea come from? and his book The Great Turning Point: the Church's Catastrophic Mistake on Geology—Before Darwin (Master Books, 2004), as well as chapter 3 in Terry Mortenson and Thane H. Ury, eds., Coming to Grips with Genesis (Master Books, 2008).
  9. Personal communication.

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