How to Talk to Creationists

I received a note from a youth pastor last week. He is fascinated by science but works in a Midwestern church that leans heavily toward Young Earth Creationism. He asked me: "When you've had conversations with staunch creationists, how do you present the science-Christianity relationship in a way that doesn't immediately turn them off?"

Here's my answer, edited slightly.

You ask an excellent question. The only thing I can tell you about working with creationists is to listen carefully to them -- try to see what's behind their words. Treat it like a puzzle and ask yourself -- what's really motivating them? Don't worry about convincing them.

I don't mean to not take them seriously. It is good and necessary to learn as much about science and the cosmos as you can and to bring that into your dialogue. That is your responsibility. Engage them as deeply as your knowledge will allow. But winning an argument with a well-prepared and defensive creationist is not really possible. The point is not to be right but to kick the conversation down the road a little, and to learn about your parishioners along the way.

It's a pastoral question first and an intellectual question second. If they know you love them they won't ultimately care if you disagree with them. That's the truth. And there's no better way to convince them about science than by opening yourself up to them while standing by your convictions regarding God and the cosmos.

But you have to love them first and always, and love does not insist on being right.

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