Be aware of crafty presentations (don’t let simple solutions turn off your brain)

Derek Ouellette —  December 12, 2012

What I’ve learned over the years is that how something is presented is just as important as what is presented, if not more so. This is because if you can get people to think the way you want them to, you can convince them or guilt them into almost anything.

This is why crafting a presentation is just as important as creating the content for the presentation, if not more so.

A few months ago Richard Fangrad, president of Creation Ministries International, came to our little church to make a case for Young Earth Creationism. Afterward I asked him how long this particular presentation has been around. A long, long time, he confessed. No doubt going back to the early 90’s, if not longer. I’ve heard the presentation before on Youtube. It was word for word the same right down to the pauses in the joke-punchlines. No doubt the presentation was carefully crafted with every word, every pause, every exclamation mark and every image and chart designed to garner a very particular thought process from the audience.

This can be positive and effective. But it can also be negative and deceitful (intentional or not).

For example, Richard showed a chart with two columns. On the top of the left column was the word “Bible” and on the top of the right column was the word “World.” Underneath the Bible column was the word “Creation,” and underneath the World column was the word “Evolution.” Now it is important to clarify that by the point this slide came up it was already established for the audience that by “Creation” Richard meant specifically “Young Earth Creationism.” The chart looked something like this:

This chart communicates the idea that either you are a Bible believing Christian who holds to a young earth view of creation, or you’re in the world in your thinking. Either you accept the Bible’s world view – Young Earth – or you accept the world’s world view. Given those choices, what Christian wants to be aligned with the world? What Christian would reject the Bible’s world view?

It bothers me how much a presentation like this could cause so many Christians in the pew to nod their heads approvingly. I think the average Christian doesn’t have the time, necessary level of interest, or energy to read books by theologians and biblical scholars. They often accept simple conclusions when simple questions are proposed. I’m not being patronizing. It’s just a fact.

But Richard’s presentation flatly ignores the complexity of the truth which are:

1) the majority of biblical scholars reject a Young Earth model.

2) the Bible can legitimately be said to not teach the Young Earth model.

3) the Bible does not pit old earth against young earth.

4) the Bible does not support evolution.

5) neither does it oppose evolution.

And that’s just for starters. John Collins wrote the book, Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? In it argues that a historical Adam must have existed (in his view), because of Paul and Jesus’ remarks. But he rejects anything like a Young Earth model and even allows room for evolution. So does N.T. Wright. He believes in a historical Adam but also seems to allow for evolution. As well as John Walton, who shows how Genesis should be read in it’s context in his fantastic book, The Lost World of Genesis One.

My point is that we do no justice to create simple problems and then offer simple solutions when in fact the truth is far more complex. This is called creating a straw man. The practice seems to be down-right deceitful and unChristian. But I suspect that in our current example, Richard is no more critical or reflective then many Christian in the pew. Though he has devoted his life to defending a Young Earth model, he parrots a presentation that has gone unrevised in its major substance for many, many years and has fallen out of touch with what the Bible believing theologians and scholars have to say on the subject. He still thinks that among Christians the debate is between the “gap theorists” the “day age theorists” and the “young earthers.” Scholars have moved beyond that in an effort to learn what Genesis one, in it’s own context, says and means to discover that none of those “theories” are in fact, “biblical.”

Richard’s chart should look something a little more like this:

This chart does not represent the full spectrum of views, but it’s not meant to. This chart is designed to 1) show how reality is far more complex than Richard would have us believe and 2) point to the Bible’s real concern which is not “evolution” verse “young earth,” but “God” verse “false god” or rather “no god” (Psalm 14:1). My other point is that if someone is going to advocate for a particular view, say, Young Earth Creationism, they have gotta stop doing two things:

1. They must stop assuming that Young Earth Creationism is the Bible’s view

If someone believes that, the onus of proof is on them to prove it. First they have to rule out the other views which entails by necessity that the learn what those other views are (Richard never even heard of John Collins or John Walton when I asked him!). Second they need to allow room for those other views in the spectrum even if they disagree with them. This is a hermeneutic of humility. “Here’s what many Christians believe. They have many good points, but for the following reason I think they are wrong. Here’s my view. It’s not perfect, but I think it makes the most sense of the evidence.”

2. They must stop assuming that evolution equals world equals atheism (not true)

This Bible is opposed to atheism and idolatry, but careful thinkers know that the Bible does not necessarily oppose evolution. Even for those Christians who believe that Paul believed that Adam was a true historical figure (as I do), there is still room within that view for evolution, and careful thinkers should be able to think that through.

We need more careful thinkers in our pews if you ask me.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • charlie


    I can tell you have put some thought into this post. I feel that there is room for improvement though because, “the way you present your information is crucial, maybe even more so than the information itself.” Judging by your Title, introduction and conclusion it looks like you were trying to say, “be a careful thinker” unfortunately the audience you should be targeting with this post is not a careful thinker, at least not yet. In my experience some people are blessed by God with critical thinking but most others have to work hard at it. I think most people who do not have critical thinking skills yet will be thrown off by your analogy. When reading through it the reader is not reminded that your point is not to argue for or against creationism but to argue for thinking carefully. Maybe I am wrong and you were trying something else but I think that reminding the reader of your point in the body will help you greatly improve your effectiveness as a writer.

    Thanks for letting me share my two cents,

  • Craig L. Adams

    Yes, the way the presentation skewed the issues, you can tell they are not inviting honest consideration of the alternative. And, this, in turn, suggests that they fear their view would not fare well in a more honest discussion. It was propaganda.