"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Evolving Out of Laestadianism

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Evolving Out of Laestadianism

This post includes material from Ed’s new book, co-authored with his friend and mentor Robert M. Price: Evolving out of Eden. Many thanks to Ed for another fine contribution to our continuing education on how Laestadianism relates to reality. —Free

Despite protests to the contrary, Laestadianism is very much a fundamentalist form of Christianity, having all five of the distinctive features that Peter Herriot identifies in his textbook on religious fundamentalism. Its holy book, “through its interpreters or read directly, has supreme authority over what to believe and how to act,” yet is selectively adapted, with specific ideas being chosen from it and emphasized, often with the traditional meaning changed in the process. It is reactive (“their religion is under mortal threat from the secularism of the modern world, and they are fighting back. They may resist in different ways, but they are all essentially oppositional; they have to have an enemy”), dualist (“they conceive of the world in binary opposites: God and the Devil, good and evil, truth and falsehood, etc.”), and millenialist (“expecting God to fully establish His rule over the world at some future time”).1

From Evolving out of Eden, p. 99
So it should come as no surprise that Conservative Laestadianism has not been a big fan of Darwin’s theory of evolution. One sermon from the 1950s said the “theory that man came from an animal” is “of those people who have never feared God and never have accepted the word of God as the only truth on this Earth” (Wisuri). An SRK theologian complained in 1961 that

not all men believe that they have been created and made by God, but that they are descendants of an ape, or have evolved from some lizard. They believe that man has during the time of billions of years developed into what he is now; but the wise ones of the world are seeking for that missing link which is still lost. What is the reason for advanced and educated man to put his ancestry so low, when men generally wish to be of some noble family and are proud of it that they know that they are of one? [Taskila 1961]
Two articles in 1977 issues of the Voice of Zion newsletter of the LLC (then AALC) warned about the teaching of “Darwin’s theory” in schools. When I was growing up in those hysterical and judgmental times, the idea of believers accepting evolution was as remote as the possibility of them having the slightest real understanding of evolutionary theory, or the abundant evidence for it.

From Evolving out of Eden, p. 100
Until recently, this remained the case, with Conservative Laestadianism firmly maintaining an utterly credulous, unwavering acceptance of Adam and Eve as historical figures. Seemingly every sermon and issue of the Voice of Zion contained a reference to the Fall in the Garden of Eden as the reason for our supposed “sin-corrupt” nature. This story attested only in two contradictory Creation accounts, substantially borrowed from pagan mythology, places an impossible burden of inherited guilt on every newborn baby from the moment it sees the light of day. One of the LLC’s primary doctrinal instruction books puts it this way:
As a result of the Fall, man was separated from God and lost his righteousness. The trusting relationship of the child to the Father disappeared, and in its place, came fear and a need to flee from God. We all bear this poor heritage of the Fall of the first people, which is called inherited sin. Man became incapable of doing that which is right before God. [Uljas 2000, 28]
I’ve listened to a lot of sermons since publishing An Examination of the Pearl and leaving the church a little over a year ago. (Playing on an iPod slipped under the pillow, they are great for helping me nod off to sleep.) And in that time, I’ve noticed Adam and Eve nearly disappearing from the LLC’s cast of characters, along with Noah. There was some ambivalence about creationism already in the SRK, with some intriguing and science-friendly statements showing up in two 2008 issues, and one 2012 issue of the Päivämies newsletter.2

From Evolving out of Eden, p. 296.
But recently there have been some reactionary voices, too, like the preacher who wrote cheerily in last month’s Voice of Zion that we “cannot hide from God, even as Adam and Eve could not hide in Paradise.” Our fallen human nature, he writes, “in itself, without grace, is so evil that it neither thanks nor honors God and continually falls into wickedness, sin, and vice.” And a writer in the latest issue of the SRK’s Päivämies calls the well-established scientific concepts of the Big Bang, life’s emergence from organic compounds, and evolution “just human attempts to squeeze the miracle of creation to the microscale of human intelligence” (Komulainen 2013). The article contains an unusual amount of “just my opinion” disclaimer language, perhaps in recognition of the widespread acceptance of evolution by Finnish Laestadians, but makes the fundamentalist’s point clearly enough: “In fact, all the theories that deal with the origin of the universe are beliefs, i.e., they are mostly based on assumptions. All observations don’t support them.”

That, to put it bluntly, is ignorant and untrue. It is also laughably hypocritical to see fundamentalists—whose self-loathing viewpoint about the human condition is based on a story about a fruit-peddling talking reptile that even the writers of the Old Testament ignored—lecturing scientists about assumptions and observations. The real agenda behind this disdain for science’s conclusions about origins, despite the lip service of saying “that science has an important role in examining the world and its operation,” is revealed by this admonition:
Let us keep our child-like Bible based faith. I believe that abandoning the theory of evolution does not mean fundamentalism, but sticking to the truth of the Bible. God created man in His Own image, put him to cultivate and shelter the Creation. If Paradise and the Fall of Man didn’t exist, there would not have been need for redemption. In our time which emphasizes reasoning, we need to encourage each other to turn to God and believe as the Bible teaches. [Komulainen 2013, emphasis added]
Perhaps the biggest single obstacle to Christianity making nice with Darwin is in the boldfaced sentence of that quote. The fundamentalist (sorry, “childlike sticker-to the truth of the Bible”) is forced to ignore all the evidence against one mythical story lest the other one, the most important of all Christianity, likewise be revealed as myth. You don’t have Original Sin without an original sinner. And without Original Sin, or at least the taint of inborn sin-corruption that Laestadian preachers feel so obligated to go on mournfully about, you don’t need a redeemer. Amen. Further services are hereby canceled. Is coffee ready?

This genetics vs. Genesis dilemma is what started my journey out of Laestadianism, and indeed out of Christianity and theism. That journey began with the surprising introduction I received (via engineering work, of all things!) to the uncomfortable truths about evolution. You can read about it in the free sample of Evolving out of Eden that I’ve posted online.

Now, many theologians are trying valiantly to make the square peg of evolutionary science fit into the round hole of theology. But after months and months of research, and co-authoring 340 pages of discussion about all the many incompatibilities, I personally am ready to conclude that it just doesn’t fit. This paragraph my co-author and I offer in our concluding chapter is perhaps a fitting conclusion to this post, too. We quote Philip Kitcher’s great line, “Darwin doesn’t provide much consolation at a funeral,” and say:
As former believers ourselves, we get it. But evolution—our evolution—is the truth, and there’s no point trying to deny it or the devastating consequences it has for a theology born in an age of scientific  innocence. The writer of Ephesians put it well, even if his conclusion was quite the opposite of ours: “We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:14-15, NASB). The truth is different from what we thought, but the inherent  value of truth over deceit remains the same. [Price and Suominen 2013, 315]


1. (Herriot 2009, 2). See also (Mercer 2009, xii), which cites this definition of religious fundamentalism by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby: It “manifests itself as a strategy, or set of strategies, by which beleaguered believers attempt to preserve their distinctive identity as a people or group.” This identity is fortified “by a selective retrieval of doctrines, beliefs, and practices from a sacred past,” which are presented “alongside unprecedented claims and doctrinal innovations.”
2. See (Suominen 2012, §4.3.1) for a discussion of creationism in Conservative Laestadianism, including recent developments (under the subheading “Evolving Doctrine”).


Herriot, Peter. 2009. Religious Fundamentalism: Global, Local and Personal. London: Psychology Press.
Komulainen, Tuomo A. 2013. Suurten kysymsten äärellä. Päivämies (May 15). Oulu, Finland: SRK.
Mercer, Calvin. 2009. Slaves to Faith: A Therapist Looks Inside the Fundamentalist Mind. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
Price, Robert M. and Edwin A. Suominen. 2013. Evolving out of Eden: Christian Responses to Evolution. Valley, WA: Tellectual Press.
Suominen, Edwin A. 2012. An Examination of the Pearl. Published by the author. Hyperlinks refer to sections (“§”) available online.
Taskila, Lauri. 1961. Journey of Fiery Trials. Apostolic Lutheran Church.
Uljas, Juhani. 2000. The Treasure Hidden in a Field. Translated by LLC.
Wisuri, Gust. Sermon given in the 1950s at Astoria, OR.


  1. It's amusing -- at first -- to watch Christians and other Theist religions perform all sorts of mental acrobatics trying to ignore, deconstruct and reconcile the OVERWHELMING evidence of evolution to their holy beliefs.

    But after a while, it just becomes sad.

    Great stuff as always, Ed.

  2. Ed, spot on as always.

  3. Trying to find reason in insanity.... Your efforts to do the painstaking research is amazing.


  4. It is also amusing...and sad...to see atheists proclaim that all Christians disavow evolution. As an engineer and a scientist -- and a Christian -- I have never found anything in science that would trouble my faith. It is my opinion, since I have no data, that most Christians are educated and forward thinking enough to realize there is no conflict between the two. Sure there are the ultra-fundamentalists who can't deal with it, but you know something? They have a right to believe whatever they wish, and it is only a truly ignorant elitist that would call them stupid and argue they don't have that right.

    I happen to think that there is a great deal of evidence that supports evolution and I am firmly in that camp. However, I also recognize that it is still a theory of evolution, not a law of evolution.

  5. With Cvow. If indeed evolution happend (is happening) what's to say it's still not by design of a Creator? Must it be either/or? Evolution doesn't trouble my Christian beliefs either.


  6. Yeah, I was kicking myself for not adding "Fundamentalist" in front of "Christians", since that's what I meant. Although CVow, the sad thing is is that nearly half of the U.S. population is Young Earth Creationist, including a majority of Laestadians.

    Nobody's arguing they don't have a right to their opinions. I'm not going to spare ridicule, however, if something is ridiculous.

    It should be noted, Gravity is also a "theory."

    1. And evolution is basically based on the "theory" of gravity :-0 (just saying)

      The theory of evolution doesn't hinder my faith. I just wish the fundamental atheists would stop trying to argue that evolution proves there isn't a divine creator, or if I must, a divine "intelligence". But hey, I'll be the first to admit that I haven't dug to far into this topic. maybe because it's true that Darwin isn't very comforting at a funeral or maybe it is because science can't explain many miraculous things (or both). sometimes ignorance is bliss.

      - My View

    2. Actually, evolution by definition presupposes no divine intelligence, but rather natural selection and randomness. But your point is well taken, My View; for the longest time, I wondered why "Creationism" and "Evolution" had to be mutually exclusive concepts. And depending on your definition of a Creator, I suppose they don't necessarily have to be.

      But surely you must admit, the Creator in this instance bears no resemblance to the Biblical "God." And that's why this topic is so important on many different levels. If you admit Evolution Theory to be true, then the literal Biblical story of Adam and Eve and, more importantly, Original Sin, cannot also be true. So what else is in the Bible that isn't true? Quite a lot, if you look at it rationally and objectively and without apologetic blinders on.

      (I would argue there is no such thing as a Fundamentalist Atheist; THAT is mutually exclusive. There ARE militant atheists, whom I typically find quite arrogant and mirthless).

    3. Free thinker,

      There are many parables in the bible, most are actually spoken by Jesus, but there are a FEW that are NOT in the Words of Christ, why cant the story of 'Adam and Eve' also be a parable? Maybe it didn't happen exactly that way, but the point is that we all have "original sin?"

      Also, dictionary.com defines evolution as " 3. Biology . change in the gene pool of a population from generation to generation by such processes as mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift."

      No where does that say that God, or some other Deity, could not be involved in that 'natural selection'. Maybe what appears random to us, is actually GOD.

      But, as I said before, I know relatively little on the subject.

    4. JAT,

      I suppose it could all be allegorical. But that's not how it's presented, at least by my reading, and certainly not by many Christians. And if you're going to go down that route -- anything in the Bible not supported or contradicted by evidence becomes "allegorical" instead of the literal truth -- then why take any of it at face value?

      The bottom line is, the notion of Original Sin, etc. does not make logical sense to me. I can't reconcile that by just wishing or "believing" that it does. I am no simply no longer capable of believing or having faith in anything for which there is no evidence.

  7. Although this may be what is currently preached from the pulpit (only in America, I might add), I'm not sure you can say its what all 'fundamentalists' believe. Religion is like everything else, you need to examine both sides and discover what you, yourself, believe. I, personally, think that the rejection of evolution within laestadianism comes from cultural pressures (as a general rule many Christians in America decided you cannot accept evolution and remain a Christian, so we adopted that as well). All of my 'fundamentalist' friends accept at least some portion of evolution and the big bang theory, I think this teaching comes from a lack of understanding about evolution, and that it is actually entirely possible to believe in both evolution and creationism. I think both evolution and 'original sin' exist.

    I will admit that my knowledge of evolutionism is pretty much limited to that which we were taught in school.

    JAT (LLC)

    1. Religion is like everything else, you need to examine both sides and discover what you, yourself, believe.

      Yes, absolutely! Well said. This is something I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically endorse.

      And if, after such examination, you find yourself believing in a particular set of doctrines, or enough of them to justify continuing to call yourself a believer in Laestadianism or any other religion, then I’m genuinely happy for you.

      As with love, if you doubt something, set it free. If it returns to you, it is an authentic faith, a set of beliefs you can hold with conviction and joy.

  8. The viewpoint that some of you are expressing, that evolution and Christianity are compatible, is not too unusual, especially outside Laestadianism and fundamentalism. (JAT, point taken about saying what all “fundamentalists” believe.) Addressing that “accommodationist” view is actually the main focus of Evolving out of Eden.

    This blog post (and the excerpts from the book I provided) was more directed toward Laestadianism’s long-standing rejection of evolution rather than the incompatibility Bob Price and I have found between the science of evolution and the theology of Christianity. I don’t particularly feel like belaboring this blog with an extensive argument about why: The book takes 340 pages to make those points, after all. And, frankly, I’m not sure I would even recommend reading it for troubled souls who are searching for a form of Christianity they can hold more authentically than what they grew up in. Not unless they are so tired of defending lifelong presuppositions and protecting fragile beliefs from scrutiny that they want to consider the evidence and follow it wherever it leads, regardless of the outcome. There’s no pot of gold at the end of this particular rainbow, no assurances of eternal life or higher purpose. Just a breathtakingly clear and elegant understanding of how we and all other life wound up swarming around the surface of this planet:

    “Think of it! Undirected, random variation rises upward from the mindless froth at the floor of an indeterminate universe and percolates through the screen of selection. That filter—natural and sexual selection—is a roulette wheel of replication probability whose numbers are determined by physical constraints and the products of previous evolution. It’s all chance and necessity, as far back as we can see. No deity compatible with evolutionary science is triggering the mutations, spinning the wheel, or determining the odds” (Evolving out of Eden, pp. 315-316).

  9. EOP,

    I am so excited to read your new publication. If I wasn't worried about becoming totally absorbed in research and forgetting to go to my paid job...! It took me such a long time to come to any conclusions as to where I wanted my belief system to initiate from after rejecting anything that I felt came from my restrictive past religion. It was so wonderful to have the breakthrough in which I discovered that I may or may not be influenced by whatever I choose, that it didn't have to come from anywhere except where it came from, and that embracing the randomness of it all was quite liberating. I really don't need to "believe IN" anything, that I can choose to be inspired by science, by fact, by tradition, by genetics, by written word, by sacred or secular music, by other people. OR NOT.
    "But evolution—our evolution—is the truth, and there’s no point trying to deny it or the devastating consequences it has for a theology born in an age of scientific innocence." If truth is based on fact, then I wish it was more important to people that I still care about, but clearly it doesn't matter to the people closest to me as a child. When I was 6 I had already decided that what I was being forced to believe was apish, pun intended. It caused me such anxiety to have to pretend that I really believed the explanations I gave to my teacher, classmates. I would feel my entire body burn because I was doubly lying. I am finally able to brush off the matter of evolution being false as a silly non-issue, akin to smoking being healthy before research proved otherwise. Some things "sent down from above" I still hold in my heart, like the 10 commandments, and the golden rule, and I'm ok with it. Almost every religion, (even wiccans; which we were taught lived in the darkest of darkness,) hold the same generic principle of the importance of balancing more good than evil. Anyway, I can't wait to read more! Thank you.

    1. Very inspiring, Pebbles. I have enjoyed your contributions to the discussions.

      One of the things "sent down from above" I still hold dear is the Forgiveness of Sins. In my own personal experience, it was often genuine and quite cathartic. So I continue to ask and offer "blessings" with my believing family, and hold the tradition in reverence ... it just means something a little different to me now.

  10. I am guilty of it myself, but I don't like when former believers (of any stripe) show contempt for positions they only recently abandoned, or find fault with those less gifted, curious, or informed.

    I do not expect my OALC kin, for example, to have any knowledge of evolution. It is poorly taught -- if at all -- in American schools, and completely elective in college. If someone as intelligent as Ed was a Creationist for most of his life, why should they be any different?

    The truth is we are all less rational, and more psychologically motivated than we may wish to believe. As Bertrand Russell pointed out a long time ago, we are more likely to believe explanations that affirm choices we've already made. Confirmation-bias! It's our bane, at all levels in all areas. And that goes for both believers and non.

    Joseph Adler theorized that humans are motivated primarily by two needs, to belong, and to be significant. For Laestadians, those needs are met in being accepted by fellow believers, and both created ,and loved by God.

    I suspect many of us leave because those needs are not being met. We may rationalize it and tell ourselves all kinds of stories about why, but it is not primarily an intellectual motivation.

    1. You are correct, Free, and I apologize for the tone of my original post. I had been reading too much reddit, and wasn't referring to people on this site.

    2. I apologize as well if my comments stimulated this remark, Free. I meant literally what I said, which was that I wished "they" cared. However, if I want "them" not to judge me, I also have to attempt to abstain from judging. I do not feel that this should inhibit me or anyone else from having their own opinion, though.

    3. No apologies needed, FreeThinker and Pebbles! Your opinions are very much valued here. My remarks were not directed at anyone in particular, and reflect my own insecurities. I don't think we can ever be objective; we can only be more or less aware of our biases.

  11. Evolution would be a terrifying subject for consideration amongst Laestadians as the speakers/clergy themselves are usually not well educated and thus cogent arguements, such as presented in Ed's book would usually only be countered with Bible verses as the Laestadian believer would be unable to debate the issue academically as successful debaters usually have an intimate knowledge of both sides of an issue. (A good source for further information for the Biblical case for creation can be found with the Institution for Creation Research at www.icr.org which some might find helpful to better understand the Christian case for creation.)
    When Galileo proposed that the earth revolved around the sun in 1612, he was almost executed by the Catholic Church for heresy. Yet today there is no arguement by either the Catholic Church nor Laestadianism over the layout of our solar system. Likewise my guess is that there will not be any conflict either when the origins of our planet and life itself are illuminated in the coming years. The WHAT will not be in question only the WHY.
    When I studied Darwin and the others who proposed evolution I noted how the humanistic philosophers of their day quickly jumped onto the bandwagon. I also noted that these same humanistic philosophers had a life of moral debauchery which also led me to believe that guilt and rebellion against a moral authority (Christianity) certainly was also looming in their minds.
    A common fault of Bible critics, whether it was in the 1600's, 1800's, the 1900's or now was how they critiqued the Bible or dissected it as though it was a chronological historical timeline of events which it is not. Instead my view is that the Bible is a precise chronological timeline of SPIRITUAL events with regards to the events of the God of Abraham. The delineation of 'the God of Abraham' becomes important from my viewpoint because the Bible only makes relatively brief references to other religions homing in on their fruits in contrast to those of the God of the Bible.
    Humans are worshiping beings and that can be easily shown by quoting an exerpt from 'Evolving out of Eden', "Denett notes there are thousands of religions with....two or three religions (coming) into existence every day and their typical lifespan is less than a decade." So one can see from Ed's book itself that there is some constant innate desire by humans to worship or have some type of intimate communications with a higher power, knowledge or purpose. My anecdotal experiences dealing with thousands of people only confirms this observation.
    I plan to read, 'Evolving out of Eden' over the next few weeks, but my impression is that the spiritual void (disillusionment with Laestadianism) has created a spiritual void that seemingly needs to be filled with the presupposed 'truth' of evolution. When I left Laestadianism part of me had an urge to totally throw out the whole Christian thing as I suspected it might all be a big line of bunko. I was fortunate enough however, to have a series of events happen such that I realized that the Bible was true but that I had been taught a very, very distorted interpretation of the Bible.
    Most Laestadians want to know the truth about the 'truth' in a non-threatening fashion. My experience was that there are still conservative Biblical churches out there which can provide the answers to the doubter's questions. 'Evolving out of Eden' seems to be a compilation of the author's rejection of Laestadianism and religion, however I doubt that it would provide the answers which would fill the void of most waivering Laestadians. But I certainly intend to read the book as Ed is an excellent writer. Old AP

  12. Old AP, as usual, I'm pretty sure we're singing from the same page in the hymnal! It has been my observation that many of the folks who have left Laestadianism want to turn their backs on Christianity as a whole. All too often, I fear this is because the only view they have ever had of Christianity has convinced them that all churches march to the same beat.

    When I left the church, I had no doubt whatsoever in the saving grace of Jesus Christ -- but it had finally dawned on me that what I was hearing and probably even more importantly observing was not the truth. I am sure that I was blessed, because in marrying out of the OALC had afforded me the experience of getting to observe my wife's faith and getting to understand it. Amazingly, and contrary to what I had heard in the OALC, Sunday after Sunday, was that those "worldly" people were not on the slippery slope to hell.

    It is my hope and prayer that anyone who is in a troubled spot in their journey to not turn your backs on God because of a bad experience with a small, misguided section of humanity. At the very least, before you shut God out of your life, consider Pascal's Wager.

    1. I don't believe Pascal's Wager is valid, cvow. From http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/wiki/faq, which I think everyone who wants to understand atheism should read:

      "This is known as Pascal's Wager, and has been thoroughly debunked ever since Blaise Pascal introduced it. Rationalwiki has an excellent page on the topic, as does Iron Chariots, but we'll go over some highlights.

      Which god? This assumption is a specific example of the logical fallacy of false dilemma. Humanity has worshiped between twenty-seven hundred and three thousand different gods since the beginning of recorded history, and those are just the ones we know about. The gods that could exist that we don't know are practically infinite. Pascal himself acknowledged the weakness of this assumption, and later explained he was only speaking in terms of the Christian religion.

      Assuming we somehow manage to choose the right god, how do we know we're worshiping that god in the correct way? There are many different sects of Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Christianity in particular has approximately forty-one thousand different denominations. Assuming that this god cares about being worshiped at all, how do we know we're worshiping him as he demands? If the Calvinists are correct it doesn't matter how you worship him, your salvation is pre-ordained whether or not you believe. If the Catholics are right salvation is only possible through rituals like communion and the last rites. If the Baptists are correct then only deliberate submission through prayer begging for salvation will do the trick. They can't all be correct.

      Assuming that we have the right god and are worshiping in the manner that god requires, why would this god accept a lie? No one can force themselves to believe something they don't genuinely think is true. Try forcing yourself to honestly believe that gravity is a myth and that you can float off your seat any time you wish. Simply claiming belief isn't the same as believing. If this god is willing to accept such a lie, how does that make it worthy of worship? If it's capable of being lied to, how does it qualify as a god at all?"

      One of our member came up with a different wager in response. Read Nuke's Wager and see how it works for you.

    2. Groan. I meant to cut off the last sentence. I guess if you want to read Nuke's Wager it's here:


    3. Here’s a handy clickable link to the Nuke’s Wager comment on reddit.

      FreeThinker, when you say NukeThePope is one of our members, what do you mean? An extoots reader? I’ve long admired the clarity and forcefulness of his (her?) comments on reddit.

    4. EOP, that sentence is on that reddit page. I forgot to excise it as I was cutting and pasting. (So, a member of Reddit).

    5. Free Thinker, you of course have the right to believe or disbelieve, accept or not accept anything you want. (I have that same right as well.)

      I personally don't need Pascal's Wager, since I am confident enough in my own faith. I did look at the "Nuke's Wager" and thought it was pretty much all "ludicrous logic". Of course, when I see someone making alarmist statements like the "Roman Catholic church killing tens of millions of human beings", I tend to dismiss anything else the person has to say. It's kind of like your statement "If the Catholics are right salvation is only possible through rituals like communion and the last rites."

    6. Well now wait a minute, cvow. What part of Nuke's Wager was "ludicrous logic?" Did you click on the Roman Catholic link you disparaged as an alarmist statement? Many credible historians put the number of people killed for heresy by the Roman Catholic church at 50 Million or more. And don't current Catholics believe that salvation is only possible through THEIR particular belief in Christ (which includes communion and last rites)?

      Nobody's arguing you can't believe what you want. We're merely discussing those beliefs and their logical conclusions. Do you believe I am going to Hell for rejecting Christ and the Biblical God?

    7. FreeThinker, of course I do not believe you are going to hell or anywhere else. I left the OALC, so I no longer have that perceptive power. OK, I guess that was facetious, even for me. If you had read any of what I've written here for several years, you'd realize that I have railed many times against those who think they have the right to judge the soul or beliefs of any person.

      With regard to the Catholic Church, you are misinformed. The church professes (in very small part) the following:
      - Salvation comes from God alone
      - Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation
      - Faith is necessary for salvation

      Does the Catholic Church believe that they practice and defend the right faith? Of course. Why would any institution of any kind, religious or otherwise, practice in some way and at the same time state that they are incorrect?

      What you refer to in Eucharist (not communion) and Anointing of the Sick (not last rites), along with Marriage, Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and Penance are sacraments -- in the words of the old Baltimore Catechism, "Outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ, for our sanctification." Are they necessary for salvation? No.

      Does the RC Church say anywhere that only RCs will be saved? No. We leave that to the Laestadians. Does the RC church state who will or will not be saved? No. We leave that to God.

      If you really want to understand what the RC Church believes in -- or doesn't believe in -- I encourage you to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    8. I will freely admit my lack of knowledge on Roman Catholicism. But from your own Catechism of the Catholic Church, it appears they do practice exclusivity, unless I'm misinterpreting?

      From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extra_Ecclesiam_nulla_salus#Catholic_interpretation):

      "The Church's understanding of the significance of the phrase: "Outside the Church there is no salvation" is expressed in its Catechism of the Catholic Church, 846-848, 851 as follows:
      "Outside the Church there is no salvation" - How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
      "Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it" (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 14)."

      But I digress; the point, to me, is minor in the discussion of Christianity/religion as a whole. I have appreciated your comments and insights over the years, and if one is going to be "Christian", your [apparent] adherence is healthy, from a secularist point of view.

      Where I'm going with this though is, why is Christianity necessary? If it's necessary for Salvation, where is the evidence? (Frankly, Nuke's Wager makes more logical sense than Pascal's in this regard). If it's to live a good and just life, all well and good but there are many other mantras that are just as valid if not more, and less prone to extremist misinterpretation. If not either of those ... what?

    9. FreeThinker,
      Asking why Christianity is necessary is like asking whether fidelity is necessary for a happy marriage. Clearly, mileage varies.
      If there is one thing I hope this blog accomplishes, it is humility for our individual ability to decide what is "necessary" or just beneficial for someone else, and respect for the variety of ways humans find meaning in our lives.

    10. Oh I know, Free. To each their own, etc. and if someone receives clarity and purpose that takes them in a Beneficial direction, good on them, whatever the source.

      I was speaking from the perspective of mankind as a whole. As we evolve, I truly believe Religion will become less and less important (necessary) for society. What that is replaced with, well that'll be the interesting part.

  13. cvow - Amen!! This is one of the saddest things I have come across in this blog and in my own community. It was very strange for me to attend "dead faith" churches when I first left the OALC because of what I'd been told about them my whole life. My spirit was not content to NOT worship my God, however, and I am grateful I did not leave GOD just because I left the OALC.

  14. CVOW, 'Evolving out of Eden' has a premise that religions, including Christianity come and go. The book is written using the rationalistic 'higher level of criticism' approach. But the truth is Christianity is bound by a thread that goes back to the beginning whether that was 6000 years ago at 9AM on October 3, 4004 BC, according to the Uusher-Lightfoot timeline or 60,000 years ago. Darwin's 'religion' of evolution only goes back to the year 1842-roughly 170 years, so I would have to ask which religion has more staying power?

    In the book, 'Memoirs of Early Christianity in Northern Lapland', (published by the Federation) Christian believers were very congnisant of the unseen spiritual battle that was taking place around them. However, when I was a member I realized that most people needed to retreat behind rote fundamentalist-type answers when there was any serious inquiry or challenge to their Laestadian faith. Secular observers have noted that starting roughly in the year 2000 there has been a huge ongoing wave of secular humanism and a whole sociological transformation of America.

    My guess is that in the not too distant future, Laestadians will no longer be able to rest on their cornucopia of ethnic and sometimes abusive isolationist beliefs and the movement will need to re-discover its true Biblical roots....otherwise it will find itself increasingly marginalized and the elders will one day observe that the young people are 'evolving out of Laestadianism'. Let's hope they can make that transition. Old AP

  15. But the truth is Christianity is bound by a thread that goes back to the beginning whether that was 6000 years ago at 9AM on October 3, 4004 BC, according to the Uusher-Lightfoot timeline or 60,000 years ago.

    Not true. There is little resemblance between any form of Christianity today and the church of medieval Europe, or the graceless no-second-chances Christianity of the first centuries after Christ. And those have no resemblance to the Judaism of the Old Testament, which itself evolved over time and had competing factions, just like Christianity.

    Darwin's 'religion' of evolution only goes back to the year 1842-roughly 170 years, so I would have to ask which religion has more staying power?

    Calling evolution a religion of Darwin is just a creationist ad hominem attack, which I am really surprised to see a thoughtful commenter like yourself doing, Old AP. And it’s ironic that creationists try to smear such a well-established, abundantly proven scientific theory by comparing it to a religion. Aren’t they the ones talking about how much truth there is to religion, or at least their own religion?

    Religions make up stories and try to persuade you that they are somehow exempt from the usual standards of reason and evidence. Science is founded on those standards. It looks at the evidence, offers explanations for observed phenomena like fossils, patterns of speciation across the globe, vestigial features, etc., and tests those explanations. If they don’t stand up to scrutiny, they are discarded.

    Part of my impatience with creationists is that they refuse to be a part of that process. Yet they are all too willing to disparage evolution and offer pop psychology rationalizations for why people (like me) would accept the explanations that evolutionary science has provided, and subjected to the evidence. Let me emphasize, as someone who has spent hundreds of hours doing my own independent study of the topic: There is overwhelming evidence for evolutionary origins of all life, including human life. You don’t have to take my word for it. You can read this stuff on your own: Evolving out of Eden cites 180 references, many of them books and papers from scientists with hard data.

    But, thanks to wishful thinking and active campaigns of deception by creationists (and the “Intelligent Design” bunch is definitely included in this category), the public has little idea of how strong the scientific case really is. That doesn’t stop people from making all sorts of proclamations which are just plain silly to those of us who know better, because we have done the hard work of learning better. It gets tiresome, and from my perspective, looks an awful lot like the dogmatism that I left behind with Laestadianism.

  16. Ed said, “There is little resemblance between any form of Christianity today and the church of medieval Europe, or the graceless no-second-chances Christianity of the first centuries after Christ. And those have no resemblance to the Judaism of the Old Testament, which itself evolved over time and had competing factions, just like Christianity. Religions make up stories and try to persuade you that they are somehow exempt from the usual standards of reason and evidence. Science is founded on those standards. It looks at the evidence, offers explanations for observed phenomena like fossils, patterns of speciation across the globe, vestigial features, etc., and tests those explanations. If they don’t stand up to scrutiny, they are discarded. There is overwhelming evidence for evolutionary origins of all life, including human life.”
    Touche Ed! You bring up many valid points. When I was first investigating the same issues many decades ago I understood the implications of evolution. If evolution was true then the Biblical teachings of Christianity were essentially a fairy tale and while Christian might offer an ethos & some philosophically positive attributes for people to live by, it certainly was not the only true religion. With regards to Laestadianism I realized that all the wailing and guilt over sin was just an emotional con job perpetrated by a bunch of superstitious and emotionally warped spiritual neurotics.
    So needless to say these issues were quite troublesome to me as I tried to sort things out. Where I may have parted ways with your approach Ed is at a fork in the road where I began to seek out the actual truth or epistemology of life. Initially, like you, I rejected my Laestadian religious upbringing but over a period of years I had a series of events happen to me which began to tweak my mind with regards to Christianity. As time went on I realized that God could not be approached nor known using a rational mind. Since God is omnipotent & a Spirit humans can only approach him on his terms and not on ours. I came to realize that the only way to approach him was through the mortification of our most intense and innate desires and beliefs. On the day I did this & was converted I physically saw the unseen spiritual world around me in living color. I saw the demons and I saw an angel & I had conversations with both. It was in one sense supernatural. At the same time I received the Holy Spirit & I understood what 2 Corinthians 1:22 & Ephesians 1:14 were talking about when it states that the Spirit is given as a ‘deposit’. It was then that I understood Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” So while your research tracing the evolution from life from a fish to an ape to a human is reality for you my ‘research’ for lack of a better word, was real to me as I saw it with my own eyes.
    Now ‘proving’ what I have just told you would be difficult as there is apparently some other spiritual dimension around us that might possibly only be explained through theoretical physics. But since my conversion everything for me has sort of fallen into place with regards to science, philosophy etc... & it all matches up with the Biblical account of things.
    So Ed, I will not be able to win the debate using your body of scientific logic as I would counter that the knowledge of the purest form of truth only comes about through obedience to the words of Jesus. My approach to ascertain the ‘truth’ was very different in that I sought out God or the ‘truth’ if you will, by following the Biblical blueprint. So discussing these matters with you is not threatening to me and in fact it is quite enjoyable as I enjoy discussing things with some one who can actually think. Just as Laestadians would reject your views, they also rejected mine. You certainly have an interesting book which I plan to obtain and read ASAP. Old AP

    1. Old AP, I must admit you piqued my curiosity. I would love to learn more about your conversations with Angels and Demons. I will admit that I have never had any kind of "mystical" experience -- a few weird phenomena and one minor "religious ecstasy" moment at Confirmation -- but certainly nothing like you describe.

  17. Ed I was going to mention that many in Christianity's history including the Wesley brothers, St. Francis, Luther, Laestadius as well as scores of others related accounts of physically seeing angels, demons etc....sort of like theophanies. So I would not look on my experience as being out of ordinary. Old AP

  18. Science does rely on evidence and research, and proves some things and theorizes about others. For some things, there is a lot of evidence. As a scientist and engineer, I accept that.

    Religion relies on faith, and accepts that not all things are yet understood. There is a good deal of evidence of a Creator and loving God - miracles that defy coincidence and logic. As a Christian, I accept that.

    It is my opinion that to ascribe to only one or the other is to walk with a blinder over one eye. A closed minded scientist is just as annoying to me as a closed minded fundamentalist.

  19. CVOW, here is an appropriate quote: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." – F. Scott Fitzgerald

    I realize that there is some logical answers to these questions waiting to be discovered as pure truth is not in conflict with itself. I also accept that God's ways are not our ways (the faith part) and that the creator of universes and solar systems is not in need of my counsel.......in fact quite the opposite. Old AP

    1. My husband's uncle, a retired anthropologist who has seen a lot in his 80+ years, says that the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind is the best insurance against extremism.

  20. Old AP,

    That's called cognitive dissonance. SISU

  21. Phreneology was once considered a valid science. So, too, was Eugenics. In fact, what is termed "positive eugenics" is still being practiced today. (see: Human Genome Project). My point being, science in and of itself is not man's salvation either. It is fallible because it depends on man.

  22. Not sure if this really fits here, but it seems the most "on topic" for what I have to say. I have been slogging through Ed's first book, Examination of a Pearl. I have found it to be interesting, compelling, and very well written. It has taken me a really long time, because I keep stopping to do my own examinations of what I have been taught and what he has written. That being said, I have been spending quite a bit of time reading Genesis tonight and wonder, does any one else find an understanding of the story of Genesis, that God creates "man" twice? He creates men and women in "our image" on the sixth day (and calls them both Adam, to my understanding). Later, after the seventh day, he discovers that there is no one to till the land, and creates Adam and puts him into the Garden of Eden, then brings up the beasts of the land from dust, so re-creates some animals(?) for Adam to name, finding that there is no suitable mate for Adam he creates Woman. Or, what am I missing that says these are not two separate occurrences?

    Also, I noticed that in Ed's book he states that Adam and Eve had only two children, but Genesis 5:4 states "And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters" I have been told that this refers to Seth, but to me it is verse 7 which refers to Seth's children. Can anyone clarify this? (likely not, it seems there are tons of opinions as to interpretation of any part of the bible) Anyone have any ideas/suggestions/responses for me?

    1. Very much on topic, JAT. First, let me thank you for your diligent attention to my book, and for doing your own examinations along the way.

      What you are seeing with the repeated creation of “man” in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 is the result of two conflicting creation stories appearing in the text, from writers with different agendas. Bob Price and I discuss this at some length in the chapter “Eden Disorder” (we love having fun with titles) of Evolving out of Eden:

      “All but the most fundamentalist of Bible scholars recognize that Genesis contains two disparate accounts of Creation. As a former conservative Presbyterian recalling how he finally confronted this fact, Arch Taylor says he ‘had conveniently ignored the details of the two accounts that were mutually
      inconsistent: the difference in the numbering of the days and the order in which God was said to have created various things.’ In keeping with the children’s story Bible on which he had been brought up, he ‘had unquestioningly assumed that the story about Adam and Eve was just a more detailed description of what had taken place when, as chapter 1 had said, God created them in the divine image on the sixth day.’ But, as anyone reading it with a clear mind must, he was forced to acknowledge that the ‘Bible doesn’t say that; it obviously says something different’” (p. 77).

      The two creations wound up “cheek by jowl in the same scripture” because “each was the traditional lore of a different tribe, clan, sect, or faction among the Hebrews. And our Pentateuch represents an attempt to provide a national charter that everyone could get behind. In order to do this, allthe rival, disparate sacred documents had to be included. It would not do to exclude this group’s cherished version of the creation or that tribe’s beloved version of the flood, or of Abraham and Hagar. It was not that the biblical compilers were or were not ‘blockheads.’ Surely they noticed the glaring differences, but what could they do? It is what happens with compromise documents” (p. 76).

  23. EOP,

    I was trying to remember for the longest time the book title that was trying to emerge from the fog of my beginnings of research in this area. It struck me because of the human genome project commonality in your research. Although I'm not at this place anymore, it is a phenomenal read from another perspective regarding this, God, and other topics as they present themselves to a scientist.