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Science and Faith – A Pastoral Approach? (RJS)

posted by Jesus Creed Admin

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Over the last year or so I’ve written a number of posts that have reflected on various aspects of the intersection of science and faith.  These are issues and questions that I’ve thought about and wrestled with most of my adult life. How should we interpret Genesis or Romans? What does it mean to claim that scripture is inspired? How much of Genesis is historical? Does it matter that Paul thought that Adam and Eve were unique individuals, if he did? How can we reconcile evolution with creation by God? Should we try? Is there room for chance in the universe? How can we reconcile the evidence for common descent with Adam and Eve and Original Sin?  I could go on – but you get the idea.

These kinds of questions have been faced by many Christians over the last hundred years or so – often times contributing to a loss of faith, other times to a withdrawal, or to the development of an ironic faith. See Scot’s book Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy or his CT article on ironic faith for more on these paths.  These are deep questions, how we deal with them has serious ramifications – and the questions are not going to go away.

I have a simple question I would like to pose today:

What is the correct pastoral approach to the issues that arise at the intersection of science and faith?

As we’ve been thinking through these
ideas at the intersection of science and faith I have been persistent that the evidence for an old earth and an
older universe is overwhelming – there is no room for doubt here. More
significantly I have tried to explain why I find the evidence for
evolution and common descent persuasive, and why the idea of a literal
Adam and Eve seems difficult to reconcile with the data.

In putting forth my ideas and thoughts I have been more blunt and more honest than is my usual habit.  I have found it useful, as I have learned quite a bit through writing these posts and through the conversation that results.  Some of the posts and comments reflect “thinking in public” more than firm preconviction.

But this blog is a public forum. Anyone can read and anyone can contribute to the conversation (well – as long as they remain civil and on topic). This conversation can help those who have questions and doubts, especially those who cannot find a space for safe conversation off-line.  On the other hand it can challenge the faith of some who might never have needed to confront these issues and question. There is potential for doing good – and there is potential for doing harm.

I am interested in what you think – especially those who are pastors, youth workers, involved in University ministries and such.

What is the best pastoral approach to these questions? Should we be more concerned with potential harm or potential good?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail [at] att.net.



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Rick

posted July 9, 2009 at 7:38 am


RJS-
“What is the best pastoral approach to these questions? Should we be more concerned with potential harm or potential good?”
Great questions, and ones I have had to consider as a youth worker, parent, and just as a friend of other Christians.
Two things come to mind:
1st, it may depend on the individual. Some people do not, or never will, have a problem one way or the other with these questions. These issues do not, and will not, impact their walk with Christ. It is just not on their radar, even when discussed in a classroom setting. They answer the questions for the tests, then move on to other interests. Their opinions have not changed, and are really not of great concern. To push these people to deal with such issues may do more harm than good.
2nd, and my main point, is that if we make such issues a big deal, then almost seem to become an “essential”, in which case we then cause more harm than good. This should force us to make sure we are stressing what are the true essentials of the faith, so that certain difficult (important, yet secondary) questions do not totally derail one’s faith.
Some aspects of the evangelical church, especially in the 20th Century, put too much emphasis on certain secondary issues. This caused some to walk away due to non-essentials, and prevented many from learning the true essentials. If we stress the essentials, we then can deal with such secondary scientific questions with less tension and more freedom.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 9, 2009 at 7:39 am


RJS,
For me it begins at home and in SS classes and esp in youth group teachings in middle school and high school. That educational process needs to involve:
1. Lack of fear of evidence.
2. Willingness to permit growth in knowledge of the world about us.
3. Presenting the standard views on science and faith on the part of a variety of Christian approaches. A kind of 4 views on science and faith approach.
4. Encouragement of youth to think through these things rationally and carefully and responsibly.



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Ben

posted July 9, 2009 at 8:20 am


RJS,
Along the same lines as Rick and Scot, the pastoral approach needs to be one that this issue is not an essential and no matter which position one chooses to hold to, one can still be a growing functioning Christian in the same body of believers that differs on this point. How the world and people came into being is not essential to the Gospel and should never be approached that way.
Even your statement in the post, “As we’ve been thinking through these ideas at the intersection of science and faith I have been persistent that the evidence for an old earth and an older universe is overwhelming – there is no room for doubt here,” is worded in such a way that will be quite divisive. Your empirical proclamation that there is no room for doubt will turn away those that believe in the Young Earth theory, which does have its strong points and leaves doubts in plenty of minds. Point is, even a statement like you made should not be coming from the pulpit if the goal is to unify a body of believers around the essentials of the Gospel.
Too long has this issue divided Christianity, whether you are a Theistic Evolutionist or Young Earth Creationist, you should be welcomed in any church body.



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RJS

posted July 9, 2009 at 8:31 am


Ben,
You are right – and that is part of what I meant when I said that I’ve been more blunt here than I generally am in a church setting. This is where the question of public forum and pastoral approach comes from.
But I don’t know anyone who says you cannot hold to a young earth, or progressive creation, or an historical Adam and Eve and be a Christian. I do know some (quite a few in fact) who say you cannot accept the basic features of evolution including common descent and still be a Christian.



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MatthewS

posted July 9, 2009 at 8:31 am


I like the word “winsome.” We should endeavor, where possible, to encourage those around us to deal winsomely with others. It is right and proper to state the truth as we understand it and to encourage others to find their voice to do the same. Spoken truth is better than mute fear of rejection. But engage, don’t attack, smash, destroy, win at all costs. Be winsome.



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MatthewS

posted July 9, 2009 at 8:39 am


A silly example occurs to me. We like to watch minor league baseball (ha, Scot can afford Pelican pens and the Cubs – I take any free pen I can get and watch minor league ball :-P )
Anyway, we have witnessed a couple times recently someone who just arrived approaching someone seated to say “You are in my seats!” Someone has misread their tickets. Sometimes the seated people are in the wrong section, sometimes the newcomer has made the mistake. Either way…EITHER WAY – better to nicely suggest you believe there is a misunderstanding and offer your ticket or ask to see theirs in order to help clear up the misunderstanding. This example falls short because we don’t have a magic ticket that will solve the Genesis question or other questions this easily. Nevertheless, if we are found to be wrong in the future, it will be better for us if the words we have to eat have been respectful; it will be easier for the opposition to reconcile if they are found wrong if we have been respectful of them.



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Rick

posted July 9, 2009 at 9:00 am


RJS said, “I do know some (quite a few in fact) who say you cannot accept the basic features of evolution including common descent and still be a Christian.”
Exactly. At some point in relatively recent history, this unfortunately got elevated (by some) to the status of an essential.
I think this speaks more to what people are not learning about their faith, than it does about how they feel about these issues.



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James

posted July 9, 2009 at 10:55 am


With regards to the above, I think a lot of that elevation to essential is based in bad exegesis and a subsequent flawed lens which causes those looking through it and asking “if evolution is true…” to come to the conclusion “then the Bible is wrong!”
That said, there’s nothing in scripture that would cause anyone, even with flawed exegesis, to come to the conclusion “if evolution is wrong, then the Bible is wrong!” So I’m not sure that this statement, which could be construed as an indictment against common descent folks, is entirely fair.
I second (and third) the idea that this is an entirely secondary issue. Kudos to MatthewS for pointing out the necessity of winsomeness. Something Peter wrote about defending what you believe with gentleness and respect comes to mind….
In addition to pointing out that this is a secondary issue, it is probably worth pointing out that so much consternation over the issue revolves around “what is the bible?” beinng fuzzy in the heads of those getting twisted in knots over this. The revealed word of God to all mankind is what God wants us to know about Him, His unfolding redemptive history with regards to us, and the culmination of His grace and love in the person of Jesus.
Pastorally, I would recommend those who are conflicted about this to:
a) Not be.
b) Consider what the important important things of life are, and get those sorted out first.
c) Consult the experts on various viewpoints.
d) Not be too dogmatic about this, it’s just not entirely important.
Also, no matter how convinced I am that I’ve gotten the best of this sorted out,and as a former aethiest, this was a BIG concern of mine (wrongly, but there it is) in approaching the bible as the word of God, I would give my thoughts on this sparingly and weakly, leaving room for my incorrectness so as to not turn people off to that which is central.



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Georges Boujakly

posted July 9, 2009 at 11:01 am


RJS,
There are those who are not scientifically minded (where scientific notions are just hard to understand because the way their minds are wired, or not wired). Some reject the scientific evidence as not evidence at all because they simply are unable to understand it. One must admit (as you do) that these are extremely complex issues.
The modus operandi of many Christians is that if we don’t understand something in Scripture we default to a faith stand (as if faith is not based in knowledge–see Knowing Christ Today by Willard). Belief must be based in knowledge to be reasonable as also in science. This approach to belief may lessen the tension between science and faith conversations. Christian scientists, like yourself, have a stewardship under God to simplify science (as Jesus did and Paul tried to do to simplify the faith for his audiences) for those who are not inclined toward the scientific ways of knowing.
The issue of the intersection of faith and science, demands on the part of anyone serious about the questions these issues raise, a large amount of time for study and reflection as well as expense (you have invested those resources). Many pastors are bi-vocational, many are pastors of small churches where resources are not available (the average size of the American church is less than a 100 members). What I am saying is that the burden of simplifying and preparing materials for a reconciled view of science and faith is the burden of those experts who have been able to bridge the intersection by a deep faith in God and the story of Scripture and by an understanding of science and how to teach it.



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foxnala

posted July 9, 2009 at 11:11 am


Rick (#7) – “Exactly. At some point in relatively recent history, this unfortunately got elevated (by some) to the status of an essential.”
You’re right Rick. 7 day creationism has implicitly gotten elevated to an essential. Although most Christians that I know who hold to 7-day creationism would concede that it’s not a gospel essential, they would then go on to say something along the lines of, “Well, but if you deny what Genesis 1 & 2 plainly say, then you’re no longer holding the scriptures up as inspired/inerrant, and so you run the slippery slope danger of claiming next that Jesus’ death and resurrection were only allegorical.” And so, by a chain of reasoning, 7 day creationism implicitly is elevated to an essential anyway.
So that’s, what I’ve found, to be the real issue for many Christians — the issue of Biblical inspiration (which some/many Christians believe to be perfect inerrancy). And unfortunately when a Christian (such as myself) doesn’t hold to Biblical inspiration in that same sense (i.e., in the inerrant sense that 7-day creationists hold to), then the reaction again such Christians tends to be a skepticism of whether or not they’re truly a Christian.
As long as perfect inerrancy of scripture is held-up by some/many Christians as an essential of the faith, then the hot-button topic creation/evolution will never go away. The two sides can’t even begin to sanely dialogue on the topic of creationism/evolution since they’re both operating from very different foundational paradigms about how God did/could have interacted within his creation. It’s very frustrating……



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Karl

posted July 9, 2009 at 11:28 am


RJS,
Can you point me to a lay-language summary of why most believing scientists find the young earth, flood geology, “people were on earth at the same time as the dinosaurs” view to be unsatisfactory? Not just that “the whole scientific community disagrees with it” but a lay-level summary of the key reasons why believing scientists find it untenable?
I ask because the kids program in our church has been using the Answers in Genesis videos and while I really, really don’t want to get into an argument over this with anyone, I would like to have some more detailed info re. the specific responses to some of their claims in case I end up in conversation about it. I know the temptation on the part of many scientists would be to just say “that stuff seems so ridiculous to me that I’m not going to dignify it with an answer” but that’s in a way exactly what I’m looking for. A response to the Answers in Genesis stuff, from a believing Christian (as opposed to an angry atheist – there are plenty of those out there), that takes their claims seriously but offers a rebuttal.



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pds

posted July 9, 2009 at 11:46 am


NT Wright commenting on Charles Darwin
This is a little off topic, but relevant. I just came across an interesting video of NT Wright commenting on Charles Darwin, the philosophical trends of his age and the non-scientific reasons why his ideas were so quickly embraced. I thought others here would be interested in what he has to say on this topic. I posted a link here:
http://peelingdragonskin.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/nt-wright-on-charles-darwin-and-why-his-ideas-were-so-quickly-embraced/
I think the same or similar philosophical presuppositions affect how we view the scientific evidence today.



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RJS

posted July 9, 2009 at 11:53 am


Karl,
Although the book is not short – Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth by Davis A. Young and Ralph F. Stearley is pretty good and thorough.



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RJS

posted July 9, 2009 at 11:56 am


Oh, and I posted on the book here: Bible, Rocks, Time



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#John1453

posted July 9, 2009 at 12:11 pm


Those of you interested in the old earth / young earth debate, and related issues, may wish to peruse the lengthy thread (over 1100 posts and going strong) at http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2009/05/six-views-on-the-creationevolution-debate/comment-page-23/#comment-28994
I’ve posted a lot for the OE view. We’ve covered a wide range of topics including Bible interpretation, what is science, evidences for the age of the earth, ancient near east worldviews, etc. There are also many links give to off site webpages. At one time I posted an index of the posts 1 – 400, and I’m updating that index as I use it and I reread older posts. I also find Answers in Creation and Glen Morton’s web site quite interesting and useful: http://www.answersincreation.org/
http://home.entouch.net/dmd/
I am quite concerned about the pernicious effects of young earth creationism and its pseudoscience (and I don’t mean that as a pejorative, but as a description of the fact that they cannot practice science given that they start and end with one conclusion, which is not how science is practiced).
Regards,
#John1453



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freelunch

posted July 9, 2009 at 12:32 pm


Your empirical proclamation that there is no room for doubt will turn away those that believe in the Young Earth theory, which does have its strong points and leaves doubts in plenty of minds.
RJS’s Bible, Rocks and Time entry is a good start.
Young Earth Creationism is a religious doctrine. It is not a theory. It is not accepted by scientists because it is inconsistent with the physical evidence that has been gathered over the past quarter of a millennium which shows that the earth is about 4.55 billion years old. The last legitimate objection to an age in that range came from Lord Kelvin, a highly respected scientist, because he legitimately said that the temperature of the earth was not consistent with such great ages. That objection was overcome by the discovery that nuclear decay within the core of the earth was a substantial source of heat.
Young Earth Creationists who claim to be making scientific claims on behalf of their doctrine have always shown a lack of understanding of the science behind the claims of the great age of the earth, a willingness to dismiss the evidence that does not fit with their doctrine, and an implicit claim that God is a trickster who intentionally misled us (or an explicit claim that God allowed Satan to mislead us) with the evidence that clearly shows an ancient earth. The ICR, CRS, and AIG do not do science. You cannot rely on any of the claims they make concerning science.
Doctrines that are in conflict with observed reality are problematic, but I am not the one to address the quality of Young Earth Creationism as religious doctrine. If you have specific questions about why details of YEC are wrong as science, I will be happy to answer to the best of my ability.



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Daniel Nikolich

posted July 9, 2009 at 1:11 pm


Scott,
Thanks for creating this dialogue. This question really hits close to home. I live in Northern Kentucky (my home area) and home of the Creation Museum. This museum is literally minutes from my house.
First, yes I have visited it and I have to say I am quite impressed with the museum as museum. It is every interactive and multi-sensory.
I more impressed with the attendance. I’ve lost count, but even in this economic down turn it seems to do well.
I am even more impressed by the number of people who find this the only acceptable approach to interpreting the Bible. I have talked to many Christians and non-christians. The reaction is what you would expect. Christians are very proud of it; while, non-christians are very turned off by this.
I have no conclusions only observations.



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Bob Smallman

posted July 9, 2009 at 1:23 pm


Periodically, I teach a unit on Creation to our youth Sunday school class. The focus is on what the Bible says about creation (since that’s an area I feel somewhat qualified to talk about) rather than on scientific issues — though, of course, we touch on those.
I want our young people who go off to college to know that they don’t have to choose between the Bible and intelligent scientific discourse … that they can continue to embrace a strong faith in Christ and yet pursue their science where it takes them. Currently, three of our youth group “graduates” are in PhD studies in various biological fields — and others are heading in that direction. And I have fantasized (publicly) about how neat it would be for them — in a dozen years or so — to get back together and publish on how they’ve integrated their faith and their science.



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craig v.

posted July 9, 2009 at 1:42 pm


As a pastor, I believe intellectual humility and honesty are key. I don’t try to hide areas of intellectual dissonance. I work hard at not projecting myself as the answer man with air tight responses to anything that seems to contradict the Bible. I’m aware that this might seem both radical and insensitive to ‘weaker’ brothers and sisters. What, however, is the alternative? I do not want to delude myself or my congregation into thinking I know what I really don’t know. I exercise as much wisdom as I can concerning when to bring science faith issues up in a public forum. It seems to me, however, that it’s difficult to live in our world without facing these issues at some level.
Though my evidence is anecdotal, it seems to me that we as Christians are losing a large percentage of our children as they become young adults. It also seems to me that fewer and fewer Christians are entering careers in science (though Bob Smallman’s counter examples are encouraging). If I’m right, these are trends we need to work at reversing. The real enemy is a pride that puffs up without knowledge. We all know of cases where this pride has built a false sense of security that quickly becomes a sense of betrayal. On the other hand an honest and humble approach has the power to show a way of life that transcends the intellectual difficulties we face.



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dopderbeck

posted July 9, 2009 at 2:18 pm


This is only a difficult question in the evangelical context because of our history. It is not a difficult pastoral question in Catholic or other protestant contexts because they have a different history.
I think Scot McK’s (#2) first point is absolutely the most critical: “lack of fear of evidence.” I would add to that: “zero defensiveness about evidence.”



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SamB

posted July 9, 2009 at 2:46 pm


I have a friend who is a teacher and a student at a community college. He recently wrote a paper concerned with the impact of scientific teaching about creation on students who had been raised in fundamentalist homes. These students included his own step-daughters. He found that many of these students were accepting the scientific evidence without losing their faith. They didn’t see this as a line in the sand confrontatin. They listened and learned. Indeed the result was a deeper faith because they had come to a different understanding about what the Bible is and in the process discovered what lies at the heart of the Bible. I was surprised and overjoyed by this. I don’t think there is a more important issue in the stream of Christianity that I was born into, evangelicalism, than rethinking and reimagining what the Bible is. RJS, and others, I hope you are encouraged by this. And I pray that you will continue in love to teach us.



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AHH

posted July 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm


Agree with RJS that in our churches we need to be more “pastoral” (including those of us who don’t have pastor as a job title) than for example in blog postings. And with the comments about unfortunate elevation of this into an “essential” by many on the “creationist” side.
I can think of 3 things to lift up for a “pastoral” approach:
1) Gentleness. The “believing in evolution puts you outside the pale” from a pastor quoted here a couple weeks ago is an example of what not to do. But also, bluntly saying “evolution happened, so deal with it” may be unwise, especially if there are people who have been brought up to believe that the fundamentalist approaches to these issues are “essentials”. Believing in a young Earth is about as credible as believing in a flat Earth at this juncture, but that is not a wise thing to say to some people. Getting people to see a range of views held by faithful Christians helps.
2) Wean people away from false dichotomies (which unfortunately are promoted not only by atheists but by some Christians). Like the one where the only choices are extreme Genesis literalism or Godless evolutionism. Or the one where “natural processes” and “things God does” are mutually exclusive. Or the one that says “If Genesis 1 isn’t true [note unspoken Enlightenment assumption about what counts as truth], then you can’t believe any of the Bible.”
3) Focus on theological issues, not the science which most don’t have the background to follow. So for example on nature as a revelation from God (“All truth is God’s truth”). And on God’s sovereignty over nature (so that “natural” explanations don’t exclude God). And on not asking the Bible questions the inspired writers were not trying to answer.
I’ve referenced it here once before, but I made an effort along these lines 2 years ago for an adult Sunday School class in my (moderately conservative) church:
http://steamdoc.s5.com/sci-nature/index.html



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Karl

posted July 9, 2009 at 3:46 pm


SamB in 21, the experience that you describe was mine as well. My parents were pretty silent on the issue but I picked up young-earth stuff through the fundamentalist Christian school I attended and in the absence of other teaching, assumed it was the gospel truth. But my change of mind on the issue deepened rather than weakened my faith.
What helped me was that the prof who helped change my mind was a Christian himself. If I had been taught by a prof who believed that if evolution and an old earth are true, the Bible has been discredited, I might have had a less soft landing. I am guessing that the attitude and agenda of the professor might have a significant impact on how those students raised in fundamentalist homes process new scientific knowledge and the conclusions they draw about their faith as a result.



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dopderbeck

posted July 9, 2009 at 4:29 pm


One other thought — the Pastor’s bookshelf should include things by Christians who see these questions as ultimately complementary and reconcilable. Many of the books we’ve discussed here would be great choices. For someone who’s struggling, for your Pastor to hand you, say, Denis Alexander’s or Daniel Harrell’s recent book, can be very helpful, even if the Pastor personally needs to say “I’m not sure I agree with everything this guy says, but this is a thoughtful recent book on it.” That says the community is thinking these things through and isn’t overly upset by them, and opens up space for conversation.



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RJS

posted July 9, 2009 at 4:56 pm


dopderbeck,
Excellent suggestion – especially Daniel Harrell’s recent book (Scot posted on it here Evolution and Fundamentalism.)
Deborah B. and Loren D. Haarsma, Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, and Evolution, is a nice resource to facilitate a discussion of the issues providing time and space for calm reflection and critical thinking. I posted on this book here.



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#John1453

posted July 10, 2009 at 8:05 am


Convincec Young Earth Creationists, of the post 1961 variety, are extremely resistent to science because they believe that God has told them that the earth is 6,000 years old. Their primary fear appears to be, from dealing with them and reading their websites, that any divergence from their particular interpretation of Genesis will have catastrophic effects on their faith and the faith of others. Their websites even pronounce Genesis as being foundational to the faith (though that’s a bit contrary to 1 Cor. 3:11), and that failure to believe in a conintuous 144 hour creation period means that we cannot be sure if Christ rose from the dead.
So I see the problem as primarily spiritual, theological and hermeneutical. The YECs teach a very particular hermeneutic, one that is not accepted among evangelical bible-inerrancy-believing scholars (let alone others), and that hermeneutic is not being countered effectively by pastors and others in teaching roles. It seems also that people don’t understand or retain effectively the various, and now very well developed, apologetic for the death and resurrection of Jesus. I think those two aspects would go a long way to defusing some of the tension involved.
The other problem I see is that too many pastors and teachers are fooled by the presence of the YEC websites and scholars into thinking that there is something to the science of YECism and so let congregants believe that YEC is a valid option. But the YEC commitment to a particular interpretation of scripture supercedes their use of the tools of science, and prevents them from admitting the validity of any evidence that contradicts their interpretation of scripture. Consequently, their apologetic is not science per se, but the use of some of the tools of science (math, field observations, etc.) in support of an interpretation of scripture. Their websites even readily admit their precommitment, and state that in areas where the evidence appears to be against them they admit their lack of evidence and hope that God will raise up scientists to provide evidence supporting their belief (or they introduce a miracle to cover off the problem).
It seems to me that pastors and teachers do not appreciate that western science is founded on a Christian worldview, was developed by Christians, and is an appropriate way of investigating the regularities of the universe that God sustains. The YECs, on the other hand, ignore the Christian foundation of science and teach that it is primarily atheistic. Furthermore, pastors and teachers do not appreciate the difference between what science is and does, and what YECs do. Not that this is a knock against pastors and teachers, as science is not usually their background; it’s just a reality that they must overcome by learning.
Regards,
#John1453



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RJS

posted July 10, 2009 at 1:18 pm


craig v (#19)
I don’t think that fewer and fewer Christians are entering careers in science – I think that fewer and fewer are managing to enter the process and come out the other side as Christian.
I asked a question in this post about weighing potential good and potential harm in wrestling with the issues at the intersection of science and faith – especially evolution, common descent, Adam and Eve. And I worry about this because I don’t really want to undermine anyone’s faith – or to find that it would have been better to have been cast into the sea with a millstone (MT 18:6 and parallels). But I am blunt in this forum regarding where I stand thinking through these issues because my first concern is for those who are struggling with the evidence. Minimizing the persuasiveness of the evidence does not help this group at all.



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James

posted July 10, 2009 at 2:17 pm


As it relates to the question posed:
Is it helpful in overstating the persuasiveness of the evidence?
Or put differently: Can you articulate why an intelligent, well meaning, humble, patient, and observant individual might find that evidence less than persausive?



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RJS

posted July 10, 2009 at 2:32 pm


James,
This is exactly the problem – when you say: “Is it helpful in overstating the persuasiveness of the evidence?” You see, I could back off a bit – but I would be doing so on pastoral grounds, not out of conviction.
No one – except those who do so on theological grounds – looks at the evidence and doubts the basic facts of old earth and progressive development.
I do know some who are not convinced that evolution could do it all without divine intervention (intelligent design). This is a slightly different discussion.
But this is why this whole issue is such a huge problem for science students – especially graduate students and beyond. The intellectual dissonance grows and grows until something breaks.
I know many who have built a wall in the mind – one part for work one part for Sunday – but this results in Christians who cannot make an impact among their peers. I know many more who have dumped faith – often with a deep resentment toward the church, feeling that they have been made a fool of. This scenario really bothers me – because it is so common.



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Unapologetic Catholic

posted July 10, 2009 at 6:09 pm


“Can you articulate why an intelligent, well meaning, humble, patient, and observant individual might find that evidence less than persausive?”
Yes. Ignorance.
Now, everybody is ignorant on various subjects. Soem just happen to be ignorant in science and particularly biology. they are not familair with the advances in biology and have been misled by various creationist sources.
Ignorance by itself is unavoidable. We are all ignorant on various subjects. Sometimes we are even ignorant on the scope of our own ignorance.
“I know many more who have dumped faith – often with a deep resentment toward the church, feeling that they have been made a fool of. This scenario really bothers me – because it is so common.”
100% correct. And others dump faith because they see “the church” dishonestly representing the state of science–or remaining silent while its members do so–and then conclude that liars seldom lie about just one thing.



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Paul

posted July 11, 2009 at 2:29 pm


While any particular beliefs concerning creation issues should not be included in the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, these issues are very important for the purpose of not driving seekers away from the Church. Many churches continue to propagate the teachings of the young Earth creationists, either out of ignorance or because they think that to do otherwise would be somehow un-Christian. This sets up a huge conflict of thinking for many people, especially scientists, intellectuals, and young people. They reason that since their church teaches that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, for example, that the Church as a whole must be woefully off-track in all its teachings. So why have anything to do with such a bunch of nuts?
I myself used to suffer from the same conflict in thinking, but after reading some of Hugh Ross’ books (http://www.reasons.org), I came to see that science’s teachings and the Bible are not in conflict. How could they be, in fact, since the Bible is the Word of God and nature, which God created, also teaches us of him? What a freeing, joyous thing it was to finally understand.
Concerning my own beliefs, I do not believe in the evolution of species. I have yet to encounter even one piece of legitimate, convincing evidence for that teaching. In fact, even were I not a Christian, the notion that all the beauty and order of life in the universe just happened at random is complete nonsense. The YEC folks get hung up at the point where the Old Universe/Earth folks say that the universe is billions of years old, because the YEC folks think that opens the door to evolution, which is not at all the case.
I believe that the Genesis creation account can and should be interpreted literally. I also believe that that interpretation, done properly, is in agreement with the scientific facts of the Big Bang and a billions-of-years-old universe and Earth. God introduced the various forms of life at various points over a very long time (six long creation days).
Oh, if only people like Ken Ham and others like him would wake up! The YEC camp is doing irreparable harm to the cause of Christ.



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James

posted July 13, 2009 at 1:58 pm


RJS said: “No one – except those who do so on theological grounds – looks at the evidence and doubts the basic facts of old earth and progressive development.”
Unapologetic_Catholic said: “Yes. Ignorance.”
These are the sorts of responses that I see clearly at odds with the care of a persons soul and discipling them to know and follow after Jesus Christ.
There are a lot of people who doubt the conlusions you reached based on the same evidence, who have the appropriate credentials so as to not be waved away as so much ignorant masses. Are you unaware of these people, or do you suggest that they are presenting non-theological evidence to disagree with your position disengenuously, and they’re *really* trying to sneak in theological stuff? This is unfairly dismissive. I would expect you to disagree with them, but to say that they don’t exist…?
If you really mean what you say, that you don’t know any intelligent, well meaning, humble, patient, and observant individuals (and I will now add non-conflicted/dual life) who disagree with you on non-theological grounds, then I suggest you would benefit from reaching out to some brothers in Christ in faith and grace who fit the bill.
If you don’t mean that, and have overstated things to take a strong position, then I suggest you don’t. :) Doing so can turn people off to Christ over a subject matter that is clearly of much much much less value than He is.
Thanks for your work on Biologos. It’s a top notch site and one I easily recommend for those who want to know more about an honest presentation of Christian theistic evolution.



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RJS

posted July 13, 2009 at 2:24 pm


James,
I think that Unapologetic Catholic’s answer was overly abrupt – although the explanation did soften it a bit.
On the issue of an old earth, the existence of and death of animals and other living creatures before the fall – there is no doubt whatsoever of an legitimate difference of opinion. There are people with the “appropriate credentials” who disagree with me, but the vast majority do it from a conviction that belief in the inspiration of scripture and/or from a belief that scripture requires the absence of death of of all sorts before the fall. There is no way to soften that statement. Many of them hold to a mature creation position – that the earth was created to look old – this position doesn’t deny the science.
On all of the other issues – including the possibility of “progressive creation” with microevolution and intelligent design the situation is more complex.



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RJS

posted July 13, 2009 at 2:37 pm


James,
Let me phrase it a little differently.
The people I know who disagree with me on the young earth issue will invariably admit that they do it ultimately on theological or biblical grounds. They may be looking for evidence to defend their position – but basically know that they are underdogs in the discussion.
They do not disagree on the basis of a real scientific argument.



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James

posted July 14, 2009 at 4:02 pm


There we go! That kind of response defends your position, states your perception of the people who disagree, and yet leaves them room to explain or defend themselves.
In my perception, the previous ones put opponents in a box, locks that box, and swallows the key.
The difference is, I think, the answer in how to act pastorally, and yet with integrity on your genuine, heartfelt, well considered, and honest beliefs about how life has developed in God’s creation.



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