Five Years of Flourishing: A “Sayonara” from BioLogos Webmaster Stephen Mapes

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October 7, 2013 Tags: Christian Unity

Today's entry was written by Stephen Mapes. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Five Years of Flourishing: A “Sayonara” from BioLogos Webmaster Stephen Mapes
Photo credit: Jonathan Billinger

A lot can happen in five years. Scientists make new discoveries. Great thinkers pose new ideas. Trends rise and fall. And our own personal spiritual journeys can take us in all sorts of new directions as we listen to God and learn from scripture, experience, and the wisdom of those around us.

I’d like to think that BioLogos is the perfect example of this change. For nearly five years, I have been blessed to be part of the growth of this organization—and to a lesser extent, the growing acceptance of evolutionary creation throughout the Church. At times it has been challenging, and it hasn’t always been clear where God was leading us, but I stand today amazed at what God has done, especially for my own spiritual walk.

I grew up a pastor’s kid and, as such, found myself drawn to a literal 7-day reading of the creation story in Genesis. It was taught by my Sunday School teachers. It was casually presented in the illustrated Bibles I grew up on. It was used by visiting evangelists as an object lesson for the battle against the forces of evil who sought to make Christianity seem foolish. It seemed clear to my growing mind that all a Christian needed to know about creation was found in those first two chapters of the book I so loved; anything to the contrary was simply wrong.

I remember sitting through class lectures about evolution in my high school, too shy to debate my teacher but quietly rebutting the lessons in my mind. I remember my sarcastic dismissal of the exhibits on human evolution when visiting the museums in nearby Pittsburgh. By age 16, I was convinced I had learned all I needed to know regarding science and evolution.

That all changed when I began my freshman year of college. In stark contrast to the casual rejection of evolution I thought was a hallmark of all true Christians, I met professors and classmates alike who by all measures seemed as earnest about their faith as I, but who also accepted fully the science behind evolution. Slowly, through lectures and informal discussions, I began to soften to the idea. I began to understand the beauty and nuance of scripture beyond a simple historical text. I began to see God’s majesty not just in the flowers and fields, but in the processes that grew and sustained them. Through the examples of my professors and peers, I began to see that God could indeed create through the evolutionary process.

But more importantly, I began to realize this wasn’t a question of salvation. I became aware of all the people I may have alienated without even knowing it by standing so firmly on something that, in the grand scheme of things, didn’t really matter. Yes, these were important questions, but were they more important than accepting Christ first? Of course not! I was heartbroken, and I was determined to help as many fellow Christians come to the same realization I had.

Three years later, God opened that path for me. Professor Karl Giberson, for whom I had worked on several other Templeton-funded ventures, approached me with a question: would I be interested in joining him as part of a small team to launch a new foundation dedicated to engaging the science and faith questions I had become so passionate about? It took only a night of thought and prayer to answer with an enthusiastic yes.

When we finally launched The BioLogos Foundation, we were a team filled with experience, knowledge, and heart for our mission, but I am not so sure we knew exactly where things were headed. We had a world-class leader (Francis Collins), a small website, a new blog on BeliefNet, and lots of ideas and plans. Within a year, of course, Francis would be gone, stepping down to lead the NIH. But, as the Bible tells us, the Lord provides. And indeed he did through the equally world-class leadership of our former president Darrel Falk, our diligent board, and our dedicated advisors.

I could go on and on about the history of our organization, but I don’t think we have space for that here. What I will say is that, through every meeting, missive, and misstep, God continually surprised us. We saw our website grow from a small collection of FAQs to a growing resource for Christians, complete with videos, essays, and articles. We saw our tiny blog blossom into thousands of posts from hundreds of authors, many we never would have dreamed of writing for us in the beginning. We saw new and surprising relationships flourish, even with those who hold vastly different views on origins, and we learned that no matter the conclusion, we must face these challenging discussions with humility, compassion, and a sense of fellowship.

But for me, personally, it was the notes from everyday Christians that left an impact: The stories of students who felt forced (and wrongly so) to choose between their faith and reason, the stories of parents concerned their precocious young sons and daughters will have their love for science questioned by fellow Christians, and the stories of faith lost and found again through prayer and reading. Even after four years, I am still touched by the earnestness of these letters, the sense of real danger from those who feel their faith slipping, and the sense of real relief from those who have returned to God stronger than ever.

Today, as my journey takes me in new directions, I am confident that BioLogos has the tools needed to continue to make a real and lasting impact in this increasingly important discussion. We have strong leadership, a talented team, and a network of brilliant minds. But most importantly, we have you: our community. Your prayers, efforts, gifts, and stories are a constant inspiration, and it is my prayer that our community will continue to grow, not so everyone will believe like we do, but so all Christians will realize that questions about origins should never be a wedge between us. We are one body in Christ.

While my work here may be done, my involvement with the BioLogos community will remain as strong as ever. I can’t believe where God has brought us these past five years, and I don’t plan to miss what he has in store next. But for now, I leave with a simple thank you to everyone who has joined us on this journey, whatever your views on origins may be. Thank you for being a small part of this amazing movement.

 


Stephen Mapes served as webmaster for BioLogos from 2009 to 2013. He received bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and English from Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, Mass. At ENC, Stephen was a teaching assistant for a general education science class about evolutionary theory and its relation to Christian faith. He was part of the web development team for the former Science & Theology News (which ceased publication in 2006) and has written for Science & Religion Today, a website aimed at a general audience. Stephen is currently pursuing graduate studies in mathematics at the University of California, San Diego.


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Merv - #82801

October 7th 2013

Thank you, Stephen, for your service behind the scenes, and especially now for your testimony here.  As an IT guy myself I am familiar with what it takes to develop and maintain a web site to meet the needs of a large public.  It can be a thankless job where you only hear from us when we have a complaint to lodge or a request to change something.  So here I express my gratitude for all the many right things you have facilitated for Biologos, and for keeping it running.   The site’s presence is an important resource for Christians who want to delve into all of God’s truth without being dismissive of any of it.

May your future endeavors be blessed by God’s presence and seasoned with His grace.

-Merv Bitikofer


glsi - #82818

October 9th 2013

Well, Stephen, I guess I’m an everyday Christian and I have to tell you that I grew up going to church, but that the creation story I clearly remember making an impression as a child was rather from “Science”:  That life was originally spawned on the hot rocks of a young earth when some type of unnamed chemical rain fell on them and birthed the first microscopic life.  This I believed for many, many years until I became educated and as an adult found out the story was nothing but a fairy tale.

 So I guess I can’t really relate with your story very well, but good luck in the future with whatever you do!  You definitely have talent if you did this website.


Hannah C - #83101

October 22nd 2013

This site has helped me so much and gave me so much interesting reading over the past months. Thank you!!


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