Following God’s Path, Part 2
David’s personal story is a reminder that BioLogos was begun by Francis Collins to be a resource and encouragement for young men and women who love the Lord and actively explore the world He made through science. In Part 1, David recounted how his own searching and God's prompting began to change his views on origins and Genesis from those held by his friends and mentors at Bob Jones University. In today's Part 2, David describes how God continued (and continues) to lead him on a path of reconciliation between faith and science.
Towards the end of Part 1 of my story, I recounted my growing awareness of the fact that the theological truth of the Bible is not compromised when we understand Genesis as a richly symbolic work; instead, it actually helps us think more deeply about how God creates. When I started turning to the work of theologians to understand what the biblical doctrine of creation actually entails, the most wonderful thing I learned is how both historic Christianity and the Bible itself present a robust picture of how God works continually from within nature. When I fully took this to heart, it became harder to see evolution as a process outside of God that God would merely “set in motion.” Of course, this isn’t to say that God can’t also work miraculously in the world, but why should we expect God to have to create matter and plants and animals in such a way that He would have to miraculously break every law of nature that He Himself instated at the outset? Why couldn’t God create in such a way that nature itself was open to God’s continual working, so that new forms of life were created by God through a process within nature? And why couldn’t this process be evolution, the process uncovered by the creatures bearing His very own Divine Image?
In the midst of all this studying and thinking, I continued on with my original plan to attend Bob Jones University, majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology beginning in 2007. The faculty were all young-earth creationists, but the program was certainly no less rigorous for it. Because the extracurricular reading I was doing had made me more open to accepting evidence for evolution, the evolutionary arguments in my textbooks hit me even more persuasively than they would have otherwise. My professors, each with terminal degrees from secular universities, contested the evolutionary story in a way that encouraged me to read and study all the more, giving me a fuller understanding of evolution perhaps than even if I’d attended a secular university. I learned from the science and Bible faculty how to see this and other issues through the lens of Fundamentalism, even as I was increasingly seeing things differently myself. The faculty soon became aware that I had become an evolutionary creationist, but Christian unity ultimately mattered to them more than complete uniformity, and I was never treated with hostility. I still count my academic advisor in particular as a friend, and admire him greatly. By the end of my four years at BJU, it was clear that God had led me to BJU for a reason: not just to learn science, but to better understand from the inside how my Fundamentalist brothers and sisters in Christ approached these same issues.
Something else happened during my time at BJU. I loved the work, enormously challenging though it was. Learning the minutia of organic chemistry, molecular biology, calculus, and physics was a joy to me. But as I went along, I felt God leading me toward a full-time career working to further the dialogue between science and faith within evangelical Christianity, rather than working as a research scientist. Before graduating in May of 2010, I began looking for master’s programs in theology that specialized in the religion-science dialogue. No stranger to learning from those I disagree with on some doctrinal points, I eventually settled on the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) and their MA in Theological Studies, Science and Religion emphasis, co-offered with the Zygon Center for Religion and Science. Currently in my second semester of studies as an evangelical Christian here at LSTC, I’ve already had an opportunity to start on the work God has called me to, starting a science and religion film series and being involved both as coordinator and participant in science-religion events in the area. For the local church side of things, I’m beginning to get involved with a “Science and Faith in Conversation” program at a local evangelical church here in Chicago, and I’m excited to see what God will do among His people.
Although I have described these past six years as a largely intellectual journey for me, it has more importantly been a deeply personal spiritual journey. I remember praying earnestly at the outset that God would lead me and show me His Truth, bringing me closer to Him and glorifying Him in the process. I’ll admit, I didn’t know at first where my questioning and exploration would lead me over the next few years. Like any difficult journey, it’s a bit of a leap of faith – but as long as that faith is in God, there’s no place for worry. The path still stretches out ahead of me, but God has increasingly clearly shown me the way forward and proven Himself faithful. I can’t know for sure exactly where I’ll be working when I graduate next spring, but wherever God leads me, I’ll use whatever skills and opportunities He blesses me with to glorify Him through working to further integrate science and faith.
I have shared this story for two reasons. First, I hope it can be an encouragement to others who are beginning to question the understanding of creation they’ve grown up with. It’s a challenging journey at times, but sometimes God brings us through challenges to lead us to deeper faith in him. God’s grace is enough to cover any missteps we make along the way. Let’s trust God, learn all we can, share our thoughts among ourselves, and listen for God’s voice in the pages of the Bible and even in the rocks under our feet – and let’s see where our God leads us. Integrating modern science with our faith may be a challenge for us, but God isn’t shaken. God has shown me His faithfulness, and He will remain faithful to us all.
And that’s actually my second reason for sharing this story: for in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t really my story after all – it’s God’s story. It’s a story of His faithfulness in my life, guiding His lowly creature slowly toward a fuller understanding of His work as Creator. As such, it’s not my story to keep to myself, and I hope that by sharing what God has taught me I can bring more glory to our Savior’s name. Soli Deo Gloria!