Joanna’s Story

Bookmark and Share

December 23, 2010 Tags: Lives of Faith

Today's entry was written by Darrel Falk. 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.

Joanna’s Story

I first received the letter below from a young scientist who we will call Joanna, a graduate student in psychology, almost a year ago. It was a very articulate and deeply moving letter. We sought permission and almost posted it at that time. However, Joanna was still very much in transition from her creationist past into her evolutionary creation present. This is not an easy transition to manage and far too many lose their personal relationship with God in the process. Partly with that in mind, I decided to wait before posting. Recently, I contacted Joanna again. I was relieved to find that my greatest fear had not been realized; instead she had clearly grown closer to God.

Immanuel—God is with us. God is with us all—the entire Body of Christ. May we all join hands together, regardless of what we think about the age of the earth and regardless of whether we accept that God has created through an evolutionary process. You’ll sense that Spirit of unity as you read Joanna’s testimony and our prayer is that each of you will sense God’s Presence (Introduction and Epilogue by Darrel Falk)

I grew up in a charismatic, believing, and Creationist family. My dad used to be a vicar of a church in Germany. I grew up believing the earth is no older than 10,000 years, and that it was created in seven days, and all that goes with that. As I was growing up, I never met a ‘born again’ Christian who believed otherwise. (Hence I am often slightly frustrated when I hear time and again that Creationism is at its core an American problem – but, as Ron Numbers pointed out correctly in Galileo Goes To Jail this ceased to be the case a very long time ago).

As a child and teenager, I always had a lot of questions about Creation. I started reading the Bible as soon as I could and I made my decision for Jesus wholeheartedly at the age of nine. Nurtured in an “all Christian environment,” I knew little else. But certain questions tended to nag at me. Where did Cain’s wife come from? Why, if we’ve evolved from apes, do they still exist? Clearly, as I saw it, evolution had to be wrong. (It is disturbing to think how little the average Creationist knows about biology and the theory of evolution as a whole to answer this question – at least in the circles I grew up in. It is often assumed, for example, that evolution proposes we’ve evolved from the current species of primates). Why do we have different skin colors and facial shapes? Surely if the world is only 6,000-10,000 years old, people may have observed the change and perhaps written about it. It just did not make any sense to me. I was troubled by the fact that the world, and all those biologists, could be so wrong. Why would they spend all this time and money researching a completely false theory—can’t they see that it’s all a lie?

When I turned 16, I left my native country, all by myself making my way to England. After A-levels, I studied Psychology, and due to a biological psychology lecturer who used to work with chimpanzees I was confronted with some very compelling genetic evidence regarding the genetic similarities between chimps and humans. I had already travelled that road further than I had imagined – surely they cannot all be wrong?

I am now working towards the completion of my PhD thesis, but I am a very different person to where I started. I have switched camps, one might say, and wholeheartedly so. I came to accept evolution for the truth, and best explanation of how we came about, who we are today, and the world around us. The moment I made that decision, it was like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. All of a sudden, the whole world made sense to me – everything in it seemed to fit. All the questions that had been troubling me could be answered and it all made sense. The more I read, the more I discovered about the beauty and the coherence within evolutionary theory. Many fantastic books, including yours, from both Christian and non-Christian authors have enabled me to catch up on so much of the knowledge I feel was withheld from me all these years. When I now think of the way I grew up, I have to accept it for what it was, and that my family hold those beliefs for reasons that seem right to them. The fact that evolution is true is now so obvious to me, that it is sometimes difficult for me to understand how so many people can hold on to Creationist beliefs. My family know nothing of my journey; and I personally don’t know how to and whether I should raise and approach the subject.

I am now faced with a very different journey. How do I reinterpret my faith? I do believe that as you come to accept evolution, you move away from a generic literal interpretation of the Bible (I grew up within a culture of complete literal interpretation of the Bible), which is not necessarily confined to the first chapters of Genesis. No matter how one tries to confine it to this minute section of such a vastly diverse book, it does unmercifully take over ones’ entire interpretation of the Bible and Christianity as a whole. To begin with, I had days where I struggled to make sense of the whole “God thing.” On other days I marveled at his love, and the beauty of the world, the consistency within it. It was not easy, and this journey can be tough at times when you’re trying to reinterpret your faith without losing it. Despite all this, I never wish to turn back. I have gained so much, and feel I am part of this world more than ever before – because of the theory of evolution. Never in my dreams would I have imagined that one day I’d think this way.

Now some time has passed, and I know deep within that God exists, in his fullness in Jesus, his knowledge superseding all human knowledge. I have truly experienced his love, and the power of his Holy Spirit, and I read the Bible in a different way – trying to make sense of the deeper meaning, discovering His love for this world.

As I said above, when growing up I never met any Christian who truly believed that Jesus is the Son of God, and who also believed in evolution, and only in the past year I have come to know a few. I think this is a great shame. I now find it more difficult to watch children being raised in Creationist beliefs – they may struggle to reconcile their faith with scientific facts and may find it easier after “switching camps,” to turn their back on faith, branding it ill-equipped for reality. I’ve had such moments myself.

I truly believe that being in a loving community of people, who trust and believe in Jesus, is one of the loveliest and safest environments to be in. At a recent church weekend, what you wrote in your book resounded in my mind. That you also wanted your children to grow up in a similar environment as you did when you were a child. I can truly empathize with this desire.

I meet a lot of atheists at work – some are very proud of the fact they don’t believe in God – and I sometimes find it difficult to cope in this environment. Having always been the ‘vicar’s daughter’ at school, I did not tell anyone for a long time that I am a Christian and have found that it does not make life any easier at all. The only difference is that people are far less careful about what they say about people who believe. They are, one might say, more honest (that is to say more openly negative). However, I have found a lot of people no happier for not believing in God. In spite of the “all encompassing” knowledge of science, they sometimes seem to be on a journey for meaning and peace as well.

I am very much at peace now – I know I am in God’s loving hands. I truly believe that the world needs Jesus, and that he is the only one who can provide real meaning and true hope. In recent months I have come to think that his coming into this world does make a lot more sense in light of evolution than it does if we were the result of a special act of Creation. I don’t quite know how to explain this yet.

I regularly follow the BioLogos blog and I would like to thank you for all the work you are doing. I know that it is not always easy, and it is a shame that Christian scientists have to argue with and against notions put forward by other (often well-meaning) Christians. Rather we need to unite in what Jesus wants us to do – to bring his light to those who are lost, to bring his hope, his joy and peace to a broken world. We are not doing ourselves any favors by fighting scientific truths simply because they don’t fit well into our theology. Yet we need, one could say, must, establish a new theology (not a new faith though) that leaves room for and is unshaken by new scientific discoveries. I did not grow up with such an understanding of God and faith, and thus find myself on this journey now. It is reassuring that I can now wholeheartedly embrace my work, resting assured in the knowledge that God is at the center of it all. Someone said (I have unfortunately forgotten who) that when people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything. We live in a world where people are searching for truth, and as those who know Jesus, we also know that it is to be found in him. I hope that the work of BioLogos will continue to contribute so that people won’t feel they have to make a choice between the truth found in Jesus, and the truth found in scientific discoveries. May the day come when both can live together in harmony.

Epilogue

There are thousands of Joannas. Unlike her, many don’t make it with their personal relationship with Jesus Christ intact. BioLogos exists to help show that need not—yea, must not—be the case anymore. Click here if you feel led to help.


Darrel Falk is former president of The BioLogos Foundation. He transitioned into Christian higher education 25 years ago and has given numerous talks about the relationship between science and faith at many universities and seminaries. He is the author of Coming to Peace with Science.


Share your thoughts

Have a comment or question for the author? We'd love to hear from you.

View the archived discussion of this post

This article is now closed for new comments. The archived comments are shown below.

Loading...
Page 3 of 5   « 1 2 3 4 5 »
Rich - #45819

January 3rd 2011

beaglelady (concluding from above):

Oh, and it wouldn’t make any difference if you locked your door, since angels, not bound by the limitations of space, can fit through the keyhole, or even walk through the walls.  When it comes to angels, you can run, but you can’t hide.

At this season of Epiphany, beaglelady, think about the Magi, and how they followed that star which supernaturally violated the consensus view of modern science regarding stellar motion.  Maybe you think that the story of the Magi will undermine American science education.  But as for me, I celebrate the Magi with gusto.  Especially since they were early ID theorists. 


beaglelady - #45820

January 3rd 2011

I guess I should have said that I read Gen 6 in light of ANE mythology but I’m not alone on this.

Do you think that the the renegade angels of Gen 6 have God-like powers?  Where does it say that their offspring are born of virgins?  I see absolutely no parallel in Gen 6 to the virginal conception of Jesus.

In our prior discussion about demon possession, you claimed that Catholics can consider demon possession when faced with baffling medical problems.  You wouldn’t give me any details.  Any cases come to mind?

I did not say that I took the passage literally.  I gave no interpretation of the passage at all.  Why do you put words in my mouth?  I was pointing out the inconsistency in your interpretive principles, nothing more.

So tell us your interpretation.


beaglelady - #45821

January 3rd 2011

Oh, and it wouldn’t make any difference if you locked your door, since angels, not bound by the limitations of space, can fit through the keyhole, or even walk through the walls.  When it comes to angels, you can run, but you can’t hide.

So I’ll try Lust Buster.


Rich - #45823

January 4th 2011

beaglelady:

Virginity is an inessential detail in the comparison I was making.  You seem to have trouble separating the essential point of an analogy from its inessential details.  I don’t have time to teach you this skill.  That’s what your university education was supposed to do.

I didn’t say or imply anything about virgins in Genesis 6;  I was talking about *impregnation of mortal females by supernatural beings who don’t have physical organs*.  And I was saying that *God and angels are both supernatural beings who don’t have physical organs*.  And I was saying that *you accept impregnation by an organless God, but ridicule impregnation by organless angels*.  Now do you get it?  Sheesh.

You want my view on the “sons of God” bit in Genesis 6?  I think it’s a literary fragment that didn’t originally belong to the Flood story.  But your retort to Ronnie above implied that the idea of angels impregnating mortal women was silly and that the Bible would never teach such a silly thing.  But the Bible teaches many things that seem “silly” to Deists—including the reality of demonic possession, a reality acknowledged by Catholics and Pentecostals, though rejected by modernized Protestants from the suburbs.


Paul D. - #45844

January 4th 2011

Rich, we modernized Protestants recognize demon possession. We simply use more modern terminology for it. “Epilepsy”, “schizophrenia”, “autism”, “bipolar disorder”, etc.


Rich - #45849

January 4th 2011

Paul D.:

I’m sure that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are grateful for the fraternal correction of modernized Protestants.  I’m sure they now realize how primitive and immature their view of the psyche was, and are glad to have it adjusted to the realities of modern science.  (Modern science which can of course explain why, when a human psychosis is cured, thousands of pigs rush to their drowning death.)  I’m sure the Four Evangelists wouldn’t find it at all opposed to their theology to reconceptualize demons out of existence, and I’m sure that they would acknowledge that the mythological Satan must go, too.  And then we can reconceptualize the Fall as a physiological imbalance between the lobes of the brain, with the imaginary voice of Satan as the symptom of the pathology causing the imbalance.  Hey, I didn’t know theology could be so much fun!  I can’t wait until modernist Protestants reconceptualize God as the abstract and utterly bland “ground of Being,” thus taking all the moral bite out of theistic religion.  Oh wait, they’ve already done that ...


Paul D. - #45853

January 4th 2011

Rich, I also don’t think zombies rose out of their graves in Jerusalem when Jesus died. Am I thoroughly damned now?


Trevor K. - #45870

January 4th 2011

I think you summed up your immediate and future problems in this one beautiful sentence:
“I am now faced with a very different journey. How do I reinterpret my faith? I do believe that as you come to accept evolution, you move away from a generic literal interpretation of the Bible “

In other words, as you come to accept evolution you move away from the Word of God into your own substitute theology. It also unfortunately means you are moving away from Jesus the Christ who IS the Word of God. it is this same Jesus who said “If they do not believe Moses and the prophets they will not believe [ in Him ]” . So just how do you re-interpret the ten commandments and specifically Exodus 20:11 in which Moses says that everything was created in six days.
Just right there in that little bit, evolution goes out the window.

Perhaps you might want to find a different point of view, one which is thoroughly scientific and will be MUCH more satisfying that evolution - go look here: http://www.creation.com  or www.answersingenesis.org or http://www.creationscience.com/onlinebook/

The people of biologs seems bent on discrediting the Bible at every turn. It seems they are bent on destroying Christianity, roots and all.


Jon Garvey - #45871

January 4th 2011

Paul D. - #45853

“A zombie is asserted to be a reanimated corpse, or a human who is being controlled by someone else by use of magic ” (Wikipedia)

Paul, are you by any chance referring to the passage in St Matthew’s gospel, one of our prime sources for the gospel of salvation? The same gospel, incidentally, which contains the account (as the new atheists delight in describing in much the same manner you are using) as the fictional resuscitation of Jebus by the Pixie in the Sky.

Can you not see Rich’s point, that there is a difference between a Christian saying, hopefully with reverence, that not everything in the Scriptures is necessarily factual, and coarse (and actually pretty presumptuous) levity? Are these the Scriptures “that are able to make you wise unto salvation” or does Postmodern Christianity find that laughable too?

You can never learn anything from those (including divine ai=uthors) on whom you sit in judgement, particularly frivolous judgement. Preach over.


Jon Garvey - #45873

January 4th 2011

(...)

Preach not quite over. Trevor K cross-posted with me, and actually sounds rational compared to much of this thread.

How do you expect Creationists to take your arguments seriously when they are made at the same level as the Sky Pixie brigade?

Life. Death. Salvation. Damnation. There are right and wrong ways of talking when the issues involved are of that nature.


beaglelady - #45878

January 4th 2011

You want my view on the “sons of God” bit in Genesis 6?  I think it’s a literary fragment that didn’t originally belong to the Flood story.

What kind of answer is that? Is this story literal?  Do angels really have God-like powers?  An important point in the Genesis 6 story is that the angels lust after the human females and and have sex with them.


Rich - #45880

January 4th 2011

Paul D.:

I don’t make judgments about who’s saved and whose damned.  I’m hoping God will be merciful on that front, especially given the suspect character of my own beliefs.

I don’t think God is particularly worried about whether or not a given person has trouble accepting this or that miraculous event as historical; I think he is rather more concerned about attitudes toward supernatural activity and toward scripture in general.  Jon Garvey has put it well in his comment just above.  Some of the statements made by beaglelady and others here reveal a flippant attitude toward the contents of sacred texts.  I think that God will in some cases be more tolerant of frank but respectful unbelief than he will of such flippancy.

So, while I think the passage about the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 represents some kind of editorial mangling, I would never make wisecracks about angelic genital organs, any more than I would ask sarcastically whether Elijah’s parasites were translated with him, or whether original sin was passed down in the manner of “STDs.”  I’m a big critic of YEC on the theoretical level, but I think the YECs who post here have a much healthier respect for things holy than some of the TE commenters.


beaglelady - #45883

January 4th 2011

Rich, we modernized Protestants recognize demon possession. We simply use more modern terminology for it. “Epilepsy”, “schizophrenia”, “autism”, “bipolar disorder”, etc.

What an irreverent wisecrack! You are a deist.


Rich - #45884

January 4th 2011

beaglelady (45878):

As I said before, it’s not at all clear that the “sons of God” are angels, as you seem to assume.  In the older parts of the Hebrew Bible the word translated “angels” usually refers to nondescript messengers who appear to lack permanent existence, often being merely voices or simply disguises for God.  The phrase here is not “angels” but “sons of God”, and equating the two is not a safe procedure, at least not without a Hebrew textual argument that you haven’t made and likely aren’t trained to make.  But whoever they are, I’ve indicated to you that I think the reference to the sons of God and their activities is an out-of-place fragment which doesn’t belong to the main storyline, so whether or not the author of that fragment thought he was describing something “literal” is irrelevant.
 
Angels can have godlike powers if and when God bestows such powers on them.  “Sons of God” may have originally been conceived as divine in nature and thus easily able to supernaturally impregnate women.  Sexual relations are not incompatible with supernatural status in the mythological realm from which the “sons of God” undoubtedly sprang.  Why the editors of Genesis preserved this pagan notion is unclear.


Cal - #45888

January 4th 2011

Paul D:

For the Demon Possession: Surely Demon are responsible for the ailments afflicting others at times. Look how the Bible portrays Satan weighing down the woman, and thus her back was bent and she hobbled. However, the fact that Demons respond to Jesus, and quake at His presence, reveals there’s something to the characitures we find in movies like the Exorcism. To discount it, would be folly. An interesting source to look at is M. Scott Peck, a psychologist who became a Christian and had a run in with something that the Bible depicts.

For the Zombies: It talks about people seeing the patriarchs and many heroes of old rise into the “holy city”. While this may refer to Jerusalem, no where else in the Gospel is the mundane Jerusalem afforded such a title. However Revelation speaks of the Kingdom of God as the New Jerusalem. I think episode was a vision to many of the old heroes being finally freed from Satan, from Hades, and now are able to be with Jesus, He who freed them.

Beaglelady: I think Rich is trying to say that the rest of the story is incomplete (correct me if I’m wrong) and could either confirm or deny if they were angels, or godly men or what have you; regardless of ANE thoughts and beliefs.
Cont.


Cal - #45889

January 4th 2011

Trevor: Again, I don’t see the people at Biologos as trying to mislead. I’m sure they took into account Exodus 20:11 (which is making a comparison to Genesis,which is very poetic, to make an understanding of the Sabbath). How does one count a day if there is no sun? 24 hours is a recent and western invention. There must be more to this! It says that a day is a thousand years and a thousand years a day to the Lord.This is not a conversion rate, but an example of how God’s time is far beyond our time as men.

We are all brothers and sisters here, no need for sass and snark. We can fairly debate our principles without ridiculing and mocking others.

And Rich I crossposted with you, ignore my incite into your words.


beaglelady - #45896

January 4th 2011

As I said before, it’s not at all clear that the “sons of God” are angels, as you seem to assume.  In the older parts of the Hebrew Bible the word translated “angels” usually refers to nondescript messengers who appear to lack permanent existence, often being merely voices or simply disguises for God.  The phrase here is not “angels” but “sons of God”, and equating the two is not a safe procedure, at least not without a Hebrew textual argument that you haven’t made and likely aren’t trained to make.  But whoever they are, I’ve indicated to you that I think the reference to the sons of God and their activities is an out-of-place fragment which doesn’t belong to the main storyline, so whether or not the author of that fragment thought he was describing something “literal” is irrelevant.

You could check the Oxford Bible commentary or Evolutionary Creation by Denis Lamoureux for the probable identity the divine beings in Genesis 6. 

But I’m confused!  You said to me in comment 45783,

“In rejecting the story of the “angels” in Genesis 6, you are rejecting the Biblical testimony for a supernatural act.” 

Then in #45884 you called it pagan .


Ronnie - #45898

January 4th 2011

All this talk on Gen. 6 is a distraction from the subject of the article.

“Joanna” says the ‘world made sense to her’ once she came to accept evolution as true. IF she is a real person, and as the article states regularly follows BioLogos, then surely she is reading these comments. I would like to say to her, or anyone else who believes as she does to please, take a big step back, and honestly study this creation/evolution issue from both sides. Pray for wisdom and discernment. Learn what creationists have to say, and learn what evolutionists have to say. I’ve been there, having been taught evolution in school, then later trying to understand Gods Word, especially Genesis, through evolutionary lenses. It doesn’t work, and it took me several years to ‘figure things out’. Evolution is deeply imbedded into our culture, and doesn’t give up its grip easily, but God is mightier and will reward those who diligently seek Him!

Trevor K. is right:

***The people of biologs seems bent on discrediting the Bible at every turn. It seems they are bent on destroying Christianity, roots and all.***

This is also the goal of evolution.


Rich - #45900

January 4th 2011

beaglelady:

Thanks for your advice, but as a trained Bible scholar with published articles on Genesis 1-11 in refereed books and journals, I don’t need your help to find Biblical reference books.  In fact I’ve read many scholarly discussions offering various identifications of the “sons of God” in Genesis 6, but I certainly am not going to take the time and space to present all the options in this 1250-character forum.  As for Denis Lamoureux, his literary work on Genesis is good and I agree with his methods and conclusions in the main, though there is not much in it that I wasn’t familiar with 30 years ago, and my colleagues and I were publishing along those lines well before Denis was.

As for your confusion, that is par for the course.  That the Bible contains passages that are likely of pagan origin is old news to Biblical scholars.  In this case, it appears (though no one is sure what the passage means) that the Biblical editors have tried to naturalize a pagan legend into a theistic context.  But it is no less a Biblical testimony for that.  I reject the testimony for textual reasons, whereas you reject it because you just don’t like supernatural events and want to minimize their presence wherever you can.


Rich - #45907

January 4th 2011

Ronnie:

You are right that we have had a long digression on Genesis 6.  It was beaglelady who started it.  I took her up on it because her comment to you was just the latest in a long line of comments of hers referring to the idea of miraculous or supernatural activity in tones of sarcasm or ridicule.  And since it is not just a tendency of beaglelady, but of many TEs, to almost reflexively oppose notions of supernatural action, and to minimize or abolish Old Testament miracles while greatly truncating New Testament ones, I thought I would hold beaglelady’s feet to the fire.  Much of the TE argument for Darwinism depends on the premise that God wouldn’t create through direct supernatural action, but only through purely natural causes.  But that’s an arbitrary supposition, implying that TEs can know the hidden motives and preferences of God.

I don’t deny that God *could* have chosen to work through a wholly natural evolutionary process.  But for many TEs, it’s an axiom that he *must* have done so.  If you suggest otherwise, they scream “God of the gaps” or say you believe in “a cockroach of a God.”  I’m exposing the hidden theological assumption that beaglelady will neither openly declare nor textually defend.


Page 3 of 5   « 1 2 3 4 5 »