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.
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.