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Joanna’s Story

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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 BioLogos and currently serves as BioLogos' Senior Advisor for Dialog. He is Professor of Biology, Emeritus at Point Loma Nazarene University and serves as Senior Fellow at The Colossian Forum. Falk is the author of Coming to Peace with Science.


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John - #45911

January 4th 2011

Trevor wrote:
“Learn what creationists have to say, and learn what evolutionists have to say.”

Here it is again. Trevor’s faith is apparently so weak that he has to pretend that science is hearsay instead of direct observations of God’s creations.

Trevor, I know that creationists say many things about objective facts that simply aren’t true. What should I conclude?

What does your Bible say about hearsay? Mine’s pretty clear on the problem with relying on it instead of evidence.

“I’ve been there, having been taught evolution in school,…”

Again we see that to compensate for weak faith, science has to be misrepresented as nothing more than hearsay. Who here would think that Trevor would have the faith and courage to go traipsing into the evidentiary thicket without a creationist to whisper in his ear?

“... 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!”

But not those who seek Him by studying His creation directly, apparently.


Cal - #45926

January 4th 2011

Trevor & Ronnie:

I had believed in creationism, and examined many of their and many ID arguments. However, the evidence is lacking! Why would God make it so hard to merely see some concurrence (that is if Genesis 1 is a text-book reading of how God built the world) on an issue that is not very pressing. I don’t for one moment believe scientists are resolved to misrepresent data to ruin Christians and drive them from institutions, and there are many Christian scientists who marvel in the work of the Creator (Collins, Miller et al). I now look at evolution as how God “unrolled” life in the world, and I know God made all of “creation”; however I dislike any set in stone ideology, no ism’s for me! I say no to evolutionism and to creationism. God is not just a cog in the wheel, He keeps the whole show going! There could be nothing without God holding Creation together, as it is written: “The Son [sustains] all things by his powerful word”(Hebrews 1:3, Col 1:17)

Rich:
Just for the record, I am in the evolution-creation camp (more or less) and I have no trouble with divine happenings (though I don’t think “sons of God” were angels, like you, I have no problem if they were). No need to paint with such a broad brush brother!


beaglelady - #45943

January 5th 2011

I’m exposing the hidden theological assumption that beaglelady will neither openly declare nor textually defend.

Getting tired of being attacked and accused by ID creationists.  Let’s get rid of women commenters.
(Way to go, BioLogos!)


Rich - #45949

January 5th 2011

beaglelady:

You’re tired of being attacked and accused here?  Join the club.  I’ve been savaged by both atheists and TEs here since the first time I posted.  And my initial posts weren’t even to promote ID, but merely to refute false statements about what ID in fact claimed.  For insisting that people should get Behe straight before they criticize him, I’m branded creationist, anti-evolutionist, anti-science, etc.  For suggesting that Darwinian mechanisms have been less than perfectly verified, I’m regarded as guilty of lese majeste by touchy Ph.D.s (and fake Ph.Ds.) in the life sciences.  I’ve had music majors lecture me on science and theology, and lab techs with the manners of Archie Bunker accuse of me preaching YEC from an imaginary web site, breaking Biblical commandments, and plotting a theocracy.  Do you really want to compare aches and pains?

I don’t dislike women commenters.  I wish there were more of them, to reduce the testosterone level around here.  But some women are just like many men, i.e., partisan, sarcastic, combative rather than dialogical, and stubborn.  In such cases, what difference does sex make?  I’m not going to respond to a Maude any differently than I’d respond to an Archie Bunker.


Rich - #45952

January 5th 2011

Cal:

I realize that some TEs, especially among the rank and file, have no problem with supernatural events.  But it’s surprising how cagey some of the more prominent TEs (including some who are pastors) are when the subject of miraculous interventions is raised.  And certainly several commenters here seem Deistic or near-Deistic in the dearth of supernatural events they are willing to endorse.

Understand that I’m not making any theological judgment on miracle-doubters.  I’m sure that many good Christians have from time to time doubted present-day and/or Biblical miracles.  But since most TEs’ embrace of Darwinism is closely bound up with an allegiance to naturalism in origins, it’s reasonable to ask TEs to be up front about where and when naturalism ends for them, and what it is that so turns them off about the idea of supernatural intervention and even in many cases Biblical miracles.  I think there is an inner struggle going on in many TEs between the teaching of the classic Reformation and the teaching of the Enlightenment, and that much of the intellectual incoherence and personal defensiveness that I see in TE writing comes from this unresolved conflict.


Ronnie - #45954

January 5th 2011

John:

Trevor didn’t write that, I did.


Paul D. - #45971

January 5th 2011

@Rich 45880

“Some of the statements made by beaglelady and others here reveal a flippant attitude toward the contents of sacred texts.”

I think you misunderstand Beaglelady and myself. I am trying to show that sometimes you cannot take the Bible both seriously and literally. I choose the former over the latter.

@Cal 45888

My personal opinion is that the gospel authors embellished the stories to show Jesus’s utter dominance over the “demons”. I think it is pretty clear, though, that the ancients had no way to describe serious mental illness other than as an affliction of a demon or evil spirit. That is simply the “science” of the day.

You make a good point about the zombies, and that is what I’m getting at. We don’t have to believe in literal demons or zombies to understand the core theology involved.


John - #45984

January 5th 2011

Ronnie:
“Trevor didn’t write that, I did.”

Apologies for the misattribution.

What does the Bible say about hearsay?


Rich - #45986

January 5th 2011

Paul D. (45971):

“I think you misunderstand Beaglelady and myself.”

If so, both beaglelady and yourself make the misunderstanding likely to occur.  Jon Garvey understood your remarks in the same way that I did.  Both of you could use a little instruction regarding “interpersonal communication”, s.v. “sarcasm.”  If you cannot see how your choice of the word “zombies” would sound like tasteless mockery, if beaglelady cannot see how her treatment of original sin in terms of “STDs” or her quip about the genitals of angels would sound scoffing, you both need some instruction not only in sensitivity to the religious views of others but on the connection between holiness and reverence.  In Calvin’s Geneva your remarks would have landed you a long interview with the consistory, and rightly so.

As for your remark to Cal, demons were an essential part of “the core theology involved.”  You can’t remove them without changing the teaching of the Gospel.  Read the works about the Devil by historian Jeffrey Burton Russell.  You’re trying to do what so many TEs do—tame Biblical teaching so that it fits in with modern middle-class sensibilities.  This reduces Christianity to something like a Dale Carnegie course.


gingoro - #45988

January 5th 2011

Paul D.@45971

“I think it is pretty clear, though, that the ancients had no way to describe serious mental illness other than as an affliction of a demon or evil spirit. That is simply the “science” of the day.” 

That seems to me to be partially true but I think some genuine cases of demon possession also existed, witness the case with the pigs on the hillside rushing into the water.  It seems to me that there are two extremes to avoid in this matter.  First attributing all bad things or mental illness to the forces of evil and the second is attributing nothing to the forces of evil.  In some instances I suspect that both factors are involved.

Our pastor is about 50 years old and in discussing this subject he said that ministers of the previous generation often took your position but that some/many younger ministers thought more like I have outlined above, as he also does.
Dave W
ps I suspect that we just will have to agree to disagree.  I don’t have energy or interest to argue on this topic.


Rich - #45990

January 5th 2011

Paul D. (continued):

If every time you see something in the Gospels or the Old Testament that seems ridiculous in terms of modern science, you decide for yourself that the Gospel or OT writer has “embellished” the story, you are going to have to do so much creative re-interpretation that you might as well just rewrite the books.

When it says that Jesus fed the 5,000, the Gospel writer reveals his ignorance of the law of the conservation of mass and energy; two fish and five loaves couldn’t have fed so many without something being manufactured out of nothing.  And we can’t have the Bible teaching creation out of nothing, can we?  So the Gospel writer must have embellished the story.  Maybe in the original event the crowd was a little smaller, and the food supply a little bigger, and maybe Jesus persuaded the crowd to lovingly share the food and rationed it for them.  Problem solved—except that it guts the text of its plain sense.

Where do you draw the line?  If you dump demons, is walking on water next?  How about the Red Sea?  And why stop there?  What about the Resurrection?  The problem is that you and beaglelady offer no interpretive principle other than a Deistical distaste for miracles.


Ronnie - #45996

January 5th 2011

John:

You assume that I (and biblical creationists) have to ignore empirical evidence in order to support our beliefs. Nothing could be further from the truth. WE believe the scientific data supports a biblical view of earth history and the history of mankind, e.g. recent creation, worldwide flood and special creation of all life; JUST LIKE you (and proponents of evolution) believe the same scientific data can be interpreted to support the evolutionary view of earth history and the history of mankind. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Of course we both “believe” we are right, but we don’t “know” in a scientific sense. Both must be accepted on faith. I know evolutionists like to say they have a lock on all things scientific, but there are many highly credible scientists who believe as I do who can refute the ‘evidence for evolution’ and can propose very credible ‘evidences for creation’. You can choose to ignore this or scoff at this, and that is your right, but please don’t judge my faith based on your evolutionary viewpoint.


John - #46003

January 5th 2011

Ronnie wrote:
“You assume that I (and biblical creationists) have to ignore empirical evidence in order to support our beliefs. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

It’s the absolute, empirical, demonstrable truth. Wanna bet?

“WE believe the scientific data supports a biblical view of earth history and the history of mankind, e.g. recent creation, worldwide flood and special creation of all life;…”

You don’t believe it at all. If you did, you’d be examining the scientific data for yourself and at least some fraction of you would be inspired to produce new scientific data.

But you lack the faith in your position to do either.

“JUST LIKE you (and proponents of evolution) believe the same scientific data can be interpreted to support the evolutionary view of earth history and the history of mankind.”

More mendacity. Science is not the same as your weak religious faith. Our conclusions are tentative and we seek to test them empirically.

In that way, we could not be more different. In fact, I have far more empirical faith in my position than you do.


Ronnie - #46084

January 6th 2011

John:

Obviously we don’t see eye to eye on this issue, but is calling me a person of weak faith, or a liar going to make me want to change my beliefs? As creationists, we are sincere in our belief that Genesis is a literal, factual account of history and that this is necessary for a proper understanding of the gospels of Jesus Christ.

John 5:46 states “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.”

Jesus Christ is the Creator, He created all things, including the natural laws of physics and made His creation understandable:

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

Of utmost importance to all mankind is the need for a Savior. Understanding our creation helps us to understand our Creator, who is also our Savior. This is why I’ve implored in several posts the need to seriously study the creation/evolution issue if people are serious about their faith.

I hope and pray that this becomes your “position” as well.


John - #46092

January 6th 2011

Ronnie,
It’s perfectly clear that when you claim that we are both starting from the empirical data, your claim is totally false.

Quoting from the Bible does absolutely nothing to support your claim. I’m a Christian, btw.
Resorting to hearsay only reinforces the falsehood of your claim.

How many papers in the primary scientific literature (i.e., the ones with the data) have you read?

How many papers in the primary scientific literature (i.e., the ones with the data) have you written?

How much sequence analysis have you done? All the sequence data and the tools for their analysis are freely available. The sequence data are the strongest data supporting evolutionary theory.

My point is that your inaction speaks louder than anything. You lack the faith to put your beliefs about biology to any empirical test, as do all of those whose hearsay you conflate with evidence.

You simply ignore the empirical evidence because your faith in your position is weak. If you’re going to disagree, you need to show your audience that you’ve examined the empirical evidence (not what anyone says about it) for yourself.

What does the Bible say about hearsay, Ronnie?


Cal - #46096

January 6th 2011

Ronnie:

Why do you keep saying its a battle between Creation and Evolution? Why can’t it be both? I believe in the Truth, that is to say Jesus Christ. Truth also is evidence found by simply examining the world, of which is weighted for evolutionary means of life coming about. You are making false dichotomies brother! I know I need a Savior, so dearly do I know it, and I know I am rescued by the One! But this does not challenge what I see in the evidence.

I don’t want you to change your position by mere argument, and there is still much unknown (scientific opinion changes as new data becomes available). Don’t invest in ideology, no ism’s! Regardless of your position, as a brother I love you as such (though I know you not) and I pray for the liberty to decide, each one of us, on this non-essential based on the best interpretation of the data.


Ronnie - #46318

January 8th 2011

John:

You wrote:
“It’s perfectly clear that when you claim that we are both starting from the empirical data, your claim is totally false”.

I’ll have to respectfully disagree with you. You seem to be knowledgeable in scientific matters. What credibility would any scientist have if they were to use ‘false data’? They would be quickly called on the carpet for doing so. If you are stating only your opinion that creationists are doing that then you cannot say my claim is false. I’ll say it again, creationists and evolutionists alike use empirical data to infer or deduce what may or may not have happened in the unobserved past and their “results” are only subjective since past events cannot be repeated, and subsequently tested. Empirical science cannot prove or disprove either creation or evolution. Both are then studies in faith; faith that the universe and all life had a supernatural, recent beginning as stated in Genesis, or had a naturalistic beginning with huge amounts of time to allow for life to form.

Continued…


Ronnie - #46319

January 8th 2011

...Continued

Those who maintain the notion that God created the material universe only to let natural processes ‘do the rest’, like create life in all its intricate and amazing forms, do so with no scriptural or empirical support.

You believe evolution to be the mechanism best supported by the evidence, and in this age that is understandable. The scientific community has succeeded at portraying biblical creation as a ‘religious fable’, while upholding evolution as ‘scientific’. Is this some sort of conspiracy? As a Christian, I believe there is evil in the world, satan, who will do anything to turn people away from their Creator. What better way than to make the foundational chapters of the Bible of no account and supplant the creation account with an evolutionary alternate?

I won’t denigrate you for the views you hold. Please treat me likewise. We can respectfully disagree on this important issue, and perhaps others may learn from our discussion.


John - #46519

January 8th 2011

Ronnie:
“I’ll have to respectfully disagree with you.”

Bearing false witness, as you do about the evidence, is the antithesis of respect.

“You seem to be knowledgeable in scientific matters.”

And you are bearing false witness about your knowledge, specifically the evidence. You are deliberately misrepresenting hearsay as evidence.

“If you are stating only your opinion that creationists are doing that then you cannot say my claim is false.”

I am stating a FACT. Your position is not based on the evidence. Don’t try to weasel out and claim that “WE” (your emphasis) doesn’t include YOU, Ronnie. Demonstrate that you are using the same evidence I am.

“...creationists and evolutionists alike use empirical data to infer or deduce what may or may not have happened in the unobserved past and their “results” are only subjective since past events cannot be repeated, and subsequently tested.”

And I’ll say that you are deliberately bearing false witness because YOU haven’t used the empirical data. At best, creationists ignore huge amounts of data. I can, and have, easily point to relevant data that you ignore.

Offer your personal testimony on your personal examination of sequence data.


John - #46521

January 8th 2011

Ronnie:
“Empirical science cannot prove or disprove either creation or evolution.”

We aren’t even to empirical science because you aren’t examining the evidence.

“Both are then studies in faith;…”

No, misrepresenting science only emphasizes your ignorance of evidence.

“Those who maintain the notion that God created the material universe only to let natural processes ‘do the rest’, like create life in all its intricate and amazing forms, do so with no scriptural or empirical support.”

Irrelevant. We are discussing your false claim that your position is based on the evidence, which you can’t be bothered to examine.

“I won’t denigrate you for the views you hold. Please treat me likewise.”

We’re not discussing views. We’re discussing your false claim that your views are based on evidence, as mine are. Your views are based on hearsay.

“We can respectfully disagree on this important issue, and perhaps others may learn from our discussion.”

I don’t see any fruitful discussion if you begin with an objectively false claim—that you are basing your position on evidence as I do mine.

Again, if you had faith in your position, you wouldn’t need to engage in such deception.


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