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Letting God Out of the Box

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April 20, 2012 Tags: Lives of Faith
Letting God Out of the Box

Today's entry was written by Lisa Jeanguenin. You can read more about what we believe here.

Having grown up in a Christian home, I was impressed with the Bible’s significance at an early age. I can still picture my mother cozied up every morning on the right end of the couch with her afghan and coffee, reading from the gold-trimmed pages of her brown, leather-bound bible. I can also repeat one of her favorite responses when confronted with the barrage of questions children never seem to run out of: “What does the Bible say?” she would often ask. But as I got older and moved farther and farther west on my own, I began to see God’s Word as much more than a life-resource book. The Bible became precious to me as I realized just how precious I was to God, despite my wanderings from the proverbial straight and narrow path.

Realizing such a beautiful thing made me desire God even more, and I began regularly attending the church a friend had introduced me to early on in my relocation to San Diego. The pastor’s messages were funny, relevant, convicting, and oftentimes full of scientific facts used to illustrate God’s majestic creation. As a college student pursuing a degree in biology, it seemed to be the perfect church. One Sunday the topic of evolution came up and I listened as he proceeded to explain how the “theory” was not only utterly ridiculous (it should really be called a “hypothesis”), but that it was incompatible with the Bible. Because the last biology class I took was in high school, I couldn’t quite recall what I learned about evolution; in my new-found zeal for righteousness, I figured doubting the theory was somehow pleasing God more.

Around this time I also began listening to a lot of Christian talk radio, and one of my favorite programs was a call-in show where listeners could join the discussion on that day’s topic. Every now and again evolution happened to be the topic, and whenever people would call in to defend it, the host always seemed to win the debate by countering every point they tried to make with a logical and persuasive argument that was also consistent with Scripture. Just as with my pastor, the radio host appeared to have done a thorough investigation of the matter. Because they were both Christians in leadership positions (and because they exuded absolute surety on the matter), I believed them when they claimed that, not only was there zero evidence for evolution, but that believing it was not consistent with the Christian faith. But the talk-show host didn’t stop there. According to him, evolution was not only a fraud, but a belief system that leads to suicide, Nazism and atheism. Furthermore, because it was being taught in public schools, evolution was responsible for the moral decline in our country. To be fair, this talk show host wasn’t alone. Nearly every program (on all three radio stations I listened to) mentioned similar sentiments about evolution at one time or another. I quickly got the sense that all Christians were in agreement on this issue, and since I wanted to be a good Christian, I determined that I was, too.

During this period I found myself in a very awkward situation. On the one hand I was a follower of Jesus Christ who loved the Bible, knew that it was God’s Word, and, therefore, knew that it was not full of lies. However, I also was someone who had loved science for many years and was planning on pursuing a career in research. Given all that I had learned about the incompatibility of the two worldviews, it seemed that I would have to choose. Or did I? One day on my commute home I turned on my usual AM radio station and heard something quite unexpected – the voice of Ben Stein. Intrigued as to why the teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was on Christian radio, I continued listening as the host and Mr. Stein discussed Intelligent Design and the new documentary that highlighted it, Expelled! No Intelligence Allowed. Loving movies and having never heard of ID, I saw it as soon as it came out. The film did not disappoint: I left excited and relieved that an alternative to evolution had arrived—one that also seemed to be compatible with my faith.

By this time I had graduated from college and decided to pursue a career in education rather than research. I struggled immensely as I pondered what I would do when it came time to teach evolution, but considering that I had been offered a job amidst rumors of hiring freezes, I didn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize my position. During the week before the official start of the school year, there were several faculty meetings and department planning sessions. I was pleased to find out that I was going to be sharing a classroom with another Christian teacher. However, when it came time for the evolution unit, I was confused at the enthusiasm this same teacher had for the topic. I listened in as she taught her students that evolution makes the most sense of homologous structures, the phylogenetics of cytochrome c, and the apparent fusion of two chromosomes to make our chromosome 2 (accounting for the fact that we have one fewer pair than chimpanzees)—and that these features pointed to a common origin of all species, including our own. I couldn’t help but wonder, “What was going on here?! I thought she was a Christian, how could she stand up there and twist the truth?”

I figured that she must be one of those people who call themselves Christians, but really aren’t.

But something else concerned me more than my fellow teacher’s apparent divergence from the faith. Although I remember learning about homologous structures and the phylogenetics of cytochrome c, I never realized their significance like I did at that moment. Furthermore, the fusion of chromosomes our ancestors shared with those of chimpanzees was previously unknown to me. Taken together, these three bits of information were admittedly breathtaking; but even so, I wasn’t ready to accept them as anything more than peculiarities.

As my first year of teaching came to a close, I accepted an invitation to attend an info night for Point Loma Nazarene’s Master’s in biology program, designed for working teachers. I was certainly excited at the prospect of getting a graduate degree in biology rather than in education, but I was most excited to have my first taste of Christian education. During the Q & A period, however, that excitement was quickly turned to disappointment: I discovered that the faculty’s position on evolution and natural selection was one of acceptance. I thought to myself, “This must be one of those colleges that say they’re Christian, but really aren’t.” Despite this somewhat bitter conclusion, I went ahead with the application process anyway, and within a few weeks was sitting in my first graduate class. SEASAND was a summer workshop for teachers which we could use as an elective and that year’s topic just happened to be evolutionary developmental biology. Suffice it to say that I was a little worried at what I was getting myself into.

For the first week and a half I experienced serious internal conflicts trying to come up with rational alternative explanations to the apparent common descent of organisms such as fruit flies, mice, and humans as outlined in our textbook, Endless Forms Most Beautiful. I also took one of the professors up on his offer to answer our questions if we were having trouble with the course content as it pertained to our faith—an offer that caused me even more cognitive dissonance: here was a person who claimed to be a Christian and yet he was completely comfortable with saying that Genesis was not a literal creation account. Combining the terms “Christian” and “a non-literal interpretation of the Bible” was just not compatible with my understanding of things. I felt so lost that I did the one thing I should have been doing a lot more of from the start of the class – I prayed.

Through my times in prayer and reflection I discovered many things. For one, I learned that I had been putting God in a box: I was making him fit into my ideas of how he should create life, as if I knew the correct way it should have been done. I also learned that I had been awfully judgmental in mentally accusing the teacher I shared my classroom with, the people at Point Loma’s info night, and my SEASAND professors of only pretending to be “real Christians.” I even judged God himself by thinking that (if I were to admit that evolution were true) he had chosen a hideous way to bring about life as we know it. Finally, I discovered that a major barrier to my accepting evolution was that I didn’t want to say “I was wrong” to the many people I’d argued with about it; I would rather suppress the truth than swallow my pride. Having realized all of this, it was only a matter of days before I decided to stop ignoring the mountain of evidence being laid out in favor of evolution. As ridiculous as it may sound, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders and a peace settle into my soul.

It’s now been nearly three years since that transitional summer, and to all those who claim a belief in evolution leads to atheism or any of those other unfortunate fates, I am here to say that you are greatly mistaken. I still love Jesus, I still love the Bible, I still attend a conservative evangelical church, and I even still listen to Christian talk radio. But the best part is that I am not an anomaly: there is an incredible group of Christians out there who accept God as creator and evolution as his process, and I have the privilege of working and collaborating with some of them every single day.

Lisa Jeanguenin serves as administrative assistant at BioLogos, supporting the Evolution & Christian Faith grant program and the Foundation's annual Biology by the Sea workshop. Lisa holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from San Diego State University and a Master's in Biology from Point Loma Nazarene University. Outside the office, Lisa is an avid snowboarder and fan of live music.

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brutewolf - #69403

April 19th 2012

Wonderful testimony, Lisa. I can especially relate to the “weight lifted off” your shoulders. Finally deciding to work through, rather than around, the evidence has been one of the great unburdenings of my life. I feel now that I have  a faith that I haven’t had since I was nine or ten years old. It’s an older and grayer faith, but it’s far more examined, more muscular, and wiser. It’s nice not being nine. Thanks again.

Jeff - #69426

April 20th 2012

Two thoughts:

First, when Christians give in and compromise with the world, it does make life easier.  It relieves tension, and that feels good.  Yet it is still wrong.  Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matt. 10:34)  Thus feeling a peace “settle on your soul” because of some decision that you have made is not always a sign that you are following Jesus.

Secondly, I am afraid that embracing evolution is not the fairy tale ending that Lisa seems to think it is, for while she may have made peace with her biologist friends, she has now declared war on the word of God.  She imagines that she can simply adopt a figurative interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis and all the conflict in her Christian life will disappear; but soon she will find that she has opened the door to serious doubts about the meaning of second chapter of Genesis.  And the third.  And the fourth.  Was there a real Adam?  Was Eve made from a rib in his side?  Was there a real tree of the knowledge of good and evil?  Is there a real Satan?  Was there a time in the world when there was no sin, when the world was indeed very good?  Was there a first sin?  Was there a real fall of man?  Was the sin of that man passed on to his sons and their sons and to the rest of the human race?  Pandora’s box is now open, and there is no closing it.  Lisa has opened the door to doubts about Noah and Abraham and Moses and Job and David and Elijah and, eventually, Jesus.  She has opened the door to doubts about the most basic doctrines of the Christian faith.  In order to make peace with evolutionary theory, she has abandoned a rational interpretation of Scripture for a creative interpretation of Scripture, and transformed what was once the rock of her faith into an uncertain lump of clay.  I am glad that Lisa is still in an evangelical church, but if she were to visit a liberal church that accepted theistic evolution back in the first half of the twentieth century, she would be shocked to discover how little regard the Christians in that church have for the integrity of the word of God.  She would be appalled at how many of the doctrines that she holds to be fundamental truths are dismissed altogether by those Christians after years of looking at the whole Bible the way that she now looks at the first chapter of Genesis.  And if she should go across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe and take a broad look at the influence of theistic evolution there, she would find that given its full effect, the little decision that she has now made for the sake of personal peace has the potential to destroy the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Christian religion altogether.  The truth is that there is no easy escape from the tension that exists between the theory of evolution and the Bible, and every Christian must choose for himself or herself whether it will be war with the word of the world or war with the word of God.

Darrel Falk - #69429

April 20th 2012

”...she has now declared war on the Word of God.”  

“The little decision that she has now made for the sake of personal peace has the potential to destroy the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Christian religion altogether.”

Jeff is not alone.  Literally millions feel the way he describes here.  To them it seems that purpose and meaning in life is wrapped up in how one understands Genesis 1.   Here are the issues for them:

1.  They don’t understand the process of science well. They don’t understand that science is a way of knowing with virtual certainty. Astronomy, geology, physics, and biology all provide an amazingly coherent view of God’s creation.  The universe is very old and life’s diversity has been created through evolution.  Not being scientists, and not trusting science as a tool of God, the basis of that virtual certainty is not clear to them.

2.  They think the Bible stands or falls on whether there is figurative language in Genesis 1-3.

3. They think that if they have to choose between “man’s science” and “God’s Word,” it’s a no-brainer, they choose God.

4.  They think purpose and meaning in life of all humankind will rise or fall on this issue.  They are concerned about this for themselves, but they are even more concerned about it for those they love even more than themselves—their children and grandchildren.  It is their children’s relationship with God that is at stake, they believe There is nothing more important in life than that.  

Some of the most beautiful people I have met think much like Jeff. However, people like Lisa love Jesus every bit as much as individuals like Jeff, and they are following in his footsteps too.  I think Jeff knows this.  If he doesn’t he needs to spend a little time around people like her, just as she spent time with others and found that they weren’t “just pretending to be real Christians.” 

Regardless of which category you’re currently in (Jeff’s or Lisa’s), please keep studying, praying, trusting, and loving.  As long as we keep doing that God’s Spirit will prevail. 

As for me, I especially pray that I might never stop seeing the beauty in those who think so differently than I do.  My experience has been that I have much to learn from those who think so differently, even if its not science and even if it’s not biblical hermeneutics.  Indeed, I have found that the most important lessons I have learned in life come from those who see biology and biblical hermeneutics quite differently than I do.

Uncle Bonobo - #69446

April 22nd 2012

I dsagree that there is a tension between good sicence such as evolution, and the word of God.  There is a tension betrween evolution and a minority view of scriptiure held by a minority of Christians.  The views expressed above are not mainstream Christian views.

The battle, such as it is, in not betwen evoluiton and religion.  It is between sound science and some very peculiar and incorrect interpretations of scripture.   This may sound painful to people like Jeff, but it is true.  They ae misinterpreting scripture and most Christians do not read scripture that way.

Darrel Falk - #69472

April 23rd 2012

Uncle B,

Although I most certainly agree with your opening sentence, in America at least Jeff’s view is not a minority view in protestant Christianity.  Unless you know of some data that we don’t know about, our data, obtained by the Barna Group, a survey of 600 American protestant pastors indicate that at least 69 percent of protestant pastors would not be supportive of macro-evolution. The majority of these hold a young earth view.  Similarly, (or even more extremely actually) a survey by Lifeway indicates that only 4 percent of pastors of protestant churches larger than 250 would strongly agree with the notion that “God used evolution to create humans.” http://www.edstetzer.com/2012/01/creation-vs-evolution—-new-re.html

Furthermore repeated Gallop polls have shown that betwen 40 and 45% of Americans in general believe that humans were created pretty much in their present form less than 10,000 years ago.

Uncle Bonobo - #69477

April 23rd 2012

My omission of “Protestant” from “Christianity” was intentional.  If you are going to claim a view held by “Christians” then I think you have an obligation to recognize that the Catholic Church is by far the largest Christian denonimation in the United States and in the world.  Its views on evolution are alligned with those of Biologos, as I’m sure you know. 

If you want to claim that a literal interpretation of Genesis is correct, you can do that, but you cannot make that claim on behalf of “Christianity.”  As Bilogos has also shown, it’s incorrect to even make that claim on behalf of “Evangelical” Christianity.  Those who make the claim that Genesis is to be read literally are a subset of Evangelical Christianty and a much smaller subset of Christians worldwide. 

While I’m familiar with the unfortuantely high number of Americans who appear to accept a form of YEC, that is both a recent development and also mainly limited to the United States.  Christians in other countries accept the science more readily than those in the the US do.  Recognizing the large numbers of of Bibically literate Christians who do not see science as “war on the Word of God” would give me pause before I made such a bold assertion as a truth.  It’s rejected by large numbers of Christians.

Obviously, Biologos has its work cut out for it.

I appreciate that those Chirstians who hold to a literal view of Genesis are the “audience” that Biologos seeks to address.   Nevertheless, they are not representative of Christiantity nor are they representative of Evangelical Christianity.  The target audience tends to depict the dispute as Christians against the secular world or Christians against science or even new atheists.  That’s not accurate.  The disagreement is intramural—one view of Genesis, not shared by all Christians—against other views, also not shared by all Christians.

Jeff raises some questions that seem to lead from a nonliteral view of Genesis.  People have thought long and hard about these questions.  A literal view of Gensis also leads to some very difficult theological questions.  All of this is worth discussing.

However, in school, I expect my children to learn the latest in biology without interference.  I expect my doctors and scientists, farmers and oil production companies (to name a few) to all rely on solid science in their work on my behalf.

PNG - #69461

April 22nd 2012

My response to Jeff is that was he says simply isn’t so. I was raised an evangelical and studied the Bible all through my chlidhood and adolescence. After trying several majors in college, I finished (at an evangelical school) with majors in philosophy and biology, having dabbled in physics and Biblical studies as well. I got a certain amount of indoctrination as a child against evolution, although not as much as many fundamentalists do, but, always having liked science, I waited to come to a conclusion until I actually knew something about biology. I didn’t learn anything in college to disprove evolution, and i learned enough to see that some of the standard fundamentalist arguments were bogus. I then went to med school for 2 years until I decided I wanted to do research in basic science and switched to get a Ph.D. in biochemistry. My research never really involved evolution, so I kind of reserved judgement on the question, wondering if I would encounter some form of evidence that would be decisive. That was during the ‘70s and only during the ‘80s did DNA sequences start to accumulate in large amounts, so that comparative genomics gradually became a form of evidence that had to be addressed. My work led to comparing protein sequences and defining a protein superfamily, and sequence comparisons are similar whether you are doing protein or DNA sequences. Around that time I encountered a science news article where it was pointed out that mobile DNA sequences inserted at identical positions in different species were a very potent argument that the species had a common ancestor in which the insertions had occurred. I started to follow research on the mobile elements in mammalian DNA and it became clear before long that there was a huge amount of genomic evidence that mammals, including humans, have common ancestors. With completion of the human sequence as well as other mammalian sequences the evidence became overwhelming. The question for conservative Christians is whether the faith that God wants is one that walls itself off from evidence in life and in science. The New Testament makes the point that plenty of evidence was provided for the resurrection. People were not expected to believe in the absence of the evidence, and our personal experience certainly affects our understanding of what the Bible means when it speaks of the Christian life. The Incarnation was given as evidence of what God is really like. The church finally had to respond to evidence in astronomy several centuries ago, and after much controversy, it finally did. The evangelical church is faced with the same situation now in regard to biological evidence. I think eventually it wil respond and the gospel will survive just as it always has. I have no problem with evolution and I haven’t lost my faith after several decades. There is no reason the same shouldn’t prove to be true of many other people in the future.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #69471

April 23rd 2012

Jeff, my Christian brother,

Thank you for defining the issues in this Christian discussion.

With all due respect I think that you have got it wrong.  The primary problem is that you look at the Bible from a Jewish perspective, when as Christians we need to read it from a Christ-centered perspective.  In other words the New Testament Creation story is found in the Gospel according to John,

John 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2  He was with God in the beginning. 3  Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.   

10  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13  children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  

Creation according to John is about Jesus, God’s rational Word, not about the Sabbath, not about when God the Father created what.  If this is figurative language, so be it.  Humans understand reality, both spiritual and scierntific in figurative language.  That is the way God made us.

Jesus is God’s Word, not the Bible.  We believe in God, Father, Son, and Holy  Spirit, not the Bible.  That is because “we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Cor 5:7  Biblical knowledge is a form of sight, clear knowledge, rather than trusting in God who is unseen.  As Paul said, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” 1 Cor 8:1 

You are concerned that evolution creates doubts about the Bible and doubts about the faith.  That is a concern, but as far as I can see, that is wrong headed.  Christianity is not an intellectual construct, it is a way of life, it is a way of relating toward God and others and understanding the world. 

It does not stand or fall on whether the first humans were named Adam and Eve or not!  It stands or falls as to whether Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, God’s Chosen One, sent to redeem God’s people from sin and death. 

My brother, my serious concern is when Christians abuse the Bible by claiming it to be God’s perfect Word, instead of Jesus Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, they divert attention AWAY from where it should be which is on Jesus, the Logos and Savior, and instead focus it on the Bible which God’s secondary truth which does not have the power to save.   

Christians live by trusting in God, not by certain knowledge.  We know God because we have fellowship with the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit.  The Bible is our guide too, but not to certain knowledge, but a deeper faith relationship with God.     

Jeff - #69476

April 23rd 2012


First of all, thank you for greeting me as your Christian brother!  I warmly return the greeting and hope that we can continue to have a serious discussion about serious issues without losing sight of that glorious truth: that the grace of God has brought us into one family of faith in Christ, the bonds of which are fraternal and everlasting.  Throughout this debate, by all means, let the world continue to see us hail one another as brethren and demonstrate the mutual respect and love that flows naturally from that blessed reality.

But secondly, and with all due respect in return, it seems to me that your view of the Bible is not that of our Lord, but rather some mysticism which is foreign to the Christian religion.  Jesus Christ never expresses this antithesis between Himself and the Scriptures which you have described.  He says explicitly, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matt. 5:17)  Notice also the emphasis upon the intimate relationship between Jesus and His words in this passage: “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.  These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:10-11)  Do you see that our experience of both the love and joy of God is made dependent upon faithful adherance to Christ’s words?  To those who hail the name of Christ but ignore His words, He says, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)  And what are the “words” of Jesus, by the way?  Just the red-lettered words in our copies of the Bible, the words that actually came for the mouth of Jesus?  The Apostle Peter says, “The [Old Testament] prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” (I Peter 1:10-11)  So the inspired words of Moses and Isaiah and Malachi are the words of Jesus, too, and thus we find that Jesus appealed to their unchanging authority repeatedly throughout His teaching ministry.  Indeed, it was He who said before He went to the cross, “Heaven and earth will pass way, but My words will be no means pass away.” (Matt. 24:35)

So while I disagree with your view of Scripture, Roger, I do agree with you that we are now truly defining the issues in our Christian discussion about evolution.  The architects of BioLogos would like us to believe that theistic evolution poses no challenge to the doctrine of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.  But your position is more mature.  You have found by experience that theistic evolution works best with a liberal view of Scripture that is not bound to believe everything that the Bible says.  In speaking to my fellow evangelicals who hold a higher view of Scripture, I would only here say: Beware, lest at last you, too, become as indifferent to the words of Christ as poor Roger.

PNG - #69479

April 23rd 2012

“Jesus Christ never expresses this antithesis between Himself and the Scriptures which you have described.”

Actually He did describe just such an antithesis. He told the Pharisees “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have life, but it is they that testify of me.” No one is saved by the Bible or by their knowledge of it. The Bible points outside of itself to God himself, to Jesus Himself. It is not a distinction without a difference. Jesus made the disctinction Himself.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #69485

April 23rd 2012

My brother Jeff,

I quote you the words of the Bible as found in the beginning of the Gospel of John and you completely overlook them.  Is Jesus Christ the Logos, the divine Word of God, or not? 

Of course Jesus came to fulfill the Law of God, and He did so since we have the testimony of Hebrews that He was without sin so that He was the true Incarnate God and the Lamb of God Who died for the sin of the whole world.  This is I believe Jesus meant when He said, “until all is fulfilled.”  Christians do not practice ritual circumcision and eat a kosher diet.

Jesus commanded us: Mt: 22:37 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38  This is the first and greatest commandment. 39  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  These are the commands of Jesus also quoted in the Epistles by Paul and other writers.  This has little to do with the view that the universe was created in 6 days and everything to do with how we live our lives as children of God redeemed by the sacrificial death of Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit.   

Jeff wrote: In speaking to my fellow evangelicals who hold a higher view of Scripture, I would only here say: Beware, lest at last you, too, become as indifferent to the words of Christ as poor Roger. 

I regret that you are so quick to judge.  It seems to me in doing so you are the one being indifferent to the words of Jesus.  If your high view of Scripture is that it is higher than Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, then indeed you do have a very serious problem.

Scott Jorgenson - #69514

April 23rd 2012

Regarding Jeff’s comments about what essentially amounts to a “slippery slope”, while Lisa says she remains in a “conservative evangelical” setting: though we theistic evolutionists might not wish to talk about it, I do think there is some truth in what Jeff says, though perhaps not for the reasons he thinks.

In my experience, when you grow up with conservative evangelicalism and then find out it has been so wrong about something so well-established as evolutionary science, you tend to wonder what else it has gotten wrong, and find yourself fair-minded enough now to investigate. And when you do this, two things may well happen:

First, you may discern that other distinctives of conservative evangelicalism, too, do not hold-up under reasonable critique. Perhaps its biblical inerrancy, or verbal plenary inspiration, or full historicity of the gospels, or soteriological exclusivism, or the nature of hell and salvation, or faith and works, or Reformed views on predestination and the sovereignty of God, or end-times views popular in Pentacostal circles.

And second, you are likely to discover other Christian ways of thinking and being, from various flavors of progressive evangelical to liberal Protestant to Catholic to Orthodox. You are likely to be exposed to their own defensible takes on such things, including views you may find more faithful and reasonable than those typically associated with conservative evangelicalism.

And so while evolution has nothing to do with these things, and its possible to remain doctrinally Southern Baptist (say) on all these things and incorporate your evolutionary conclusions accordingly, the habits of mind unleashed by the process of questioning and then breaking-away from conservative evangelical orthodoxy on evolution are unlikely to be constrained.  And to conservative evangelical dyed-in-the-woolers, this certainly does look like falling away.

Jon Garvey - #69516

April 24th 2012

Scott, you’re right, of course. But that says nothing about whether such a progression is right, or a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The limiting case would be another kind of testimony I’ve heard, and no doubt you as well: “I came to realise that evolutionary theory made sense, and that all I’d been indoctrinated with from babyhood was mere superstition. How could I go on believing in God after that?”

Clearly any emergence from an over-restricted environment opens up a whole range of new possibilities, good and bad, and individuals will be found who have taken up most of them. That is not so much a statement about science, or faith, but the real dangers of intellectual isolationism.

My own testimony would be much more boring because, in the UK, that clean cultural divide never existed and it was a messier but healthier scene. I was taught about Adam and Eve in Sunday School at 6, and tossed in dinosaur questions without being blackballed. Evangelical youth magazines were discussing things like Homo divinus theories and retroactive effects of the fall in deep time c 1970. Evangelical charismatics tended to be YEC, Evangelical Anglicans to be TEs or OEC - both would read Morris & Whitcomb and evolutionary apologetics and come to their own divergent conclusions. But it was always tangential to the important issue, which was good theology.

It didn’t even make a difference to how Christians voted.

Darrel Falk - #69519

April 24th 2012


I understand what you’re saying but this has not been my experience as I have observed others.    What evangelicals appreciate most of all is the beauty of a life fully dedicated to serving God in word, thought, and deed.  If the changes which occur in one’s thinking about a tangential issue like creation are  accompanied by a more thorough emersion in Scripture as God’s Word and in living a life that is truly Christ-like, then the beauty that emerges speaks for itself.  If, in prayerfully thinking about this particular issue (science and faith), we are moving from “milk” to “solid food”  in our Christian life as a whole,  then our lives are becoming  filled with the wisdom of a God who by his very nature, is love.  The proof, as they say, is in the pudding and it is difficult to be dismissive of that.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #69518

April 24th 2012


If evangelical Christianity has made itself into a cult by creating its own isolated world and world view, then that would happen. 

Paul tells us to be in the world, that is be a part of this world, but not be of this world, or be dependent on this world.  Christianity is not a cult and every Christian group needs to be self critical to determine if it is really following the example of Jesus, rather than some other standard or way.   

Douglas E - #69597

April 27th 2012

Dear Jeff - for me and many others, understanding and integration of Genesis and evolutionary biology is at most secondary, and perhaps even futher down than that, to our living as Jesus outlined in Matthew 25:31-ff which is the only time that he discussed how we would be judged.  I see no mention of any of the issues you raised as being important.

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