A Breath of Rejuvenating Air

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April 29, 2010 Tags: Pastoral Voices

Today's entry was written by Rev. Scott Mapes. 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.

A Breath of Rejuvenating Air

I was born the year before the Bay of Pigs invasion. Although we had connections with my grandparents' church in the country, we were basically a pagan American family. This all began to change when I turned eight. Thanks to the influence of the caring members of a little neighborhood church down the street, my parents sent us to our first church service. This proved to be a life-changing experience.

After a family crisis in 1972, we came to faith in Christ as a family. My personal acceptance of Christ came in the summer of 1974. From this point, my spiritual progress was rapid and intense. Through Sunday School, teen Bible quizzing, and the Christian Service Training program of my local church, I made up for lost time and progressed beyond many of my teen-aged Nazarene fellow disciples.

Now my home church in northwestern Pennsylvania was typically Appalachian in many ways. Many of our folk revered the King James Bible, dispensational premillenialism, southern gospel music, and Liberty University--not necessarily in that order. When as a senior I announced my intentions to study at a Christian university, several older saints at my church expressed deep concern that I was attending a “liberal” –– albeit Christian –– northeastern school. I, however, would not be dissuaded from what I sensed God wanted me to do.

In my university days, I was exposed to another side of the holiness movement. This branch of my Christian family tree was not afraid of scholarship; not shy about new ways of sharing the Gospel; and not close-minded in its cultural vision of what a Christian could and should be. This experience, plus my master’s work at Seminary, confirmed the vision of my college Dean in my life: There is no conflict between the best in education and the best in Christian faith.

Rather than going on to doctoral studies after the M.Div. work was completed, my wife and I followed God's leading to enter into full-time Christian ministry. During the past 25 years, my politics have become more conservative; we have had two wonderful children; and we have influenced dozens upon dozens of people (maybe hundreds) to accept Christ as Savior and to follow Him as Lord. But, with one exception, none of our churches seemed to highly value the role of the pastor as scholar. On second thought, let me clarify this statement. My churches wanted their pastor to be intelligent. They just did not think that further formal study was necessary to achieve that goal.

Presently we are serving in the mid Ohio Valley in West Virginia. The Appalachian factors mentioned above still exist here, but one more factor is at work now. Young Earth Creationism has become the dominant view in our church culture here, and for many people has become a critical test of orthodoxy. As a pastor, I understand the reasons that people are drawn to this view. On the surface, Creationism appears to take the word of God seriously. It greatly simplifies the issues, and it also creates a comfortable hedge of protection between Christian faith and atheistic philosophies.

Historically in my church, however, we have allowed members to disagree agreeably on a number of issues. Among these issues are included eschatology and, at least to this point of time, the science of origins. But in the world of middle America, one can feel like a traitor at worst, or disingenuous at best, if one does not walk the line of Lindsellian inerrancy and Young Earth Creationism.

This is why I appreciate the BioLogos Web site. BioLogos brings a breath of rejuvenating air to those who want to think more deeply and challenge the Zeitgeist of our popular evangelical age. I myself have only begun to scratch the surface.

Welcome to the curious, the doubting, and to any who would enter this world of wonder.


Rev. Mapes has 25 years of ministry experience throughout the Appalachian region. He is currently serving in the small town of Ravenswood, W.Va.


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Esley Heizer - #11710

April 29th 2010

I truly wish I could get my pastor to fully examine this topic. However when I mentioned it to him he said he had examined theistic evolution. His tone was not supportive to say the least. I don’t really desire to convince them evolution is true. I just hope to convince them that one can be a Christian and accept evolution.


Merv - #11729

April 29th 2010

I wonder how many Christians (on either side of the evolution issue) reside in the “soft” end of their chosen views?  i.e.  they have their opinion & will defend it, but beyond that do not feel a need to force other disagreeing Christians to change their opinion —-live & let live. 

Do you think that many of us perceive that we (and most who are on “our” side) reside in the softer gentler apologetic, while most of those misled folks on the other side are all out to deny Christian status to any who disagree?  It wouldn’t surprise me to find this was the case because it seems to be human nature to see aggression and attack in those who strongly share their opinions when in fact they may just be ....  strongly sharing their opinions (as facts, course—-how else do opinions ever get shared?)

Thanks, Rev. Mapes, for sharing part of your story.

—Merv


Merv - #11730

April 29th 2010

clarification to my last post….  I meant to say that it is human nature to perceive aggression in those *who disagree with us* who strongly share their opinions ...


Chris Massey - #11738

April 29th 2010

Thanks Rev. Mapes. You’ve touched on an issue that is a real struggle for me in knowing how to relate to my church. There is an undercurrent of anti-intellectualism in many evangelical communities. Ultimately, I think this attitude is driven by fear more than anything - fear that if believers examine scholarly work about evolution, archaeology, textual criticism, etc. that it will raise doubts. And for some reason doubt is seen as the enemy of faith.

A fruitful area for future discussion on this website will be the question of how we can approach topics like this within our local churches in a way that doesn’t instantly put them on the defensive. Something better than, “Jesus’ DNA was 99% identical to that of a chimp,” for instance.

I’d be interested in hearing how others have made successful inroads into once-closed Christian minds.


Karl A - #11777

April 30th 2010

Excellent point, Merv, and one for us all to keep in mind.


eddy - #11802

April 30th 2010

Seems you guys are determined to shove evolution down Christian throats.

“There is an undercurrent of anti-intellectualism in many evangelical communities.”

Aww, that’s an insult of the first order to Christians. 

Let say there is a certain Christian pastor who is persuaded that evolution in all its orthodoxy is literally true.  That the biblical Adam and Eve are not responsible for my existence and possibly yours. And this pastor goes to the pulpit to preach on me about sin which he absolutely has no idea how sin got into humans (if he even knows this much what is sin anyway).

How should I, as a member of his Church, treat this pastor? An uncertain fraud? No, this pastor is seemingly enlightened and very honest with himself.  What is wrong with this pastor, I think, is to misstep his job of encouraging the flock in the Christian faith by compromising with un-biblical ideas. What God intends for pastors to direct Christians to take seriously is fully delineated in the bible. Otherwise, is poor stewardship.


John VanZwieten - #11812

April 30th 2010

Eddy,

The “undercurrent of anti-intellectualism” goes way beyond evolution.  For a full treatment, I recommend _The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind_ by Mark Noll.  It is an insult, but since it’s an insult to ourselves, I guess it’s allowed

Do you know exactly how sin got into humans—and more importantly how it gets into each human?  Is that really “fully delineated” in the Bible?  If so, why was there all the arguments over the doctrine of original sin?  Why do some churches now baptise infants to take away original sin, while others are persuaded all children are “safe” until they reach an age of accountability.


AHH - #11821

April 30th 2010

In partial answer to the request of Chris Massey #11738, there has recently been a series of 10 guest blog posts with discussion about dealing with evolution (and science/faith issues more generally) in local church contexts on Steve Martin’s “Evangelical Dialogue on Evolution” blog:
http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/


CM - #12485

May 5th 2010

Eddy: “What is wrong with this pastor, I think, is to misstep his job of encouraging the flock in the Christian faith by compromising with un-biblical ideas.”

I would agree that the pulpit probably isn’t the place for a pastor to be “preaching” evolution, since evolution isn’t his area of expertise and yes, his calling is for a different purpose. That said, I think the discourse on whether or not evolution represents a decidedly non-Christian worldview does call pastors to participate as their churches look to them for guidance as their spiritual stewards.

I think the discussion about evolution “vs” Christianity (deliberately in quotes as I don’t see it as a necessary dichotomy) really boils down to truth. There either is a God, or there isn’t. Evolution either happens (and has been happening for millenia) or it doesn’t. I know there are people who don’t believe this, but the scientific community (which includes Christians) has shown publicly an *astonishing* amount of evidence for evolution. So this evidence - starting with Darwin 150 years ago and building at every turn since then - is either true, or it isn’t. If you believe in God, you believe there is only one truth - God’s truth. (cont.)


CM - #12486

May 5th 2010

But, even though we have the Bible, we don’t *exactly* know all the details of God’s truth. God gave us a number of faculties to exercise though - intelligence, sight, curiosity - and based on our ability to reason and investigate, the same things that would lead us to God if we didn’t already know him, have led millions of people to believe that evolution is truth. Not that it is their preferred worldview, but that it is truth.

I think that God’s message can still be faithfully delivered without discounting evolution. I also don’t see it as a matter of cherry-picking of what to take seriously and what not to. Rather, it’s a process of synthesizing a cohesive understanding of God and his creation from all of the information God gives us. I can’t imagine that a God who wants us *mind*, body, and soul would ask us to turn away from something that makes so much sense and has so much evidence in order to still put our faith in him. If He is truth, he can withstand this seeming conundrum (and I think he can).


CM - #12487

May 5th 2010

If evolution is true, how could it be good stewardship for a pastor to guide his followers in a way that makes them hide from truth and reality (or at the very least, makes them fearful of even questioning)? Of course, you could argue that it isn’t truth, or that he couldn’t know if it was absolute truth, but what if it is?

Would evolution necessaritly disprove the existence of God? *I* don’t know think so.


Rev. Scott Mapes - #13805

May 15th 2010

I have enjoyed reading the discussion that my original blog has generated.  Thanks to all for sharing!  I have just a few random comments to add:

(1) In 1999, at an Answers in Genesis conference in Steubenville, Ohio (yes, I was there!), Ken Ham stated that disagreements with their viewpoint would not be a matter of sin that ought to separate anyone from God.  We must keep this in mind.  Salvation, as the Christian faith understands it, is a matter of where our trust and confidence lie, and whether we are abiding in the Vine (Jesus) and identifying with Him, or whether we are abiding in and identifying with our sin—whatever that might be.

(2) Having said that, I am still convinced that not all viewpoints can be right at all points, and that the way things really are is the way things really are, irregardless of our well-informed thoughts and opinions about them.  Our goal ought to be to have our beliefs agree with reality (both spiritual and material) as much as possible.


CM - #13920

May 17th 2010

Thanks for the additional comments, Scott. I really enjoyed this post and appreciate people like you and all the other BioLogos folks for opening up such a challenging discussion which people on all sides of the issue often find uncomfortable.


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