Protecting our Children
Recently BioLogos received the following comment from a visitor to its website:
"I am a Christian and have come to believe in evolution. However, I struggle with how to teach my children to approach science and the Bible in a way that doesn't retard them intellectually or destroy their faith in the accuracy of the Bible. As you likely know, children are much more concrete than adults and see things in black and white terms. Additionally, they have already been exposed to the Creation/evolution debate in terms of Christian/atheist. I see that you are working on curricula for Christian schooling. May I suggest in the meantime you write a short article on the subject above. It would be greatly helpful for many parents, I would think."
The BioLogos Foundation exists to bring harmony between science and Christianity. The real victims of the current disharmony are often young people. Most evangelical Sunday Schools and Christian schools teach that science is mistaken about evolution. According to this teaching, that which is at the very foundation of the entire discipline of biology is wrong. Many parents and grandparents love almost all that evangelical Christianity stands for, but are deeply concerned that their churches are teaching their children concepts that will eventually bring spiritual discord into the lives of their children.
We want our children to be brought up with respect for the Bible as the Word of God. We want them to enter into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We want them to believe in a God who intervenes in history, illustrated most poignantly through the resurrection. However, we also recognize that the science of biology is not out of touch with reality. Scientific data helps inform us about the appropriate interpretation of certain scriptural passages.
We don't want our children to grow up misinformed about creation. We want our children to know about the truthfulness of evolution, but we also realize we are in the minority in our churches. Because our position is the minority view, books, videos and websites abound which teach children that biology, at its very roots, is wrong. Curricula teach children things we parents and grandparents know to be untrue. Our concern is that as our children come to independence, as they learn the earth really is billions of years old and life has been evolving from the beginning, they will discard the faith of their youth. If that faith is interwoven with anti-scientism it will be nearly impossible for some of our young people to rebuild the fabric, when they find that many of the threads within the fabric have to be removed. Augustine, 1600 years ago, said it best. In reading the following, simply substitute the word "child" for his word "infidel."
"It is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, while presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense...If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves [come to] know well and hear him maintain his foolish opinions about scriptures how then are they going to believe those Scriptures in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven?"
One option of course, is for us to take our children away from evangelical churches and Christian schools. However, this is not something many of us want to consider. Our church is our family. We are brought together by our love for each other and leaving our churches is not an option. There are many wonderful things that our churches bring into the lives of our children. We don't want to sacrifice that which brings such joy into their lives for the sake of something which ought to be a side issue in the kingdom of God. We want to stay where we are. We love that God's Spirit is alive in our churches; we love that our children are brought up to believe in the power of prayer; we love that our children are taught that the Bible is the Word of God and that one can base their life in the Christ who is revealed through Scripture and experience. We don't want to move on. We just don't want our children to grow up having been told something which we know for certain is not true. The earth is old and God created it over time through natural processes.
So what do we do? How do we protect our children? How do we prepare our children and, especially, our teenagers, for the day when they will find out that science really does have it right after all? There is no simple answer to that question. After all, many parents have chosen their churches or Christian schools for the express purpose of protecting their children from that which they consider to be the harmful influence of science. Injecting the concept of harmony between science and faith is the very thing from which they want their children protected.
So how can we proceed? First of all, we must be respectful of those who think differently about this issue. From a lifetime of experience in evangelical churches and colleges, some of the most beautiful, Christ-like individuals I have ever known believe that the earth is young and that Darwin got it all wrong. We do not want to remove ourselves or our children from the influence of these godly people. They have too much to offer us, even though we won't learn our science from them. Having said that though, I need to be quick to add, maintaining the status quo is not an option. We cannot lie to our children. We cannot keep pretending something is true when we know it is not. We owe it to the most precious trust that God has given us--our children--to help them understand that science and the Christian faith are fully compatible.
So although change is needed it will need to be through evolution and not revolution. For most of us, it will need to start in the home and not the church. If done correctly, it will gradually spread to churches and Christian schools. Indeed, some are already calling for help. We need the best and most creative Christian minds working on books and developing curriculum. It will take years, perhaps decades before the project is complete. It will come about because very talented individuals will start to care about this issue. They will start to write and they will team with others who are artists, web-designers, and curriculum experts. They will identify individuals and foundations that will provide the all-important funding to bring all of this to pass. If we do it well, even parents who think that science has it wrong will eventually gravitate towards the material.
How should this all important task begin? It begins with you. If you care about this issue I encourage you to share your thoughts in the space below.
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.