Surprised by Joy

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December 14, 2009 Tags: Lives of Faith, Worship & Arts

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

Surprised by Joy

One of the many advantages of being a professor is that you get to spend your life with people whose age never changes—they are always eighteen through twenty-two. What that means is that you tend to forget that although they are not getting older, you are. However, it so happens that three children call me Grandpa, so I guess that means that more years have gone by than I like to think. In fact, as I write this, I’m sitting near a mirror, and if there was ever any doubt about how many years have come and gone, all I have to do is to take a little glance at the sagging skin and graying hair that characterize the person looking back at me. Time has been moving on, and it has taken me with it.

Last Sunday morning, my wife Joyce and I watched all three of our grandchildren perform on stage in the annual Christmas musical production at their church. It happens that this was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life; tears flowed freely down my cheeks as I watched. I need to explain why. It was not because they were the stars of the program. They weren’t. None of them sang a solo or even had any lines in the script. What I found fulfilling, what I really loved, was the smile on Caleb’s face as he sang the songs and swayed with the music. Noah, our eight-year-old, was wearing a lamb outfit that kept falling over his face. I liked how he tried to remain so cool and composed under less-than-ideal circumstances. And I was amused at seeing Sara shyly lift her hand ever so slightly in acknowledging the attention-getting waves of two older people in the second row—her grandmother and me. My grandchildren are growing up in a Christian community and they are coming to experience the love of God firsthand through their many Christian friends and through their church. Still, why did such an everyday experience move me so deeply?

Forty years ago I began my career as a biologist. During my studies it had become very clear that my professors were right—evolution and natural selection were the correct mechanism by which the diverse animal and plant forms had arisen. Partly because of that, I wandered away from the faith of my youth for awhile and never expected I would return. In a recent video interview just posted on The Faraday Institute web site, I describe my return. I came back to faith thoroughly convinced of the reality of evolution, but determined to enter into a personal relationship with God of the sort that had so richly characterized my life as I was growing up. So I got back on the road which leads to God—I began once more the life of faith. I never expected though that I could be a part of an evangelical community again; the differences between the facts of biology and the views of evangelical Christians seemed too great. So I did my best to live the life of an evangelical Christian without being in an evangelical fellowship. I had a deep and meaningful personal relationship with God, but corporate evangelicalism, I was certain, would have to be a thing of the past. During this time, Joyce and I were watching our toddlers grow into little girls. I knew that it might be possible for me to retain the evangelical views of my youth in the absence of a rich church life, but I was not at all convinced that our daughters would—not at least, unless we joined an evangelical church community. I could see no way that that would happen.

There is no memory that epitomizes my emotions regarding all of this more succinctly than that of a Sunday afternoon at our favorite beach in San Clemente, California. Shelley and Cheryl were two and four at the time. As we drove into the parking lot, we saw an orange Sunday School bus. The black lettering on the side indicated it had brought a load of children from a church of the same denomination in which Joyce and I had grown up. Seeing that bus and knowing that there was a church picnic going on brought back all the memories of the outings and fellowships that I had so dearly loved. With those memories of my childhood running through my mind, there, on the beach in front of me, were my own children playing in the sand. I looked at them and thought to myself, “How sad. You are never going to experience any of this. Your father knows that evolution is true and there is no room for someone like him in evangelicalism. I can’t take you to a church like that.” My heart ached. I wished for them what I had known.

Soon after that, we moved to Syracuse, New York, where I began my life as a university professor. We were deeply concerned that our girls were not growing up in a church, but the dilemma was still there: science and the world of academics didn’t seem to have a place in evangelicalism. After we had been in Syracuse for about 8 months, one Sunday morning we packed up our girls in our Pinto station wagon and traveled across town to an evangelical church that we hoped might work for us. We parked our car on a hillside until the service ended and watched people leaving the church so that we could get a feeling for whether we might possibly fit into this community. As I reflect back on this now, I can still hear our two little girls playing in the back of the station wagon as Joyce and I sat and watched from a distance as the congregation was dismissed. “Were these the kind of evangelicals with whom we might fit in?” we asked. “Could we bring up our girls in this church?” It seemed to take the people forever to leave the church that April Sunday morning, and we knew that if ever we felt we could go back, this would be a friendly church. We longed to go back. We longed for our girls to grow up in the environment we had known. As the week progressed, though, we decided we couldn’t go back. Evangelicalism was in our past. There was no room for us in evangelicalism. Our girls would have to make do in life. We could not cross the bridge from the world of academics back into the world of evangelical Christianity.

Six months later, we became very concerned again. The girls were six and four now. We were three thousand miles from our homes in western Canada, we missed our families, we missed our church families and we examined the question one more time. We were both pretty sure it would be the last time. If this didn’t work, church was out of our lives for good. So I got into my forest green Pinto station wagon again and visited that same church we had almost attended six months earlier. That trip, taken on that October Sunday morning so long ago, was the single most defining moment of our lives. We had found a home. Our two little girls became fully engaged in all the activities that so typify evangelical churches. All the things I wished for them on the San Clemente beach, and all that I had hoped for on that hillside in an old station wagon came true after all. Truly, we as a family were surprised by joy. Evolution aside, we had found a home in evangelical Christianity.

So here we are 32 years later, and I’m sitting in a Christmas program watching Caleb, Noah, and Sara sing about Jesus with joy in their faces and peace in their hearts. They are experiencing the fullness of what it means to live life in a Christian community which emphasizes salvation through Christ and entering a lifelong personal relationship with God. It almost didn’t happen. If it hadn’t been for the fact that 32 years ago, I found an evangelical church where views about the facts of biology would not be scoffed at, our lives would have turned out so differently. I would not have spent the last 26 years as a professor at two Christian universities, and Joyce would not have spent those same years as an administrator in the same universities. Cheryl and Shelley would not be the marvelous deeply committed Christian first grade teachers they have turned out to be and I am so pleased that both are married to wonderfully supportive Christian husbands. Finally, I think about Caleb with that big smile, Noah, so coolly maintaining his composure in the face of adversity, and Sara lifting her hand ever so slightly to acknowledge her proud grandparents. It is Christmas, a time for giving gifts. I received mine last Sunday morning; I need nothing more.


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.

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Mere_Christian - #977

December 18th 2009

Peter,

I was incredibly excited when I found BioLogos from a link posted when Dr. Collins spoke at Berekely.(I think it was even before you guys launched your site www.) I have zero problem with “Christian” evolutionists and evolution. How we got to Adam is not really important.* It seems quite rational to see we humans as part of the lifeforms of earth. I mean, many people act like animals in all reality even still.

I refer many Christians to this site. But, when I see positions that literally run counter to the Biblical witness, run in opposition to the canon, I thought speaking up was the honest thing to do. The only way I can put myself in your position, would be to return to my days as a liberal/humanist/atheist. Distilling Biblical morality and ethics to fit an anything goes stance. I have repented of those acts.

I do not just reasert my talking points. I’ve asked questions. Why is Adam and Seth ignored? Everything to Jesus is set in motion by this history. You are scientists and educated people. When does the discarding of Biblical history end? Ruth is also connected to Jesus. Is her story a myth? A"moabite” in the line of the Israelite Messiah? C’mon now.

My example of reassigning the Apostles to what makes me feel good about my way of life is not off base. If the Bible can be edited to fit any personal whim, or to have me fit in with my non and anti Christian co-workers, then it becomes nothing more than a engine to create social clubs, movements and wildly differing agendas. That is not the message we find in the Bible.

I think you’re assertions on evolution are correct. Up to Adam and Eve. What harm is there in being a better model chimp? Like I said, we certainly show quite often we are little else. Homo divinus right? Only those that honor that position. Isn’t that offered as the step in the God realization process? But just as I observe when watching Dr. Collins being manhandled by Bill Maher on the validity of the New Testament record, you guys are obviously in need of some better theological study. That is why I have suggested that Dr. Peter Kreeft be brought on board your BioLogos ship. You all are certainly running a ministry and missionary program. But it remains to see what you’re up to. In kind of looks like you are also unitarians. Which would fit the cut a paste theology.

http://biologos.org/questions/evolution-and-the-fall/

A large population of people AND the creation of Adam and Eve is sensible and historic. We see time and time again in the Bible, God seperating his chosen individuals from the herd. And the Biblical writers were not writing fiction novella’s. They were implementing cold hard reality.

Jesus is connected to Adam and Eve as a matter of fact. How can there be metaphor in a listed family tree?

You should be able to answer that question far better than “That’s just the way we believe.”

What other truths of the Bible are edied and/or discarded in the apologia of the BioLogos theology and mission? What are you guys up to?

Is that not fair to ask of a Christian?


*“Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say “I” and “me,” which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past [. . .]

We do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state. But sooner or later they fell. Someone or something whispered that they could become as gods [. . . ]

They wanted some corner in the universe of which they could say to God, “This is our business, not yours.” But there is no such corner. They wanted to be nouns, but they were, and eternally must be, mere adjectives.

We have no idea in what particular act, or series of acts, the self-contradictory, impossible wish found expression.

For all I can see, it might have concerned the literal eating of a fruit, but the question is of no consequence.”

- C.S. Lewis,


Darrel Falk - #980

December 18th 2009

Jordan, you said:

“I would really love to see …more rigorous treatment of this separation with ID. So is BioLogos essentially agnostic when it comes to “evidence for the supernatural”? How does BioLogos then approach apologetics? If there is no “evidence” in the scientific sense that God exists what is the basis of belief (I’m not saying that critically, just asking)? If the Bible is essentially recycled myth that God uses for His purposes, how are we to know that it’s his “Word”? I understand your point of God “who is above all, and in all, and through all ” but the question still remains, if you can’t tell the difference between a God who is “in all and through all” and one who just doesn’t exist, how can I know He’s there? Is faith belief even when the evidence is unclear or even sometimes contradictory, or is it belief when there is no evidence at all? I look forward to BioLogos tackling these types of questions.”

I just want to say that I consider these to be extremely important questions.  They are too important and require too much fleshing out for me to try to get started on them right now in the space we have here.  However, I want you to hold us accountable.  We need to address these questions in the coming days.  Once we do so, please jump in with your thoughts.  You have hit upon an issue that concerns many, many Christians. 

Blessings,
Darrel


RJS - #984

December 18th 2009

Mere_Christian,

Are you quoting the CS Lewis passage from Problem of Pain as an example of one who discards the truth of scripture?

This is a passage that I would bring up as one of the possible ways to consider the truthfulness of the Genesis story. In this passage from Lewis there is no historical Adam and Eve, but there is adam and eve and the fall and there is the work of God.

I have never said that Adam and Eve were metaphor - and did not in my comments above either. I have contended here and elsewhere that the idea that there was a unique and lone couple at the root of a family tree doesn’t match with the evidence. This causes problem for some because certain interpretations of Romans 5 require a unique and lonely Adam (i.e. CS Lewis above is “outside the pale).

I have also contended at length that we need a collaboration between Christian scholars dealing with these issues - but a collaboration where theologians must take biblical and scientific evidence seriously, scientists must take theology and biblical studies seriously, and biblical scholars must take science, archaeology, and theology seriously.

But dropping “bombs” - oh, say ... claiming that I an the prime example of an academic to be wary of. In fact, to be contended against? This is not the way to forward a conversation or to work toward a Christian understanding.


Mere_Christian - #994

December 18th 2009

RJS,

Where do the Hebrew scribes give us wiggle room to mythologize their works? It is movements such as BioLogos, that is demanding prominence in The Church. We have it wrong because your evidence says so. We just need to get in line with it. How audacious sir.

“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to CONTEND for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”

- Jude 1

Now who was Jude dropping a bomb on? I may not be accusing BioLogos theologians of licensing immorality, but there is ample evidence that where orthodoxy is redefined, liberalized and discarded, many immoral practices are licensed. And licensed IN the Church.

It’s not that I do not trust BioLogos members, but we “bible believing” Christians have seen enough licentiousness imparted and supported wherever liberalism gains a toehold.

OK, so for now, you don’t believe Adam was a real person. When do we see other Biblical figures treated the same way? According to two of the Gospels though, genetics is 100% necessary. What’s more important, BioLogos or the Gospels?


Peter Enns - #1000

December 18th 2009

Mere_Christian,

You’re at it again….


pds - #1003

December 18th 2009

Beaglelady,

Here I describe in brief the positive evidence for design:

http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/the-form-of-design-arguments-from-nature/


beaglelady - #1008

December 18th 2009

pds,

What you refer me to is not positive evidence.

And I was also confused,  for you said,

“If current scientific understanding cannot make a plausible case for a known natural process, there is no logical reason not to make a tentative design inference.”

If there is a known natural process, why make a design inference?

I also asked the following:

What specifically ID-related research is going on?  Or what specifically ID-related research funding is being requested?

Thank you.


aussiedave - #1226

December 26th 2009

Re Jordan #930.
I too used to be a young earther, but am now a mixture of Old earther/Theistic evolutionist.
My own journey was one of gradual acceptance of the scientific facts of evolution as the alternative to be suspicious of science entirely was odious to me. I am not a scientist nor have I partaken of any serious scientific endeavor, except as a curious lover of science and, and the Lord Jesus Christ. I have always enjoyed learning about origins and various other sciences.
I do have an objection to the idea of a protocell developing and then all life springing from it.
I prefer another view that God did indeed seed the earth with primitive life according to the major groups mentioned in the Bible, and any subbranches could possibly have evolved from the already established genome. Just my pet theory…:)
I would be interested in others’ thoughts about this idea.
Dave.


beaglelady - #1237

December 27th 2009

I prefer another view that God did indeed seed the earth with primitive life according to the major groups mentioned in the Bible

And what are these major groups mentioned in the Bible?


aussiedave - #1247

December 27th 2009

Do you have a Bible handy? If not, you can look up the first chapter of Genesis one online.
Dave.


beaglelady - #1250

December 27th 2009

So you don’t think livestock descended from wild animals?  There were domesticated animals before there were people to domesticate them?


aussiedave - #1283

December 28th 2009

Are you implying I believe these are literal 24 hour periods?
Dave.


beaglelady - #1289

December 28th 2009

No.


aussiedave - #1356

December 29th 2009

So you believe what it says literally, or do you think it might be possible the cattle might be an evolutionary end product?


beaglelady - #1376

December 30th 2009

I believe that people domesticated cattle from wild forms; they are therefore a product of natural selection.  I don’t know what an evolutionary end product is. What is it?


aussiedave - #1482

December 31st 2009

So “cattle” does not refer to any of the bovines that our modern day descendants originated from?
Evolution is ongoing, so up til now all species are at the “end” until further evolution takes place.
I await with baited breath further nitpicking on that subject.
ad.


beaglelady - #1681

January 4th 2010

Cattle/livestock are distinguished from wild animals in Genesis 1.  That’s where you originally directed me.


Dale - #7139

March 18th 2010

When was Collins ‘manhandled’ by Maher ? Not on the youtube I watched. Rather, it was evident that, through editing, Collins simply wasn’t permitted to press his case.


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