As a scientist at a Christian university, Dr. Venema has experienced first-hand the breakdown of fellowship that can happen over disagreements about creation. Sometimes it can be a large falling out, but other times it can be as simple as a look-- when Christian brothers or sisters appear incredulous upon learning that your views about origins differ from theirs, as if they’re reassessing your place in the family of God.
Dr. Venema notes this breakdown can come from both sides: from YECs who view those who accept evolution as “compromisers” and “wolves in sheep’s clothing” as well as from ECs who view those hold YEC beliefs as “ignorant” or “fundamentalists”.
That’s not to say that science-and-faith discussions aren’t important. As Dr. Venema puts it:
Is it an important issue for Christians to discuss? Yes. Does the issue serve as a catalyst for a wide-ranging discussion on exegesis and hermeneutics? Certainly, and that in and of itself can be very healthy. Is it acceptable for believers to hold either opinion and be within the people of God? I would say yes. It is my conviction that the mechanism by which God created is an issue of secondary importance compared to the underlying primary issue of holding God as the Creator and sustainer of all things. As a secondary issue, then, the only danger is making one of the options an essential, and dividing over it. Is it a problem if my brother or sister at church is a YEC? No. Is it a problem if I won’t share fellowship with them because of their views? Absolutely. Our difference of opinion on the mechanism of creation is not a gospel issue, but breaking fellowship over a secondary matter is a gospel issue. It hinders the love and fellowship that we are called to be known for, and raises an unnecessary barrier to those who would consider joining us.
You can read his full response at The Colossian Forum.
What is the Colossian Forum?
Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Colossian Forum's mission is to make concrete the unity all Christians have in Jesus--particularly in the science and faith conversation. Through retreats, a website, curricula, and scholarly research, the Forum seeks to promote growth, transformation, and unity in Christ. In their own words, "they aim make a new way forward together" by bringing people into "serious discussion of the deep riches of our Christian intellectual tradition—riches that shed light on the hard questions of science, culture and Christian faith.”