Q&A: Our New BioLogos Book
How does my walk with God relate to modern scientific discoveries? Can I maintain biblical Christian faith even if I change my mind on an issue like evolution? Many Evangelicals today are pondering these questions. Finding the answers will involve more than a mere synthesis of scientific facts. We need to hear stories from others who have wrestled with evolution and Christian faith. That’s the basis for Evolving: Evangelicals Reflect on Evolution, a collection of essays from Evangelicals sharing their personal journeys of science and faith being produced by BioLogos. Some essays will appear on the BioLogos blog in coming weeks and months, with the full collection published in a book by Russell Media by the end of 2013.
We sat down with BioLogos Program Director Kathryn Applegate and Tom Oord, two editors of the essay collection, to learn more.
1. Where did the idea for the book come from?
Kathryn: We were all talking about how much we personally have been impacted by stories, and how coming to our present-day understanding of origins is not simply a matter of learning new facts. We thought it would be interesting to compile stories from people in many different disciplines to see what factors were most important for them as they wrestled with evolution and their faith.
Tom: A growing number of Christians -- including Evangelicals -- are rethinking their opposition to evolution. The idea for this book basically comes from trying to witness to this significant growth. We wanted Christians to speak about how they are working through the myriad of issues pertaining to evolution and faith.
2. Were most people eager to share their stories of wrestling with science and faith?
T: We were encouraged by the number of people willing to share. For some, this meant risking criticism. Forces are at play that discourage such honesty and openness to science. But Evangelicals know the testimonies of the saints are among the most powerful evidence to God's working in the world and in the midst of complex questions.
K: Almost all the scientists we asked were eager to write, and so were many scholars from the humanities. The most hesitant group, perhaps not surprisingly, were the "professional Christians"--prolific Christian authors and parachurch leaders. In some cases they were simply too busy, but in others they were concerned about damaging relationships with their constituencies. Talking about evolution in the church is still a risky business!
3. What were some of the common themes you found throughout the testimonies?
K: Many of the contributors were raised in the church and took on young-earth creationist beliefs at an early age, but somewhere along the line began to discover that a) it wasn't the only position faithful Christians can hold, and b) it didn't make sense in light of what they were learning about science, history, and the Bible. Many wrote about role models--parents, teachers, or pastors--who had an influence on their thinking. Some mentioned a conviction that accepting evolution brought a sense of peace, even as legitimate questions remained. They sensed that they were pursuing truth about God's creation, not taking the path of least resistance.
T: Christians care about the Bible. It has been and continues to be a well-spring of wisdom. So many essayists rightfully explore the scriptures as a guide for their coming to terms with the mounting evidence for evolution. The results affirm the central role of Scripture for finding truth, but it also reveals that Christians care about the truth of God found in creation.
4. Why do you think a book like this is important for the Church?
T: This book is important for many reasons, but let me just highlight two: (1) Sometimes putting in words what we are thinking can help us hone our own intuitions and partially-formulated thoughts on a subject. This book is helpful both to those who wrote the essays and should be so for those who read them. (2) For some time, a significant number of Evangelicals have accepted evolution as compatible with Christian faith. But many were unaware that others thought similarly. This book helps those who may think they are all alone see many others exist in their tribe who also believe evolution can be compatible with robust Christian faith.
K: Many people still believe that evolution is a creation story for atheists, when in fact there are many, many believers who are striving to follow Jesus even as they accept that God created through an evolutionary process. When we hear someone's story and sense the Holy Spirit's working in their life, it becomes harder to dismiss them as not a "real" Christian. Without needing an advanced degree in genetics or evolutionary biology, church leaders can learn ways to more effectively minister to those who are struggling over origins--and avoid creating stumbling blocks for seekers of God.
5. What has been the most rewarding part of working on this project?
K: It has been a real privilege to work with the authors on their essays. They're a highly intelligent, faithful bunch—all leaders in their own fields. And they still express an intellectual humility and a desire to keep learning and growing.
T: I especially enjoy hearing time and time again that a prominent leader wants to participate in this project because he or she has wanted to write on his or her affirmation of evolution. This provides further evidence for the growing sense that momentum is building on this crucial set of issues!