Q&A: Ken Keathley
Ken Keathley is professor of theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also directs the Bush Center for Faith and Culture. His research and writing interests focus on the doctrine of creation and the doctrine of salvation. In 2012, he helped coordinate and wrote an article for a web dialogue between Southern Baptists scholars and BioLogos. A native Missourian who came to Christ at the age of 17, he has served as Youth Pastor, Interim Pastor, or Senior Pastor of churches in Missouri, the Carolinas and Louisiana.
1. Why is the dialogue on science and faith important for the church today?
The dialogue has always been important, but especially today. There are three types of history: natural history, human history, and salvation history. Presently, the dialogue between science and faith centers on the proper way to relate natural history and salvation history—how one should inform the other.
2. As a theologian, what are some misconceptions you encounter about the doctrine of creation in the debates over science and faith?
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions is the confusion between creation and creationism. The first is a biblical doctrine and the second is an apologetic approach. The doctrine of creation is the teaching of Scripture; creationism is the attempt to understand the biblical witness in the light of scientific findings. We hold tightly to the essential features of the doctrine of creation: creation out of nothing, God’s freedom in creating, His sovereignty over creation, and the essential goodness of creation. We must be much more flexible in the approaches we take and the arguments we make in creationism. Someday, the fine-tuning argument may be passé but the truths of the doctrine of creation will always be central.
3. In your work as a pastor and a professor, how do you handle the delicate subjects of the age of the earth and evolution in congregations and in the classroom? What are some typical reactions you encounter?
I’m an old-earth creationist rather than an evolutionary creationist. But since I minister in a context where the majority are young-earth creationists, I too must present my position with sensitivity. I believe that candor and integrity are always the best policies, so I never want to mislead parishioners or students about my views. I have found (generally) that if I present my position with patience, I will receive a hearing. That’s all one can ask for.
4. Do you have any advice for Christians, particularly young people, who are struggling to harmonize their faith with science?
My advice is to stay connected with the community of faith and read those who have gone on the journey before you (Augustine’s Confessions is a great place to start!). The struggle actually can be a good thing. If we let Him, God will use our experiences of wrestling with the hard questions to form and shape us spiritually. The result can be a deeper, stronger faith.