Q&A: Pastor Daniel Harrell
As senior minister at Colonial Church in Edina, Minnesota, Daniel Harrell has had plenty of experience addressing topics of science and faith from the pulpit. He also presented one of the keynote lectures at a recent workshop for Evolution & Christian Faith grantees (you can read the transcript of the talk here). This month, we sat down with Rev. Harrell to learn more about his recent talk and how he explores science and faith with fellow Christians.
1. You recently gave a talk at our ECF gathering that offered a unique take on the apparent “wastefulness” of evolution. From your own personal experience, what episode have you witnessed that made you think something was wasteful on this earth but in the bigger picture was actually more to glorify God?
As a pastor, coming alongside people who suffer and die daily, the tendency is to want to explain death as aberration and evil: why would God ever allow anybody to suffer and die? And yet that God himself would enter death as a means to secure life, which is how creation works too, forces us to acknowledge anew that God’s ways counter what we would ever design ourselves. To ascribe this as glory is a very difficult act of faith, and yet Christians recognize the cross—that barbaric instrument of torture—as the epitome of love.
2. As a minister, how do you handle the delicate subject of science and evolution among your constituents? And what is their typical reaction?
The congregations I’ve served have been eager to integrate science and Scripture in ways that make sense of the reality they experience. While I know this isn’t always the case, for Christians who find handles to hold that honor both their sacred convictions and scientific discovery, faith can only be strengthened. Pitting one against the other often ends up diminishing both, leaving believers cynical and detached instead of engaged with all that God continues to do in the universe.
3. What advice do you have for Christians who are wary of modern science?
Make a list of the things about science that make you wary and then go and learn about those things from the abundance of theologians and scientists who have addressed them. The resources are plentiful at the Biologos website and elsewhere. There is no concern you hold that someone hasn’t discussed from many sides. While the answers you find may not be fully satisfying, knowing that very faithful men and women wrestle and work them through will encourage you.
4. Finally, how should Christians who are passionate about the harmony of evolution and their faith share that passion with their brothers and sisters in Christ?
Don’t treat it as a matter of salvation. Jesus died for young earth creationists as much as theistic evolutionists. Relish scientific discovery as manifesting the fingerprints of God, and remember that competing interpretations of those discoveries emerge in part because we are error-prone people with agendas to grind at times. Let’s keep calm and be humble.