Redeeming Conversations: Seeking The Truth
The first challenge for me at the beginning of each school year is to clarify the students’ understanding of evolution as it has been taught in their Bible and pre-requisite science courses. Invariably, they come back with the same answer: “Evolution is a lie,” to which I respond with, “Which aspects of evolution are you talking about?” After some debate and discussion, the students typically agree with microevolution, while rejecting the notion of macroevolution. These initial discussions typically end with the students’ astonishment that I treat evolution in a serious, non-mocking way, and yet am an adult with a strong Christian faith.
Ultimately, these conversations expose the fact that they had been taught to distrust science and trust the Word of God. I whole-heartedly agree that we must trust the Bible, but I also believe it is important for my students to understand that they can have faith in the Bible as God’s inspired Word, but must be careful with how they interpret the Bible and which interpretations they adhere to. One of my past students is currently working on his PhD in neuroscience at Ohio State and recently shared his experience from my class:
I wanted to let you know that in AP Biology you really challenged my view of creation and evolution. Being raised in a Christian family, school and church my entire life, I had always been taught the literal six-day account of Genesis (especially at [our school] where they didn’t allow any discussion or thinking on the topic). I still remember in AP Bio when you said that you believed in evolution AND you were a Christian. It was completely unexpected! I ended up writing my college essay about the topic and it has since been a topic that I am greatly interested in. Specifically why culture (secular and Christian) has created the mindset of “Creation vs. Evolution” rather than God could have created the world through evolution.
I share this quote to show the benefit of dealing openly and honestly with science and theology in the classroom. I believe this quote also reveals the underlying tension that is so real in the lives of so many Christians today, as pointed out in the Barna Group quote above. Having been taught a specific interpretation of the Genesis creation account (i.e. Literal Six-Day Creation), coupled with emphasizing the idea that biblical truth trumps scientific truth, a burden has been placed on teachers in Christian schools that goes beyond teaching the curriculum to pass a Bible or biology course alone.
I am firmly convinced that we must educate our young Christians, whether they attend Christian or public schools, to do theology, philosophy, and science well. As Christian parents, God calls us first and foremost to begin this education in our homes, but this should also be encouraged in the local church, through discipleship relationships, and/or in formal educational settings (e.g. Christian schools and Christian colleges). My hope is that as we continue to seek truth in theology and the sciences, we can learn to dialogue in redemptive, God-honoring ways. Maybe it is too much to hope for in the current cultural climate in America, but for my part, I will continue to attempt to encourage my students away from the creation/evolution debate, and towards a more accurate biblical hermeneutic, and less defensive stance towards the sciences.