Introducing a Fool, a Heretic, and an Important Conversation

The Colossian Forum was born in 2011 out of families and churches being torn apart over questions regarding evolution. At that time, some Christian leaders approached us, wondering how they could help the church engage these questions better. We wondered what was missing. Was this simply a matter of needing to win the argument, or was the ugliness of the battle telling us that we didn’t have the necessary Christian character to work on these hard questions well? Did we lack the tools to engage these questions as Christians?

So, we joined together, explored these hard questions and developed a framework – called The Colossian Way – that would enable us to be more deeply formed as disciples and work through such complex issues. Participants in The Colossian Way gather together and practice loving God and one another while engaging challenging issues. Two biologists—Darrel Falk, an Evolutionary Creationist (and former BioLogos President), and Todd Wood, a Young-Age Creationist, were our first, deepest partners who helped us experiment with engaging important conflict lovingly.  What Darrel and Todd have pioneered together has evolved into a small group practice built on hope. Their relationship continues to grow to this day. This is their story.

Todd Charles Wood and Darrel R. Falk are two evangelical Christians with strong scientific credentials. Todd earned his PhD in biochemistry from the University of Virginia, has done postdoctoral work at Clemson University, and was on the science faculty at Bryan College. He is the founder and president of the Core Academy of Science, a research and educational organization devoted to helping Christians understand science from a young-earth creationist (YEC) point of view. Darrel’s PhD in genetics is from the University of Alberta, and he did postdoctoral studies at the University of British Columbia and the University of California (Irvine). He has taught at Syracuse University, Mount Vernon Nazarene University, and Point Loma Nazarene University (where he is now professor emeritus), and is a senior advisor (and former president) of BioLogos, an organization aimed at contributing to the discussion of the relationship between science and religion from an evolutionary creation point of view. Both are really smart, really devoted to Christ, and convinced they are right about their beliefs about origins.

To the majority of scientists, Todd’s views are foolish. Todd, in their view, is practicing pseudoscience. He may be really smart, but he’s misleading others by misusing his intelligence. Ironically, to many YECs, he’s a traitor because he sometimes questions the science of his fellow creationists. Darrel, on the other hand, is only slightly less foolish than Todd. He is an evangelical Christian, after all, and fewer than six percent of leading biologists believe in a personal God who hears and answers prayers—a central tenet of evangelical Christianity and a foundation stone of Darrel’s faith and life1. To many Christians, however, Darrel is a false teacher because he does not believe the earth was created the way Genesis 1 seems to them to describe it. Well-known evangelical leader John MacArthur has referred to what Darrel is doing as a “heinous crime” that is “destroying people’s confidence in Scripture.” To such Christians, if you accept evolutionary creation, you are a heretic.

The evangelical Christian community isn’t real sure what to do with Todd and Darrel. Only twenty-seven percent of white, evangelical Protestants accept the theory of evolution2. And yet, despite Todd’s credentials, he likely would not be hired to teach science at the majority of Christian colleges, at least not classic evangelical institutions such as Wheaton, Calvin, Taylor, Seattle Pacific, Gordon, Westmont, and Asbury. Bryan College, his employer for thirteen years, is one of only a handful of Christian liberal arts colleges and universities that teach young-earth creationism within their science departments. And while Darrel is beloved by his Christian college colleagues, when he began his career (initially in secular universities) with his evolutionary creation perspective, he was quite certain that there would be no room for him in evangelical churches. Having grown up in one such church, he longed to be a part but didn’t expect there would be room for him and his family. He heard his perspective repeatedly mocked on Christian radio and felt that his view was considered not only wrong but just plain sinful.

Thus, we have Dr. Todd Charles Wood, a fool, and Dr. Darrel R. Falk, a heretic. Except that both love Jesus and neither is foolish. If you’re part of the majority of evangelical Christians who believe God created the earth in six days a few thousand years ago, what do you do with Darrel? Would you send your daughter to his Christian college, spending more than thirty thousand dollars a year for her to be taught that God created over a long period of time instead of in six days a relatively short time ago? Would you invite him to attend your small group at church or to teach a Sunday school class about other aspects of Christian living, given that he works with Scripture on matters of faith and practice in ways strikingly similar to Todd’s?

And if you are among those in the church who think that evolution is the tool God has used to carry out his creation command, what would you do with Todd? Would you respect him as a scientist? Would you invite him to teach why he holds the view he does despite the fact that he admits that the overwhelming scientific evidence seems to be to the contrary?

A basic human question that interests me is what would Darrel and Todd do with each other? What would happen if I got them in the same room? Would they get along with each other? Could they worship together? Pray together? Love each other? For the most part, Christians who accept the theory of evolution have essentially ignored their fellow believers who are young-earth creationists. Or worse. Many in the evolution community have said very unkind things about the intellect and motivation of young-earth creationists. Darrel himself has raised the question of whether what Todd is doing is consistent with the standards of true scientific inquiry. Creationists, on the other hand, have become increasingly vocal—and harsh—in their criticism of evolutionary creationists. As I mentioned, popular author and preacher John MacArthur described what Darrel is doing as a “heinous crime” that is “destroying people’s confidence in Scripture.” Ken Ham, founder of the creationist organization Answers in Genesis, writes that the way Christian evolutionists like Darrel interpret Genesis is “nothing more than fallible sinful man’s attempts not to take God at His Word.” Todd would not go that far, but he does not think what Darrel is doing is benign.

In 2013, I invited Todd and Darrel to meet with me and a few of my colleagues who have a keen interest in how Christians address their differences. It’s one of many projects my organization, The Colossian Forum, sponsors to learn how Christians who vehemently disagree on serious issues can address them in a way that honors Christ and each other. Few topics generate as much heat among conservative Christians as creation versus evolution, and both men are unwavering in their views. That they have developed a deep, caring friendship over these years is a testament to Christ’s work in what would be a disharmonious relationship. That is not to say it has been easy. Our first meeting was difficult, especially for Todd, who was concerned that he would be belittled. And he was at one point, by Darrel, who recognized he needed to apologize for incorrectly stating that Todd was not well informed about evolutionary theory. Just prior to the apology, the tension was rife, and I wasn’t sure there would be a second meeting. The issues surrounding their disagreement reach to the core of our Christian faith and witness. It’s not just that each thinks the other is wrong about how the earth began. In a way, that’s the easy part. If that were all that is at stake, they could agree to disagree, wish each other well, and go their separate ways. But there’s much, much more at stake.

And that’s as good a place as any to begin.*

To hear from Darrel and Todd about their journey writing the book, enjoy this Bible Gateway blog, “When Two Christian Scientists Disagree About Creation and Evolution: An Interview with Todd Charles Wood and Darrel R. Falk”.  

*Excerpt taken from The Fool and the Heretic by Todd Charles Wood, Darrel R. Falk, and Rob Barrett. Copyright (C) 2019 by Todd Charles Wood, Darrel R. Falk, and The Colossian Forum. Used by permission of Zondervan.

Notes & References

Rob Barrett
About the Author

Rob Barrett

Rob Barrett is Director of Forums and Scholarship at The Colossian Forum, where he develops the ideas and practices for transforming divisive issues into opportunities for discipleship. Rob holds two PhDs—one in Applied Physics from Stanford University and the other in Theology from Durham University in England. He worked as a research scientist at IBM, a professor of Old Testament and Hebrew in England, and as a postdoctoral researcher of Old Testament in Göttingen, Germany. Rob has many publications in a wide range of fields and holds many patents. He also has degrees from Washington University in St. Louis and Regent College in Vancouver. His varied background is unified by his long standing interest in the intersection of faith, Bible, science/technology, and culture. Rob and his wife Crystal have two children.