Meeting Johanna was an answer to prayer. She and her sister asked me to help them start an after school Bible study just moments after I fervently prayed asking God to show me how I could support the faith of students on campus. At that time, Johanna was a freshman at Punahou School. Throughout her high school experience, I had the privilege to see her grow in Christian leadership at the school. She started as a timid Bible study participant and ended up leading the group as she became more confident. She also became involved in leadership of the YoungLife club I advised.
We spent a lot of time together outside of school, through YoungLife activities such as surfing, camping and hiking. There were ample opportunities to get to know each other better as fellow believers in Christ.
Johanna often asked me about how I integrate my love of science with my passion for Jesus. When I was working with Chaplain Joshua Hayashi on the Author of Life films, we asked her to give us feedback on the films and the leader’s guides. Through being involved in our project, she was able, for the first time, to see that not only are science and Christian faith compatible, but also they can complement each other. What could be more natural for a young Christian than to rejoice in her Creator as she wonders at the complexity of cells under a microscope or at the vastness of the universe through a telescope? I am confident that Johanna will thrive in college with the assurance that there is no subject she could study that would challenge her faith.
At a recent school chapel service, Johanna was given the opportunity to read from a paper she had written for an English class, about her journey toward reconciling faith and science. The talk was well received and sparked many conversations with both students and faculty on campus. This important integration of a student’s faith and academic life is exactly why Josh and I created The Author of Life project. We want to empower students of faith to not only keep their faith, but to deepen their faith as they study God’s creation through science. Johanna’s talk was evidence for us that this is truly possible.
Below is Johanna’s chapel talk, reproduced with her permission:
I grew up as a “church kid.” I aligned with the common stereotype—a model child who followed the rulebook of my Christian parents. I memorized the names of all sixty-six books of the Bible, heard the Genesis creation story countless times, and sat quietly in the front seat of the chapel. Being raised in a strong, spiritually-oriented family is a blessing, as it assured that I was rooted in the foundation of the Word of God. Yet, it can be a curse to be so immersed in a spiritually-focused environment. While I believed that my words, attitude, and actions were a reflection of my own faith, the truth was that very little of my faith was truly mine.
Living in a moral and spiritual fishbowl, I grew up thinking that the spiritual world and everything else were completely separate; I assumed I could not make any connection between the two of them. I separated what I learned in school from what I learned in church because I thought it was impossible to live according to what the church required of me from Monday to Saturday. In biology class, I learned that evolution is the unifying theme of life, yet in church I learned that God created the universe in six days. How was I to believe in both creation in six literal days and evolution? My answer was to separate the world of science from the world of faith.
This was the near perfect solution. The conflict between my faith and the various views of origin was reconciled, but on a larger scale, I lost sight of what was really important: Jesus. Everything changed for me through a Bible study where I learned to acknowledge that I was made in the image of Jesus, who was theology and biology integrated. The Holy Spirit showed me that through the lens of faith, science is evidence of the very process God used to create the universe. It is without a doubt that God is the orchestrator of the selection and mutations that make things perfectly suited to the world's ever-changing environment. I believe that evolution is not heresy, but the process of designing God's creative world.
Faith is the beautiful process of constantly pursuing a closer relationship with Jesus. I no longer feel the same conflict of the external and the internal. I am still "that church kid", but that's okay. The conflicts that I encounter now between the "real" world and my faith are areas I will continue to explore, rather than view as stumbling blocks or wholly separate spheres.
Our Author of Life project provides free, downloadable, multimedia curricula for Christian high school students. This series encourages students to think about the relationship between their faith in the God of the Bible and the process of evolution. Through short films and written curricula, we hope to facilitate discussion on this important topic. Check out this video on the beauty of the evolutionary process, featuring Hawaiian honeycreepers:
We invite youth group leaders to pilot test this curriculum. If you would like to be one of the first pilot testers, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.