I grew up in a small, rural community about an hour north of Indianapolis. As a child, I played outdoors all day, rode my bike all over town, had a seven-dollar summer pool pass, and practically lived at the local library. I also grew up in the church. My mom, my brother, and I attended faithfully every week. My dad did not. He thought that the church was full of hypocrites, the Bible was a myth, and that Sundays were for sleeping in and watching football games. I felt sad for my dad because I adored church. As early as I can remember, I loved God's Word as well. Even when I wasn't yet able to read, I remember staring at the soft, watercolor illustrations in my children's storybook Bible, longing to understand what it all meant. As soon as I was able to read, I devoured the written text, and my love for God's Word has yet to wane. In all those years growing up in church, I never heard any reference made to young-earth creationism, evolution, or any other ideas about how the world came to be.
Our small middle school had a planetarium, and while the other kids complained about "Planetarium Day," I loved it. I loved listening to the voiceover recordings explaining the origins of the galaxies, learning about the planets, solar systems, and constellations. We even viewed a film about the meteorite that may have wiped out the dinosaurs. None of this made me feel compelled to abandon my faith. I did not perceive any conflict between what I read in my Bible and what I learned in my science classes.
In high school, one of my science teachers warned us that some of the things we were going to learn might conflict with our faith. That was the first I had ever heard that there was a conflict between my faith and science. My belief was that God created the entire universe and our earth, and if he used evolution to do so, why did that matter? He must then have created evolution! Shortly after my husband and I married and had our first child, we became heavily involved in a local Baptist Church. This particular church had a very specific statement in their doctrines regarding creation. They rejected old-earth creationism and evolution, and upheld the "biblical" teaching that the God of the universe created the earth in six literal days. Thus began my full immersion into the young-earth creationist (YEC) movement, and in particular, the materials of YEC organization Answers in Genesis (AiG).
At the church, we watched an entire video series in order to learn YEC apologetics. I greatly appreciated the seemingly logical teaching of AiG. Having never learned any type of systematic theology, I had no idea why I believed what I believed, so I was putty in AiG's hands. It seemed to make sense, so why not embrace it? We eventually left that church and joined the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), which has the same doctrinal stance on origins as the Baptist Church we attended. It was there that I began to rethink the young-earth perspective on origins.
My husband led a class for the youth on creation at the new church, teaching the YEC perspective. He was confronted by a mother who was irate that her child was being taught that the earth was only 6,000 years old. This woman’s father was a scientist, and she thought it was foolish and wrong to teach YEC, since in her thinking there was no conflict between evolution and faith. According to what I had been taught, this poor woman must not truly be a Christian. However, I knew this woman loved Christ and that she was a faithful, committed follower. The "answers" we were given to combat her stance felt shallow. They no longer satisfied me.
At this time I was dealing with a recent cancer diagnosis, so the age of the Earth was not an important topic on my mind. I knew God created the earth, and it didn't matter to me how he did so. The mother allowed the daughter to continue attending my husband’s classes. After recovering from cancer, having another child, and moving closer to Indianapolis, we transferred our membership to another LCMS church. The children's ministry used AiG materials, and again, parents of children in the class complained. The head of the children's ministry had grown up under this teaching because her father was a science teacher who believed in YEC, so there was no conflict for her. The church basically defaulted to the denomination's doctrinal stance (strongly YEC), and that was that.
All the while, my curiosity grew. Why were "Christians" opposing the YEC perspective? Wouldn't one who claims to believe the Bible also be a young-earth creationist? Curious, one day I googled, "Do any Christians believe in an Old Earth or Evolution?" It felt like I had opened Pandora's box! I began to read of famous Christians such as C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, and others who didn’t think it was necessary for Christians to believe the earth was young, and I could not believe it. I was led to believe by AiG and others that no true Christian believed the earth was older than 6,000-10,000 years. I read everything I could get my hands on. In this time of discovery, I stumbled upon Francis Collins' book, The Language of God. I can still remember my heart pounding as I read the book. I was so afraid that I was somehow slipping into apostasy by reading the book, and at the same time I wanted to shout, "YES!!!" as loudly as I could. Collins’ perspective on the harmony between evolution and faith made so much more sense than young-earth creationism.
My children and my husband, however, have not changed their young-earth perspectives, and family discussions about the topic are often tense. These are difficult issues to wade through, and as a parent, I encourage anyone with any viewpoint on origins to pass down to their children the ability to think for themselves critically and intelligently. Introduce to them different viewpoints, show them where the viewpoint finds its support, and then make sure you reiterate that Godly men and women think differently about these issues, and that their convictions are not a threat to their faith or love for God's Word. These issues have taken on added relevance as my daughter is newly diagnosed with a chronic, possibly life-threatening disease. I am eternally grateful for my faith in Christ, and for the gift of science that God gave us. My daughter and I talk a lot in our clinic visits about cell mutations, viruses, DNA, evolution, and on and on.
Since reading The Language of God, I have read many resources on BioLogos, Reasons to Believe, and other old-earth and evolutionary creationist sites. To be honest, I still have a lot of questions about evolution and faith, but I deeply appreciate the gracious tone shown by BioLogos and like-minded organizations. I avoid certain sites that make fun of young-earth creationism and those who adhere to its beliefs. In doing so, they slam the door shut on real conversation in the same way I believe AiG does. If I had not come across more gracious websites and resources, I would never have delved deeper, and my thinking would not have "evolved". I pray that we learn to understand one another as followers of Christ in order to strengthen the body of Christ, rather than alienate followers and risk harming the Gospel of Christ in a world that would love to pit us against one another. And speaking of the body of Christ, I am happy to say that my father is now a follower of Christ and no longer believes that the Bible is a myth. He will tell you that God created the earth, and it doesn't really matter how he did it.
You never know how God may change your perspective. Just be sure you're paying attention.