Breaking God Out of the Box: My Story
JD Croft shares how he came to terms with evolution and discusses the importance of spiritual openness and humility in navigating science and faith issues.
I distinctly remember my feelings of disdain and indignation after reading an article in 8th grade about “Lucy”—a set of fossils that scientists had hailed as “the missing link” between humans and primates. The writer argued that evolution was no longer up for debate. It was more or less a law of the universe that was being more firmly established with every new scientific discovery. Back then, I was utterly convinced that they were wrong—so I immediately began researching the topic. I found numerous Christian websites that argued that the discovery was a fallacious lie, citing numerous Bible verses in support.
My father, a Chaplain in the United States Air Force, helped reaffirm my conviction, as he was a strong proponent for young-earth creationism. This sermon he wrote, arguing against evolution, was at one point the top ranked sermon on evolution by SermonCentral. As I questioned him about the fossils known as “Lucy,” he explained, simply, that these new findings must be false because Genesis was to be interpreted literally. I regarded this rebuttal as unequivocal proof that evolutionary findings were always false, regardless of what the evidence supposedly said. I came away from that experience feeling vindicated—but deep down I was beginning to doubt whether young-earth creationism was really true.
As time wore on, my previously stable beliefs about evolution began to crumble. High school biology classes showed how genetic variations lead to the development of new species over long periods of time. Friends shared knowledge on archaeological layering that highlighted the implausibility of a literal reading of the biblical Flood story. I read books that described how varying levels of oxygen are found at different depths in the arctic circle, showing a decay of atoms that indicated a timespan of billions of years.
The massive amount of evidence for an old earth was simply too much to ignore. If the earth wasn’t old and evolution was wrong, why did the evidence seem so compelling? I began to experience extreme cognitive dissonance, as I felt like I was being torn between my faith and my intellectual integrity. It seemed that If I chose to accept the findings of science, then I would be betraying God, whereas if I chose to accept the teachings of God, then I would be lying to myself. I felt like I couldn’t win.
The more I researched evidence for and against evolution, the more discouraged I became. I felt like I was God’s lawyer, and I was doing a terrible job. Why did it seem like God had made something so clear in the Bible, yet the opposite so clear in nature? I cried out to God many times, pleading with Him to make the answer clear to me.
At this point in my journey, I was regularly reading young-earth creationist blogs, articles, and books, but none of them seemed to assuage my sense of turmoil. By chance, or perhaps God’s leading, I picked up and read The Language of God by Francis Collins. The book laid out a point of view that I had never considered before. It had never occurred to me that God and the findings of modern science could be reconciled, much less, be supportive of each other! I remember immediately logging on to the BioLogos website after finishing The Language of God and reading several articles addressing similar topics that had previously given me grief: Noah’s ark, Adam and Eve, the creation of the cosmos, etc. After praying and reflecting for a very long time, I realized that this was so much bigger than just evolution.
Evolution was never the problem. I was the problem.
Ecclesiastes 8:17 says: “Then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.” I had been approaching my faith with a firm set of convictions, relegating God to that which I had already preconceived. Who was I, a wisp of smoke, to impose certain parameters to God’s awesome work? Romans 1:20 states:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
A firm conviction of the truth of Christianity can so easily become toxic when we presume that we already know pretty much everything there is to know about God. Continuing the courtroom analogy from earlier: God was waiting for me to shut up and stop trying to defend him so that he could testify to his actions and character in a way that I, as a finite human being, could not. This ideal of spiritual openness and humility is something that provides me tremendous peace, as I no longer have the impossible task of trying to fit God into a box that I have created.
As my understanding of evolutionary creationism developed, so did my father’s. He is now an evolutionary creationist, in contrast to the firm young-earth creationist view he previously advocated. It has been amazing watching a man of such wisdom admit that he may have been wrong, and trusting wholeheartedly in God’s leading through the change in belief.
I am currently a senior at Calvin College, and my transition to an evolutionary understanding of creation has allowed me to talk about my spiritual beliefs with people in situations where it would have previously been impossible. There are a lot of young adults who assume that God does not exist because they think that believing in God would mean sacrificing their intellectual integrity. I have met agnostics who never knew that it was even possible to believe in God and still accept evolution, and are completely surprised to hear that there is a community of Christians who believe that science actually provides insight into God’s character.
That is one of the reasons why I think the work at BioLogos is so incredibly important: because there are so many hurting people who are discouraged from entering into a healing relationship with Jesus because of the Church’s poor response to science. I pray that as we continue to strip away the limits we set on God’s wonderful work, that He would reveal more and more of himself through the avenues we least expect.
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