“Evolution is what some people use to explain life without God.” I lived by these words for a long time. “If you are an evolutionist, you are no Christian.” In my mind, it was as simple as that.
I accepted Christ at the age of six. To this day, I don’t believe that it was any special prayer that I prayed—it was more of a basic understanding of who Christ was, why he died for me, a pledge to live like him. My dad is a conservative evangelical pastor. While he was insistent on the truth of Christianity, he always taught me to be open-minded and prepared for any intellectual challenge the world might throw at me. My faith became much more personal at the age of 13, when I began studying basic philosophical apologetics. Through attempts to rationalize my faith in God, I began to discover that the true purpose of my faith was to be in a reconciled relationship with Jesus Christ, rather than to reason through it.
Growing up in my Southern Baptist culture, I was taught that the Scriptures made it clear God created the world in six literal, 24-hour days. In my mind there was no reason to doubt this claim. I’ve always been fascinated by science, and at one point, I thought it would be cool to be a writer for the Creation Museum, run by the young-earth creationist organization Answers in Genesis. I was certain that the earth was no older than 10,000 years, and evolution was a myth that could not be taken seriously by anyone educated enough on the subject.
I was wrong.
During my senior year of high school, after writing a paper for my Christian Worldview class to express my support of the Intelligent Design movement, I decided to study the subject a little further. What I discovered troubled me. Evolution, at least the way that I had been taught in church, was not “evolution.” The theory of evolution consisted of much more than what I had been taught. I began to investigate the evidence for evolution, and it was good evidence! The scientific fields of genetics, geology, anthropology, biochemistry, paleontology, and many others all confirmed that life today is a product of evolution. I became frustrated about this, but I also found beauty in it, and it caused me to do some more investigating.
Although I had discovered that evolution is backed by a lot of good evidence, my reading of the Bible seemed to conflict with this conclusion. It turns out my problem was that I didn’t know the difference between taking the Bible seriously and reading everything literally. Once I learned that I was using a naïve reading of Scripture, it changed the way I thought about the Bible’s relation to science and other fields of knowledge. I learned that there are different readings of Scripture that do not necessitate taking every single detail of the creation account, the flood story, and the Tower of Babel literally. I learned a lot from scholars like John Walton, Peter Enns, and N.T. Wright about how Genesis actually becomes a more beautiful text if read the way that its ancient Near Eastern audience would have read it. The creation accounts found in Genesis 1 and 2 were not detailed scientific explanations of how God created the world but a response to the pagan creation myths in the ancient Near East. The Bible that tells different stories that take place in different contexts; all of which show us different ways of connecting with God and different aspects of who God is.
The word “science”, as defined by many, is simply solving problems to gain knowledge about the natural world. As I began to investigate the evidence for evolution, I discovered that many of my underlying presuppositions about how creation science operated did not meet the standard for proper scientific method. I had always assumed that the scientific evidence pointed more strongly towards common design (meaning some sort of supernatural intervention) rather than a natural process like universal common descent. However, as I began to wrestle with the idea of common design, I discovered that it is not a falsifiable claim. It wasn’t that I stopped believing in God as the designer of all creation, but I realized that his design couldn’t be measured scientifically in the way that I once thought.
Another problem that I wrestled through was the fossil record. I had been taught that the fossil record and the geologic column was laid down by the global flood as presented in the Bible (at least as they interpreted it). While researching flood geology, something did not add up. The fossils were in the exact order that evolutionary theory predicted them to be. I found it very difficult to believe that all of this could be laid down by a single flood in such an exact order. These were two of the big factors that I wrestled with in regards to evidence for evolution (as well as the old age of the Earth).
I came to the conclusion that I did not have to abandon my Christian faith to accept the theory of evolution. I have also learned how to disagree amicably with my friends and family about origins issues. My parents are still young-earth creationists, as well as many of my close friends, but we don’t let these issues cause personal conflict, and we don’t judge each other’s faith based on it. My number one concern is that the Gospel message of Jesus Christ gets spread to all people, regardless of their view of science.