How I Changed My Mind About Evolution
From BioLogos and InterVarsity Press, here are the stories of 25 people who have come to embrace evolution and faith, including Francis Collins, Scot McKnight, John Ortberg, James K.A. Smith, Jennifer Wiseman, and N.T. Wright.
From the Introduction, by Drs. Kathryn Applegate and James B. Stump:
Everybody loves a story. The genre of memoir has become increasingly popular among the reading public. Sometimes these stories are interesting because they are so different from our own. Maybe we read about someone’s experience of growing up in the circus, traveling to Nepal or living for a year without the Internet. Compelling stories capture our attention and give us a glimpse of what it’s like to see the world through another’s eyes. Other stories interest us because they mirror some part of our own experience. They show us that we are not alone, and the best of these stories help us navigate and interpret what we have seen and felt in ways that enrich our lives.
We hope this book can serve both of these purposes. Undoubtedly, some people reading these pages are deeply suspicious of evolution. Perhaps they’ve seen Richard Dawkins, that ardent defender of evolution, sneer at religion and call it a “virus of the mind.” Or maybe they’ve heard Ken Ham, a young-earth creationist with an audience of millions, warn that “evolution and millions of years”—what he summarily dismisses as “man’s word”—are baseless ideas that contradict the clear message of Genesis and inevitably lead down the slippery slope to atheism, or worse, liberal Christianity. More nuanced views are often drowned out by the polarizing rhetoric at either extreme.
BioLogos represents another choice. Our mission is to invite the church and the world to see the harmony between science and biblical faith as we present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation. Some of us are believing scientists who find the weight of evidence for evolution so strong we would do injustice to God’s message in creation if we didn’t speak out. Others are biblical scholars and theologians—including some who argue passionately for the historicity of Adam and Eve—who see no scriptural warrant for rejecting biological evolution, even of humans. They are grieved by the way Scripture is often forced to answer twenty-first century questions that it was never intended to address. Pastors and educators in our community see firsthand the devastating impact of the false creation-or-evolution dichotomy our Christian subculture has embraced so thoroughly. They see young people encountering compelling evidence for evolution and feeling forced to choose between science and faith.
According to a Gallup poll, 69% of Americans who attend church weekly believe that God created humans in their present form less than ten thousand years ago. In fact, the majority of committed Christians are unaware that it’s possible to accept the overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution while maintaining a vibrant faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. More than half a million people visited the BioLogos website in the last year, and we regularly hear from new readers who until recently had never met a Christian who accepts evolution. If that describes you, allow us to introduce you to some! These twenty-five first-person narratives—mini memoirs, if you will—may offer you a glimpse of how the world of science and faith looks through the eyes of devout Christians who accept the science of evolution. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds and have taken different paths to accepting evolution. The stories don’t present much of the technical evidence for the truth of evolution—which can be found in many other places (for instance, at BioLogos)—but the stories collected here give overwhelming evidence for the fact that serious Christians, who love Jesus and are committed to the authority of the Bible, can also accept evolution.
For those who already identify with the evolutionary creation position represented here, we hope you will find elements of these stories that resonate with your own. We all need exemplars—people with whom we can identify who have gone before us. Several of the contributions in this book note the importance of mentors or a supportive Christian community within which ideas could be freely explored. BioLogos has become that kind of community for many people. We invite you to join the dialogue on our website, or send us your own story (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Part of what makes for a good story is the development of the main character. Despite the intimations of the title, not everyone here describes a profound conversion from young-earth creationism or another anti-evolutionary viewpoint. (N. T. Wright, the celebrated British New Testament scholar, describes the anti-evolution sentiment in America as an exotic oddity.) However, the majority of the authors describe a kind of cognitive dissonance they experienced while working to piece together a coherent view of the world which takes account both Christian faith and evolutionary science. This dissonance results from the pervasive cultural message that science and Christianity are at war: that they offer competing answers to the same question and that we must choose which one to trust. When we assume that either science trumps religion or religion trumps science, we’re caught in a dilemma.
It doesn’t take long for the reflective Christian to realize that neither science nor Christianity has all the answers. Science can’t tell us much about Jesus Christ or the way to have a relationship with God; you can search the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and you won’t find any descriptions of DNA or quantum mechanics! Some questions are obviously scientific and some are obviously religious. The difficulty comes when both seem relevant, as in the question of humanity’s origin. For cases like this, the way forward is to allow science and faith to dialogue with each other. Learn the best science. Talk to religious thinkers you trust. Give grace to everyone, remembering that our human attempts at knowing are finite and provisional.
A related theme you’ll see surfacing again and again throughout these stories is the commitment that all truth is God’s truth. Whether truth is found in Scripture or through careful study of the natural world (even when that study is undertaken by unbelieving scientists!), our contributors see God as the ultimate source of all truth. This gives us unshakable confidence that there will ultimately be no contradiction between science and theology. God is the author of both. Sometimes this is referred to as the “Two Books” model of revelation. Psalm 19 captures both of these: “The heavens declare the glory of God” (v. 1) and “The law of the Lord is perfect” (v. 7). They are complementary.
Finally, both sources—God’s Word and his world—drive our contributors to wonder and worship. We believe that God has given us minds and curiosity. Applying these through scientific endeavors can be an expression of love for God. Far from eliminating any sense of awe at creation, a scientific understanding of how the natural world works brings an even greater appreciation for its Creator. It is not uncommon at all for the believing scientist to report being drawn closer to God while working in the field or laboratory. Humility, wonder and worship are common themes throughout this book.
We hope that as you read these stories, you too will be drawn closer to God. We hope you’ll better understand his love and provision for you and for his world, and see how he has been at work in the lives of the men and women who have so graciously shared their stories in this book.
Many evangelicals have come to accept the conclusions of science while still holding to a vigorous belief in God and the Bible. How did they make this journey? Here are the stories of 25 people who have come to embrace evolution and faith, including Francis Collins, Scot McKnight, John Ortberg, James K.A. Smith, Jennifer Wiseman, and N.T. Wright.
Praise for How I Changed My Mind About Evolution:
“This collection of firsthand experiences is important for showing that firm belief in the truth-telling character of Scripture can support, rather than undermine, the best scientific investigations. It also provides more solid evidence for the good that BioLogos is doing to transform science and religion from a war zone to an instructive conversation.” – Mark Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame
“While very few people seem to care about science as a philosophical construct, many people care about how science findings impact their understanding of life, love, meaning and faith. No scientific concept draws us into these contemplations more than evolution, which leads us to ask big questions about our nature and God’s. This book should be embraced as a treasure. In it you will find unique minds wrestling with how we got here and what our evolutionary history has to do with God, the Bible and the depth of our lived experience. I promise this book will challenge you on nearly every page as you discover new insight after new insight.” – Andrew Root, Olson Baalson Associate Professor of Youth and Family Ministry, Luther Seminary, principal leader, Science for Youth Ministry
“Atheists often cite religious opposition to evolution as a reason for their unbelief. This wonderful collection of essays by Bible-believing Christians demonstrates how unnecessary it is to oppose evolution in the name of faith. What is striking about the authors in this volume is the sheer range and diversity of their own spiritual journeys in coming to terms with science. It is my prayer that evolution might cease to be seen as a threat to faith on the part of some Christians rather than as an integral aspect of God’s created order for which the Christian can rightly give praise.” – Denis R. Alexander, emeritus director, The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion