The old Evolution vs. Creation debate has reared its ugly head again.
People who have grown up in a certain kind of Christian environment and have little background in the study of natural or biological science often have a specific viewpoint on the subject. They are often reluctant to accept the idea that this is not a major point of doctrine or that the belief that evolution is compatible with Scripture does not negate the whole of the Bible. This is not an uncommon perspective in evangelical circles.
But there is a little-known subset of the scientific community which holds fast to the same belief, that evolution and the Bible are mutually exclusive and that “real” science bears this out. The proponents of this version of the argument are not generally found among people who work in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, or paleontology. In fact, they are most often found in other branches of scientific study or in mathematics. I was introduced to this worldview in an online community. Even then, it seemed like a stretch.
Anyway, I mentioned the issue to my husband. I had seen the title of a seminar and was frustrated by its inflammatory nature. My husband wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt and said that a reasonable, scientifically-minded person would probably have a broader perspective than I was imagining. I told him that I did not think so. He said, “Is evolution that big a deal around here?” I assured him that it was. I grew up a couple towns over from where we currently reside, so I’m familiar with the raging debate. I told my husband that evolution is huge around here, even scarier to fundamentalists than The Gay.
When I was in high school, my biology teacher, who was not only an excellent instructor but a devoutly religious man himself (he was Jewish), had to add a caveat to his lecture on evolution. He told us that “some religions” do not subscribe to the theory of evolution, therefore he was obliged to teach it as merely a theory and not as factual information. He assured us that he was in no way attempting to negate anyone’s religious views on the matter.
At the time, I was entrenched in a particular brand of evangelical Christianity. I was on board with this apology, as I believed then that evolution could not possibly be compatible with a correct reading of Genesis 1. I was pleased that I had a teacher with the sensitivity to help the conservative students feel more comfortable having to endure this ungodly education. I, along with parents and Christian leaders, applauded the school’s decision to welcome Christian views into the classroom.
I am now horrified that I bought into such nonsense.
When I explained all this to my husband, he said that the science teachers with whom he works (he is also an educator) have said that they, too, must amend their lectures to include a nod to religious conservatives. He told me that he did not recall any of it being such a big deal when he was growing up. Living near a large city in a liberal area, even his church spent little time engaging the scientific community on the issue.
Why is is such a threat to our faith? Once I entered college, I met many Christians who were able to reconcile their deep respect for creation, their belief that God made Heaven and Earth and all therein, and their belief in the truth of evolutionary science. I was amazed that they did not see evolution and the Bible as fundamentally incompatible. Yet for them, it actually strengthened their faith and drew them toward God. How could that be?
When I finally had the courage to examine the arguments for and against evolution, I began to understand. That God could use such a complex, intricate structure to create the world we live in is a marvel. I live in awe of the beauty of it all. Appreciating the process leaves me more amazed by God’s creativity, not less.
I respect my Christian brothers and sisters who have a different view of evolution. After all, if not for them, I might not have taken the time to explore it on my own. I might have taken it for granted, and subsequently been less reverent towards the living environment and its Creator. I also know that this is not a deal breaker. Regardless of one’s point of view regarding evolution, it is not a major point of theology. It takes nothing away, on either side, from our need for Christ or His sacrifice for us.