Evolution. It’s a concept we have traditionally opposed, and yet a growing number of us are now acknowledging and accepting it. The creation debate is often heated, which is unfortunate because regardless of which side of the debate we stand on, we all view God as the creator. We all agree that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”; but the loudness of the debate increases when we begin discussing God’s method of creation.
If we traditionally rejected evolution, why do many of us now accept it? That’s the question that this website has been published to address. I’ll outline the evidence that helped me to come to terms with this topic, but I acknowledge that others may have different views, so I won’t presume to speak for everyone.
The evidence this journey has uncovered for me has been vast, and the more I understand about the detail, the more awed I am of what God has done, and how he has done it. It has been a long journey over many years, but I feel an excitement for the scriptures that I haven’t felt for a long time, because so much makes sense now, and I’ve found a kind of intellectual inner peace where I’m not having to constantly try to convince myself something isn’t real, just because it doesn’t align with my theology. (For example, I no longer watch David Attenborough documentaries thinking I know better every time he uses the word ‘evolution’). Understanding where to draw the line between matters of faith and matters of science has been of tremendous benefit to my study of both.
Has this destroyed my faith? Not at all! I can emphatically say quite the opposite, because I always knew this journey would lead closer to ‘truth’ – whatever that was. The difference now is that I have a defensible perspective; and instead of saying something akin to “Trust me, that highly qualified and experienced biologist is wrong…”, I’m able to offer positive contributions to those ‘faith and science’ debates that pop-up from time to time.
I firmly believe that faith doesn’t compel us to ignore evidence, but rather to trust God no matter where the evidence takes us.
As someone who has accepted the scientific consensus for evolution, this has not diminished my belief in the authority of Scripture. I still view it as the revelation of God, and as a record of his relationship with the faithful. Regardless of the mechanisms he used or the amount of time he took, I still praise God for his intimate role in creation. I believe that Adam and Eve were special, literal people whose role in the first sin links to the eventual sacrifice of Christ. No matter how much of the creative process can be explained scientifically, none of it diminishes my faith in the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection, and I eagerly await the return of Christ so that God’s kingdom can be established.
I have come to live by a saying that has been attributed to Louis Pasteur, “A bit of science distances one from God, but much science nears one to Him. The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.” If I’m able to do the topic any justice, it will help to demonstrate why this journey has left so many in awe at God’s creative handiwork.
To be clear, I’m not asking or expecting readers to agree with this position, although to be honest, I do hope that these notes might be useful for those who are on that journey of discovery inspired by their passion for the sciences, and who are grounded by a faith and trust in God. I also hope that it will benefit those who are struggling to understand someone else’s point of view who has already made this journey.
When I began studying this topic in earnest, one of the first things I came to grips with is just how much about evolution is misunderstood (and I included myself in that). The result of this lack of understanding is that many who oppose evolution are literally fighting an imaginary foe – opposing something that was never true to begin with. Perhaps one of the most frustrating things about listening to Creation vs. Evolution talks nowadays is the number of times I have found myself saying, “But that’s not what evolution is!” or “But no-one thinks that!”
Likewise, I have often been asked whether I think that God could have created the world in six days if he wanted to. I am sure that if he had wanted to he could have. But this issue is not about what we think God could do; it’s about what the evidence of God’s creative acts tells us he did do.
Let’s face it, this is a complex topic in which there aren’t many short or simple answers, and I’ve come to the conclusion that we have complicated it even further by mashing together four separate conversations into one large, bewildering debate. In summary, this is what they are:
The first conversation addresses the perception that science has become an enemy of the faithful. This faith vs. science debate is distracting and unnecessary. Science (i.e.: careful study of the natural world) can have a positive impact on our faith and provide additional avenues for worship. This conversation explores that as a precursor to the second conversation.
The second considers the impact that science (‘natural history’) was having on society in the mid-1800s, and looks at some of the teachings concerning the age of the earth and progressive/pre-Adamic creations from around the time that men like Darwin and Wallace first articulated the hypothesis of evolution. This is important because there is a trend in our community where members seem unaware of these, and often try to create fellowship/membership boundaries around issues that would effectively alienate many of our early scholars.
What makes this more troubling is that many of these arguments against evolution are based on ideologies that have crept into our theology over the last fifty or so years. To be clear, taking onboard new ideas is not an issue, because we should never be afraid to discuss new insights (that’s the whole point of these conversations!); except in this instance these views are not based on any new discoveries or learning, but are being adopted in spite of recent advances.
The third conversation concerns misconceptions we’ve been teaching about evolution. The point underlying this third conversation is that even if one disagrees that evolution is an occurring phenomenon, there is no excuse for misrepresenting what is taught on the subject. Consequently, much time and effort has been expended trying to disprove our own erroneous perspectives. I’ll try to explain these as briefly and candidly as I can, but it’s not my intention to be confrontational and so I hope my remarks are not read in that way. After this, the subsequent thoughts will focus on more positive matters, discussing what we can learn from this wealth of evidence.
In an ideal world, the first three conversations would be unnecessary, but because they are so widely misunderstood, it makes having the fourth conversation difficult and we eventually end up back in one of the other three.
The fourth conversation is the point of this website (and accompanying book), hence the title. It summarises the evidence for an evolutionary creation, but with a view to exploring God’s creative methods, not dismissing them.
The structure of this site
This site is structured into three sections:
Section One covers the first three conversations, which are necessary to give some clarity to the fourth. As mentioned above, I believe that if the first three conversations are not addressed, there are too many misconceptions that distract from any meaningful attempts at the fourth conversation.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to show that faith and science need not be enemies; and that viewing the learnings of science through the lens of a humble and respectful faith can teach us many insights about God’s creative methods.
Section Two is the fourth conversation, exploring the evidence for an evolutionary creation, but with an emphasis on human origins within God’s creation. There are many excellent books that discuss evolution as a whole, so there is little point in covering that ground in this one. Rather, this website focuses on the topic of human origins in a way that is respects faith and science like. In writing this section, I have tried to find a balance in providing enough detail to explain a point without getting overly technical. Where applicable, I have recommended or hyperlinked content that delves deeper into relevant topics.
Although this section is the reason for this website, it would not be complete without consulting God’s word, and so that is the purpose of Section Three.
Section Three considers the Biblical perspectives of the fourth conversation, and argues that the scriptures are written in very specific way for a very specific purpose. Therefore, none of the evidence for an evolutionary creation discussed in Section Two (the fourth conversation) invalidates or nullifies what is written in God’s word.
In a way, these conversations are an invitation to consider the harmony that does exist between faith and science.
Just because they present an evolutionary understanding of God’s creation it does NOT mean they challenge God’s creative work. Agreed, they may challenge some of our thoughts about the creative process, but I view that as a positive thing. If anything is the truth it will stand, and if it falls it wasn’t the truth. Either way we are better off for having had the conversation.
There should be no harm in openly discussing alternative views, but the effort that has been made to suppress this conversation in many churches is not healthy. I am acutely aware of how sensitive an issue it is, and so I have made every effort to present the topic as positively as I can.
As Johannes Kepler said, “Praise and celebrate with me the wisdom and magnitude of the Creator, which I lay open before you by means of a deeper explanation of the structure of the world, by the search for its causes…”
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