I hate controversy. It really bothers me—not when people disagree, but when they become defensive, obnoxious, hateful about it. (If you’re familiar with the DISC personality test, you won’t be surprised to learn that I’m a strong “S”—as in steady. Don’t rock my boat!) Unfortunately, the world is full of controversy. Just witness the presidential election. (I’ve already voted—I can tune it all out now.)
One of the biggest controversial topics in the church is the divide between Creationists and Evolutionists, “Young Earthers” and “Old Earthers.” What seems to me to be a peripheral subject has become a litmus test for determining the faith of others. One side accuses, ‘You can’t possibly be saved if you believe that!” while the other side retaliates with “You are an idiot of you believe that!” It’s enough to make me want to hide under the bed.
Until now, I’ve avoided posting anything about any topic this divisive. However, I’ve given this a lot of thought over the years, and it’s time I say something. You may not agree with me. That’s just fine. Just please remember that I love God and I assume you do too.
First, a bit of background. I became a Christian during my freshman year, about the same time I started on my degree in Human Biology. I was reading my Bible on one hand and taking classes such as Physical Anthropology and Evolutionary Ecology on the other. I actually didn’t realize there was a conflict until my dorm Bible study leader asked me how I dealt with such ungodly teaching. Huh?
Since that time, I’ve read dozens of books and articles, visited websites on both sides of the issue, listened to lectures, and talked to other believers (including some respected scientists). And I’ve prayed. A lot.
I’ve learned that, for me at least, there is no conflict between science and Scripture. I didn’t have to turn off my brain or deny my faith. Here’s why.
I believe that the same God who created the universe also inspired the Bible. Both the creation and the Bible should reflect that same Author—both are His works and they should agree with one another. I firmly believe that God does not set out to test our faith by saying one thing in Scripture and other in the world around us. He is not out to deceive us. He is holy and His character is unchanging.
Given that there should be no conflict, what do I do when my reading of Scripture doesn’t seem to agree with what scientists are discovering about our world? There are two possibilities.
One is that science doesn’t know everything. We are in a constant state of discovery, and theories change over time. For example, not all that long ago geologists believed that the continents were stationary, and the apparent fit of Europe/Africa into the Americas (just remove the Atlantic Ocean and see how the jigsaw puzzle pieces are shaped to fit together) was a coincidence. Anyone who believed otherwise was ridiculed. Now geologists talk about continental drift, plate tectonics, and mid-ocean ridges. The entire science is built on a presupposition that the continents used to be connected. (I loved the “Reunite Gondwanaland” bumper stickers I saw in college!) Its’ good to retain a measure of humility about what we think we know.
The other possibility is that we aren’t perfect in our understanding of Scripture. We don’t live in the same time, the same place, or the same culture as the authors of the Bible. Yes, it was inspired by the Holy Spirit, but that doesn’t mean we can know exactly what every verse means. Scripture was used to “disprove” the notion that the earth revolves around the sun. Yet, few would argue today that Copernicus was wrong and Ptolemy was right. I’ll come back to this next time. Meanwhile, we need to pray for understanding and remember our fallibility.
There’s more to come, but that’s enough for today. Stay tuned…