Sunday, October 4, 2009

“You cannot be a Christian and believe in evolution.”

Before I retired I was more than once approached by another teacher who was concerned about the response of a student to something in class that had contradicted his Christian understanding. Sometimes a student would come to me with that concern. I was approached because I was a known Christian. The biggest problem for bright, serious Christian students was the apparent conflict between what they were being taught and their understanding of the proper interpretation of Genesis. My advice for the students was, basically, to not "throw out the baby with the bath water" — that the issue isn't central to the faith and that there are orthodox Christians who have come to a variety of conclusions about how to reconcile what seems contradictory between science and the faith without dumping either.

Michael Spencer calls attention to this post by Tim Stafford, which includes some instances of the problem:
I have a young friend who studies geology. He was raised in a Christian home, but had doubts and questions about a committed faith. Several years ago, just out of high school, he got a summer job at a Christian conference ground. He made strong friends there and it seemed likely to me that this community of peers, committed Christians, would help him grow in faith.

However, many of these peers went on to a conservative Christian college. When they met up with my young friend in subsequent years they found it troubling that he was studying geology. Didn’t geology teach that the earth was millions of years old? That contradicted what they had learned about the Bible, so they began to urge my friend to get out of geology, a field that they believed a Christian could never agree with. They were stubbornly concerned and would not drop the subject. Eventually my young friend wearied of pointless discussions with people who knew nothing about geology. He let the friendships lapse.

Another friend of mine is an outstanding microbiologist. He became a Christian when we were both in college, and has maintained his faith while rising through the ranks of academic research. He and his family joined a conservative Bible church where they were nurtured and encouraged. My friend joined the music team, and was in a long-standing men’s fellowship that helped him through family crises. However, he never felt that his work was fully accepted. Like virtually all microbiologists, he considers evolution a given.

Seeking to bring his worlds together he led a church adult education class on the subject. He did his homework by reading and studying many of the Christian critiques of evolution, and he tried his best to lead a dispassionate discussion of the issues. The results didn’t satisfy him, though. The others in his class knew very little about biology and were not able to engage the science involved. More, many approached science with suspicion, as though it set out to oppose biblical truth. There did not seem to be any way to engage the issues in a way that my friend found useful. ....

A large number of evangelical Christians in America (not Europe) are stuck in an intellectual trap. They live and breathe in a world built on science, but they are fundamentally suspicious of science and think of it as an alien force. .... [more]
Spenser then goes on to tell the story of an exchange student:
Her name is Niki. (Not her real name.) She’s a Japanese student who lived with an American family for a year and attended a Christian school. She took a year of Bible. She attended worship and heard lots of preaching. The Gospel was explained to her many times. She was well liked and sociable.

A very smart girl. A great student, much advanced over the average American student. She made A’s in everything, including Bible.

She left America after graduation and went back to Japan.

She came to America an atheist and she returned to Japan an atheist, and very aware that she had rejected Christianity.

Before she left, she talked with one of her teachers.

"I am an atheist because I believe in evolution. When people here explained to me what they must believe as Christians, I always ask them about evolution, and they say 'You cannot be a Christian and believe in evolution.' So I cannot be a Christian, because I believe that evolution is true." ....

So Niki, who heard the Gospel message of God’s love, life and forgiveness in Jesus, also heard that non-Christian science mostly can’t be believed, most scientists are atheistic conspirators in a plot to eliminate God from our culture and real Christians renounce any belief in the conclusions of secular scientists and embrace Creationism.

Niki, who heard about Jesus for weeks and weeks in her Bible class, could not bring herself to believe in creationism, so she cannot be a Christian..... [more]
Evangelicals and Science « Timstafford's Blog, Niki Made Her Choice and, Apparently, So Did We |

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