Trapped in "Either/Or" Thinking - An Excerpt from Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!
Today’s excerpt is taken from Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes by Denis Lamoureaux.
Denis is Associate Professor of Science and Religion at St. Joseph's College in the University of Alberta, the first tenure-track position in Canada dedicated to teaching and research on the relationship between scientific discovery and Christian faith.
Continue reading to learn how he wrestled to overcome the “either/or” thinking of the creation-evolution debate.
“I am so mad!” These words were cried out by a young woman after she stood up during the middle of a class in my college course on science and religion. I slowly sank down behind the lecture stand, quickly glancing at my notes, hoping to find what I had said that triggered her outburst. And she wasn’t finished. “I’m mad at my parents for putting me in an expensive Christian school where teachers taught me that Satan had concocted the so-called ‘theory’ of evolution. I am angry with my youth pastor for telling me that I had to choose between evolution and creation. And I’m furious with the senior pastor at my church. On Sunday mornings, he has preached that evolutionists cannot be true Christians!”
Finally, she sat down. I relaxed, realizing that her rage was not directed at me. I said to her, “You must always remember that your parents love you and care for you. The fact that they paid a lot of money to send you to a private Christian school instead of public school shows they were giving you the opportunity for your faith to mature. I am also certain that the pastors in your church wanted the best for you. But many of them are taught in theology school that evolution can destroy our faith in Jesus.”
I added, “I completely understand your frustration. I have lived your story of being forced into making a choice between evolution and creation, and this led me to pick science over my Christian faith. But as you are seeing in this course, there are a variety of different ways to embrace both God and modern science. My challenge to you and your classmates is this: You are the next generation of leaders in the church. What can you do to improve this situation?”
Like many Christians today, the parents and pastors of my students are fearful of evolution. They assume that if evolution is true, then God did not create the world and Christianity must be false. More specifically, if the universe and life were not made in six literal days about six thousand years ago, then the Bible is a lie, and we cannot trust anything it says about Jesus and our salvation. Some people go so far as to say that if life evolved, then God does not exist. I understand this type of thinking because I lost my faith as a freshman in college after taking just one course on evolution. I was trapped in the assumption that I had to choose between evolution and creation, and between modern science and Christian faith. By the time I left college, I was an atheist.
As an evolutionist, I assumed that the entire cosmos and every living organism had evolved only through blind chance. My existence had no purpose or ultimate meaning whatsoever. With such a dark and dreary picture of the world, I thought that the best way to live my life was to live for me and me alone. Selfishness marked my lifestyle. I didn’t believe in morality because I didn’t think there was any ultimate right or wrong. From my perspective, humans were nothing but animals evolved through a completely random process. I saw myself to be no different than any other animal and tried living like one. I’ll spare you the details. I’m embarrassed by things I did and people I hurt. For many Christians, this is another fear of evolution. They assume that it leads to immorality.
My story is not unique. Many Christian students have lost their faith over the issue of evolution. Today they are leaving Christianity in greater numbers and at a much earlier age. A 2011 Barna Group survey reveals that 59 percent of young people “disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15.” The issue of science is one of the reasons why they leave the church. This study records that 25 percent of them perceive that “Christianity is anti-science,” and 23 percent have “been turned off by the evolution-versus- creation debate.” Every Christian should be concerned with this shocking loss of faith among the younger generation.
I wrote this book to address problems Christian students face regarding modern science and the origin of the world. It is based on the traditional belief of a fruitful relationship between God’s Two Books. The Book of God’s Words is the Bible. Scripture reveals spiritual truths concerning our Creator, his creation, and us. The Book of God’s Works is the physical world. Science is a wonderful gift from the Lord to explore the heavens and the earth and all the wonderful creatures. Through microscopes and telescopes we can see that nature “declare[s] the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1). Together, God’s Two Books—Scripture and nature—provide us with a divine revelation of who created the world and how he created it.
My hope for this book is that it helps you to develop your view of the relationship between Christianity and science and in particular your position on origins. My goal is for readers to have a stronger God-centered biblical faith and a great admiration for modern science, including evolution. It’s worth pointing out that there is not just one way to view God’s Two Books, but many different ways. I will also share with you my own approach to relating Scripture and nature.
This book is personal. It’s not merely about theories and concepts. It’s about an experience I had. I wrestled with evolution and Christian faith over a period of about twenty years. I’ll share many mistakes that I made, and hopefully you will avoid making these same errors.
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