Q. I suspect that some folk in our Evangelical world will suggest that you have attempted to conform what the Bible says about origins, to what genetics says about origins, rather than some sort of symbiotic back and forth, or mutual critique, and that the net outcome is that traditional views of Adam and the historical substance of human origins are called into question. How would you respond?
A. Yes, I know they will. So here’s what happened to me: Genetics awakened me to a quest to answer my own questions for the sake of my students. I don’t think genetics tells me how to read the Bible, but it sure did make me more sensitive to ANE creation narratives and reading Genesis in the context of ANE creation narratives. I stand with Augustine who said if the science tells us something that makes the Bible wrong, go back and rethink how we are reading the Bible. He didn’t say change our interpretations.
Q. Share if you will some of your concerns about the negative effect on students that happens when they discover that pseudo-science is not real science, and that the views they have assumed to be Biblical about a young earth and scientific answers in Genesis, are in fact not correct. How have you helped students to get past such fundamentalist views and let them know that the Bible doesn’t teach science, for instance the age of the earth?
A. The #1 reason Christians walk away from our faith is the conflict of a rigid view of Scripture (esp on Genesis and creation) and what they learn about things like the age of the universe, the age of the earth, the 95% overlap of DNA between you and me and chimps and the presence of turned off hind legs in whales. They then hear well meaning pastors and leaders and authors and theologians say science is wrong when they are reasonably certain it isn’t wrong. Then they hear sometimes very unlikely interpretations of Genesis that shakes their confidence in the Bible while their confidence in science grows. When we can offer, as John Walton, Pete Enns, Richard Middleton as well as Francis Collins and others, offer alternative ways to approach Genesis their faith is re-delighted if not at times re-imagined. I saw this time and time again with college students. I often laid out some options; I learned near the end of my time there about Walton and I taught his stuff; I helped students see that the Bible is not in conflict with science because it wasn’t talking about what science is talking about. I have learned also that science ought to stick to its business and that we theologians can take science and give it a narrative that reshapes even how some things are described. God, for instance, is good and intelligent and the ultimate designer, so we can say God designed this creation and is directing it in his designs.