Needless (Faith) Casualties (by John Frye)

Needless Casualties

I am going to write about Tyler and Brenda, a son and his mother. I have heard for years that the creationism/evolution debate is putting many of our evangelical young people into a bind. Many young students from our churches head off to college and are presented with strong evidence for evolution.

The evidence for evolution available today is vast, precise, and more sophisticated than when we “baby boomers” were in high school and college. Many of our youth, nurtured on a biblical literalism that defies most of what we know about the Bible as a literary document and on an ignorance or resistance to much of what evolutionary science teaches, embrace what they learn in science classes to the collapse of their Christian faith. This needless bind allegedly between God/the Bible and science/evolution is causing a high casualty rate.

For me this debate has human faces. I had a long, two hour conversation with Tyler who went off to a fine technical institute and with Brenda who was rightly disturbed when her son came home and announced he didn’t believe in God and the Bible anymore. Tyler grew up under my ministry and I have known his family since the middle 1980’s. On Tyler’s winter break, I got a somewhat alarming phone call from Brenda who wanted me to meet with Tyler and her at a local coffee shop. In brief, Tyler had several courses where solid evolutionary evidence was presented and presented well. The science was not bolstered by the old-time carbon-dating method, but by rock solid geology (pardon the pun) and by genetics. Tyler, on his own, concluded that his Sunday School Bible stories about seven, literal 24 hour days of creation did not fit the scientific data he was learning. While by no means an easy decision, Tyler jettisoned his faith. What’s a mother to do?

In our conversation, I tried to present a middle way. I wanted to free them both from the either/or of the manipulative bind. While not a scientist or the son of a scientist, I had enough exposure to the current, vital conversation on creationism versus evolution that I think I surprised both Tyler and Brenda.

I want to thank RJS for her many posts on Jesus Creed that help pastors like me stay clued into these issues.

Both dedicated Christian scientists and daring biblical scholars simply refuse to let this unnecessary bind cause our youth to apostatize. To Tyler I reported that many Jesus-following, Bible-honoring scientists agree with what he was learning at the technical school. He did not have to let go of God in the face of evolutionary science. To Brenda I suggested that how many Christians interpret Genesis 1 is not the only way that biblical text is to be understood. Brenda was informed primarily by the seven day literalism of YEC.

The comment Brenda made goes to the heart of the issue. As a pastor I was amazed and pleased. Brenda said, “I don’t care if God created the world in 7 days or in 700 billion years, I just don’t want my son to abandon God.” I wish you could have heard the anguish in her voice. You bet I get angered that YEC seems to be written into the gospel of salvation these days. How foolish to suggest that if we refuse to believe in a real, literal, first Adam and Eve as the source of the human race, then we must reject the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Somebody please retire this worn out slippery slope argument. This whole mess is traceable to a view of the Bible that is based on an Enlightenment, not biblical, view of truth. With a denial of inerrancy as the bogy man, sloppy creation science and pathetic biblical hermeneutics are peddled as the new Messiah for the faithful remnant.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.


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