Presbyterian Minister and TCP Member Speaks up for Evolution

Michael Zimmerman, head of The Clergy Letter Project, reports that active Presbyterian minister, John Shuck, was unsuccessful in his recent attempt to influence the Presbyterian Church, USA (the progressive branch) to endorse Evolution Sunday.  This is a part of Evolution Weekend observed by many progressive churches.

The Clergy Letter Project (not to be confused with The Clergy Project – i.e., minus the word “letter”) sponsors a letter signed by nearly 13,000 Christian clergy who believe that “Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts” and “…that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist.”

John Shuck, also an open member of the Clergy Project (podcast ,minute 2:55), is one of a few practicing clergy who is open about his lack of supernatural beliefs.   The Rational Doubt blog, whose contributors include founders and members of the Clergy Project, supports John Shuck for speaking out publicly about evolution. Personally, I hope he and other progressive clergy are eventually successful in changing antiquated church policies.

On June 11th, 2011, John published this personal statement of beliefs on his blog, Shuck and Jive:

I believe…

  1. in evolutionary theory. This obviously includes human beings. Evolution and science in general have had major implications regarding theology that we mostly ignore or in our worse moments deny.
  2. in higher criticism of the Bible. The Bible like all other books are human products (what else could they be?) and should be read as such as opposed to special revelation from a divine being.
  3. that all religion is a human construct. Its primary purpose has been and should be an attempt to find and evoke meaning amidst life’s contingencies as opposed to speculation regarding supernaturalism.
  4. that “God” functions as a symbol. The concept of “God” is a product of myth-making and “God” is no longer credible as a personal, supernatural being. For me, “God” functions as a shorthand for the Universe and sometimes for qualities and aspirations I wish to pursue or to emulate.
  5. that human consciousness is the result of natural selection. Human beings do not have immortal souls nor will consciousness survive death. Thus there is no afterlife. There is no heaven, no hell, and no need for salvation from one realm to another.
  6. that there is no “end” in human time. Earth is four billion years old. Earth was here long before human beings. Earth will spin on its axis and revolve around the sun long, long after the last human being has breathed her last. We will have to find meaning and our “eschaton” in this life.
  7. that Jesus may have been historical but most of the stories about him in the Bible and elsewhere are legends. But he’s cool. He serves as a human ideal and a focal point for devotion (like an ishta deva).
  8. that industrial civilization is in for a long descent. Peak Oil and Overshoot should be everyday terms in our lexicon. We ought to be putting our religious energies toward spiritual, emotional, and practical preparation for this reality.

As John says in his blog, there are many clergy who share his beliefs.  I personally know some of them, both in and out of the Clergy Project,  and hope more of them, like John, can eventually be straightforward about their very sensible beliefs without fear of losing their livelihoods.

Question: Do you know any active pastors who you think probably don’t have standard religious beliefs? If so, what makes you think that?


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