My Evolution Towards Theistic Evolution

The following is my story of how evolution and faith have interacted in my journey. This was originally posted on another blog: http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/2008/05/factors-involved-in-shift-to.html

I would love to hear your thoughts….

I have grown up in an evangelical environment. I went to youth groups and attended a Christian high school. Although I did not grow up in a traditional or hyper-fundamentalist setting, seeds of fundamentalism have been popularized amongst most in evangelicalism. I grew up learning that it was ‘Christian’ to believe in a literal 7 day creation or at least some kind of gap theory. For the most part, plain sense of the text was assumed as the best reading of the Bible.When I was 16 I was called to full time ministry at a summer camp. Since then, God has opened doors that have led me into ministry opportunities and bible education. In college, I was highly involved in a church and was given an internship. At this time, I was turned on to the emerging church conversation. I began reading McLaren, Bell, Martoia, McManus, and others. I also, began to listen to lectures and messages by these and other individuals (NT Wright!).

Well, I have for the past four years of my life been reshaping my understanding of the scriptures and how they influence how I interact with my world. All of this to give you the background to my ‘evolutionary journey.” This year, over Christmas break I read the entire series for McLaren’s “A New Kind of Christian” for the first time. One of the major themes that stood out to me was the openness to evolution. I had not realized previously that this was up for negotiation. As soon as this issue began to be stirred up within me, I googled the topic and came across this blog (http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/). I since have realized that there is no biblical reason that I need to have antagonism toward evolution. Many Christian leaders that I respect seem to hold or at least allude to an open posture toward this issue. In this journey (one of which I am still newly walking) I have realized how we have damaged many people by telling them that they must defend either faith or science. Why do many college freshman walk away from church? Because we have spent 18 years trying to convince them that faith rests on young earth creationism, and without it everything blows up! Unnecessary polarities like these have done more damage than good to the cause of the Gospel!!!!

So, for me, my journey has been more spiritual/ theological than scientific. Why fight against something that science continues to affirm? This summer, my reading list includes Collins’ book “The Language of God” which I have perused some already. I am thankful for this blog and for other brave evangelicals who are not afraid that intellectual inquiry will destroy faith!

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  • Jeff Zimmerman

    I do agree that 1.We should question everything, truth will win every time so by asking questions we only stand to find what is true. 2.We have done a lot of damage by narrowing our belief of God and then removing His mystery, which is completely counteractive to the teachings of scripture. However science has not “affirmed” evolution completely there is still much debate between intelligent design and evolution beginnings as well as everything in between. Also, are these things necessarily important for us to come to a conclusion on? Probably not.

  • jason

    I like what you have to say Jeff… I think part of the point is that as a Christian we are never denying inteligent design (I know Kurt is not doing that)… but rather the question becomes, How did God develop his creation… not whether He did it or not. The question becomes, did God use evolution as a way to create his creation? And, I agree that we can never come to a “conclusion” on anything from a scientific perspective in regards to creation because it is not a repeatable and observable phenomena, both prerequisites in the scientific world (technically, evolution is “observable” if you want to take the next billion years to do so… but I dont think thats gonna happen). But, I do believe that these discussions are important because if people base their Christianity on outdated scientific data, like the church has in the past (i.e. the earth is the center of the universe or the earth is flat) then we are going to have some problems.Personally, I think the real threat to Christianity is not scientific darwinism but rather social darwinism. The assumption that truth and progress is found through conflict, whether it is national, social, economic, ethnic, etc… goes against what I believe to be central to scripture. Anyways… I could keep going…Kurt… I think this needs to be fleshed out more… I want to see some verses and more of a scriptural backdrop for why you believe this…

    • Mark Wisborg

      Well Jeff,

      I’m afraid that your comment on us not being able to come to a conclusion regarding the validity of evolution (because it is supposedly not observable), is entirely false. I don’t mean to sound condescending, but all you really need to do is google “observed speciation” and voila!

      We do not actually need to have a video tape of the last 4 billion years to know life has been evolving: the fossil record serves as the archivist of evolution.

      It really ought to be no mystery why among the earliest rocks we find single-cellular organisms, with more diversity over time, as populations appear and others go extinct. Read Donald Prothero’s “Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters”. It’s well worth your time.

      Furthermore, evolutionary theory makes predictions – predictions which may be tested. This is called “falsifiability”. It means that there IS INDEED the potential to prove evolution wrong.

      Charles Darwin knew nothing about DNA. He knew there was a principle of heredity, but how it was transferred from one generation to the next was – to him – mysterious. When Watson and Crick first examined DNA, evolution was put on trial. It could very well have been the case that the genetic codes of various populations would *not* have recorded common ancestry.

      But guess what? It did. And does. This is why chickens still have the genes for teeth (they’re avian dinosaurs), and why humans can grow functioning atavistic tails (we came from earlier primates!).

      By all means you are welcome to believe what you wish. But the evidence is there, and claiming that it can’t be tested just reveals how little you know about science and evolution in particular.

      This doesn’t mean you’re stupid. Just ignorant. Or pretending to be.

      • Mark Wisborg

        Actually my comment was addressed to Jason, not Jeff.

  • jason

    A follow up comment after I read mine over… In regards to this phrase “But, I do believe that these discussions are important because if people base their Christianity on outdated scientific data, like the church has in the past (i.e. the earth is the center of the universe or the earth is flat) then we are going to have some problems.”I dont want anyone thinking that I think that science should be the basis for one’s faith. I am critizing those who have to have their faith validated by science and vise versa… I do believe that science and Faith can work together and do in that science is the study of God’s creation.

  • Kurt Willems

    great comments guys! I am grateful to have conversation partners. It is not as though i have a strong conviction that “evolution is the way” rather i just want to communicate that if it is true, it doesn’t contaminate ones view of scripture! Good stuff and i hope you will check out my follow up post!O ya… I also want to affirm jason in what he said about social darwinism. That is the real threat to the kingdom of God. And Jeff,Mystery and questions must always have a place in our exploration of God!!!!!!

  • http://lancelinderman.wordpress.com Lance Linderman

    Science is becoming more and more christianitie’s best friend! If you use evolution to cancel out God, you have strayed far from logic. Likewise, if you use God to cancel out evolution you have also strayed from logic. I prefer the both and approach here, either or is to limited in this case.

  • Philip

    Let’s face it, none of us are unbiased observers. Our worldview (i.e. starting point) governs how we interpret everything. We can start off questioning the foundation of the bible, and make the same mistake that Adam made when he listened to the devil say “Did God really say that”

    Let’s boil this train of thought down to it’s simplist argument. We either put our trust in God’s word when he says his word is truth and that it plainly speaks to us or we trust in man’s reasoning. Either the bible speaks truth, or we belive it doesn’t and we say God is a liar.

    Have you not heard it said “my word is truth”. If Jesus was wrong about earthly things, such a creation account (Mark 10:6) and a global flood (Luke 17:26-27), was he wrong about heavenly things like John 3:16. If not why not?

    If we can’t believe Genesis, then how can we believe Paul in 2 Timothy 3:15-17 where he writes “all scripture is God-breather and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be throroughly equipped for every good work”. Has God mislead us for 2000 years in how he created us? Heaven forbid this should be! Is God’s word wrong when it states “and just a death came through Adam…” Who or what should we put our trust in?

    Look at the suggested sequence of evolution and compare it to the Genesis order of creation. Surely these cannot be compatible. Which do you put your trust in? Man’s idea or God’s word?

    As a final thought, read Darwin’s autobiography, even he admitted that a belief in evolution would ultimately lead to a rejection and belief in God. He decent into unbelief stems from his unability to reconcile death and suffering “I can in deed hardly see how anyone ought to wish christianity true, for if it be so, the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my father, brother, and almost all my best friends, would be everlastingly punished”. (Autobiography of Charles Darwin)

  • JM Smith

    Kurt, have you read the “other” Collins’ books yet?  C.John Collins?  To me, he strikes the perfect balance between serious Biblical scholarship and serious Scientific engagement. Francis Collins’ weakness is his theological/Biblical understandings (he’s a genius scientist, but a layman theologian). He doesn’t give enough weight to the context of Scripture, IMO.

    C.John Collins’ “Genesis 1-4″ book and his “Science & Faith” book are two must-reads for any evangelical who feels stuck between the poles of Creationism or Theistic Evolution.

    Incidentally, my journey is the mirror opposite of yours. I grew up believing in Theistic evolution and never seeing a problem between what I read in National Geographic and what I read in Scripture. I became skeptical of Darwinian evolutionary scenarios late in college as I became more familiar with the claims and the questions that ID proponents like Behe and Dembski were raising. But I still rejected Young Earth Creationism. I was comfortable with Hugh Ross and Bernard Ramm’s approaches, but didn’t always agree with Ross’ readings of the texts.  Only when I started learning the languages and literary background of Scripture, particularly the ANE texts did I begin to see that many views and ideas have been read back into the texts by those on the different sides.

    Currently I think C.John Collins and John Walton are two of the best out there at interpreting Genesis in its original context, and not “over-mythologizing” it to the degree that the BioLogos guys do, but also not “over-literalizing” it the way AiG and other Young Earth Creationists do.

    For what it’s worth, the seminar course I teach on Scripture and Science is available for only $25 on DVD…I’d LOVE any word of mouth I can get, as I have a number of copies that I need to sell in order to pay some medical bills! :)  Here’s the link if any of your readers (or you yourself) would like it for your library (it’s also available for a small fee as a streaming video): http://jmsmith.org/store/the-bible-science/

    My 2 shekels,
    JM

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @google-818055ebb1a3c2fa51228c1b1c94ac27:disqus … I think its awesome that you found this old old article :-)  This reflects very early reflections on this issue.  I think both BioLogos and Walton are good resources.  I have the Collins book but it will probably not be till I graduate seminary that I will have time to read it :-( Luckily, that is only until May.  Even so, I do encourage anyone who sees this comment to order your stuff.  You are a great thinker!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=533891478 Heather Goodman

    The best book I have read on this topic was “The Lost World of Genesis 1″ by Walton.  http://www.amazon.com/Lost-World-Genesis-One-Cosmology/dp/0830837043

    He doesn’t teach evolution, but he doesn’t teach a typical evangelical understanding of Genesis 1 and 2 either.  He just explains how the ancient cultures would have read Genesis completely differently than a scientific society (ours) attempts to approach Genesis.  However, I have never read the Collins’ books, so perhaps they are even better?   
    Full disclosure:  I believe in theistic evolution.

  • RickJ

    Kurt,
    one of the things that convinced me about a “middle” approach, if you can call it that, is thte utter arrogance of some proponents of each extreme.  It seems that the creation scientists are attempting to gain credibility by being as arrogant as the athiestic evolutionists.  What nonsense.  I am also dismayed by the keystone that fundamentalists make of this issue.  By doing so they set their kids up for a complete rejection of the faith if they doubt the 7 day creation.  I would much rather see kids taught how to earnestly investigate how the evolutionary story enhances and compliments the Genesis account.  Where do all the puzzle pieces fit?  This kind of approach would more likely promote young adults who seek new connections that will eventually reveal greater truths about God and His universe. 


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