Today’s guest post comes from Matt Ulven, one of an excellent class of students from Bethel Seminary who recently studied the intersection between theology and science.
Speaking for myself I feel overwhelmed by the challenges that confront the understanding of our faith related to human origins. If evolution is true, then how should we understand the beginning of Genesis and more specifically, Adam and Eve and the Fall. It is clear that there are strong emotional feelings surrounding discussions like this. For people of faith, it is imperative that as we discuss these issues that we approach each other with the grace that Christ extended to us. By our actions and our words we must guard against causing anyone to stumble in their faith. Our Savior’s warnings on this point were most grave. “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” Luke 17:2 (ESV). One need only think about the life of Charles Templeton to understand that concerns for the faith of our brothers and sisters in Christ is a valid one. So as we participate in these discussions I think we do well to exercise a great deal of grace with each other and to not expect long held beliefs to change overnight if at all.
I also think it is important for us as Christians to keep the main thing the main thing and that is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. If we can keep Christ in focus in these discussions I would like to think we could avoid unnecessary grief. As Christians we believe that Christ is the pinnacle of God’s redemption plan for His creation. All of human history is the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan and therefore we would expect that the revelation of this plan would be manifest in His Scripture and in His creation. Therefore, as our professor often reminded us, “All truth is God’s truth,” we would expect that in fact His Scripture and His creation would be in harmony. It would seem then that if there are potential conflicts between Scripture and creation, then the issue may rest in how we are interpreting one or the other or both, not in the data of Scripture or creation themselves.
However, interpretation is and will be the sticking point in these discussions. I think the reason for this is that individuals come to the issues in the study of Scripture and the study of creation (biology) with significant preconceptions. When data conflict with preconceptions, there are choices that must be made. However, making choices based on preconceptions that may lack validity will often lead to make false dichotomies in our reasoning process. Therefore, if we are truly interested in trying to understand human origins, we are forced to confront our preconceptions about biology and Scripture. In so doing we can make the attempt to look at nature and Scripture as they are and try to understand what they are revealing, not what we think or wish they reveal. Rigorous methods for understanding nature and Scripture exist. Used properly they can reveal much, but we cannot be afraid of the truth that they might reveal. Unfortunately rather than trying to see Scripture and nature in harmony, as I believe God intended, individuals have decided to pit one against the other based on their preconceptions. If we are serious about understanding origins, then we need to seriously look at the preconceptions we bring to these discussions and humbly be willing to lay them aside and allow nature and Scripture to speak for themselves.