Evolving in Monkey Town made national news last week when it was featured in a Nashville Tennessean story that was picked up by USA Today. The story described various views regarding the evolution-creationism debate and included my perspective that young Christians long for a more nuanced, constructive approach to this issue.
“My generation of evangelicals is ready to call a truce on the culture wars,” I said. “We are ready to move on."
This quote caught the attention of Ken Ham—president and CEO of Answers in Genesis, the organization behind the famous Creation Museum in Cincinnati. In a blog post, Ham wrote:
“Well, Rachel, I have news for you. Your generation is not ready to call a truce in this battle in the culture wars; in fact, we are finding more and more people are getting enthusiastically involved in fighting the culture war by standing uncompromisingly and unashamedly on God’s authoritative Word.”
According to Ken, the fact that thousands of young people visit the creation museum each year proves that this army is growing. But if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, the numbers tell a different story. Young adults are leaving the church, with some studies suggesting that up to seventy percent of Protestants age 18-30 drop out of church before they turn 23. (In fact, Ken himself has observed this phenomenon.)
While the factors behind the trend are complex, I think I speak for a lot of young Christians when I say that you can’t argue us back. We are tired of fighting. We are tired of drawing lines in the sand. We are tired of Christianity being cast as a position in a debate when it is supposed to be a way of life.
What we are searching for is a community of faith in which it is safe to ask tough questions, to think critically, and to be honest with ourselves. Unfortunately, a lot of young evangelicals grew up with the assumption that Christianity and evolution cannot mix, that we have to choose between our faith in Jesus and accepted science. I’ve watched in growing frustration as this false dichotomy has convinced my friends to leave the faith altogether when they examine the science and find it incompatible with a 6,000-year-old earth. Sensing that Christianity required abandoning their intellectual integrity, some of the best and brightest of the next generation made a choice they didn’t have to make.
The reason I speak out about this issue is not because I am passionately committed to the theory of evolution; it’s because I am passionately committed to the fact that it’s not worth leaving the faith over! And it's certainly not worth breaking fellowship over either.
Ken likes to frame his position as an unwavering commitment to the authority of Scripture, but in reality his is an unwavering commitment to one interpretation of Scripture. Young earth creationists seem unbothered by abandoning other elements of biblical cosmology— like a stationary earth (Ps. 93:1; Prov. 8:28; Job 38:4) and a solid firmament (Genesis 1:6; Job 38:22; Ezekiel 1:22; Daniel 8:10)—but they tend to cast a literal seven-day creation as such a fundamental element of the Christianity that one’s faith cannot survive without it.
But I am a living breathing example of the fact that it can. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and I believe that the earth is old.
I am not asking Ken to change his interpretation of Genesis or even his devotion to it. If he believes it is the best interpretation, then he should continue to commit his outstanding energy, creativity, and resourcefulness to promoting it. I respect his conviction and I count him as a brother in Christ because, at the end of the day, Ken and I agree on what’s most important —that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.
All I am asking is that he honor this common bond and join me in making peace, in acknowledging that there is enough room in Christianity for both of us and that we can talk about this issue without our weapons drawn. We don’t need a Church in which everyone agrees on the age of the earth. We need a Church that is committed to the Apostle Paul’s instructions that “if it is possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18).
How are we ever going to be at peace with all men if we can’t even be at peace with one another?
I am ready to call a truce, and I hope that Ken Ham will join me.