Monday, 2 December 2013

A personal journey towards science but not away from faith

Fascinating personal account here.

The bottom line is that a literal Adam and a literal Fall are not essential to the gospel. Paul develops the universality of sin in Romans 1-3 with no mention of original sin. He moves from, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness… although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (1:18-21) to “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23) quite apart from Adam.  In all the gospel proclamations to both Jews and Gentiles recorded in the Book of Acts, there is not a single reference to Adam’s sin. The Fall is never mentioned in the sayings of Jesus.  On the contrary, Jesus directed people away from religious speculations or blaming others, and towards a consciousness of their own shortcomings and their personal need for mercy.
Another concern I had was whether evolution threatens our status as bearers of God’s image. I was offended at the thought that we came from apes, but I realized the biological reality is even more humiliating. You and I come, not from monkeys, but from single-celled eggs. We, today, are all made from chemicals, starting from egg and sperm. This is true of all humans now living, and their parents and grandparents. Therefore, how God physically made the first human bodies (whether from dust or from other primates) is completely irrelevant to the status of us today – – our humanity or value or image of God.
How a conscious, responsible soul becomes associated with the localized net of neurons in our skull remains mysterious. It cannot be the case that God simply assigns a soul to an egg as soon as it is fertilized:  identical twins result from the division of an egg after it is fertilized, yet presumably they each have their own soul. It seems wise to remain humbly non-dogmatic on this matter.
. . .
YE creationism was not a position I came to on my own steam. Rather, I was persuaded by the efforts of young earth advocates, who wage an energetic campaign for the hearts and minds of conservative Christians. Several YE creationist organizations (e.g. Answers in Genesis, Institute for Creation Research, Creation Science Ministries, etc.)  are still going strong, publishing magazines (often with some engaging animal photo on the cover), a “technical” journal, and daily features on their websites.
By insisting that a young earth perspective is the only faithful reading of the Bible, they set up in me a strong desire to believe in it. Also, they wove a comforting, inspiring meta-narrative around the details of a literal six-day special creation of a beautiful paradise which was later ruined by man’s sin. That was much warmer and fuzzier than the evolutionary picture of hundreds of millions of years of cold-blooded animals eating each other.
For physical evidence, the YE creationists presented a number of observations which supposedly could not be accounted for within mainstream science. These included fossilized trees poking through many feet of rock layers, the amount of salts in the ocean, the decay rate of the Earth’s magnetic field, the rate of recession of the moon, rock layers apparently out of order and discrepant radioactive dates of rocks. Today there are many books and websites that debunk, with precise detail, all these young earth science claims. You can google the subject and in minutes find these refutations conveniently tabulated on sites like TalkOrigins, the anti-pseudo-science RationalWiki  , and the Christian Old Earth Ministries. That was not the case in the 1970s. It was much more cumbersome back then to locate specialized information. 
 . . .
Here is a telling lament from a missionary in the former Soviet Union:
The worst aspect of YECS [Young Earth Creation Science] teaching is that it creates a nearly insurmountable barrier between the educated world and the church. .. How many have chosen to give up their faith altogether rather than to accept scientific nonsense or a major reinterpretation of Scripture? How much have we dishonored our Lord by slandering scientists and their reputation? How much have we sinned against Christian brothers holding another opinion by naming them “dangerous” and “compromisers”? …Pastors need to rethink these issues as outlined above and teach a responsible Christian viewpoint with all humility…Christian radio and TV stations need to invite qualified speakers to wrestle with these issues in a responsible way…Finally, missionaries and evangelists need to get materials expressing other viewpoints translated to oppose the virtual monopoly YECS teaching has overseas. As I write this paper, I see YECS literature becoming more and more widely distributed in the growing churches in my corner of the former Soviet Union. We are sowing the seeds of a major crisis which will make the job of world evangelism even harder than it is already. 
. . .
To my Christian brethren who are worried about the impact of evolution on their children I offer this observation: Evolution has only as much power to destroy faith as you give it. It is tempting to pressure your Bible-believing child to reject evolution by telling him, “If evolution is true, the Bible is false.” However, you will then bear some responsibility if he (taking you at your word) concludes the Bible is false when he eventually discovers that evolution is true. There are poignant stories on the web from mothers reliving the day their son came home and told them that he had found evolution to be true, and therefore he saw no place for God. That sort of tragedy is totally unnecessary. 

1 comment:

  1. Is this extract taken from Letters to Creationists?

    EDIT: sorry just noticed that the word 'here' is shaded and there's a link.