Saturday, 17 October 2015

Positive testimony from students who know that evolution and Christianity are not in opposition

If testimonies from ex-Christians whose loss of faith directly stems from discovering that their faith community had lied to them about evolution being allegedly 'a theory in crisis' remind us of the need to avoid creating crises of faith by dogmatically asserting that evolution and Christianity are mutually exclusive, then testimonies from those who recognise that science and faith are complementary are invaluable, if only to serve as a direct refutation of the militant anti-evolutionists who seek to make their science denialism normative for all Christianity.

At the website Historical Jesus Studies, two young university students show that contrary to the scaremongering of those who warn young people to stay away from higher studies in the life and earth sciences, it is possible not only to maintain faith, but to strengthen it.

The first testimony comes from a Norwegian geology student who notes how he entered geology studies with a scepticism towards mainstream scientific claims. That's usually a danger sign for an imminent loss of faith when confronted by the evidence for an ancient Earth and evolution. Thankfully, this was not the case:
Entering geology studies with a great deal of skepticism toward science was an interesting experience, to say the least. Soon, I wanted to hear from Christians studying science, and came across a video of Gordon J. Glover explaining some flaws of creationism and teaching some geology. This made me instantly order his book about the matter, “Beyond the Firmament.”
After some thorough explanation of scientific principles, Occam’s razor and such, it strengthened my trust in science. I came to see that evolution and Christianity can be reconciled. And I discovered, to my amazement, how Genesis 1 was simply giving the Hebrews a tale of creation of their own, using language and images they could understand, explaining why the earth was created, not how.
Now I find evolution strengthening my faith rather than weakening it, and God seems more awesome to me than ever. After all, using one shot to get all the pool balls in the pockets is more impressive than shooting one after one.
The analogy about using a single shot to sink all the pool balls instead of individual potting them is an excellent one, and brings to mind the aphorism about the divine wisdom in creating living things with the ability to create themselves in response to changes in the environment.

The second testimony comes from a South African geology student whose comment on the folly of the YEC view is one that evolution denialists in our community desperately need to hear:
I struggle with the Young Earth Creationist view. Theologically I don’t believe that they are guilty of any type of heresy that I know of but the scientist in me writhes! The evidence for the Earth being old is overwhelming and I don’t believe that the Bible contradicts this in any way. The literature on this is extensive. 
The historical founding of science as a principle stems from the belief that there is order and reason to nature because it is the product of an ordered creation. I think there is still truth in that belief. Science isn’t inherently for or against any world view. The abuse of science has led to this apparent conflict, likewise the reactionary attitude of certain Christian groups has added to this. 
Science is about evidence, it can’t be rejected by belief systems, it can only be rejected by contrary evidence. The flawed theology of “God of the gaps” i.e. “I don’t have an explanation for this, therefore it must be God.” is rightly being challenged by science. I would argue that Christians should welcome this more than anyone else. God is not constrained to the things we can’t explain, his work is illuminated and better understood through evidence based science and is thereby worthy of more praise, not conflict.
Put simply, the universe positively shouts the reality that this is an ancient, evolving creation. We would do well to sit before it with all humility and listen to what it has to say about its origins instead of leaning on the flawed testimony of the special creationists who privilege human dogma over evidence.