Since high school, I have been on a spiritual and intellectual journey from Young-Earth Creationism to Evolutionary Creationism (AKA Theistic Evolutionism). I’m finally settling into and becoming comfortable with what I accept as true regarding origins, so I thought I’d share today how I got here. Eventually, I’d like to do more posts that are more in-depth on this topic.
I grew up in a Christian home and an Evangelical church. The existence of God and His interest in our lives was never questioned. At school, evolution was barely mentioned in my biology class (although I might have missed it during one of the many naps I took during those lectures). When I was in high school in the early 80s, the Young-Earth Creationism movement was really gaining steam. I recall some discussion in church settings about the evils of evolution, although my most vivid memory is an assembly during elementary school (in a Christian school) in which we were taught a song that said something like, “I’m no kin to a monkey”.
I started college without much idea of what I thought about evolution and creation, except that God created it all. I had a general idea that Young-Earth Creationism was “true” since that’s what was in the Bible, but I didn’t think hard about it. Since I was studying zoology, though, I had to come into contact with evolutionary theory. In science, the word “theory” denotes the overall explanation of a set of scientific facts or data. As with everything in science, a theory is always being tested, but evolutionary theory was considered as foundational and settled as gravitational theory. My professors, many of whom were Christians, talked as if evolution were settled. At the time, natural selection was still considered the prime mechanism of evolution, but some of my professors talked about the new research into genetics that included “jumping genes”, regulatory genes, and other exciting topics.
By the time I got to medical school, I was too busy to think much about origins. One thing I did notice then and that I have often noticed since then is that people who aren’t Christians often equate Christianity with uneducated because of the Young-Earth Creationism issue. In residency, I started to get interested in the topic again, partly because we were considering homeschooling. My dad, who had also found people uninterested in the Gospel because of the perceived link with Young-Earth Creationism, had come across the books of Hugh Ross, a Christian astronomer. Dad sent me several of the books and encouraged me to read them. Ross is an Old-Earth Creationist who believes that the first chapters of Genesis are not so much a portrayal of actual events 6000 years ago, but God’s revealing of the creation events to the writer of Genesis.
I really like Ross’ books, but I wanted to give Young-Earth Creationism an equal shot. I read one of Henry Morris’s books and wasn’t terribly impressed or convinced. I then took a look at Answers In Genesis and was rather appalled. Ken Ham essentially said that a person who does not believe in Young-Earth Creationism can’t be a Christian since they don’t believe the Bible. Not only was I distressed by comments like this, but I found the attitude of most of the AiG material to have an unacceptably negative attitude toward scientists. I took classes, including labs, taught by the same PhDs who were being portrayed as either duped or deceptive by the AiG writers and speakers.
By the time I started in medical practice, in 1997, I was pretty convinced of the truth of the Old-Earth Creationism perspective. But, I started thinking, “Is there anything in the Bible that refutes evolution?” Over the last several years, I have pondered that question as I have read commentaries, Bible studies, and a book on hermeneutics. I came to the conclusion that a reasonable interpretation of the Bible does not preclude accepting the fact of biological evolution. (I hope to blog in more detail about my studies at a later date.)
The idea that evolution is not anti-Biblical opened up a lot of doors for me. I had already accepted that the universe and Earth are both old. I had also been comfortable with the fact that life is old. The question that remained, though, is how did life begin and develop. The Bible is clear that God created everything in the very beginning. The development, though, is not spelled out in detail in Scripture. I have done more reading and become convinced that evolution is a much better explanation for life than any of the creation theories.
Twenty years ago, when I was in college, evolution was still discussed in terms of gradual changes over long periods of time facilitated by natural selection. Nowadays, biologists talk about evolution by natural selection as well as other genetic processes that allow for faster changes. Evolution has become more well-supported by research over time.
Some Christians are happy enough with evolution until we get to primates, at which time they become uncomfortable with the idea and claim that God must have stepped in to create humans specially from scratch. I think, though, that biological evolution explains the physical development of humans from primates very nicely, but it does not explain the part of us that is spiritual. At some point, God had to have given us the “breath of life” to make us “in His image”. Humans are obviously different than the rest of the animals in more than just our language skills. God created us to love Him and be in fellowship with Him forever. Exactly how and when He chose to differentiate us from the rest of the primates, I do not know.
Are you concerned that I’m losing my faith? That I’ve given in to a “worldly” theory that leaves out God? Don’t be. My faith in God is stronger than it was twenty years ago, and has not been diminished by my changing beliefs about the origins of the universe and life. I still believe that God loves me and that He sent Jesus to take away my sin. I believe that He speaks to me through Scripture and He answers prayer. But, I now believe that God chose to create the universe using processes that we can identify and study scientifically.
Later on, I’ll write in more detail about some of the issues related to evolution and creation with which I have wrestled. These include (but are not related to) “Does Genesis rule out the possibility of biological evolution?”, “Where does ID (Intelligent Design) fit into this discussion?”, “Does evolutionary belief lead to all kinds of social ills?”, “Why is this topic even important?”, “What should I teach my kids and how can I help them make good decisions?”. If you have questions that you’d like me to tackle, please leave them in the comments (but, understand that I’m not an expert, just someone trying to figure this stuff out on my own). In future posts, I’ll try to be more detailed and list resources that I have found helpful.
Do you ever question what you were taught about evolution or creation? Does this even show up on your “radar screen”? How do you handle this topic with your kids?