Another vintage 2009 post from my CP days, this one focuses on the overdue need for reconciliation between Darwin and evangelicals. Content-wise it seems especially apposite as the fall semester at university is about to begin.
I develop these thoughts further in a chapter from my book You’re not as Crazy as I Think (Biblica, 2011) which is entitled “Not all Darwinists are monkeys”.
It is an anniversary that not many evangelicals will be celebrating: 150 years since the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species. The hostility is understandable given the widespread assumption that neo-Darwinian evolution is little more than atheism for biologists. This assumption leads to many Christian youth being sheltered from the undisputed, reigning theoretical framework of the biological sciences. It also leads them to read the Genesis creation narrative in a literalistic fashion as if they were reading an article on cosmology in Nature magazine rather than an ancient near eastern cosmogonic-theological poetic narrative. (Sadly, in their fervor to respect the Bible’s authority, they undermine it in the same way that the Catholic Church undermined scripture in its dispute with Galileo.) The result is a suspicion of any Christian who would countenance divinely-guided evolution as broaching an unacceptable compromise with liberalism, secularism, methodological naturalism, atheism … pick your poison.
These young Christians are thus unaware of the large number of Christian evolutionary biologists back to the great Theodosius Dobzhansky, and indeed all the way back to Asa Gray, a contemporary of Darwin and America’s leading botanist of the 19th century. They are often unaware that the Catholic Church embraces evolution, as do leading evangelical scientists like Francis Collins and Denis Lamoureux. Not surprisingly, they also remain unaware that most of those theologians laboring in the theology/science dialogue made peace with Darwin long ago (Alister McGrath, John Polkinghorne, R.J. Russell, Ted Peters, Arthur Peacocke, Ian Barbour and many many others besides).
Many of these young Christians will go off to university in the fall and encounter neo-Darwinism for the first time. They will discover that it is a theory that the vast majority of brilliant, highly educated scientists consider essential to make sense of the natural world. And many of those scientists, familiar only with the same warfare model of Christianity and evolution, will simply reinforce the festering doubts of those students. By the time they come home for thanksgiving, many of these students will be harboring new doubts. Within a few years they will face a crisis of faith. And some will walk away from the church as a result. And the most tragic part is, it doesn’t have to be this way.