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Saturday, 24 October 2009

Evangelicals and Evolution - A Student Perspective: Introduction

This is the first post in a seven-part series on “Evangelicals and Evolution: A Student Perspective”.

For many evangelicals, their first serious encounter with evolution occurs as a student in post-secondary school. Evolution is certainly encountered and discussed prior to this, but it is usually in the form of anti-evolution propaganda. Our churches, youth ministries, Christian camps, and other Christian organizations are very good at attacking evolution; they are not so good at introducing thoughtful material on the dialogue between modern science and an evangelical expression of the Christian faith. Thus the first encounter with the evidence for evolution in college or university can be a formative experience for evangelical students; it can be traumatic or awe-inspiring, depressing or exhilarating, faith shaking or faith affirming.

Better Availability of Resources for Today's Students
Fortunately evangelical students today have access to much better resources than past generations. Today, there are numerous books, articles, and electronic material that provide a positive view of evolution from an evangelical perspective; even twenty years ago these resources were virtually non-existent. Today a healthy minority (maybe majority?) of evangelical scientists accept the scientific consensus for evolution, our OT biblical scholars acknowledge that the best scholarly interpretations of the ancient scriptures (including Genesis) do not in any way exclude evolution, and a healthy number of our theologians accept that God created through the process of evolution.

This recent, and significant, change is reflected in our mainstream evangelical institutions. For example, Wheaton (which could possibly be referred to as “Evangelicalism’s Rome”) has for years been offering a Theories of Origins science course for its undergraduates. The major course objective is to give students a background for evaluating the merits of scientific and theological claims for origins theories. Source material from a range of creationist positions (YEC, OEC, and EC) is reviewed in the course. Student surveys show that a YEC position on human origins is historically the position with the most support at the beginning of the course, and the position with the least support when the course ends.

The Series
Over the next month, in a series of posts on this blog, five post-secondary students will be sharing their perspective on evolution. Three science students will share their personal accounts on reconciling their faith with evolutionary science. In separate posts, Ryan Bebej and Eric DeVries will describe their transition from opposing evolution because of their faith, to accepting evolution while growing in their faith. Sandwiched between these posts, will be the story of Emiliano Monteiro, a student of evolutionary science, who found faith in Jesus Christ through a campus ministry, but then discovered that his new Christian community rejected the conclusions of the science he was studying. The fourth post in this series will be from Jordan Mallon. Jordan has been involved in the creation-evolution dialogue for quite some time, and he will share three concepts that he has found helpful in this dialogue. Finally, Bethany Sollereder, a theology student, will discuss why Christian academics often avoid the topic of evolution. Evangelical academia may be making progress, but there is still room for vast improvement.

The evangelical landscape on the science-faith dialogue has changed dramatically in the last generation. Although we are still a long way from making peace with science, I am hopeful that within another generation evangelicalism will have accomplished this once seemingly impossible objective. If we are to arrive there, it is this generation of students that will be carrying the torch.

Enjoy the series.


Arni Zachariassen said...

Looking forward to it!

D.L. Folken said...

The question is whether you allow the Bible to be the authority or if you cut the Bible up to make it fit a preconceived notion of science. It will be interesting to see what these students are willing to offer on the alter of secularism.

Unknown said...

ZDenny, no one here wants to undermine the authority of the Bible. As evangelicals we agree that the Bible is our only rule for faith and practice.
The issue is not about making offerings on the altar of secularism; it is about affirming that God is the God of all, and just as in Kuyper's famous phrase regarding the hegemony of Jesus over every inch of creation, so also he claims rule over every discipline of intellectual endeavor - theology and science, being the One in Whom all ideas are integrated and cohere.

A Pauline admonition is apt here: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8

The issue is not scripture itself, but how we best understand both scripture and God's creation. A hermeneutic that demands that a believer avoid or ignore facts or evidence fails to meet Paul's criteria of thought-worthiness.


Steve Martin said...

Welcome Arni.

Zdenny: You might be particularly interested in post #6 in this series by Jordan. He will be addressing you question directly.

Jordan said...

Pressure's on! ;)