Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:14-16)Christian Unity
I really appreciate Ephesians chapter 4 where Paul admonishes believers to be unified in Christ, to be at peace with one another, and to treat each other with gentleness, love, and respect. We need to recognize both our individual gifts (eg. 1 Cor 12) and our individual frailties so that we can work to our common goal. This attitude will not only help us grow closer to Christ, but will also help us attract others to the family of God.
But being unified in love does not imply an anything-goes acceptance. Part of being family is helping each other mature in the faith, and this includes “speaking the truth in love”. Our faith is in Jesus Christ who is the “way, the truth, and the life”; articulating this truth and defending this truth (1 Pet 3:15-17) is part of our calling. Sometimes we need to discuss with, ask questions of, and even confront, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Truth is important.
Truth in Science
So what about truth in science? For many years the majority of evangelicals have loudly and vigorously opposed the theory of evolution, even though the evidence for common descent is now almost scientifically incontestable. So it is probably time for those of us that have travelled this journey of faith / science reconciliation to speak the truth in love. As Mark Noll notes, the methods of evangelical engagement with science have become “intellectually, biblically, theologically, apologetically, and spiritually” damaging.
Discussing the issues of Origins in the Church
As we discussed here almost two years ago, there are times to confront, times to dialogue, and times to remain silent on the topic of origins. However, as I admitted then (as still admit now) determining when to confront, when to dialogue and when to remain silent is notoriously difficult.
On a personal level, I think Bethany offers some good advice in this comment from her post last week. When discussing origins with other Christians, we should take into account whether the setting is appropriate, whether the science / faith issue has pastoral implications for the person involved (ie. We could do more harm than good), and maybe most importantly, whether we have the “relational currency” to challenge our Christian friend.
Focus on the Family’s “Truth” Project and Preaching Untruths in the Church
Focus on the Family is promoting their “Truth Project” to churches and small groups. A quick look at the lesson overview shows that, ironically, the Truth Project doesn’t seem to put much stock in truth when it comes to science (see lesson 5). For example, this lesson states that “Darwinian theory transforms science from the honest investigation of nature into a vehicle for propagating a godless philosophy”. Completely untrue.
Then later it is stated that:
A careful examination of molecular biology and the fossil record demonstrates that evolution is not a "proven fact."This might be technically defensible depending how badly one defined “evolution” and “proven”, but at the very minimum this is (maybe unintentionally) deceptive; hardly a harbinger for expecting much truth from the actual lessons.
Confronting Anti-evolution in the Church
Given what has been said above, I would like to propose a guideline for when we as ECs should NOT remain silent. When either 1) a Christian organization in which we participate or 2) our local Church officially promote anti-evolutionary views, I believe that we must speak up. In this instance, we must “speak the truth in love” and provide the message that:
a) the scientific evidence for common descent is massive
b) the acceptance of biological evolution is compatible with an evangelical expression of the Christian faith
For us to remain silent in these circumstances would be a disservice to the gospel. It would be unloving to our brothers and sisters who are being told that their faith rests on a specific view of science that is demonstrably false.
Dennis Venema’s response to the Truth Project
Dennis Venema is currently in this exact situation – and is speaking up. As he outlined in this comment last week, the Truth Project is being taught at his church. As a geneticist, he is particularly qualified to point out where scientific falsehoods are being promoted. Dennis offered to provide an official response for his church but was turned down. In lieu of that, he gave a talk to some interested church members in a private home.
I encourage my readers to check out Dennis’s talk entitled "Can an evangelical Christian accept evolution?" (the video is broken into 12 parts). As he indicated, this talk for his fellow church members is based on his "Human Genomics: Vestiges of Eden or Skeletons in the Closet?" lecture (audio and slides) at the ASA conference this summer, but this more intimate discussion is targeted at a non-specialist audience.
I thought Dennis's presentation to his church friends was excellent; I believe it will be particularly helpful for someone new to this dialogue. And it was definitely provided in a spirit of speaking the truth in love. Hopefully this will encourage the rest of us to follow suit.