This is the first post is a 10-part guest-post series on Evangelicals, Evolution, and the Church.
For those of us that are Evangelicals, the Church is not a cultural or ethnic club, an institution to provide moral guidance, or even a religious organization. Although each of these aspects can be true of the Church (for better or worse), this is not what defines it. The Church is the corporate body of Christ, the collection of all sinners saved by grace and mandated to further the kingdom of God on earth. It manifests itself worldwide and more intimately at the local level. We look to the Church to feed us spiritually, even as we as individuals provide support to others in the body. We celebrate together, grieve together, share similar fears and dreams, and help each other when in need. We share a common purpose and a common spiritual ancestory.
In short, the Church is our family.
And problems within this family affect us at that deepest level. When the family rejects us, it can cause loneliness and despair. When the family is acting in a way that is unhealthy, we want to intervene to change that direction. And when members of the family are struggling in some way, we are eager to help. These problems are only too familiar for Evolutionary Creationists (EC) as we struggle to find our place in the evangelical family.
An Evolutionary Creationist Returns Home to the Evangelical Community
In a poignant article called Surprised by Joy, biologist Darrel Falk recounts how he returned to the Christian faith, but felt he could not return to the evangelical church.
So I got back on the road which leads to God—I began once more the life of faith. I never expected though that I could be a part of an evangelical community again; the differences between the facts of biology and the views of evangelical Christians seemed too great. So I did my best to live the life of an evangelical Christian without being in an evangelical fellowship. I had a deep and meaningful personal relationship with God, but corporate evangelicalism, I was certain, would have to be a thing of the past.But God has created us to be in relationships, relationships with both himself and with each other. Falk quickly realized that he was missing out on something essential; being part of the body is vital for both spiritual health and fulfillment and he longed to be part of the evangelical community. He was able to finally return to that community, and that return was surprising as it was joyous.
Eight Perspectives on the Relationship between Evolutionary Creationists and the Church
Over the next two months, 8 guest contributors will discuss various aspects of the relationship between evangelical ECs and their spiritual family, the evangelical church. Starting next Monday, evolutionary biologist Douglas Hayworth will discuss his own challenge in finding a church home within the evangelical community. Very few evangelical churches welcome the active participation of ECs, and Doug will provide some guidance on how an EC can approach this search for a welcoming community. I believe his points will be helpful to other ECs, but I am also hoping other ECs can provide Doug with some feedback of their own as his own journey has reached somewhat of a crisis point.
The next two contributors will discuss how they have responded to anti-evolutionism within the evangelical church. TWU biology chair Dennis Venema will talk about his experiences addressing unhealthy views of science and God’s creation in the local church. He will use the particular example of how he provided an alternative view to the “Focus on the Family Truth Project” classes in both his own church community and in a neighbouring church. ASA webmaster Terry Gray will then consider the response at the denominational level. In the 1990’s, Gray was an elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and was put on trial by his denominational body for his views on evolution. Today, Gray is part of an effort within his current denomination (the Christian Reformed Church – CRC) to take a positive stand on the compatibility between evolutionary biology and the Christian faith. Gray will discuss both of these experiences in his article.
The first half of the series will conclude with an article by palaeoanthropologist and evolutionary biologist Jim Kidder. Jim encountered Christ while in Japan, and then anti-evolutionism within the American evangelical church. He will provide some personal perspectives on his journey and relationship with the church.
The second half of the series will focus on how we as EC’s can help our brothers and sisters in Christ develop a healthy view of the science / faith relationship. Engineer, scientist, and bible teacher Phil Wala’s article will discuss how evangelical scientists can help their fellow evangelicals in this area. Critical thinking has never been a strong-point within our community (to put it mildly!), but this skill (required by all good scientists) will be very helpful for evangelicals trying to come to grips with a constantly changing modern world.
Two pastors will then provide their perspectives on the science / faith dialogue. Baptist minister Murray Hogg will discuss the challenge of tackling this difficult and controversial topic. If not handled with wisdom, care and humility, EC’s “eagerness to help” may be counterproductive. Using the Apostle Paul’s approach to Christian maturity and the “weaker brother”, Murray will discuss how we can be helpful without being hurtful. Keith Suckling, an Anglican priest, will then discuss his experiences leading a Test of Faith course in his church. "Test of Faith" has just released several new curricula and teaching materials, and it will be interesting to hear some feedback from one of the early users of this material. (Note: The material is not yet available in North America but should be available soon).
The series will conclude with a post by church elder and chemical engineer Allan Harvey. Allan taught a science and faith course in his Presbyterian church several years ago. His lesson on evolution contains the best simplified overview of “definitions of evolution” for Christians that I have seen. Allan will provide a post on “10 lessons learned on teaching a science / faith course in the church”.
Promoting Health in the Family
Many of the series published on this blog (with the exception of the student series) have been somewhat academic in nature – academic in the sense that one can interact with the posts without necessarily making a huge personal investment. This one may be somewhat different. All of the posts will share very personal perspectives on the science / faith dialogue, and challenge each of us in various personal ways. How could it be any other way? The topic of evolution and the Church is about our relationship with our spiritual family, our desire to help our family grow in its relationship with its Creator, and our longing to remove the stumbling-block of antievolutionism so that faith in Christ is considered both viable and desirable.
We want to be part of the family; we want our family to be healthy; we want to see our family grow.
Enjoy the series.