I am a Lutheran pastor who has served various parishes in Western Canada since 1982. The denomination I belong to is staunchly young earth creationist. The relationship between science and faith has been of interest to me for most of that time. After a lot of research (and prayer!) I made the transition to evolutionary creation and the BioLogos organization has been a tremendous help in that process. My experience is that resistance to change in the church comes primarily from the clergy. The laypeople are much more open to evaluating the evidence for an old earth and common descent.
Hi Terry, thanks for sharing part of your story. What do you think it is that leads some of the laypeople more open to evaluating the evidence than some of the clergy?
I am also a Canadian. Canada is a spiritually dark nation. Do you think that young earth creationism was partly responsible?
Welcome, and thanks for sharing a bit about your journey. That’s an interesting insight on the attitudes of clergy compared to lay people. I suppose in some ways it’s understandable, as clergy are tasked with guiding and exposing false and dangerous ideas, and so it’s probably easy to see science as an enemy in general.
Clergy typically have a denominational “party line” to adhere to and to depart from it may lead to sanctions.
Young earth creationism, as I see it, is primarily motivated by a desire to defend the authority of scripture, a good thing, to be sure. If anything, it may be perceived as a hindrance to the Gospel and to participation in the Christian community by those, for example, involved in a scientific vocation.
In my senior year at the seminary I was given the assignment of visiting an inactive member of a local Lutheran parish. Near the end of our discussion, the individual asked. “Do I have to believe in a literal six-day creation to be a Christian?” I said that this was not a salvation issue so individuals don’t have to believe that. This could very well have been the issue that kept this young man away from the church.
It was being taught Young Earth Creation at a young age, and then being taught, or at least never challenged, in every church I attended for 45 years that set me up to rejecting Christianity when I found out YEC wasn’t true. I’d be happy to go into more detail.
I have found that when the curtain is pulled back on young earth creationism, people often move in one of two directions. Some, like yourself, move away from the faith. And others find their faith enriched. I belong to the second group. For me, what science has revealed about the age of the earth and the development of life gives me a better insight into what God is really like. And it gives Christians a chance to interpret the creation accounts in Scripture more accurately. For me, it’s not an all or nothing situation – a choice between science or religion. For me it’s a matter of choosing both faith and religion. A win / win.
I used to work in Western Canada. Where have you served/lived?
Born in Vancouver. University there – Simon Fraser. Seminary at Saskatoon. First parish in the Kootenays of British Columbia. Then back to Vancouver for six years. Central Alberta for 11. And here in Saskatchewan for the last 15 years.
Nice. I had some friends the Kootenays. Lived in Abbotsford area for almost 5 years, then in Merritt (“just beyond Hope”) for almost another 5 years.
Interesting! I grew up in the Abbotsford–Chilliwack area and spent about a decade in Regina. Back in 2000 when I moved to Regina, my friends in the Fraser Valley considered Saskatchewan well beyond Hope.
We moved from Abbotsford to Merritt in 1997…so we were there at the same time!?
One way that young earth clergy deal with the origins debate is to assiduously avoid it. But it’s notoriously difficult to do. The topic of creation comes up in “Christianity 101” classes, confirmation classes, youth group discussions, and the like. Avoidance works if you live in a bubble and never let disturbing scientific claims rattle around in your mental apparatus.
You either stand up for what God tells us in the Bible or you stand up for the enemy. There are none who can straddle the fence. God is either God and His Word is supreme or He is not.
It is ok to doubt and being willing to place God’s Word first, inspite of not being able to understand. Is not understanding and rejecting God’s Word.
Unless we are willing to face the truth head on…without presuppositions or prejudice…how can we affirm honesty or expect others to take truth seriously? How can a Muslim or atheist believe us when we demand they examine themselves?
My goal is to love the Lord with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. To love the Lord with my mind is to be curious, to gather evidence and to evaluate it, honestly and without presuppositions. It’s all about stewardship - in this case stewardship of knowledge. In my opinion, science works to answer God’s questions about nature addressed to Job. It’s as if God says to Job, “Don’t you know these things? I’ve given you a powerful brain and I want you to use it.” A retired geologist, a follower of Jesus, once told me that, in his opinion, science is a quest for truth. What we need is dialogue not debate. I’ve communicated with many scientists who are also evangelical Christians in the last few years and I have no reason to doubt their faith. It’s a grave error to interpret the scriptures metaphorically when the Lord’s will is that we take them literally. But it’s also a very serious error to take them literally when that’s not what the author intended.
Agreed. But it is not left up to our own interpretation as to decide what is or is not to be taken literally. God’s Word should be consulted for this purpose.
And It is perfectly clear that God does not mean to take a day in Genesis one, to mean anything other than a literal 24 hour period.
It’s really just that simple is it?
I think what you mean to say is:
"You either stand up for my interpretation of what God tells us in the Bible or you stand up for the enemy. There are none who can straddle the fence. God is either God and my interpretation of His Word is supreme or He is not.
It is ok to doubt and being willing to place my interpretation of God’s Word first, inspite of not being able to understand. Is not understanding and rejecting my interpretation of God’s Word."
Or something like that.
The real disconnect is your assumption that everybody that disagrees with you is denying the importance, centrality, and trustworthiness of scripture (without even addressing the equating of “Scripture” with “God’s Word”–something which scripture does not explicitly say (in fact, it says explicitly that Jesus himself is “God’s Word”), but you equate the two because it’s what you’ve always been told or you’re relying on a couple of interpretive steps and choices to “make it work”).
But I’m sure that you’re right and everyone that disagrees with you is wrong and in disobedience to God.