An American problem?


I write from the UK and so it appears to me the debate evolution vs creationism seems to be much more prevalent in the American churches than in the UK,or even in other parts of Europe. I wonder why that is as we also have evangelical churches in the UK that are more accepting of evolution as the means by which God brought forth life in this planet.

Some recent survey work among church leaders in the UK found that the science vs faith problem is more of a perception of peop,ke outside the church where people think there is a problem of the church being anti-science. This perception is not backed up by surveys of church ministers in a wide range of churches. In fact most church ministers were accepting of the science and the need to adapt our views of the bible in its cultural and historical contexts.

(Christy Hemphill) #2

I live in Mexico. A couple Sundays ago, I was visiting a church in a good-sized city. It was a large, charismatic-ish church with Nazarene affiliation. In the sermon, the pastor mentioned reading a science article in a magazine comparing human and chimp genomes. Of course, I was expecting some kind of anti-evolution tangent, but the pastor just emphasized that there was really only a little bit of the human genome that differed from chimps, and that supported a point he was making about how God makes the instruments he chooses unique in all the necessary ways to accomplish his purposes, even if the area of uniqueness seems very small. The guy had no arguments with the science in the article he read, he just saw a Creator behind it all.

Another time I was talking to a Mexican woman who ran the children’s Sunday School at a smaller church. She said that some American group had donated some Sunday school curriculum that they had been using, but they had to skip the Creation lessons, because “no one understood why it had lessons about how to argue with school teachers about scientists being wrong” and they didn’t want to confuse the children.

(Phil) #3

It seems as though American society has become obsessed with conflict and paranoia, and various players come to the forefront to profit from it. We see it with race relations, where some want to “stir the pot” because that is how they support their cause and their lifestyles. We see it in politics (boy, have we ever!) and unfortunately, we see it in religion. Some religious leaders created conflict as a way of prodding their flock for donations, not only over evolution, but with theologic and social issues. It is a fertile field for various characters to built a financial empire based on encouraging conflict, sometimes coming to the US from the other side of the world to do so.
That is my opinion on it anyway. I am sure there are more academic explanations as to how we got to this point.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #4

It’s not uniquely an American problem, unfortunately. Apparently YEC is quite common in S. Korea as well (presumably exported from the American context). See this link and links therein for the backstory:

(Jim Lock) #5


I don’t quite remember the details…but I know that biologos did a few blogs on the history of the YEC movement and weren’t the initial proponents Americans?

(Jon Garvey) #6

Phil, I do think it has more to do with this cultural polarisation than with actual diversity of opinion in churches.

Within British Evangelicalism, in any one church (like my village Baptist church) one can find a range of opinion from Creationisms young and old earth, through ID to theistic evolution both vernacular (“I guess God could use evolution”) to informed by actual science.

It’s just that one is far more likely, I think, to have been exposed to the various views without it being a big issue. There are enclaves with particular biases, I know - one pastor friend of mine in Scotland found it helpful to keep his acceptance of evolution from his particular peers. But it would be the unusual teenager who got to university and was shocked to hear there was evidence for evolution - though some might be surprised at how much anti-religious bigotry there was in our academia.

The trouble may turn out to be that when America sneezes Britain tends to catch a cold: Creation science was a Transatlantic import, the opposite belief that traditional bibilical doctrine has to be modified in the light of evolution science seems likely to follow, and maybe the contention that goes with it all.

(Thanh Chung) #7

In this video, Dr. Amanda Glaze describes her experience in teaching evolution in a high school in the southern United States.

I think someone posted this article on the forum a while ago, but it is a worthwhile read. James Krupa, a Christian professor, teaches evolution in the beginning of the biology class. I think it is kind of similar to teaching the Theory of Plate Tectonics at the beginning of geology class because only everything geological would make sense if the students learn that foundation. In this article, Krupa talks about his experience teaching evolution in the University of Kentucky.

I think both places have a lot of Protestant Christian religiosity steeped in the literalist and biblically inerrant interpretation of Scripture. I think attitudes to evolution in Catholic countries are a little different, but I don’t know much.

(Richard Wright) #8

Well, Ken Ham is Australian but your point may be true if you conditionalize it to state, “evangelical” churches. Being formerly a Catholic (70 million in the US, 22% of the population), belief in evolution was pretty much accepted as far as I could see at the time, and that was almost 30 years ago. As well I think that evangelical churches (leaders and ordinary Christians) in the southeast US in particular make the most anti-evolution noise, where others may be uncomfortable about it but are much less likely to make not believing in evolution a salvation issue or be very vocal about it. And Dennis Venema (a Canadian) said that he has gotten persecution from both churches and universities for his EC views. That said, all-in-all the US is probably a little more vocally anti-evolution balance than most other western countries.

(Larry Bunce) #9

One thing that distinguishes America from other countries is the lack of an established national religion. American congregations have more control over their churches than those in the “top-down” environment of a national religion. American ministers cannot afford to tell their congregations anything they don’t want to hear. Anglican ministers in Darwin’s time tended to accept evolution, so the perceived conflict between science and religion didn’t develop to the extent it has in America.

(Jon Garvey) #10


I heard a commentator on the BBC news today quote John Winthrop, one of the Pilgrim Fathers of course, as believing unconstrained democracy to be “the meanest and worst of all forms of government”. That can apparently be the case in church government as well as the state!

(Mervin Bitikofer) #11

So it turns out … functioning as a well-informed democracy takes a substantial amount of work on the part of citizens. Maybe the jury’s still out on whether or not we are willing to put in that work. It might be a bit early for us to be looking down our infant noses at primitive empires or dynasties that lasted the better part of their millenium.