Developing Capacity - training youth to navigate controversies in Christianity

(Daniel) #1

I am currently teaching science and entering into population genetics and evolutionary principles at a Christian high school in North America. My goals as an educator and as a Christian is to help young men and women develop the skills, attitudes, knowledge, and their relationship with God necessary to work through the challenges and controversies of their journey.

My background is an upbringing in a very strict literalist Christian denomination followed by a converting in my late teens and entering a conservative protestant church. I grew up in the culture of science versus faith conflict, distrust, and ad hominem attacks on those who disagreed. In university, I struggled interpreting my beliefs in light of pursuing a B. Sc. in Biology and in working through a severe depression. Working through origins and mental health in that denomination was not pleasant.

My journey towards a more humble and re-conciliatory approach in Christianity began when I started teaching at my first Christian High School and met some incredible people including some who had completed Ph. Ds on the faith-science relationship. This journey has not been easy, nor is it over, but I have a deeper faith and a more humble approach to the Bible and to life. Consequently, I want to be a part of a healthier discussion with young people.

I am using the content of natural selection and mutation to also teach how to handle controversies in Christianity. We initially covered Mendelian genetics and are now leading up to natural selection.

I plan to teach Genesis 1-2 as part of understanding origins and narratives.

Starting with the necessity of prayer and humility, we will read Genesis 1-2 with the following in mind:

  • Who is the original audience?
  • What is the purpose?
  • What truths does the passage convey about God?

then we are going to look at several important figures in Christianity and their take on Genesis 1-2 (with the greater aim of looking at a breadth of Christian current and historical perspectives) and look for the common foundation - so as to ask what is the core Christian perspective and where is there flexibility?

Part of this will be to acknowledge and discuss the conflict that has been thrust onto our youth and the challenge of handling larger disagreements and pressures. The emotional, spiritual, and sometimes physical affects of our conflicts are readily apparent in our youth and they need support and processing to work this out (many times this is neglected but if you can get into some honest conversation statements such as “I am trapped between believing the bible and science” or I fear the loss of respect and love of my parents if I disagree or are not certain about X").

Finally, we will conclude with the importance of allowing grace and love to characterize each of our journeys and wrestles with scripture, of working through our faith and life in community (healthy community).

This is an outline of what I will be teaching/facilitating and I would love to hear any feedback or discussion,



(Christy Hemphill) #2

It sounds like the students are in good hands.

So important.

I think another important thing to keep in mind with kids is that you never want to tear down a worldview and leave them with it in shatters around them. You want to gently challenge a worldview and equip them with tools to negotiate the challenge in a constructive way. It sounds like you are thinking along those lines and have personal experience that would make you sensitive to the very real devastation that can happen when young people are torn between who to trust.