Disagreement on Evolution with my Husband


(Ashley Lande) #1

My husband has recently made it clear to me that he is opposed to evolution in general and specifically offended by the ideas of a single-cell origin and humans being descended from earlier primate forms (i.e., “we didn’t come from monkeys”). I had him read “The Language of God” awhile back and though he seemed to like it at the time, he now says he found it unconvincing. He read “Origin of the Species” (which I actually have not read) as a teenager and now says he found it unconvincing. I am the stay-at-home parent and thus responsible for the bulk of homeschooling. I told him I am really reluctant to handicap my children for further studies or careers in science in higher education and beyond by teaching them that evolution is “only a theory” and “probably not true”.

I really want to respect my husband and his wishes. We came to a stalemate with the argument last night and he said “well, they’re not old enough to be learning about it anyway” (our oldest is 7). I have touched on evolution with them before, however, and we have talked about how it’s fascinating how God created. Although I by no means understand or am able to reconcile everything about evolution with my faith in God, generally the ideas that we all descended from a single cell and have more primitive primate ancestors do not trouble me. In fact, I find it fascinating that God would create that way instead of “poofing” things into existence. I don’t consider belief or a lack of belief in evolution a “make it or break it” issue when it comes to faith in God and Jesus Christ as our savior, and I’m not sure my husband does, either, but these discussions between us tend to get very heated. I’m not sure what to do. When I ask him how he believes creation occurred if he is opposed to evolution, he doesn’t seem to have much to say, just that “common sense” tells him that evolution is not true.

I am really troubled by this issue and torn between wanting to respect my husband and feeling strongly about the evidence for evolution. I have and am continuing to pray about it, but does anyone have any specific suggestions on how to deal with this? @Homeschool_Forum


(Brad Kramer) #2

A friendly reminder that because this is a Homeschool Forum thread, you are only allowed to reply if you are an evolutionary creationist homeschooler or an ally of this group (in other words, you agree with the BioLogos belief statement).

@Ashley_Lande, thank you so much for sharing your story and coming here for advice and input. I’m looking forward to the conversation below.


(Casper Hesp) #3

Hi Ashley,
Thanks for sharing! My wife and I had a similar situation before. She was raised in the context of a rather conservative Baptist community. Our discussions could also get quite heated at times.

The best advice I can give you is: give it time and remain patient to touch gently upon the controversies. If possible, specifically research the issues your husband is struggling with. For example, I used to throw in the remark that God made all of us from dust (the lowest of the lowest) and that I could not understand why people found any intermediate steps in that process (such as primates) so repulsive :slight_smile: .

Sometimes my wife and I would bump into evidence for common descent in our everyday life and conversations. I usually took that chance to drop a few carefully weighed comments on the subject. The best place for such a casual conversation is, of course, the tree-of-life exhibit in natural history museums like the Smithsonian. There are other ways, you just have to be creative! For example, I don’t know if you have pets? But if you zoom in on the similarities between you and your pet dog/cat, it’s truly astonishing… One explanation for the similarity in blood temperatures of all mammals is that 38 degrees Celsius was the average temperature of the Earth’s seas when our ancestral population first started living on land.

Here and there, you just need a good kickstarter for a few small comments on common ancestry. Interleaved with discussions of the Bible of course. Over time, it became better in our case :slight_smile: . My wife is now okay with explaining this perspective to our possible future children.

Casper


(Christy Hemphill) #4

It seems to me there are two separate issues in this kind of situation, the lack of unity you feel with your husband on a topic that matters to you to some degree, and the question of how to present your differing views to your kids.

I think how you as a couple decide to handle the first issue feeds into the second. How fine are the two of you with each person having their own incompatible perspective indefinitely? Is it going to be an on-going source of tension until one person convinces the other person to see things differently, or is it something that both of you could agree to disagree about?

I think it probably is important to come up with some sort of agreement about how the topic of evolution will be taught. Maybe you could approach it as “Dad thinks this way, Mom thinks this way” Surely it will not be the only time in their lives they run into Christians disagreeing on the topic. You could emphasize it is not a core issue for faith and model grace toward those whose views differ. Or maybe you could present evolution as what “scientists think” and clarify that Mom and Dad have different opinions about how much we should trust them.

How does your husband feel about the fact that many homeschool science curricula for elementary kids use some secular books that reference evolution as the default understanding? Would he want you to add additional commentary every time it comes up? Or would he think it is okay to just wait until the kids are old enough to articulate their own science/faith questions and deal with them then?


(Phil) #5

The fact that he doesn’t oppose evolution is a good thing, as it means he is not pushing the AIG line with their false dichotomy, which is my biggest concern when dealing with youth. Some people just do not see the issue as a big deal, and that is OK. I think many of us here have a perspective that differs from those who are not scientifically oriented, in that we feel the need to integrate science with our theology, but some simply do not feel that need. My wife is one of them. We are both going to the conference in Houston, so it will be interesting to see what her take on it is, but in her world, she tends to see the science as secondary, and a little irrelevant.
Christy speaks wisely, in that the relationship is more than this issue, and I think that is the bigger priority


(Kathryn Applegate) #6

Hi Ashley,

I’m probably going to get hate mail for this, and it might be surprising that a BioLogos staff member would say this, BUT…I think it’s imperative to put honoring and respecting your husband above teaching your kids about evolution. That doesn’t at all mean you need to think exactly as he does, or that you can’t find ways to teach with integrity, but it does mean striving to not undermine your husband by 1) making passive aggressive / snarky comments about his view, 2) arguing about it in front of others (especially the kids), or 3) teaching the kids things that he has said he specifically doesn’t believe. Please know I’m not assuming you are doing any of the above! Just thinking about behaviors many of us are prone to.

When my husband and I don’t agree about something, I’ve started trying to pray first, rather than present (or ambush with!) facts and arguments. (I am still not very good at this, but am committed to getting better.) I pray for our hearts to be unified, and for God’s will or His truth to become clearer to us. Trusting God to help settle the dispute helps calm my heart. In parallel, could you spend some time praying with each other about this? Simply praising God together for his good work of creation and asking for his help in figuring this out should help ground your discussions in humility and love.

Even if you continue to disagree, it would be ideal if you and he could agree to teach the kids the full range of positions that Christians believe, and, as Christy said, to point out that even within the same family, you have different views. What an amazing opportunity to talk about essentials vs. non-essentials of the faith!

Finally, I’m curious what is underlying the feeling of offense your husband expresses at being the product of evolution. Has he articulated this yet?

Kathryn


(Ashley Lande) #7

You are right, and my marriage is certainly way more precious to me than any disagreement. I definitely feel that compelling need to integrate what I learn scientifically (although I never liked science in school and am much more “big picture”-science oriented than, say, into doing chemistry equations, to which my C- in the subject in high school attested) with what I believe theologically. I feel like the way God chose to create must reveal some essential things about Him; just as I believe His choice to reveal Himself in Jesus Christ is deeply meaningful! It is, at times, hard for me to rest in mystery. I guess it goes back to that whole wanting to be God thing :wink:


(Ashley Lande) #8

Thanks so much, Casper. It was really helpful to read this! My husband does not come from a religiously conservative background (he was raised nominally Mormon), but his family is quite politically and socially conservative and I feel most of them would default to being offended at the idea of “intermediate steps”, as you say, though I guess I shouldn’t automatically assume that. Whenever I try to get to the bottom of the offense with him, he gets angry. Perhaps it is because he feels disrespected or condescended to, though that is not my intent! It’s good advice to tread lightly on the controversy :slight_smile:


(Ashley Lande) #9

Christy, thanks so much for this. I had to think for a moment about your questions. At first, I thought, sure, I’m fine with disagreeing. But when I think more deeply about it, I guess there is indeed more at stake for me (and I can understand why my husband, or any other Christian who refuses the premises of evolution, feels there is more at stake as well). If, as my husband mentioned just yesterday, I finally “see face to face” and it turns out evolution is not true (not sure how this would play out, but I’m just gonna go with it). I said I would have to express my regret for being wrong, I guess. But now that I think of it, it would be much deeper than that… it would perhaps mean that, as I’ve heard YEC’ers suggest, false evidence was purposefully planted in nature in order to “test our faith”. I find that idea totally absurd and inconsistent with who I feel God to be based on Scripture and my own experience of His presence. I would be disappointed, if one can be disappointed in heaven, which I don’t think is possible, but like I said, I’m just gonna go with this hypothetical :slight_smile: I can understand too, however, why some Christians who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture as a 100% literal narrative find the evolution issue to have much at stake for them, as well. I myself have struggled with the idea of inerrancy.

As for the homeschool science curricula, we didn’t get that far in our conversation because it just got too heated. But he has thus far left the selection of curricula up to me and trusted me in that regard.


(Ashley Lande) #10

Lol! No hate mail from me :slight_smile: I actually lean toward your perspective that honoring my husband is tantamount, but I struggle with the idea of not teaching my kids the perspective of theistic evolution at all (though my husband has not explicitly stated at this point that this is his wish), and fear if we homeschool all the way through high school this could severely limit their options for higher education - at this point, my seven-year-old son insists that he wants to be a scientist, specifically a biologist.

I did not have a good model of what respect in a marriage looks like growing up and I have struggled mightily with learning to give my husband the respect he deserves and needs and learning to defer to him. I read some books (including Scripture, of course) that revealed to me just how important respect is to men and that has really opened my eyes, plus I definitely feel God has convicted me on it! Our entire argument began last night because I was laughing about the fact that the “Ice Age” exhibition we had attended at the children’s museum in a nearby city earlier in the day featured signs that warned it contained references to “extended geologic time”. I probably was being snarky about that, and I shouldn’t have been. It became heated very quickly. When I asked what was underlying the feeling of offense (in an earnest, honestly curious way, I felt; but it must have not sounded that way to him), he shut the conversation down.

I am definitely guilty of having been too challenging and aggressive about it in the past. As I mentioned in my comment to Christy, when I really think about it, though the subject is just an interest for me and I enjoy reading books on it and articles here on Biologos, there is indeed more at stake for me theologically. I prayed this morning for clarity, wisdom and insight for both of us and humility for me. We have had other, more minor theological agreements and I have learned to either defer to him or present my view as gently as possible in most cases. I’m still not perfect, for sure. But learning with God’s grace :slight_smile:


(Christy Hemphill) #11

I was thinking some more about this and I think marriage just makes any “debate” infinitely more complicated. At the heart of almost every controversial topic I have duked out with my husband, the heat factor has never been about the facts and arguments, or who is ultimately right or wrong. It always seems to turn into one of us feeling like the other person is being patronizing, or judgmental, or flippant about something that is serious, or a terrible listener, and we end up fighting about how we failed to communicate and who should take responsibility for it. And a lot of times what seemed like fairly neutral ideas about politics or theology were tied in somehow with our self-image or identity or more intimate faith struggles, but it wasn’t like we could totally unpack all that in an argument about something tangential.

I like arguing about stuff; I think it is entertaining and stimulating, and with other people I don’t have much problem keeping it about ideas and not taking things personally. I’m not a very emotional person, but I have learned that I am totally incapable of having purely rational disagreements with my husband, even on topics that I don’t really care that much about. Somehow all of my deepest insecurities and unhealthy defense mechanisms come up when my husband says, “I think you’re wrong,” and forty-five minutes later, I end up crying, and he ends up throwing up his hands and telling me I’m impossible. And even though my husband isn’t all that emotional either, me telling him I think he is wrong certainly triggers emotional stuff for him too. We all want to be loved and accepted and considered wonderful exactly the way we are by our partners, so I think it is always hard to hear that your partner wishes you thought differently on something. Deep down it always feels a little like rejection.

At one point five years ago we were both students and could get free marriage counseling for a year. It was really great, and the counselor encouraged us to intentionally communicate some things more often when we don’t see things the same way: “I like you and accept you the way you are. I am not trying to change you. I just want to understand you better.” Just hearing those things affirmed in the middle of a discussion where we don’t see eye to eye on the ideas we are discussing has been a huge help to us in having less volatile discussions, and feeling like it is okay to walk away from a conversation even if we haven’t managed to get on the same page about everything.


#12

Ashley, I have found the following helpful in at least one couple’s situation. I referred them to Dr. Todd Wood’s blog and various articles, mainly for his comments on how he can be a Young Earth Creationist while emphasizing graciousness towards those who disagree and while demanding honesty when describing what the Theory of Evolution states (and with what scientists have to say about the evidence.) At least with the couple I was advising, they both agreed that Dr. Wood’s approach to origin’s topics was one which they both could respect and find informative. They both seemed very relieved that a congenial approach was possible.

Dr. Wood avoids the false dichotomies and the reliance on angry mantras which one often experiences in origins debates. And when a marriage and children are part of the disagreement, Dr. Wood’s approach seems to encourage a cooperative approach instead of a strict reliance on drawing up “sides” for a war.

I’ve often wished that Dr. Wood’s objectives would be appropriated by more Christians who debate origins topics. I don’t agree with many of Dr. Wood’s origins positions but I have tremendous respect for his pleas that all Christ-followers do their best to be Christ-like even while disagreeing.

He’s an example of Dr. Wood’s views on how we should approach origins topics:

"Let me leave you with another chilling possibility. What if we teach the next generation that there is no evidence for evolution? And what if we’re wrong? What do you think will happen when those kids find out? I think what will happen is the same thing that always happens. They’ll be disillusioned and fall away from the faith. I’ve heard of this happening, and I’ve seen it happen. People find out that all the antievolution arguments in the world won’t survive a semester of basic biology at a secular university. While we thought we were teaching them to believe in Christ, we instead taught them to idolize our arguments about Christ. And when those arguments are shown to be incomplete, inadequate, or just wrong, that idolatry (which we thought was real faith) slips away.

That’s why I want my students to know the truth about evolution. It’s not bogus. It’s not a failure. There’s lots of evidence in its favor. But that just doesn’t make it true. Have faith in the risen Christ, and it will not matter what scientists tell you (or anyone else, for that matter)."

I like the way he points us to keeping priorities in perspective.


Is it dangerous to teach evolutionary theory to children?
(Marius) #14

Brad, I think your stance here is not correct. To require agreement with the BioLogos belief statement as a requisite for a response is not very wise. Are you saying that a homeschool Mom should remain confused as to whether her children should be helped/motivated to study science one day?
Respectfully, Brad, evolution theory and Christianity are not even remotely in conflict with each other. They are clearly two completely different topics altogether - metaphysics/theology and physical science. The one talks to your mind and your heart, the other to your mind only (‘how the physical world works’ is the subject of investigation in physics/biology, while faith in the Triune God is all about the soul - something that can never be dissected, weighed, measured or analysed in a laboratory).
To restrict a conversation between (clearly loving and mutually respecting) husband and wife by insisting on them having only one option: agree, or get out of the kitchen! is not the way to go.
When my own children were in junior primary school (long before the Dawkins Gang turned science into a battle zone against religion), my advice to them was simply: "What is written in your textbooks, i.e. what your teacher is obligated to teach you, is what you will HAVE to explain in examinations later, otherwise you will not be allowed to advance to higher grades or college/university later on.
It is imperative that parents should tell their kids that only once they become as ‘knowledgeable as their teacher/professor’, will they be able to form their own opinions regarding the origin of life and how speciation works.
It is perfectly OK if a husband and wife disagree on such matters, but kids MUST provide the answers (in tests) that CONFIRMS THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT THEY WERE TAUGHT, otherwise they will be failed. That would not mean that their faith in our Triune God somehow falters in the process - that’s nonsense. Parents have an obligation (infinitely more important than knowledge about science) to teach their children from a very young age: The contents of the Bible; who and what it is that Christians believe; why we believe so … etcetera.
Dealing with scientific facts is so far removed from faith in God! - Insisting that kids simply have to “choose one scientific approach or another” is greatly detrimental to their development. In this particular thread, a wife who seems to agree with Darwinian evolution, but her husband is not totally convinced, seems to be steering off on a track of unnecessary and easily avoidable conflict - that is clearly bothering her. But it should not! Her husband has a right to see certain things differently, even when she does not agree with him. Arguing about it (especially in the presence of their children) serves no positive purpose at all. I don’t get the impression that either of them is a qualified scientist, but perhaps I am wrong. She should simply see to it that their children advance at school by teaching them the stuff that they will be tested on.


(Brad Kramer) #15

This part of the Forum is restricted because we don’t want people to come here and feel like they have to answer the same sort of attacks and criticisms that they already deal with. This Forum is supposed to be a place where they dont have to deal with that sort of stuff, and instead can focus on offering information and encouragement to each other. We have the “Open Forum” area for discussions between all perspectives on origins.

Nope, I don’t understand how you are getting that out of this discussion.

I agree. Where did I say something different?

I like most of what you say in the rest of your post. Thanks for contributing your thoughts here!


(Brandon Leonard) #16

This is something I tell people when I tell them I believe in theistice evolution. The idea of evolution doesn’t put Christianity in danger of being invalid or changes you eternal destination. All it show is that you have a different opinion of Genesis and the Origin of life. I’m going to quote Martin Luther " in the essentials unity, in the nonessential liberty, and in all things love." I would talk you your husband and maybe try to compromise. Don’t force either viewpoint upon them and gently introduce both points of views. Let them decided. Hopefully this helps if not sorry.


#17

Hi Ashley, I am a 6 day creationist who had to revise his ideas because of the good arguments made by @Casper_Hesp in his “Light Matters” series (A big HELLO to Casper! and hope all is well). In the end, I was actually able to keep my 6 day beliefs (amazingly) and adopt a very ancient universe…which may very well have included the big bang. Interestingly, I found that life - even on a 4.5 billion-year-old planet such as ours - could have originated with God around 6000 years ago and the apparent disparate dating of life and rock still be reconciled. Just because the rock is old, does not mean that life must be. If I err, I must err on the side of your husband. I like to hold evolution at arms length with this warning from the apostle Paul, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Good luck!


(Casper Hesp) #18

Hi @r_speir,
A big hello to you too, and welcome back to our Forum. All is well and I hope the same goes for you. I am very glad to hear that my blog series Light Matters has been helpful for you in sorting out the topic of science and faith. (For anyone else who’s interested, here’s a direct link.)

If you’ve got any more questions about the biological side of the story, BioLogos has lots of material that goes into that:

Alternatively, feel free to start your own topic on the Forum if you have questions or so :slight_smile: . I wish you all the best as you’re exploring these topics, it’s a wonderful journey!

Casper


(Walter D Huber) #19

You may want to check the book: Can You believe in God and Evolution? by Peters and Hewlett. They make a nice case for issues like you are facing.


(Ashley Lande) #20

Hi everyone! I’m sorry I have been absent from the latter part of this discussion. I’ve read and appreciated every response but got busy with homeschooling and life in general! I wanted to share an interesting development that happened since I originally posted.

We recently (last summer) moved to a small Kansas town and met a wonderful homeschooling Christian couple around our age with several children. They identify most closely with the Pentecostal tradition. We hit it off and began doing ‘home church’ with them every week. A couple months ago, the issue of Genesis and creation was brought up. Our friends are very staunchly YEC and interpret Genesis literally and things got a little tense during our discussion. My husband, though skeptical of evolution, is pretty firm on an old earth and does not interpret Genesis literally. Our friends had trouble reconciling our affirmation that we take the Bible as the holy and inspired word of God (I prefer not to use the word “inerrant” because it generally seems to corresponds to YEC views) and yet do not believe that the creation account is meant to be taken as a scientific account of creation.

Anyway, in the end, I think the experience was fruitful for all of us. Our friends admitted they had never met committed Christians who were willing to even entertain the idea of evolution being compatible with faith, and we, who accepted Jesus Christ at an emergent church in a big city, had never really been close with anyone who considered entertaining evolution to be heretical! We fully reconciled with our friends and are still doing home church with them. We just don’t talk about Genesis anymore… :wink: (As an aside - it has gotten me thinking about just how much you’d have to carefully avoid if you are teaching your children that YEC is the only valid interpretation of Genesis. You can’t read the mag or watch National Geographic programs and there are so many books we check out from the library that are just about animals or whatever that mention ‘extended geologic time’… speaking of, we were at a children’s museum in the nearby larger city a few weeks ago and they had a sign up in front of an exhibit on ice age animals that read “Warning: This exhibit contains references to extended geologic time”. Only in Kansas?! Still, being close friends with someone who only teaches YEC to their kids has also softened me about the idea that one is somehow ‘damaging’ or doing their kids a major disservice by doing so.)

I feel like this pretty much dispelled my husband and I’s differences about evolution, in part because we were of one mind about not agreeing with our friends’ YEC interpretation. I’ve also been trying to surrender the issue to God, and honor and respect my husband per Kathryn’s (and God’s!) advice and that, coupled with discussing the issue with our friends, has (I think) softened his defenses about it. I’ve realized it’s not paramount that I impose all this on my children immediately. One wonderful thing about homeschooling is that it routinely prompts me to re-evaluate my idea of what an education is and what is really important to learn and know. In this, as in all other areas of my life, God is continually drawing me into deeper trust in Him. I routinely pray for wisdom to shepherd and teach them in the way he needs me to in order to equip them for the work / role he has for them in the body of Christ.

I am so grateful for this forum and how helpful everyone is! Thank you!


(Christy Hemphill) #21

I learned yesterday that in Alabama public schools, by law biology textbooks have to have a sticker in the book that says evolution is a controversial theory, not a fact. Public school teachers were not even required to teach evolution in biology class until they wrote it into the state standards in 2015. I’m such a Northerner because that is almost incomprehensible to me. The professor who was giving the presentation about teaching evolution in the South was on some advisory council to the Smithsonian. They had a bunch of Christians review their human origins exhibit to try to make it the least offensive possible to Southerners (and other religious people).