You’re not alone! And welcome to Kansas! Thanks for your testimony – a good balance of relationship and respect for truth.
I just added another homemade poster to my classroom wall timeline; this one featuring St. Augustine. There are a few students in at least one Christian school (and I hope not the only one!) in Kansas who I hope are being challenged to engage the evidence at a higher level. I’ll paste what I wrote below.
Augustine converted to the Christian faith as an adult and consequently exerted more influence in its spread and development than perhaps anyone since Paul. In fact, it was Augustine that heavily influenced how we now read and understand Paul. He was venerated by Catholics and respected by Protestants too and with very good reason: Augustine brought faith together with logic and reason, bringing Greek thought to bear on Christianity. Much of Plato’s philosophy about body and soul, the earthly and the heavenly would later become tightly intertwined with western Christian thought itself. For better or worse, we have Augustine to thank for this marriage of Hebrew and Hellenistic (Greek) philosophy.
Augustine also insisted on reading scriptures literally. But this may not mean what some today think it means. What he meant by this was that one should try to discern the intended teaching of the author. So, for example, in his commentary on Genesis 1, Augustine maintained that the intent of the author was not to tell us God would need six whole days to create everything (Augustine believed God actually must have done it in an instant!) but that the literal intent here is metaphorical, to teach us about the different dimensions of being. So, long before any influence of modern science, church fathers (Augustine wasn’t the only one) were discerning literal teachings in Scriptures that go deeper than what some today have taught themselves to see as a “plain reading.” In fact, almost as if he was anticipating the coming Copernican revolution and Galileo debacle, Augustine wrote this in his “The Literal Meaning of Genesis”:
If they [non-believers] find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?
This sentiment would find later echoes from John Calvin, and perhaps even in controversies surrounding science and faith today. One should not think for a moment that Augustine was skeptical about miracles – he wasn’t. He was a champion of experience and reason helping to illuminate our understandings of Scripture which cannot, after all, teach falsehood. This would also anticipate the later “two books” metaphor – see Francis Bacon. Do you think modern issues over deep time or evolutionary origins would change Augustine’s mindset if he were around today? Why, or why not?