This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/brad-kramer-the-evolving-evangelical/faith-at-the-fork-in-the-road
Thanks again to Greg (@gcarlet) for sharing his story. As a reminder, comments on stories should refrain from negative critiques. Instead, this space is for notes of encouragement, or clarifying questions.
@gcarlet, thank you for this! Your story is similar to my own, so I appreciate the perspective that you bring. It helps me verbalize my own experience in a way that is more “friendly.” I had found in the past that my reaction to my judgmental upbringing was equally judgmental! Ha! Why are we like that?? Like you, I have worked hard to redefine my faith in a way that authentically reflects a new spirit, not just new facts. I feel as though we are “pressing into God” together, and I thank you!
Thanks, Doug, for the encouragement. I am still on this journey of learning. I definitely have not arrived. I have found that almost always things go back to treating others the way you would want to be treated, as simple as that may sound. So, even with this subject, as passionate as I am for it, I value the relationship over being “right”. That’s the other thing, too. Most of the time I would not even have a conversation about this subject or bring it up, at least not on a deep level, without already having an established relationship with the other person.
Again, thank you for the encouragement.
Thanks for sharing your story.
I’m curious how this journey has affected you as a parent. One of the reasons I researched evolutionary creationism in the first place was because I realized the young earth stuff I was taught as a child was not tenable, but I had no idea how to do anything differently than what my parents did.
I think people who did not grow up in circles where YEC equaled the Bible equaled THE Christian perspective underestimate how the negative psychological associations with evolution linger even when you’ve changed your mind about it being a lie from the devil. When I was standing in the Ross Perot Museum looking through the Life Then and Now hall with my awed and fascinated children, I still had a reaction of feeling kind of icky about it, and I secretly hoped that they would never mention the experience to our (more conservative) friends and family. I don’t want to be “caught” teaching my kids that evolution is perfectly acceptable, even though that is exactly what I do.
Thanks for your comments and question. I appreciate you taking the time to write out your thoughts.
Full disclosure upfront, I definitely do not have this all figured out. I am still learning how to navigate these waters myself. Also, I can relate when you talk about those thoughts and feelings that linger from believing a certain way for so long. I do not shy away from my beliefs about creation, but at the same time, I do not make this the point of every conversation, nor do I correct people when I hear them bash evolution, unless they are specifically asking me what I believe. I have taken the stance of having these conversations through relationships, always basing it on love and friendship, not on being right or making the other person change their mind. This is an “open-handed” issue, and not worth losing friendships over.
As far as how this paradigm shift has affected me as a parent, one thing I do that is more general is just share my excitement for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) with my children, and not shy away from any truths that those fields have discovered.
More specifically, though, I have done a few practical things. One of the first things I did after discovering BioLogos was go to their K-12 Educators page (https://biologos.org/resources/educators/). Towards the bottom of that page there is a section called Books for Young Children. I ordered every book listed there, as I have four children ages 2-11. Those books have been helpful when we sit down to read books together. Another thing I have done is shown them age-appropriate YouTube videos of various science topics, and then have discussions with them about what was said, how I believe the Big Bang is how the Universe started, that God started it, how He has used evolution to shape and form His creation, etc.
The hardest thing that I have encountered are their questions about Adam and Eve, the Garden, etc. My explanation of this to them is evolving (pun intended). In a nutshell, I basically talk about stories, and how stories sometimes have deeper meanings that convey truths, like Jesus’ parables.
One last thing. I actually just recently discovered Loren and Deborah Haarsma’s Origins website. That has further helped me with explaining some of these things to my children. I highly recommend watching the six sessions they have provided. Check them out here: http://origins.faithaliveresources.org/#watch_online
Thanks again for your question.
Thanks for your thoughts. I have also milked the BioLogos website for all it’s worth over the past few years and have a house littered with science books for kids.
Another helpful resource for me has been the newsletters that John Mays (the author of the Novare textbook series) sends out. In addition to brief articles on faith/science issues, they often point you in the direction of other really helpful websites and other material.
Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll check it out.
I am at just such a fork in the road. It’s not about the creation/ evolution debate. I worked through that some decades ago. It’s more that I’ve read very widely and realised that the atheistic model of the world could be right and my Bible may not hold the truth I thought it did. I’ve always been told that you should hold onto biblical facts in times of spiritual uncertainty but when you don’t have any confidence in those ‘facts’, is there anything left?
I look down the road of unbelief and find it bleak and uninviting. I look down the road of belief and it seems to ask me to perform mental gymnastics beyond my capability.
I have put off making a decision as long as I can but can’t stay at the fork of the road forever. It is a place of inner turmoil so I will have to move on. I have read a lot of articles on Biologos and listened to many wise people but I still find the choice almost impossible. If you have anything helpful to say, I’m listening…
I’ve been in a similar circumstance before, when I didn’t know what I believed anymore and I wasn’t sure what to put my confidence in. I still have moments like that.
I think what keeps me going is how beautiful Christ is. To me, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the most profoundly and achingly beautiful thing I have ever heard. I think, for all humans, our religion is what we find most beautiful (not just logical). I find Christ’s love to be that thing. That experience of profound beauty in the story of Christ, as well as the witness of my heart and of countless lives changed by Christ, is what keeps me in the faith. But do I often have deep and painful doubts? Absolutely. But to ignore those doubts, for me, is to have a shallow faith, and I refuse that option. Faith is really, really hard.
We will be praying for you at BioLogos. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to talk more.
Perhaps you could find a way off that fork in the road by STARTING with the simpler ideas…
and working your way to the more complex.
You could start with the first point: a God of magnificence.
Then you could ask yourself questions:
a) Do my senses tell me that God is about all the things that happen in the Universe without natural law and imperative ?
Or do my senses tell me that God is ALL ABOUT the natural law and natural imperative of the forces around me?
b) Do my senses tell me that God is about very long cycles of the cosmos? Or about short cycles of the earth, just 5000 years ago?
c) Do my senses tell me that God wants a way to commune with his creations? his moral creations? his spiritual children?
d) Does science stand in the way of that … or is it part of the furnishings of the Universe designed to help me find and commune with God?
Naturally, these questions are just ones I put together in an attempt to understand the quandary of someone in your position. But
you can probably design much better questions - - questions that help you sort through your priorities and values.
I think in the end, it’s much less important which fork you take - - and much more important that you are happy with the fork you take.
Thank you. That’s worth a try.
That sounds like a tough place to be.
Our understanding of facts, our interpretation of various Bible passages, our confidence in our most familiar belief system’s ability to tie up all the loose ends and make sense of it all, those are all things that flex and change. Sometimes I think it helps to remind ourselves that we aren’t asked to put our faith in facts, or in a belief system, or even in the Bible, we’re asked to put our faith in a Person.
When Jesus and his love starts to feel surreal and imaginary, I have found it helpful to get out and do something with people for whom his love is a more immediate and transforming reality. After all, our faith is something we live out in community, and it’s meant to be embodied, not just a bunch of truths and propositions we assent to. We need other people around us to be Christ to us and to make his love real to us when our own spiritual resources are low. And sometimes it has helped me most when those people embodying Christ for me were pretty far removed from whatever deep philosophical or theological questions were gnawing at the corners of my mind. I feel like Christ has showed up for me most unmistakably during volunteer work I did with a Catholic run prayer group for juvenile offenders at a prison (I’m not Catholic and I’ve always been a goody-two-shoes), at a women’s group I joined for a season that was mostly urban African-American women with totally different life experience than mine, and teaching ESL to immigrants. Most of the “answers” that have turned out to be the most meaningful to me have come to me when I put all the books and discussions aside and instead tried to focus on the things Christ asked us to do; I found them when I was loving, and serving, and peace-making, and generally trying to get beyond myself.
I don’t know if any of that is helpful or relevant to you, but I hope you find some encouragement soon. I take heart in the verse in Isaiah 43:2, where we are told that God doesn’t break the bruised reeds, or snuff out the smoldering candles. I take that to mean that no matter how beat up our convictions are, or how weakly we are hanging on to our last shred of belief, God looks on us with compassion and mercy and wants to bring us to a place of strength and vitality again. I will pray that for you.
I’m sure you will find a way forward in your faith journey. Remember that no religion should require you to believe something that just is not true.
Have you read The Language of God by Francis Collins? If not, I highly recommend it. It, as well as The Reason for God by Tim Keller, and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, were all helpful in me working through those thoughts and feelings.
I have been where you are (I think), and honestly feel as though sometimes I am still there. The only prayer I find myself praying is “Help my unbelief.” I really don’t know what else to pray.
I do agree with what everyone else is saying too. In these times of doubt, it is very helpful to surround yourself with a community of believers who are chasing after God, but are on different stages of that journey. I just recently joined with a new group a couple of month ago to help with this process. I don’t know if any of them believe in evolution or not, but when we meet together, that is not what is most important to me. It is about seeking God, and discovering deeper levels of love, knowledge, and truth.
Thanks for being open and honest about where you are. I really appreciate everyone who has commented. It is comforting to know I am not the only one who struggles with these things.
Thank you for the time and thought you have put into that response. I am still involved with volunteering with young people at a church, but have drawn back a little through feeling a bit of a fraud. Maybe I need to just get on with it again.
Thank you for your suggestions and your original article that made it possible for me to say what I did. Some interesting thoughts here too .
I have only read the C S Lewis out of the books you mentioned. I have books queued up to read at the moment but will definitely add the others to my list.
I too wish you well in your life. I wish you well as you continue to use your own reasoning to figure things out for yourself.
Thank you for your encouragement Patrick. I am reading widely, questioning and listening to people from a wide range of backgrounds. I will indeed make my own mind up in the end. Otherwise I will only end up back at the same place later on.
I appreciate your kindness.
Yes, this is a very nice and helpful group here. You will learn a lot from them. But as in all forums some views are deemed “more proper” than other views. I come from the camp that believes that you can have a wonderful life filled with purpose and meaning by seeking out truth and by using science and reason to find it and to live an moral and ethical life. Remember Louie Armstrong singing “What a wonderful world”.