How do you talk to friends at church about science and evolution?

Greetings, I just signed up for the BioLogos forum and this is my first post. I think this topic of education of young people is crucial. So - Thank you for all that you are doing! I suspect that many youth are taught in church that “evolution” (which can mean so many different things) is incompatible with a Biblical world view, and then they go on to discover compelling arguments that evolution is a reality - unnecessarily demolishing their faith. As a scientifically oriented follower of Jesus who attends a Biblically conservative church, I would love to hear thoughts on respectfully addressing this with my friends at church. I see the whole issue as comparable to when Galileo discussed what orbits what, with further reflection concluding that, in that case, the Bible and science were not actually in conflict after all.

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Welcome to the forum, Don. Many of us live in similar settings, and I think it may be helpful to make this its own post to avoid it being buried here. Thanks for posting!

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Personally, I seldom bring it up in the interest of unity, and also as I feel it is a secondary issue in church, but when it does come up will usually say something like, 'I have a somewhat different view, then proceed to explain my position and how it intersects faith and science. I may bring up issues I have had myself, and ask questions of others as to how they handle some of the conflicts in YECism that I find difficult. Usually, most have enough cognitive dissonance that they really are not interested in discussing it much, which is unfortunate, as I enjoy those types of discussions.

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I amicably left the church about 25 years ago, and I have always respected both the congregation and the leadership within that church. The pastors I interacted with were always understanding and kind. I don’t know what your situation is like, but a private discussion with your pastor might be worth pursuing.

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In the UK science and evolution (and socialism) are assumed by educated church members. They are virtually never discussed. Apart from the socialism. In an Anglican (Episcopalian) village church men’s group nearly 10 years ago a friend reacted negatively to another, a high school science teacher mentioning evolution positively in passing for some reason, the latter came back with an even more dismissive response and I was compelled to say that he shouldn’t. Even though I completely agreed with him. It was bad form. And that was that.

The far more important problem is that it is virtually impossible to challenge damnationism, although we could in our small group and people loved it. I never talk theology in the three churches I’m now associated with. It’s even difficult in my very liberal, all old white male, woke theology group! But there I will float - not push - the boat out. I work with Anglicans including very full on charismatics and creationists and other literalists, and Baptists, and swim in their shoals accordingly, to the extent I’m asked to pray and [express] what I think in group sessions and do - ecumenically. I’ve only ever pushed back at fellow lay Islamophobia and homophobia. Otherwise people can assume what they like about what I believe.

I see that you, Don, don’t have that luxury. I can’t see how you can address it in your congregation in any way. You’d be a white crow. I doubt your pastor is more liberal than his congregation, there’d be no point going there. One just has to bear it stoically. And find a way to fit in.

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Emphasis on might. I visited a church once and met with the pastor once, and only once. That was because I soon discovered that he was a KJV onlyist and it became quickly apparent that anything that deviated from his cookbook Christianity and his personal points of emphasis was anathema. A private discussion might be worth pursuing, but don’t necessarily count on more than one such.

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@DonWhite44 – You might ask if they believe that God is sovereign and if he intervenes providentially in his children’s lives, and build from there if you can. (That’s what I did successfully with my pastor, although there are congregants that I certainly would not broach it with!)

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I have a good relationship with our pastor, so this is a good start. Thanks!
Don

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I usually try to tell people that science and religion are not at war with each-other.
Science is us asking HOW.
Science ultimately reveals the glory of God.

So with that in mind you want to try to be a middle ground between someone who says that the Earth was created in 6 days and someone else who says that we came from nothing and we’ve evolved with a neocortex which is able to process and reason reality like nothing (so far ) in the universe.

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One thing I have found, at least at my church, is how few people really worry about it. I think a few die hard YEC folks do, but most people either just give YEC lip service or are old Earthers of one sort of the other, mostly ID or progressive creationists like Hugh Ross. ( I almost wrote Bob Ross, and maybe that would have worked, too: “Let’s put a pretty little tree over here…”). I suspect very few are actually EC, but know a few. My pastor has shared that he considers all those positions compatible with Christian faith, so we are good. Interestingly, he never really commits to what he thinks. Pastors are in a difficult spot on all these side issues, especially today, although CRT and sexual topics seem to be more problematic than evolution, interestingly enough.

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I think this largely depends on denominational waters one swims in. I know many educated church members (Masters, PhDs, etc.) who are staunchly anti-evolution.

Edit: socialism and evolution are interchangeable in the above.

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I wonder if you see support for greater socialism as clearly part of Jesus’ message as conveyed in the Bible, as I believe @Klax does? I’m surprised it is so rarely openly embraced by more denominations in the US.

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In my experience, the word socialism is heavily loaded with the connotation of forced socialism. Christian ‘socialism’ so-called is based on loving sharing within the family and the needy without. So anyone who preaches socialism or points a finger really should find another word. And then there are the health and wealth, grab it and bag it Christians. :roll_eyes:

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The two most important things that I have to say to my friends at church who want to discuss science and faith are as follows:

1. Make sure that your facts are straight. It isn’t evolution itself that causes young Christians to question their faith, but finding out that what their churches had been teaching them about it was simply not true. Pastors, teachers and youth leaders in the church are in a position of trust, and teaching falsehood and misinformation about any subject is a breach of that trust, especially if the things they are teaching are easily falsified or well within their competence to fact-check. For this reason, I make the point that any challenge to the theory of evolution or the age of the earth needs to consist of honest reporting and honest interpretation of accurate information.

2. Be careful not to undermine basic scientific literacy. Science is not just “knowledge” as Answers in Genesis claims. It is a set of key skills and disciplines that are essential in order to function properly in the modern workplace and in modern society – such as mathematics, critical thinking and so on. There are rules that we have to follow and standards that we have to maintain, and failure to abide by the rules could end up doing a lot of damage. Consequently, anyone who attacks science as something “secular” that is not to be trusted, or accuses scientifically literate Christians of “having more faith in science than in God,” or demands a lowering of standards in order to accommodate their claims, is undermining the ability of Christians in science-based careers to do their jobs properly. In some cases, they could even be putting people’s lives in danger as a result.

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Maybe 6 years ago my husband and I contacted our pastors about the AIG Sunday school curriculum that had been adopted. (To be clear, these are men we love and respect.) The ed pastor met with us. We were welcome to monitor the material and were even given a teacher’s manual, or bring our daughters to our Sunday school class. The curriculum would not be changed.

At the time, we were more focused on the accuracy of the “science” claims of AIG. Since then I’ve become even more familiar with what they are teaching and how it distorts the Gospel. That is where I would start today. Faith in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as efficacious for my salvation should never be tied or otherwise attached to anything else. We condemn Rome for doing that, but fail to look at how one of our most foundational doctrines has shifted a hair.

That being said, I’m careful (not always enough) about talking about this. We live in an area where the assumptions that go with basic science literacy and critical thinking are seen as “liberal.”

In December we left our former church. We are strongly considering talking to the pastors where we’ve been visiting about the kinds of questions one asks before starting the membership process. The relationship between YEC and the Gospel will be an essential area for us.

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I’m certainly part of a much more leftward leaning generation of Evanglicals - some have coined neo-evangelicals. And I am supportive of many socialistic efforts here in the UK. Whilst I mean no offensive in this, I am robustly resistant to the efforts of our current government in trying to make the U.K. more like the USA.

Regards socialism and Jesus, as with all terms, the devil is in the detail. What does one mean by socialism, would be first question I would ask. Some might call it, idealistic, but I would argue that Jesus is neither capitalist or socialist, liberal or conservative, right or left. The Bible vision of the Kingdom of God is of a New Creation that transcends our current categories and policial pigeon holes. So it’s King, and so will it’s citizens.

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(Would you send me a PM so I can reply to it, please?)

Perish the thought! :woozy_face:

In my experience, socialism is widely accepted in American congregations. Ask the seniors in a church congregation if they want to get rid of Medicare and Social Security. I’m guessing the vast majority would not want to get rid of those socialist programs.

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None taken. I think we’ve become the poster child for how not to find common cause culturally and for how not to run a country.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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