I’m fairly new around these parts, so I thought a proper introduction might be in order. *This post is in honour of the book ‘How I changed My Mind about Evolution’, which helped me tremendously over the last three months.
I’ve been somewhere like this once before; I recognise the weather and the landmarks. To understand, where I am right now, it will be useful to rewind the clock for 13 years.
I was saved into a British church that with a strong YEC background at the age of 17 (I’m now 30). I remember 18-year-old me being captivated hearing Ken Ham speak at a conference in London on the dangers of evolution, a pseudo-science which was undermining the bible, gospel, and the witness of the church. I eagerly consumed Ken Ham’s Evolution: The Lie in the weeks to follow. Ken taught me that a literal reading of Gen 1-11 was a hill the church needed to die on and, metaphorically speaking, I was ready to die. Even now I look back, dismayed at the blazing rows I had with non-christian friends over the truth or falsity of evolution. Ken had succeeded in making YEC a superpower on my map of beliefs.
This remained unchanged at the age of 19 when sensing God’s clear call to employed church ministry. Throughout my undergraduate studies in Theology, these views remained unchanged. However, three things of significance happened. 1. I became a convinced Calvinist and was introduced to systematic and historical theology in the Reformed Tradition 2. The Holy Spirit convicted me of my pride and arrogance, this put an end to blazing rows (for the most part). 3. I married a fellow student who had she not decided to study theology, was going to study either astrophysics or medicine. To this day she remains the most intelligent person I know.
Then about 6 years ago (aged 24) I started to get into amateur entomology as a hobby, particularly keeping insects and spiders and observing their behaviour (I’ve kept ants, beetles, various native spiders, giant cockroaches, Amblypygids, millipedes, water beetles, I even raised a dragonfly in a fish tank once). From a tiny chrysalis a mighty Atlas Moth’s emerged, the hobby blossomed into a passion for entomology and insect/arachnid behaviour. I began to read books like McGavin’s Essential Entomology and Rainer’s Biology of Spiders, among others. It was through books like these I was introduced to ‘the other side’ of the argument. I learnt about terms like natural selection, homologous origins, and common descent. More importantly, I saw how their arguments were infested with evidence. What’s more, I began to see this evidence played out every day as I watched and examined the various specimens I was keeping. More I read, the more I say, the more I saw the more YEC counter-argument seemed like special pleading.
Around this time wife began to help to understand physic (a subject which had illuded me throughout formal education) and particularly theories around relativity, light-speed, and time. She encouraged me to read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. I devoured it and we spent many an evening talking through the implications - she was very patient, the archetype teacher. Although Hawking’s conclusion about the age of the universe made me uncomfortable, I was able (forced myself?) to look beyond them. From here a love for all things physics and ‘outer space’ developed. Much like my love of entomology, I discovered in it a window on wonder, an angle through which to worship my God. I hadn’t yet realised how many scientific conclusion about the nature of the universe and are tied to the origin of the universe.
Lastly, a few years ago I discovered the Literary Framework view of the Genesis (A third way I had no idea existed). As a result, these three areas of my life crashed together into a growing sense of cognitive dissonance between what I’d be taught and believed, and what I was seeing in my hobby, reading about Genesis, and discovering about the universe. In early June it all got too much, I HAD to do something about it. I asked for book recommendations over on a bible software forum. Of the many recommendations I started with two: How I Changed My Mind About Evolution, a wonderfully encouraging book which this post is named in honour; and John Walton’s The Lost World of Adam and Eve. If the first book was a balm that soothed my conflicted mind; Walton’s was a like a tornado through the trailer park of my thinking, especially around the meaning of the word ‘good’ in Genesis 1. I was opened up to a world of ANE literature and way of viewing reality that I never knew existed, and I was painfully made aware of how I had been reading post-enlightenment ideas back into the text without even knowing it.
That was June, three months later, where am I? With much prayerful and thoughtful reflection I’m managing to start integrating what I see in the book of God’s works with the book of his word. I’m 99.9% convinced that the universe began through a ‘big bang’ 14 billion years ago. Following that, by means of his providence and sovereign will, God gracious directed and sustained this universe to bring about the formation of Earth. This he did for his own good pleasure and glory. With the help of resources like Biologos, this forum, and more recently, Ernest Mayr’s What Evolution is, I’d say I’m also 80% certain that evolution is the providential mechanism that God used to seed and develop life on earth and that there is no contradiction here with what scripture teaches about human origins. Perhaps the best way to explain what I mean by ‘providential mechanism’ is with an example, Matthew 5:45 says, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” We know that the sun rises because of the earth’s orbit around it, and the rain falls because of the water cycle. Does this invalidate the teaching of the text? No, the earth orbit and the water cycle are the providential mechanisms (tools, for want of better) God uses to reveal his goodness to both the righteous and the unrighteous. Currently, I am reading through Ernest Mayr’s What Evolution is which has been helpful in getting to grips with this complex beast called evolution - I heartily recommend it.
This journey has not been easy. As I alluded at the start, in many ways this process is something I have experienced before when I become convinced of the sovereignty of God in salvation and the uncomfortable and painful reworking of my map of beliefs that followed. It has certainly been a growing experience as I wrestled with doubts, questions, and quest for answers. I’m not done yet, there is still a lot of thinking and work to do, particularly with regards to Genesis 1-11. Wherever it takes me, one thing is certain, I am much more gracious and willing to listen to the theological views of others when it comes to non-existential beliefs and interpretations. As Rupertus Meldenius once said, “In essentials, unity, in opinions, liberty, in all things, love”, this is very much my prayer now.
I wrap up this account with the hope that it will be encouraging to others, especially those of a similar Christian tradition to myself who find themselves in similar place with similar landmarks. You don’t have to choose between Christianity and Science. There is a way forward.