How I'm Changing my Mind about Evolution: The Journey so Far*

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.

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I love this, and this is also something that has surprised me in my own journey – how much I was able to love science (despite how little I understand) once I stopped using it as a tool to theologically bludgeon others with.

Right there with ya. Thanks for sharing your story with us. :slight_smile:

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Beautiful story. I was reminded this Sunday as our Sunday school class is reading through Genesis, that some have not really examined their faith as it relates to different interpretations of origins, and for some, the type of deep examination you went through is perhaps not appropriate until they are ready and desire to do so. Certainly I felt it not the time to press the issue but only commented as to how some have found deep meaning in the text looking at it in ways other than as a historical account. That is easy to do as the other ways of looking at Genesis really do not address age of the earth and evolution, but just leave it as compatible with those ideas.
In any case, your story is a good example of how we need to approach one another with grace and humility. Thanks for sharing.

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I look forward to hearing more from you. I very much admire your path and am very glad you are choosing to share it. Best of luck in all things, though with a wife like yours you may have already exceeded the usual allotment.

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Welcome Liam! What a compelling story. God has given a real gift of writing, and I am glad to see you using that gift to bless the church.

Chris

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I keep some giant cockroaches in my house here in Southern Mexico. They’re free range though. :wink:

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Thanks @LM77 for sharing your story with us. It is always encouraging to hear that our work has had some positive results!

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@LM77 Welcome, Liam! I love that you love bugs and spiders (every night I tell my kids adventure stories about a girl named Dottie and a spider named Swoopy); that you’re a Calvinist (good to have others to bolster my defenses against my co-editor and boss @jstump, my favorite Arminian adversary :wink:); and that the HICMMAE book was helpful to you. So grateful you took the time to write. We look forward to more discussions here soon!

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Therein, more than anything else, I think, lies that which makes us deserve the title “image of God.” Unlike any other species on the planet we can learn to see the value in and love everything of God’s creation. Science extends our sight to enable us to see so much more of what God has brought into being. How can it not enhance our relationship with the creator? And only by extending our awareness and power over things in this way, can we really be stewards over His creation.

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So many kind responses! Thank you everyone for the welcome and support. I’m looking forward to being part of the discussion here on the forum.

I think an approach like that is both wise and humble. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit for a reason. The patient person trusts God to change a person’s mind in the correct way at the correct time (whether they are part of that process or not).

Yes, this was a watershed moment for me. Once I realised that it became much easier to ingrate what I had learnt about the age of the universe without feeling like I was being forced to choose between the bible, compromise, or science. Once I was settled on the relationship between Genesis and a very old earth, I had a firmer foundation to approach alternative theories on the origins of life.

Thank you, and yes, I think you might be right there! I often wonder, “How did a guy like me end up with a women like her!”

Brilliant. Have you considered publishing them? My boys are as equally bug mad as I am, so that’s three potential customers!

Glad I can be of assistance, @Kathryn_Applegate, though there really is no need to worry. Our victory has already been predestined! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: Seriously though, for a time I was very unsure on the correct way forward. As you know, those who consider themselves reformed (to whatever degree) taught to be wary of anything that appears to be theological novelty. Reading the BioLogos article on John Stott, Tremper Longman’s entry in HICMMAE, and the paper by Tim Keller has been extremely helpful in seeing EC was not an example of such novelty. Serious names considered EC to be a serious theological option.

In fact, along these line, may I gently suggest a couple of additions to the common questions section of the BioLogos website? Two to be precise:

  1. Does holding to sola scriptura require a YEC reading of Genesis 1-11?*
  2. Is evolutionary creationism compatible with reformed theology?
  • I do envision the scope of this question would be different from the existing question concerning inerrancy since it would deal primarily with what the Reformers (and confessions) teach concerning Scripture, its contents, and goal.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

I’m sure you measure up just fine in your missus’ eyes. Guess you’ll just have to trust her judgement.

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Liam,

Thanks so much for sharing your story. I think you will find that there are many people here with stories similar to yours (including me). I hope that being here and sharing ideas and trying to work out your understanding will be encouraging to you. I’ve been on my “journey” for ten years or so, and there’s still a lot I don’t have figured out. And that’s okay. Our God is bigger yet.

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Welcome @LM77. You might like @DeborahHaarsma and @LorenHaarsma 's work from a Reformed perspective.
https://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/origins/origins-hh.htm

It has been republished in a more ecumenical form below, but Deb Haarsma, the director of Biologos, and her husband are associated with Calvin College in Grand Rapids (very Calvinist). https://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/150653/origins.aspx

I have both their book and short video series, which is very accessible to the lay person, I think.

I am not Calvinist, (more like @jstump), but enjoy reading the perspectives. Blessings.

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I certainly don’t think so.

But then perhaps this requires a closer examination of what sola scriptura means to me, which certainly does not buy into the nonsensical rhetoric that the Bible interprets itself. I understand sola scriptura to mean that the Bible is the sole authority put into the hands of men regarding Christian belief and the content of God’s message to mankind in Christianity. What it certainly does not mean is that Bible is the sole source of truth or the only communication of truth from God to Christians.

So for example, what shall we say of the doctrine of the Trinity which is not in the Bible in any way shape or form. This is rather difficult since this is the defining belief of the Christian religion distinguishing it from other religions like Islam. Does this mean this doctrine rests on another authority for Christian belief in either a church organization or tradition? This is what sola scriptura denies. The doctrine of the Trinity is not a matter of God given authority over Christian believe but the authority of consensus on the meaning of words, in this case the meaning of the word “Christianity.”

Christians certainly believe that the doctrine of the Trinity reflects the best understanding of God which is consistent with all of scripture, and that alternatives like Unitarianism and Arianism run into conflicts with scripture. And so they could make the argument that it is indirectly contained in the Bible. But that is definitely a matter of interpretation.

In any case, I certainly do not support an understanding of “sola scriptura” that requires Christians to use a literalism condemned by Jesus in Matthew 13 in order to ignore all the information that God sends us from the earth and sky, as well as altering the text of the Bible to force it to fit such an interpretation as well, which is what YEC requires.

Not a question for me since I don’t even see how Christianity is compatible with reformed theology… at least not as I understand it.

A fellow Brit, and Calvinist here! Welcome, brother :+1:

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On the first question no it doesn’t. The Bible is silent on the scientific view of creation and it only states that God made the universe for His glory and good pleasure. So I see no conflict with believing with evolutionary creation and sola scriptura.
On the next one I feel I’m unable to fully answer since I am more of Wesleyan-Methodist theology and not Reformed. But I would see no conflict with it as it present no conflict with my Wesleyan theology.

One thing I would not say is that it is not in the Bible in any way, shape or form. :slight_smile:

It is true that the way it is articulated in the Apostle’s Creed is not directly quoted from some passage of Scripture. However, there is good support in the Bible for carefully make inferences from a multitude of passages and arriving at the doctrine. This enterprise is much like the method used by paleontologists and biologists, who carefully make inferences from a multitude of genomic and fossil data to arrive at the theory of evolution. In my opinion. For whatever that’s worth. :slight_smile:

Chris

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That is another creed never agreed to by an ecumenical council. But even the more conservative form agreed to in the Nicean council, the doctrine is still not in the Bible.

Yep. That is what I said. Or at least, that is the opinion of Christians including myself – that the rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity seems to requires some degree of dismissal of some passages or other in the Biblical canon. The passage which tipped the scales for me was Phil 2:6. Passages like John 1:3 and Col 1:16 which attribute the creation of the world to Jesus can be taken as metaphorical, and by using the word “logos” John 1 opens itself up to metaphorical understandings also.

But I love the fact that the Christianity defining doctrine of the Trinity is not actually in the Bible for it puts a rather big cork in the mouth of Xtians going on and on about this or that not being in the Bible. All truth is not in the Bible – not even close. So the most I will grant “sola scriptura” is that the Bible is the sole authority that God has given into the hands of men for what Christianty consists of. That is something I can support wholeheartedly particularly in contrast to the idea of God putting authority in sinful human beings, usually to support some delusion that they can speak for God. AND notice this is not the same thing as saying that God does not use the mouths of people even children (maybe even especially children) to speak to us. This is particularly noticeable when the message from God we receive from the mouths of others is not always what they were actually intending to say to us.

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Thank you for the welcome, @Randy, and for the book recommendation. I’ll add it to the reading list! Great to hear that they are of the Calvinist perspective too.

That’s OK. I am not Arminian, but enjoy reading/listening to their perspectives. There are many great thinkers in that category: CS Lewis, AW Tozer, William Lane Craig, Alistair McGrath, to name a few. In fact, from my UK perspective, I would argue that Arminians have the market cornered on apologetics at the moment. In that sense, Calvinist have some catching up to do, perhaps.:slight_smile:

Yes, this is more or less what Sola Scripture means. In essence, it deals with the authority of the bible more than its content, specifically where a Christian should seek a final appeal in doctrinal disputes. In that sense, it is closely related to the sufficiency of scripture. To claim that the bible is the only source of knowledge we need or the ultimate authority on ever matter is to go beyond the doctrine and stray into biblicism (See rent post here for more on that.). Sadly, that is not how it is always explained.

Thank @Diplodocus! Also bonus points for an awesome username! Where in the Uk are you from?

Oh, I totally agree. A robust process of developing theology has a lot in common with the scientific method. In many ways, exegesis is the scientific method applied to the bible since it seeks to 1. gather evidence, 2. draw conclusions from that evidence and/or uses it to test a hypothesis.

A final point on the two questions I suggested to @Kathryn_Applegate.

First, thank you to everyone who has had a stab at them. I’ve enjoyed reading your answers.

Second, these are questions which I have had to (and now have) answered myself. That process was eased by having a large digital library and a powerful piece of bible study software to mine said library. I say that not to brag, but to point out that many do not have that luxury. What I am saying is that given the number of reformed folk at Biologos perhaps BioLogos could play to that strength by adding a couple of reformed flavoured entries to the common questions section. That would let any from this perspective know straight away that EC is a serious option for those of a reformed background. As I say, just a thought. :upside_down_face:

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I know some things are changing, but it seems to me that many Reformed scholars work in environments that are not always that encouraging when it comes to mulling these things over. OT scholar Bruce Walke was forced to resign from Reformed Theological Seminary over a video he made for BioLogos. Former BioLogos Fellow Peter Enns lost his job at Westminster Theological Seminary over the things he said in Inspiration and Incarnation. Reformed Pastor Tim Keller has taken a lot of heat in some circles for things he has written about being open to the idea of evolution. If you know of any Reformed Bible scholars who are dying to write for BioLogos, you should put them in contact with Jim. :slight_smile:

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