Yes, that question implies a very simplistic view of the origins debate. Yet, I wonder how often we focus on lists of evidence without recognizing that we all have different brain structures, personalities, biochemistry, and “decision-making styles”.
As a young minister I had an experience which I later found was shared by lots of pastors: a conflict within the church’s elder board which arose from a “feelers vs. thinkers” division. The newest elder at this particular Bible Belt church was a forty-something go-getter, very successful businessman who devoured the scriptures and was an aggressive, enthusiastic evangelist in the community. His opposite on the elder board was a seventy-something retired dairy farmer whose grandfather had been one of the founders of the church—and everybody in the church knew that historical fact. (And many considered it extremely important.) As one might predict, the younger man wanted the church to pursue new ways of doing things while the elderly man liked the status quo. After yet another difficult board meeting where the older man quietly but clearly objected to virtually everything the younger man proposed, I asked to meet with the two men privately. I hoped to find common ground and to see if there was anything unknown to me that was creating the roadblocks and tension. The businessman eagerly explained his position in a calm, very logical and systematic manner. He ended his remarks with an expression of appreciation to the older man for his years of service to the church and this comment: “Red [everybody called the older man Red], I sincerely hope you are understanding what I’m trying to say about these matters.” I naively thought things were going quite well as I turned my head to look at Red for his response. He slowly looked up at me and then at his fellow elder: “Oh, yes. I hear you loud and clear: You are saying that you don’t like me.” I was absolutely floored and wondered what I should say next. What was said and what was heard were two very different things.
Looking back, I regret my unspoken anger towards Red, no doubt a reflection of my relative youth and inexperience. At the time, I dismissively judged him as being spiritually immature, petty, and lacking a love for the unsaved. But in the years since, I’ve mulled over various of the collisions between the two men and the differences in their personalities which led to the conflicts. I now realize that Red was a deep feeling man who sincerely cared about his family and everyone in the church. He genuinely loved God and wanted to obey him. (In fact, he probably feared unintentionally disobeying him.) While the younger businessman and the pastor tended to cogitate on lists of reasons for and against some decision, Red primarily cared about how changes would impact the feelings of everyone at the church. To Red, the carefully reasoned arguments the businessman presented to the board of elders were cold and unfeeling—and of secondary importance. What I assumed at the time were differences in spiritual maturity (always something worthy considering) were primarily differences in ways of prioritizing and making decisions because of what Red valued more: people’s feelings.
Thus, I wonder: How much of the conflicts between Christians over origins topics are influenced by these same “thinkers vs. feelers” versions of humanity—and do we need to keep reminding ourselves that both human thought and human emotions are manifestations of the Imago Dei? And would we be much better communicators if we consciously avoided our potentially condescending attitudes towards the “feelers” among us within the Church?