My journey through the science/faith debate


(Rosie) #1

Hello, all! My husband and I homeschool our three girls - ages 12, 10, and 8. We started out with Sonlight and, since I love to research, have branched out into quite an eclectic mix of resources. I’m drawn to classical and Charlotte Mason methods. I’m drawn to unschooling and child-led learning. I feel like I’m in a constant quandary!

We are not science people. We are musical, artistic, English/History, book lovers, so it’s a bit intimidating to be posting here. My science education was abysmal, as was my husband’s. So far, our kids’ science education has been reading tons of “living” books, doing occasional experiments (when they plan it and get all the materials ready!), watching science videos, and studying the lizards/grasshoppers/butterflies that they see around the house. I’ve tried various curricula, but it always flops because I lack motivation. The older two are constantly spouting off random “Did you know…?” facts, nobody hates science, and my oldest wants to study chemistry this year, so I guess it could be worse.

I was raised with a YEC perspective. I don’t think I ever discussed it with my parents, but I specifically remember spending a whole lot of time in my Christian high school with a science text that was entirely about disproving evolution. All I remember now is talk about a missing link and something about Lucy, … I’m sure most of what I was taught is now debunked. When I began homeschooling I found the Sonlight forums to be so helpful. One day I wandered into their Lifelong Learners forum (I think that’s what it was called) and found philosophical discussions about faith, atheism, how to read the Bible… I was intrigued. I would find myself agreeing with what one person said, then reading the next post (from the opposing side) and thinking, “Oh, …well, ok, yeah I guess that makes sense. I guess I agree with that.” And so on, swinging back and forth, giving myself intellectual whiplash. I had never learned to think for myself. I’m pretty sure that was my first exposure to any views that weren’t predigested for me.

The topic of creation/evolution was brought up frequently in many of the discussions. That was my first exposure to Christians who didn’t believe everything was created in six days. On one side seemed to be the AiG types who had an answer for everything. On the other were people saying that the YEC “evidence” was often completely false and that the amount of evidence for evolution was gargantuan. Then the YEC people were shouting that it was all a conspiracy by scientists who hate God so don’t trust what they say. How on earth was I to know what to believe?! Supposedly, experts on both sides were insisting they were completely right! I wasn’t about to go out and get a college level education in some science field. I was completely overwhelmed. Was I supposed to just have blind faith in the YEC view since it was the truly biblical one? Was I a terrible Christian for questioning? Was I making science more important than faith? I had no idea what to do and actually began spiraling downward spiritually and emotionally.

I found that the party line from AiG/YEC, instead of boosting my faith and bringing me closer to God, did exactly the opposite. They insisted that if Genesis wasn’t “true,” then the rest of the Bible would be untrustworthy. The slippery slope argument. I believed that, and when I started doubting the “literal” interpretation of the Genesis account I also began questioning everything else. It has been ten years of spiritual and intellectual struggle for me, mostly in the dark because who could I talk to about it? Everyone was threatened by my thoughts. Even my husband could only handle a short amount of discussion on the topic because, having no knowledge or interest, he had no way to “fix” it for me. Everywhere I turned, communication was shut down. I was very alone.

Then, three years ago, I read The Language of God. I remember feeling such strong relief, almost joy, as I read it! But I happened to be reading it at my mother’s house. She asked about it. I gave her a synopsis. She warned me that Satan wants to deceive us, and that lies can often look like truth. She said I should be very careful what I let into my mind because that is the battlefield where the devil works. Etc. Etc. And I spiraled downward again. But in the end it was a good thing. It was the last straw and I saw it for what it was - a fear-based control tactic. I finally saw that I had never been trusted to think for myself, and I was ready to move forward - with or without everyone else.

Fast forward two years. I was in the counseling office where my counselor and I often discussed theological issues since I was constantly questioning, doubting, struggling. I sheepishly admitted that I wasn’t sure whether I actually believe in a literal six-day creation. This precious woman (who always pushes me to think for myself, ask the questions, and read the side I’m afraid of) suggested that I read John Walton’s books on Genesis. She said she’d had similar questions and his work had settled a lot of things for her. What a God-send! Reading about ancient near eastern culture has helped bridge the gap for me because ultimately my deepest questions are theological and philosophical, not scientific. HOW to interpret what I read in the Bible has been the crux of the matter for me, or, if not the center, at least very near to it.

I now see the problem with the term “literal” as it relates to biblical interpretation. We don’t realize that people in other cultures and especially in other eras actually THOUGHT differently than we do. Just because I read the same words as another person does NOT mean we understand them to mean the same thing - even if we are both taking them at face value. The culture and worldview we live in practically seeps through our pores, affecting how we interpret anything we hear or read. The issue is not as simple as literal vs. figurative, fact or fiction, true or false. That is a modern way of viewing these things. Ancients didn’t have the same patterns of thought. Often our “literal” interpretation would be nonsensical to them.

So, with that understanding I feel much more settled. I don’t have to read the Bible as a science textbook, and, with some study, I can still read it “literally” (meaning how the ancient Israelites would have heard it). Thankfully, my husband has joined me a bit in this journey over the last two years, so he is on board with this new way of reading the Bible. And, since we are not held to a young earth reading of Genesis, then it seems to make the most sense to be evolutionary creationists. Though we hold that with a loose grip. (Remember, we’re not science people!)

I still have ten million questions and doubts, but at least I’m a few steps away from the cliff instead of hanging off the edge. And I’m no longer (as) afraid of my children’s questions. In fact, we now have a “Question Box” where they can write down anything at all and we discuss it during Family Time. Some of the questions have been profound…

“Scientists believe in different things. Which should I believe?”

“How did it take a whole day for God to make light if He said, “Let there be light,” and there was light? What about the rest of the day?”

“How do we know God is real?”

“Do scientists believe in ‘supernatural’?”

“Why don’t scientists believe that God created science (because He did) and everything?”

“How did God come in the universe alive?”

“How were we made in God’s image if God is a spirit? Spirits can’t be seen.”

“When can I have my door back?” (Hehe… ok, so they’re not all profound….)

It’s been a journey, and I feel like I’m barely past the beginning. I still feel fairly isolated, but I have my husband and my counselor and my internet friends. It’s enough for now.


(Brad Kramer) #2

@Christy @cstump @bel6363 @cartophile @Cordelia_Tomasino @Dana_Gilmore @djbpennock @DocZ @Doug_Bodde @Elena @Keith_Furman @kendra @LaurieMcFarland @lstrite @mmytoboys @mommii @momof2 @nathancreitz @NickiChandler76 @Professormom @redhed @RydonaTe @tigerlily Thoughts?


(Phil) #4

Thanks for sharing. Having been through the process, how do you feel we can best help those caught up in the confusion? What would have been most helpful to you?


(Christy Hemphill) #5

@Rosie
I’m so glad so you found your way over here and posted. All the science-y folks aren’t as intimidating as they sound, and they kindly let us liberal arts people share the sandbox.

I could have written exactly the same thing. I’m still mulling over lots of “how to interpret the Bible” questions and unfortunately, the more you know on that topic the more you realize you don’t or can’t understand. It is very humbling and reminds me over and over again that my faith can’t rest on my understanding.

Some other people can have at your list of questions, but I picked this one because there is a series that I really like by Pete Enns on the image of God that you might like: It gives a different perspective on it than the idea than what I had always heard and I have seen this conceptualization of “image bearing” referenced in a number of theology/exegesis books I’ve read in recent years. http://biologos.org/blogs/archive/series/what-does-image-of-god-mean


#6

Hi!

I felt a lot of “me too” in what you wrote. My details are different, but my journey through discarding old beliefs about God and the way the bible works was also dark and and painful. I know you didn’t use those words, and maybe I’m reading it into your words because of my experience. But I “get” it in some measure.

My journey also started through homeschooling. My son was reading a library book. I think he was around 2nd grade (I’m not sure–years ago anyway). He asked me about how we evolved from monkeys. I told him we didn’t, and I would get back to him to explain the whole thing. I was raised old earth, and I’m good at research so I began to learn so I could teach him. Long story intentionally short–I couldn’t merge even old earth teachings on Genesis with what I was learning about science.

It felt like my world fell apart honestly. The whole of scripture felt tenuous.

Finally I found Biologos and then Peter Enns, and it was like your experienced with the Language of God. It was both a relief and led to more questions and adjustments in my views of God and the bible. I did more reading, and still more letting go and adjusting. This went on for a long time for me–my kids are 12 now, and I think I’m in a brighter place of rebuilding spiritually but had some bumpy stuff bubble up to still process even late this spring.

The whole thing was a mix of pain and loss and joy and discovery to be honest. I do still grieve, at least a little, the simplicity and, well, certainty in my prior belief systems. But those things are sort of, well, you know where in scripture it talks about seeing through a glass darkly–knowing God but not being able to really know him in our humanity? I know I’m still seeing darkly, but I’m less so now I think. And I have more awareness of just how dark my glass was and is as a human. I’ve kind of become ok, or more ok, with the lack of certainty. You mentioned holding evolution with a loose grip–I hold a lot of stuff with a loose grip now!

I’m glad your husband is on the journey with you. That will help you feel less alone I think, and so lovely is your questions box! I have always been a questioning type person. It was painful growing up. There were questions I was afraid to even explore on my own, let alone ask my parents. It didn’t help that I got apologetic books and similar–the message I received or believed was that doubts needed to be answered and put away so that you could have right beliefs, and so be ok with God. I am trying to walk a fine line of giving my kids answers (because I see them looking for certainty and having security in that, and developmentally I think that’s probably important) and trying to communicate that we don’t have perfect understanding and can’t have certainty about many things.


Navigating Uncertainty
(Rosie) #7

Well, a forum like this would have been helpful. I have felt so alone for years. Until I found my counselor I had no one that was saying, “Me, too.” I felt like I was an inferior Christian, lacking in faith, hanging on by my fingernails, and always afraid I was going to fall into the atheist abyss. Seeing examples (mostly online and in books) of Christians who were intellectually honest about these things and ALSO still living a strong faith helped me to see that this thing wasn’t so black and white. It’s not an either/or proposition. And I don’t have to choose between intellectual integrity and God.

More resources about questioning, doubt, and uncertainty would have been helpful. The book Benefit of the Doubt helped me there. Resources that would help me move away from a fundamentalist way of thinking is what I needed. Honestly, I haven’t looked through the BioLogos site much yet, so maybe those resources are there and I’m just unaware.

I have really appreciated the gracious spirit I have seen from those on this side of the debate. Those in the YEC camp believe strongly in their cause, and I understand the fervor from their perspective, but their speech is not always gracious. And even when it is, there is still an undercurrent of superiority that peeks through. I am more likely to listen to someone who is not trying to step on me in order to keep himself from falling. I really think loving speech will be a very strong draw for others in my place.

All that to say… keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working.


(Keith Furman) #8

Wow, Rosie, so many common experiences and thoughts, so little time. I plan to get back and expound more, but read my story that just came out today via BioLogos, with a lot of help from Brad (thanks for drawing Rosie’s post to my attention) and some great evolutionary creation friends.

When I read and was convinced by Collin’s book, after shock and the agony of defeat the first day, there was joy–joy that lasted for weeks until I shared it with others in my church of almost 40 years. They couldn’t see it the way we do. Then there was a tendency to feel isolated…for a couple of years and even some today, 6 years later. Even though the new perspectives I was getting from BioLogos,the ASA and highly qualified evangelical theologians like Lamoureux that made a lot of sense to me, there was a tendency to question them because those I was in fellowship with at church couldn’t see it that way and didn’t see the need to even talk about it with me very often. And I needed to talk about it.

I’ve been hearing that word “isolated” a lot lately, and I think that is one of the biggest challenges. Opposition on many levels within one’s own church family becomes the new cognitive dissonance.

That’s why organizations like BioLogos and the ASA, with quarterly local meeting. are so helpful. But, I wish there was a way to have more frequent face-to-face opportunities or even an EC church–not that Christianity needs another denomination ;-o)


(Rosie) #9

This is such a difficult thing for me to wrap my mind around. What IS faith supposed to rest on if not what we understand to be true? Yet, because I’m human, my understanding of truth will always be incomplete and just plain wrong in many areas. So is faith supposed to rest on our experiences? Being raised in a Pentecostal-type background has made me see how false that can be. Is it supposed to rest on feelings of peace? I struggle with anxiety and depression and very seldom feel anything akin to peace. I still periodically ask the question my daughter put in our question box - “How do we know God is real?” It’s a scary thing to not have absolute certainty. And, to bring this back around to the topic of this forum, that is very likely the draw of AiG and company. They have the ANSWERS. No struggle necessary.


(Rosie) #10

Thank you for sharing this. Yes, you intuited correctly: dark and painful is exactly what it has been. It did feel like my world fell apart and all of scripture felt tenuous. Thank you for understanding.

And what you said about certainty is right on as well. I swing back and forth - sometimes thankful that I’m seeing more clearly, other times terrified that I’m completely wrong and have no solid footing. What a ride.

Question: have you found anything helpful from apologetic books? I’m still so unsure about how to talk to my children about these things. Is apologetics becoming a thing of the past as we move into the postmodern era? I really have no idea about any of this…


(Rosie) #11

Thank you, @Keith_Furman . Your story was encouraging to read. I do see many similarities, though you obviously speak from a much more knowledgeable science base. The more I read other people’s experiences, the more I see my thoughts over the past ten years mirrored back to me. I’m seeing the necessity of speaking out on this topic when I have the opportunity instead of keeping quiet when it comes up. I wish someone would have done that for me. My guess is that within a generation or two this will no longer be the hugely divisive and emotionally charged issue that it currently is. But for now, loving and intelligent conversations will go a long way toward that end.


#12

Greg Boyd’s Benefit of the Doubt was important for me too. I wish I had known those things long ago!


(Doug B) #13

True education, education touched by faith, is the patient, ongoing application of knowledge for the great benefit of the receiver (student). I think it has helped to dispel countless Christian myths–from weeping statues to holy relics, to levitating saints etc. Now our faith tradition is in possession of perhaps the biggest myth of all in the denial of evolutionary science. I see true education in the patient explanation of nonsensical ID claims (thank you Dennis V.) and in the overall respectful dialogue that Biologis engages in. That is what I wish for my children’s education that they would be seekers of the truth–knowing it is God’s truth.


(Christy Hemphill) #14

I was thinking about this idea of having the answers and parenting and whatnot and it reminded me of a conversation I had with my dad when I was in high school. I was teasing him because all through my childhood he had this paperback Bible that was held together by various layers of duct tape and rubber bands, and it had gotten to the point where it barely resembled a book anymore. I asked him when he was finally going to break down and get a new one. He got uncharacteristically serious and opened it up and showed me all these little penciled in question marks in the margins. They were all over the place. Then he told me that since college when he got that Bible, any time he read something that didn’t seem to make sense, or fit with his idea of who God was, or something he didn’t quite know what to do with, he would make a little question mark in the margin. His plan was that over the years, he would figure out the answers and he would erase the question marks, and that would be a testament to how he was growing in his faith and becoming wise and mature. He said that even though lots of question marks did get erased, as life happened and he realized how messy everything was, a lot of times things he thought made sense before, stopped making sense and new question marks got added. And sometimes he would come to the places where he had erased his question marks a few years before only to realize that he had new and different questions about that passage and he had to put them back. He said, “I’m fifty years old. I thought when I was twenty that by now I would have arrived at some level of wisdom and the questions would be gone. But, mostly they’ve just moved around.”

And then I kind of waited to see if there was some nice preachy point he was going to bring this whole little talk home to, but that was it. That was the point. He told me he didn’t want a new Bible because he didn’t want to lose his question marks; they represented his history with God.

I’m sure my dad doesn’t remember this conversation or think of it as a profound teaching moment, but it had a big effect on me as I went into college. It basically presented not knowing all the answers as normative and the act of wrestling with the Bible as something you treasure not something threatening.

I hope I can affirm and model the same stance toward the Bible with my kids. I think the reason that shifting my perspective on many things has not been as traumatic for me as for some of my peers was that the emphasis in my home was always on faithfully living out what you did understand, not on having it all figured out. One book I read talked about the “sufficient but inexhaustible meaning” of Scripture. I hold on to that idea. We won’t ever grasp the depths of what God could reveal to us in his world. We won’t figure it all out or somehow arrive someday at complete “ownership” of the Truth. But we can get enough. Enough is actually plenty to deal with.


(Keith Furman) #15

Rosie, thanks for those encouraging words!

Part of my challenge was that my faith was practically sight, or so I thought, based on my ID theory arguments that I then realized were in error. An evolutionary creation view really requires reasons for God that are outside of science, though I still believe beauty, complexity and functionality that science helps reveal are evidence of intelligent Design (just not ID theory), just as Lamoureux espouses. But, those reasons, while sufficient for faith, aren’t a slam-dunk. It’s more like a preponderance of evidence scenario with an EC view, which is more challenging, especially when you feel isolated and/or around opposition.

You seem like you are ripe for Pete Enn’s book, The Sin of Certainty…" I gave one of the reviews for it on Amazon. I don’t know if I agree with Enns on everything (not that I’m qualified to disagree with him theologically–I just like Lamoureux better on hermaneutical approaches and Adam, partly because Lamoureux is also educated to the PhD level in biology as well as theology and I know Lamoureux personally). But, this book by Enn’s sure was a game-changer and a life-changer for me in helping me walk with God in childlike trust and in joy again, even in the midst of uncertainty. Beware that the first 3/4 can be a bit of a downer has he shares 4 reasons for the overreaction of fundamentalists and as he teases out OT scriptures where they pour out their complaints before God (part of their faith). I wanted to stop reading it in the middle. But, as I got to the part where he talks about the New Testament scriptures and relates them to his own walk with God, it hit me right where I had been living and the flood-gates broke loose. I sobbed and sobbed. I saw the way forward for my faith, come what may. You’ll understand that you are actually showing great faith that is pleasing to God, far more that when you thought you had certainty.

It’s more than OK with God that you have questions–that’s part of a walk of faith pleasing to God! That’s my take on what I got from his book as he uses scripture to show that. Then, even the process of seeking answers becomes a joy.

Not that I have a whole lot of nagging questions anymore–just that I did for much of the 5 or 6 years after that day on Jan. 10, 2010. Despite my supportive wife, the first 2 years were the loneliest years of my life until I met like-minded others in the ASA (their local meeting might be open to non-members, BTW).

Even until recently, I also didn’t want my personal relationship with God to be a fantasy–I was afraid to go back into the water in my subjective experience of God after having been wrong for so long about my view on origins and interpretation of scripture. That book and childlike trust helped a lot with that too.

I highly recommend the audio version (available for extra if you buy the kindle version (I used Kindle app for iPhone)) or the audio version is available on iTunes. It’s 5.5 hours long. It helped my wife too as I listed to it for my 2nd time with her.


(Rosie) #16

Thank you so much for sharing this story, Christy. What a gift your dad gave you. I think I’m going to start adding question marks in my Bible margins… and tell myself that it’s a good thing!

I have had such a huge paradigm shift over the last decade, but it’s obvious that still more needs to occur. Even this conversation has helped me see things more clearly. It’s been cathartic to write out my story and have other people affirm that they’ve been there. Thank you for letting me know about this forum!


(Rosie) #17

Thank you for this recommendation! I’m going to check it out. Greg Boy’s Benefit of the Doubt and Letters from a Skeptic have been the most influential for me in this area, but, because I was so thoroughly indoctrinated into a particular way of thinking, I quickly lose much of what I gain from my readings and need another “dose” to get me back on track.

Question: Aren’t we just leaning toward relativism, going the way of the culture when we say we don’t need to be certain? Our faith IS based on a truth claim. There are certain non-negotiables. I’m seeing that the circle of absolutely necessary points of agreement is much smaller than I used to think, but it’s still there. Maybe the book will answer that question…

Moment of honesty… I’m afraid of becoming a liberal. :blush: I’ve read some of Enn’s books (Inspiration and Incarnation and The Evolution of Adam) and they helped me in many ways, but I also can’t go with him quite as far as he wants to take me theologically. YET. And that’s what scares me. Every little step I take away from my theological roots seems to be a step closer to all the big, bad things I was warned about all my life. Slippery slope. Maybe Satan really does have a hold on my mind. (MOSTLY joking here… :smile:) I just feel unprepared and afraid that I will wind up somewhere I don’t want to go simply because I lack the mental capacity to make solid judgments.

I was completely sheltered my entire life. Christian family. Christian school. Christian friends. Christian music. Christian books. Christian clothes. I was an expert at memorizing and repeating dogma. My world was black and white. I graduated from high school and refused to step foot in an educational establishment again. No college. No one challenging my status quo. No one teaching me to think like a grown up. I feel a bit like a baby with a chain saw now.


(Keith Furman) #18

LOL, great illustration! No, I don’t think we need to fear relativism or becoming a liberal so much, although I’m more “progressive” in some ways. Enn’s book may not help so much in that regard though we do have to come to terms with those 4 big things he mentions that include evolution, slavery, Moses not being the author of all the OT books that we though, and archaeological findings. The good new is that they can and should inform our interpretation of scripture. The gospel is the main thing.

And, when new perspectives really do make sense, there is still the hurdle that they take some getting-used-to and that often takes time, especially after being raised in that sheltered way.

But, I think the main hurdle at this point is isolation, I keep hearing that as a common thread for people going through a paradigm shift on this. The Christians you’ve been in fellowship with probably are resistant to even talking about it. And you need to talk about it. That and their opposition and not seeing them “get it” becomes the new cognitive dissonance.

So, if you can capture Enn’s message of childlike trust in God in the midst of uncertainty so that you can ask question in joy, knowing it is part of the faith that pleases God, combined with going through Denis O. Lamoureux’s whole college course, free to view online, to ground you in solid hermeneutics so that you can know how to go to scripture with all these competing ideas (Denis has been through it all and is educated to the PhD level in theology and biology), that would, personally, be my prescription. And, of course, BioLogos is an awesome resource on almost all these topics and tremendously helpful.


(Rosie) #19

Yes. Completely.

I’m definitely going to check out both of these resources. Thank you, Keith. :slight_smile:


(Keith Furman) #20

BTW, some people have trouble finding Lamoureux’s audio-slides that are free to view online for individuals. They are here https://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/350audioslides.html . That’s his CHRTC 350 Science and Religion course. The handouts and notes are in links at the top of the page.

It won’t play on iPhone without an app, like the Photon Flash Player that costs a few bucks. That’s what I used to go through all the modules. It should play all other devices without that.

He plans to chunk it differently and make it play on iPhone too by the end of the summer.

He lays a lot of foundation in the beginning, but stick with it… I’m taking my 15 year old son (our youngest) through it now.

Meanwhile, we should start a thread on “Brainstorming how to overcome isolation while paradigm-shifting”, or something to that effect, if it isn’t already started somewhere.

Cheers! and God bless!


(Rosie) #21

Thank you! I just finished looking through everything on the homepage!

What are his thoughts on it? My oldest will be 13 in November. I’m wondering if I should wait a bit and do it with her during the school year. Do you know if the course will be up for a while? Years, even?

Great idea!