Please Share Your Experience in Finding Peace Between Science and Faith


(Randy) #1

I’ve been intrigued by those who have gone before us in either spending a lot of time or intensity in studying the intersection between science and faith, such as @Jon_Garvey, @aleo , @Jay313. Dr Garvey has studied it for 60 years!

About every year there’s been some post for finding peace between faith and science. There is a good book, “How I Changed My Mind About Evolution.”. However, if you’ve studied the intersection in depth, I wonder if you could post your testimony here:

  1. How did you decide evolution was true?
  2. How did you come to believe it was compatible with faith?
  3. Do you recommend any specific books or resources that have helped you in your journey?

Thank you.


(Jon Garvey) #2

Even a little might be too much here, and a new thread self-important. Briefly, I saw Fantasia at age 5 and was KO’d by my first view of dinosaurs, buying the same sticker book that got Simon Conway Morris started, and the same Life articles that got Bob Bakker started, as a book for my 6th Christmas. I still have it.

That led into biology, zoology to scholarship level (distinction) at school, and Medicine at Cambridge (to which evolution was largely irrelevant, but I was still a zoologist at heart so I kept reading).

Meanwhile, I became a Christian at 13, but there was little or no culture war about it in England, so although I coiuldn’t fit Genesis and evolution together it was no problem. That was so even studying Genesis in degree-level theology. Derek Kidner was my neighbour at Cambridge and his work on Genesis, plus many theological and scientific friends, there, informed my thinking.

Most of the real work was post-retirement and finding BioLogos and other sources. It’s hard to recommend individual books, because what struck me immediately was the need to get up to speed on science, theology, philosophy,history (of science, theology and ideas) and start trying to fit them together. A list of my most helpful books is here.

It’s foolish to suggest just one, but for someone like yourself, used to reading “old stuff”, a good historical, and yet surprisingly relevant, perspective on how Christianity and evolution can interact both fruitfully and critically is in the collection of Warfield’s writing on it Warfield, Benjamin B Evolution, Science and Scripture. Mark Noll and David Livingstone are the editors. He trained in science before theology, and was an early, but critical, acceptor of Darwin.

If I have any advice, it’s to learn to spot and ignore the culture war talk that tries to force you into a box. The early scientists applied what they saw as the best orthodox theology to create a theology of nature that was the foundation for modern science. The two could not be separated coherently. Naturally enough, it didn’t include creation, so if we want to have “Evolution + Creation” someone is going to have to repeat the kind of effort that Bacon and Co. made, for a new age, or keep hitting intellectual brick walls.


The meaning of "create"
(Brad Kramer) #3

My story can be found here: https://biologos.org/blogs/brad-kramer-the-evolving-evangelical/growing-up-evangelical-my-story-of-making-peace-with-evolution

With further elaboration here: https://biologos.org/blogs/brad-kramer-the-evolving-evangelical/when-small-town-faith-meets-big-city-science-a-personal-reflection

It’s interesting that you order your three questions in that way. For me (and many others I’ve encountered with similar journeys), we needed to understand how evolution could be compatible with Christian faith before we could even consider the possibility that it was true.

In the community in which I was raised, evolution was seen as a scientific weapon wielded by the spiritual, moral, and cultural enemies of my Christian community. I was taught to be a “culture warrior”, and defeating evolution was one front of that battle. This made it pretty much impossible to engage evolution in a spirit of genuine learning. Common ancestry is a pretty radical thesis. Like many things in science, it’s really hard to get your head around. It even seems absurd. So it was fairly simple for me to look at evolution and say, “oh come on, reptiles magically turning into birds through a random process?!?” and dismiss it as another example of the silliness of atheist belief.

What really made the difference for me was meeting real people who didn’t fit the cultural boxes. First and foremost, I met Francis Collins at an event in New York City, and he blew my mind. He was a strong Christian praising God for “atheist science.” What? It didn’t make sense. And then I started going to Tim Keller’s church, and he really helped me see the weaknesses with the “culture war” mindset of my youth.

I still struggle to understand the scientific side of evolution. I have no formal training in science, and a lot of it goes over my head. I accept evolution because I think it is rational to trust an overwhelming consensus of experts, and it doesn’t hurt that I’ve met many of these experts personally as part of my job at BioLogos. To say that 99 percent of biologists are all spectacularly wrong about one of the central ideas of modern biology, and that they are all engaged in an organized effort to suppress dissenting evidence, is an extraordinary claim that, in my opinion, can only really be sustained by a culture war mindset.

My favorite book on Genesis and modern science is The Meaning of Creation by Conrad Hyers. It’s a little-known gem. To learn about the evidence for evolution, a good starting point is Coming to Peace with Science by Darrel Falk.

(I’m also contractually obligated to mention The Language of God by Francis Collins. But seriously, it’s awesome and you should definitely read it)

P.S. I’m not saying that people who reject the scientific consensus are irrational.


#4

My experience is similar to Brad’s in some ways – I was raised in a conservative, YEC homeschool environment, and I’d agree that the theology part had to come first before I could even conceive of evolution having any truth to it – I’d been taught that it was evil, and a lie.

Culture wars were a big thing for me too. One thing that helped me deconstruct what I’d been taught was learning about Dominion theology and how much influence it had on the early Christian homeschooling movement – and through that realizing that Christianity was much bigger than I thought, and did not have to be at the mercy of culture wars.

Unlike what I’d assumed, coming to peace between faith and science (or at least making a lot of progress – it’s not a one-time thing) does not mean that developing more trust in science means trusting God less. It’s not a zero-sum game. It’s helped me to be honest about the places where I’d been viewing life through the lens of a “sacred/secular divide” and asking if it really needs to be that way.

I really haven’t studied the science in depth, because like I said, my issue was much more with culture and theology than science, but I appreciate those who have! I can second the recommendation for “The Language of God.” I’ve also read “Finding Darwin’s God” by Ken Miller, which is good but focuses more on science than theology or culture.


(Randy) #5

Thanks! You may have noticed I initially put this up for the “mature” Christians–and modified it because I realized there would be others who have not had just decades of study, but also intensity. That is helpful. I appreciate the book advice.

I was very interested to appreciate the difference between coming to this question from a theological and a scientific background. I’m going to ask more questions about that.


(Randy) #6

“Meanwhile, I became a Christian at 13, but there was little or no culture war about it in England, so although I coiuldn’t fit Genesis and evolution together it was no problem. That was so even studying Genesis in degree-level theology. Derek Kidner was my neighbour at Cambridge and his work on Genesis, plus many theological and scientific friends, there, informed my thinking.”

Dr Garvey, thank you! Some thoughts that occurred to me:

1.I wish that we had a similar background of no culture war; though I suppose we also learn things from others in questioning the intersection of faith and science (eg Ken Ham).

2.I am sure that your working with others at Cambridge helped, especially those of that caliber. Besides Dr Kidner, have you met Alister McGrath?

3.Your list of books is helpful. I see several that I have wanted to read, and others that will be useful (Warfield, Scruton and McGrath for example). It is intriguing to go back to the old writers. Noll would be helpful to interpret and introduce him.

I will try a thread to invite others to comment. I think there are lots of people who could contribute. I am going to re visit your list of books too. Thanks.


(Jon Garvey) #7

No - McGrath’s a year younger than me and studied in London initially. I borrowed Richard Bauckham’s typewriter once, but he didn’t leave anything on evolution in it…:grinning:


(Jay Johnson) #8

Thanks for the shout out, but my story is rather mundane, and I have no names to drop. Sorry.


(Randy) #9

Thanks. I mentioned you because I have enjoyed your writing and sense of humor, which helps with understanding things. Like @Elle, I’m not as well read in the genetics and science. However, I feel your notes reflect good studying and insight.

I just had a sermon in our church from a young pastor who said that he’d asked God for permission to leave and work in missions, or a an active pastorial role (he’s currently working as a janitor due to multiple concerns–familial, etc). He said that the message he got after prayer was “Just keep paddling your boat.” It’s the stable, faithful folks that often do the most.


(Randy) #10

Yes. I am concerned my children are growing up in a bubble and, once they get out of it, think that Christianity is very narrow. I hope they realize that it’s much broader than our slice. I think that millennials do have a deeper sense of individual importance and what is right and wrong. Does it seem to you, as well, that it’s not just making the science and faith mesh, but also explaining and discourse about social and individual justice, will meet them where the are?

That’s an ongoing struggle for me, but you’re right.

Thank you. I need to read Miller as well.


(Phil) #11

I am reminded of reading of Paul in N. T. Wright’s biography recently, and how after the Damascus road experience, he spent 3 years in the desert, and then 10 years back home in Tarsus before his missionary journeys. Sometimes the preparation for such things is lengthy. As I am near retirement, I sometimes wonder if perhaps work has been just a period of preparation also.


#12

I think that’s certainly a good idea. I think I was given a lot of exposure to a type of “social justice” too, but I’ve come to see it as a lot broader than how it was presented when I was younger. But yes, I also want my kids to understand that Christianity is not just us and those who think just like us. It’s tricky because we do have reasons for our beliefs and there are still many areas where I feel our beliefs have to take a fairly strong stand – I guess I hope to add a little more nuance to that conversation with my own kids, and emphasize that there are many things we can disagree on and still be a part of the same universal church.


(Randy) #13

Yes, indeed. It’s most obvious how much we need Christ when we run to our own devices and become sick of ourselves. Parents need to be steadfast in modeling Christ, too. My wife and I pray often for that wisdom.


(Albert Leo) #14

Hi Randy: I came to the intense study of the intersection between faith & science by a different route than most of the evangelicals who post on this forum. I was raised in a Catholic home and for K-8 was educated in a parochial school. We were not encouraged to read the Bible directly, because (we were told) that it could be easily be misinterpreted and therefore actually be misleading. As we approached adulthood, we were to trust those who were experts at ‘exegesis’. (None of the priests or nuns I encountered fit the bill in this regard. It was only on this Forum that I appreciated how difficult this would be.)

Yet, when I entered high school and decided upon a career in science, I saw no basic conflict between science and a bible-based Christianity. When I started to study evolution I was elated, for it ‘explained’ to me, that in Gen. 1 (He made them male & female) was all we needed to know about HOW God made mankind. The creation story in Gen. 2-3 was meant to be metaphorical, not scientific, and it instructed the people at that time as to WHY god made us. But when I enthusiastically related this good new to my Mom, she said: “YOU may have descended from an ape, but I certainly did not!” I dropped the subject for good. My convincing her that evolution was true would not have enabled her to live a better life than she was already doing.

While his writing was difficult to read, The Jesuit priest, Teilhard de Chardin, had the greatest influence on me. He was a sort of ‘maverick’ in the way he saw that evolution shed a more rational light on the Christian Faith, the nature of humankind, and our purpose in life–better than the idea that Adam was created perfect then fell into sin. The Vatican could not allow him to teach this in Paris, and so they sent him off to China.

I think the clearest idea you can get of Teilhard’s philosophy/theology is in a book edited by Ilia Delio: _“From Teilhard to Omega: Co-creating an Unfinished Universe”._Being an Image Bearer and Co-Creator with Him is the most lofty purpose I can image.

I fear that my route to reconciling my Faith in God and my skeptical Science cannot be ‘transferred’ to someone else. I have solid proof that God is beside me at all times and loves me. This really began when, at age 19 & a mile behind German lines, a rifle grenade blew a 3" hole in my skull, and, had I been knocked unconscious, I would have ended up in a French grave. Later in life I had a ‘miraculous’ experience that was witnessed by three other skeptical scientists. I related this event (The Miracle of the Panel Truck) in an earlier post: See @Elle 10/23 (2017). “What does a miracle mean to you?”

Jesus’ disciples must have felt this immanent presence of God while in his presence. Why am I so lucky to feel that 2000 yrs later? I can only wish everyone was so gifted.
Good luck in your quest, Randy.
Al Leo


(Randy) #15

That is a good point. Jesus also waited 33 years till He started His ministry, too, didn’t He?


(Randy) #16

Thank you. I am glad you could post. I am glad that you had no trouble accepting the evolution idea. I am not sure why my background was so opposed, exactly. Catholicism probably has some benefits from the outlook of reading from the background of so much study and accumulated doctrine in that way. A recent post about reading Paul with the Reformers on http://onscript.study talked about the interaction between Luther and Erasmus, and how Erasmus foresaw that individual interpretation would lead to many splits.

I certainly don’t want to replicate the way you experienced God through the injury to the skull! I have been thinking about reading about Teilhard. Thanks.


(Albert Leo) #17

Nice hearing from you, Randy. As I mentioned, my Mom, as well as most others of her generation, could not ‘stomach’ the idea of a common ancestor with apes, and they never came in contact with anyone who could give them a clear exegesis of Genesis. So being raised Catholic was not an advantage in reconciling Faith with Science, especially with evolution.

I had not heard about the interaction of Luther with Erasmus. I would have like to be present when they did. I suppose that I would have agreed more with Erasmus than with Luther. I do believe that the ‘rib story’ has contributed to misogyny through the ages (Eve as an afterthought) which supports the philosophy of Saudi Arabia today.
God bless!
Al aleo


(Jon Garvey) #18

@aleo
You can be present (on Luther’s side of the table) by getting hold of his Bondage of the Will.


(Randy) #19

Thanks. You are right. Sorry! For some reason I was also thinking that the Catholic Church had more inclusive stance…

I would like to read more Erasmus. My wife laughs that I would not ever be a rebel…but I also see more his point of view from the podcast. Believe he was a counter reformer.


(Albert Leo) #20

I was referring to the teaching of the Catholic Church in the latter part of the 19th century. Today somewhere around 50% of Catholics are comfortable with evolution, and very few would pay money to visit Ham’s ark or his AIG museum.
Al Leo