Philip Yancey is a writer not a scientist but he shares his journey from the bigoted fundamentalist Christianity he was taught to a Christianity enriched by scientific discovery.
He begins by explaining about how he was taught the “curse of Ham” nonsense which was used to justify slavery and then to justify treating a sector of the population as inferior. I would suggest however that this is only the tip of the iceberg regarding how Christian theology has been poisoned right to the core by racism. Racism did not, of course, begin in America, so we should be wary of assuming that the poison is only to be found in that sector of American Christianity, even if that is where the worst and most recent distortions are to be found. I don’t think it is coincidence that the same Christianity which tried to justify racism is now the one that opposes evolution. I think it is because of the same association made between humanity/sin and genetic inheritance.
Yancey mentions the same observation that I have made that the most serious Bible believers of Jesus times was the Pharisees and yet it is this same group which Jesus criticized most as losing site of justice and helping those in need, because they made their religion more about legalism than faith. Indeed, I have even pointed out that it is among them which Jesus most see the devil at work.
Yancey tells the story of how he criticized and exposed the “flaws” of evolution and it was the patient response of his teachers that got him to dig deeper. He found much to learn from science writers such as Lewis Thomas, Oliver Sacks, Henri Fabre, and Annie Dillard. And Yancey’s first book, “The Problem of Pain,” was in response to the work with a scientist on Leprosy, which is a disease which destroys a persons ability to feel pain.
Yancey points out how important it is to realize that we have two different books from God: the one from revelation in the Bible and the one from nature in science. He says that one without the other is like trying to stand on one leg. For not only can Bible mislead us with regards to nature but there is a great deal that science cannot tell us, such as how to live our lives.
The discussion then turns to Yancey’s book “Disappointment with God,” which strangely enough, Yancey explains comes from reading the Bible carefully. The message is that instead of this absolute demand for obedience and faith, Yancey found in the Bible and God an encouragement to ask questions and challenge God – by which we can discover that our disappointment comes not from God but from our own unrealistic expectations. Yancey also observed that when God intervenes in human affairs in the OT, it usually meant “body bags.” But this seems to change with Jesus who instead lets Himself be killed by us. So perhaps this suggests a change away from God being in control to putting the work of God in the world into our hands.
One of his final points was not one which I appreciated or agreed with, however. It was the idea from Revelation that the rules of the world will be different and the conclusion that God Himself is not satisfied with nature. I do not agree at all. That suggests a serious ineptitude on the part of God. It is one thing for God to regret creating man who has free will, and quite another to have God regret the laws of nature which are only what God made them to be.