Spirit and Science: My Story of Reconciling Pentecostalism with Evolution

My Pentecostal upbringing and my scientific training have both helped me see the world through a broader lens—although it wasn’t always that way.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/guest/spirit-and-science-my-story-of-reconciling-pentecostalism-with-evolution

Thanks for sharing your testimony here, Ciara. It sounds like you have a blessed mix of critical appraisal along with trust and wonder.

I also appreciate your love for music. I think one of the big gifts we give our children is the gift of music – especially vocal worship, though I have nothing against instrumental. My younger son is getting his minor in music and is part of a hymn club at his college (Goshen – we’re Mennonite). We have always enjoyed a lot of traditional hymns together as a family. So I hear you clearly as you celebrate childhood musical memories.

The more stories like yours that we can share with our students, the richer and more full our communities are for it. I’ll have to check out your own blog sometime. Thanks again.


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To Mervin and Ciara. Thank you for your stories! My church is pretty charismatic (within the Church of England), and I also enjoy seeing God’s glory and wonder in both science and in current good news stories of healing! And I enjoy music, worship etc.! So I relate to this.

I am respected in my church, so if I announced out loud that I hold Biologos types of views, they would probably forgive me for it! But many would be shocked because they haven’t really thought it through. The Bible is valued definitely, but study without application is not really encouraged as there is a desire to hear God speaking to the heart. It is a very good church and they have allowed me to run a course on apologetics topics. I’d still love to see a program of study/workshops designed for this kind of churdh that deals with sound theological exegesis, other contexts including science, and the wonder of God’s application of his truth and loving Word - all in one course! Am I asking too much?! Maybe I need to design it myself!


Thank you for your story and your insight that Christianity and science share much in common.

You are right in saying that science is right when it works and Christianity is right because it works. I know that Christianity is true because I am saved by Jesus Christ. Now you are also correct to say that you cannot compare science to Christianity, You must compare Christianity to all other faiths, which do not work in that they do not save, nor do the inspire a scientific understanding of the universe.

Christianity inspires a scientific understanding of the universe because it is based on Jesus Christ, Who is God’s Word or Logos (John 1:1 and following.) Thus Christianity believes that understanding God’s universe is also understanding Jesus the Logos. No contradiction.

On the other hand Evangelical Christianity is based on the Bible as found in Gen 1, not the Logos, so its version of Christian Truth does not work. I think and hope that BioLogos is moving away from traditional OT Evangelical thinking to NT Logos thinking if this past conference, which I did not attend, is an indication.

Still we need a new theological understanding to make this change that involves Father (Creator), Son (Logos), and Holy Spirit. Welcome to the conversation.

I would like to discuss your spirituality with you sometime. I feel compelled to tell you this, and I hope you do not think I am being too forward. Without getting into disputes over “interpretation of scripture” I will say this. I am an avid fan of Francis Collins. Like yourself I am also a “pentecostal like”, spirit filled Christian. I would like to point something out.

The Christian doctrine separates the flesh from the spirit. It completely separates it. The “study” of biology and evolution is indeed true for the flesh of man. It is also grossly irrelevant to anything and everything spiritual. I am not knocking science or any activity man decides to involve himself with, so please don’t read anything into this, but I do not agree with a “blend” of physical matter and spiritual reality (or that there is any sort of “compromise”). The two are not married (the body and the spirit). The spirit will actually involve it’s own spiritual body not unlike the physical body. That being said…

What I would like you to understand is the difference. The difference is that when you associate with the flesh and blood body you live in your “mind” (which is not physical) will (as scripture states), “will not serve two masters”. The result is two completely different thought processes.

This is the best example I can offer for the “result” of physically orienting your “mind”. You will flunk math, and consider logical impossibilities. Sound strange? For instance Your mind will “accept” this concept… “maybe one day God will grant me eternal life”. In the spirit this is impossible, and believe it or not in math. Allow me to explain.

If you are ever going to “one day become eternal”, then you already are eternal. Think about that.

So before you get too far away from your spiritual church consider that there are two and only two completely different directions you can go, and they are both eternally binding. Food for thought. There does exist an extremely dangerous “idea” that is not new, and extremely compelling. I have been compelled to tell you to do whatever you wish and explore life, but not to forsake your prayer life. Ask God your questions, then “expect” answers, and you will get them. Proverbs 14:12 Peace

The Christian doctrine separates the flesh from the spirit. It completely separates it. The “study” of biology and evolution is indeed true for the flesh of man. It is also grossly irrelevant to anything and everything spiritual.


Thank you for your comments. Sadly this comment is mistaken. In the NT “the flesh” is not the same as “the body.” The flesh (Gr. sarkes) is by definition separate for God or worldly, while the body is not. The body(Gr. soma,) my body, your body, is sacred.
Romans 12:1 (NIV2011)
1 "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to *‘offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.’ **
If the body is completely separate from the spiritual, then that statement by Paul cannot be true, but it is.

To say that the physical and the spiritual are completely separate is to buy into the worst of dualistic views. It is exactly what Dawkins believes and why Darwinism is wrong.

As I said above we need to go beyond dualism and the answer to that is the Trinity, Three in One. You are correct in saying the Mind is not physical and so is different from the physical body, and the spirit. A person is a combination of the body, mind, and spirit, three in one or one in three. Every human being is created in the Image of God, or the Trinity.

Please do not say that God cannot do this by means of evolution. God did it this way and we know that God can do whatever God chooses to do regardless of what Dawkins & Co. think.

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I just had a fresh understanding of the difference between the flesh (sarkes) and the body(soma.)

One cannot reduce the body to the flesh, that is separate it from the mind and the spirit, without killing it. In other words when Darwin and Darwinists reduce evoluti0on to the study of dead organisms or fossils they come up with the Tree of Death, not the Tree of Life.

When ecology studies organisms and fossils in their ecological context, it is then we have the Tree of Life because life includes the physical, mental, and spiritual. The Tree of Death can tell us that life has a common ancestor. The Tree of Life tells us that life has a common meaning and purpose.

Christians affirm Life, Bios. We reject the flesh, sarkes, which separates the physical from the rational, and the spiritual and destroys life. We need to reject materialism in all its forms which reduces reality to the physical, because it destroys the meaning and purpose of the universe.

I have since my youth been involved with an Anglcan church that contained a number of people who had some area of science as their day job, including a lay minister. It was suggested to me quite early in my spiritual journey that we should see the Genesis stories as more allegorical than factual. So for me the reconcilliation between belief in God as creator and evolution has never been a problem. I found later on my journey into the study of such things various peoplewho were evolutuon accepting scientists who also had a Christian faith and found them in various church traditions; Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant.

Among my early studies was the Jesuit Palaentologist and priest Pierre Teildhard de Chardin, opposed by his own church in his lifetime but now more accepted. I would not follow him in all he wrote but it gave me food for thought that we could see the process of evolutuion as something willed by God towards a goal in Christ. Similarly I read things from the existentialist theologian Paul Tillich that emphasised the need to see Genesis as symbols of relationships and the way we are not whatb we ought to be an could be and hence our need to find a sense of New Being that we may find in Jesus Christ. Again I do not follow Tillich in all regards but it helped me to find pointers in the way.



Thank you for bringing us Paul Tillich. He certainly played a role in the development of my thought. The Courage to Be depicts the struggle to exist in a world where nothing is certain. The is true today even more than ever.

The lesson here is that our knowledge of God is not certain, because Christians live by faith and not by sight, that is knowledge. The fact is love and trust make the world go around, not knowledge. Thus The Courage to Be highlighted the basic importance of our relationship to God as opposed to our theological knowledge about God.

Also important Tillich’s short book The Dynamics of Faith suggests faith has a dynamic that we can point out that changes people and how we relate to God and others. I don’t remember that the book lived up to this concept, but often book titles are more important than their contents.

Then there is another short book by Tillich, Love, Power, and Justice, dares to talk about an important trinity of life and see how they interact. It talks about the Relationships that orient our lives.

However Being and the study of Being, which is philosophy is not about relationships, it is the study of the nature of things. Being is static, rather than dynamic. It took Alfred North Whitehead to try to introduce the concept of change to Being, and that did not work out well.

Tillich in some sense set the stage for the movement beyond Being to Relationships, but it has not happened in a large extent. Tillich as good Being philosopher said that there is a God beyond God Who cannot be known. As a Relational Theologian I can say that there is no God beyond God, but God is known by faith, our relationship to the Father by the Son through the Holy Spirit.

Since you like quoting Sagan, here’s another good one from him:

“The fact that religions can be so shamelessly dishonest, so contemptuous of the intelligence of their adherents, and still flourish does not speak very well for the tough-mindedness of the believers. But it does indicate, if a demonstration was needed, that near the core of the religious experience is something remarkably resistant to rational inquiry.” - Carl Sagan, Broca’s Brain

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“How did I find my way back? By learning that Pentecostalism doesn’t require being anti-intellectual.” - See more at: http://biologos.org/blogs/guest/spirit-and-science-my-story-of-reconciling-pentecostalism-with-evolution#sthash.rnmUkNrU.dpuf

Unfortunately, many Pentecostals need to learn that. It is changing, however, both inside theological pursuit and in other areas (e.g., science).