What Denominations are Tolerant of Evolution yet Conservative?

(Christy Hemphill) #21

For lots of reasons. (Mexico is nice too.)

(Darek Barefoot) #22

I have been attending Southern Baptist churches since 2003, and I have heard YEC loudly defended in Bible studies and openly in services–not by the pastor, but without any caution or push back from the pastor, either. If a pastor were to announce from the podium, “There are faithful, orthodox Southern Baptists who think that God used evolution to create all living things on earth, including humans; I respect that interpretation even though I do not share it,” I honestly do not think he would keep his position in any SBC church I’ve attended. To me, that’s dominance. The “people who call the shots” more often express open mindedness in private than in open church. Admittedly, I have only attended a few congregations out of thousands. I’m sure there is variation. And we might be just seeing things differently–tomayto, tomahto.


I agree. I think things will be more evident along generational lines. My children’s generation will at least have more options and accessibility to differing views in the origins debate (even if they aren’t shown to them at first) than mine did, and that will probably make a difference.

(Phil) #24

I fully agree. That is one reason I think we should not even try to have the science-faith discussion in the church where that is the case, but rather should keep it as an outside community discussion.

(Mark D.) #25

After all, Christians have signed on to follow Jesus, not the guy in the pulpit on Sunday. It is too bad there isn’t more tolerance for a range of interpretations within every denomination. I guess choosing a denomination is choosing an interpretation, but signing on for a settled POV doesn’t really allow for much growth or maturation.

I wonder if there are any denominations which are inclusive and tolerant, and what exactly they are lacking that makes them not conservative enough.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #26

Ask any religious conservative, and they will probably tell you in no uncertain terms that most mainline churches “out there” are extremely liberal and tolerant. [that comes from their perspective, mind you.] Talk to most liberals who give overt religion any thought at all, and they will probably inform you with equal vigor on their caricature assessment that many churches out there are narrow minded and conservative.

Both sets exist, to be sure. I don’t think anybody doubts that. But to zero in on your question about “what are they [the inclusive or tolerant] ones lacking?”; the conservative would probably respond that they lack a firm commitment to Christ as taught about in scriptures. [added: this is not to say that being inclusive and tolerant precludes faithfulness to Christ --quite the opposite I should hope! But I’m saying this might be the conservative’s perspective.] And then, because churches and Christian living never exist in some “pure, non-historical, non-denominational” vacuum, you will necessarily also get all the accretions that a particular community deems important. And they can get rather grumpy about it in unfortunate ways some times. But it doesn’t change the fact that you can’t be in a large house without being in some particular room in that house. It just doesn’t work. Churches can bury their heads in the sand, declare themselves “non-denominational” which ironically makes them more dogmatic than ever because … now they are purporting themselves (unlike all the others up and down history) to finally be the “unvarnished”, purist standard of truth against which all others must be measured. But all they accomplish is to produce a generation that is now ignorant about its heritage (which didn’t go away just because it was ignored), that are now more prone to blowing in the cultural winds than their more historically-savvy predecessors were. [another added edit: I would soften the above out of respect for my many brothers and sisters who do worship in just such churches – and fine churches they can be! I don’t really think all non-denominational churches necessarily ignore their heritage, and that is a bit of my own reactive caricature that probably needs correction in its own turn.]

Okay – I’ll stop the rant. Am I sounding rather conservative yet? Or at least conservative in some ways. It is ironically “the conservatives” who probably press on with this non-denominational trend the most in a bid to preserve some unity around an important core of beliefs that they deem should unify all Christians. The motives aren’t bad, despite my negative critique above. But they think of liberal churches as already having abandoned that core, or of relegating it to some lesser optional status. [are they right? is the burning question for every locality to be self-reflecting on.]

(Randy) #27

that is a very good perspective!

(Mark D.) #28

Thought provoking. It is reflection like this which is going to frustrate atheists of a certain bent* from characterizing your position in a simplistic, dismissive way. Oh well …

*Not me of course. :sunglasses:

Hmmm … that could be taken two ways. I meant that it shows a depth of thought which must be respected … not the way which sounds like I myself would have no trouble making that sort of characterization. English - you got to love it.

(Christy Hemphill) #29

I think part of the problem may be that a litmus test for conservative theology in many Evangelical people’s minds is affirming the Chicago Statement on inerrancy, which includes a statement that at face value seems to suggest that the Bible is an authoritative source on history and science. As long as conservative Evangelical churches feel bound by the Chicago Statement, I think there will be unavaoidable issues when it comes to actual faith-science dialogue.

(Phil) #30

That is a good point. I would add that in my experience whether or not a church is conservative lately also has centered on LBGTQ stuff and related issues. We avoid those issues on this forum, but if looking for a line in the sand, that tends to be it.

(T J Runyon) #31

I want to…

(Mark D.) #32

I think your point is the fairest, least controversial, and hardest to deny. To say that you believe the bible was inspired by God is not to say it was meant to be comprehensive covering any question that may come up regarding anything whatsoever. But as an outsider I can go further.

The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian church in this and every age. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to show the reality of their discipleship by humbly and faithfully obeying God’s written Word.


To my outsider’s ear there is all too much emphasis on obedience in Christianity. As parents we eventually want more than that from our children. Why shouldn’t the God of the bible also want more? Otherwise why bother with free will? To devalue critical thinking is to demean that which surely is the basis for thinking humankind are made in God’s image.

(Mark D.) #33

When you look at where the prohibitions against homosexuality can be found in the bible it seems odd to defend them so gleefully when other prohibitions in the OT are dismissed almost out of hand. The question of whether transgendered should be allowed to use hormones when young to attain the sort of body they feel they must have is deservedly more fraught with angst since as parents we must protect our kids from harm. But I am shocked that there is any hesitancy in accepting homosexual individuals into a church. Surely adults who identify as such can be entrusted with the choice and loved for who they are apart from that one dimension of who they are as people. Between the actual harm parents do to their kids when they send them out of their house to fend for themselves for identifying as homosexual and the potential harm they fear they do to their immortal soul, surely the former is greater. This is an area that I think churches need urgently to address since it is the perception that the church supports their choice that sometimes decides the matter for parents.

(Juan Romero) #34

Certainly not the SDA church.

(Darek Barefoot) #35

The New Testament transforms many commands of Old Testament law into spiritual symbolism, including circumcision and Jewish festivals. Some commands are preserved, such as prohibition of idolatry, fornication, adultery, and homosexuality. The New Testament really does uphold the standard of heterosexual monogamy for believers. Repeat: for believers. It does NOT command believers to force their Christian moral views on society at large through coercive laws. Nor does it sanction insulting or demeaning unbelievers because they don’t live a Christian lifestyle. The area of sexual feelings is fraught with horrific problems. This may come as a shock to some here, but there are otherwise respectable-looking couples out there who engaging in spouse swapping. Why do they do it? Some drive or perceived need is being fulfilled. On NPR they told the story a year or so ago about a man who was agonizing about telling his wife that he was bisexual. Why all the agony? Why did his wife even have to know? Apparently, because he just didn’t feel sexually fulfilled being limited to one heterosexual relationship. If the strength of a person’s feelings is the criterion for sexual ethics, then everything short of rape and child molestation is equally moral. That’s why the LGBTQ agenda simply cannot be reconciled with biblical Christianity.

Please note that dysphorias other than those with a sexual basis can be equally intractable. BIID, for example (Body Integrity Identity Disorder). And those afflicted are otherwise functional, intelligent, rational, and normal in every way. And they are in just as much pain as a frustrated homosexual, and just as resistant to any form of therapy or treatment. And just as satisfied if permitted to have what they crave, namely, the amputation of a perfectly healthy limb of their body. Do the research yourself if you doubt it. The human psyche is a mysterious, baffling, unfathomable tangle. Which is, in fact, what Christianity characterizes as the fallen state of humanity.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #36

All the hot-button issues you raise above could be one reason (I’m hypothesizing) why there is so much growth in de-localized denominations (or ‘non-denominations’) as I wrote of before. The newly exploding INC (Independent Networking Church) might manage to give people all the ‘pizazze’ of great group feel and charisma without any of the responsibility of actually living in community and being accountable to each other to work out painful differences and potential divides in close quarters. Your preferred internet or Youtube group will feel a lot more homogenous and comfy than will the “accidental” community that physical geography brings together. I mention INC communities above only because I just now found out about them reading this book review of “Rise of Network Christianity” (Christerson, 2017), and so I don’t yet know much about them. It seems it will echo, though, much of the concern I expressed above about non-denominationalism. I’m sure God will use it, and get much good out of it too. But something makes me doubt they will expend much energy struggling over any controversial issues, leaving those dirty details and heavy lifting for local pastors to do. And perhaps that is fine and necessary. But each local pastor will still have emerged from somebody’s seminary somewhere … maybe.

(Phil) #37

C[quote=“Mervin_Bitikofer, post:36, topic:38847”]
But each local pastor will still have emerged from somebody’s seminary somewhere … maybe.

Near here the largest local church is non-affiliated and the founding pastor was a local coach with no seminary training. He is a great guy with lots of people skills and is a good speaker, but sermons are pretty superficial. Many Bible church pastors have no seminary training. Seminary training does not mean a pastor is qualified by a long shot, but hopefully gets them to the point where they know what they don’t know. I was looking at a local seminary’ curriculum and it was eye opening to see a masters degree had more courses in financial management, personnel management, facility management etc than Bible. Those things are necessary of course to function as a pastor, but the paucity of actual bible study was interesting,
Now to try to turn it back to the subject, studies have shown seminary trained pastors are more open to different interpretations of scripture though hesitant to share their views with the congregation, who tend to have more narrow dogmatic opinions.

(Randy) #38

Wow. I see parallels with medicine. Sometimes it seems that the less you’ve studied, the more open you are to naturopathy and alternative medicine (there’s an inverse parallel there I guess, but I think that seminarians do often have more depth and recognition of evidence based theology :slight_smile: ) A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
. On the other hand, there are so many specialists in our system who seem to be doing less patient care and more management and finances that I wonder if they’re burnt out.

(Darek Barefoot) #39

I could not agree more. Having to rub elbows with people whose annoying habits and opinions must be suffered at close quarters requires the exercise of virtues such as patience, self-control, and humility. There used to be a sense that God chose your neighbors and people who are physically around you to teach you or force you to grow in some way he knows you need to. Filtering all your spiritual/social contacts while keeping other people safely at arms length short-circuits that process.


Well, I’m a Catholic and I don’t really recall any situation where I’ve gotten in any unpleasant argument with anyone in the church because of evolution, even in more conservative communities. In fact they are usually very curious and interested in hearing about science from me (I work with cellular biology). I guess the fact that the more recent popes have been friendly towards science has helped a lot on that.