Theology Thursday: Thoughts on Evolution

One of the current boundary markers for Christians is the biological doctrine of evolution by (we think) natural selection. Some Christians think that others aren’t Christians if they believe it happened. Some Christians think other people are idiots for not thinking it happened.

I suggest a three step algorithm similar to my thoughts on Christianity and politics.

  1. Recall what it is specifically that makes a Christian, Christian.
    It is not an interpretation of this or that Old Testament passage (Romans 14), it is not perfect moral behavior (1 John 1:8-2:2), it is not strict accuracy concerning theological ideas (1 Corinthians 13). Rather, it is “the obedience of faith (Romans 1:5).”
  2. Look into why you accept a theory or interpretation of Scripture
    Many Christians do not have time to A) master the literary/historical background to Genesis or B) master the state of the field in modern biology. Thus they are at the mercy of either their church’s confession of faith or what experts say. The problem with experts in either of these two fields is that they are often not writing for the normal person. But nevertheless, a human being is obligated not to trust experts, but to go with what they think is true. An expert can help you get to the truth, but in general, I would think that the average Christian will find the question to be ultimately indifferent and simply go with what sounds true based on their other beliefs of the level of trust to which they hold experts. The Christian who is a biologist or an Old Testament scholar will end up having wildly different views from the average Christian just as a physicist or engineer understands the world in ways that are opaque to the average person outside of these fields.
  3. Remember your own predilections when it comes to fields outside of your realm of expertise 
    Based on your own interest in science (not the method, nor the practice thereof, but the expressed consensus of the field) you’ll either talk to be about your point of view or not. Many people, because they don’t know that the word science has three senses (the method, the actual work in the lab, and the body of knowledge produced), think that because they know some of the body of knowledge, that they are good at science. In reality, science can involve writing boring computer programs, counting seeds, or watching the same instruments measure the same things for 12 hours a day. Thus they talk about “science” in a sort of tiresome droning about how dumb people are who do not accept this or that theory. On the other hand, many people are perhaps overly skeptical of all science because they find a particular body of knowledge (think: Evo Psych) objectionable and thus think that all such science talk is anti-Christian or anti-God. I would challenge somebody in either of these two groups to take some actual science classes and determine the differences between hard sciences and social sciences, models and data, experimentation and result, and method and practice. Either way though, if Christians would go back to step one of the algorithm, they would remember that being a Christian is not a matter of science, but a matter of commitment to the risen Christ.

In conclusion,  I would challenge Christians who do not buy into evolution (whether for religious or scientific reasons) to look into whether or not the Bible says that this or that scientific theory makes it impossible to be justified by faith in Christ (see Romans 10:8-13). For Christians who do buy into evolution, I would challenge you to think through whether or not accepting this or that scientific theory makes somebody more scientifically minded with respect to the scientific method (remember, accepting a theory on authority, even good authority, is not the scientific method). In other words, does accepting evolution disqualify anybody from Paul’s doctrine of justification or does rejecting (or not knowing about or caring about) evolution have some special capacity to take away somebody’s logical abilities?

For any non-biologist who says, “But we need people to believe in science,” I challenge you to think of one tangible benefit besides social acceptance with very limited crowds that accepting any evolution by natural selection has achieved for you. Btw, it hasn’t helped me in any engineering, physics, or programming class I’ve taken.

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