JOPLIN, Mo. —
I just don't get it. Why all the uproar from many of my fellow Christians over the subject of evolution?
Having never formally studied evolution (there were no such courses available to me when I was a student), the amount of my knowledge on the question might fill a thimble. What little I do know I have gained through some reading.
Augment my scant knowledge with the thinking of both the proponents and the opponents of evolution -- and the hyperbole of both sides -- and I still don't get it.
What's all the fuss? Why are science professors teaching in evangelical schools fired for their views of evolution? Why do other professors have to be quiet with their thoughts about evolution?
Why are we not concerned about the high percentage of young people leaving the church and the faith because of this antagonism of the church toward science? Why this new version of the inquisition?
Here's why I don't get it: When I read the Old Testament writings of Genesis, the two separate accounts of creation in chapters two and three, I read a powerful, dramatic account of creation which was passed down by story for generations before mankind learned to write.
The very first time I read these words on my own, without the interpretation of parents, teachers or ministers, I wondered: Did God simply place a sun and a moon, already formed, in the sky? Did God scoop up into his hands Earth's soil with which he then proceeded to form a man?
Then, at a later time, did God render the man unconscious, open up his ribcage, take out a rib and, from it, form woman? Did God kneel down and breathe into man's nostrils? Did God also do that for the woman?
Today, when I read these words, I read them with a better understanding of how the ancients spoke and wrote. Are these the actual steps involved in creation, or are they constructs which house the essential belief that life originated with God? My faith in God, my relationship with God, my esteem for God, is not hinged on the "how" of creation but on my belief that God is the creator of life, the architect of life.
Where is the danger when a professor of science, who is a Christian and who has studied science, sees credibility in the idea of evolution? What are the risks of a Christian accepting the viewpoint of evolution? The science of evolution does not contradict the existence of God. It is possible to see the process of evolution as originating from God. The consequences of this battle with science over evolution are tragic. Science professors who are Christians in the purest sense of the word, are ousted. Other professors of science are frightened into silence about their understanding of the evolutionary process. Energetic, young students, also Christians, are driven away from the faith.
And constructive, helpful dialogue between science and faith is burned at the stake. All because of an undue emphasis on the "how" of creation rather than the appropriate emphasis on the "who" of creation.
The irony of it all is that before, when the church ruled that science was wrong about the universe, the telescope proved the church wrong. Church dogma changed to allow the new findings of science. It was all so unnecessary, and it is today.
We do well to heed the words of Reinhold Niebuhr: "Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must live by faith."
Craig Tally is the senior minister of First Community Church in Joplin. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.