Culture

February 05 2014
23

evolution

I remember, growing up, how excited I would get that God made the world in six literal days.

I liked going to Creation Group meetings on Saturday mornings because, even though I hated having to talk to strangers, I liked what the speakers said and I got donuts.

I’d dedicate myself to the folded paper newsletters they’d pass out there. Back in the 90s, they featured scratchy scanned photos of people holding up fossils they found in the foothills not too far from my home or carefully reported notes on the latest book explaining that evolution was a trap.

Every winter, when even non-Christians in the northwest were making Noah’s Flood jokes about the constant rain, I’d pour over the regional creation conference schedule. I’d carefully read the brochures, picking out the topics I thought would be most interesting.

I liked the ones about dinosaurs.

My favorite speakers spoke passionately about a world divided into clear categories of science and faith. The speakers were always men, of course, because God apparently didn’t create women with the logical mind needed needed for Creation Science. They told us about recent possible-dinosaur sightings in South America. They described people who were blinded by the devil to participate in the in a vast conspiracy of carbon dating methods and falsified fossils. They reminded us that if we didn’t believe that Genesis was absolutely true, our whole faith would fall.

Later on, in high school, I trained with Christian apologists who taught me the trick questions to undermining evolution in any college Biology class or conversation with an atheist because, after all, it was just a theory.

Of course God made the world in six days, and napped under a tree on the seventh.

That was where I got my security, my assurance that God was in charge and that I believed enough right things in the right way to please him.

Until I stopped believing in all of that.

Over the past four years, my understanding of the world and my experience of God have changed drastically. My knowledge of science and scripture are stretched out, but I didn’t lose my faith.

I’m actually excited about the God of evolutionary process. Separating the creation myths from Genesis and the evolutionary development of the earth makes me more excited about God.

If the earth is really billions of years old, then I can trust that God is patient.

I used to believe in a god who was perpetually angry at humans because we sinned and broke the perfect world he had created. And because I was the worst of sinners, and still messing up as a Christian, it mean that he was angry at me. And he was coming back soon to bring judgment on everyone and everything evil, which also meant me.

It’s not surprising that I’ve had nightmares about the rapture and apocalypse as long as I can remember.

But now I know God’s not going to fly off the handle at me if I mess up or if we, as humans, mess up again and again for thousands of years.

Some may be drawn to a God of swift justice, but right now I find peace and worship in a God who is not a in a rush. I am intrigued by a God who breathes into a process and lets it run wild. I am captivated by the idea of a God who is mysterious and so steady, so enamored by small processes, that it would be worth billions of years of wait for this revelation.

I am a woman of small processes. I used to believe in miraculous leaps ahead in life, but I don’t see it working like that.  I’m intuitive and can fully change direction in an instant, once I’ve done my research. But most of the miracles in my life have been relatively small illuminations and steady work.

Right now, it amazes me that God doesn’t need me to suddenly shape up once and for all, to be fixed and never encounter changes again. It is much more fluid than that.

I have a deep faith in a God who evolves and who invites me to evolve. I am growing trust in a God who is with me in process, not just at the beginning.

I worship a God who not only evolves, but incarnates to become human like us, and in that unspeakably revolutionary act of divine flesh, invites us to be made new.

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23 comments

  1. Marina

    Wow… I’ve always struggled with my faith. Since I don’t know much about science, my mind has always floated between trusting and not trusting in the Bible. But this post… this post is amazing! Thanks for sharing that with us.

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  2. Encouraging and well said. Thank you.

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  3. i’m with you, Emily. Although I was never a creationist – my dad was a mathematician and a very logical thinker and he always left room for Truth to be revealed in science as well as in scripture. This is where an understanding of literary genre comes in handy — and a willingness to let God be bigger than the Bible, bigger than anything or anyone we can imagine. I think that’s why I gravitate to the Cosmic Christ ideas of the last couple of hundred years. It’s strange how comforting that is to me – that the Risen Christ, Almighty God and Holy Spirit are beyond imagining in size and complexity, in goodness and in power. It helps me relax when my own life feels complicated!

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  4. Stephen

    This morning’s appointed scripture reading included Abraham’s understanding of the call to sacrifice Isaac.
    I am grateful that over the several days’ journey he had time to reflect and come to a different understanding of what God was calling him to do.
    So many times i get aggravated with God for not revealing clearly what i am to do, but then i get the feeling that it is up to me. God’s interest sees to be more about walking with me, to get to know each other more. There are so many myths for me to test.
    In the movie Babette’s Feast, the general makes a toast mentioning psalm 85:10 in the context of having had to walk away from a great love, the day has come when love and bliss have embraced. Decisions i have made to go in one direction, God finds ways to reconcile with the other choice i could have made, and i have both. What i thought righteousness would separate, peace brings together.
    Evolution takes time, but above all else it takes trust in the good direction

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    • John

      Will you tell me more about that scripture reading regarding Abraham’s understanding of God’s call?

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      • Stephen

        When i read that passage, gen 22:1-19, i imagine myself walking along with them. I might picture myself as one of the two young men, or the young Isaac or Abraham, or just a remote observer.
        I ask myself what they might be talking about during those days of walking…Isaac seems to be the most logical person as he notices the absence of the sacrifice; the servants probably just trying to figure out what the old man might be up to next; and Abraham perhaps the most perturbed of all.
        Just as my understanding of who God is grows as i traverse my life experiences, so must Abraham’s.
        I often get stuck in myths of who God is; some are valid specially when i am forced to allow for a lot of mystery; others are questionable as when i insist on God being specific. these days i am baffled by a battle against our small town board over the noise ordinance. i am fearful, cannot understand why others do not see what a nuisance it is and am afraid of the bullies who shout me down. i whish God would protect me and rain fire and brimstone on the bars that play loud music. What is my understanding of God in this situation?
        As it turned out this evening, at our small church Bible study meeting, the preacher asked folks to call on others who have not been around lately, when he came to me, and i have only moved here a short while ago, he asked if i would consider contacting the mayor. I was stunned. how did he know of the painful town hall meetings?
        To me, this evening, it seems like the holy Spirit was giving me an alternative approach to the man. Can i compose a note to him that connects us a men somehow, keeping the noise ordinance out? Kind of like God providing the ram.
        I ask for your prayers on this

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  5. Just last night while watching the debate with some dear friends who disagree with me wholeheartedly on this issue (and are still dear friends- that is what church should be!), I was telling them that I am thankful that I believe in a God who created with the intention of his creation becoming something else, something better. I know God has created me for sanctification that He has his hand leading and guiding, just as he has led and guided all of the species of the earth to their current selves from their ancient ones, even back to when those ancient ones were just small clusters of cells. I love your comment about God’s patience. Well said.

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  6. Gary

    What an amazing blog content AND incredibly rationale, polite comments. You are the THIRD person, I know of, that blends (or seems to) science and scripture. I have believed Science and Christian Biblical scripture complete each other. I have often used Secular History evidence to support or confirm certain scriptural events.

    Recently, I was explaining my thoughts to long time Christian friends. They pastored a Pentecostal church for 40 years. I noted the Bible records the inclusion of Adam and Eve on Earth, moved them to a new home, East of Eden and assigned them maintenance duties. The human part of our time on this Earth is 6,000 years.

    They listened calmly and asked some questions. I was amazed they both remained so calm. I also related the lack of mention of certain animals, in the Bible, does not negate Science nor have any effect on my doctrinal beliefs of salvation.

    Oddly, Scientists struggles with extraterrestrial life and many refuse to accept the Bible or any “spiritual” reference to that effect. While some of us see the “logic” of Science and Faith working together, every intelligent, studied, learned, dedicated people fail too.

    I can understand Evolution thru Intelligent Hands but “random” evolving is beyond me. I have used scientific investigative methods to confirm scripture.

    *Confirming with a doctor or nurse the patient’s condition before praying. Following up with the medical staff once the patient recovers.

    *Walking a Gang infested neighborhood passing out tracks. Instead of getting a beating, they take us to their pack leader, who confessed he used to be a practicing Christian. He gave orders to leave us alone.

    *Trying to find friends in a crowded airport after several planes disembarked. A “lighted area” caught our attention and as we walked toward it, the crowd separated and there sat our friends.

    Scientist have discovered and “photographed” fields or auras around people. Their explanation was some form of energy was radiating from inside the person.

    Science proves the Universe is tied together, works in harmony under intelligence or direction while some scientists deny the Source of that control. In both cases, the evidence does not oppose Truth, the people do.

    Congratulations on your perception and manner of living with it. God bless.

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  7. Honestly, I cannot understand your view. I really want to understand, I do. But how can you honestly and intellectually believe in a God who created you in His image and yet hold to an evolutionary belief that we evolved from…apes? Goo? I don’t know. Molecules? I’m just asking.

    How do you reconcile it? Honest question, no meanness or anything else intended.

    Because here’s the thing; if I believe in evolution on a grand scale – the whole thing – then I will no longer be a Christian. Would I still believe in God? Yes. But the God of the Bible? How could I? It doesn’t match up.

    Help me?

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    • Stephen

      Maybe that God does not exist. Maybe the God who demands our first born is no longer the God of our understanding, as God is becoming revealed to us; on the contrary, God of Abraham begins to lead people by surviving first borns and we now can come to know God as Micah 6:8. God wants steadfast love, and not sacrifice.

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    • Sarah, Thank you for your honest question here. I’m grateful you asked it! I’ve learned a lot from the men and women at Biologos. This article in particular may add some new perspective: http://biologos.org/questions/image-of-god
      But there are many fascinating rabbit trails there!

      Another thing that helped me come to this view is studying Genesis in seminary. My education background is in literature, and I think understanding genre and context is an important part of honoring Scripture. The early chapters of Genesis are ancient poems which contrast with the other creation myths in the culture at the time it developed. Many of those other myths speak of life as an accidental byproduct of warring gods, or a trick one god plays on another. The Hebrew people marked that their God, YHWH, cares for everything in the earth, particularly humans. I tend to agree with the scholarship that says this poem has more theological implications rather than scientific or factually historical.

      There’s a lot at play here and I’m by no means an expert, but I hope you keep exploring this! I see much mystery and majesty in this view. And maybe, instead of degrading humans, it means that apes and goo are precious to God, too? I don’t know, but I like wondering. :)

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      • May I ask, why do you believe in a Christian God? Is it because of the evidence for Jesus living and dying and rising from the dead, or is it something you know/feel to be true inside you, or something else?

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  8. Lawrence

    Hmmm.. I wonder where we find this theology in scripture…
    not sure we do.
    peace….

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  9. Lisa Vischer

    Emily, thanks for a lovely and poetic testimony. This business of Genesis is tricky stuff. It might interest you and others to know that there are biblical/historical scholars speaking new and compelling insights into the issues of intelligent design/creation/evolution based on correctly understanding ancient near-Eastern culture (the original intended audience for Genesis). For those interested in learning how scientific discoveries like evolution can be wholly compatible with the Bible’s authority and integrity, take a listen to these two podcasts discussing this subject and interviewing Professor John Walton from Wheaton College. (You can also buy and read Walton’s heady book “The Lost World of Genesis 1″ but the podcasts are free, take less time to get through, and are more entertaining considering the podcast host is Phil Vischer!) Check it out if you like…

    GENESIS & THE ORIGINS OF THE UNIVERSE – http://philvischer.com/the-phil-vischer-podcast/episode-9/

    SPECIAL GUEST JOHN WALTON – http://philvischer.com/the-phil-vischer-podcast/ep-16/

    Blessings!

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  10. I, too, grew up a devout 6-day creationist. In college I once bullied some friends who were foolish enough to believe evolution despite the world of evidence to the contrary, as I saw it. Until I had other friends who knew enough to put me in my place.

    My foundationalist belief system slowly crumbled, and I no longer knew what I believed for a while. All because I could no longer hold onto my creationism. Since I couldn’t say “because THIS, then THIS, then then then then JESUS!”, my grip on Jesus seemed very tenuous. But it endured, and I found, as many find, that Jesus himself becomes a sort of center.

    Something I’ve been thinking about lately: the universe is not centered on humans. I find it hard to rationalize that God set up this whole elegant, sublime universe just to let it spin for 13.6 billion years before humans came on the scene, then allowing humans 194 thousand years before developing written language and only THEN finally deciding to come reveal himself to the universe. I find it hard to rationalize that we were, all along, the end goal of evolution.

    I recently visited Salt Lake City’s natural history museum. 300 million years ago, most of Utah was an ocean. Then the tectonic plates shifted, and the ocean changed places. The entire eastern half of the state was an ocean. This was during the epoch of the dinosaurs, who graced this planet for ten times longer than we humans. Then the tectonic plates shifted again, the Pacific plate crashing into the North American plate, forming rocky mountains that would have been much taller than the ones we climb. These mountains eroded, filling in the ocean that filled the great plains, helping make Colorado.

    Our most long-lasting structures, our great cities, are on land that won’t exist eventually. In just a very short time for the earth, the structures that our cities are built on arose from ocean or decayed from mountain. Just imagine the immensity of time! The ocean waves crashed, the sun rose and set, millions and millions of times. I cannot comprehend that time scale. And for nearly all of it, humans did not exist. This immense, beautiful tapestry existed without humans to appreciate it.

    As I stood there, contemplating that, I prayed. Oh God, I prayed, we are not the pinnacle of your creation. But you love us anyway.

    There are two things I hold onto: We know with great certainty that the universe is 13.6 billion years old. And we know with great certainty that Jesus really died and rose again.

    I’ll hold onto those things, and I’ll continue to read my Bible and learn about the universe. And I’ll continue to wonder what a non-anthropocentric Christianity looks like.

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  11. Tami

    So well and gracefully said, Emily! This is such a beautiful statement of trust and wonder! There’s so much still to learn and discover about the depths of God’s love and patience, and that’s such an exciting thing.

    To Sarah, if you see this, in addition to Emily’s excellent thoughts in response to your question and resources and the links Lisa posted, you may find these to be valuable as you’re wrestling- they’ve been helpful to me:
    The first is a paper by Tim Keller in which he explains the difference between evolution as a scientific theory and evolution as a “Grand Theory of Everything” (http://biologos.org/uploads/projects/Keller_white_paper.pdf)

    The second is a website by the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, which has a great library full of testimonies from scientists, apologists, and theologians that are relevant to the questions you’re asking (a lot of them also contribute to Biologos, but I love that the video clips here are bite-sized): http://www.testoffaith.com/

    All the Best!

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  12. Your first book should definitely be titled, “I Got Donuts: My Experiences with Evangelicalism.”

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  13. Charlie Falugo

    Sarah Mae: You are on the right track. Read the Word, pray and ask the Lord to illuminate His Word. I just hear a message at church about human origins. Our teacher showed us a list of over 800 scientists who have signaled their serious doubt about the possibility of Darwinian evolution.
    The living cell, the simplest living cell is chock full of information – programming if you will. Information does not come from random processes.
    There is NO KNOWN method to derive information, code, programming from a non-intelligent source. Sarah Mae, trust God that He is able to tell us how He created the world-in His Word, the Bible.

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  14. Thank you for sharing! can I translate it into Chinese and post to my blog?

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  15. Love this so much. I find that the idea of God creating through evolutionary processes inspire s worship in me… I dunno why it does that exactly,but it seems like a good sign.

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  16. cc

    First of all, please stop trying to pull God down to our level like you did so many times in that article. He is God, we are mankind. There is a line.

    Second, how can you essentially say that evolution and God go hand in hand? Evolution is a theory dreamed up by a man named Charles Darwin – God never put it in the Bible anywhere. Evolution has been debunked a hundred times over, and the Bible never has been once.

    Evolution says that changes of kind happen. Okay, where? Has anyone observed this? Can it be proven? Our own science laws demand we show proof, so why should I accept evolution if we can’t observe it? Why should anyone, other than a huge leap of faith? You’re taking the word of men that it happens, when not one of them has ever seen it happen.

    There have been tons of mutations, adaptations – but no evidence anyone has ever seen a change of kind. Example – there are lots of breeds of dogs, this is very true. But…they’re all still dogs. There hasn’t been a change of KIND. There’s no evolution there, just different kinds of dogs. Now a dog turning into a bird – that would be change of kind.

    You are taking God’s word and skewing it to make it more acceptable to the world we live in. You can’t do that and still stay true to God.

    God and the world do not mix – He is perfection, we are pure imperfection. We are covered with sin, but because He loves us so much He sent his only begotten son to die for the sins of the world so that we could all have a chance to be with Him in heaven. We can’t make it there on our own.

    That all being said, since I believe God is all powerful, I believe that if it did indeed take years and years and years for everything to develop like evolution wants us to believe, He would have said so in the Bible. He wouldn’t have said 6 days with the 7th to rest, we would have gotten a very different explanation if it had been any other way. No, I trust God’s word in the Bible. If He says 6 days and the 7th to rest, then that’s how long it all took.

    I pray you look further into it and don’t buy into mankind’s flawed theories anymore.

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