To begin with, sorry so long since my last post. In the last two weeks I've become a father (Cosette Marie was born on 6/2) and also started an intensive class (Philosophy of Religion) at Nazarene Theological Seminary that lasts through the end of this week. Needless to say, my life has been a little busy recently.
I want to post a little bit about evolution. Now, I realize that this is a very touchy subject in some Christian circles, so I proceed with some degree of caution. However, I believe that sweeping issues under the rug because there's tension related to them is very harmful to Christianity.
The Church of the Nazarene, according to The Manual, denies any theory of creation that leaves out God. I point this out because the denomination does not make any specific claims concerning how creation occurred, but simply the theological claim that God did it. Officially, it neither endorses nor rejects evolution (except for a godless theory of evolution).
Second, the Church of the Nazarene (of which I am a part, for those who have not gathered as much) understands Scripture to be primarily a theological work. In other words, it is inerrant in everything necessary for our salvation. It is neither a scientific work or a historical document. Although there may be both scientific and historical truths within Scripture, the Bible should not be read as a science or history text book. It's a theological work. It reveals God to us.
I do not share these two premises in hopes of convincing any one to believe in evolution. Instead, I do want to point out that the purpose of the creation account in Genesis 1 is to show that God created the world, man in His image, and has given humans the responsibility for caring for creation. It's primarily concerned with the who and not the how.
Any Christian who claims the Bible as their theological authority (which I do) should be a student of the Word. Being a student of Scripture means personal devotions and study time, but also entails paying attention to contemporary biblical scholarship (such as commentaries or biblical journals). Making claims about the Bible, especially claims that impact science, history, or any real-life situation without proper understanding can create difficulties and confusion about who God is.
Many people believe that science and religion are constantly at odds with on another. Despite this popular belief, science and religion don't have to be adversaries. In fact, they should compliment each other. From a philosophical standpoint, theology and science have two totally different fields of influence. Theology impacts what we believe about God and how we should live. Science is the study of empirical evidence, and does not have directly impact on how people should live. Science does not dictate how one's relationship with God should be practiced. Nor does theology explain the origins of different scientific rules or natural laws. However, there are times when these two spheres overlap.
On the same note, it is important to realize that God created the world. This means that He created all the natural laws and factual things about nature that science discovers. Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity, but God created it. My wife just had a baby, and it's remarkable how her body changed throughout the pregnancy in such intricate ways and now, after the baby is born, is changing back to its "old self." Science explains this, but God created it.
The more I study theology, the more I find that theologians I love believe and accept a God-designed evolution (in various forms). I realize that at this point, some of my readers may be having a melt-down. Well, before you pick up the phone to call a Pastor, District Superintendent, or College President to complain about the liberal teachers at our Nazarene Schools, please at LEAST finish this blog.
I was raised creationist (one who believes Genesis 1 to be the historical account of HOW God created the world). When I went to College, I became more fluid of a creationist, but denied a literal 6-day creation. However, I was not ready to accept evolution. Now, here is where I stand (and if this shoots me in the foot for the rest of my pastoral life, well, at least I spoke the truth):
The scientific evidence in favor of evolution or natural selection is incredibly convincing. I cannot truly be a logical creature and deny the evidence provided from both secular AND Christian scientists. I am quite convinced of natural selection, at least to some extent, has truly impacted the development of animals and plants (and perhaps, humans). I cannot ever accept any theory of evolution that denies God as the designer and sustainer of this process. Evolution can be compatible with "God created the heavens and the earth" worldview.
To accept as fact the evolution of humanity creates a plethora of theological difficulties in addition to the creation account of Genesis 1. The image of God, the story of the Fall and how we understand sin, the naming of Adam and Eve in both New and Old Testaments, the development/creation of the soul, and many other problems arise out of accepting evolution as God's method of creation for humans. This is not to say that I am completely rejecting the possibility, but it is to say that I am not yet ready to accept it. For today, I am simply content with knowing that God created humanity in His Image. How is not especially important.
I have 1 more point to give, and then I would like to provide you with some resources.
As I mentioned above, the Bible tells us everything we need to know to be in a healthy and growing relationship with God. The Bible tells us the who of creation -- God created. Because the how was not an important point in Scripture, I don't think that it has to be an important point for us. Don't get too caught up in the how. Even though above I say that evolution is quite convincing, I am not a concrete evolutionist. If tomorrow a scientist discoveries a whole new system of creation that disproves evolution, I will by no means be heart broken. However, to simply refute scientific proof because of out-dated biblical scholarship is both ignorant and arrogant. It's harmful to the Kingdom of God. Again, I'm not proposing you believe in evolution necessarily. I am proposing that you take an objective look at it.
Here are some resources for you:
Francis Ayala #1
Francis Ayala #2
The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary Volume 1
There are so many. You might also be interested in studying the Enuma Elish, from which it seems the writer of Genesis modeled the creation story.