There are some words you can use that just cause problems.
One of those words is the word evolution.
In college I encountered the theory in some detail while working on a Master’s thesis about an obscure novelist named Samuel Butler. Why did I decide to study him? In academic work, it is often important to study someone who is less well-known because you can become familiar with a body of work that is less developed.
In studying Butler, I had to study Charles Darwin. Butler was a major fan of Darwin and his book Origin of the Species. Darwin began to get attention from the scientific community soon after Origin was published in 1859 and this book can cause a good argument today, especially among Christians and non-Christians—scientists and theologians—creation scientists and evolutionary scientists. Needless to say, Darwin’s body of work is well developed!
Pastor Hamilton in his book Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White acknowledges this is a huge issue to discuss, and since it has generated such rancor, he feels it belongs in his book about the divisive nature of our world. He wants us to understand the reason it divides us and he wants us to understand opposing views.
I remember that I encountered Origin of the Species as a church-going young man in the 70’s and I was malleable. I may have been attending church all my life but I did not study God’s word the way I am now. I did not really grapple with the idea of God’s creation of the universe in Genesis. I knew of it of course but I did not revere it, maybe the way I should have.
When Darwin came along in my life, I thought his ideas made perfect sense but I did not see that the more I accepted his ideas, the more I began to put God’s ideas aside.
Genesis 1: 27, 31 “So God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them….God saw everything that He had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.”
I knew that life on earth had changed. Anyone who has been to school at any level knows that but the big questions were what caused those changes? Who brought those changes about?
After Darwin’s book came out, by the 1870’s it was generally accepted in the scientific community as fact. General American society still struggled with the ideas and Pastor Hamilton explains why in this 1995 statement from the National Association of Biology Teachers: “The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments.”
I began this post with the idea that the word evolution can really get an argument started but can you guess which words in the quote above really rankle Christians?
Here they are: “unsupervised, impersonal and unpredictable.”
These words throw God out of the mix and Pastor Hamilton and I cannot go this far. Maybe I could as an impressionable college kid of the 70’s, but not now.
I have much greater knowledge of the word of God. I have life experience that tells me that the power of God is alive and well in this world today and I am no longer just a church attender: I am a believer.
Today I will lay out the three common negative reactions that Christians have to Darwin and I will go further tomorrow by looking at more developed responses to his theory of evolution.
Some Christians just read the Genesis account as history. God created everything from nothing in six twenty-four-hour days. Evolution is impossible to reconcile with Genesis.
Others see evolutionary theory as a diminishment of the role of God in creation. They understand mutation, adaptation and natural selection and wonder what role God played in that.
Third are the Christians who feel that if humans evolved from other life forms, then that means we have ancestors that come from the ape family. Have you ever heard a Christian say “My Grandpa wasn’t an ape!”
With responses like these, you might think it is impossible to take evolution as a theory and apply it within a Christian’s view of the world.
Indeed, it is impossible for many.
But Pastor Hamilton states that there is a way.
Today, I have just introduced the dilemma; or maybe you might say I have “opened the can of worms.”
In upcoming days, I will address the most dominant responses that Christians have to evolution and see if Pastor Hamilton explains “that way.”
The way a Christian can use the word evolution and not ignite a firestorm.