A Southern Baptist who accepts evolution: Saved on April 1st, but no April Fool

I don't know if you can say that — you haven't met my kids (H/T: Honest Ab).

We bring you another testimony this morning, this one submitted by a reader who wished to be identified by his first name only. Elements of his journey wrestling with matters of science and faith will no doubt resonate with many of you, as it does with me. I especially appreciated his honesty and self-reflection, the sudden revelation that caused him to finally reject the young-earth creationist doctrine in which he had been raised, and which he had once zealously defended. All links and emphases mine.

I feel introductions are in order here.

My name is Jacob, I am a follower of Christ (of the Southern Baptist variety) and a student of scripture. My story actually begins with a bit of my salvation testimony. I was raised in a Christian home, although I had quite a loose understanding of what being a Christian actually entailed. I came to Christ after a friend wrote an article on the “Good News of Easter” in April 2010, acknowledging that being a Christian meant much more than simply believing in God and doing good things.

I say this because it plays critically into my transition (evolution humor) to an evolutionary understanding of nature. I was raised as a Baptist and was taught that evolution was something completely untrue. Although I agreed with my parents at the time, I really didn’t consider the subject in detail until mid-2011, when I started really trying to grow in my faith. As I began to do research and listened to sermons online, I came across a video of a Catholic priest arguing about how science should be challenged from a Genesis perspective. He went on to say that his argument was not one of “science vs. religion,” but of “religion vs. religion.”

“Evolution is a pagan religion,” he stated, and as I listened to his views of science and the age of the earth, I became at that moment a convinced young-earther. I, thus, began to accept the scientific arguments from my young-earth peers as fact, and often felt no need to actually test what they said. I later learned that this was not only unscientific, but unbiblical as well.

I had gotten into many disagreements with a few evolutionists. They were good people in my mind, don’t get me wrong, but I saw them as ignorant of the truth. As such, I felt it my duty to stand against this “pagan” idea of human origins, full of “immoral implications,” and supply them with what I thought was true scientific data.

However, my journey to where I am now wasn’t initiated because of convincing answers from the evolutionist crowd, but rather, because of the unconvincing and confusing answers from the young-earth crowd. You see, I began developing a dangerous thing called “curiosity,” and I began to do that dreaded and annoying thing creationists hate: Ask questions.

I asked a friend once: Why weren’t the dinosaurs on the ark? The answer I received was that there were dinosaurs on the ark, but they died out shortly after exiting it, because the amount of oxygen in the air was not enough to sustain them. This led me to think, “Why did God save them at all if they were just going to die out so soon anyway?” And how did they know the oxygen level changed, and why would it have? These were only questions referring to dinosaurs alone; there was a host of others on the biogeographical dispersion of animals, why certain marine animals went extinct in the supposed flood but other marine animals did not, and so on and so forth…

As I began to grow in my curiosity, I noticed that my church had attitudes towards science that seemed unreasonable. A deacon at my church once said, “They can tell me all they want that the earth is old, or tell me about carbon dating. I have the book of Genesis, which tells me both are wrong.” It struck me as odd, as these dating methods we called “unreliable” were the same methods that allowed us to find out the age of all the biblical manuscripts we have found, and I saw no complaint made against them.

The biggest questions, though, were the moral implications of the doctrine. I began to think, why would God allow interfamilial marriage but then say it was wrong later in the Bible? If it simply had to do with genes, then would it be moral if such unions were practiced in such a way that there was no threat to the genes (such as if the participants were sterile)? This problem, along with the previous issues, made me realize that my accusations of evolutionary thought having immoral implications carried much less weight.

Finally, I asked myself a very difficult question: “If they absolutely proved to you that evolution was true, and that the world was old, what would this do to your faith?”

As I thought about this, I realized that I had made the book of Genesis into an idol. I forgot who it was that truly made my faith matter. I was in the wrong because my faith was in the wrong thing, and it’s what we all put our faith in when we let our pride get in the way: On ourselves.

Our faith should be rooted in one thing, and a line from one of my favorite hymn says it most eloquently:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

I began to reason that God created the world however he wanted, and me putting him into a box of how he could or couldn’t have went about it actually degraded and dishonored him. I was humbled, as God showed me I still had much to learn about his Word and his world.

With this knowledge in mind, the rest became relatively easy: I rapidly transitioned (think Cambrian explosion-quick) into progressive creationism, to a hybrid of progressive and evolution, and finally, into theistic evolution.

I’m still working out the kinks, and I will not lie and say that finding the scriptural answers to the new questions that have arose will be easy, but that’s OK. I have also been humbled enough to know that being truly biblical means I shouldn’t be looking for answers that are easy anyway: It means I should look for the answers that are there.

Or in the words of the late Stephen Jay Gould: “But what is wrong with messy richness, so long as we can construct and equally rich texture of satisfying explanation?”

Have you also struggled with the conflict between science and faith presented by many prominent individuals and groups, some believers, some not? Have you, like this author, eventually found peace in the matter or have experiences with the church in this realm pushed you away from faith? In any case, we would love to hear and share your story. Please contact Tyler or see here for details.

  • I began to reason that God created the world however he wanted, and me putting him into a box of how he could or couldn’t have went about it actually degraded and dishonored him. I was humbled, as God showed me I still had much to learn about his Word and his world.

    Good thinking.

    I find it puzzling that creationists think that they can command their God to not use evolution as a way of creating the biosphere.

    • No kidding. That’s one thing I say all the time to other Christians: It’s not up to any of us to say how God could or could not have created us or anything else in the universe. It’s his universe.

    • As Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper said: “An entirely different problem is that [which is] so often discussed in England: whether religion permits, as such, the spontaneous evolvement of the species in the organic world from one single primary cell. That question, of course, without reservation, must be answered in the affirmative. We should not impose our style upon the Chief Architect of the universe. Provided he remains not in appearance but in essence the architect, he is also in the choice of his style of architecture omnipotent. If it thus had pleased the Lord not to create the species as such, but to have one species arise from the other, by designing the preceding species in such a way that it could produce the next higher, the creation would have been just as wonderful” (Lever 1958, 229).

      And Vern Poythress made a similar point: “Now for the sake of argument let us suppose that the mainstream picture of gradualism is true, that is, purely gradual processes produced all living things. That picture is completely compatible with God having done it all for his own purposes” (Poythress 2013, 69).

      Poythress, Vern S. (2013). “Adam Versus Claims From Genetics” (pp. 65-82), Westminster Theological Journal, 75.

      Lever, Jan (1958). Creation and Evolution. Grand Rapids, MI: Grand Rapids International Publications.

  • Alan S

    I had to laugh at the image of the church sign. Wow, they don’t even BEGIN to get evolution even a little bit right. Either that or they don’t understand the definition of “ancestor”.

    • I know — it’s hilarious. They can’t even get their fallacious arguments right.

      • Alan S

        How ironic that even Richard Dawkins would give a hearty “amen!” to the statement “You are not the ancestor of a baboon!” HAHA!

  • Alan S
    • Thanks, Alan. I did see that a couple days ago, but appreciate the link 🙂

  • ashleyhr

    ‘Cowboy’ Bob Sorensen is having a go at Tyler here (in a discussion about whether the creation/evolution debate hurts the gospel): https://www.facebook.com/aigkenham I quote: “‘I’ve seen Tyler Francke’s work. Francke-ly, I have trouble believing he’s a Christian, since he welcomes atheists with open arms, saying they make “valuable contributions” on his “I want to be noticed by other anti-creationists but I’m not” blog, he misrepresents creation science, he ridicules people that are supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ — I think his Bible is about six pages long. His blog is more about eisegesis and attacking people than anything else. I made this to support a blog post of my own:https://www.facebook.com/Piltdown.Superman/photos/pb.213606162067265.-2207520000.1411215348./709345422493334/?type=3&theater” This from a man who spends ALL his time attacking other people, posting links to YEC pseudo-science and banning all dissenting comments.

    • Whatever. Questioning my faith is about their only response, since both science and scripture is against them, so let them have at it. Good thing for everyone that it’s not up to people like him who is “really” a Christian and who isn’t.

      • Paul

        The thing is, the Bible WASN’T taken literally by Augustine, Clement, and most of the Early Church fathers. Biblical literalism dates from the Reformation.

        The Bible doesn’t give us scientific information.

  • Will

    This article is quite good and worth sharing, but be sure to edit the post to get rid of these typos.

    In the opening lead where you explain about the person who wrote to you, you should say “to be identified” rather than “to identified.”

    Also, the sentence, “As I began to do research and listened to sermons online, I came across a
    video of a Catholic priest arguing about how should science should be
    challenged from a Genesis perspective” contains an extra “should” to get rid of, but you and the original author can take your pick as to which one.

  • “If they absolutely proved to you that evolution was true, and that the world was old, what would this do to your faith?” … reminds me of http://philhemsley.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/if-evolution-is-true/

    • Beautiful, Phil! Love it. Thanks so much for sharing. I’m going to share this on GOE’s Facebook page. Would love to have you do a guest post here sometime, if you’re interested? Hit me up at tyler@godofevolution.com if so.

  • Peter

    The YEC crowd says things like, “you can’t know the past, you weren’t there” but they claim something like a change in oxygen levels? That sounds like talking about the past. But actually, here’s a question about the Ark that I thought of recently…Why did God save the animals at all? He could have created an entire new world, and it would have been just as simple for him since he is omnipotent. Oh well….

    • Everything about the “theories” put forth by the YEC crowd are little more than trumped up ad hoc explanations. They make claims about the behavior of basic substances like water, air, sediment, light, heat and pressure during the supposed global flood that are wildly inconsistent with how these same materials behave under any possible conditions we have ever observed.