An unexpected journey: Coming to peace with evolution

Bible photo by Dave Bullock, via Wikimedia Commons.

Editor’s note: What follows is the testimony of a reader from Maryland, who asked to remain anonymous but wanted to share his story of moving from fundamentalist young-earthism to an evolutionary view of creation, and the challenges this journey brought. His story has been divided into two posts; see here for part 1.

He concludes with a powerful question: If a Christian can come to peace with evolution, then is it really Darwin’s theory that’s to blame for young believers leaving their faith?

I was not completely convinced of evolution after reading the first book, mostly because some of the lines of argumentation had not yet sunk in; but my confidence in the truth of creationism was shattered to pieces. I knew that I couldn’t just ignore what I had read about the fossil record, human chromosome 2, pseudogenes and ERVs, and just continue to be a creationist while hoping that time would help me to forget what I had read.

It dawned on me that to ignore or try to forget what I had learned would be tantamount to choosing fear over faith. So, instead, I made the conscious decision to seek to understand the evidence for evolution with my eyes wide open and with two presuppositions in my mind: 1) that God is not threatened by anything we discover about the way this universe operates, because he is the one Who created it, and 2) if evolution is true, this fact cannot contradict God’s word, even if at first blush it may seem to.

I rolled up my sleeves and dedicated myself to reading as much as I could find time for. Over a period of several months, I read science books (some by believers, others by unbelievers) and Genesis commentaries, and watched documentaries. I would love to say that it was all very easy and that my faith was never shaken, but that wouldn’t be true; there were some seasons of spiritual dryness and apathy, and even episodic struggles with doubt. If I could have done anything differently during this period, I would have spent much more time in prayer than in reading books.

The Enemy is powerful, and even though I am now completely convinced of the compatibility of evolution and biblical Christianity, I also know that he has destroyed the faith of many by convincing them (sadly, with the unwitting help of the church) of their incompatibility. If you are reading this as a creationist, I certainly encourage you to take a step of faith and consider reading the literature on evolution; but at the same time, I will caution you to do so with a mind saturated in prayer and alert to the Enemy’s devices.

After many months of reading, thinking, reflecting and praying, I became convinced that evolution is as near to a scientific truth as any could be. I was comforted to discover that there were more respected orthodox Christians who accepted evolution than I had imagined, including C.S. Lewis, B.B. Warfield, J.I. Packer and even Billy Graham. Although I said earlier that I sometimes regretted even going down this path, I can truly say that my faith was ultimately strengthened, not weakened. For one example of how this could be: Though I used to think that “evolution” was the strongest weapon in the atheist’s arsenal, I could now see that evolution couldn’t even be rightly used as an argument against the existence of God at all.

I did, unfortunately, experience some emotional pain along the way. While I was blessed to have my wife’s support, I was denied membership in a church to which I had very close ties. Though I had intended to keep my new convictions as private as possible, I felt ethically obligated to explain them to the elders as I pursued membership. Sadly, this revelation caused the pastor, who I considered a close friend, to break our friendship and treat me with a level of disrespect that is unbecoming of any Christian, let alone a pastor. My moves to reconcile with him have been effectively ignored. Thankfully, my wife and I have found a church which has accepted us with joy, even though the leaders respectfully disagree with our stance on evolution.

As I wrap up my testimony, I would like to issue a challenge to the evangelical church. Even though I am a Christian adult with a thoughtfully considered faith, well-grounded and matured through many years of learning, teaching, hardship, practice and worship, I still had to struggle with doubt and anxiety as I sought to understand how evolution and the Christian faith fit together. There must be millions of less-grounded young people in our churches who have made shipwreck of their faith because they had almost literally been preprogrammed by their Christian homes and churches to do so. Churches, parachurch organizations like Answers in Genesis and Way of the Master, and Christian homes have, with the best of intentions, hammered into the minds of young people the message that evolution must be false if the Bible is true, and if evolution is true, then the Bible must be false.

Unfortunately, many of these youngsters will eventually be confronted with the evidence for evolution in high school or college, and if they are convinced by it, the Enemy will gladly bring to mind that message again and again, whispering to them, “You know that evolution is true now, so how can you continue to believe that the Bible is true?” Can you see how this unnecessary crisis of faith — or even worse, rejection of faith — would be averted if the evangelical world would stop promoting false dichotomies and start teaching its young people how evolution and the Christian faith can both be true? What if a Christian child were taught from early on that evolution and Christianity are not enemies? Isn’t it obvious that such children would be much better off because they would be much less likely to struggle with this issue as they got older?

Remember what Jesus says: “If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me — to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Readers, do you have a story like this author’s? If so, and you don’t mind sharing, email it to Tyler Francke for consideration on GOE’s Testimonies page. The American church needs to hear from you.

  • Brian P.

    Perplexing: Somebody telling somebody else what is or isn’t a necessary crisis of faith.

    • It’s the author’s opinion, but I entirely agree with his sentiment and see no problem with him voicing it. I think that forcing people to choose between evidence-based science like evolution and biblically based Christianity is entirely unnecessary. It’s a false dichotomy, just as the author says.

  • David Rack

    Unfortunately, Orthodox Christianity DOES require a belief in the existence of Adam and Eve and Original Sin… whoever is a Christian and does not believe in a literal Adam and Eve cannot be an Orthodox, I’m sorry. The genome evidence has disproven the possibility that the human population had ever been bottlenecked to just 2 human individuals, and it seems there is absolutely no way of making the evolution of human beings compatible with the Christian doctrine of original sin…
    No Original Sin, no problem, no need for Christ’s redemption.
    This is still an issue I struggle with. I understand Bio Logos’ view on it, but still they do not represent the Christian Orthodoxy (e.g. Western Orthodox and Catholic Church, who reject polygenism).

    • I understand your struggle, but I must say I see absolutely no scriptural reason for you to believe either a literal Adam and Eve or the doctrine of original sin are necessary for the sacrifice of Christ to have meaning. The Bible does not say Christ had to come and give himself as a propitiation because Adam and Eve sinned and fell short of the glory of God — it says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That is why I believe each one of us is guilty before God and in need of Christ’s redemption separate from the question of what original sin is or if it even exists.

      I, for one, reject the idea that we are born spiritually dead, and are guilty before we have the capability to sin ourselves. I’m not sure if that’s what you meant by original sin, but I see little biblical support for this common idea. I do believe we have an internal nature that is inherently inclined toward sin, but I don’t believe that in itself is sinful until we actually commit sin. I see support for my view in a number of passages, including Romans 5:12 (“Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all because all sinned“) and James 1:14-15 (“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” If all people are dead anyway because of something that happened thousands of years ago, what is this verse talking about?). Of course, the primary reason I must reject the idea is I see no way it can coexist with the Incarnation. If original sin as I defined it above is true, then either Christ was not fully man or he was not sinless. I believe he was both, therefore I must reject an idea that says people are born guilty of sin, regardless of what they do or don’t do.

      I care more about being in line with the Bible than the vague, shifting boundaries of “orthodoxy,” however it’s defined. And if I’m out of step with “orthodoxy,” but in line with the likes of C.S. Lewis, B.B. Warfield, J.I. Packer and Billy Graham, (not to mention the Nicene Creed, which says nothing about Genesis or Adam and Eve) all the better. Remember that believing the sun orbited the earth in a geocentric system was once a matter of the strictest orthodoxy, too.

      One question about the views of the Catholic Church. I know the pope has explicitly endorsed evolution since at least the 90s. So on what grounds do you claim they reject polygenism? I ask out of genuine curiosity. Thank you!

      • David Rack

        Pope Pius XII says:

        “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own”

        (Humani Generis, 37, Pope Pius XII)

        • Interesting. Another place I disagree with the Catholic Church, I suppose. Thanks for sharing!

  • 13242

    If a Christian can’t accept a literal Adam, there is a problem there. Genesis gives no reason to question creation. Those who reject it would not have, had they known that God is no liar and does not want to confuse us. Also, it should be noted that evolution has little proof. I know the majority of scientists don’t agree, but mainly because of their atheistic lens. You may look down on the Bible as just so stories, but these are facts for me and any believer that loves the Bible. I have a high view of Scripture and no matter what you say… your’s is low. God is more powerful than our tiny minds can comprehend… but he can’t create earth in 7 days? Even you will say that this is possible. But it goes further, this loving God gives us his supposed complete word, but he neglects to tell us that we shouldn’t bother to interpret Genesis literally. I can say more, but I guess you guys now better than me. You rely on fantasies of so called scientists… and give a cool cop out…. I stand on the Word of God. Also, since you don’t stand on the Word of God I will say this for fun. Jesus believed what Moses had said… Go read Exodus and nevermind…. Why bother, the whole Bible is a myth, isn’t it? Nope. I lied. God doesn’t lie… men do.

    • You equate rejecting a literal Adam with calling God a liar. This is an absurdly fallacious dichotomy. Would you say I’m calling God a liar if I reject a literal Prodigal Son? Of course not. It’s a question of how the text was meant to be interpreted, and we are all seeking the best interpretation. But the fact is, your interpretation is just as fallible as mine. Asserting that your fallible interpretation is synonymous with the infallible word of God does nothing but make you look arrogant and foolish.

    • Evolution has little proof. I know the majority of scientists don’t agree, but mainly because of their atheistic lens.

      They’re too easy to dismiss. You should be concerned with those evolutionary scientists who are evangelical Christians (e.g., Denis R. Alexander).

      God is more powerful than our tiny minds can comprehend… but he can’t create earth in 7 days?

      Whether he can is pure speculation. The question is whether he did.

      God gives us his supposed complete word, but he neglects to tell us that we shouldn’t bother to interpret Genesis literally.

      We should. Young-earth creationists don’t.

  • genciNoble

    I like this a lot, especially since I never took like literally human kind emerged from 2 persons ( Adam and Eve, and formed by clay and so on). I accept the theory of evolution as basically there had to be a process till we are this what we are today, but still I believe or at least I want to believe ( I dont want to lose that faith NEVER), that evolution was instigated by GOD.