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.”