There are denominational differences among Christians regarding their stances on evolution. Romans Catholics, for example, tend to be more supportive than, say, Pentecostals.
Another denomination that more than a few people may generally consider to be hostile to the scientific consensus on human origins is the Baptists. It’s not uncommon, anyway, to see this stereotype placed upon them. In fact, just this morning, I came across a blog post that twice used the word “Baptist” as a synonym for “young-earth creationist.”
This author, a self-described atheist, wrote the following: “To me it is fairly sad to see Christians (such as Catholics) assert they accept evolution, but also believe in a Christian God. I also believed this for a time, until I actually decided to read and document the Bible. Once I did this, I was able to conclude that the bible is in fact destroyed by this evidence. It became clear to me that the only way to believe in God is to become like a Baptist — assert that it is all true, and that science is wrong!”
As founder of a website promoting the reasonableness of celebrating both an active, loving God and the findings of mainstream science, I deeply disagree with virtually every point this author, “Allebone,” makes, especially his assertion that the evidence for common descent “destroys” the Bible. (I just checked on the several copies of the Bible that I keep in my library, dangerously close to “On the Origin of Species” and other works on evolution. So far, none of them have spontaneously combusted despite their proximity to books about science.)
However, I include his comments here to illustrate what some people think about Baptists and their views on the theory of evolution. Obviously, Allebone has never met Fisher Humphreys.
According to his bio on the blog for The Trinity Group, a network of friends and theologians that meets regularly in Birmingham, Ala., Humphreys is professor of divinity emeritus at Samford University and is retired from more than 28 years teaching Christian theology at various schools. He also holds a Th.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is an ordained Baptist minister.
So what does Humphreys think about evolution? Here’s what he wrote in an April 22 op-ed for the Associated Baptist Press, which I’d guess is not widely considered a liberal media outlet (below, emphasis mine):
Some thinkers have called for a truce in the conflict. They argue that theology and science operate in separate spheres. Roughly, science tells us the truth about the universe, and theology tells us its meaning. Science tells us how the universe works, and theology tells us why there is a universe.
They have a point. We do not look to theology for an understanding of gravity, and we do not look to science for an understanding of the Holy Trinity. Or, as Galileo said, we look to the Bible to learn how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.
Humphreys goes on to argue, fairly persuasively, that the birth of modern science actually owes more to Christianity than people today often realize. Whether you agree with him on this point doesn’t change the fact that he, a longtime Baptist theologian and Bible teacher, thinks the current conflict between Christianity and science is “regrettable,” and called for “a truce.”
ABP has actually done a lot of good work covering what we at GOE often refer to simply as “the clash,” including last week’s report about a conference on science and theology organized by Baptists in Dayton, Ohio, as a direct response to young-earth creationism.
Let me be clear: Christians’ rejection of evolution remains a real and widespread problem. I’m not declaring victory here.
But the heart of the issue is not that intelligent, learned and theologically sound individuals in even the most conservative of communities and denominations have never come out in support of Christianity + evolution. Clearly, they have. Dude, even popes have.
The problem is that those messages aren’t permeating their relevant congregations. And that’s really not that surprising; I doubt the majority of churchgoers know even who founded their denominations (uh yeah, Wesleyans — you guys don’t count) or what their beliefs are on communion and baptism — let alone their official stances on evolution.
But if it’s just a problem with education, that’s OK with me. We can educate our brothers and sisters.
Or we can just have them read Fisher Humphreys.