Recently, I have accepted the evolutionary perspective on human origins, much to the chagrin of several of my friends. You see, I come from a theologically conservative perspective, so this is a big move for me. But I suppose that other things have helped prime the pump, not necessarily making it easy to accept evolution per se, but making it easier to accept unpopular ideas. My views of salvation and sovereignty are Calvinistic, which has been a strike against me in many circles. I’ve also believed the scriptures allow (even promote!) the consumption of alcohol. Strike two! I’ve lived in the southeast most of my life committed to the Southern Baptist tradition. By and large, Baptists in my region do not accept these two views. (Why so many still praise the drinking, smoking, Calvinist boy preacher of renown, Charles Spurgeon, is a mystery to me!) But even these ideas have some acceptance. I suppose the fact that they’ve been debated for such a long time is one reason. But evolution is a relative newcomer compared to these.
How is it that I’ve accepted evolution as the most likely explanation for human origins? Here’s the most basic reason: I’m not a scientist.
I’ve spent the past several years pursuing a professional theological education. I’ve read lots of books and a ton of theological articles, publishing some of my own. I’ve written many papers, book reviews, journals, and taken several examinations so that professors could evaluate my thinking. I’m glad to say that I’ve made it through that training, and that work has little to do with biology. It gives me clout as a theologian and Biblical scholar, but not as a scientist. Now, I do read the scientific articles written by some scientists, but that doesn’t make me an expert in their field. I do,however, understand how ancient literature works, how it takes on the characteristics of the surrounding culture, and how it shows that God uses these characteristics to speak relevantly to the historical audience. All of these things combined helped lead me to my new position. It’s the best position I know.
It compels me to appreciate academic study in all fields. It leads me to honor the biologist’s studies just as I expect him to respect my research in an entirely different field. If I want to have an impact on my scientist friends, then I need to respect the countless hours of work they have done in their own fields. They are involved in their chosen field because they love it; the same reason I pursue mine.
I have heard some religious leaders accuse scientists of falsifying evidence to prove erroneous points. I have no doubt that this happens…just like in the church, or in government, or in the family, etc. Such things happen everywhere and don’t jeopardize the main goals of an organization. I have also heard that scientists cannot comprehend the truth because their minds are spiritually darkened. But there are a lot of Christian scientists who would take exception to that. And, again, some of the deepest spiritual darkness can be found in the church.
If the church doesn’t start respecting the scientific community, how does it expect to reach them with the Gospel? The ‘anti-scientist’ Gospel invitation sounds like “Come to Christ, you dummies!” or maybe “Come to Jesus, you incompetent scientists!” I think the Gospel call sounds more like this, “You’re a sinner like the rest of us, come to Christ.”
So I’m not a scientist. I’m okay with that. And in my own professional opinion, we all need the Gospel.