People have started looking at me differently since my last post. A few can’t help but think that I’ve denied the Gospel itself. Let me make this clear: I’ve made this move because of several reasons. One is because it does a better job affirming the gospel in our current culture. I’ve heard many sermons at numerous churches rejecting evolutionary thought as a heresy that voids the Gospel altogether.
It reminds me of a conversation that I’ve had with a Bible professor a few years ago. When I mentioned that people who believe in evolution feel blacklisted at church, he told me that he’d never heard that before and didn’t feel that was the case. I didn’t respond because I didn’t have the hard evidence at my fingertips, but I can tell you that I have read several blogs in which the writer asked his/her audience a similar question. A large number of the respondents agreed that they felt that they would be ostracized if they made their scientific views known to the leaders of the church. I’ve also personally witnessed conversations where church membership depended on a literal view of Adam and Eve. More than once people have whispered to me about their evolutionary thinking in church hallways, afraid that the wrong person might overhear.
These issues have frustrated me for a long time. Even when I thought that
Adam and Eve were historical figures, it bothered me that even church membership depended on it in some cases. How do these folks account for Francis Collins?Collins converted in part because of a personal experience he had with a patient in a hospital. He believes in the evolutionary theory but also firmly trusts in Christ for his salvation. We shouldn’t think that his conversion is worthless, should we?
So here’s my question. Is belief in Adam required for salvation? Some say “yes!” But I’d like to challenge that idea. When your pastor presents the Gospel in church, how many times does Adam come up? I’ll bet you that most of the time he doesn’t! When someone presents the Gospel person to person, is Adam mentioned in the conversation? Most times, he isn’t! In fact, how many Gospel tracts have you seen that make a big deal about Adam at all? This may be a trite point, but it has significant implications. It is not my belief in a literal Adam that saves me and makes me right with God. Rather, it is my hope and trust in Christ’s work on the cross and his resurrection that move me to repentance. My hope in Christ is what drives my faith; my trust in Christ that is the foundation of my belief. I still believe in a literal Christ, his literal death and resurrection.
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that my revised thoughts on Adam do a better job affirming the gospel in our current environment. And I think it really does.
Think about it with me for a minute. How many kids go off to college rejecting evolutionary thinking and then graduate believing it. As a consequence, some of them also reject their Christian faith. Now, we may try to blame the professors for that, but for the most part, professors are just doing their job (though I have no doubt some are just hostile to religious ideas altogether). I think much of the blame falls at the feet of Christian leaders who feel that the Church is at war with modern scientific ideas. A number of them insist that if anyone begins to believe things like “evolution,” that person’s faith is in jeopardy, or even doomed. Frankly, professors don’t have to attack Christianity. Since certain religious leaders have drawn a large, imaginary line between evolution and Christianity when the Christian steps into the realm of evolution, he thinks he has just abandoned the Faith! He can either try to cruise under the radar in church, hoping that no one brings up the “E” word, or he can accept what his pastor always taught him: If Adam never existed, then there is no need for Christ, the resurrection, or even Christianity!So why don’t we take a different approach? Why not recognize different readings and approaches to Genesis 1-3? Teach the people in our churches that the Gospel does not rise and fall on Adam; its foundation is the teachings, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Folks need to know that there are people in the world like Francis Collins, who recognize evolution and believe in the resurrection of Christ. One does not have to negate the other.