Can I Be A Christian And Believe In Evolution?

Are science and faith incompatible? Let's find out.


Can I Be A Christian And Believe In Evolution?

Today we are going to once again venture into territory where angels dare to tread.  Of course, that just might make me a fool.  But then maybe it’s the foolish things that confound the wise. Another simple answer to a complex question is going to be offered up for your consideration. If you disagree with the answer I encourage you to think through the issues and implications and devise your own answer and then in love enter into the conversation as we all search for truth.

Today’s Question: Can I be a Christian and believe in evolution?

The answer is yes. You can be a Christian and believe in evolution.  I want to broaden the question, can you be a Christian and believe in science.  The answer is still yes.

Science is a particular method for discovering truth.  What you observe makes you wonder “why” and “how.” So you do some research, seek out possible answers to your question.  You have to be open-minded, you have to consider as many possibilities as you can.  Then with your vast knowledge and experience, you need to choose one possible answer out of the many probabilities.  Once you have an answer you need to probe its validity by experimentation. You need to discover if Answer A remains Answer A regardless of the circumstances. You experiment and then you analyze your data—Does the data confirm the answer?  If you are really sharp you ask others to examine your data, to review your methods, maybe even to repeat the experiment. Then based on the analysis of your peers, determine if your answer is correct or if its back to picking what in your wiser experience is the real correct answer.

Science asks the questions Why and How?  Christianity answers the question “Who?”  Almost like apples and oranges isn’t it.  Science wants answers to the mysteries it observes.  Christianity knows that regardless of a scientist’s conclusion, the answer to the question is because God has created it so. 

Before we get specifically to the question of evolution we need to back up to an even bigger question.  How did the universe come into existence?

I am sure you have heard of what was sarcastically named as the Big Bang Theory. Not the show with Sheldon and Amy, Leonard and Penny, Howard, Raj, and Bernadette, but rather the theory that out of an exploding singularity everything came into being.  The Big Bang theory is the currently favored hypothesis of science explaining how the Universe began.  To oversimplify, out of nothing came everything that we know, think we know and will discover scientifically.  It’s truly a fascinating theory.

What science has discovered is that in order for life to exist on this planet, that the universe itself exists, is because everything is finely tuned.   Now instead of trying to explain this fine-tuning to you, we’re going to watch a portion of a YouTube video by William Lane Craig called “The Fine-Tuning of the Universe”

If any of those constants are different there is no universe. When it comes to life on planet Earth, things continue to be amazing.  According to science things are even more fine-tuned for us to be here. Scientists have named it the Goldilocks Principle.  Of all the planets in our solar system, this is the only one that is humanly inhabitable.  Possibly of all the planets in the Universe, this is the only one that humans can naturally exist upon.

Science describes the uniqueness of the universe, but can’t give a definitive answer has to why it should be so. Believers may not understand the science of why and how, but they do know who:

Psalms 19:1-2 (NIV)
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.

Charles Townes Nobel laureate in physics stated:  “Intelligent design, as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real. This is a very special universe: it’s remarkable that it came out just this way. If the laws of physics weren’t just the way they are, we couldn’t be here at all. The sun couldn’t be there, the laws of gravity and nuclear laws and magnetic theory, quantum mechanics, and so on have to be just the way they are for us to be here.”

The reason why things are just so is that they have been designed to be that way.  Design begs a designer, just as a building begs a builder.  Science can’t say who this builder is, the Scriptures reveal: 

Genesis 1:1 (NIV)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Science and the bible are not contradictory.  There is an ideology, a way of thinking, called scientism which is contradictory.  Scientism rules out, as a probable answer to the mystery of creation, anything that cannot be proven scientifically.  Therefore it is closed-minded to any type of Intelligent Design talk.  Ironically being closed-minded is actually very unscientific.  Scientism in its efforts to explain the origins of the universe with all its incredible fine-tuning has devised a theory called the Multiverse.  The mathematical probability of our universe existing the way it does is impossible.  Therefore there has to be billions and billions of universes so that the probability increases that one like ours can exist.  Such a belief is beyond the scientific method to investigate.  Therefore it is a faith statement with about the same amount of credibility as Scientology.

We need now to consider the purpose of Scripture, God’s written word to us.  The Bible is a story of how God is working through individuals and people groups to bring order and beauty out of the chaos of this world.  The Bible introduces to us the God you Creates and the God who redeems and in the telling of that story invites you the listener to participate in reestablishing a righteous world.  The Bible is not a science textbook, and to use it as such is to abuse God’s Holy Word.

Within the Church, there is a wide range of ideas as to how to interpret what is written in the Bible.  One particular way to interpret scripture is called literalism, which states what is written in scripture is to be interpreted by defining the words as commonly used.  What is meant by the author's words are exactly what the author wrote.  What is usually not taken into consideration is the type of genre the author is utilizing to convey truth, nor the historical setting of the original writer and audience.

Here’s an example:  “I am mad about my flat.”  What do you think the author means? .Your interpretation may change radically if I said the author was addressing an issue with his car or that a person in England was speaking about their apartment. The context helps us interpret meaning.

Another example is the genre in which the writer composes their material. We attach different meanings to what proceeds after sentences like—“it was a dark and stormy night,” “once upon a time,” “today December 7th a day that will live in infamy,” or “two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled.”  There are nine generally recognized genres utilized in scripture and to make it more complicated sometimes the author changes in the midst of his writings.  It’s important that you understand the type of literature you are reading to make an accurate interpretation of the material.

If I interpret Genesis chapter 1 literally I must conclude that God created the universe, every living thing on earth in 6 Days.  I would then be forced to disregard scientific cosmology that suggests everything started about 14 billion years ago and life on Earth about 4 billion years ago. If I believe Genesis 1 is poetry, there is no need to reject scientific conclusions What is of most importance is believing that the “how” of creation is not revealed but rather the “who,” who did the creating is.

If I am not handling the word of God rightly (2 Timothy 2:15) then I am liable to conclude that science and the bible are contradictory; that I have to believe in one or the other, never seeing that both reveal truth. 

Now let us consider evolution.  The unlearned understanding of evolution is that humans evolved from monkeys.  A young boy ran into the living room angrily confronting his father “Dad you said that God created people, but mom says we came from monkeys.” Dad says “son calm down, your mom is talking about her side of the family.”  A more learned understanding of evolution is an explanation of how humanity came to be.  It is based on observation and submitting our “why” and “how” questions to the scientific method.  The proponents of evolution, of course, claim the theory is a fact. The opponents of evolution are quick to point out the many problems with the theory.  So is evolution true or not?  Your answer has no effect on your eternal salvation.  This is the heart of this issue, you can believe in the theory of evolution or you can believe in the Creationist's view of origins, or you could be undecided, and any of those positions and all the ones in-between don’t have any bearing on the gospel.

Scientific answers to the evolutionary question is not a concern for Christians.  A little acorn, an inch in length given the right conditions transforms into a 70-foot tree over time.  The acorn is coded to do so.  The acorn is intelligently designed to do so.  Our uniquely designed universe and our even more specifically designed planet has been coded to produce humanity.  The Bible tells us what we need to know, what we need to know is not the “how” but the “who.”  If God chooses to use an evolutionary process all that really matters is that He made Himself known to humans and that knowledge, that revelation, demands a response.  If God suspended all the known physics of the universe and simply sung everything into being, having made Himself known to humans demands a response from humans.  Your belief in how it happened is immaterial. Your belief in who has eternal implications.

As Christians, we take the best that science can offer us in explanations and always do what the ancient Hebrew story of Genesis does. It says things are so because God designed it so.  If in years to come evolution becomes a proven fact, it does not change the truth that God chooses to use the evolutionary process to create you and me. 

Where the scientist goes astray is when she leaves her expertise in science and then devises a philosophy based on those results.  Given a random universe, an evolutionary process we conclude that life has no meaning. That life has no meaning is not a scientific conclusion. That is a philosophical conjecture based on scientific research.  Science cannot address the question of meaning. A search for meaning is beyond the rigors of the scientific method.  Science describes how why and how things are as they appear, that’s as far as science legitimately goes.

Can I be a Christian and believe in evolution? The answer is yes.

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