I have been asked this question a few times and thought this would be the perfect time to lay my cards on the table. I didn’t start out to write this book. I intended to write a different book altogether. Just to be clear: I never intended to write THIS book!
My original goal was to investigate and report on the creation/evolution controversy, in an unbiased manner. I thought it would be fun to take a serious swipe at a few sacred lines in the sand, let go of a fistful of preconceptions, and give evolution a fair shake. As Stephen Covey said, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” That sounds fair. And besides, I thought it would be honourable to exhibit genuine kindness towards those Darwinist cranks before calling them out. I was honestly puzzled. What was it was that made evolutionary theory so compelling to the atheist hoards? “How do they sleep at night” I had written somewhere in the earliest hours of this journey.
How complicated could it be to wring some sense out of these arrogant godless geeks? How dangerous would it be to go for a spin in their imaginary universe, stop at the gift shop for Darwin bobble-head and get back to my normal Christian life? I told myself that with my newly acquired knowledge I would then be able to offer advice to others interested in defeating the most evil intellectual dung ever flung upon the masses.
“Keep it light” I repeated more than once. People get worked up over this stuff. Hey, I get worked up over this stuff!
But something strange occurred along the way. Something nervous and threatening and more ridiculous than I ever imagined could happen, happened. The mythical slippery slope that I had only hinted at when I first scribbled the title in a notebook began to writhe beneath my boots like a tiny, angry tectonic plate under the illusory bedrock of my tidy young-earth evangelical worldview. You have to believe me. I didn’t start out to write THIS book.
But this book is better. Better by far because, as many before me have learned through experience, once you dare pry open the lid of an unfamiliar can, the worms, undoubtedly, get agitated. For the first time in my life of faith, I was forced to deal with critters I had no experience with. Slippery concepts like interpretive bias and theological uncertainty. Doubt. Ideas that had been ignored, left in the dark, undisturbed by the light of inquisition were set free to slither and writhe on the laboratory table as soon as the lid of permission was peeled back.
It was science. And worship.
This book is better than the book I started out to write because the writing of it changed me. My hope is it will change you.
As a long time believer in the historicity of the Bible, I have spent years trying to shoehorn all of human existence (what we know from anthropology, geology, paleontology etc.,) into the Old Testament writings. As a result, my perception of our history, if you were to chart it on a 3 dimensional grid, looked something like a funnel.
But there’s a serious problem with the funnel. As we travel backwards in time, from our present vantage point in the twenty-first century, the diameter of the funnel keeps getting smaller. Eventually we reach a point in time with barely enough space to squeeze a couple of naked humans through from the other side. It’s a classic case of there not being enough gas in the time machine to get us where we need to go (or come from). It’s a “Not-enough-time” machine.
While this funnel managed to keep all my young-earth ducks in a 6000 year old row, it left very little real estate to house the collective findings of those experts in the archaeology department not constrained by a ‘literal’ Biblical timeline. My funnel vision simply didn’t allow for any other players on the human stage beyond those mentioned in Genesis. The wrong answer would be to ignore all those museum warehouses jacked full of evidence that tells a wider, longer story than does Genesis. Stories that involve people that looked sort of like me, with out-of-control body hair, bad teeth and a meager collection of rustic tools. Wait a minute – that is me!
With all this evidence practically demanding that the so-called Bible literalists redraw the chronological map, the challenge is ominous. What do we do with over 7,000 years of Chinese history, for example? There is only so much room in that funnel to cram in all those Dynasties (be careful not to crush the terracotta warriors.) All those Emperors must fit in sometime after Noah and just before egg rolls hit prime time in the seventies. And if we decide that universal flooding is the only way of staying true to the text, what do we do with the Babylonian flood myth, already on library bookshelves centuries before the Hebrew scribes had sharpened their quills. Or what about the evidence of early man in the south of France. Who knew those Neanderthals were such discriminating vacationers. Their 30,000 year expiry date, if you don’t count the neanderthal DNA in 20% of the current population (judge not lest you be judged), surely won’t fit into the funnel.
Bottom line is, the funnel, that many of us have adopted as the Biblical way, the literal shape of all of human history just doesn’t work in the real world. While the funnel may be an accurate description of Judeo-Christian chronology backwards into the mists of Hebrew antiquity, it isn’t the whole picture. The fourth chapter of Genesis hints at this. After murdering his brother, Cain was worried that he would become a victim out of revenge. He was marked to dissuade any strangers who confronted him from pulling the trigger. Cain then proceeded to build a city. Tell me who, apart from the People’s Republic of China, builds cities for inhabitants that don’t exist?
Forget the funnel. It’s time we start celebrating the cylinder. Using a cylinder (or silo) as our template, the historical sciences can now extend back in time at full bandwidth. Native north Americans, for example, don’t have to make their way to the great plains via the Ark. Pre-adamites, as they’ve been referred to since Galileo’s day, don’t need to be wished away or written out of the story because we are afraid of the date on their drivers licences. Our Nordic ancestors are now free to meander on the shores of the North Atlantic (meanderthals?) while to south and east, the Israelites argue about how to cross the Jordan without losing their Crocs in the mud.
The greatest upside to viewing history as a cylinder is that we don’t have to toss our Biblical funnel into the ditch. The funnel fits securely inside The cylinder. No need argue over timelines we could never dismantle in a million years.
The funnel is amazing for what it is: the absolutely true story of Yahweh attempting to communicate with “those ones”. And as the science community does what it does best, and continues to uncover more evidence every day, the diameter of the cylinder only increases. Our understanding of ancient civilizations becomes clearer. And the funnel people never have to worry about losing their place in the story line.
That’s why they’re called chosen.
When I first began to investigate the reasons behind my perspective as a Biblical creationist, it never occurred to me that I’d ever be anything else. But somewhere along the way, I lost the fear of adding some new tags to my personal profile.
Like a vegan getting over their paralyzing fear of beef bullion, I became less freaked out by the ramifications of an origins story that made room for Darwin’s idea. Eventually “less freaked out” evolved into “entirely fascinated” and I found myself caught up in a creation story that danced with new plot twists. Deep time, natural selection, and even a collection of new characters – neighbours of Adam and Eve hinted at in those early chapters of Genesis – made the story so much richer and, dare I say it, more believable than those six cartoonish 24 hour days I had learned about in Sunday School since I was a scrawny preachers kid.
And then one day it hit me: I am not a creationist anymore. It wasn’t that I had simply added a secret potion of scientific coherence to my creationist soup. It wasn’t because I had turned my back on Scripture. And it definitely wasn’t because i ceased believing in God or his plan to redeem a broken planet by invading it in human form. I had simply stopped believing in an interpretation of Genesis that refused to take into account everything we now know about cosmology, the human genome, geology, the fossil record, human and animal dispersion patterns across the globe and on and on and on.
Now I know what some of you may be thinking. And I forgive you.
I know firsthand what it feels like to hear a fellow believer endorse an evolutionary worldview. You may have asked yourself why I even pretend to be a Christian anymore. I’ve been there. I’ve seen the panic in the faces of fellow Christians. I recognize those wild eyes. I’ve seen them in my own mirror. I used to think C.S. Lewis was a fabulous example of an edgy, deep thinking Christ follower until I landed on the page where he gushed about the wonders of evolution. I spent the next three weeks speculating on the details of his secret drug habit. What exactly was he putting in that pipe of his? At that point in my journey I had no room for faith in the Biblical record AND the evolutionary framework.
Some of my friends have taken my about face on origins as a sign that I have dropped my faith for a more media friendly “Orthodox-ish” (tastes great – less filling) variation on true Christian belief. Others are quite convinced that I have “caved” to the pressures of those left wing secularists who are trying to steal our kids out from under our 6,000 year old noses.
However just because I’m not a creationist anymore doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped believing in the Creator. That would be like saying that because I’m allergic to peanut butter I am also obligated to refute the existence of peanuts!
It’s taken me some time to get comfortable in these new theological duds, but i can finally say with full confidence that I am SBNC – Spiritual But Not Creationist. Yes, I am a spiritual person, and a christian, more convinced than ever before that God is in control of this entire crazy 14 billion year old ride. Along the way, I simply lost the ability to believe that everything we see before us was created in six twenty-four days less about 6,000 years ago. What I gained was a brand spanking new, hyper-sized sense of wonder in a God that chooses to live with us, in us, in spite of the fact it took several hundred million years before we were mature enough to even recognize him.
Hello. My name is Calvin Wray and I’m a recovering creationist.
I remember the day a coworker accused me of being the oddest christian he’d ever met because I was “constantly thinking”. I accepted the complement as shallow praise. I was considered an odd duck because i suggested that Christians could defend both faith AND science with full conviction.
Apparently this makes me unusual. Rumour has it that Christians are not supposed to take up the cause of these two mortal enemies. I am allowed to defend the faith, give reasons for my belief in Jesus and the God of the Bible OR i am free to speak for science. But not both.
According to the people who claim to make up the rules, you can’t pull on both ends of the rope at the same time. My question is this: who decided that faith and science are tugging in different directions?
Well, okay, evangelicals have done a pretty good job of that. So have the zealots on the naturalist side of the table. Some would suggest I can only speak on behalf of the religious right, because they’re my peeps. Or used to be. Or still might be if it doesn’t go to a vote. And yes, a quick perusal of my job history would show no signs of scientific proficiency. This much is true: if i am the guy speaking on behalf of science then there are bigger problems around here than me. I don’t actually do science. I can only spell paleontologist when i have a running start. I have no idea why Krazy glue stays gloopy in the tube and somehow melds with the DNA in my fingers once it hits oxygen.
But i don’t disbelieve that science works. Knowing that something is true and knowing exactly how it’s true are two different things. I don’t know exactly how a 727 manages to lift off the ground at the end of the runway. Yet my inability to explain the theory of flight hasn’t stopped me from paying my money and strapping myself, my wife and my kids in for a flight now and then. I’m okay with science because i understand it’s place in my world.
However, my confidence in scientific achievement doesn’t preclude me from articulating my belief in a loving God. A God that created a universe where evil must exist in order for love to be possible. A created order where death occurs as part of life and where Jesus, who understood the mystery, said that “unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears fruit.” Yes,he was referring to his own death but he was also giving a refresher course in simple agriculture. Stuff dies and stuff lives. That’s the way the gluten free cookie crumbles in our jar!
I have been paying special attention to websites and wordsmiths trying to come up with something to replace the often misunderstood term “apologetics”. So far I’ve had no luck and it appears I may have to go public with my concern.
Please, on behalf of defenders of the faith across the land, is it too much to ask of you guys to coin another word or phrase to describe what us Christians are actually doing when we present logical proofs for faith.
It’s so easy to get confused when someone tells me they are doing apologetics. I should know better but I am tempted to reply “don’t be sorry. It’s not your fault you have to make excuses for believing in Jesus.”
And it gets even more convoluted when these apologists get good at it. While defending any theological position usually means you are well… on the defensive, unfortunately this isn’t the always the case. In fact a few well intentioned souls I’ve come across have become so aggressive in their defence tactics that I find myself apologizing for them just to keep the rest of us from burning on somebody else’s pyre.
Yes, I am well aware that yelling “Take that back you pagan mind sloth” across a lecture theater does little to display the gentle demeanour of this person we call Prince of the Peacemakers. I promise to send a memo to the whole crew. Same goes for hurling fistfuls of The Four Spiritual Laws out the car window at rowdy passersby. I know it’s not really witnessing and only reinforces the stereotype that evangelicals could care less about the only planet we could be trusted with. We can do better.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “You want a twenty-first century definition for the practice of using logic to delineate the Truth of the Christian Faith? That is so NOT post-modern!” Yes, I realize that many people don’t care whether The Jesus Story is actually true; they just want to know that it works FOR THEM. I get that. But when experiential fluff fails to deliver the goods 100 percent of the time, I want to be ready with some killer historical bones to throw. (Don’t get all crazy. I’m not suggesting for a moment that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. And I doubt James Cameron will ever admit it, but he paid way too much for the contents of that ossuary on Storage Wars Jerusalem!)
You see, apologetics is so much more than a town-hall styled attempt at making excuses for why we think Jesus is more than just a good idea. I’m convinced the word itself has become a self-fulfilling prophesy and it’s become too easy to live up to the misunderstanding.
What we need is a word that helps convey the calm confidence we have in the logical consistency of our faith position, our worldview. A little less “oops it turns out that I think this way” and a little more “hey… why don’t we think about it thiiis way?”
Listen Thesaurus guys, I understand that you are short-staffed already but if you can pull some of the team off your “Twerking- Word of the Decade” campaign and give us a hand we would appreciate it.
PS if you have already come up something and forgot to tell us… No worries. Apology accepted.
I don’t remember exactly when I first noticed some cracks in my lens of faith. It happened sometime after I was able to ‘fess up to my somewhat irrational fear of the scientific community. Since admitting you have a problem, is the first step to healing (if you believe the science behind the addiction recovery industry) I’m finally ready to talk.
I’ve never considered myself a sucker for conspiracy theories. Like those experimental cars that were able to get 200 mpg until one day, an oil executive arrived at the inventors front door with a cheque for – a lot (the number of zeros fluctuates, depending on which decade you first heard the story). Invariably, the plans for this OPEC resistant vehicle got buried in a file cabinet, or left in somebody’s pants pockets only to be pulverized in the rinse cycle. Okay, I’ll admit I might be susceptible to this one.
But there is no bigger conspiracy theory being perpetrated against society, according to many evangelicals than Darwin’s longstanding hoax of evolution. While most people outside the faith can’t wrap their heads around our skepticism, it would be wise for those of us inside the community to at least admit this much: we have convinced ourselves that the so called “experts” are up to no good.
Yet, we still go through our daily lives taking full advantage of every technological advancement made possible by these same godless experts. From dental x-rays and flu vaccinations, to the genetically modified pizza toppings we shove into our cancer inducing microwave ovens (and collagen infused pizza-pie holes) christians are quite content to reap all the benefits of science without feeling the slightest tinge of remorse for disdaining the scientific community.
Case in point: Should Christians refuse an MRI when their doctor suggests it without knowing if science behind it is scripturally sound? (Thanks to those helpful people down at the internet, I was able to access some specs of this amazing technology – in exchange for my bank PIN and a promise to pick up a Nigerian prince at the airport.)
An MRI scanner is a tube surrounded by a giant circular magnet. The patient is tied down and inserted into the magnet. The magnet creates a strong electromagnetic field that apparently aligns the protons of hydrogen atoms in the body. As the protons spin they produce a faint signal that is detected by the receiver portion of the MRI scanner and an image is produced (thanks to medicinenet.com). Sounds like voodoo to me. The experts may theorize that those alleged hydrogen protons in my body are spinning, but I know my spleen better than anybody, and if it really was spinning… well I’d know about it. And God would most certainly know about it.
The problem, if we are suspect of science as many evangelicals are, is that magnetic resonance imaging is a technological cousin of radiocarbon dating, the same technology which is used to classify fossils and other ancient artifacts. Most christians are not fans of radiocarbon dating unless it helps confirm the age of the dead sea scrolls or tells us something miraculous about the Shroud of Turin. But our shallow exuberance vanishes into the ether when we are told the same laws of physics and associated gadgetry has just validated an 18,000 year old mastodon clavicle in Montana. 18,000 is such an unbiblical date to attach to anything!
To make matters worse, rather than allowing our fear of being deceived drive us to investigate and formulate a coherent response to the these technological “threats” to our faith, many christians simply recoil in the face of controversy. Alternative Creation Science groups, free from the heavy-handed reach of the mainstream science “elitists” publish their own sets of facts, and preach their own “literal” Biblical theories. Soon, Christian text books are trucked in to add legitimacy to the whole escapade, and eventually we call in a Christian law firm to muscle Intelligent Design into the spotlight and our public schools.
For “People Of the Light” we sure spend a lot of energy being afraid of the dark.
Here’s a question: Does the christian communities’ skepticism of science serve to enhance or discredit our faith? In other words, is the God who spoke the cosmos into existence and watched the big bang unfold, while scribbling the entire periodic table of elements on a napkin before it even existed – is He pleased with our efforts to berate those who call on every ounce of reason and intellect at their disposal to make sense of the physical world?