Anyone who knows me knows that I do not shy away from tough topics or from potentially controversial ones, even if that means reading things that go against what I have always thought.
Just this year, I switched to teaching science instead of English language arts. As a result, I have been diving deeper into scientific topics than I have in the past. Obviously, this leads to questions on things such as evolution and the age of the earth.
I was raised with a Young-Earth Creationist view, and have only slightly studied outside of that view, including Old-Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design, and to a lesser degree, a Literary Framework view. One view I had not really read on was a Christian view of evolution. Yes, you read that right. A view of evolution in support of the idea from a Christian viewpoint. I like reading about all sides of an issue, and I prefer to read about them from proponents of the view, as opposed to just reading about it based on critiques from its opponents.
I heard that InterVarsity Press had a newer book called How I Changed My Mind about Evolution: Evangelicals Reflect on Faith and Science, and I thought it would be a good place to start learning about a Christian view of evolution. IVP was kind enough to send me a copy, and I am glad they did.
The book is not so much an explanation of evolution as it is an attempt by various contributors to explain why they came to believe in evolution, even as Christians, and why they don’t believe it contradicts their evangelical faith. Let me state up front that as far as I can tell, none of the contributors are what we would think of as liberal; they all embrace evangelicalism, and they hold the Bible in high regard. But they also hold science in high regard, and they feel that God would have the Bible and science read in light of each other. It is viewed as a “two-book” model of Scripture and nature, based on Psalm 19, I believe.
The contributors come from a wide range of backgrounds and positions, including scientists, pastors, seminary professors, and so on, as well as from a decent range of denominations. Some of the more well-known contributors are James K. A. Smith, Scot McKnight, Tremper Longman III, Franic Collins, N. T. Wright, and John Ortberg. One thing that is insisted on is that they don’t refer to themselves as theistic evolutionists (as the older name would have it); rather they call themselves evolutionary creationists, with an emphasis on the idea that evolution was the way they believe God chose to create the world and bring it to the point it is currently at.
What really struck me was how many had been raised to believe in and defend a young earth who ended up switching their viewpoints in light of the evidence of science, as they put it. I was raised primarily hearing stories that went in the other direction. In at least one case, the contributor went into a scientific field with the sole purpose of proving evolution and an old earth wrong, only to be totally convinced by the evidence.
I was also struck by a reoccurring theme of people (either the contributors or people they knew) going through major struggles out of a sheer fear of science as a result of their upbringing. Honestly, I can sympathize with those people. After all, Young Earth views are often pushed in such a way that all of science (biology, astronomy, geology, etc.) is part of one big conspiracy theory to try to brainwash people away from God’s word, so we must be ever vigilant and remember that Christians must interpret science in a completely different way than most people might. Is that really the case? Honestly, everyone has to decide that for themselves. But it saddens me to think about how something so majestic as all of God’s creation could become a point of tension for so many, as it has for me in the past.
One thing I really liked was how frequently the contributors would admit that they don’t have all the answers. To be honest, reading Young Earth literature growing up, there never seemed to be room for lack of knowledge; there was an answer for everything, even if it didn’t seem to make much sense. It was refreshing to see people honestly admit that they may not always know all the answers, but they are willing to continue to study and hold on to faith in the mean time.
Again, this book is not an all-out defense of evolution, although there are parts of the book that provide some reasoning for that view. Rather, it is an attempt to open doors of communication and to show that contrary to many Young-Earth arguments, people don’t just come to believe in evolution as a way of doubting Scripture or moving away from God. These contributors all stand firm in their love and devotion to their Creator, even though their understanding of His word regarding creation is different from others.
Regardless of where you stand on the question of evolution and the age of the earth, you should read this book to gain a sympathetic understanding of where evolutionary creationists are coming from. While it may not change everyone’s mind on how old the earth is and whether evolution in any form is a viable mechanism for creation, it will at least allow a discussion to occur with a proper understanding of where one side is coming from, as opposed to setting up false caricatures of those people.
*Note: I was provided with a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.