I often end up in conversations about evolution and Christianity.
One person, recently, typified an intelligent response. “Yes,” this person said, “with difficulty – it is possible to reconcile the Biblical creation account with evolution.” The starting assumption is – there is a conflict.
Those who are Christians and accept evolution either do not promote their position or mostly do so poorly. Switch on the TV, and free Christian TV channels endlessly promote an anti-evolution position. Search online, and slick websites of anti-evolution Christianity come to the fore.
In a recent conversation about all this with a Christian who accepts evolution, I asked her to name any bishop who had publicly declared their acceptance of evolution. She couldn’t. But she misunderstood my point, and asked if I thought the bishops generally didn’t accept evolution. I responded that I would suspect that every NZ Anglican bishop (and every NZ RC bishop for that matter) accepts evolution. But, good luck finding any public statement by any NZ Anglican bishop to that effect. Like the world being round (or landing on the Moon), I think they take for granted that this is the case and do so in such a way that they simply don’t think of asserting it. I take the bishops as examples of high-profile national Christian leaders who are generally understood as articulating Christian understanding in public. Meanwhile, the popular perception (including from many churchgoers) is that faith and evolution conflict.
I recently had a conversation (debate? argument?) with a Science teacher from a Christian school. This person asserted the “literal” (ie. this is history and science) understanding of Genesis, attributed the “apparent” contradictions within the texts to our limited human understanding, spoke to God who had replied and verified his position, and suggested that there very well may be a “Dome” up there as I hadn’t been up there myself to check that there wasn’t.
Bible Science History Faith
The focus of Bible-science-history-faith discussions is often on the first two or three chapters of Genesis (the other discussion is generally the Gospel miracle stories and the Resurrection). There is often little attempt to press these principals beyond those chapters. That works in both directions. It ends up with a Bible that can get the feeling of “The Bible is history except for the Creation accounts” rather than an intelligent approach to the Bible within which a not-conflicting-with-science-and-history reading of Genesis 1-3 appears perfectly natural.
What I think we also need to see more of is not simply a dialogue between science and faith within the beginning-of-the-universe-and-life framework, but also in the framework of redemption. In Romans 5, as just one example, St Paul writes:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned…For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.
If Adam, and Adam’s sin is not historical, how does this affect our understanding of Christ’s redemption? If death is not the result of sin, but simply a part of nature present billions of years before humans (in fact a required driver of evolution), how does that affect our theology?
These early chapters of Genesis form the foundations, and often the unexamined presuppositions, of so much of our culture and civilisation. All these are opened up to re-examination: attitudes to gender, work, death, the environment and nature, sexuality, marriage, and so on and so forth…