The Same Stuff as the Universe - Part 1

This is a topic I've wrestled with for a long time. And I'll admit, I didn't know it was a problem for a long time. I've debated whether or not to even write about this publicly because it seems to still be quite divisive within the Church. But in the last 10 years, I've noticed a trend of Christians talking about evolution in one of two ways, both of which concern me. Either, evolution is the greatest evil lie ever perpetuated by the Devil himself or evolution is "just a theory" that will one day surely be debunked.

I've noticed that in church world, creationism and creation science can become something of an idol. Hats and hearts are hung on the idea that if you can't believe in a literal 7 day creation account, you need to also throw out the rest of the Bible (including Jesus). Sometimes (unhelpful) concessions are made that you don't really have to throw out Jesus, but your theology will still be severely compromised if you can't hold to that 24-hour 7-day creationism. This kind of either/or thinking is irresponsible. If I had bought into it, I would likely be an an Atheist or a Buddhist today, both of which I explored in my early years searching for God.

Here's my premise: The conflict over the book of Genesis and science has created a false dilemma. It's an effective distraction, and the church is usually slow to accept science anyway which only compounds the distraction. Evolutionary Biologists join a long line of scientists who know this pain. But there's a problem behind the problem. The problem of what to do with the book of Genesis (particularly chapters 1-3) is being framed by certain voices in the scientific community as the Bible, or God himself. Some of the charges are that the Bible is regressive and inaccurate, and that the God we find the the Torah is "a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." (Dawkins, the God Delusion).

Part of this charge comes about because Church culture, even recently, has tended to un-apologetically emulate some of the unsavory characteristics Dawkins despises. That's a huge problem. Instead of recognizing our sins, the rhetoric in church world tends to turn into panicked discussions about the "attacks on the Bible" or "attacks on Christianity" or "science being hijacked by secularists". It's a vicious cycle.

Yet the Bible isn't the problem, and neither is God. As I've said elsewhere, Jesus gives us a perfect picture of who God is. Jesus is the exact representation of God's being (Hebrews 1:1-3). That's the benchmark to which all other revelations of God must be measured. So to notice that God seems regressive in the Old testament is to actually recognize that the revelation of God we see in the Torah is not the full picture of who God is. This is a "so close yet so far" scenario.

When Jesus came, he didn't proclaim the good information, or the good system, the good science, or even the good book. He came with the good news. He came with a saving story that re-frames all other stories we tell ourselves about God, the world, life, work, everything.

And it happens that story is one of the most powerful things in the world. It's more powerful than science, because it helps us make sense of life; even science. We use story all the time to make connections and draw conclusions about a myriad of events and circumstances and information. Kerry Patterson, in his book "Crucial conversations" spells this out beautifully.
Just after we observe what others do and just before we feel some emotion about it, we tell ourselves a story. We add meaning to the action we observed. We make a guess at the motive driving the behavior. Why were they doing that? We also add judgment—is that good or bad? And then, based on these thoughts or stories, our body responds with an emotion.
The stories we believe about ourselves, about God, and about our neighbors shape how we act and react. For some reason, certain influential Christians throughout history have twisted the story of the good news into a cognitive dissonance that idolizes "us" and demonizes "them". This dissonance has given permission for the church to weaponize the gospel of grace; to take the stories of scripture (which either point forward to or reflect on Jesus) and have them used as bombs against our neighbors. Nothing could further or more violently miss the point.

As I see it, the problem at hand is twofold. First, we tend to fail to see distinctions and shades of grey This leads us to naturally idolize certainty; content to sit in the comfortable chair of 'either/or' thinking. Either Genesis is literally true, or not true at all (or is somehow less true if it's not literally true). Either God's wrath as we find and understand it in the Old Testament is an eternal and integral part of his character, or it isn't. Either God is all-powerful as we conceptualize what that power is, or has no power of any kind.

When you look at the charges being laid out by people against the God they see in the Bible (especially in the Old testament), either/or thinking just makes things worse. Unfortunately, "Both and" thinking frankly scares a lot of people, but I believe it is this type of reasoning which Jesus calls us into.

Second, there is a real problem embedded within the ecosystem of pop Science: the use of evolution as a catch-all philosophy of everything. Back in the 19th century, a movement called Social Darwinism attempted to bring evolution into the philosophical realm. It was a disaster. Evolution as a catch-all philosophy is therefore a huge intellectual problem, and I think good science agrees.

Yet, even when good science engages with creationism, the result tends to be a total misunderstanding because each wind up assuming the absolute worse about the other based. It's like a marriage gone sour. Science and Faith need marriage counselling and we need it quick.

Finally, Christians (among others) are counter-natural in many respects. We willingly foster and care for 'the least of these'. We believe this is how it's supposed to be, even if facts of nature tell us it isn't how things work. The strong destroy the weak in nature. The weak can't adapt, so the weak perish. However, Jesus calls us out to live in such a way that we oppose these elemental forces, principalities and powers. As one of my friends would say, that's EPIC!

We are called to live counter to billions of years of gene building, because how it is ain't how it's supposed to be. Totally Epic!


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