The debates about the origin of the universe and the beginning of human life, not just between Christians and non-Christians, but within the body of Christ, show no signs of abatement or resolution. And the importance of the topic, combined with the intensity of feeling among all the participants, leads to some very harsh language and unpleasant encounters among believers. Distrust, anger, impatience, misrepresentation, condescension — all this and more flow from those who claim to be followers of Jesus.
Surely there is a better way!
In an effort to show us that better way, Tim Stafford has written a very readable and irenic book, The Adam Quest (Thomas Nelson, 2013). His purpose in writing is not to debate the issues or to present his own view (although he does tip his hand gently in the last chapter). Rather, he wishes to provide materials for a civil conversation among bright and committed believers who love Jesus and the Bible and who care deeply about the relationship of faith and science, especially as it pertains to the matter of origins.
Stafford is particularly concerned for the casualties in the battle between science and faith. His own son majored in geology in college and walked away from the faith, in part because his Christian friends insisted on debating the age of the earth and badgering him about his commitment to the idea that the earth is billions of years old. Stafford has found that the church’s skepticism about science pushes many Christian scientists to the margins of their faith.
To promote a better tone of conversation, Stafford has provided a chapter each about eleven scientists whose views on creation and evolution span the gamut from Young Earth Creationism to Theistic Evolution (aka, Creative Evolution). Explaining his rationale, he writes:
“I have chosen to profile people who hold strong opinions but aren’t quick to condemn others. Some of them admit to seeing weaknesses in their own arguments.
Fundamentally, they take seriously the reality that we, the human race, are still learning. Our understanding is partial.”
Each chapter is based on personal interviews, the purpose being that each representative will be permitted to make their own case. By taking this approach Stafford promotes respect for each position and teaches us much about careful listening — a virtue in short supply in many Christian circles.
Reading this book suggests a number of conclusions that might help us in processing faith-science questions:
None of the positions espoused is without problems. If all Christians would start by acknowledging this to one another, it would promote humility and a better tone in the debates.
The eleven representatives chosen by Stafford are all people of faith. There seems to be no position which can legitimately claim greater authenticity, love of truth, or commitment to Christ. Acknowledging this reality to one another would promote a higher level of trust and good will in the conversation.
At the end of the day, it seems important that we recognize that God has provided us with two forms of revelation (nature and Scripture) which appear to tell divergent stories. If the Lord did not see fit to provide a simpler resolution to this problem, perhaps we don’t need to harmonize the two accounts.
What are your thoughts?
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