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Living in God's Evolving Creation

by Dr. Robert Cornwall

Darwin coverSince the beginning of time human beings have been trying to explain how things came to be. Today we often turn to science for answers. The most respected answers assume some form of evolutionary development occurring over vast periods of time. Those who disagree with this assessment most often do so on the basis of religion. They deem the scientific consensus to be in conflict with their reading of the biblical story, especially that found in the first three chapters of Genesis. For a significant number of Christians Charles Darwin is the enemy. To embrace evolution is to dismiss God. There are others of us who disagree. We believe that one can hold both truths at the same time. God is Creator and science suggests that evolution is the means by which that creation unfolded.
About a decade back I signed a public letter as a member of the clergy affirming my recognition of the scientific consensus. I have tried to have my congregations observe some form of Evolution Sunday/Weekend. In part I’ve done this because I believe that the credibility of the Christian faith requires this. That is, if we dismiss science as some kind of enemy of the faith, then we hold the gospel hostage to an earlier scientific vision.
There’s another reason why I think it is important to try to hold in proper tension my faith in God the Creator and the scientific consensus. That concerns the way in which we live on earth. The scientific consensus tells us that the earth is experiencing significant climate change. 2015 is on target to be the warmest year on record. Each year the earth seems to be getting warmer. Polar ice caps are melting. Deserts are advancing. Weather becomes more unpredictable. It is unfortunate that many of those reject this scientific consensus are Christians. They reject it in large part because they’ve already discounted science. They’ve embraced forms of pseudo-science to explain the origins of the earth. So it’s no surprise that they are attracted to forms of pseudo-science that reject the premise that humans are contributing to climate change. Some Christians have embraced the premise that since God appears to give “Dominion” over the earth to the human creation, then we are given permission to despoil the earth. Indeed, some who embrace an apocalyptic vision of the faith believe that since we’re in the last days there’s no reason not to use up all the resources at hand. Why worry about fossil fuels? Why worry about polluting rivers and streams and the air? Why worry about changing climate or depleting ozone layer?
That is one way of seeing things, but I’m not sure it’s faithful to science or faith. Growing numbers of people, including evangelical Christians have begun rethink our relationship to the creation. They have begun to think in terms of stewardship of resources rather than dominion over them. Science can be an important partner in this effort. It can reveal to us the way in which we misuse or overuse the creation. I’m tempted to use the word resources, but that is probably not the best way of speaking. Instead, let us think of the Creation as a gift of God. As icons/images of God we’ve been given responsibility to tend the garden. To do this we need to listen for God’s voice, which can be revealed in Scripture but also through science.
Charles Darwin found himself at odds with God, or so he thought. He considered himself something of an agnostic and even an atheist. Yet, it is said that he went to church with his wife who was a devout Anglican. So in the spirit of that expression of solidarity, perhaps we too can worship God in the presence of Charles Darwin. We do so by taking both science and faith seriously. We express this solidarity in the way we treat God’s Creation.

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  1. Bob, there is a hugely long list of scientists today who believe in God’s creation recorded in Genesis. Look here: http://creation.com/creation-scientists
    As for me, my authority in life is the Bible. It seems your authority is your own reason. “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). How much good would you say that Billy Graham has done throughout his life? As a young man he had doubts about parts of the Bible. He had a long talk with God and made a decision to simply trust that the Bible is truly God’s Word. At that point, God exalted him into the position in which he was used to bring perhaps millions of people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ!
    Why would you “worship with Darwin,” when he never acknowledged a belief in God? God hates mixture – either be taught by those who do believe or go the way of the popular acceptance of evolution. Believing in the Genesis account does not harmonize with believing in evolution. I have written a paper on this subject, and the evidence is overwhelming for the literal acceptance of Genesis, including scientific evidence.
    The proper use of science ( and a scientist should have the greatest appreciation and awe of anyone) should be to point to all the intricacies of the awesome and magnificent works of God in creation – animals, birds, sea creatures, fruits, vegetables, trees, mountains, rivers, pastures, clouds, rain, snow, hail, gold, silver, diamonds, on and on and on and on!!!! But crowning it all, man and woman! They were formed by the very hands of God. All these different forms of life reproduce “after its kind,” as Genesis says. None of them gradually change into another form. That is so ridiculous!!!!!!!
    If you can’t believe in the literal account of God creating EVERYTHING in the way He says He did, then how do you believe in a literal heaven and hell? And I hope you believe that, because Jesus talked a lot about both, and I know you believe in Jesus! As I said before, we need an “owner’s manual” to live on this earth, and it is the BIBLE! Not our little finite minds.
    Enough said. I just couldn’t let this post go by unchallenged.
    Nancy Petrey

  2. Nancy, thank you for sharing your response. The issue here is not a choice between the Bible and science, but the way we read and interpret the Bible. It is good to remember that St. Augustine, writing in the 4th century, warned against forcing the Bible to answer scientific questions. The creation accounts remind us of God’s involvement and that the creation is good. But it is not a scientific text book. For the science part I let the scientists speak. Yes, there are scientists who have supported a “literal” interpretation of the creation account. There are many scientists who are Christians and theologians who allow both stories to speak for themselves.

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