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Monday, April 29, 2013

Faith Discussions

Faith Conversations

            I have recently renewed my interested in questions of origins (origins of the universe, of life, of humanity).  Some Christians believe one can simply read Genesis 1-2 and end the conversation.  It’s there in black and white, and if we tally up the generations going back to day 1 (Genesis 1:5), we can age the earth at about 10,000 years.
            Not so fast, say those who study the universe.  Physics tells us the age of the universe is in the billions of years and so too is the age of the earth.  Biology tells us all life has evolved from simple life-forms to complex.  There was not, in actual history a single Adam and Eve, but what today we call humanity evolved from ancient primates that today would not be deemed humans.  The experts on evolution declare the science to be as solid as there is.  Adherents to this perspective can be quite dogmatic and become defensive if questioned.
            On the other hand, there are scientists including some biologists, just as qualified as the ardent evolution proponents, who gladly acknowledge micro-evolution (change over time within species).  However, studying evidence they’ve gathered and looking at probability, they deny the possibility that life could evolve from nonlife or pre-living cells, and they deny that they differentiate species have common ancestry.  And proponents in this camp are just as dogmatic as those who herald the truth of evolution.
            Some of the evolutionists are also committed Christ followers.  Recently I raised questions about evolution with someone I had just met.  She is a Christian and our introduction to each other was in a church context.  She became agitated and defensive at the thought that I would dare question evolution.  I wasn’t attacking her.  I was not even attacking evolution though I did assert that there are holes in the theory and that it doesn’t prove everything its champions claim. 
I tried to emphasize that not only am I not a scientist; I was actually very bad in science classes as a student.  I tried to reiterate that I was not in a camp.  I was not denying evolution, just asking challenging questions.  But two witnesses to the conversation agreed her reaction to my inquiry was surprisingly confrontational.  In fact, my point in the conversation was that this issue can polarize people needlessly.  Instead of hearing my point, she made it for me by rushing to defend a stance (evolution) instead of discussing an issue (origins) in a harmonious tone. 
Ironically, she and I are brother and sister in Christ.  Several months ago, I had the same conversation with someone who is happily open about his atheism.  He’s my neighbor and friend and is a Geneticist.  He knows I think God created everything (whether by evolution or other means).  He does not get mad if I pose challenging questions.  Our conversation was amicable.  Why is it I could have this talk, just a conversation, with a nonbeliever, but when the same topic came up with a fellow believer, there was uncomfortable tension?
Christians need to be able to show intelligence and Christlike love in dialogues on the topics of the day.  Whether we’re exchanging ideas on homosexuality, Muslim-Christian relations, or the intersection of faith and science, Christians have to be well-spoken on the topic and loving and inviting in tone.  How we conduct ourselves in the public sphere goes a long way to determining the effectiveness of our witness for Christ. 
Today, I pray for the woman who became so aggressive when I question evolution.  I pray God would bless here today and would also give her the grace to state her passionately held views with a voice of love.  I pray that she would be able to represent Jesus at the same time that she makes her stand for science.  And I pray that I would be ever vigilant to increase my own knowledge but more than that increase my own faith.  Finally, I pray that you, the reader, would today engage in impassioned conversations on subjects of great importance.  In those conversations, I pray your conversation partner would look into your eyes and see Jesus.

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