March 12, 2017

Why Evolution May Be More Important to the Church Than I Once Believed

Why Evolution May Be More Important to the Church Than I Once Believed

My background is steeped in Young Earth Creationism (YEC). I heard it taught as gospel truth by my parents, my high school, my college, and every church I attended for a long time. I was trained to believe that churches which didn’t teach YEC were “liberal” or “apostate” or at least “compromisers.” And I personally spent five years working for Answers in Genesis (the ministry of Ken Ham), where I vigorously defended the YEC message myself.

According to YEC, Darwinian evolution is a lie, and it’s a dangerous lie at that. YEC teaches (and I used to agree) that even allowing for the possibility of evolution would result in all manner of evils in society. The church has to get this right, I believed, or everything else would all go downhill.

When I began making my exit from fundamentalism, it had more to do with questions about hell and atonement, matters of peace and justice, the character of God, and the nature of the Bible. So I basically shelved the question of human origins. God created us—on that much I was certain—but does it really matter whether he created over seven literal days or over millions of years? I had come to the point where I simply didn’t see the debate as very important.

But I’ve been reflecting more on these matters lately, and I’m beginning to wonder whether the Young Earthers may have actually been onto something. Not about their scientific or historical claims, of course; those are bunk, plain and simple. Yet could their sense of urgency to get this right have been on target?

If YEC claims were correct, it would mean that God created humans specifically to be a certain way—that God had a meticulous design for us, and that if we deviate from that design, we are therefore outside of God’s will. It would reinforce the so-called “creation order” that Christians have used for so long to dictate relations between the sexes, i.e., to subordinate women and demonize the LGBTQ community.

On the other hand, given the reality of Darwinian evolution, we are forced to face the truth that evolution is how God chose to create—not through a single act of meticulous design, but through a long process of allowing nature take its course. There is no such thing as a “creation order;” we simply are how we have evolved to be. And we are still continuing to evolve. As Christians, we will still want to affirm that God has somehow been involved in the evolutionary process, but we can no longer make the claim that God designed us to be one specific way for all of time.

Thus we are free to affirm the role of women as fully equal to men in all areas of life. And we are free to affirm the LGBTQ community in pursuing their relationships according to their own orientations, rather than an assumed created orientation. We have no “creation order” forcing these groups into molds that they just don’t fit.

We must also own up to the fact that the New Testament arguments based on who came first (such as 1 Corinthians 11:8–9 and 1 Timothy 2:13–14) had a faulty premise and are therefore invalid. Furthermore, contra passages like Romans 1:26–27, humanity has no single created “nature” to contradict. Paul and his successors simply got these things wrong, based on their incorrect understanding of human origins. Humanity has evolved (and continues to evolve) many different natures. We need only follow the royal law of love and be true to our own orientations.

I’ll readily admit that not everyone agrees with these conclusions. There are a few Young Earthers who are nonetheless LGBTQ affirming and female empowering. (Thank God for them!) And there are quite a few Christians who acknowledge the reality of Darwinian evolution, yet continue to perpetuate “creation order” arguments. But I think that these groups must wrestle with some inconsistencies in their reasoning.

I must also acknowledge that I’m merely describing my personal thoughts on the matter (and in an off-the-cuff fashion) because they seem interesting enough to share. I’m not setting out to defend this idea in any depth. But if my thinking here is accurate, then it gives us grounds for correcting two of the most egregious sins the church has perpetuated throughout her history: sexism and homophobia.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!