To avoid misunderstandings, let me first make a few things clear about my own perspective on this debate between Creationists and Darwinists. I am no scientist. I took a couple years of biology in high school, along with a fair amount of geology and a bit of chemistry in college. But I was not particularly interested in (or adept at) science. I was a liberal arts major after all. I have studied the Theory of Evolution at a basic level, but that was many (many!) years ago and I cannot say that I ever studied it in depth or pondered its implications deeply.
In the past and the present, I have known plenty of Christians who embrace Creationism and think “Darwin” is a four letter word. Some such folks are people I love and admire very much. I must say though that I’ve never understood the Creationist perspective. When I accepted Christ and decided to be baptized, I did so in the Catholic Church, which is a denomination that does not teach a literal interpretation of the Bible and has no opposition to Darwin. (Maybe the church learned its lesson after persecuting Galileo over the flat v. spherical earth debate?)
In speaking with Christians who embrace Creationism, they have often expressed to me that their belief is rooted in the notion that the Bible is sort of a touchstone for all human knowledge—even scientific knowledge. That perspective does not jive with the faith traditions of the two churches to which I have belonged (i.e., Catholic and Episcopal). Instead, in those traditions, the Bible is viewed as the central text containing God’s spiritual truth as revealed over many hundreds of years to multiple people. Though incredibly important to discern spiritual truths, the Bible does not necessarily purport to have scientific truths to teach. As a result, I have never viewed the Bible and Darwinism as being in conflict, and I’m not alone. I remember vividly that when I was still an atheist, my first high school biology teacher (at a public school) began the school year explaining briefly that he was a Christian who accepted that the Theory of Evolution was well-proven scientifically. And as a conservative Christian homeschooling mom our family knows recently stated, “I keep my son’s Bible study and science curriculum separate!”
I’m cognizant that the Holy Bible came into being in a very different manner than the Book of Mormon or the Qur’an, for example. Those books are considered to be holy scripture by the LDS church and by Muslims, respectively. As I understand, it is believed that the Book of Mormon was given by God (through an angel) to the first LDS prophet as an intact text; Joseph Smith just had to translate and transcribe God’s word. It is my understanding that the Qur’an is believed to have been the memorialization of words spoken by God directly to Mohammed. Per my understanding, in both faith traditions, the belief is that God provided direct revelation to human beings, who wrote down those revelations for others to read and understand God’s words.
But the Christian scripture came into being in a very different way. The Old Testament was in oral form for hundreds of years before it was ever written down. While in oral form, it changed (one might say evolved!) over time and was not a static text. The New Testament had a very different “genesis.” It consists largely of correspondence from the early church fathers to fledgling church communities around the Mediterranean. St. Paul wrote the lion’s share of the text. As I’ve often heard mentioned from the pulpit, Paul didn’t know he was writing a sacred text, he was dealing with real life problems with a far flung set of believers during the infancy of the church. Other portions of the New Testament are memorialized summaries of the life and ministry of Jesus to explain to readers why he is recognized as Messiah. Those summaries—the four Gospel books—were written later in time than Paul’s letters, so they are not written by witnesses with first hand accounts of Jesus’s life. Instead, the early church believed Jesus’s second coming was imminent, so they did not initially feel the need for written accounts of his teachings. The Gospel books are memorializations by four different individuals of stories of Jesus's earthly life that were initially shared orally in the early Christian communities after Christ's resurrection and ascension. As a result of this history, many Christians would never think to rely upon the Holy Bible as a touchstone for all questions, and specifically would never look to it for scientific insights. I have tried but just do not understand the perspective of Christians who look to the Bible for scientific insights.
It is interesting because this issue of the scope of insight provided by the Bible causes a good deal of tension. I have known non-religious people who are very turned off to Christianity—though they often know very little about Jesus and his teachings—because they understand incorrectly that all Christians believe the Bible to contain literal truths such that they deny all modern scientific insights. I have also known wonderful Christ-followers, who initially had a hard time embracing Christianity and finding a church home, because they could not stomach belonging to a faith community that rejected Darwinism. It is interesting to me because the folks I have known in both groups were not scientists. Just as I don’t understand the perspective of non-scientist Christians who embrace Creationism with incredible zeal, I also don’t understand others who lack scientific training who embrace Evolution with unwavering dedication.
So, the upshot of all this is that I have never been aligned with the side of “Creationism.” I certainly believe God created the physical world we know, but I don’t believe the two creation stories from Genesis are literally true. As I have been taught in churches to which I belonged, the two creation stories reflect metaphorically truths about our omnipotent and loving Creator, but they aren't to be understood as insisting that God created the world in six 24-hour days. Personally, I don’t know the details of how God created the world, I'm not a scientist. But on some level, I also have a certain skepticism that any of us can ever know all the details, no matter how much science we use. Maybe I'm wrong.
I guess I tend to favor some form of Darwinism because I understand it to be the overwhelming majority consensus among scientists. I tend to have a lot of respect for those who have studied a subject in great depth. I recognize that until one delves deeply into a subject, one’s understanding and insights might be limited and even incorrect. In my opinion (based on my own life experiences), the opinions people form based on lengthy study of and experience with a particular topic tend to be better informed and more accurate.
Nonetheless, I never feel comfortable fully endorsing positions when I am not terribly knowledgeable about the subject matter. That is my M.O. in the area of science and pretty much every other discipline. Any other approach would require blind faith in the conclusions of other human beings, which just does not suit me.
Genesis 1:1-2:3 (English Standard Version)
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
And God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth." And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth." And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
And God said, "Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens." So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds." And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.