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Honoring Creationism and Evolution?

creation3How did the world come to be?

You either have a quick response to this question, or find yourself a bit more pensive and contemplative about that questions these days. Students also seem to be stuck between what they’re hearing at church and what they’re finding at school or online.

The question used to be “Do you land on creationism, or do you land on evolution?”

Now the question seems to be a two-part tension:

“If you believe God created the world, do you believe He used evolution to do it? If you believe in evolution, do you believe there comes a point when the data runs out and faith in something supernatural begins?”

For a long time in youth ministry and children’s ministry, churches could “get away” with teaching a somewhat guilt-based ideology. It usually fell along the lines of, “You either have to believe that God made everything in a literal six-days, or else you don’t believe in Him at all.” Science wasn’t always thought to be “evil” (although in some circles it may have been presented that way), but you certainly didn’t need to bother with it.

“God said it. I believe it. That settles it,”

tumblr_lnqxojk7Cn1qah2gzI’m not questioning whether or not we should take God at His word. I am, however, asking if you find it difficult in today’s culture to exclusively take that approach. And for that matter, should we ever have taken that approach?

The Information Age has made us more responsible at talking about how faith and science are not enemies. Science is able to reveals things about God that we otherwise wouldn’t have known, just as art, music and poetry do. The challenge with any human achievement is we do have limits, and all formats will in some way create their own heresy – nothing natural could ever completely explain the supernatural, but it can take us closer toward it.

I’m finding more and more than when students are presented with “an answer” (i.e. “The earth is young. Don’t question it.”) they often don’t know what to do with their questions when they face challenging data. Again, not that the answer doesn’t exist… but does youth ministry need to take on more of an approach to helping students learn how to think than telling them what to think?

evolution_christianitySo let’s wrestle this out together on this topic.

  • Have you discovered an approach, resources or a website that helps students wrestle with evolutionary data from a Christian perspective?
  • If we don’t present evolution as a possible way God worked in Creation, are we setting up students to reject their whole faith? Should that matter?
  • Is it possible to be a Christian and believe that evolution was a method God used? If not, why not? If so, explain the foundation for this.

I can almost feel you either leaning in to write a quick reply or pause and think about coming back to this later. How about something in between? What do you think?

Does youth ministry now involve honoring creation and evolution?

26 thoughts on “Honoring Creationism and Evolution?

  1. Avatar

    Found this article to be helpful. I’m not always a fan of AiG, but I think they nailed it on this article. https://answersingenesis.org/theistic-evolution/is-it-possible-to-be-a-christian-and-an-evolutionist/

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    The Bible is clear about creation. Evolution is not Biblical– and scientifically it’s a weak theory with more holes than a screen door. AiG does have great resources based on the Bible and with a healthy dose of science from a Biblical perspective. This subject requires a great deal of personal research in order to build a firm foundation of belief. Want to dig in? It’s going to take weeks, not minutes.

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      I wouldn’t disagree on the timeline, Eric. I’ve certainly been studying this for years… and yet, I’m not a scientist. I’m keenly aware that it’s one thing to read something that makes sense, and another thing to understand it. The latter has been goal over this time, and I’d like to empower students the same way. I likewise agree that the Bible is clear about creation, but where I’d offer a pause is in asking, “What is it clear on? What isn’t it clear on? Where is there room for conversation?”

      For example, we know that Jesus walked the earth… but how did He walk the earth – with firm steps, or with a spring in his step? Was He right-handed or left-handed? Which way did He part His hair, if He even combed it all?

      Maybe these questions don’t matter in the larger scheme of things, but to those who do wonder… and wonder the same thing about “how” God created the earth, I’d like to know a bit more than I do today.

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    Ben Hoffmaster

    First off I love the articles you guys post on this blog. The majority of the ones I have read really make you think about what you believe, and force you to take a position inside yourself, because you post questions like these one.

    I loved the article that Jon Kelly posted the link to above, from what I got from it, the form of evolution that is talked about can not be supported by God’s Word, and can not be attributed to the way God made everything.

    After reading the article, I had a few thoughts that may not be directly answering the questions you asked, Tony, but I believe at least for me really thinking through the questions and taking the time to process my thoughts, I felt this would be the best response I could offer.

    After hearing a series in our church called, “No Apologies” Defending your faith – this led me to watch several atheist videos to really try to see their point of view. It is amazing the amount of intellectual knowledge they have and how they have an answer for every question the creationist would have and the majority of the time would tear apart every “I just have faith” response they gave. With their intellectual thought process many times they will have you questioning your own faith and what you believe when your done listening.

    On the other end we can no longer just have blind faith, even though faith is believing in something you can not see. I feel that we must have the “proof of the gospel” working in our lives before tackling this topic in a teaching session, especially with the possibly of already critical students. The evolutionist’s home turf is being intellectual, where ours is faith, now I am not saying the we do not need to be intellectual, because I am all about being on a constant growth track for your life, always learning, always progressing, always reading, and especially always thinking, but what I am trying to say is their strength is in always trying to be the smartest in the argument.

    With the “proof of the gospel” comment I mentioned this verse comes to mind Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were “uneducated and untrained” men, they marveled. And they realized that they had “been with Jesus”. Trying to teach evolution vs creation in church without a solid belief and life experience with Jesus ourselves is like entering the tour de france without having much experience on a bike.

    Sorry not a direct answer, but man, it got me thinking about the whole topic evolution vs creation. To try to give my thoughts from the perspective of teaching in my youth group, I would say that I agree with the article that Jon Kelly posted that Jesus agrees with Creation and that God made man and didn’t evolve man, but always leading them to Jesus and leaving the results up to God. We can plant and water (pray for them, visit them, show the very life of Christ through our lives) but God brings the increase.

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      This is a solid catch, Ben. Intellectualism is one pathway into this discussion, but not the only one. I’ve likewise watched similar videos and have at times thought, “Well, I understand more how that side of the argument thinks… even though I wouldn’t necessarily come to that same conclusion.” Really appreciate your wisdom on how we need to combine it all together in this journey – heart, soul, mind, strength and relationships… faith, hope and love… in Spirit and in Truth. Great tensions, my friend.

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    Growing up in the Catholic church we were just told to “have faith”. This really did absolutely nothing for a teenager being bombarded with stuff from the world. Thankfully, my husband and I now attend a church that teaches us in ALL aspects. Our pastor has given us a firm grasp of not only the bible but of scientific proofs of creation and archeological proofs of the word. That’s the churches responsibility and if the church isn’t doing that to prepare it’s people then it is failing. Our 3 children, now all adults have grown up in this church and have an amazing grasp of the facts that are undisputed. My daughter as a sophomore in her biology class was taught of course evolution. She was very respectfully, able to question the teacher about certain aspects of evolution that are completely ridiculous and unscientific. Funny thing was the teacher after several days of “what about…..” from my daughter asked Hannah if she went to a specific church. (which apparently she’s had several of our teens go through her classroom) Hannah replied yes and the teacher told her they could have a debate in class after the section on evolution was complete. The teacher also politely told my daughter she could no longer answer any questions OR speak during the evolution segment….. The teacher was faced with irrefutable facts and had nothing to come back with. If we are NOT teaching our kids not just what the bible teaches but what science/archeology shows to prove the God then why not?? Why are we not equipping ourselves as well as our kids?

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      WOW! Michelle… can I get a “cheat sheet” from your daughter? 🙂

      Seriously, what a great testimony. Do you have any tangible direction to point me to via the church (a sermon series online, perhaps) or materials they used/developed?

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      My daughter had a similar experience to Michelle’s. Her college professor got so flustered he dismissed class early one day (there were three students questioning him on evolution from a Biblical perspective and demanding evidence he could provide or point them to). Equipping our students to think and question critically is imperative in today’s world and I’m thankful we have students who are willing to ask the hard queariona while they’re still in youth group so that they can have the tools they need to make their own decisions when their faith is ridiculed and/or called into question later – and it’s not only I. The scientific realm where they are challenged. Even religion classes and classes on the Bible have the potential to shake them – but if they know what they believe, why they believe it, and have seen evidence of God in their own lives, it becomes easier to debate with and understand the motivations of professors in all these areas who often are not believers.

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        Awesome. Then I’ll ask you the same question I asked Michelle… what was the source/curriculum your daughter used? Any way to access it?

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    I appreciate conversations like these as well. In short, I teach a literal six-day creation. I believe this is what Scripture teaches and I want to be faithful to presenting what Scripture says and not what I might wish it to say. With this in mind, my approach in teaching this is factual on non-negotiables (i.e. Intelligent design) and more conversational over matters that don’t make or break the Christian faith (i.e. the earth must be 6,000 years old). Although I believe the earth is very young, in my work with teenagers, I am willing to wrestle with them in the areas of science and Biblical truth and give a bit more latitude to their questioning. I know people who believe Jesus is the only way, truth, and life, yet approach Genesis 1-2 differently than I do. I think we can remain solid in what we teach, yet teach it in a graceful way, remembering that there is something more important at stake here.

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      That’s a healthy compromise, Nathan. I like that you can tell the difference between the “exclamation points” of the Bible and where you land on the “question marks.” Maybe the key is in helping students do the same. I like the chapter in “Can I Ask That?” (Sticky Faith) on this for that reason.

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    Answers in Genesis has a decent curriculum, Answers Academy : Biblical Apologetics for Real Life. Videos are classroom based. Kids really seemed to grasp some key concepts. Such as scientists and creationists are looking at the same evidence, but do you look at that evidence with “Biblical” glasses or “Worldly” glasses.

    Institute for Creation Research (ICR) has just released a High-Def dvd series. Unlocking The Mysteries of Genesis that is really cool. 12 week study with viewers guide. More viewers guides can be purchased separately. You can look into and order off their website http://www.icr.org .

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    Ian Juby does a weekly web show called Genesis week that looks at current research from a Creation Science perspective. He is into his fourth season and you can find past shows on his youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/wazooloo He has a portion of his show where he answers questions sent to him via various social media outlets.

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    Lynette Soehn

    I think that how we have these types of conversations with students is terribly important. We have to be sure to allow and encourage questions and honest reflection about all of the difficult questions that are flung at believers. There are many highly intelligent believing scientists that have addressed this and other similar questions, and while many of them may be a difficult read for the average teen, it is a good idea to have a working knowledge of some of them to recommend to students for further study – Dr. John Lennox, Stephen Meyer for example. For some material that is more layman friendly, check out coldcasechristianity.com for articles about all types of apologetic questions. The book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Athiest also deals with evolution along with other topics.

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      I haven’t read that, Lynette. Thanks for the suggestion here. It’s always good to know what’s worth reading out there. And question are huge. Maybe it’s both – i.e. “Hey everyone… let’s read this together and discern what new thoughts and new questions this raises.”

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    Tom Guerrasio

    All good discussion on this important topic. As was already said, teaching our students how to think is a great gift and this series of articles from Tony does that so well. But I’d like to point out that it’s critical to understand the meaning of the terms we’re discussing in order to have a fruitful discussion and avoid fuzzy thinking.
    It’s been alluded to in some of the other posts, but by definition, evolution is an unguided process. So it cannot be the process that God used to create the world and all that live in it. For that to be true, the process would have to have been guided by God and therefore can’t be evolution.
    Just as we don’t want anyone to use a false definition of what it means to be a Christian, we also should be very careful to avoid a false definition of evolution.
    Thanks again, Tony, for making me think and challenging me to understand why I believe in Christ.

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      Thanks so much, Tom… your feedback here is personally inspiring.

      And per your point – just imagine how many conversations would be different if we simply asked, “Help me understand what you do and don’t mean by that word.” They’d be slower, which is perhaps why we avoid that… but they’d be richer.

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    While I personally lean towards an old earth creationism view, I never reveal this during our creation topics. Instead, I teach the passage from Genesis, show videos that display the masterful inner workings of human cells and other processes in nature, and teach the students all the typical views from young earth to old earth. I always emphasize that it’s crucial to know that God was intimately involved in His creation every step of the way rather than to be firm on how exactly He did it. I conceal my view specifically to discourage them from holding to Jeff’s understanding because Jeff is so smart (…yeah right xD). It’s entirely healthy to teach our teens how rather than what to think. Besides which, this generation doesn’t relate to “I said it, you believe it.”

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      Hmm… still chewing on your last thought there. You’re right – especially with immediate, smartphone access to someone who can contradict what you just said, students will be one Google search away from saying, “Oh yeah?” But if you show them how to think, they may just for a moment not even think about Google.

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    Rusty Hutchison

    Here is a great article by Tim Keller to argue the other side of the Answers In Genesis article:

    http://biologos.org/uploads/projects/Keller_white_paper.pdf

    I want to teach students how to have a conversation about creation, rather than telling them what to believe. Teach them how to have a conversation that holds to biblical truths, but that also ultimately makes Jesus appealing to both sides of the issue, since we have already established that someone can be a Christian and hold either view. I don’t want them to sacrifice representing Jesus well because they have held on too tightly to an important, yet secondary issue such as how exactly God created creation. C.S. Lewis did not believe in a literal Adam and Eve and there are few who doubt his faith, or his contribution to the faith of many.

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      That’s a great link, Rusty. Tim Keller does a decent job there of walking through God’s role versus nature’s witness. He’s sort of a contemporary C.S. Lewis in some respects… I wonder if we’d still like Lewis if he blogged. 😉

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    Many people don’t understand the purpose or the methodology of science. What they understand is the caricature that is presented in the Christian media (and unfortunately, sometimes in the classroom, when the teachers themselves are poorly trained).

    It isn’t the purpose of science to prove anything. If more people — Christians and atheists alike — understood this, our Christian witness to atheists would be much more effective. Proofs are for mathematics. Science only offers the best available explanation for a set of facts. Such an explanation, when it is well-supported, is called a theory. It’s funny how some people decry the use of statistical models in climate change, and then it’s usually those very same people who turn around and use statistical models (very poorly made ones) to “prove” how evolution cannot be true.

    Gravity is a theory. So is evolution. They are both extremely well-supported theories, and they are both observable — even macroevolution. And for Christians (like myself), there is nothing in the theory of evolution that preludes God’s involvement. God is the cause, but Christians should at least be open to undertanding that macroevolution is the method that God used for the diversification of life over millions of years.

    http://truecreation.info

    http://truecreation.info/is-evolution-statistically-impossible/

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

    http://phylointelligence.com/evidence.html

    And for those who decry “Darwinism”, recognize that there is nothing in Darwin’s writing which precludes the existence or direct workings of God in nature.

    http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2011/09/what_darwin_said_about_god.html

    Nonetheless, equating the modern theory of evolution with “Darwinism” would be akin to equating the modern theory of gravity with “Newtonism”. We’ve come a long way in both. Do science offer all the answers? Nope. For all we know about gravity, we still don’t know everything about how it works. Gravitons? Gravity waves? These things are still being tested. Similarly, we don’t know every last detail about evolution. But the theory paints a very consistent picture of how life diversified.

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Honoring Creationism and Evolution?

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