Evolution – Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Monkey?
Ever since I was a boy growing up in Christian circles, my Christian friends and colleagues have not just been against the emerging consensus on evolution, but actually afraid of it. I have always found it interesting to ask, “Why ? Just what is at stake? Why do we seek to make enemies out of people who pursue rational truth?”
It is important because if a faith pins its credibility on a version of truth that is gradually, systematically, and emphatically disproved, then it will lose its foothold on the landscape of the people. When we put on blinkers and deny general revelation (creation), in defence of a narrow defensive interpretation of specific revelation (the Bible) then we lose traction with the minds of people God loves. To cling to a seriously outmoded way of thinking is to repeat the history of the Galileo incident. We just end up looking silly.
That means the greatest truth that we have, the truth of God in Christ, becomes hidden under a bushel – a big pot covering our light, made of denial, ignorance and an insistence that no good thing, especially knowledge, can ever emanate from anyone other than us. The world is blind and has nothing to say. So what are they (we) afraid of ? I am not being obtuse – I really do mean afraid. This is a question of fear.
The first problem is probably (I’m guessing) the truth of the bible. Everything seems to hinge on literal facts instead of transcendent truths. If we can’t take it at literal face value then the whole thing unravels like a badly made sweater. This, I believe is sad and unnecessary, and also unhelpful. Evolution does nothing to undermine the truth of the bible, it merely illuminates it. It requires nothing to be rewritten, but requires certain things to be continually re-read and re-interpreted in the light of more empirical facts. That is very different. All scientific fact does this – it shines a light on what God has done and shows us how He did it.
Faith and knowledge walk hand in hand but they are not the same thing. The Bible doesn’t give us certainty about the way the world works, it serves a different purpose. When it is used wrongly it starts to fail in its more important purpose. It cannot point people to God if it has been discredited and it is discredited if it used for the wrong purpose – a double tragedy.
That is the history of the debate since perhaps the 1925 Stokes Monkey Trial, and sadly it continues today. The way, the truth and the life comes into disrepute through insecurities about our own interpretations of text and faith which compel us to defend the wrong causes. The truest story we know is the story of ourselves. We ought to address it honestly, in partnership with those that seek to understand it scientifically, and bring what we bring, the light of Christ, to the whole world.