May 17th 2013 No comments yet
The most common observation of young people in relation to the church’s relationship with science is “the church is too confident it knows all the answers.” This is becoming a prevalent concern for young Christians entering the scientific communities as, by their perception, their livelihood is questioned and leered at by their faith. A quarter of those polled believe that the church is flat-out against science.
A young’n’s perspective:
Before God revealed my path as a writer, I was a biology major aiming for a career in wildlife management. I developed some ideas that weren’t exactly Darwin-esque, but would probably raise eyebrows in the more conservative contingent of a church.
When Christians hear “evolution,” their mind likely jumps to what is referred to as “macroevolution” where “chance mutations” give an individual or a population a survival advantage over those of its own kind over a long period of time. Scientists claim if you extrapolate those changes over a significant period, the changes could eventually result in the formation of a new species genetically different from the original species.
Most of my “radical” ideas revolved around an idea that is becoming more widely accepted throughout Christianity, to the relief of some and the chagrin of others. As I studied biology, I found myself agreeing with the concept of “microevolution,” or small, incremental changes within a species that don’t affect its base genetic origins. It’s just a certain species that adapts to new environments.
Not everyone I met in church was too keen on my ideas. I even remember having conflicts in ideology with my parents as I tried to balance what I had learned and formed my own conclusions on with what I was being taught in church. I can tell you firsthand I experienced alienating tension. I vividly remember questioning how I was going to reconcile the conclusions I had come to with my faith, and I eventually stopped talking about it just to avoid the stress I felt whenever it was discussed.
In my opinion, the root of the conflict boils down to this: do you believe in a Creator? If you believe in “macroevolution,” you believe God was not needed to form life on earth. I do not believe that, nor should anyone who claims to be a Christian. If you believe that God is the one and only Creator of living things on earth, I don’t think the rest is worth squabbling about.
However, my opinion won’t stop the squabbling. In the eyes of young people, there is a very real “my way or the highway” vibe when it comes to churches and science. As the scientific community is constantly opening fire on Christianity, the church is responding in kind when evolution is “passionately” discredited on Sunday mornings. Darwinian evolution should absolutely be treated this way by any real Christian church, but churches must be careful to differentiate between discounting “evolution” and “science.” They run the risk of sending out a message they don’t intend to the younger contingent.
Perception in that arena is clear, but the reality, in my opinion, is quite different.
In some areas, the church has adapted well to modern science. Aside from the occasional fundamentalist nut, the church has been accepting of medical science (stem-cell research notwithstanding). Christians go to the doctor just like everyone else and accept the latest medicines and surgeries relatively conflict-free.
In another area, the church actually seems to be gaining a foothold in the scientific community. With recent developments in how cells are studied, their mind-boggling complexity is leading a few scientists to conclude “time and chance” could never realistically produce a working cell. Some go as far as to claim their composition “suggests intelligent design.” It’s not an outright affirmation that Christians have been right all along, but I’ll take it.
Despite these steps forward, a resolution between the church and scientific community isn’t coming anytime soon. In the meantime, young people must do what they can to reconcile what they are being taught in school and what their faith is telling them.
I don’t recommend the path I took in avoiding the subject altogether; it only leads to unnecessary stress. If you have doubts, talk with a pastor. There is a clear line in this subject that isn’t negotiable, but the territory leading up to that line is murkier than an Oklahoma cow pond. It can be confusing; don’t be apprehensive about asking for help understanding where your church stands on this complex subject and expressing doubts.
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