I was sitting in the campus coffee shop yesterday, and was mentioning to a fellow student that I was (still!) waiting for my Amazon.com order of Rachel Held Evans‘ Evolving in Monkey Town. The memoir is about Rachel’s struggle with doubt and her questions regarding inerrancy, faith and science, and the Creation account.
It prompted my fellow student to ask: “So where do you stand on the faith/science, creation/evolution situation?”
I assumed parrot-position and said: “I believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation.” That statement is my denomination’s position on Scripture.
But, that is my pat (and maybe even sassy?) answer. The full answer might be a little more complicated, but here goes:
I am comfortable with the mystery. I don’t know how God created the world, but I know that He did. Do I read Genesis 1 & 2 literally? No. I’ve spent enough time in OT studies to see that Genesis 1 & 2 function as Hebrew Poetry, so to read them literally would do injustice to the text. I don’t think the purpose, (the author’s purpose or even God’s purpose in inspiring the text), of Genesis 1 & 2 is to explain “how”. Rather the point is that it directs us to the “Who.”
I don’t think it’s necessary to believe that God created the world in 6 literal days. If God wants to work through evolution He can. God is the Creator, and I think that holding to an evolutionary position allows us to see God as one who continues to create. Now I realize that some people will say that God resting on the seventh day shows that God was done creating.
But if we see God as a great caretaker who loves his creation, why should we say that He can’t tinker and continue to create and to love on his creation? What I cannot affirm is a deist position, where God created the world, setting in place the mechanisms of evolution and then left everything alone, to run on its own. (Also note I am not saying that God evolves or changes).
Maybe this isn’t my struggle because I didn’t grow up with it (I didn’t become a Christian until I was a teenager).
I get that people are asking questions. Asking questions is very, very good.
But I find I need to keep my cynicism in check, as I can’t help but wonder if this whole creation/evolution, faith/science “thing” is partly a publisher’s marketing tool. This is the “hip new thing” so let’s flood the marketplace with a ton of product about it, and lets make a ton of money in the process! (I told you, cynicism). Is this a fad like Prayer of Jabez, or the Open Theist debate of ten years ago or …? Will this conversation that the Christian community in North America is having in 2010 be replaced with some “hip new thing” in 2020? Is this even a hot issue for the Church outside North America?
But knowing that these cynical questions creep into my heart, I continue to read the conversation. I think it is a valuable conversation.
Does this mean I’m a fence-sitter? Perhaps. I am okay with not knowing, not because I don’t want to think about it, or because my faith is simple. I am okay with not knowing because I am becoming more and more aware of the Mystery of God. Our God, while He is immanent and Incarnational, is also Transcendent and Holy and Other. And I find myself enjoying sitting under the mystery. It provokes in me a sense of awe and wonder at God and at his creation.
My doubt and my struggles stem from other areas of theology and life. Like many things, these struggles ebb and flow depending on the season.
I struggle with gender roles, particularly as a woman who senses God’s calling to preach and teach. I struggle with people telling me that I can’t preach and teach simply because I am a woman, even though at the same time they acknowledge that I do seem to have the gifting.
I struggle with the state of the North American church, influenced by consumerism and individualism.
I struggle mightily with prayer (and this is a huge struggle for me in the last year or so).
I struggle with Christians who say that it’s okay to not read the Bible, or to not go deeper in our knowledge of God, or to not be compelled to participate in the process of santicfication (including discipline, structure and accountability).
And there are even times (though not at this particular time), where I struggle with the question of whether or not Jesus was really Saviour, and whether his death on the cross really matters.
So there it is. You probably won’t see a million posts on my blog about the creation/evolution, faith/science issue. But I will be listening and reading and watching and praying (for whatever that’s worth at the moment) and encouraging those who are asking questions to keep asking questions. Questions are not dangerous. Confessing struggles is not dangerous. God is not scared of our questions. And God already knows our struggles. Denying our questions or struggles, pretending they don’t exist and putting on a “good Christian” front that is what is dangerous.