Dr. Jibben teaches in the College of Theology at Grand Canyon University. A native of Minnesota, he studied biology and chemistry before earning an M.Div. in Biblical languages, MA in Biblical Literature and a D.Min. focused on the theology, theory and practice of leadership. His interests include the New Testament, transformational leadership and hiking. He and his wife Michelle have four sons.
I am amazed by science. I find that many in the church today seem to be either afraid of or actually against science and struggle with historical evidence when it comes to human evolution. Can Christianity be reconciled with these two areas?
Christians have a great deal to celebrate in the method and field of science. Fueled by the belief that the Creator God has standards, so therefore His creation would logically have standards, Christians believed there ought to be natural laws. This led Christians to natural theology, the formation of the scientific method and the beginning of many of the scientific disciplines. Christians like Francis Bacon, the father of the scientific method; Isaac Newton; Pascal; Euler; Linnaeus; Schrodinger; Kepler; Planck; Faraday; Kelvin; Telsa; Lemaitre; my personal favorites Gregor Mendel (genetics) and Robert Boyle (Boyle’s law, PV = NRT); and many, many more have made extraordinary impact in the field of science.
Recently, I went through the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral curricula of three major secular universities in the U.S. I found that from freshman year through the last doctoral course in most science programs, less than 45 minutes of time total was spent on areas that even the most conservative academic Christian would disagree. This included pre-med programs and medical school, mathematics, engineering programs, physics programs, chemistry programs and even most programs in the various areas of biology. Christians agree with science nearly all of the time.
Our area of concern is not science itself, but the atheistic worldview in which many approach and present this great discipline. Christians believe that God created absolutely everything from entirely nothing with intent and purpose and that He is with His creation. This would include God creating processes that allowed for adaptation and it would also include the idea that all space, time, energy and matter came from nothing, as priest and physicist Georges Lemaitre formulated in the Big Bang Theory. Atheists believe that everything arose from something else by random chance. This would include the multiverse theory which states that our universe did not come from nothing as the Big Bang theory says, but arose from the interaction of many universes.
Around 400 AD, centuries before the scientific debate, Augustine proposed that Genesis 1-2 was symbolic because he believed creation was instantaneous. Also, believers have long highlighted that the main points of Genesis 1-2 are that God created all that there is – land, sea and all that is above and everything in them; God rested one day in seven and so ought humanity; His intent was ideal; and sin created pain. The duration of creation is not a main point of the text, but whether the text envisions young Earth creation or if it allows for an old Earth is a reasonable debate.
On the other side of the debate, it is easy to see all of the evidence for evolution within a genus or within a species. There are many types of seagulls, dogs and humans due to adaptation. Evidence that evolution crosses the genus line is more difficult. Evidence for large scale evolution or macroevolution includes the extrapolation of data. We see evolutionary changes within a species or genus; these changes could add up to large changes over a great deal of time. However, we really do not know because an extinct species could be related or it could be a separate creation. Secondly, various species have similar or even identical portions of genetic code. This could be due to common descent or common design. Finally, an area of evidence for macroevolution is the fossil record. Fossils of simple organisms are found throughout the strata of rock layers whereas fossils of more and more complex organisms are found in shallower and shallower rock layers. This phenomena could show a history of evolution or it could be due to a massive global flood. This, too, is a reasonable debate.
If humans were specially created by God, that reveals God our creator. However, if humans evolved through common descent, with the incredible odds against such an event happening, it reveals that God guides His creation. In either case, this harkens back to the heart of natural theology and the Christian thought at the beginning of science – the Creator is revealed in His creation.
Most importantly, Theophilus, be encouraged to welcome and explore science and invite other Christians to do so too. There is so much to learn and so much yet to discover. As so many have discovered, the Creator can be revealed in His creation. Be encouraged to plunge into this debate further. Certain conclusions can be the guise of worldview. Notice the assumptions and the conclusions made by worldview and also look at the evidence itself. Finally, be encouraged to engage in friendly, thoughtful discussions, as these debates test the evidence and our reasoning. They help us understand others better. They guide us toward greater understanding and, ultimately, to a deeper worship of the Creator Himself.
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