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A Christian Case For Evolution
We're Not in Kansas Anymore

Science and Religion are Companions in the Search For Truth; Not Enemies

In Kansas and many other states some Christians are fighting to restrict what teachers can teach about evolution, describing it as "merely a theory," and attempting to substitute an ersatz "creation science" in its place. On a practical level these efforts may backfire. As in the case of trying to prevent students from seeing some movies, television shows, or websites, there is nothing more likely to inspire interest in the theory of evolution among the students of Kansas or any other state than suggesting it is a dangerous, tempting and forbidden topic – on a par, for example, with sex. But more important, Christians should be encouraging the study of science in general, and evolutionary biology in particular. Far from presenting a threat to faith, science can reinforce and strengthen it. It has worked that way for me. Here's why.

As a Christian I find that the most objectionable aspect of trying to suppress knowledge about the origins of life on this planet, not to mention the creation of the universe itself, is what such efforts say about God.

Over the past several hundred years, scientists have opened the frontiers of the human imagination by revealing how vast this universe truly is. Rather than seeing our cosmos as a rather limited system with the earth at its center, heaven above and hell below, we now understand that this planet is only one among a multitude, that our sun, rather then being the principal light that "rules the day," is actually only one among billions of such stars. Our appreciation for the vastness of space has expanded beyond the wildest imagination of our ancestors living only a few short decades ago. Likewise, our appreciation for the magnitude and mystery of time has grown exponentially. Rather than seeing time itself bound by what some students of the Bible asserted was an absolute limit of some several thousand years since creation, we now see that the history of the cosmos is measured in the millions of years, and likewise the future stretches forward beyond what any prophet is capable of seeing. This was perhaps the most important single contribution that Charles Darwin made to our understanding of life on this planet. Forget the ruckus about the apes, Darwin's great achievement was to place the history of all living things into a context of profound change taking place over a vast expanse of time. Before Darwin people generally saw life on this planet as rather static; things did not change very much from the moment of creation several thousand years ago. After Darwin, we have come to see our past, like our future, stretching out before us farther than we can imagine, and all of time, past, present and future is full of change and surprise. Life is not confined to a narrow slice of several thousand years in which most things remain the same; rather life is active and dynamic, constantly changing and evolving. And once one sees what a vast and boundless cosmos this is, it is literally impossible to revert to a more simplistic view.

Along with these ever expanding horizons of space and time that science has opened up for all of us, we have recovered a richer and I must say deeper understanding of the nature of God.

Rather then seeing God as a monarch sitting on a throne in heaven and manipulating events here on earth like some supernatural puppet master, we now have a far deeper appreciation for the greatness of the God who could have conceived such a vast and dynamic cosmos in the first place. With every increase in our understanding of the complexity of the universe, we have a correspondingly deeper appreciation for the majesty, the grandeur and the glory of God. In this, we are not coming up with something radically new. Rather we are only rediscovering something very old, that more original, awareness that the wonder of this world and everything in it is a reflection of the still greater majesty of God. As the psalmist put it long ago: "The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaims God’s handiwork."

Of course with our growing awareness of the complexity of life and the corresponding mystery of God, there is also, for many people, a growing sense of anxiety, and perhaps even fear. There is a hunger for a world that is simpler, safer, saner than the one we now inhabit. It is out of such fear and such anxiety that fundamentalist movements grow, not only within Christianity, but within Islam, within Judaism, within every culture and religion. And it is out of such fear that strategies of repression and censorship are born. Including the recent efforts in Kansas and several other states to suppress, restrict, or censor what science teachers can teach.

The deep irony in all this is that the good folks who promote "creation science" think they are honoring God when, in fact, they are encouraging ignorance of God's Creation. The problem is, of course, that once the genie of science gets out of the bottle, it is simply impossible to stuff her back in. Despite all the effort to reduce human knowledge to what is comforting and familiar, the facts simply will not cooperate. And once you see that God is big enough to encompass all that we see and all that we know, a smaller deity is simply no longer credible. Or as Dorothy said to her faithful dog, "Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore."

For those interested in reading more, there is a chapter in my book, God and Science, dealing with Charles Darwin, evolution, and its positive contribution to Christian understanding.

God and Science

Intelligent Design vs Evolution: A False Dichotomy

Apparently the long standing controversy over "creation science" has been upstaged by the newer confrontation between advocates of "intelligent design" and evolution. President Bush brought the authority of his office to bear upon the topic with his comment that "intelligent design" should be taught "alongside" evolution in public schools. "Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about," said the President. Those who frame the conversation between science and religion as a debate or confrontation, have it wrong. And the mistake can be costly to both science and religion. Here's why.

A More Intelligent Design
The God of Intelligent Design Theory is Not Intelligent Enough

Stem Cell Research: Are We Messing With Powers and Prerogatives of God?
The South Korean researcher who won world acclaim as the first scientist to clone a human embryo and extract stem cells recently resigned as director of a new research center, citing the ethical problems associated with his work. Some of the same issues were cited by President Bush in 2001 when he limited federal funding for such research. We look at the issues involved in the ongoing debate. Background: When Does Life Begin?

The Bible and Modern Science: Are They In Conflict?
Wisdom comes not in choosing the Bible over science, but rather to taking the insights of both science and the Scriptures with equal seriousness.

Galileo's Pals
Ever wonder how it happens that a man condemned by the Catholic Inquisition ends up having a monument raised in his honor in one of Italy's most important cathedrals? In the story of Galileo's heresy trial, there are important lessons for today concerning the relationship between science and faith.

Is a Bird Flu Pandemic the Sign of the End?
Some are predicting the end is near; others are banking on it. Let's take a long view of biblical prophecy.

When Does Life Begin?
Is there a biblical view of when life begins? There certainly is, and the answer might surprise you.

God and the Hurricanes


Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
  CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.