What do you think? Do you believe in creation, or evolution, or both? Should children be taught that the world is purely mechanical? Must science be at odds with faith? What route can an educator or parent who is leery of fundamentalism in either camp take? Read this article, then tell us what you think.
The root of the word “science” is “to know,” and its original meaning is simply the possession of knowledge as opposed to ignorance or misunderstanding. God gave us our brains and the ability to discover, to observe, and to learn. For us who believe, what we learn gives us reason for praise; it fills us with wonder at the omnipotence of the Creator and the beauty of everything he has made — from the sky at morning to the buds of spring.
In the same way that we can see the hand of God in the world around us, we can recognize it in the branches of science that analyze it: biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and mathematics. Far from weakening our faith, these can strengthen our awe at the power of God manifested in creation and strengthen our love for him.
Unfortunately, much of what is taught today in the name of science is characterized by a complete disregard for God. Naturalism — the belief that the physical or material world is all that exists — is treated as a basic fact, and anything that questions its assumptions is quickly dismissed as religious superstition.
In general, any discussion of science will sooner or later bump on one of the many basic disagreements between such attitudes and the attitude of faith held by most believers. Nowhere, however, are the lines as sharply drawn as in the debate over the origin of life. I myself wholeheartedly believe with the apostle John that “in the beginning was the Word” and that “through him everything was made.” At the same time, I cannot agree with the self-righteous scorn heaped on all aspects of evolutionary theory by many fundamentalists, especially the many so-called creationists who insist on interpreting the seven days described in Genesis as literal twenty-four-hour days.
What route can an educator (or parent) who is leery of both viewpoints take? To begin with, let me say that I see no purpose in giving equal space to every theory and hoping that one’s children will find their own way. Why hinder their childlike faith by confusing them with materialistic theories that deny the existence of the Spirit? Even though the story of Genesis may prove nothing (as Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith alone we perceive that the whole universe was fashioned by the Word of God, so that the visible came forth from the invisible”), anyone who is honest with himself must agree that there are no scientific proofs for contrary explanations either.
Admittedly, the Bible leaves the inquiring mind with more than a few questions. In Genesis we read that God created the world and everything in it in six days, and that on the seventh day he rested. We read, too, that he created man on the sixth day, and made him of clay. Then in 2 Peter 3:8 we read that “for God one day is like a thousand years.” Whether the sixth day was twenty-four hours or one thousand years, or whether the piece of clay had for a time the form and stance of an ape, is not at all important.
For the believer, the decisive issue is the fact that at a certain moment, God breathed his breath —the breath of life — into man, and in this way made him in his image. At that inconceivably great moment, man became a living creature endowed with an eternal soul.
Whether “creationism” or “evolutionism” carries the day need not detract from our faith in the Creator of all things. In the end, the essential conflict is not so much how human beings came about, but what they are in relation to the rest of life. Even if it were proved that we humans evolved from apelike creatures, I would still believe we are set apart; that we are not just one species among the many that inhabit our earth, but exist on a higher plane. As human beings, we possess consciences to know right from wrong; hearts that can feel love and compassion, and minds able to acquire and develop abstract knowledge. Because of this, we are responsible for our thoughts and actions and must answer to God for the choices we make.
Whatever we teach our children about the creation of the world and the origin of man (or about any other topic of science, for that matter), let us remind them — and ourselves — that at root, the controversy lies in the eternal conflict between God and human pride. Perhaps that is the most vital recognition we can pass on to them. Naturally, we ourselves must recognize this first. Eberhard Arnold writes, “[As an educator] you must learn wonder. In the knowledge of your own smallness, marvel at the greatness of the divine mystery that lies hidden in all things and behind all things…Only those who look with the eyes of children can lose themselves in the object of their wonder.”
Darwin and Huxley promoted evolution and scientific humanism as necessary counterbalances to the “error” of faith, and Nietzsche spoke of an Übermensch (“superman”) who existed in God’s place. We believe, on the other hand, that redemption will never come about through an evolutionary process or through our own human efforts, but through God’s kingdom, which breaks in at his time and in his way, whenever men and women seek its spirit. Ultimately, that recognition is the basis of our thirst for knowledge and the goal of all our longings. For us, it is truth in its simplest and most powerful form.