Saving God from his friends

Feb 6th, 2008 | By | Category: Spirituality

In the United States this weekend is being observed as Evolution Weekend by hundreds of churches. Some 11,500 clergy have signed a letter endorsing evolutionary science, because science is under attack from Christians.

The letter is worded thus:

“Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris . . . We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth”.

It is sad that such a letter has ever been necessary. Is being a Christian about being in a tight circle of people who all think the same thing? Or is it about having the courage to go out and engage with the world, which means engaging with every branch of science and human knowledge? Is God the god of those who dismiss physics and geology and biology and astronomy and archaeology and history? Or is God a god big enough to accommodate the realities of the universe?

The church has spent centuries getting things wrong—since the days of the 17th Century when the church declared that Galileo was wrong when he said that the Earth went around the sun because this was contrary to the literal reading of Scripture. The rejection of the theory of evolution is part of a long tradition of Christians opposing science, a tradition that has done untold damage to our witness to Jesus Christ.

My late mother-in-law left me a bequest in her will and I wanted to buy something that was lasting, so last summer I bought a telescope. It opened up a whole new world. I can stand in my backyard and look up at a nebula in the constellation of Orion. It appears like a white cloud in my telescope and is an area of space where new stars are forming; photographs of the nebula from high powered telescopes show it as something very beautiful. It is 1270 light years away (that’s about twelve million billion kilometres) and 24 light years across—except if I was a fundamentalist, I could not accept those numbers because I would believe the universe is only six thousand years old.

I have to decide. Do I believe in a cosmic God of infinite nature who is the soul and spirit of the cosmos, or do I believe in a little God who needs to be protected from the scientists?

When I stand and look up into the night sky, I know which God I prefer.

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  1. This declaration is not before time I believe science and God can co-exist and that God is a broader concept than portrayed in the Bible. In the past, the Church has maintained control by promoting ignorance, scientific knowledge was a threat but I guess as the political control of the Church at large diminishes, it is forced to embrace new ideals and rethink it’s philosohpy. Definitely a good thing

  2. Ian, sorry to change the subject but I was fascinated
    to find this comment below on another site. What is your view on it? Have we been hoodwinked all along that the fast is only 40 days or have I just blown a quiet secret?

    “But, the observant amongst you will note that Ash Wednesday to Easter Saturday is 46 days………because fasting on Sundays is not allowed, because as the day on which Christ rose from the dead, Sunday is always a feast day.

    Therefore, the lenten fast is the 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Saturday, minus the six Sundays in that time period, giving 40 days in total.

    So you can gorge yourself on Sundays”.

    btw I’m giving up abstinence, temperance and moderation 😀

  3. Steph,

    There was never any secret! Even the Sunday School kids here are told how to count up the days in Lent – six sixes plus four. Sunday is the feast of the resurrection so is not counted.

    Of course, legalists, and there are plenty of those, will say then that the Lent fast does not apply. As far as I am concerned legalists on one side are the counterparts of literalists on the other. It depends whether the letter or the spirit is observed. If Lent is a time of reflection leading up to the great Easter festival, then counting days doesn’t come into it. Gorging oneself on Sundays sounds something that might have pleased the Borgia Popes!


    I think that today almost the whole world could admit this diagnosis. But I’m sorry to say this, as it seems to me that you believe in Darwin at the same measure you believe in God!!
    If you say that evolution is the fundamental concept underlying all of biology, and that it is supported in multiple forms of scientific evidence, I must agree. But I have to say that the most fundamental thing is to avoid the present confusion between “the fact of evolutionâ€? and “the theory of natural selectionâ€?.
    As I see, today increases the number of American School Board’s resolutions urging the wording be changed to allow for balanced, objective and intellectually open instruction in regard to evolution, teaching the scientific strengths and weaknesses of this theory, rather than teaching it as dogmatic fact. I agree as well, because a true scientist will always allow any theory to be undermined by further scientific findings.
    We should learn from the great scientists of the past. Did they follow one way of thinking on a problem? No. They looked at all sides of a problem and all possible iterations and developed their own well-reasoned solutions.
    Following that same idea I have developed my own well-reasoned solutions. As a conclusion, I affirm that Darwin’s theory of evolution is at a very critical point. Thus, I’m one of the scientists who think that natural selection is an inadequate theory to explain the emergence and the evolution of the living beings.
    If you are interested on the foundations of a new theory of evolution and ready to rethink some laws of physics and of biology, you are invited to visit the blog: (and the Spanish web linked to it)
    There you can find some excerpts from the book “Cosmos y Gea. Fundamentos de una nueva teoría de la evoluciónâ€? (Cosmos and Gaia. Foundations of a new theory of evolution). This book is not yet translated into English, but many people already have found it as an essential scientific issue, far beyond of the sterile and ideological controversy between Darwinism and creationism.

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