I was baptized as an infant and raised in the Lutheran Church. I was confirmed at age 14. Unlike some of my peers, confirmation was real. I said publicly on that day that Jesus Christ would henceforth be the Lord of my life, and I meant it.
I went to good public schools. I remember Mr. Reed, my 8th-grade science teacher, explaining to us about science and religion. He told us that science is not qualified to speak on matters of faith, and demonstrated this with a few gedanken (thought) experiments. He explained some of the differences between the two realms.
It wasn't until sometime in high school that I first heard the idea that the theory of evolution and the Bible are in conflict. This idea puzzled me. "What's the problem?" I thought. "God said, 'Let there be light, earth, plants, and animals' and evolution produced all these things." I didn't know it at the time, but that was my first simple definition of theistic evolution.
I graduated from Stanford University in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering, with a concentration in Computer Science. I've worked professionally developing software ever since.
In about 1985 I was attending a Young Singles Bible Study at my church when creationism first came up. Someone had brought in a small pamphlet attacking evolution. It was a comic book featuring an overweight goateed college professor and a clean-cut handsome male student who easily refuted all the professor's teaching about evolution. "I've seen that one!" reported a friend named Rick gleefully. "That guy really slams evolution!" I volunteered to check it out and report back to the group. My attitude was, "I knew that evolution had some holes in it. Let's see what he found." I went to the public library to look up the references that were cited in the pamphlet.
The first citation wasn't quite what the original source had said. The second one contained some distortion, too. So did the third. It got worse and worse. None of the original authors would have agreed with the conclusions drawn in the pamphlet. I was shocked and upset! This Christian pamphlet contained substantially wrong information! I was able to locate most of the references, and all the ones I found had twisted the meaning of original information. I remember that in one example the author had neglected to mention the chemical benzene that was involved in an experiment to form oil quickly.
I brought my findings back to the Young Singles group and presented them. I tried to be gentle, but the writing was on the wall. The group was shocked, surprised, and angry. Afterwards Rick said in a small voice that he thought that somewhere there was some information that could disprove evolution.
I wrote to the publisher of the pamphlet and asked them why a Christian would put together such a poor pamphlet. I got a fairly lengthy response that admitted no wrong, misinterpreted several things I had said, defended the pamphlet, and supplied additional examples to replace the ones I had rejected.
This experience was so upsetting to me that I refused to discuss evolution for many years after that.
In 1999 my wife and I and our two young children joined a fundamentalist Christian church. Evolution and creationism had already come up in a prayer group, so I asked the senior pastor if I could be a member there and still accept evolution. I already knew that evolution was the minority belief in that church. He said that the important thing to agree on is that God is the Creator, and I wholeheartedly agreed with that. So I became a member.
From that meeting I assumed that we had agreed to disagree, that our differing views would be mutually respected. It was my mistake not to verify that assumption. A month or so later I heard the following declaration during a sermon: "Evolution - what a lie that is!" This statement shocked me in the light of our earlier meeting, but I ignored it.
About a month after that I heard that the church was to begin a class on evolution and creationism, featuring a videotape series by a creationist organization. The pastors enthusiastically endorsed the class during worship announcements. It was obvious that evolution would be attacked and scoffed at. I confronted the senior pastor and asked him how he could do this in the spirit of what we had discussed. He urged me to take the class.
So I did. I checked out the references that the video speakers cited, and looked up their claims in the public library and on the World Wide Web. I quickly discovered the same pattern that I had found in the pamphlet years before.
Certain portions of the presentation mocked and derided evolutionists. The speakers' scholarship was sloppy, with numerous misquotations and incorrect or obsolete statements about evolutionary theory. Their science was weak and not very convincing. It was deeply discouraging to sit in class week after week and hear the two speakers make statements of science that I knew to be wrong. It was upsetting to hear them cite a mainstream or evolutionist reference so confidently, and then to find when I checked the reference that they had distorted the meaning of the original source. I cannot and will not tolerate false statements and distortions, no matter what is the point being made, no matter what is the greater truth that is supposed to be served.
The ninth commandment makes no distinction between bearing false witness about Biblical and non-Biblical materials. It's extremely important to tell the truth about science, too.
I prepared a sheet of notes about what I had found that was wrong in each class, and made this available at the beginning of each next class. Only about a third of the other students even looked at my findings. During our short discussions there were some attempts to explain away the errors that I had found. These attempts were not researched very well, and usually I could point out that some creationist example like Paluxy River had been discredited years ago.
I wrote three detailed letters to the pastors during the long 12 weeks of the video class. They responded to my objections by saying that the speakers do a good job of preaching against evolution, and that the incorrect statements about science don't matter very much in that big picture. They contended without details that the errors I had cited were subjective. They refused to announce that some of the information presented was misleading or not accurate, and they also refused to exhort people to check out and verify the claims that were made. They urged me to continue the class.
I hated going to church on Sunday mornings. When the class was finally over I had a final talk with the senior pastor to make sure that I understood his position correctly, and to verify that no corrective action concerning the class was in the works. There was none; in fact, there were plans to show one of the videos to the children's group.
We left that church. We left not because they conducted a video series attacking evolution, nor even because that series supported those attacks using incorrect information. We left because the church refused to announce that the class had flaws, declined to investigate the errors that were properly reported, and refused to urge people to get independent witness. The problem was not differing views. The problem was that they bore false witness. They lied.
It was sad to leave that church, because there were many areas of ministry that they did well. I still miss being on the worship team. We had hoped to go on an overseas mission trip when our children were older. My wife and I spent a lot of time in prayer about this matter. I had stated my objections in writing so that they would be clear, and had discussed these matters privately so that I would not damage the congregation. When we left I believed that I had exhausted all reasonable and proper avenues for bringing about change.
During the whole ordeal the only people who asked me in detail what I believed were members of my prayer group. The rest heard only the phrase "theistic evolution" or something similar and immediately began to try to change my mind.
I thought that perhaps others could benefit from the information that I had located during my research. So I created a web site with these Internet references and some of my thoughts about a Christian's perspective on evolution.
And so you are here.
Thanks for sharing some of this experience with me.
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