Are science and faith enemies outside the United States?

March 24, 2010

Me and Jim Kidder
Me and Jim Kidder, high school seniors at the American School In Japan.
(I’m wearing a “Wanted: Jesus Christ” t-shirt.)

My old buddy Jim Kidder (who writes the blog Science and Religion: A View from an Evolution Creationist / Theistic Evolutionist) has written a guest post on another blog. That blog is called “An Evangelical Dialogue on Evolution,” and his post goes by the long title Growing up Science-Literate in the Japanese Church and encountering YEC in the American Church: A Paleontologist’s Personal Perspective. YEC stands for Young Earth Creationism, which asserts that the earth is a few thousand years old.

When I’d go over to play at Jim’s house, I often walked past the archeological dig where his father worked. Jim shares the story of his scientific and spiritual growth in Japan. (I notice he omits the girls we chased after. Modern biology, you know.) As he grew in both arenas, he never saw a struggle between them.

Then Jim moved to the United States… All young earth broke loose, and evolution was evil (or so he was told by many American Christians).

He finishes with the question, I would love to hear some perspectives of those who grew up as Christians in other nations and how their churches addressed these origins questions. Was my experience in Japan unique? If you fit the bill, go to his post and share your experience of how science and faith interact for Christians outside the U.S.

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

9 responses to Are science and faith enemies outside the United States?

  1. Very interesting. I grew up in the united states, but I have always had a strong interest in science. I found the “young earth” theory perplexing when I became a Christian, and I had some difficulty when teaching science at a Christian school. Saying that “God created the earth to look old”, seemed so strange to me. Sure, he’s God, he can do anything, but don’t go around calling that science!

  2. Wanted to add, I was very careful to tell my (jr high) students that you can be a Christian and believe that the earth is old. Our science book espoused the view that you must believe in the young earth theory to be a true Christian. Ugh.
    And then after saying that, I had very concerned students asking me if I was a Christian!

  3. I was raised in the US church with the notion of YEC, but I have since “converted” to Old Earth Creationism. (OEC is the idea that the “six days” of creation in the Bible are not a literal description of God’s process.) Primarily, it is both the inherent distrust of many different disciplines of science as well as the insistence on an overly literal reading of Scripture that turns me off to YEC. They use the Bible to beat off any opposing opinions.
    But I also have serious questions regarding evolution, and the burden of proof lies with its proponents. Is it too much to ask for a fossil record that backs up the theory, e.g. transistional species? Also from a philosophical standpoint, I cannot abide when a presupposition of nontheism (“Let’s not jump to the ‘God did it’ explanation”) becomes a prescription for atheism (“There is no God to get involved”). Those who hold to atheistic evolution are the ones who most push the idea that faith and science are enemies.
    Yes, I know that your buddy holds to Theistic Evolutionism–that God was behind the process of evolution. Indeed, many of the Catholic and Protestant churches contemporary to Darwin were quick to adopt such thinking. But this seems like an inherent logical contradiction: God directed an undirected process?
    By contrast, I think OEC offers a fair balance of theological integrity and allowance for science in its proper role. From what I know, the fossil records point to the spontaneous appearance of species, far too quickly for macroevolution to take place. And when we allow the Bible to say what it was intended to say, we see that Genesis 1 is making a theological point, not offering a scientific answer.
    When all is said and done, this is not a hill on which I must die. No one was there to witness either creation or evolution. By default, it requires faith to believe in either option. Like you, Jon, I do not believe that faith and science must be enemies. After all, God is behind both.

  4. Sami,
    “God created the earth to look old”? Wow. I’d never heard of that.
    I’m not old, either. I just look it.

  5. Matthew,
    I took in some of the creationist mistruths as well: They repeat them over and over, and many Christians simply accept them. One of these is “lack of transitional forms.” I’m no biologist, but even I am aware of the transitions evident in the hominid skeletons. And then there are those cool dinosaur-to-bird transitions. Amazing! I find it increases my sense of wonder, and thus my worship.
    To me, radical atheists are also fundamentalists. Fundamentalism in any form is a way of terminating conversation. Its arrogance runs contrary to the Way of Jesus. It may sound funny, but I know more and more atheists who are not enemies of God. They even encourage me in my faith.
    Does God direct undirected processes? That doesn’t trouble me, any more than quantum mechanics, or the particular path of a water molecule on its journey to the ocean. Certainly “God the watchmaker” who sets things in motion and just watches in a laissez-faire way is an unhelpful idea, contradicted by Jesus. That idea is often countered with “God is in control.” But because of our not-too-distant roots in the industrial age, “God is in control” has a mechanistic, deterministic flavor, where God is pulling the strings on the puppets (or molecules). It seems to me that this, too, is contradicted by Jesus. “In the world but not of the world,” Jesus is a puzzle, a logical contradiction.
    So much for agreeing to disagree. Let’s get to the “we just agree” part:
    I like the way you state the purpose of Genesis 1 — I think I’ll share that with my kids. For all my passion for science, I am married to someone who finds such questions less than important than how we treat people. And going off of what you said at the end: However it shakes out, all truth finds its origins in God, who is Truth (a living person, not a static fact).

  6. Jon – Yes, that was what our TEXTBOOK said!! I think the textbook was from Bob Jones University. Not kidding.

  7. I’m not saying that scientists have found NO transitional forms, I’m saying there are NOT NEARLY ENOUGH transistional forms. We should be tripping over them! On a related note, I’ll throw out one more creationist stand-by: irreducible complexity. I find this to be one of the most compelling rebuttals of naturalistic evolution.
    Also, I am curious as to your opinion of the Discovery Institute. They are not associated with any religious group, yet they question evolution. They have scientifically-based doubts about whether the theory of evolution holds up under scrutiny. They demonstrate how the application of Intelligent Design may lead to a greater understanding of our universe. And they seek to challenge the educational monopoly of evolution, teaching the pros and cons of both evolution and ID.
    Basically, I am writing my disagreements with you precisely because I respect you so much. I’m not trying to say, “You’re wrong,” nor am I questioning the integrity of your faith. I just want to know how you came to believe what you do.

  8. Matthew,
    Oh, I hope you didn’t think I took offense. Likewise, I hope you do not take my following critique personally…
    Irreducible complexity seems like a decent argument at first: “Take the eye. There’s no way it could have evolved gradually when it is a complex system.” This ignores recent models of eyeball evolution.
    If irreducible complexity is the crown of ID, it shows that ID is not a theory, but a means of throwing up our hands and saying, “This is hard to solve. See? That settles it.” In other words, for the sake of God, it is a way of quenching scientific inquiry. I find that an affront to the creativity and curiosity that I believe are part of what it means for us to be created in God’s image.
    The idea that evolution is a threat to God, or to faith, comes from poor reading of the Scriptures and poor understanding of science. It’s the worst of both worlds. I’m afraid the Discovery Institute is the paragon of these qualities. If the DI (I only just noticed the connection to “ID”) has advanced a single scientific theory — that is, a model that makes predictions that can be empirically verified — then I haven’t heard of it.
    Besides, the Institute has nothing to say about The Red Steckled Elbermung.

  9. This was a while back that I saw it, but the movie “The Case for a Creator” (a 1-hour film version of Lee Strobel’s book of the same name) presented one example of applied ID. It had to do with something inside the cell that had previously been considered extraneous. Through the application of the preunderstanding that it served a purpose, a theory was proposed, tested, and shown reliable as to the function of the cellular mechanism. I’m sorry I’m so fuzzy on the details.