Are we continually courting controversy by bringing up the "E" word?
This month in Covalence
we take a look at the "E" word that sometimes divides people of faith. Evolution. Why does one ordinary word that stands for the basis of modern biology and genetics create such a stir to the point that a sizable segment of the American population does not believe in its credulity?
This is a major concern for science educators, but evolution also has become a lightning rod for political controversy as a number of state legislators consider legislation encouraging the teaching of alternatives to evolution. These efforts pivot upon concerns that this 150-year plus old scientific theory is anti-Christian and contradicts the story of Genesis found in the Bible (see this month’s Feature
If we take Genesis as offering a kind of scientific textbook, it does seem impossible to bridge the gap between the beautiful story there with the scientific account of life on earth that dates back more than 3 billion years; an account in which modern humans appear only 200,000 years ago.
How can people of faith make sense of such a discrepancy? It may be that the discrepancy is actually irrelevant. That is true if you believe (as Martin Luther did) that God’s divine nature is “wholly and entirely in all creatures, more deeply, more inwardly and more present than the creature is to itself.” This powerful realization allows many of us not to sweat the details of where God is in the process of evolution, but to know that it is really exciting to learn more about how the process of evolution works and the impact it has on us as stewards of the planet.
There are other more pressing theological issues. This month, Theological Editor George Murphy illustrates the issue of evolution when looking at the topic of humanity’s fall into sin and its consequences
. Murphy starts out his essay by outlining the issue broadly, “If humanity evolved via natural selection, they would have had a considerable amount of behavioral baggage that would incline them toward behaviors that would be sinful once they had been given some awareness of God’s will for them.”
As is evident from Murphy’s insight and aspects of the discussion going on in Lutheran churches regarding genetics and cosmology (see this month’s News
sections), it is all a matter of perspective. That perspective can change as we educate ourselves of the issues at stake. One suggestion: find scientists in our congregations who probably have a tale to tell in how their own faith may have been challenged or strengthened by the evolution controversy.
is a scientific theory that has divided Christians, it really has power to provide a rich and wonderful story of how unique, diverse and amazing the diversity of life on earth is. Is it really an either/or? Perhaps we could pursue this intriguing story of the science behind our evolutionary past while also keeping the story of God’s care and creation as expressed in Genesis in mind. At the very least, God’s care is something that we can all agree on as a starting point.Susan Barreto is a journalist who has been following religion and science since 2003 with articles appearing in various newsletters and
The Lutheran magazine. She is also a deputy editor of a monthly hedge fund magazine owned by Euromoney Institutional Investor. Susan is a long-time member of Luther Memorial Church in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and son.
Covalence, March 2012