In the red corner we have the creationists: Ken Ham with his Creation Museum, Ray Comfort and his nightmarish banana (complete with unavoidable innuendos), and Kent Hovind. In the blue corner are the evolutionists: Francis Collins and his trusty genome mapping, John Medina with those delightful oratory skills, and the always articulate Alister McGrath. Kirk Cameron is cheering those in the red corner while Richard Dawkins hollers in support of the blue corner. No wait, it looks like Dawkins is getting up and walking out. He looks confused. Apparently he’s in the wrong arena.
It’s a fight to the finish between the faithful. Now why are we fighting?
This isn’t to imply that every man mentioned (or all of the other men and women on each side of the argument) are looking to land a punch. Sometimes that’s the fault of the soldiers on both sides of the culture war. But I also don’t have to convince you of the schism that exists between Christians and other people of faith when it comes to the matter of origin.
My friend Carson T. Clark wrote a fascinating post about the young age (pun intended) of Six-Day Creationism Theology. I shared with him a story that it reminded me of, a story that I will also share with you, because I think it’s helpful as a way to navigate this creation-evolution quarrel.
A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to be a regular part of a monthly theological gathering with some Seattle-area pastors, academics, and a few ordinary people like myself. As often happens in groups, I grew fond of a certain few and looked forward to hearing them speak up as we labored over Karl Barth and his never-ending German sentences. One of my favorites was a professor in the field of science, as I recall. He looked like a slightly contorted version of Michael Douglas. His attire was never less than a jacket and tie, and he wore oversized glasses that rested too far down on his nose. Pursed lips and a furrowed brow revealed a man in constant thought. I liked him immediately. He was also an evolutionist. On one break, while everyone made the awkward shuffle over to the snack table, he stayed behind in his chair and fielded questions from a young creationist. It was fun to hear them go back and forth in a spirited but thoughtful way, while the rest of us else ate cookies and drank juice and pretended like we weren’t listening.
Later in the gathering, he took the floor and reopened the creation-evolution discussion. I started to shrink in my chair, worried that he was going to embarrass the young creationist. But he didn’t. He instead said something that I’ve never forgotten, which was ”greater than any conclusion is the fact that the evidence reveals intentionality.”
The professor wasn’t advocating that we remain neutral, it was more of a reminder to let the evidence travel where it wants to go, and to allow our conclusions be secondary to the evidence of God’s hand in the process. I like that. This was his way of saying “there is something here that is more important than my side and your side.”
For the person of faith, we look at the world around us, from nature and the cosmos to the human body, and we see purpose. We witness elegance. We find intricacy, craftsmanship, and beauty. We do not see cold indifference or complete chaos. This production called life is intentional, and that is something higher than either creationism or evolution. The intentionality is a wonder that should unite people of faith regardless of our beliefs as to how it all happened and how long that took. We can be satisfied by that intentionality, and also inspired by it; driven to discover answers through science, theology, and philosophy while not insisting that God fit into a familiar box.
“We need all kinds of ways of knowing. We need all kinds of ways of speaking the truth. Science is one way. Faith is another. They are not really about opposite things. They’re about different ways of answering the most important questions.” -Francis Collins