December 15, 2017

Evolution: Scripture and Nature say Yes!  Chapter 1- Trapped in Either/Or Thinking

Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes
Chapter 1- Trapped in Either/Or Thinking

By Denis O. Lamoureux

We are going to blog through the new book by frequent Biologos contributor Denis Lamoureux entitled, Evolution: Scripture and Nature say Yes! The title refers to the book by creationist author Duane Gish, “Evolution: The Fossils Say No”, which had a huge effect on Denis at one time.  This book journals the personal journey of Denis as well as dealing with argument for evolution.

Denis O. Lamoureux

Denis Lamoureux is the associate professor of science and religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta. Lamoureux holds three earned doctoral degrees—dentistry, theology, and biology. He is a Fellow of the American Scientific Affiliation and cited in the Who’s Who of Theology and Science. He is also a member of the Evangelical Theology Society. Lamoureux lectures throughout Canada and the United States in both Christian and public academic institutions. In 2001 and 2006, he received teaching awards from the University of Alberta Students’ Union.  Lamoureux is the author of the books Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution (2008) and I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution (2009).

Lamoureux is generally credited with coining the term “evolutionary creationism” which he and Biologos prefer to theistic evolution because it puts the emphasis on the right noun i.e. creation.  That is, he believes in creation but believes that the God-ordained methodology of creation is through the evolutionary process.

Chapter 1, the subject of today’s post is “Trapped in Either/Or Thinking”, and begins with Denis recounting the story of one young women’s tirade in the middle of his college course on science and religion.

“I am so mad!  I’m made at my parents for putting me in an expensive Christian school where teachers taught me that Satan had concocted the so-called theory of evolution.  I am angry with my youth pastor for telling me I had to choose between evolution and creation.  And I’m furious with the senior pastor at my church.  On Sunday mornings, he has preached that evolutionists cannot be true Christians!”

Denis told her he shares her frustration and shares his similar story.  He was raised in a conservative Christian environment and went to a Christian school.  When he left high school he was not equipped to protect his faith from the attacks of a secular education at a public school.  Within weeks of his beginning college, professors and older students were telling him intelligent people don’t believe in God.  His first biology course was on evolution and by the end of the course he came to what he thought was the logical conclusion; since evolution was true the Bible must be false and Christianity is a lie.  Denis says:

This is the main reason why I have written this book.  I want Christian students to be prepared to face the challenges of secular education.  I want them to know all their options so they can make informed decisions about what they believe about science and faith.  I don’t want students to get trapped in the origins dichotomy or the science vs. religion dichotomy.  This is the book I wish I could have read when I entered college.

After two years of college, Denis was accepted into dental school and joined the military to pay for his education.  After getting his dental degree he remained in the military as a dentist.  These were Denis’ “party hearty” years where he abused drugs and alcohol and “treated women with disrespect”; a nice Canuck euphemism for… well you know what it’s for.

Denis was then posted to Cyprus as a UN peacekeeper and previously had met a group of Christians who impressed him with their level-headed practical living.  He says he had no dramatic event or major crisis; he had simply become disgusted with himself and his self-serving lifestyle (Denis- dude- piece of advice; you’ve got to dramasex that conversion up for the reprint, I about fell asleep reading it).

Seriously, though, Denis returned to church and renewed his commitment to follow Jesus.  He was now a young man filled with fresh zeal.  He went to Israel during leave and found Duane Gish’s famous anti-evolution screed, Evolution: The Fossils Say No, and read it in one afternoon.  After returning from Cyprus and joining a fundamentalist anti-evolution church, Denis became totally consumed by the topic of origins.  He joined the Institution for Creation Research (ICR) and went to their summer school.  Denis says:

“A fire started to burn in my soul.  I wanted to become a creation scientist to attack evolutionists for brainwashing college students with Satan’s lie that the world had evolved over billions of years.  The more I read about creation science, the more convinced I became that it was impossible for a real Christian to be an evolutionist.  And I came to the conclusion that the Christian position on origins had to be creation in six literal days about six thousand years ago.”

Denis was convinced that the Lord had called him to become a creation scientist in order to attack evolutionists in secular colleges and universities.  His faith had been destroyed by one first-year college course on evolution, and he wanted to protect students from Satan’s lie that life had evolved.  To “equip himself for battle” he decided to get two degrees; a PhD in Theology and a PhD in Biology.  He believed that by becoming both a theologian and biologist, he would be well prepared to “fight the good fight” against the devil and his evolutionist disciples.

I understand the thought process that Denis is recounting.  I became an atheist early in high school and remained so through undergraduate college.  I had an encounter with Jesus at the end of my undergraduate years and became a committed Christian.  This was about the time the second reprint of The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris was released.  I bought it and read it and was immediately conflicted.  When all your close friends are part of your church.  When your church becomes your life and everything revolves around it.  When this social pressure becomes completely entwined with your commitment to Jesus; then groupthink is inevitable.

Even though the evidence, especially the geological evidence (for me), for six day creationism could not stand up to honest scrutiny; I keenly remember the inner turmoil created by the either/or thinking Denis is recounting here.  You know Jesus is alive in you.  You know the Scriptures are “God-breathed” because you sense the breath of God while reading those Scriptures about Jesus and his relation to us. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”, of course, how else could it be.  And Genesis 1:1 is inextricably tied to John 1:

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.

To deny the literal interpretation of Genesis is to deny the literal interpretation of John; and therefore, to deny the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  To take the word of fallible fallen man over the Word of the Infallible God.  Or so the inescapable logic would seem.

Couple this ruthless dialectic of either God’s Word or man’s word with the social pressure of church, friends, and family, coupled with a shabby and inadequate science education, the American distrust of “so-called experts”, especially liberal academic elitist experts… and… well, you get the current situation in American Evangelicalism vis a vis creationism.  I still sympathize with how hard it is to break out of this either/or thinking for so many genuinely sincere Christians.  Denis Lamoureux was “Exhibit A” of this situation.  I think it will be useful to examine his journey and hear his story of how he broke the dichotomy while keeping his faith.

Comments

  1. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    Fun post.

    > with the social pressure of church, friends, and family, coupled with a shabby
    > and inadequate ___ education well, you get the current situation in American
    > ___ vis a vis ___

    Spot on.

    I wonder how much the social pressure of non-church and new friends, and not family, contribute to the ultimate rejection of YEC, as much as confrontation with The Science. When people who think/believe X cease to be stage props and become People – vs. how much it is meeting The Science. Obviously it is impossible to actually disambiguate the two.

    I know that I am still surprised by the difference in both tone – and measurable impact – of going door to door and talking to people vs. engaging in Social Media, etc… Just a few minutes **with** someone has so much more impact than overwhelmingly conclusive and very clearly presented data. It is also clear that interaction with someone has an impact that is much much more ‘sticky’ than ‘winning an argument’.

    Maybe going off to college and having your 18-year-old world view shattered is part of the 21st century life-cycle?

    As a Numbers Guy I naturally think of things in terms of the evidence and the data . . . and life keeps trying to teach me that most people are not Numbers People. 🙂

    > how he broke the dichotomy while keeping his faith

    Also wonder how much Age helps. Does he talk about that? The realization that one does not have to pick a “side”. In a culture that loves sides, places everything in the context of sides, it is natural for younger people to be very sidesy [concurrently obsessed with both Individuality and Conformity]; life experience can erode that.

    • It seems everything in Christianity is about picking sides. But things like science and the secular “world” are just there. There’s no side. It just is. It’s relaxing.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      As a Numbers Guy I naturally think of things in terms of the evidence and the data . . . and life keeps trying to teach me that most people are not Numbers People.

      Do you get out a high-end calculator and PROVE it to the Heathen to the seventh decimal place?

      (Long ago in SF litfandom I knew a Superior Intellect with Math Degrees who used to do just that. Real kicker was I also ran into a preacher with the exact same delivery except with a Bible instead of a calculator. The two even physically resembled each other.)

  2. I attended a YEC church as a teenager but shifted to evolutionary creationism as an adult (thanks in no small part to IMonk), so I’ll definitely be interested to read the rest of this series.

  3. Iain Lovejoy says:

    This is, I think, very much a US-originating thing. I live in the UK and I have been Christian since I was a kid, and while I was aware of YEC never really encountered it. At college I met a few highly evangelical Christians some of whom may have been (in retrospect) YECs, but it wasn’t a big issue, and I can’t actually recall it being discussed. It simply never came up, and from memory it may have been I just assumed they were evolutionary theists as most other Christians I had met and didn’t ask.
    It’s only recently that I even realised that there were people out there who genuinely thought that evolution was incompatible with Christianity: even then I thought that this was a mistaken (or pretended) view of Dawkins or other atheist opponents of Christianity. That there are Christians out there so ignorant of their own faith that they think this takes some getting used to.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > I think, very much a US-originating thing

      Yep. It comes to us mostly from the “prophetess” Ellen G. White; it wasn’t even “Christian” in the first place, ironically.

      > It simply never came up,

      Truth! Like many of these Critical Tribe Defining Issues – why would this come up? Who says to their neighbor: “Oh, hey, you shouldn’t park there, they are coming today to replace the storm drain which is forged from iron created at the death of a star billions of years ago. Have a great day!”

      • Hah! One time I was driving in a car with some friends from (my previous evangelical) church. We were driving north from Bloomington to Indianapolis. You pass from the karst Mitchell Plain of rolling hills to the flat as a pancake glaciated Tipton Tilll Plain. My one friend remarked on the noticeable topographic change and I said, “Well, the glaciers stopped in Martinsville but they flattended the state north of there. Twenty thousand years ago, Indianapolis was covered with a mile-thick ice sheet. My friend’s wife said I don’t believe the thousands and millions of years thing.

        • A community college class explaining to me how the ice ages clawed through the terrain was probably one of the first hits against my YEC upbringing, in hindsight. Not only was it brand new information but it was so clearly documented, whereas anything natural about the world just avoided entirely in favor of Bible verses in my largely Beka and BJU curriculums.

          For creationists who so clearly value creation, they sure seem to ignore that creation in favor of being better biblicists.

          Also, two days ago I flew over the Grand Canyon for the first time, we were fairly low so had an amazing view. And you know what? Ain’t no f@#k!ng way that was caused by some global flood.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            >Ain’t no f@#k!ng way that was caused by some global flood

            Yes, I have walked to the bottom and back. No way, just – no way.

          • That Other Jean says:

            Some years ago, I flew for the first time over the Grand Canyon. It was then, and remains, the most awesome–in all possible senses–thing I have ever seen. If there were ever a clear testament to the age of the earth, this is it. Parts of it range in age from 6 million to 70 million years old, and one part of it overlies rock nearly 2 billion years old. No flood, however huge, could have created that.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        > I think, very much a US-originating thing

        Yep. It comes to us mostly from the “prophetess” Ellen G. White; it wasn’t even “Christian” in the first place, ironically.

        Ellen G White, who reorganized the Millerites into the Seventh Day Adventists after “The Great Disappointment”. Who Walter Martin and all the Christianese Cult Watchers denounced as a CULT CULT CULT.

        (Incidentally, I’ve read SDA literature; they have some really unique and offbeat interpretations of Revelation and Sabbath (Saturday) Keeping as Tribal Identifier, but they don’t strike me as non-Christian in the basics of the faith. Except for their uniwue weirdness, they actually resemble a LOT of non-denoms and Fundagelicals.)

        But then the 1974 Comet Kohutek Rapture Scare was started by Mo David and the COGs; likewise the 1975 Rosh Hashanah Rapture Scare by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      It was quite common among evangelicals in South Africa when I grew up there in the 70’s and 80’s. Of course, it was heavily influenced by US evangelicalism.

      My father, a Dutch Reformed missionary (and science educator!) in Zambia in the 60’s became a YEC long after he became a missionary, mostly due to reading US publications.

    • “…that evolution was incompatible with Christianity…”

      Well truth be told evolution is definitely incompatible with certain forms of Christianity. This where the nub of the problem lies I think. It is not simply a matter of getting American fundamentalists and evangelicals to appreciate science. You also have to show them that their view of the faith and tradition and scripture is inadequate as well. Either you force the issue and directly confront these folks or you wait for time to do its work on an already dwindling demographic.

      • “evolution is definitely incompatible with certain forms of Christianity”

        Perhaps more accurately, certain forms of Christianity (fundamentalist, positivist) are definitely incompatible with anything not themselves – except perhaps their polar opposites in fundamentalist, positivist atheism.

  4. Burro [Mule] says:

    The opposite side of the playing field appears to be occupied by Blutos and Gastons who think that a belief in evolution, uniformitarian geology, and deep space-time logically exclude a belief in God. I was that little turdroller in the 11th grade, so I know whereof I speak.

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      Duh –

      I see Ian already addressed this. Oh well, certainly we make things harder than we need to in the good ol’ USA by teaching bad (or little) Science and even worse (or less) Religion.

  5. Well nature certainly says yes but I’ll have to be convinced that scripture does. If so how come nobody noticed it until after Darwin? I think Genesis should be taken literally but literally what it is, literary mythology, not history let alone science.

    I never heard about evolution until I attended college! The high school in the rural Georgia town I grew up in had biology classes but it was taught as a disconnected series of facts, utterly useless. But even at college the instructor hastened to add, “it’s only a theory!” in response to the incredulity of the students, like me all fresh from the cotton mill villages.

    What saved me was I was always interested in science and so read about it even when it wasn’t a requirement. Mostly astronomy but also biology and history. I clearly remember the moment when the idea of how natural selection works finally sank in. I had the Huxleyan facepalm moment. Of course! Of course! it makes perfect sense. But that I never had a teacher in school who could clearly explain it (or was allowed to clearly explain it) is a national scandal.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > how come nobody noticed it until after Darwin?

      They did, aplenty. But nobody [that we know of] systematized it like Darwin; and there is always an element of right-place-right-time for such things – just as humanity has ‘discovered’ Calculus like ~5 times. Ideas need the right environment to take hold and penetrate.

      • The ancient Greeks knew about steam engines. But nobody thought about combining them with fossil fuels until the 18th century.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          Technologies also can be limited by other available technologies – like material science / metallurgy. A steam engine worth building probably required metal working techniques and alloys that wouldn’t be available for centuries. A high-pressure boiler made of bronze sheets would have ended very badly. 🙂

          Several people designed theoretical computers before there was any capacity to build such a thing.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Darwin’s achievement was the idea of “natural selection”, a mechanism to winnow out successful changes from unsuccessful ones. Before, the idea of “evolution”/changes over time was there, but a working “How?” wasn’t.

        Incidentally, Darwin never liked the term “Evolution”, because of its baggage of “linear UPWARD progress”. His favored term was “Descent with Modification”.

        And his “survival of the fittest” was written in the sense of REPRODUCTIVE success over generations. Not how the more successful exterminates the less successful, but that those who are more successful in producing offspring generation after generation will dominate the gene pool. (Quiverfull — “Outbreed the Heathen” — is about as Darwinist as you can get.)

        • I recall reading–don’t remember the source–some time ago that part of Darwin’s motivation was to uncouple racism from evolutionary models, that is, previous theories had at their core racial bias against dark skin.

          Anyone else recall this?

        • petrushka1611 says:

          HUG, I think you outdid yourself with that last paragraph. I’d certainly never thought of Quiverfull that way.

      • But the point was that SCRIPTURE says yes not that other human beings speculated about change over time. That I need to see.

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