A 13 Year Old’s Struggle with Faith & Science

Posted: January 15, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

My oldest son (now 13) goes to a private Christian School (which we really like).  And right now they are studying issues of the origin of the earth and creationism and how all of that gets reconciled with dinosaurs, etc.  So, we have been having a lot of conversations as he tries to reconcile what he believes with what his dad believes with what his science teacher believes (and no…they don’t all agree).  But in the conversations I began to really appreciate that I was brought up in a church (as conservative as it was) that placed a high value on God’s Word as authority, and yet, at the same time had a teacher(s) who allowed me to believe:

  • That the earth is millions of years old (as opposed to about 6000).
  • That dinosaurs and humans did not co-exist.
  • That “a day” in Genesis does not have to be literally understood as a 24-hour day.
  • That the Grand Canyon had better explanations than the result of the Noahic flood.
  • That dinosaurs didn’t have to ride on Noah’s ark, nor were they all plant-eating hospitable creatures who allowed human children to ride on their back.
  • That the exact timing of creation, or the methods in which God ultimately choose by way of creation, are questions that are largely imposed by us on the text, rather than answers the Scripture is trying to provide for us.
  • That science and faith don’t have to be enemies; and as a person of faith, I don’t have to reject every scientific finding as a threat to my “balloon” of faith.

AND AT THE SAME TIME have complete confidence in the authority of Scripture and the power of God.

Thus, carbon dating (with all of its potential error) doesn’t scare me.  Nor does it shake my faith in God even a bit.

You may disagree on some of the above.  And you are more than welcome to do so.  Your dissenting opinion on this matter doesn’t disturb me either.  I just want my 13-year old to be able to conclude for himself these matters and do so in a way that might someday allow him to stare at dinosaur bones and not have a crisis of faith.

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Comments
  1. Melissa says:

    I can’t remember where I read it now, but I remember reading something about science being a gift to us from God. Look how much humankind enjoys exploring and examining and discovering and learning! The truth is vast. What we know is tiny. Somehow it all fits together.

  2. Ryan says:

    I agree.

    For too long we have been telling people that if you don’t believe in a literal 7 day instantaneous creation you can’t be a Christian.

    Many kids grow up not in the Christian schools such as you and your son and are taught evolution from the beginning. When they decide they agree, the only conclusion we have too often let them draw is, “Well, I guess now I can’t be a Christian.”

    There’s no point in building firm walls around areas that aren’t essential to the gospel…I wonder how many people we’ve kept out.

  3. The other Ed says:

    I have always felt that ideas like evolution did not exclude God, but ultimately, explain His genius. I watched a special on the Universe, and the current theory on the beginning times is the Big Bang. And, according to current scientific theory, the big bang happened in a less than a nanosecond. And, we as christians believe that God spoke the universe into being, and it was! Ultimately, science is proving, rather than disproving like some think, God!!!

  4. scmiller says:

    Great job being a dad. The first lesson here is that people can respect and even love one another without agreeing on all issues. It also proves that critical thinking doesn’t involve bumper stickers and screaming.

  5. Mike Hildreth says:

    Hi Sam,

    Why are we going to allow pseudo-science and Darwinism dictate how we view the creation and answer some of life’s most puzzling questions? The Bible has existed for thousands of years and withstood the tests of many critics until now. Darwin arrived on the scene about 200 years ago and suddenly him and his minions become the authority on how we interpret creation? Why? This kind of compromise with modernism is certainly not God-pleasing; not to mention that it violates just about every hermeneutic principle we hold dear.

    The Bible still means what it says: The earth was created in 6 days.

    Mike

  6. Mike,

    I’m going to assume based on the label “pseudo-science” and the disdain you communicate with all things “modern” or Darwinistic (if that is a word?) you are going to lean pretty heavy away from any scientific discoveries, no matter the weight of their discovery. Thus, this is my point. I’m not afraid of science. I didn’t say that I accept ALL scientific theories. But I’m not threatened by them to the point of losing faith over it. I’m not sure what shared “hermeneutic principle we hold dear” as there are tons of hermenutical principles (held by people who really do love the Bible and who really are trying to be “God-pleasing). My confidence in God and my conviction that he created the heavens and the earth is not held as a balloon where if it gets pricked by one aspect of any scientific discovery that might challenge a hermeneutical assumption the entire balloon pops. Further, I believe to hold to that is dangerous to people who are trying to grow in faith. Hasn’t this argument already been used? “The Bible means what it says.” “The earth is flat.” [*pop*]. “The Bible means what it says.” “The sun revolves around the earth.” [*pop*].

  7. Clarence says:

    Sam,
    Agree with you and disagree with you all at the same time.

    Science doesn’t scare me either. BUT… God is bigger than Science.

    If I died today and found out that Earth is 6K years old… I’d not be surprised. If I died today and found out that the Earth is billions of years old… I’d be a little surprised and want to be taught Genesis with a better understanding

    But, neither outcome changes the plain things about the Christian faith.

    The simple fact is that our science is very limited in long term thinking. Our current science is best practiced in an observational way, but you can’t observe millions of years or really in a precise way as Carbon dating… hundreds of years (or even decades…).

  8. Clarence,

    I agree with you…just the exact opposite. If I died today (and I hope I don’t) and found out that the Earth is 6K years old…I’d be a little surprised, but not upset at all. If I died today and found that the earth was a billion years old…I’d not be surprised – but I would still want to be taught Genesis with a better understanding.

  9. Mike Hildreth says:

    Sam,

    I’m sorry! I was under the impression that you were associated with the same hermeneutic as those of us in the churches of Christ. I don’t know where I got this idea but my recent and minimal research on your blog has proved me wrong. It appears that you are responsible for converting an “a cappella” congregation of the Lord’s Body into the atypical bourgeoisie of denominationalism. Thus, my conclusion that you are not of the same hermeneutic heritage.

    Thank you for allowing my comments.

    Mike

  10. Mike,

    No problem. You’re not the first to make such an assumption.

    However, you speak of “the same hermeneutic as those of us in the churches of Christ” as if there is a hermeneutic common to everyone in the Churches of Christ. As if you all got together and voted on a common hermeneutic. The Churches of Christ have never had a common, shared, or agreed upon hermeneutic (that’s why when you open your copy of Where the Saints Meet or Mac Lynn’s Churches of Christ in the US that front cover gives you all the codes so you can see what Church of Christ practices and believes what…based on its different hermeneutical belief and application). It is also why there is so much division and infighting as evidenced by the periodicals and journals (e.g., Contending for the Faith, Spiritual Sword, etc.).

    But even on this issue, there is no one common Church of Christ position. Because growing up in an “‘a cappella’ congregation of the Lord’s Body” I was taught a different view than the one you hold (as do MANY faithful acappella Church of Christers). And, although I have turned to the “atypical bourgeoisie of denominationalism” (I thought that was cute…I like that…as if Churches of Christ aren’t denominational. Plus if you actually knew the makeup of the Living Stones Church “bourgeoisie” would definitely not come to mind!) those same teachers are faithful, devoted, and committed members of the “a cappella congregation of the Lord’s Body.”

    By the way, when Jesus comes back and settles this whole argument, if in the end I’m wrong, I won’t be upset. I’ll shake your hand (if you make it…[that’s just a joke] 🙂 ) and congratulate you on your correct interpretation of Genesis.

  11. Clarence says:

    Mike…. really… is this really what you think Jesus was talking about when he said:
    “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    I’m a restoration movement guy… but lets be real, our family of churches (a denomination in its own right) is one screwed up family of churches. Take a step back and read what you said… then go read Matthew 22.

    Sam, my apologies if this is out of place… you know I’m just as much a right wing religious fanatic as the next guy, but… man… I guess.

  12. K. Rex Butts says:

    As a fellow “restorationist” who grew up in the Churches of Christ, I share the same sentiment with Sam…that is, I am glad, as conservative as the church was that I grew up in, it accepted that there were different possibilities for interpreting Genesis 1 and allowed for people to hold different interpretations.

    But what I don’t understand is why so many literalist must become beligerant towards those with whom they disagree. I just listened to a literal-creationist attack my speaking capabilities, accent, and intellengence once he realized that he could not intellectually subdue me into his position because I just happen to know enough that I was not intimidated by intellectual facade he probably uses to bully others into agreement with him. It is as if there is this thinking that if he (and others like him) cannot persuade a person to their position by coherent reasoning, then he just resort to smear tactics and why…to uphold his own insecurities?

    I actually feel sorry for people that must belittle others to feel good about themselves.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  13. Mike Hildreth says:

    Sam,

    Hi again.

    This will be my final comment for this post. Thanks again for allowing me to comment on your blog.

    I just thought I would interject for the purpose of clarifying my, “the same hermeneutic as those of us in the churches of Christ” statement, since you appear to have misunderstood where I am coming from.

    The hermeneutic I refer to is the same which Christ uses in his comments throughout the New Testament and the same acknowledged and taught by the Spirit in the epistles. To me, this is not simply a cherished doctrine of a so-called “Church of Christ Denomination”. Any denomination out there, including one going by the title of “Church(es) of Christ” is one which I have nothing to do with.

    The churches of Christ (i.e. Rom. 16:16) I have been referring to are those individuals all over the world, who choose to interpret properly what the scriptures command and imply and act upon it. Whether they have a sign on their door that says “Church of Christ” is irrelevant to this fact.

    Therefore, your suggestion that you are/were part of the churches of Christ which I am a part of, yet adherent to another hermeneutic is a nonsensical statement. Those who follow Christ follow His teaching and understanding of the scriptures. Those who do not are outside of His fellowship of believers.

    I have never read or even heard of “Where the Saints Meet” or “Churches of Christ in the US”. I don’t believe these books or any other worldly books or any votes or consensus can determine my faith. I have never even heard of the “Restoration Movement” until a few years ago. I go by the 66 inspired Books and Christ-given exegesis. Is that denominational?

    Mike

  14. Carl says:

    Sam, our oldest son is struggling with the same issues. It takes trust in God, a commitment to growing as a family in Christ, and a clear understanding of what defines us as Christians. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Mike,

    Well…I wouldn’t say “non-sensical” it makes perfect sense, it was just based on an assumption that you were coming from the denomination that is Church of Christ. Which by the way, you should consider because you already have the right language.

    It is this statement that is so curious: “The hermeneutic I refer to is the same which Christ uses in his comments throughout the New Testament and the same acknowledged and taught by the Spirit in the epistles.” Wow! I’m curious how you would describe this hermeneutic as I can’t find anywhere where Jesus takes any time to explain his interpretive methods of the OT. And based on my reading Jesus and the authors of the epistles seems to use several…from literal, allegorical, to metaphorical.

    And when you say things like this: “I go by the 66 inspired Books and Christ-given exegesis. [again…I’m still curious about this “Christ-given exegesis”] Is that denominational?” [I don’t know…it might be] and “Those who follow Christ follow His teaching and understanding of the scriptures. Those who do not are outside of His fellowship of believers.” this is what I really hear: “and unless you interpret the Bible like I do, you’re going to hell.”

    And while that isn’t unique to Churches of Christ. It is their language. And thus…my assumption you belonged to her.

  16. Mike Hildreth says:

    Sam,

    There are so many examples in the New Testament but one profound example would be the discourse between the Pharisees and Jesus that we read of in Matthew chapter 19 and Mark chapter 10. The Pharisees presented their erroneous interpretation of the Law pertaining to divorce. Jesus rejected theirs and supplied them with the correct method of interpreting Deuteronomy 24:1 – 4.

    Again, in Matthew 5:31, the common yet false interpretation of the day, pertaining to the subject of divorce, is quoted by Jesus and His own perfect interpretation is provided in the following verse. I call this “Christ-given exegesis” but you can call it whatever you like. The idea is that He repeatedly shows us how to understand the text and offers examples by which we can learn this exegesis.

    The very fact that Jesus corrects the false interpretations of the Pharisees proves conclusively that it is possible for man to learn and apply a single, proper interpretation of the scriptures. The concept that there is a plurality of acceptable interpretations which Christians may adhere to is foreign to the scripture.

    You do not need to interpret the Bible like I do to go to Heaven but you do need to interpret the Bible like Jesus does. Is that too much to ask?

    Mike

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