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Pastors On Evolution and Creation

A recent survey indicates that pastors are beginning to change their views on evolution and creation. And I think that’s a good thing!

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May

10

Pastors On Evolution and Creation

A recent survey indicates that pastors are beginning to change their views on evolution and creation. And I think that’s a good thing!

A 2012 Barna Group report indicates that pastors (clergy) hold a variety of views on how God creates. That’s not surprising. Here’s the chart indicating that diversity:

 

If you dig deeper, however, you’ll find interesting things. For instance, the majority of Southern Baptist clergy affirm young-earth creation. It may surprise you, though, that pastors of large churches are more likely to accept theistic evolution than pastors of midsize or small churches.

Science and Bible

I was happy to see in the Barna report that three out of four pastors think science and faith questions are important. But I found it interesting how pastors who affirm a young earth view thought about Christian witness compared with pastors who affirm theistic evolution. The report shows that 85% of pastors who affirm a young earth position agreed with statement, “Christian disagreement on matters of creation and evolution is compromising our witness to the world.” However, only about 1/3 of pastors who affirm theistic evolution agreed with that statement.

In comparison, about 2/3 of pastors who affirm theistic evolution agreed with the statement, “The church’s posture toward science prevents many non-Christians from accepting Christianity.” And a majority of young earth view pastors disagreed with that statement.

I’m still processing what this difference might mean, but it appears that clergy who affirm a young earth view are “playing defense” against culture. They want to avoid appearing to compromise. Clergy who accept theistic evolution, however, are “playing offense” to reach non-Christians. They worry that issues of science – e.g., evolution – are an obstacle to accepting Christ. This is, of course, a generalization. But it’s a generalization suggested by the statistics, and it rings true to my own experience in various conversations with those on various sides of these issues.

Many who oppose theistic evolution do so, they say, because of the biblical concerns evolution raises. And yet the majority of all clergy whom Barna surveyed agreed with the statement that “some portions of the Bible are symbolic.” Not surprisingly, a higher percentage of pastors who accept theistic evolution say the Bible has symbolic elements. At stake, obviously, is how we decide which parts of the Bible are symbolic and which we should understand in a more literal/historical way.

In another intriguing portion of the Barna survey, clergy were asked whether they would “have a lot to lose in your ministry” should you “admit doubts about human origins.” 58% of young earth clergy said they’d have a lot to lose should they admit doubts. But only 17% of theistic evolution clergy thought they had a lot to lose should they change their minds. For someone those who, like me, affirm theistic evolution, this statistic is a sobering reminder of the high stakes involved for some who may have a change of mind on human origin theories.

Participate in a Survey

These statistics are interesting in many ways. And when I read them, I think about what the survey I’m helping to monitor. In this survey, we ask specific questions about evolution and Christian faith.  I encourage everyone to take it, especially those associated with the Church of the Nazarene.

The results of this survey and the results of a survey of Nazarene university educators will be presented publically at the Nazarenes Exploring Evolution conference at Point Loma Nazarene University next Janury 23-25, 2014. Here’s a link with more info.

I'm encouraged by the renewed interest in thinking through the issues of science and faith!

 

 

 

Posted in 2013 under Theology and Science

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Comments

DinkyDauBilly

05.13.2013
2:21pm

Huh. No comments yet.

Well ... you guys all realize, of course,that all you have to do to settle this vital issue of the day is simply accept the truth of the scientific record, acknowledge that the atheists have something of a point, and MoveOn.

Seriously, now ... 81% of Protestant pastors either believe in the literal biblical view of creation, or are admittedly clueless, or think that God did it but not through evolution? And you wonder why people laugh all the way to the golf course or the beach of a Sunday morning?

The ‘logic’ behind the selective literalism of True Believers eludes me. It just ... eludes me ...

 

Annette Bjerke

05.27.2013
8:39pm

DauBilly,

Do you really think that non-believers don’t go to church because of the issue of Creation and evoution? Seems to me that they don’t go to church because they don’t believe in God, nor do they see their need for God - and they’ve probably never been invited to church.

 

Don Endsley

06.04.2013
2:37pm

I am writing a (2000 to 2500 word) paper incouraging the Christian community to adopt a Theistic Evolution position and would like to include a small portion of this blog in the paper.
I am still on the rough draft but if you would need to read a copy, I would be happy to send it to you for your approval.
Thank you for your time.
Don L. Endsley

 

Todd Risser

06.11.2013
4:39am

Granted it may be true that “historical comparison is the last resort of people who don’t understand the current situation”, I can’t help but think about 1616 when the Church declared no one could believe the earth revolved around the sun and remain a Christian. This fight against science drives me crazy. I’ve long thought that the “crisis of faith” so many evangelical kids experience in the University when they meet things like the theory of evolution is not actually caused by science but by the form of Christianity they were raised in. If we had shrugged and said “It’s a fascinating universe God has made and we’re just learning bits and pieces about the ways He did it - (shrug) however He did it, He did it. It will be great learning processes it looks like He used” maybe we wouldn’t have sent so many kids into a tailspin of 6 DAY angst. Nazarenes have a good statement in the Manual on this.

 

Carol VanSlageren

06.22.2013
5:48pm

Great food for thought.  I have always believed that evolution occurs all the time…so why couldn’t God’s creativity include evolution?  My standard example is to use cows…obviously there are more than one breed.  Some have developed the genetics to be great milkers, others the genetics for beef, and still others have adapted to their specific environment(s).  As an evangelical Christian, this seems so simple to understand. For me, science and Christianity walk hand in hand.

 

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Thomas Jay Oord is a professor, author, and theologian from the Northwest. Read more