Nazarenes Exploring Evolution

Conversations on Evolution and Christian Faith

May I share an honest confession? I was initially hesitant to participate in this project because of my role as president of a Christian university. At Trevecca Nazarene University, we are willing to ask hard questions and converse with a maturing generation. However, I know that many people have already discovered all the answers they are willing to consider on issues of creation and science. They prefer not to be confused with other facts. Sadly, a conversation will not be possible, and their decision about a college for their sons and daughters may be the way they protest my involvement. I find that administrators have to think about safety for the institution as well as courage for the kingdom of God. I don't like the choices these realities give me.

But with the release of my book, A Charitable Discourse: Talking About the Things That Divide Us1, I have discovered a hunger for intelligent, informed, respectful, Wesleyan dialogue on divisive issues. It is time for the church to discuss the elephant in the middle of the creation dialogue—evolution. The bulk of our Christian scholars/scientists are in a different camp than the bulk of our laity, and the battleground will most likely be the minds of our youth. If there is a widening gap between Christian universities and local church pews, how will the church deal with the potential divide?

Let me begin with some declarations. I am not a scientist and do not seek to write as a scientist. I have no scientific capacity to defend evolution. I do not know how old the earth is. I cannot explain instantaneous creation out of nothing, nor can I walk you through the intricacies of evolutionary development. But I am a biblical scholar and a Wesleyan theologian and will write toward a position that may allow holy conversation to occur between people who occupy pews and those who sit in university classrooms.

As I have listened, I have heard a fear emerge about the interpretation of the Genesis account of creation. The reasoning claims, "If we give in here and say it is a poem or a story or a myth, what's to say the virgin birth or resurrection won't be next? And if this part of the Bible is fiction, how do we know that other parts aren't as well? We must defend the Bible." It's as if the creation account of Gen. 1 is where conservative Christians have determined to make a Custer's last stand.

Recently, I came across an excellent book by John H. Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. His interpretation of the creation narrative is carefully articulated in The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. Walton expresses an understanding of Genesis that has captivated me for years.2

He suggests that Gen. 1 is the account of God coming to dwell in his creation with his creatures. While the pagan stories of creation seem to imply that creation exists for the gods and humans are meant to placate the gods, our story is quite different. God moves in a way to cause creation to function for the sake of his creatures. The biblical account narrates the activity of God on behalf of his creatures rather than forcing the creatures to appease their creator or suffer the consequences.

The major contribution of Walton is his insistence that this text, Gen. 1, is not about the creation of the material universe but rather about God making the world function for his purposes. The text is in keeping with the dominant strain of theology throughout Scripture—God has come to dwell among us. Could it be that Gen. 1 is not a story about the creation of the material world but about God making the world he created into his dwelling place?

Sadly, we have determined that Gen. 1 is the factual story of the creation of the world. We have taken our scientific theories to it and have superimposed them on it, looking for proof of the correct theory. We wish to prove that God created the world, not some random forces of chaos. But the people to whom the text is written could not have imagined a world that God did not create. They did not need to be convinced that God created the world. It was already assumed. What they did not understand was how God had come to dwell among them as a people for his purposes in the world. The story of Abraham and his family will flesh out how the God of the universe intends to do that.

So while we believe God to be the Creator of all things, Gen. 1 is not necessarily the story of material creation. When we force scientific creation theories on Gen. 1, we are asking the text to answer a question that is not being asked. Genesis 1 is not about the time periods over which the material universe came into existence but about a time when God created a functioning world, ordered according to his purposes, and came to take his Sabbath rest in the cosmic temple of creation. This train of thought is heard throughout the Bible:

Thus says the LORD: Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is my resting place? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things are mine, says the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look, to the humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at my word (Isa. 66:1-2, NRSV).

"Viewing Genesis 1 as an account of functional origins of the cosmos as temple does not in any way suggest or imply that God was uninvolved in material origins—it only contends that Genesis 1 is not that story."3 We have plenty of Scripture that does declare God the Creator of all: Col. 1:16-17, Heb. 1:2, Ps. 100. If we allow a scientific debate to interpret Gen. 1, we have given modern science more weight than the human author of the text and the community to whom it was written. Biblical scholars across the centuries have seen the biblical story as a rich and complex text with many interpretations. Putting modern scientific ideas into this ancient story distorts the meaning of the text, which is clearly about God's faithful and caring relation to the world, not the details of how that world came to be.

Another concern is the development of a much-too-small doctrine of creation. The doctrine of creation must not be narrowed to a beginning. God continues to create because creation is rooted in God's future purposes. If Gen. 1 is to be read literally, I prefer to read it as the story of God interacting with his already-in-existence, chaotic, death-bound, disordered creation—which may have been materially existing for billions of years in some form—and bringing order out of chaos for the sake of dwelling with his people. In this reading, Adam and Eve are historical beings, whose names are part of a Hebrew genealogy, who experience God as their Creator, but even more so, who now understand their role within creation. They are privileged to function as obedient creatures of God, subduing and ruling creation as his partners. One does not have to explain how the material world came to be to understand how the text works to tell the community this story.

Or, in other words, Gen. 1 takes no position on the age of the earth or the method by which it came into existence. Thus, we need not pass a faith verdict on young-earth, old-earth, evolution, or any other theory of the origin of the material universe. We can enter the world of science with our eyes open wide. When science offers substantial evidence of a process or pattern in the universe, we simply thank God that his ways are becoming clearer to us than before. Christians have no fear of scientific discoveries of the origins of the universe. Our belief is not rooted in the how, because Scripture has not chosen to reveal the how. Our faith is rooted in the reality and experience of the God who came to dwell, who has a purpose to redeem and restore all of his creation, and who stubbornly continues to create that future until Rev. 21 is realized—a new Jerusalem come down, all things made new, death forever done, and God's dwelling with his people forever. Interestingly, the last chapters of the Revelation picture the temple made by God in which the Lamb is its light, and all creation celebrates.

So how does the Christian enter the conversation with science? We are free to discover. But when science crosses the line of exploration and observation and begins to suggest that there is no meaning or function intended in creation, we have a problem. Science cannot fathom the mind and purpose of God in creation. There is no evidentiary way for this to be proved. When theories of evolution go beyond how species evolved to the purpose behind this evolution, they have entered a realm that is not science. They have become either philosophers or theologians. Our faith interprets the findings of science as the activity of a loving God.

What we learn from science need not shake our faith in God. Our line of defense is not a scientific model for Gen. 1 but confidence in the Creator God, who has a loving purpose for his creation, and intends to dwell with his creatures and redeem us. The greatest act of creation is yet to come—God making all things new.

1 The following is an excerpt from A Charitable Discourse: Talking About the Things that Divide Us: Kansas City, Beacon Hill Press 2010. My experience with this book and its readers convinces me that the time is right for the discussion on evolution.

2 John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009).

3 Walton, p. 96. 





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Comments (45)

  1. Thomas Jay Oord:
    Feb 12, 2013 at 09:31 AM

    Thanks for this excellent essay, Dan. I really appreciate your willingness to engage this extremely important set of issues!

    Tom

    Reply

    1. dennis caldwell:
      Apr 26, 2013 at 07:23 PM

      I dont' like your reference to pew and university. Remember universities set in pews, all of us are in this together, one part of the spiritual body is no better than the other, they all are needed. I graduated from Bethany. Can you write on entire santification so I will know where you stand on holiness. Remember believing in God is simple, although he is complex.

      Dennis Caldwell

      Reply

      1. Oscar Overton:
        Nov 27, 2013 at 10:45 AM

        You wrote: "Remember believing in God is simple, although he is complex."
        I would beg to differ with you on this. In fact, I would say that God is simple. Jesus stated:
        "Jesus answered: 'Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?"
        Actually, God is described pretty simply and straight forward in the incarnation of Jesus.
        It is the world that is complex.
        Please read "Is God to Blame? Moving Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Suffering" by Gregory Boyd.

        Reply

  2. Eric Maggard:
    Feb 12, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    Hi Dan, I am coming from a background of BS in Physics and MS in Computer Science. I see Genesis as a story, not a scientific journal article as to how God created. Also, Genesis talks about what God created each "Day". It could be a literal 24 hours, but why does that need to be the case? For God a day is like a thousand years... or longer. So, I have no problem or Theological issue with God creating over thousands, Millions, or even Billions of years. Does that change the fact that He created? Also, with my background in Physics, I cannot look at the universe and comprehend the probablities of all of this coming together by random chance.

    Reply

    1. Gerard R. Oppewal:
      Aug 19, 2013 at 01:53 PM

      Hi, Eric, A few remarks: a day in Hebrew is 'Yom'. All through the Bible 'yom' is refered to as a 24 hour period. I find it very hard to believe that this should be different in Genesis. 2Pe 3:8: "A thousand years as one day..." refers to the second coming of Christ and not to creation. I do have a problems with God creating over millions of years: on the third day, the plants. The fourth day the sun, etc. On the sixth day animals and man. Now: if these days were indeed millions of years, how could the plants survive without sun, and how would they be pollinated without bees? Things to ponder....

      Reply

  3. Jim Franklin, BA History, NNC MA Geography U of ID also pursued Ed. D Geography at the University of Oklahoma:
    Feb 12, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Having studied Cultural Geography akin to anthropology, I recognize some of the evolution that has taken place during historic times such as the widening of the nostrils of high Andean natives to inhale more oxygen at that high altitude and also the lessening of the nostrils of Inuits in northern Canada so that they can inhale warmer air so that their lungs do not suffer from the intake of very cold air as examples of evolution. I have also wondered just what an Omniscient, Omnipotent and Omnipresent God would have been spending His time before Gen. 1. It is one of those comtemplations that causes one to go "hmmmm." I have read that some thing the Grand Canyon resulted from the run off of the worldwide flood of Noah's time but then there is Hell's Canyon here on the Idaho/Oregon border whose shape is no where near that of the Grand Canyon and is a lot deeper. Since my Master's program was from the Geography Department in the College of Mines and Earth Resources at the U of Idaho I did receive a lot of lecture from the geologists viewpoint but was not willing to accept it all at face value. Even carbon dating has been discredited to some degree. In our humble human minds we should find faith the answer more than trying to unravel the mysteries of God's mind. As his creations we probably would not understand the process and procedures He used to bring about the world as we know it.

    Reply

    1. Gerard R. Oppewal:
      Aug 19, 2013 at 02:22 PM

      Hello, Jim. Interesting examples, these nostrils, but a classic 'mis-trial' for evolution. What happened here is adaption within a species( also known as 'micro-evolution'), and is observed and therefore not on trial.

      There are some similaraties between Hell's Canyon and Grand Canyon. The Snake river enters the canyon at 1688 ft elevation and leaves at 1384 ft elevation, for as we all know, water runs downhill. However, the rim is at close to 8000 ft, so the Snake river can not have eroded Hells Canyon. It may well have been formed same as Grand Canyon.

      Reply

  4. Ann:
    Feb 12, 2013 at 01:17 PM

    Thank you for this article! God bless you. One of my daughter's favourite professors at another Naz U was fired precisely because that Pres would not take the stand you are taking. This is an important topic as many young adults that leave the faith, do so over this issue. THANK YOU!

    Reply

  5. Jaymie Simmon:
    Feb 12, 2013 at 04:14 PM

    Thanks, Dan for your thoughtful, loving words of wisdom. Once again I am inspired - and relieved - by your knack for forging a clear path through a difficult, tangled subject. Your suggestion that we look at creation from God's perspective is liberating for us Christians who, as honest adherents to the Bible, risk painting ourselves into a corner in the creationism debate. It is also, for me at least, a lesson in humility, a reminder that I know so little about the world, even as my heart seeks to know its creator. There is so much that divides our world -- thank you for shining a light on how we might come together in celebration of both humankind's ingenuity and God's loving presence among us.

    Reply

  6. Charles Carrigan:
    Feb 12, 2013 at 04:35 PM

    Glad to see the Church of the Nazarene beginning an open and honest discussion of these issues! Thank you Rev. Boone for your leadership!

    Reply

  7. Doug Cousins:
    Feb 12, 2013 at 04:56 PM

    Very encouraging!!!

    Reply

  8. Gregory Crofford (PhD, Theology, University of Manchester):
    Feb 13, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    This is a vital topic! Thank you, Dr Boone, for bringing clarity to a sometimes heated subject.

    A freshman at Eastern Nazarene College, I took zoology from Professor Glen Keyes. The topic fascinated me, and I threw myself into it. As a religion major, I should have taken general biology just to get the Gen Ed requirement out of the way, but wanted the enriched content that taking the first course in the pre-med track would give me.

    At the beginning of Spring semester, he bumped into me in the bookstore. "Greg, I just got the course list for botany, and your name isn't on it. Why?" "I'm not taking botany," I replied. "But you must," he said. "That's the next course for pre-med majors!" When I told him I was a religion major and not pre-med, he was taken back. "Well," he said, "I'm glad that we'll have someone else in the pulpit who understands that there's no conflict between evolution and Christian faith." It was Prof Keyes and Dr Alex Varughese who had helped me see that the mechanism by which God created (and continues to create) is evolution, the "theistic evolution" option.

    I have no idea where Prof Keyes is today, but his words have stayed with me. We must never put our young people in a position where they feel forced to choose between their Christian faith and the fruit of their academic inquiry. We must call that scenario what it is, a false choice. We can and must do better!

    Reply

  9. Judy Robinson:
    Feb 13, 2013 at 06:46 PM

    What a wonderful perspective. I am brand new to this website and welcome it. I am thankful the creation/evolution conversation is being addressed by conservative Christians.

    Reply

  10. Daryl Densford:
    Feb 14, 2013 at 02:07 PM

    When Dr. Boone states, "I know that many people have already discovered all the answers they are willing to consider on issues of creation and science. They prefer not to be confused with other facts" doesn't he close the door to further conversation? It seems that in his view, all the facts are clear and anyone with an opposing view can't possibly have any facts. The fact is, there are scientists and other scholars who contend that there are facts that support the Biblical account of creation. I have other concerns with Dr. Boone's essay which you can read, if you're interested, on by blog at daryldensford *dot* com

    Reply

    1. Oscar Overton:
      Nov 27, 2013 at 11:07 AM

      You wrote:
      "When Dr. Boone states, 'I know that many people have already discovered all the answers they are willing to consider on issues of creation and science. They prefer not to be confused with other facts' doesn't he close the door to further conversation?"
      To the contrary, He is challenging those that believe they already have "all the facts" to have a discussion with others that also believe that there are other facts that can shed light on the topic. This can be understood by the first part of his statement when he writes: "many people have already discovered all the answers they are willing to consider". The are the ones that are trying to "close the door on further conversation". He is actually trying to open the door for further conversation.

      Reply

  11. Doug Samples:
    Feb 21, 2013 at 08:16 AM

    Dan,
    Thanks for your courage to address these difficult issues in a sensitive way. In my Foundation of Christian Beliefs class this semester at SNU, I have three VERY smart science guys (molecular biologist types!) in the class. From the questions they are asking, it is obvious that they are looking for ways to harmonize their studies in science with their Christian faith. One of them said last week that "scientists are connoisseurs of God's artwork!" What a privilege to let these young science scholars know that there doesn't need to be a conflict between the Words of God and the Works of God!
    Doug

    Reply

  12. Doug Samples:
    Feb 21, 2013 at 09:26 AM

    Dan,
    Thanks for your courage to address these difficult issues in a sensitive way. In my Foundation of Christian Beliefs class this semester at SNU, I have three VERY smart science guys (molecular biologist types!) in the class. From the questions they are asking, it is obvious that they are looking for ways to harmonize their studies in science with their Christian faith. One of them said last week that "scientists are connoisseurs of God's artwork!" What a privilege to let these young science scholars know that there doesn't need to be a conflict between the Words of God and the Works of God!
    Doug

    Reply

  13. Richard Mark:
    Feb 25, 2013 at 07:22 PM

    I appreciate your attempt to explain away Genesis1. It is actually a good essay. But, why not let the Bible say what it says and if one doesn't agree with it, so be it. I see no problem with hords of folk who reject the biblical truths. I'm sorry to say, you're not smart enough to have it all figured out. But, a good try though.

    Reply

  14. bandit gangwere:
    Mar 12, 2013 at 08:28 PM

    I do not see any contradiction with the Bible and science.

    "And God said 'let be there Light'" matches the Big Bang.

    The Genesis account is a story to explain the creation of the world to a people that had a very limited world view. They were not stupid, but had a limited understanding of those things that did not directly affect their daily lives. They generally lived on a fairly thin margin. Their technology was the same level as those around them. The Tribes of Israel were very similar to the peoples around them - even being mono-theistic was not unique - the priests of Baal enforced the same concept among their followers. The Tribes did have the Law, which helped them not get sick from food, maintain resources, reduce societal friction. The Law also dictated the agreement between the Tribes and God.

    Stepping back, there are many examples of stories that are used to teach, but not expect to be taken literally. Christ often used parables to teach - I doubt there were really three servants who were given talents, or the fig tree that Christ talking about blooming lived for 2000 years.

    Genesis talks about God creating the light for night. I cannot understand those who think the Moon is not what they can see with their own eyes.

    We tell children stories to help them understand the world, but make them very simple. An example is where babies come from. The Tribes were not equipped with the right world-view to understand the creation of stars and solar systems.

    I also have a real problem with the believers who deny all of the science, which causes problems teaching science in school, which does not bode well for the country.

    I would also point out Genesis is pretty skimpy on details until the Ark. God made a mud man, breathed life into him, and repeated for woman is, as an engineer, really short on details. Does God have that ability? The one I worship does have that power, otherwise I would not worship Him.

    We witness evolution all of the time. There are documented cases of new species branching off of existing species.

    Reply

    1. Oscar Overton:
      Nov 27, 2013 at 11:25 AM

      Regarding the "Big Bang", It was a Catholic priest that first postulated the "Big Bang".
      It’s ironic how Christians claim that the Big Bang theory is totally atheistic. It was a catholic priest who also proposed it.

      http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/science/sc0022.html

      A side note from this article: "In fact, it was Fred Hoyle, an astronomer at Cambridge, who sarcastically coined the term 'Big Bang.'"

      Reply

  15. Kim Becker:
    Apr 04, 2013 at 05:30 PM

    Dr. Boone, I truly appreciated your essay and your insight into Walton's book. I will add that to my list of reading material. It's encouraging to me that my faith and salvation does not depend on making a definitive statement about the age of the Earth and whether I believe in creation OR evolution. What if I believe there is a possibility of a combination of both on the part of God? The topic I struggle with is the status of Genesis, and I have to admit I'm still learning and evaluating the Creation story in Genesis 1. That's why I believe Walton's book will become very useful to me in searching out resources to learn more about God's intention in Genesis and how literally to take the creation account. In learning it literally for so long, although I am perfectly able to form my own judgments, it will take additional study to create confidence on my part on my own view of Genesis. Thank you so much for the information you've provided here.

    Kim Becker
    MDiv student studying with Dr. Tom Oord, Northwest Nazarene University

    Reply

  16. Kathleen B:
    Apr 04, 2013 at 07:01 PM

    Thank you for posting this essay. It's an important topic. Too often, I think, people of faith can be hesitant to engage in discussion on such topics, because it is felt that if one aspect of the Bible is not literal it may not be considered true, and faith can crumble. The creation account in Genesis is truly the story of God seeking relationship with creation, with people.

    Reply

  17. Russ:
    Apr 09, 2013 at 04:44 PM

    Mr. Boone, I have read your article intently. You imply that evolution is obviously true because most Christian scholars and scientists believe it to be so. I guess fifty percent plus one determines truth. I am an engineer by occupation and have studied this topic for years. I believe you far overstate your position. You acknowledge that laymen are not on board, but it is because they are motivated by fear and not scholarship. That is why it seems to be you also imply that the issue must be pushed. I must admit that you are true to the title of your book. You come across in a forbearing and diplomatic fashion. While you are very light on science and scripture to back your position, you are quite frank about what you say, which is refreshing. I say this to my fault; I am more blunt. The article and and this entire web site of Nazarenes Exploring Evolution leaves me througly disgusted.

    Reply

  18. Rodney Gillman:
    May 14, 2013 at 06:44 PM


    You stated in the latter portion of your comments; "So how does the Christian enter the conversation with science? We are free to discover. But when science crosses the line of exploration and observation and begins to suggest that there is no meaning or function intended in creation, we have a problem. Science cannot fathom the mind and purpose of God in creation. There is no evidentiary way for this to be proved. When theories of evolution go beyond how species evolved to the purpose behind this evolution, they have entered a realm that is not science. They have become either philosophers or theologians." Am I mistaken, or have the proponents of evolution not entered the realm of philosophy a "long time ago"? Evolution today is equivalent to a religious belief, if not among everyone, at least in the eyes of many. Check out Richard Dawkins's books and see what he thinks about the validity of merging evolutionary thought with Christian doctrine.
    Rod Gillman

    Reply

    1. Judy Robinson:
      May 15, 2013 at 10:36 AM

      Ron, you are right that many people have turned the biological process of evolution into a philosophy that includes a lack of purpose for the universe and presumes a naturalist approach to every aspect of our existence. This is one major reason why believers need to be well informed - well informed enough to be able to discern when a scientist goes beyond the realm of empirical evidence and enters the field of philosophy or of religion, or when a philosopher does the opposite and gives false conclusions about scientific data. I would refer you to Alister McGrath's book, "The Dawkins Delusion?", for a good response to the false claims of scholars such as Richard Dawkins. Christian pastors and laity also need to be well informed enough to discern how a particular section of scripture should be viewed. For example, what is the historical/cultural approach to Genesis 1-11 and how does it contrast to a literalist approach and which is true to the intent of the original author(s)? How do the scientific claims of people like Ken Ham stand up to scientific inquiry? Does someone who believes God created the universe to "look old" realize they are saying they believe in a God who practices deceit? There are many unanswered questions in our quest to understand our physical world and how God interacts with it, but the quest is fascinating and faith enlarging. All truth is God's truth, and the journey to discovering more of that truth demands honest questions and an ongoing open conversation.

      Reply

    2. Lowell H Hall:
      May 15, 2013 at 01:17 PM

      Rodney:
      When you write, "Evolution today is equivalent to a religious belief, if not among everyone, at least in the eyes of many", you are referring only to those who make the principles of evolution into something equivalent to a religious belief. Evolution itself is not a religious belief, even when some publically visible scientists speak/write that way. Principles of biological evolution is a set of principles similar to many other such principles in every branch of scinece. I know many devout Christians who are scientists who accept the principles of biological evolution as science, not metaphysics.

      Atheists have always tried to pervert anything they can into some anti-Christian view. Their current behavior is nothing new and should be understood as such. You need not pay much attention to them but listen to Christians who are scientists.

      May I suggest that you read Darrell Falk's book Coming to Peace with Science. I have recommended the book to many who have told me it has been very helpful. I have known Darrell personnally for more than 25 years. He is a devout evangelical Christian who is a respected professional geneticist, an outstanding professor, and a Christian gentleman.
      Best wishes as you continue to think and pray about these important issues.
      Lowell H Hall

      Reply

    3. Oscar Overton:
      Nov 27, 2013 at 11:35 AM

      Rodney,

      You wrote: "Am I mistaken, or have the proponents of evolution not entered the realm of philosophy a "long time ago"?"
      That is exactly Dan's point. They are going beyond simple science and involving philosophy and theology and we need to call them on it. They protest that we bring theology into their science and we must do the same in reverse when they try to bring their science into theology.

      Reply

  19. Mark Britton:
    Jun 13, 2013 at 09:42 PM

    Thank you for opening this very important discourse.

    Reply

  20. Nathan Gilley:
    Jun 19, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Dr. Dan Boone,

    Thank you for opening this discussion with humility and care. During my undergraduate years studying religion at TNU this topic came up often and I am similarly persuaded that the creation account in Genesis needs to be understood as so much more than a proof text for a theory of origin. It sets the stage for all of scripture by describing God transforming chaos into order and creatively filling the earth with abundant and varied life. God is shown hovering over the waters, calling on the earth and thus empowering it to produce seed bearing plants. He sets the stars in the Heavens, and creates ordered time with the heavenly lights. Then God, even more intimately and majestically, molds, inspires, and purposes man, His image bearer, as the kingly-priest over creation, that they should nurture and order creation, build it up, and present its praises to God with their own. The relationships rightly established here in Genesis 1 are at the crux of what the rest of scripture shows broken and in need of restoration.

    But brokenness and degeneration are anathema to modern evolution as understood by the scientific community. Now I’m certain that good theologians can and have reconciled brokenness and the mechanics of evolution but I want to give you some insight regarding the other side of the coin. I believe it is good and helpful for you to clear up some of the theological confusion so lay people and theologians alike can coherently and constructively discuss what scripture is talking about in Genesis 1, but I’d like to make you more aware of the scientific community’s baggage and confusion. As you may recall, after studying Biology and Religion at TNU I started down the path to Medical School. I spent one year shadowing doctors, one year in a research lab studying cancer, and now I’ve finished my first year of Medical school. During that time I have learned a lot about genetics, research, medical ethics, and the underlying scientific worldview.

    Science has convinced itself that it offers objectivity and neutrality, a pure world-viewing point. Whether the scientific community is discussing the number of electrons on a charged copper atom, the bio-psycho-social causes of depression, or the theory of evolution, it is convinced that its systems and results are generally neutral and unbiased. I argue, as I was taught in my philosophy and theology courses, that there is no neutral ground- not even for scientist. We rightly strive for unbiased judgments but our questions and answers, even if phrased passively, scrubbed of emotive language, and carefully scrutinized by peers are influenced by our world view. Charles Darwin observed and explored the manifest beauty of microevolution, and then while struggling between universalism and agnosticism due to questions of theodicy, he philosophically extrapolated a theory that explained the “natural” universe without a need for God.

    Today, the much patched up and necessarily revised theory of evolution, no longer attacks the educated man’s religion. It is too neutral and universally palatable to do that, it offers itself as nothing more than a logical explanation to a universal question, “Where did we come from.” But beneath the surface, for the scientific community evolution is as much a subversive narrative as the Scriptures are for Christians. Evolution posits that man is not broken, rather we are moving from nothing towards the optimal evolution. That is to say, we can reclaim the goal that was supposedly lost during the tower of babel myth- building towards that happy day when mankind, by his own power and ingenuity, will breach the heavenly realms and become immortal and perfect. You see, sin does not exist as a state of broken relationships and disobedience, rather there are pathologies caused by genes or epigenetic arrangements that incorrectly programmed the brains response to the environment. In time, either by communal selection, embryonic design or gene therapy we will erase maladaptive behaviors such as homicide and addiction and free every individual to live happily and uninhibited. The majority medical community has embraced the evolutionary narrative and claimed its telos for their discipline.

    My point is not to show you that the modern theory of evolution is evil or wrong, rather I feel compelled to share the insights that I have gained while being part of the scientific community. Science, particularly biology, is staying firmly rooted in ideas of the enlightenment and rationalism while the rest of humanity's philosophical systems are moving into post-modernity’s uncertainty. Certain types of people and specific stages of each human’s development desperately desire this so called surety. In response, how can we the Church rightly offer them the only absolute truth knowable in this universe? Will showing them how to accommodate this theory into a biblical worldview be truly helpful? But more importantly how can we firmly root children, teens, and adults into the true surety of the Word of God. Evolution is not a threat to Christian thought because it denies the existence of God- it does not explicitly do that. But we should be careful about making room for evolution in our theology when its baggage is so tied to secular humanism and its adherents so convinced of it absolute truth.

    I once spoke with a philosophical doctor of biology and he told me that he did not know a single doctor of biology who did not understand biology through an evolutionary process. So I ask him if he thought it would be possible to get a PhD in biology without agreeing with the theory of evolution. He said no. The theory of Evolution has become a presupposition of biological study. It is assumed and unquestioned at the core.

    We may be able to reconcile the evolutionary mechanism to the biblical world view, but the narrative of evolution more the than the mechanism is what is being taught where religious discourse is disallowed. The narrative of evolution insidiously presents itself as a proven scientific fact, and the counter narrative cannot be legally voiced.

    I pray that God will give us wisdom in moving this discussion towards wholesome Christian action, that we might teach the truth in love and answer tough questions with faithful reason.

    With humble respect and Christ’ love,

    Nathan Gilley

    Reply

    1. Oscar Overton:
      Nov 27, 2013 at 11:42 AM

      Nathan,

      You wrote:
      "Evolution is not a threat to Christian thought because it denies the existence of God- it does not explicitly do that. But we should be careful about making room for evolution in our theology when its baggage is so tied to secular humanism and its adherents so convinced of it absolute truth."
      Exactly, "we should be careful". Unfortunately, there are too many that want to hold their hands over their ears while shouting "NA NA NA NA NA . . .". They do not even want to engage in the discussion. On the other extreme are those that desire to totally throw in with the evolution crowd with no caveats. Your suggestion to "be careful" is exactly what I believe Dan is proposing.

      Reply

  21. Peter Migner , Pastor:
    Jul 24, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    Dan,

    Your so kind to both sides of the issue, but the bottom line here is that evolution verses creation does divide, its just a matter of, can we tolerate each other and how many other theological issues will spin out of this divide that divide further?

    Peter

    Reply

  22. Josh:
    Aug 06, 2013 at 03:03 PM

    The theological implications of death in creation (as part of the evolutionary process) prior to the fall of Adam are untenable for the Christian.

    Reply

  23. Dr. David M Bruce, BS PE.(Olivet Nazarene) MA. Ed Tech (Michigan State) and Ed.D Ed. Leadership (Trevecca):
    Aug 08, 2013 at 07:24 PM

    Dr. Boone,
    I have a daughter that is enrolled at TNU with plans to become a minister with an emphasis in youth. She has been raised in the Nazarene Church her whole life and believes the bible to be the infallible word of God. What you are suggesting in this article is to compromise with the idiom that macro-evolution is somehow cohesive with creation. I would like to refer you to the Nazarene Churches Articles of Faith: 4. We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith.

    My dissertation at Trevecca Nazarene University was titled: Creation vs. Evolution: Perceptions and Opinions According to Worldview Eighty Five Years After the Scopes Trial. Unfortunately it is not a GREAT work, yet it does offer the history of this battle through the eyes of Worldview. Having a biblical worldview is paramount to me for the leadership of Trevecca and any other Nazarene University. If we are to stand on our foundation, it would bode well for us to agree with our articles of faith on this topic.

    The word science, comes from the latin word "scire" which means "to know." When science makes statements of the earths age, or how it might have come into existence, it has left the rudimentary meaning of science and entered the world of philosophy. You may have a desire to marry the in-errancy of scripture with the philosophical views of science, but I will have no part in it. Science will never "know" how we came into existence unless it turns to the word of God.

    By the way, I was a science teacher for 13 years and believe REAL science can help us "know" how this world functions and give us insight into many things. However, it will never be able to open our eyes to the "TRUTH." Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."

    Dr. Bruce

    Reply

    1. Gerard R. Oppewal:
      Aug 19, 2013 at 01:17 PM

      Very well said. You are not the only one who is not entirely happy with this 'Exploring Evolution'.

      In my view it's a heresy, as I have shared on a few occasions throughout this site.

      Reply

  24. William Welch, Nazarene Elder:
    Aug 17, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    Thanks for your open honesty. However, I find your essay disturbing and demeaning to God as well as to Nazarenes who take the Bible by faith and trust. You said in your article, "Sadly, we have determined that Genesis 1 is the factual story of the creation of the world." If it isn't the factual story of the world, the only other option is that it must be a fictional story. Is that what we are teaching at Trevecca? The Bible and the story of God a myth?

    After several visits to Trevecca, my son decided to attend a secular university. This was a choice wise beyond his years. If we as holiness people and Nazarenes cannot expect our denominational institutions of higher learning to uphold the Bible as being given "...by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation...." (the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene, Article IV), perhaps it is, indeed, best to take a stand at a secular institution where one is not mislead by half-truths which are no truths at all.

    Reply

    1. Judy Robinson:
      Aug 20, 2013 at 04:22 PM

      Mr. Welch,
      This reply is from an interested laywoman. I am not a theologian or a scientist, just someone who has invested a lot of study and reading to this area. One of the reasons for my interest is precisely what you state - are the early chapters of Genesis simply myth or factual history? The truth is - it is not myth (especially in the modern use of the word) and it is not history (as our modern mindset perceives history). At its most basic, it is theology, and has two primary purposes. One obvious purpose, if you have ever read any of the other creation accounts of that ancient time period, is to point out what the true God's creation is all about - it is not the result of conflict and it is not for the pleasure of selfish "gods." The Genesis account is to show that God created out of love and to establish a theological basis for being a Jew. The writer is using concepts familiar to our precious ancient Hebrews. If you believe the account given in Genesis should be viewed as fact, then here are some of the "facts" you must be prepared to accept: (1) the earth is flat: (2) the "firmament" is a solid surface and the sun and moon and stars are fixed in that solid surface: (3) there are waters above the solid firmament and waters under the flat land: (4) hell is below the waters under the flat land; (5) the firmament has "windows" that God opens to let out the rain, another set of windows He opens to let out snow and hail, and another set of windows to let out wind: (6) the flat earth rests on pillars that rest on ???? - and the list goes on. You can easily research on the internet all the ancient science (that we now universally accept as scientifically incorrect) that is included throughout the Old Testament and even some in the New Testament. Does that mean we think the Bible is not inerrant? Absolutely, not! The view on the inerrancy of the Bible that our manual states has to do with "what is necessary for our salvation." It is not necessary for our salvation to believe that the earth is flat, etc. It is necessary for our salvation to believe that God created out of His great love and that we can enjoy a true relationship with Him and strive to fulfill His purposes in our lives.

      On another note, when you read about issues in modern science (like evolution) be aware of the tendency for the media and some scientists to combine philosophy with science. The scientific evidence for evolution is one thing, but the philosophy that often accompanies it is another. We, as believing laypeople, must be well informed enough to be able to distinguish between the two.

      If you wish to become better informed on the area of science and religion there are some wonderful books being written by scientists who recognize that everything is God's truth, whether the truth is from the Bible or from nature. They include Francis Collins, Karl Giberson, Dennis Falk, John Walton and several others. The biologos website is a great place to begin.

      God created nature, therefore what nature has to tell us as the result of scientific study should reveal God to us, and it does.

      We Nazarenes are Wesleyans, fortunately. Part of what that means is that we look for the great truths the Bible reveals to us. Since God used ancient science to communicate the truth of His creation to an ancient people - He created out of love (rather than out of conflict - as is the case with most other creation accounts), we do not need to be distressed that the "facts" are different from what we understand to be true today. The truth of the Genesis account remains true today - God creates (by whatever means He chooses), and He made us to be His image bearers. What a responsibility!

      Reply

      1. Peter Migner:
        Aug 20, 2013 at 10:28 PM

        Judy,

        I beg to differ with you. Your sources to affirm science are from authors who have written plenty of hersey along the way to support their science so as to affirm their faith. I've read 2 of those books and reading a third one now and many twists along the way. Evolution is still a theory and granted its a ever growing popular theory, but it remains an unproven theory. Evolution has been revealed by many other scientist and followers of Christ to be full of holes and many missing links. Was Adam and Eve created quickly and miraculously as the Scriptures say or did they evolve? Biologos has info that says they evolved and God stamped His image on them. Implying those before Adam did not have the image of God. Creation is closely tied to our theology and evolution if accepted unravels it all.

        Reply

  25. Claudia VanDyne:
    Sep 05, 2013 at 02:57 PM

    This is most disturbing to me. I see no relevant purpose in considering evolution. You are creating discourse and disunity in the body of Christ, let alone implementing an 'idea' that is not born of the TRUTH. Quit reading and listening to what man has to say, and just stick with the WORD OF GOD! Paul urged Timothy, "...command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work - which is by faith." ( I Timothy 1:3-4) We accept God's word BY FAITH, people! Stop over thinking it and stirring up controversies. God said, " I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." ( I Corin 1:19) Don't add to what you don't understand - you are adding 2+2 and making it = 5! It's hard to believe this teaching has infiltrated our Christian universities, I am grieved beyond words.

    Reply

    1. Michael:
      Oct 10, 2013 at 12:46 PM

      Peter,

      I'm not sure how well educated you are in the sciences, but I think you might be mistaken. Often many people dismiss evolution because it is just "a theory." However, theories are a overall idea supported by many hypotheses, in the case of evolution, thousands of hypotheses. Scientists make a hypothesis, then do a test to see if it is supported. A hypothesis, in the science world, is almost never proved, it's only supported. That's how science works. I have never read a academic research thesis, dissertation, or paper that correctly used proved. One would only say, "these findings supported my hypothesis." Even when the findings are strong enough to dismiss any alternatives.

      One way to help think of evolution is to imagine a large house. In this illustration the house is the theory of evolution. This house is held up by pillars. When pillars fail the house/theory collapses. Think of each pillar as a hypothesis. So in the case of evolution there are thousands of pillars (hypotheses) holding up the house (theory). Occasionally, there's a pillar missing from under the house. Or sometimes a pillar is knocked down. This is similar to a gap in evolution or when some scientific evidence discredited a hypothesis under evolution. With thousands of pillars holding up one house, one should not be distraught or worried that a couple pillars are missing or several have been knocked down from under the house, since there are still thousands of pillars. The house is still stable. Similarly, the theory of evolution is still stable, despite some gaps or discredited hypotheses.

      One of the worlds most respectable scientists who is also a Christian said to me in conversation (I don't want to use his name because I do not have his permission and I paraphrased), "if one discredits all the science behind evolution, than one must not trust Tylenol to alleviate a headache, or trust that the sun will rise in the morning, or even trust that the earth is round. All of those theories have less scientific support."

      I hope this adds to the conversation.

      Blessings,

      Michael

      Reply

      1. Gerard R. Oppewal:
        Oct 12, 2013 at 09:32 AM

        Michael,

        I think you are the one mistaken, for in my view a theory should be supported by FACTS, not by hypotheses.
        A hypothesis is a fancy word for 'wishfull thinking', an unproven theorem.
        'Evolution' is only supported by wishfull thinking. No one has ever seen anything evolve, neither has anyone ever seen the 'inbetweens' or 'missing links'. If evolution is taking place today, we should see millions of half evolved missfits roaming the earth. This is not the case.

        Evolution is only suited to dismiss creation and in so doing, dismissing the Creator.

        Yes, some people here claim that God may have used a guided evolution to create.
        Almighty God SPOKE the universe into existence. He does not need centuries of trial and error, because He can do it right first time.

        Others here say that God may have build the mechanisme of the universe and let it run it's course to what we have today. But the world today is NOT what God intended. The post-flood world is a damaged, decaying ruin of the original creation.

        A six day creation is by far the best explanation for the universe, the earth and life upon the earth. Every scientific discovery ( you know, the ones proven by facts! ) confirms this. However, this is swept under the carpet by institutes such as MIT, to name but one. One example: In a proper translation Gen 6:4 says:"There were giants in the earth in those days". So, if you find a 12 foot skeleton, you might say:"Genesis is right", or you can destroy the artefacts and deny they ever existed. THAT is science today, people!

        It is really sad that we have to spend so much time and so many words to 'sell' this biblical truth to those who should be proclaiming it: yes, indeed, our pastors and professors on Nazarene Colleges.

        Reply

  26. CJ Moffett:
    Oct 23, 2013 at 03:24 PM

    Thanks for this article and this website. I endorse it fully, appreciate it greatly, and I will both use and recommend it to others.

    Reply

  27. Kevin OConnor:
    Dec 04, 2013 at 05:37 PM

    Dan,
    Thank you for your article. Here is what not being addressed. Wesley understanding of how the literal understanding of six days of creation set up a Holy Sabbath, and Genesis 2 the origin of Marriage. Wesley's own commentary on Genesis 1 he states that God did it in a six day period. This is only important if you believe in truth for Salvation. If mankind is older than the Genesis account and there are really fossils of humans that died millions of years ago. Then death came into the world before Adam. Therefore it wasn't a result of sin that death came into the world. This thinking erases the basis for our salvation. We cannot say that Wesley would be willing to endorse anything other than a God who did what He said He did. His commentary was willing to shorten the process because of God's ability but He never suggest a longer process for the reasons stated in this article. We so want to be loved by the world and its knowledge that we aren't willing to say man's understanding is fallible. The scripture has purpose and intend. It concerns me greatly that the voice for six day creation is not on this site and the many godly leaders who understand the purpose for a foundation of society and a structure that was to be built upon it. The erosion of Biblical truth when the translation truly implies a day as a 24 hour period... Thus the morning and evening segment of the scriptures. We are way over thinking this and showing our fear of trusting God's word as the final say...

    Reply

    1. Oscar Overton:
      Dec 15, 2013 at 03:04 PM

      Kevin,

      I appreciate your perspective but there is a possibility that you may be in error in your understanding.
      I don't know if you will be willing to reconsider your position, but for the sake of many others, including yourself, I'm praying that you do.
      What you have stated seems to come straight from the teachings of the developers of the "Creation Museum" and their website "http://www.answersingenesis.org/". As a counterpoint I suggest you check out "http://www.oldearth.org/". (This site used to be titled "Answers in Creation". This site makes some very reasoned arguments toward an old creation and discusses the point that you seem to be making that if one does not interpret Genesis the way you describe then you cannot believe any of the remainder of the Bible and, therefore, are without salvation. (You state: "This thinking erases the basis for our salvation.")
      Here is a quote from the home page of "Old Earth Ministries"
      "Because of the false claims made by young earth creationists (YEC's), many people have rejected Christianity. A proper understanding of the Bible shows that you can believe in God, and believe the earth is billions of years old." Would you be willing to stand in the way of someone that wanted to accept Christ as his/her savior, but felt rejected because they believed in an old creation?

      Also, realize that John Wesley lived, preached, and wrote, in the 1700s when our scientific knowledge was much more limited than now. Additionally, in Dan Boone's reference to "Wesleyan dialog" I believe was in reference to Wesley's inclusion of reason in his quadrilateral (scripture, tradition, experience, and reason). One must use scripture as the basis but should use reason to interpret it. Three hundred years later, we have much to reason about that was not available to Wesley.

      You also wrote: "The scripture has purpose and intend[sic]. It concerns me greatly that the voice for six day creation is not on this site and the many godly leaders who understand the purpose for a foundation of society and a structure that was to be built upon it." I don't see how the length of creation, outside the preachings that it has to, impacts the foundation and structure of a society. While I agree that the scripture has "intent" I dare say that describing the scientific details of the creation of the universe or the earth is within that intent. In fact Dan Boone states that the author of the book (John Walton) suggests: ". . . that Gen. 1 is the account of God coming to dwell in his creation with his creatures."

      Remember what God told Job in Chapter 38 and 39. It begins:

      "1 Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
      2 “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?
      3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.
      4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand."

      And this completes it is chapter 40.
      "1 The Lord said to Job:
      2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”
      3 Then Job answered the Lord:
      4 “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.
      5 I spoke once, but I have no answer — twice, but I will say no more.”

      As to your point about the length of the days of creation, see the following link in the "Old Earth Ministries".
      http://www.oldearth.org/word_study_yom.htm
      I provides an in-depth, scholarly study of the use of "Yom" in the Bible. If one leg of Wesley's quadrilateral is scripture then this study fits the bill because it extensively references Biblical text. Beyond that, ". . . Hebrew dictionaries attest to the fact that the word Yom is used for anywhere from 12 hours up to a year, and even a vague "time period" of unspecified length. This article also addresses, point-by-point the young-earth interpretation and defense ot this interpretation.

      Here's hoping that you do not dismiss out-of-hand my points but are willing to investigate and reason with me and others: the age of the earth is not relveant to salvation, and that there exists the distinct possiblity that the earth and all of creation is rather old in human terms. Thank you for your consideration.

      Reply

      1. chuck kutchera:
        Feb 15, 2014 at 09:42 PM

        I took your advice and looked up that website and found this on the home page. There words in quotes. If this site is to promote dialog between opposing viewpoints I would not recommend that site
        Creation Science Is Young Earth Creationism a Cult?
        " One could say why bother? We are both Christians, so let each other be. The reason this is so important, I believe, is because of the great harm that young earth creationism is doing to the church".
        If by saying that people are leaving the church because of yec, I say your faith is weak to begin with if thats what your faith is based on.
        "Think back to the definition at the top of the page... "a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre by the larger society."
        If being a cult is wrong/bad wouldn't the early church be considered a cult? The Jewish leaders ,and the Roman empire both considered JESUS and HIS followers abnormal and even killed them
        " Do we want the church to be considered by our society to be abnormal? "
        JESUS also said the world hated HIM and it will hate HIS disciples. Society now says homosexual behavior is normal and should be excepted , its ok to kill unborn children in the womb, adultery is accepted behavior under some circumstances and I could go on. Should the church accept this type of behavior so we are not considered abnormal?
        " I certainly don't! YEC's are making a concerted effort to push their beliefs upon the church, and it is causing great harm to the church".
        I believe priests molesting children ,the lack of good bible study, divorce in the church especially among the clergy ,the church becoming like the world to get members in, does more harm to GODS church.
        I believe we must fight their efforts, for the survival of the church
        I think that is a ridiculous statement. To base the survival of the church on silencing yec, is way off base. Elijah after defeating the prophets of baal, went into his "pity party" saying he alone was left, and GOD answering that HE reserved either 5 or 7 thousand who hadn't bowed the knee to baal. GODS true church can, has, and will survive despite what men do.

        Reply

  28. Karen Vennum Crouse:
    Mar 15, 2014 at 06:34 AM

    Dr Boone,

    Thank you very much for this thoughtful article and for engaging in this conversation.

    I've surprisingly, delightfully, run across your comments on this topic twice in the last month or so, the other time was in this very interesting and insightful blog post by Todd Stepp, http://wesleyananglican.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-big-debate-evolution-vs-creation.html , addressing the Bill Nye / Ken Hamm debate. In this post, Rev. Stepp quotes your book, A Charitable Discourse, and specifically the section where you address Genesis 1. Prior to reading this blog post, I wasn't aware of your book. After stumbling upon this quote, I emailed a good friend with whom I converse on such matters (fellow Trevecca grad and fellow truth-seeker) something akin to “Wow! I had no idea Dr. Boone had written a book like this, I'm definitely going to read it!”

    You rightly surmise that there is a generation of young intellectuals who have been raised in or exposed to the Church of the Nazarene but now grapple with the question - “How could I have respect for, how could there be anything left for me in, an institution such as this that fervently denies the truth of science? If I know without question that they are wrong on THIS, then what else are they wrong on? How can I respect their leadership or stance on theological or social issues?” The questions go on and on.

    The value that your comments on this topic bring to me is not a defense or support of evolution. The evidence for evolution is clear, overwhelming, and not in need of any defense. Rather, your comments provide some small open door (I say small, because the issues that divide us are many, and this is but one, albiet an important one) for these “intelligent, informed, respectful millinials” that you write of to find a place in the broader faith community of the Church of the Nazarene, and to consider TNU and other Nazarene institutions of higher learning to be legitimate options for consideration in their journeys.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. A breath of fresh air.

    Karen Vennum Crouse
    TNU '00

    Reply

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