Mere Science and Christian Faith: Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults, by Greg Cootsona: Chapter 8- Moving Forward
We’ve been reviewing the book, Mere Science and Christian Faith, by Greg Cootsona, subtitled Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults. Today, we wrap up the series by looking at Chapter 8- Moving Forward. Cootsona identifies five main areas he feels would help a minister to young adults move the conversation forward. The first is engaging issues that make a difference. Of course, he is referring here to integrating faith issues with mainstream science. But, as some commenters have noted, these last few weeks have been difficult to engage science issues when the socio-political issues seem overwhelming. Good luck engaging emerging adult Catholics with their faith as their church so egregiously fails to protect and nurture the youngest and most vulnerable children. And Protestant Evangelicals don’t fare much better with the hypocritical denials of sexual harassment and blame-the-victim-they’re-all-liars tactics by the Willow Creek leaders and Bill Hybels or the social-justice-is-the-greatest-threat-to-the-gospel BS by John MacArthur while his Masters University leaders re-rapes a rape victim. Speaking of the youngest and most vulnerable children, you have the utterly contemptable action of caging very young immigrant children apart from their parents, which 80% of evangelicals seem to excuse. Sigh… it makes my upset-ness with the Ark Encounter seem quaint and pointless indeed. Nevertheless, faith and science is what I do, so I’ll press on; but I am very cognizant of the fact these other issues overshadow the discussion and make it seem quite secondary at times.
Cootsona’s second area is “Engaging Endorsers” by which he means local churches find science professionals in their congregations and engage them in teaching their young adults. His number three point is “Identifying Translators” by which he means people in the local congregation that can put the Bible in its historical perspective and translate that ancient worldview into something moderns can understand. Number four is “Cultivating Resources” by which he means identifying and making available books, articles, websites, online videos, etc. as well as promoting them on social media. His final point is “Telling Better, True, and Beautiful Stories”. The story science should tell is that “the heavens declare the glory of God”. The awe and wonder of the universe is a narrative that should direct us to worship. Cootsona then relates the stories of 3 emerging adults he is familiar with. Rather than recount his description of their stories, I thought I would interview my granddaughter, Taylor McCann, on this subject.
Taylor is 20, a junior majoring in Chemistry at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI- pronounced ooey-pooey). She is a professing Christian who grew up in church at Grace Assembly of God, a local mega-church in the Franklin-Greenwood area.
MTG: As you were going through high school, what experiences, if any, did you have in class when the subject of evolution or creation came up?
TM: In high school biology courses, evolution was brought up on multiple occasions. Most of the time it was brought up it was discussing the amount of time such as “millions or billions of years” compared to creationism of “thousands of years”. I have always been brought up in a biblical home so I always believed thousands of years to be more realistic as well as “B.C. and A.D” time marks. Many times through the discussion of geology and the changes of animals/humans it was apparent when they were teaching evolution.
MTG: Has the issue of having faith while studying science in college ever come up with either teachers or classmates?
TM: Going to a big university, many students do not ask questions out loud. Most people keep to themselves and assume the professor is right. To be honest, most college students do not care about what is right or wrong or if evolution is right or wrong. They just memorize the materials to succeed in the class and get out. It is all “fend for yourself” when going to a big university if I am being honest. There is no argument or debate for the most part when it comes to following authority and their teachings, it is what it is. So, no for me personally faith has not been brought up with teachers or classmates.
MTG: What issues about science and faith or evolution vs. creation were discussed or taught in the church you attended, either as a sermon or youth group discussion.
TM: We had a series at church quite a few years ago, I was pretty young. But I do remember [they taught]… The millions and billions of years according to one of the sermons, is absolutely impossible. There is a difference between “Macro-evolution” and “Micro-evolution”. Macro-evolution is what I believe is … MAJOR changes in animals evolving like my example of a lizard changing into a frog. Micro-evolution I believe is real. When animals, insects, or humans are placed in a certain geography, they have to adapt…or die. Survival of the fittest. I believe over the thousands of years there have been minor changes in animals, humans, and insects in order to survive. [Taylor then expresses skepticism about how major transitions of species could occur].
MTG: As you know, I’ve been a geologist and a Christian for a long time. There really is overwhelming evidence that the earth is “millions” of years old. [We discuss some of the evidences, such as the accumulation of annual layers in Lake Suigetsu and radiometric dating]. Does it bother your faith to learn the earth is ancient?
TM: Not really, I understand if something is true, then it has to be God’s truth, because all truth is God’s truth. But why does the church teach the earth is only thousands of years old?
MTG: They do it out of a sincere, but misguided, effort to defend the Bible. But to defend the inspiration of the Bible as a science book is to misunderstand the reason God inspired the Bible to begin with. Like the Galileo and Copernicus controversy over whether the sun or the earth was the center of the universe. We now know that, in fact, the earth revolves around the sun, despite there being 69 verses in the Bible that say the earth stands still, the sun rises and moves across the sky, etc.
TM: 69 verses, I did not know that. But, yeah, I get it, the Bible’s an ancient book, how could they know about modern science?
MTG: Let me use an illustration I often refer to: We see a tea kettle on the stove and ask:
Why is the water boiling?
Well, water is boiling because heat from the burner is transferred to the water raising the energy level of the individual water molecules until they overcome the latent heat of vaporization and undergo a phase change from liquid to gas.
Why is the water boiling?
Because I want a cup of tea.
Now you will notice that neither cause is less true than the other. One simply deals with the proximate cause; mechanical, secondary, physical, measureable. The other deals with the ultimate, or teleological cause; meaning, purpose, reasons for existing. The proximate cause answers the question; How? The ultimate cause answers the question; Why? The purpose of God inspiring the Bible was to answer the “Why” questions, He is not concerned so much with the “How”.
TM: Okay, I see that. I can see how micro-evolution is true, but how can macro-evolution be true? Do you really think we came from monkeys?
MTG: Well, the problem is the time frame. Micro-evolution can be observed within the human timescale. Macro-evolution occurs over too long a time frame to be directly observed. So we infer it from the fossil record—life has progressed upward from the simple to the more complex to finally humans appear. Or we infer it from genetic evidence—we share 85% of our DNA with mice and 98% of our DNA with chimps. We inherit the same endogenous retroviruses.
TM: But that 2% difference makes all the difference in the world. You change a couple of molecules and the DNA is totally different.
MTG: Indeed, it does! It makes all the difference in the world!
TM: But couldn’t God have just created the DNA with the 2% difference, created us human beings with the 2% difference.
MTG: Sure, he could have, but did he? Would it weaken your faith if macro-evolution is true?
TM: No, I don’t think it would. But my mind here is blown…
MTG: Well, then my job here is done 🙂 I wish we could talk like this more often.
TM: I do too, Papa.
MTG: Love you, Tater-bugs…
TM: Love you too, Papa…