OK, let’s start here by getting something out of the way. I believe in Theistic Evolution, sometimes called Evolutionary Creationism. Without going into a lot of detailed explanation, this just means that I accept the scientific evidence that the earth was created via an evolutionary process that continues to occur today, AND I believe that God was the author of creation, so that whatever is observed in science, He is at the beginning of it.
I understand that not everyone reading this agrees with that position. At the same time, I didn’t just default to it in some way. I have reasons for what I believe, just as many of you do. I didn’t inherit; I sought it out for myself and, unless science drastically alters its finding in some way, I’m unlikely to change in a major way although, of course, I will continue to read, learn and discover as long as God gives the opportunity.
All that to say this, I’m not writing this to persuade anyone to agree with my position. I do not believe that your personal view of Creation is a heaven or hell issue for any believer. In fact, I’m comfortable with being in spiritual community with anyone whose creation beliefs include God, and THAT’s what I’m wanting to write about.
I just attended a conference at Point Loma Nazarene University entitled Nazarenes in Dialogue: Exploring Origins. At this conference, the subject was an examination of the variety of creation views that are held by Christians. We heard presentations by Young Earth Creationists, Old Earth Creationists, Intelligent Design non-evolutionary view points and intelligent design pro-evolutionary viewpoints (there’s a difference; trust me on this) and Theistic Creationists, mentioned above. There were panel discussions, table discussions, workshops and Manual input working sessions (this was a Nazarene thing, although not all participants were Nazarenes).
Here’s the part that was most enjoyable for me. This range of views includes some very different understandings of creation. There is a whole range of conflict points between some of them, often among all of them. The holders of these views have held fiery debates in the past, and continue to do so.
Even within the local church, there is a diversity of views represented here. And, at times, there have been open conflicts within these local churches, including some in which I was serving in a pastoral role. I’ve observed some angry separations over this subject area.
None of that was present this week. To be sure, there was disagreement. There weren’t a lot of Young Earth Creationists present. That’s a view held by a significant group of Nazarenes, but it’s not widely held among our leadership and certainly not in our universities. But, that viewpoint was received respectfully and, with the exception of one video that a leader later apologized for including due to some critical remarks, there were no public expressions of condemnation.
We began our weekend with worship and gathering around the Lord’s Table. We started by affirming our unity in Christ. We intentionally stated that although many of us held our views tenaciously, we did not believe that anyone holding a differing view was excluded from the body of Christ.
The primary tenets of our discussions was that they be entered into with humility and respect for one another and for authority within the church. I have no doubt that some of the information shared was hard for certain people to hear, but they were never challenged to accept or leave.
And that’s where we need to be within the Body of Christ. Not everyone in Fremont Journey of Faith or San Francisco New Start Ministries agrees with my viewpoint on this issue, and they don’t have to. When I teach, I separate essentials from non-essentials. It’s only when we discuss these things from a polarized perspective in which you have to agree with me on this or we won’t be able to find common ground on anything that we fall into the loss of community.
What you believe about creation is not an essential of the faith, as long as you find God in the process. You don’t even have to include God in your reading and research here, because his written word is not a book of science. You DO need to recognize Him as the ultimate Creator, but you are not required to identify His specific role in the process of creation, as if you even really could.
It’s time for love to reign in the Body. Maybe the issue of creation hasn’t even been on your mind for a while. That’s OK. Just remember that when it does come up, it’s not a litmus test for authentic Christianity.
Love one another.
Always praying for you,
Your older brother,