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Steve Smith's Testimony
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The following is Steve Smith's testimony. He is a geologist. I appreciate his willingness to share his story and the following is used by permission.
Copyright 1998 S. Smith. Used by permission
A brief note of explanation: The following is a letter sent to a young Christian who had attended our church before going into the Army. During his military training in Texas, he attended a church which really pushed the ICR-version of young-earth creationism (YEC) and became hooked. About this same time he also decided to enter the ministry. Our church has sort of "adopted" him and his wife and have supported him in his training for the ministry. During a furlough from the Army, he and his family visited our church and, by invitation, taught a Sunday School lesson of his choice. He chose to teach about Creation from the YEC. The rest of the story should be evident from the letter itself.
March 18, 1996
I'll bet that this letter comes as a shock. Well it would if you knew that I seldom write more than 1 or 2 letters a year - and that includes our yearly Christmas form letter! I regret that I was sick the Sunday that you were here at church. I would have enjoyed seeing you and your wife again and meeting your new baby son.
Several people have commented that I should have been there during your Sunday School lesson on Creationism. I get the feeling that they would have enjoyed seeing some sort of Creation/Evolution debate. I'm sure that that scenario was certainly possible. I do get all worked up over this issue. However, I'm not sure that I would have used your Sunday School lesson as a forum for a debate. I've thought about this quite a bit and I think that if I would have said anything (and everyone knows that I probably couldn't have kept quiet!), I would have related something like what follows below. I guess that you could call this a sort of testimonial so I'll start: In the beginning, ...
I was raised in a rural community of northern Indiana in a religious family. Life revolved around the Bible and the conservative evangelical church we attended. I learned the Bible stories early in Sunday School and became involved in the Bible Quizzing Program. I read the Bible from cover to cover many times. I especially enjoyed the historical books of the Old Testament.
From time to time, the subject of Creation/Evolution would come up in our teen group at church. It was an _a priori_ conclusion that Evolution was false and anti-Christian. Our discussions were primarily concerned with how to accommodate the age of the Earth into the Genesis Creation and usually took the form of a "Day-Age theory" versus the "Gap-Ruination theory" debate. I don't want to give the impression that this was a "hot" topic. Besides the normal boy-girl relationship discussions, most theological dialogues during my teen years were about the approaching Second Coming, Tribulation, and end times. It seemed that many biblical scholars and books were predicting that Christ would return around 1977 or 1978 based on Matthew 24:32-34 - One "30-year" generation after Israel became a nation (the fig tree blossomed). Therefore, we had little time to spend arguing about Evolution or the past; we were more worried about the future.
During my Freshman year in High School, I was introduced to the scientific evidence for Evolution in Biology class. Although I had no trouble learning the concepts and passing the tests, I was unconvinced about the validity of Evolution. I was sure that one couldn't believe in Evolution and be a Christian. (When I learned that my "evolutionist" Biology teacher was also a Sunday School teacher in another church, I was very uncharitable and secretly judged him to be a phoney or hypocrite). I did accept most of the rest of the science that I was taught - it wasn't seen as threatening to my Christian beliefs. In fact, science was one of my favorite subjects.
In the fall of 1975, my father's aunt loaned me a recently published book that changed my life: _Scientific Creationism_ by Henry Morris. I read the book several times. It explained in detail how science could support a literal reading of Genesis, a 6- day creation, a 6000-year old earth, and a global flood of Noah that reshaped the entire world. I was converted. At last, I could have science and my Christianity without any fear of conflict. (In one of my Senior English classes I even wrote a research paper, _The Beginning: Evolution or Creation?_, that compared and contrasted Scientific Creationism with Evolution. It blew my English teacher away - I still have that paper and her comments).
A year later, I went to a small church college in the midwest. I knew I wanted to be a scientist, but I didn't know exactly which field to major in. I started out in Chemistry. During my first year at college, I also took the two required Biblical Studies classes: Old Testament and New Testament Bible. In the Old Testament class, the Genesis accounts of the Creation and the Flood were discussed. I can remember that during one of those discussions, I some how ended up at the chalkboard diagraming and describing to the entire class how the vapor canopy model resolved many of perceived conflicts between the Biblical account of a pre-Flood earth destroyed by Noah's Flood and modern scientific evidence. I had the answers to everything, few could argue with me and even fewer tried. After the class, a few friends quietly commented that I ought to take the Physical Geology 101 class. The implication was that I might not be quite so convincing there.
Later that school year, I came to the conclusion that I might really enjoy a career in Geology. I was already an avid rock and fossil collector and had always found the Earth Sciences exciting so I signed up to begin Geology during my Sophomore year. I went to that first Geology class prepared to meet the Devil on his own ground. I knew every argument for a young earth and flood geology backwards and forwards. However instead of meeting the Devil, I met a man with a deep love for God and for teaching Geology. He started every class with a devotional thought and a prayer and then he began to teach Geology. He didn't argue Creation/Evolution. He simply taught Geology. I listened to the history of Geology and began to study all the methods and the knowledge accumulated by generations of geologists (many of whom were devout Christians). Bit by bit the evidence for an old earth became overwhelming and with it was a lack of any real evidence for a young earth and the type of Flood described by Henry Morris and others. I didn't even have a chance to argue Creationism in that class, every argument was destroyed by what I could see and demonstrate in the rocks themselves. By this time, I was very confused as to how I would ever reconcile my science and my Christianity.
During the latter part of the semester, we were given an assignment to do a review and report of the book _The Christian View of Science and Scripture_, by Bernard Ramm. Although outdated (even in 1977), this book carefully went through the many historical methods of harmonizing Genesis with science. It described the theological and scientific pros and cons for each theory. Although the book argued for a Progressive Creationism theory, there was no clear cut winner that preserved both scientific integrity and a literal fundamentalist interpretation of Genesis. Flood Geology (as per G.M. Price, and later H.M. Morris, J.C. Whitcomb, Jr., etc.) was among the least favorable theories since it had both major scientific and theological problems.
I have to confess that I struggled to preserve my conservative Biblical literalism for as long as I could. It is not easy for a person to really change their mind or in this case, a whole worldview (paradigm) even when the evidence is overwhelming. Today I consider myself to be a Theistic Evolutionist even though it took many years before I was comfortable with this definition. Many of my friends, family, and church family are not comfortable with this definition. For others of them, the issue is of little importance. Because of my scientific studies (and career) and my Christian background it was and still is a critical issue for me. Unlike what the Scientific Creationists preach, I have learned that my faith is not based primarily on a literal interpretation of Genesis. My faith is based upon the saving grace of Jesus Christ and his resurrection. The old gospel song, _The Solid Rock_ by Edward Mote and Wm. B. Bradbury, expresses this well:
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name.
His oath, his covenant, his blood, Support me in the whelming flood; When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay;
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.
Having said this, I'm not real concerned that everyone becomes a Theistic Evolutionist like myself. However, I am very concerned about movements within the Church that want to rewrite science to make it fit their interpretation of the Bible. I am concerned when people have to check their mind along with their hat at the door of a church and are asked to accept statements as truth without testing them. I am concerned about Christians who see scientists as engaged in some humanist conspiracy to destroy the Bible and Christianity.
(Incidently, in all my years at college, at graduate school, and working as a geologist, I have met and talked with hundreds of scientists. Among these, I know scientists who are Protestant Christians, Catholic Christians, Quakers, Seventh Day Adventists, Unitarians, Mormons, Jews, Moslems, Humanists, Agnostics, and a few (but very few) Atheists. Most claim to be agnostic and feel threatened or repelled by Christians who verbally attack science and scientists. Their rejection of Christianity is strongly based upon the behavior of Christians that they have met(!) or heard on TV and the belief that in order to be a Christian, one has to turn their back on all intellectual activities and simply accept unsupported dogmatic doctrines. Neither I, nor any of my colleagues that I've talked with have ever seen or heard of any anti-Christian conspiracies within the scientific community - and this type of activity would be hard to keep quiet. A few well-known scientists *have* made highly publicized statements about their personal philosophies and beliefs but in the scientific community these musings are seldom accepted as statements of science).
Finally, I am extremely concerned about any movements within the Church that make statements like these:
"There seems to be no possible way to avoid the conclusion that if the Bible and Christianity are true at all, the geologic ages must be rejected altogether." (Henry Morris, _Scientific Creationism_, 1974 [1985 2nd ed.], p. 255)
"If the Darwinian theory is true, Genesis is a lie, the whole framework of the book of life falls to pieces, and the revelation of God to man, as we Christians know it, is a delusion and a snare." "If this hypothesis be true, then is the Bible an unbearable fiction; ... than have Christians for nearly two thousand years been duped by a monstrous lie. ... Darwin requires us to disbelieve the authoritative word of the Creator." (Two unnamed contemporaries of Darwin quoted in Andrew Dickson White, _A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom_, (Second printing, 1917, p. 71-72).
"If evolution is true, then the Bible is not true." (John Morris, _What is the Purpose of Creation Ministry_, in Institute for Creation Research, Back to Genesis Report No. 78, June 1995, p. d)
There is a very real danger in these pronouncements. When one bases their faith upon the rise or fall of a scientific theory, they are on real "sinking sand." When I left for college, I believed these sorts of either/or statements - many people do. If I had learned the facts of geology or biology or physics or astronomy or anthropology or geochronology or ... under the teaching of someone other than a godly professor, the crisis to my faith would have been much more severe. I feel it is very unlikely that I would be a Christian today. I would probably be a bitter agnostic and not because of science but because my Christianity set me up to fail.
I suppose that is why this Creation/Evolution issue is so important to me. I know that I sometimes talk about this topic so much that others get tired of hearing it. I know my wife does and I'm sure that my pastor does too. But when one has a close call with spiritual death, it becomes a critical issue. Every year, I see young Christians go away to college with the idea that science, in one form or another, is some sort of Satanic conspiracy. Sooner or later they end up struggling with their faith in the light of new knowledge. Some will survive because their faith is strong enough to overcome any evidence - many do not. I have met some bitter people who left the church because they believe that their religion "lied to them". I hate seeing this when I believe that it is so unnecessary. We as Christians need to be real clear about what is important to our faith and what is not.
As I said earlier, we could argue the evidences for and against Creation or Evolution. I can enjoy a good argument. But debates seldom win converts, they just generate heat. And to paraphrase something my Geology professor once said; Christ tells us to bring light to the world - not heat.
If you are curious about Creation/Evolution issues and alternative views and evidence, I would be glad to share what I've learned with you. You may or may not agree with me. It has been my experience that the issue can be debated _ad nauseam_. My greatest concern, as you continue your spiritual journey, is that you never find yourself in the position of being trapped in an "either true/or false" crisis by an exclusive and rigid mode of Biblical interpretation. God is too great and majestic to be confined in man's theology. We have to allow Him to inspire and even surprise us from all of his Creation and not just from the Bible.
In Christian Love;
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