My Science Story
The year was 2009. I was finishing up my degree in biology at Kent State University. There I sat in the front row of the 100+ student-filled lecture hall for my Evolutionary Biology course. Before launching into some of the key ideas in evolutionary biology such as natural selection, genetic drift, phylogenetic trees and the like, the professor thought it best to quell any worries that Creationism or Intelligent Design were legitimate explanatory competitors.
I was armed to the teeth with my intelligent design books. I had my Darwin on Trial by Philip Johnson, my Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe, and Stephen C. Meyer’s Signature in the Cell had just come out - I was ready to fight. I planned to defend my faith God’s Not Dead-style, and be a solid witness for Jesus in the classroom.
In the moment, I felt like a real hero; the looks of annoyance from some other students and the adrenaline hits I got when I would fire back a criticism at what I thought was a lack-luster answer from the prof only served to further ensconce my convictions.
I was holding the line against the onslaught of secular science against what I knew to be the correct Christian worldview on the matter.
I now cringe a bit when I look back on some of those moments. Not so much about the content of what I was saying (though I do disagree with quite a bit of it now) or that it took some courage to stand up for what I believed in (there’s something to be proud of in it), but I’m positive I wasn’t a very winsome ambassador for Jesus. I recall being caustic and combative. Arrogance and pride that I held the clear, absolute truth on the matter coursed through me.
One significant turning point for me was discovering people who were deeply committed followers of Jesus and scholars who were also convinced by the evidence of evolutionary biology. This was so disruptive for me. Cognitive dissonance as they say.
I really didn’t have the categories to make sense of it at first. I had a theology/worldview that was incredibly interconnected, as most of us do, and changing one part of it, particularly a part as important as the development of human life, meant there would be a lot more intellectual upheaval than just tweaking my views on creation.
And likely some social upheaval too.
There’s even a phenomenological element to it that now, even a decade or so later, I still find jarring. I now carry the notion that my life, literally the years I am spending on this earth, are even more of just a whisper, just several score years (hopefully!) following billions of other years and near countless generations of life. It’s a whole different texture than picturing your life as taking place a mere few thousand years since the start of everything. I find it unsettling at times. But maybe that’s just me.
Having deep friendships where I was valued, known, and enjoyed was enormously helpful in having the space to sort out the issues I was having with my faith and worldview. Space to speak freely about my questions, work out my conceptual categories, strip bare my theological, philosophical, political commitments to see if they still belong and stand up to scrutiny. I don’t mean a safe space - there was nothing safe about it for my ideas or even my emotions. But I was safe - in the sense that my relationships weren’t on the line - the things, by which I mean the people, that mattered most persisted throughout. What a blessing that was.
We’d love for Open to Truth to grow into a space where some of those relationships and discussions can be found. We’re working on trying to build that. If you are looking for all of the answers, this isn’t the place for you. I still have a ton of questions - about nearly everything! It’s just how I’m wired. I’ll be asking critical questions until the day I die. Even though I’m more sympathetic to evolutionary biology now than I was a decade ago, I haven’t exhausted all of my questions, both in science and theology. I’m still working it out, learning to live in the tension.
This week we bring you the other half of our conversation with Dr. Janet Kellogg Ray, author of Baby Dinosaurs on the Ark? You can watch it on Youtube or listen on your favorite podcatcher.
We’d love to hear from you! Let us know what you are thinking at firstname.lastname@example.org.