The Voice of The Salvation Army in Canada and BermudaView RSS Feed
Mar6FriLearning to accept uncertainty in the creation versus evolution debate. March 6, 2015 by Major Kathie Chiu
The year: 1991. The place: College for Officer Training, Toronto. The event: creation versus evolution debate in theology class. The people: theology professor—a young-earth creationist; cadets in the Followers of Jesus Session.
- Filed Under:
- Opinion & Critical Thought
Although I was completely intimidated, this event had a profound impact on my faith journey. As a high school student, math and science were not my favourite subjects. Chemistry formulas, algebra and dissecting frogs gave me headaches and nausea. I enjoyed English literature, got lost in ancient history and philosophy, and excelled in the musical arts. When told I didn't need to take any more math and science classes, I jumped for joy and walked out of the guidance counsellor's office smiling all the way home.
The professor paired us up and asked us to choose sides for the debate. My classmate had no interest in presenting a case for evolution. He believed in a literal six-day creation. I hesitantly took on the opposing view. My theology teacher was positively glowing at the prospect of me finding out evolution was for the birds. He directed me to our education officer, a progressive creationist, who was equally pleased I was going to study a favourite topic of his and gave me several books to read.
I took the pile of books back to my campus apartment and began to read about carbon dating and paleontology. It was fascinating. It seemed there was quite a bit of scientific evidence supporting the view of an old earth, one that has evolved over time.
Eventually, I became comfortable with not knowing, with uncertainty. Strangely enough, this didn't destroy my faith. Instead, it was strengthened
I also began to learn a new way of studying the creation accounts in the Old Testament. I discovered there were two—Genesis 1 and 2 differed slightly, mixing up the order of creation. I hadn't really noticed this before. What if there were other inconsistencies?
There were, and each time I came across one I applied the same principles of study. At the same time, I remembered, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NRSV).
After presenting the evidence for evolution to my class that day in 1991, the teacher challenged me: “So, after all that study, what do you believe now?” I was afraid he'd ask me that, so I had prepared an answer, the only one I could give. “Well, since neither is a proven theory, I guess you could say both views take a leap of faith.” I sat on the fence, because the new ideas I was encountering were overwhelming.
But researching that presentation made me realize that science has stories to tell about the world we live in. It gave me a new thirst to learn about medical discoveries, climate science, quantum mechanics and string theory (which boggle my mind). And over the years, each of my children in turn has asked me about evolution, prompting me to keep studying and learning. I don't have a difficult time explaining how I feel about both now.
Eventually, I became comfortable with not knowing, with uncertainty. Strangely enough, this didn't destroy my faith. Instead, it was strengthened. How can you have faith when everything has been proven? What became important to me were the lessons I could learn from each story, always interpreting them through the lens of Jesus.
Some people might call me progressive. I'm not uncomfortable with that label, although I prefer to say I'm open to learn—as long as God and his plan for our world are included. I guess I'm also raising progressive children, given the way my children often challenged teachers in their Christian school classes. I still hate math, but science is no longer an enemy—just don't ask me to dissect a frog!
Major Kathie Chiu grew up in The Salvation Army and has been an officer for 22 years. She has five children, including two teenaged boys still living at home, and eight grandchildren. She is the corps officer at Richmond Community Church, B.C.
Salvationist.ca Commenting Policy: All comments on Salvationist.ca are moderated. We expect our readers to be respectful and courteous in their discussions, as if they were having a face-to-face conversation. Salvationist.ca reserves the right not to publish any comments that contain the following: vulgarity, obscenity, hate speech, threats, personal attacks, insults or defamatory statements.