|By: Jim Virkler; ©2013|
A recent survey (A Survey of Clergy and Their Views on Origins) conducted by BioLogos reported the results of 743 telephone interviews with clergy of all Christian denominations in churches of all sizes. Pastors were polled on their views of creation and evolution. The survey reported on many related issues as perceived by the pastors.
Young Earth creationism is espoused by 54% of American Pastors--19% with absolute certainty and 35% who expressed qualified certainty. Progressive Creationism describes 15% of pastors--7% of these are absolutely certain while 8% express qualified certainty. Theistic Creationism is the position of 18% of the pastors, of whom 3% are absolutely certain and 15% claim qualified certainty. One more category was termed Uncertain by the pollsters: The remaining 12% of pastors believe God created life, but admit they are not certain how. (In the general population another category would undoubtedly be represented: those who believe in naturalism--the view that there is no God who created the universe. The cosmos essentially self-assembled, they claim. This represents the view of atheists, but not the view of pastors.)
Our blog has frequently discussed the three main positions described above and what their adherents believe with respect to creation and evolution. Those positions represent approximately 87% of pastors in the survey. It is our opinion that the general population has a somewhat different opinion profile. Between 40% and 50% of the population subscribes to the young earth creationist view of human origins. This indicates a strong view of creationism. The remaining population subscribes mostly to a view of theistic creationism, according to many sources. The views of creationism are not changing significantly.
The questions of evolution and creation are significantly intertwined. Did God create life, or did life self-organize? Did creation events take place only in the last 10,000 years? Did life develop slowly and gradually over millions of years? Did life develop in step-like fashion over millions of years? (This would point to creation events.) What process does evolution describe, and how does (or how did) it occur? Such questions are integrated with our theological and scientific beliefs. The integration is not like simply blending two chemical entities to create a homogeneous mixture. It is far more complex.
If we call ourselves creationists, do we displace our embrace of science? If we embrace science, do we displace our embrace of creationism? Our embrace of creationism has affected our embrace of science, according to the scientific community. But should it? This blog has advocated the soundness of scientific method according to a theistic world view. In the last four hundred years, most Christians in the sciences believed that the scientific method supports a theistic world view.
The strife between creationists, epitomized by the results of the BioLogos survey, traces its roots to a phenomenon of the late 19th century. Stephen C. Meyer, in his concluding chapter of Darwin’s Doubt, places the blame on what is now termed the “New Atheism,” described by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others. According to Meyer, the “New Atheism” is not really new. It represents “a popularization of a science-based philosophy called scientific materialism which came into currency among scientists and philosophers during the late nineteenth century in the wake of the Darwinian revolution.”
Scientific materialism was an outgrowth of the Darwinian Revolution. It denied evidence of supernatural design in nature, especially in the world of life forms. Sadly, the same scientific materialism even denied ultimate purpose in human existence. Christians should reflect on the marriage of their belief in evolution, driven by mutation and natural selection, to the theistic worldview as expressed in biblical creation passages.
We are thankful that a large majority (69%) of Christian pastors do not adhere to evolution. But by the same token, we are saddened that 31% of the population subscribes to evolution or is uncertain of the evidence for divine acts of creation in our world of living things, including the world of human beings. And we are uneasy with the young earth creationists’ out-of-hand rejection of legitimate science findings with respect to supernatural acts of creation over long time periods. Our prayer is that our agreement on God’s divine acts of creation overwhelms our disagreements over the time frames of creation.