Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"But you work in a hospital!"

I didn't think I was able to shock my coworkers, but I did, somehow.

This shocking admission had nothing to do with past history or any news of dating or moving or quitting. (By the way, there is no news on any of those fronts. Just in case you were wondering.)

I was able to elicit gasps and dropped jaws because of one simple statement: I don't believe in evolution.

You're all stunned, I know.

Normally, our little lunch group discusses the latest office gossip, or what was on TV the night before. Sometimes, the married people would complain about their spouses. In rare instances, they would turn their steely eyes to me, and critique my appearance, clothes, lack of social life, and so on. (Really, it's not that bad; I can thank them for the best-looking dress-up outfit in my closet.)

For some reason, yesterday, the subject turned to religion and stayed there. To give you a little background, the group consisted of myself (evangelical Christian, Baptist persuasion, and a Bible study leader), Coworker B (another professing Christian of the Baptist variety), Coworker C (a mildly participating Methodist who would freely admit he doesn't take it seriously), and Coworker D (a quasi-agnostic who was raised in a small sectarian church and quickly abandoned organized faith).

The conversation hit a lot of points that I don't remember now, but one point was when the agnostic expressed incredulity that anyone could believe the Bible to be the literal Word of God. Things like the six-day Creation just didn't make sense, she insisted. Her argument was that putting the Bible in the hands of men ensured that it is not now what God supposedly wrote then. Too many translations, too many mistakes.

Now, I've had a few discussions with this person before, one in particular when she was verbose and tipsy on a business trip. We covered her entire theological position at that point. Whew. So this didn't shock me, and I didn't throw tables over and drive her out with whip and righteous indignation. What I instead countered with is that I believe that the Book is the Word of God, and that, when faithfully translated from the original manuscripts, it is the version of the Word that we are meant to have.

(This is my basic approach to inerrancy: the Bible is the perfect and immutable Word of God, and is the Final Authority for life. It can be trusted and taken literally, with an understanding of basic literary principles, like hyperbole, metaphor, and provenance. Any questions about authenticity or mistranslation for me boil down to this--if it's been faithfully translated as best as is possible, it's the Book we're meant to have in this era, and we should give it all the authority that the early church gave the original manuscripts.)

The Methodist (C), at this point, agreed with her (D) and said that while he believed in God, he thought that God used evolution to create the world. I told him that I know some Christians do believe in that, what they call "theistic evolution." He then went on to say that he had to believe in a "First Cause" (though he didn't put it so succintly).

At this point, the other Baptist (B) said, "I don't believe in evolution."

Stunned silence from the other two.

I added, "I don't either."

More shocked looks. Actual dropped jaws.

(C) sputtered to her, " work in a hospital!"

(D) turned to me, "How can you not believe in evolution?"

I shrugged, "I don't. I believe in microevolution--changes within a species. But full blown evolution? Nope."

(C) turned to me. "Didn't you take any anthropology classes in college?"

I laughed. And the conversation continued, but that was pretty much the gist of it. I didn't launch into a reasoned defense, Lee-Stroebel-style. The two just shook their heads at us, and the conversation moved on. There was a jab later when geographical distance was somehow brought up, and (D) said to (B), "You do believe the world is round, right?" To which (B) replied with a well-argued, "Shut up."

The more I thought about this, the more it puzzled me. Granted, we'd never all sat down and cleared up our approaches to the origin of species. But they know I'm a Christian, and a pretty conservative one theologically, so I didn't think this would surprise them.

Is it so strange to not believe in evolution? (And I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but still.)

The thing about theistic evolution, like C espouses, is that I think it takes away man's special status as God's image-bearer. I brought this up to C, who started talking about how man is evolving into God's image. That evolution's final result was man (or some enhanced version of man) with the mental capabilities to truly bear God's image. At this point, I saw we were talking two different languages. His view of man progressing toward a bright future, versus mine of mankind growing darker and darker until the return of Christ ends the slide and restores order.

As for the whole Genesis account issue, the fact is, I know of no good reason not to believe the Book on this. So what if the earth appears to be millions of years old? Doesn't it seem like a pulled punch if you give credit to a Supreme Being kicking off the Big Bang but then saying He's not good enough to create a finished product ex nihilo? I mean, I know the theories that other Christians espouse, the "gap" theory, the "day-age" theory, but that just seems like intellectual gymnastics trying to satisfy the demands of "science." My attitude is that science has never been an exact science, so to speak. We put so much faith in it because it makes us look smart. But there are some things we just can't know, some things we will never figure out.

I suppose this approach could be considered by some to be anti-intellectual, and I can see their point. But I think of myself, not so much as "anti-intellectual" (I will never tell you to not use your God-given mind), but rather as "trying-not-to-drive-myself-crazy-about-big-questions-I-can't-handle." I have enough humility to say that I can't figure some things out, and that's okay.

I don't know where exactly I was going with this post. Maybe it's my frustration that there seem to be only two permissible settings in faith, as decided by the culture: you can either be an educated, nuanced, private, non-offensive, non-assertive, passive, "spiritual" person; or you can be an assertive, in-your-face-with-a-can-of-mace, wild-eyed, anti-intellectual, stubborn, uneducated, simple, literalist, bullhorn-wielding "fundie."

I know, that's a vast overstatement, but that's how it feels. Those are the only two types of Christians that most folks outside the faith seem to acknowledge.

And I think my coworkers were shocked because I wasn't as cut-and-dried in the first position as they thought. Not believing in evolution is only the first step. The next thing you know, I'll be spouting some nonsense about Jesus being the only way to God, right?

Yes, as a matter of fact, I will, and often. That's just how I roll.

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