Pastors and Evolution

Dr. James Emery White, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Pastors and Evolution

The pastors have weighed in. At least those participating in a Lifeway Research survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors.

*72 percent do not believe God used evolution to create people. Of those, 64 percent categorized their disbelief as "strongly agree."

*82 percent believe Adam and Eve were literal people, of which 74 percent categorized their belief as "strongly agree." 

Interestingly, the figures were split down the middle as to the age of the earth. When asked to weigh in on the statement, "I believe the age of the earth is approximately 6,000 years old," 43 percent disagreed, and 46 percent agreed. 

So evolution "no," Adam and Eve "yes," young earth "maybe."

None of this was particularly surprising to me. It shows that pastors are overwhelmingly creationists, in one form or another, and well they should be.

And they are not terribly out of step with mainstream culture. A 2010 Gallup poll found that 40 percent of all Americans believe God created humans in their present form, 38 percent say God used evolution to do it, and only 16 percent think man evolved without any help from (a) God. 

So 78 percent of all Americans believe in, at the least, a theistic process.

But here is what stood out to me: 1 out of every 5 pastors surveyed admitted that most of their congregation believes in evolution.

Translation? Even in the relatively inoculated culture of the typical church, a lot of people aren't buying the party line. Even more interesting: only a third of pastors (36 percent) teach on creation and evolution with any frequency, and an equal number (38 percent) teach on it rarely, if at all.

This must end.

The relationship between science and religion is easily one of the more pressing issues of our day, and pastors must engage the conversation with knowledge and wisdom.

At Meck, we recently completed a series titled "Mythbusting," playing off the popular Discovery channel series "Mythbusters," where we invited attenders to go online and vote on the subjects they most wanted to see examined in light of the Bible and external evidence.

We offered a number of ideas from which to choose, as well as the opportunity to "write-in" votes.  We then took the top six to examine, working our way from the sixth most requested to the #1 most requested topic of all.

Here's how the voting ended:

6.         Does God really answer every prayer?

5.         Could a boat really hold two of every animal?

4.         Can God really forgive anything?

3.         Can there really be an antichrist and worldwide tribulation?

2.         Does evolution disprove God?

1.         Do Christians go to heaven, and everyone else to hell?

It was a fun series (if you're interested, you can get hold of it on the Message Downloads page of ChurchandCulture.org).

But when asked to explore their questions, our church (which experiences well over 70 percent of its total growth through the unchurched) were interested in evolution and God -- second only to heaven and hell.

I won't presume to try and persuade you how to teach on this matter, but I will challenge you to teach on it.  It's decisive for our day, and integral to the spiritual search of many in your church.

I will, however, offer what I believe are some of the key discussion points, beginning with the four basic questions that people need covered, which are:

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