I’m a picky eater. Not nearly as much as I used to be. But I remain, to this day, a little particular when it comes to my culinary preferences.
And I’ve long been self-conscious about this, especially when it comes to the prospect of inconveniencing other people with my pickiness. I pride myself on being able to make my own way without anyone having to bend over backwards to accommodate me. It’s an Enneagram 5 thing (spoiler alert for a future post).
I believe the root of this insecurity may have been my experiences at restaurants as a child. While I would perform swimmingly if presented with a grip of McNuggets, nicer “sit-down” restaurants presented something of a conundrum (noun: a confusing and difficult problem or question).
And that put me in a tough spot in the summer of 1993, the summer when Jurassic Park came out.
We lived in Houston, TX at the time and on our daily commute – to my kindergarten most likely – we passed a billboard displaying the now-iconic Jurassic Park logo. And for whatever reason, I was convinced it was an advertisement for a dinosaur themed restaurant.
Now, this put me in a bit of a pickle. You see, I loved dinosaurs. No, I take that back. Love is an understatement. Dinosaurs were my raison d’être (French, noun: the most important reason or purpose for someone or something’s existence). So of course I wanted to check out a dinosaur restaurant. For all I knew I might never eat anywhere else ever again.
But what kind of food would they serve? At the time my pallet was limited to chicken nuggets, a small sampling of fruit, colorful cereals, and a choice delicacy that I enjoy to this day known as bagel chips. And I was not confident that the dinosaur restaurant would serve these items.
At least a few days went by and, to my credit, I remained pretty disciplined for a six-year-old. But eventually my resolve broke and I could bear the weight of my curiosity no longer. One fateful day, on the way to school, I asked my mother about the dinosaur restaurant.
And, naturally, she had no idea what I was talking about. After all, the billboard was the advertisement for a movie, not a restaurant. Following what was certainly a frustrating exchange, she managed to piece together what I was referring to. And she was not pleased.
You see, my parents had been hoping that I wouldn’t find out about Jurassic Park. They knew full-well the depths of my dinosaur mania and hardly relished the prospect of explaining to a rabid kindergartner that he would not be allowed to watch the shockingly realistic dinosaur movie.
I don’t remember – at least not perfectly – what transpired next. But words were exchanged, tears were shed, bribes were offered, and after a requisite preview screening on the part of my parents, somehow I (and my then three-year-old brother) were permitted a screening of our own.
I would go on to see Jurassic Park a great many times during its theatrical run. The numbers have been grossly embellished over the years but I’m confident that the total amount of viewings reached double digits, the low teens perhaps.
I share this deeply personal and undeniably endearing anecdote as a point of transition into the topic I hope to spend the next few blog posts rehearsing. You see, it was in watching Jurassic Park that I, for the first time, heard the word evolution.
Books and classrooms – not blogs and comment sections – offer a more appropriate amount of thought-space for any consequential discussion of the relationship between Christianity, the Bible, and the Theory of Evolution. Nevertheless, I hope to do some justice to the discussion over the next few posts.
I’ll spend at least this week on the topic and may revisit it some next week or in the future if I feel like there is more to be said. And let’s be real, there is always more to be said.
Now, I suspect that many of you might not find this conversation compelling. Perhaps you’ve already settled the debate for yourself. Or maybe the prospect of engaging a science-related topic is intimidating or off-putting.
I’d encourage you to follow along anyway. Because, at least for Christians, this discussion encompasses far more than just biology and the first chapter of the book of Genesis.
The relationship between the Christian faith and the Theory of Evolution spills into debates about cosmology, geology, epistemology (noun: the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion), both the reliability and proper interpretation of scripture, the scope of Jesus’ knowledge during his life and ministry, the interplay between science and faith, the place of the Church in culture, and a host of other deeply relevant considerations. It also happens to be the issue that, if only indirectly, instigated my journey into a more progressive faith expression, and so I want to share that part of the story as well.
Full disclosure, in the twenty-four years since seeing Jurassic Park, I have developed an unapologetic confidence in the veracity (noun: conformity to facts; accuracy) of evolution as a means to explain the diversity of life on Earth. And not just animal and plant life, human life as well.
My comfort with the theory is such that I honestly don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about it anymore.
And say that while still affirming the Bible as an authoritative ground for Christian thought and practice. I simply see no real tension between evolution (not to mention a host of other scientific claims) and the biblical text. A superficial tension maybe, perhaps a perceived or presumed dissonance, but nothing ultimately problematic that leads me to doubt either scripture or the theory.
But I also realize that, for many, these are bold and jarring positions to hold. And so, with as much gentleness and civility as is possible, I want to outline how and why I think the way I think.
Even as I write these words, I’m staggering a bit at the scope of this conversation. I will not be able to cover everything. But I hope I’ll be able to cover enough to perhaps spark further inquiry. And I plan to offer ample resources for further engagement so that all those with lingering questions – whether they agree with me or not – can feel like they’ve given the topic due consideration.
When my brother and I got home after seeing the film, my parents weren’t terribly worried over whether or not we’d found it too frightening. I was enamored and my brother, already at three, was startlingly fearless.
Of greater concern was the evolutionary narrative that the film uncritically presumes.
Now, to be sure, my parents weren’t uniquely hung up on the subject of evolution. They didn’t necessarily have personal stake in this debate. They were relatively new Christians who were simply holding the position they thought they had to hold.
But from that point on, from kindergarten through high school graduation, evolution wasn’t merely treated with a side-eyed skepticism. It was addressed with unbridled hostility.
That all changed when I got to college, but not for the reasons most people imagine. For now, let’s just say “God’s not Dead” didn’t exactly hit close to home. But college was when things began to change. It’s also when, and I’d suggest not coincidently, my faith went from a thing of circumstantial assumption to intentional ownership.
To put it succinctly, my faith evolved.
And for the first time I began to see what I wanted my life to be. Sounds exciting, I know. But if you want to hear more about it, you’re going to need to follow along the rest of this week as we continue to explore this compelling – but often heated – debate over the compatibility of faith and evolution.
If you liked what you read -or even if you didn’t – don’t hesitate to join the conversation in the comments here or on Facebook! And if you want to keep the conversation going, subscribe and share. Grace and peace to you all.