Over a period of two years I spent many hours in my office at a liberal arts college in northwest Georgia talking with a variety of students who had signed up for my philosophy classes. Many students were not Christians but were very interested in spiritual matters. A number of these seemed to want to be Christians, but were held back by various questions.
Here are the three questions that seemed to trouble them the most.
1. Can I be a Christian and still believe in evolution?
2. Why would God send people to hell just because they haven’t heard about Jesus?
3. Why would a loving God let so many bad things happen?
These are extremely important questions.
If my students are indicative of what other young people in north America (not to mention the rest of the world) are thinking, they represent scores—or more likely hundreds—of millions who think very highly of Jesus and admire a great deal in Christianity but worry they can’t become Christians without surrendering their rationality (Question 1), their decency (Question 2), or both (Question 3).
Fortunately, there is no need for them to worry. Over the next few weeks I will explain why, starting with the first question, which I will address in this post and the next.
Question 1: Can I be a Christian and still believe in evolution?
As bloggers report, the tension between Christianity and evolution is a huge factor behind vast numbers of young folk abandoning their faith. Here is what they seem to be thinking: Premise 1: All (or practically all) rational people accept that the species on earth today emerged through the process of evolution. a Premise 2: No (or practically no) orthodox Christians accept that the species emerged through the process of evolution. Conclusion: So no (or practically no) orthodox Christians are rational.
This is a good argument in that the premises provide very good support for the conclusion. The problem is that both premises are false.
The view that God used the process of evolution to create the species we see on earth today is called theistic evolution. Many orthodox Christians accept theistic evolution. I’m not aware of any very good reason for calling it a heresy.
(As is the case with inclusivism, whether or not theistic evolution is the correct view is, of course, a different question.) (If you want a test for orthodox Christianity, research the Nicene Creed and the primary heresy it refutes. Rejecting that heresy, Arianism, is a pre-requisite for orthodox Christianity.)
Of course, there are better and worse ways to be a theistic evolutionist. It’s important to adhere to the authority of Scripture. A Christian who is a theistic evolutionist should be a Beth, not a Chris.
Dr. Mark J. Boone is a teacher and researcher in philosophy, especially the history of philosophy, primarily the ancient and medieval eras, writing his dissertation on Saint Augustine. Dr. Boone is the Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Forman Christian College. Mark is an occasional book reviewer for the journal Augustinian Studies and has written articles dealing with Plato, William James, theology and the arts, and religious epistemology. In some of his precious little spare time Mark makes animated cartoons based on famous speeches and dialogues in the history of philosophy, available on YouTube and Vimeo under the username TeacherofPhilosophy.