At a recent conference promoting harmony between science and biblical faith, a New Testament professor at an American Baptist seminary said genetic evidence suggesting that humans descend not from an individual pair but from a large population changed the way he interprets the first three chapters of Genesis.
Scot McKnight, a professor at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Ill., who writes the popular blog Jesus Creed, said at the 2017 BioLogos conference on Christ and creation in Houston that in years of teaching introduction to the Bible to undergraduate students he typically encountered one of two responses.
“My conservative students were frightened by the prospect of the Bible being wrong, and so they were afraid of evolution, better to keep it suppressed,” McKnight said in a conference address video posted on YouTube. “You could call it whatever kind of evolution you wanted — theistic or creationary evolution or evolutionary creationism or just plain old Darwinian evolution — it’s the term evolution that created the problem.”
“The other students were science students, who as those conservative students were worrying about evolution, these students were worrying about the Bible and its truthfulness,” he said. “For them if they were to hear yet again that belief in evolution was dangerous or that the Bible teaches six-day creationism or that the earth was only a few decades or thousands of years old, they would no longer be able to trust the Bible.”
McKnight, who grew up Baptist but in 2014 was ordained as an Anglican deacon, said Adam and the Genome, his recent book co-authored with evangelical geneticist Dennis Venema, is geared toward the student who believes in both evolution and the Bible and wants to avoid a crisis of conscience resulting from conflict between the two.
McKnight, a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity and the historical Jesus, said the stakes for such students are high.
“The number one reason young people walk away from the faith is the conflict of their interpretation of Scripture with their interpretation of science,” he said. “Let it be emphasized that we are dealing here with the interpretation of Scripture, not necessarily Scripture’s truest meaning. And, yes, we are dealing with a theoretical construct called evolution.”
McKnight said many people on both sides regard science and faith as “implacable enemies.”
“Some scientists think we are fools for believing in the Bible and therefore in Jesus,” he said, “while for some conservative theologians and pastors and bloggers, scientists are materialists, atheists, and those who think they are Christian and evolutionist are oblivious to the slippery slide they are halfway down.”