The proponents of intelligent design (ID) and creationism often claim that there is a scientific establishment, a “Darwinist” orthodoxy, which prevents the development of science supporting their ID claims. In the US they are currently promoting “academic freedom” legislation – a sort of “when are you going to stop beating your wife” argument. Because, of course, there is no evidence that real science is being suppressed. Quite the opposite.
But lets put the shoe on the other foot. What about the freedom of religious people to question prevailing creationist ideas? How easy is it for a Christian to voice their acceptance of evolutionary science within a community which generally opposes these ideas?
Some idea of what this involves is given by the blog of Pastor Frank Ritchie, a Methodist minister in New Zealand. Currently he is posting a series of articles describing his “coming out” as a Christian who accepts evolutionary science.
Frank has a radio talkback show so inevitably gets feedback on his ideas. As he says: “amongst my audience, if a whiff is even sniffed that I could be affirming evolution, the rebukes come thick and fast.” He provides some example of feedback in his post I am a Christian who Believes in Theistic Evolution.
The following quotes from his blog provides some idea of the effort requred to voice acceptance of evolutionary science in some Christian communities:
“As a conservative Evangelical Christian, affirming evolution publicly scares me and makes me nervous. For the first time in my life, I have an opinion that I am tentative about sharing” (Theistic Evolution – My Fears). He works “for a conservative Evangelical media organisation that predominantly talks to conservative Evangelicals. Contrary to beliefs and stereotypes held by many, these are not rabid, narrow minded fundamentalists, but they are a group where American young earth creationism and it’s diluted form, Intelligent Design, have well and truly taken hold. I’ve been in churches and heard those who act as apologists for young earth creationism deliver messages that are extremely scathing on anyone who would hold to evolutionary science as being correct. Essentially I am now publicly affirming a position that some Christians consider anti-God and at worst, Satanic.”
“It feels scary and much of me doesn’t want to do this. I don’t know how rational that fear is, but I feel it anyway. In saying that, I completely and utterly feel that I am doing the right thing for so many reasons. Who knows where it will lead, but right now I’m trembling on the inside somewhat, knowing that I have thrown myself into a beast of a discussion where my position is often the minority and is predominantly advocated by people in the scientific field – an area I have next to no knowledge of.”
Theological freedom required?
Despite 75% of New Zealanders accepting evolutionary science a recent survey result indicates that 40 – 50% of Christians do not (see New Zealand supports evolution). So Frank’s situation may not be too unusual. It could be that many Christians accept evolutionary science but do not express that acceptance because of perceived pressure from their peers. They do not “come out.”
What is the situation in the USA where polls show much greater opposition to evolutionary science than in New Zealand? I imagine “coming out” for a Christian accepting evolutionary science would be even more difficult. Perhaps there is need for some legislation guaranteeing “theological freedom?”
To follow Franks experience “coming out” go to Servant’s Thoughts.