(RNS) Here is a poem that I learned at an evangelical “Bible camp” when I was a teenager:
Once I was a tadpole, long and thin.
Then I was a froggie with my tail tucked in.
Then I was a baboon in a tropical tree.
And now I am a professor with a Ph.D.
This came to us with a warning about the evolutionary views held by most of our high school teachers.
Most of my fellow campers seem to have taken the warning seriously, but I had my doubts. For one thing, I liked the teachers who taught science at my high school, and I had a hard time believing they meant to be undermining my faith.
But one of the older people who worked at that camp, a college student, told me that evolution as a mechanism for change was not a real threat to Christianity.
He showed me a book by a Christian scholar who said that the real conflict was the added “isms.” Evolutionism, as a worldview, teaches that everything happens by chance. Creationism, on the other hand, is the big-picture view that all that has happened in the history of the universe is in fact the unfolding of a divine plan.
And now I am a professor with a Ph.D. — and that “ism” way of putting the case still seems right to me. To be sure, there are people who want to use scientific investigation as a means of undermining faith. But there are also many others who still teach silly poems to teenagers to create distrust of high school teachers. I see the need to be on guard against both camps.
But, thank God, those camps are not mutually exclusive. Large numbers of us, including many fine scientists, accept the gifts of scientific investigation with deep gratitude.
Shortly after that Bible camp experience, I learned to sing, at a Billy Graham meeting in Madison Square Garden, what was then a new hymn (actually an old one imported from Sweden): “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hand has made … then sings my soul … How great Thou art!”
This weekend there will be a large gathering in Washington to celebrate the achievements of the natural sciences. I am glad that they are meeting. We have been hearing some of that Bible camp type anti-science talk from some well-known public leaders in recent days. I can’t be at the Washington event, but I will be there in spirit. And to express my solidarity with those folks, I will sing the hymn about “awesome wonder!”
(Richard Mouw writes the Civil Evangelicalism column for RNS)