Are Evangelical Homeschoolers Embracing Evolution?

Florida homeschool convention

According to David Wheeler, author of a recent post at The Atlantic, more and more evangelical homeschooling parents want their children exposed to evolution.  At least one publisher–Christian Schools International out of Grand Rapids, Michigan–has responded with homeschooling and Christian school textbooks that do not “attempt to discredit the theory of evolution.”

Here is a taste:

This staunch rejection of modern science tends to characterize today’s leading homeschool textbooks. For example, Science 4 Christian Schools, a homeschool textbook published by Bob Jones University Press, doesn’t mince words when it comes to evolution and Christian faith. “People who accept the Bible believe that God made everything,” the book states. “They call God’s description of how things began the Creation Model. Those who disregard the Bible believe instead that everything got here by itself. They call this description of how things began the Evolution Model.”

The assertion that anyone who believes in evolution “disregards” the Bible offends many evangelicals who want their children to be well-versed in modern science. Jen Baird Seurkamp, an evangelical who homeschools her children, avoids textbooks that discredit evolution. “Our science curriculum is one currently used in public schools,” she says. “We want our children to be educated, not sheltered from things we are afraid of them learning.”

The rising number of homeschool families striving to reconcile belief in God with today’s scientific consensus has attracted the attention of at least one publisher — Christian Schools International in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Most science textbooks that attempt to present the content from a Christian perspective also attempt to discredit the theory of evolution,” says Ken Bergwerff, a science curriculum specialist at Christian Schools International. “Some do it discreetly; others are quite blatant. The CSI science curriculum clearly presents science from a Christian perspective, but does not attempt to discredit the theory of evolution. The content presents God as the author of all of creation, no matter how he did it or when he did it.”

Christianity Today magazine has followed-up with a story of its own in which it notes that Ken Ham, the nation’s leading young-earth creationist and founder of the Creation Museum in Kentucky, has been disinvited from several homeschool conferences for “unnecessary, ungodly, and mean-spirited’ comments about evangelical evolutionists.

Now it is time for the evangelical homeschool movement to offer a more balanced view of American history than the usual fare offered by David Barton and other Christian nationalists.

Social Darwinism and Jesus

Can a Christian believe in Social Darwinism?  Roger Olsen, a theology professor at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, does not think so.  He wonders why conservative Christians seem to warmly embrace free-market principles driven by Social Darwinism but, at the same time, oppose biological Darwinism.  Here is a taste of his piece at Patheos:

A good example of this contrast and even contradiction appears in today’s local newspaper–owned and operated by a Christian family who, when they bought the paper, immediately put “In God We Trust” immediately beneath the paper’s name on page one. Numerous letters to the editor applauded that.

Today’s edition contains an unsigned editorial (which always reflect the editorial board’s opinion) defending “free-market” economics: “Americans should allow Darwinian, free-market dynamics to continue in the ebb and flow that so characterize this [capitalist] system.” (Waco Tribune-Herald, May 16, 2012, 6A)
I have written a letter to the editor simply asking how this affirmation of social Darwinism is consistent with “In God We Trust.”

What I really wonder is how so many even educated Christians fail to see the contradiction inherent in belief in the Christian God, the God of Jesus Christ, together with belief in Social Darwinism. Surely “In God We Trust” (in this newspaper) does not mean “In the God of Deism” we trust. Or at least that is not what most readers who applauded the motto’s inclusion thought it meant.

I am willing to bet that I am only one of a tiny number of readers who will notice this contradiction. I am willing to bet that IF the newspaper published an editorial including an affirmation of biological Darwinism there would be a huge outcry and many subscribers would drop their subscriptions. I doubt there will be even a ripple of dissent in this case.

Evangelical Evolutionists Gather in New York City

Most evangelical Christian pastors in the United States believe in a literal, six-day, 24-hour creation.  But there are others who believe that evangelicalism and evolution are compatible.  Those affiliated with this minority group met last week in New York.  Those in attendance included N. T. Wright, Alister McGrath, John Ortberg, Tim Keller, Scot McKnight, Os Guinness, Joel Hunter, and Andy Crouch.  These are some pretty big names in the evangelical world.

Here is a taste of Christianity Today’s report on the event:

…Few Christian colleges or seminaries teach young earth creationism (YEC), participants noted during discussion groups. But less formal, grassroots educational initiatives, often centered on homeschooling, have won over the majority of evangelicals. “We have arguments, but they have a narrative,” noted Tim Keller. Both young earth creationists and atheistic evolutionists tell a story tapping into an existing cultural narrative of decline. To develop a Biologos narrative is “the job of pastors,” Keller said.
Participants seemed particularly appreciative of Westmont College’s Jeffrey Schloss, who presented an elegant overview of evidence for evolution and closed with a critique of ideological evolutionists who make evolution into a universal explanation. Wheaton College Old Testament professor John Walton was also greatly appreciated for his new understandings of Genesis 1–2, interpreting it as the inauguration of the earth as God’s temple.
Biologos was founded in 2007 by Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, after his book The Language of God elicited thousands of email questions. Collins was soon named director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and had to drop out of leadership, though he has maintained an active interest and attended the New York meetings. Under the leadership of Darrel Falk, a biologist at Point Loma Nazarene University, Biologos has launched a wide variety of initiatives to improve understanding between Christianity and science.

The American History Guys on Evolution and Creation in America

You gotta love Backstory with the American History Guys.  Peter Onuf (18th century guy), Ed Ayers (19th century guy), and Brian Balogh (20th century guy) are not only outstanding and internationally known scholars from the University of Virginia (Ayers is now president of the University of Richmond), but they also host an extremely entertaining radio show! 

This month the guys tackle the issue of creation and evolution

John Wilson: No One Reads the Bible Literally

John Wilson, the editor of Books & Culture, has weighed in on the current mess at Calvin College regarding the resignation of John Schneider and the debate over a literal Adam and Eve.  Here is a taste of his piece at today’s Wall Street Journal:

For all their disagreement over the details, orthodox Christians broadly agree about how to read the gospels. But there is no such consensus about how to read Genesis. The range of sharply differing views was outlined in the cover story of the June 2011 issue of Christianity Today, “The Search for the Historical Adam.”

What is at stake in these disputes is not a choice between following biblical authority on the one hand or science on the other, as the matter is often misleadingly framed. Rather, we see rival theological commitments, rival understandings of how to read Genesis. 

Undergirding Young Earth Creationism—the belief that the Earth was created only a few thousand years ago—is an unswerving commitment to a certain way of reading scripture, not a disdain for science. A different approach (for example, John Walton’s “The Lost World of Genesis One”) seeks to recover the ancient worldview implicit in the Genesis account of creation, a perspective from which the measurable age of the Earth, however vast, is not relevant. Critical to debates over “the historical Adam” are theological motifs such as Christ as “the second Adam.” These lose their meaning, many evangelicals argue, if Genesis isn’t read literally.

But an alarm should sound whenever the word “literal” is used in this context, whether as a badge of pride (“I just believe in reading the Bible literally”) or as a hint that low-browed fundamentalists are lurking nearby. No one—no one—reads the Bible literally. But some readers are more attentive, more faithful, more imaginative and more persuasive than others.