Several weeks ago, a lady approached me and asked for recommendations for science and faith resources to use in teaching her children. I receive this request frequently, being part of a local homeschool community, and my initial response is one crucial question:
Have you read books from science and faith scholars with whom you totally disagree?
The answer, accompanied by a bewildered facial expression, is usually, “Well…no…”
Brothers and sisters, this is the single worst mistake an educator can make in regard to the creation issue. Period. You cannot teach your children true critical thinking if you have not thought critically yourself. Reading what those you already agree with have claimed about the other viewpoints is not enough, by a long shot. For one thing, you will find that scholars on opposing sides very often misrepresent competing viewpoints, whether intentionally or not. I’ve seen this firsthand over and over. If you’ve devoted all of your study on an controversial, interdisciplinary subject (such as science and faith) to books and articles written by one individual or a group of individuals sharing the same view, you very likely aren’t getting an accurate, complete picture of Christian scholarship on the matter. Don’t let someone else tell you what to think. Read the actual words of those “other guys,” in context, and acquaint yourself with what they believe and why they believe it. In doing this, you can be clear, truthful, and fair in how you present the other perspectives to your children (and in dialogue with other adults). This is not only intellectually rigorous, it is Christ-honoring.
Whenever you lay down the rigid [false] dichotomy of “THIS is the BIBLICAL view, and THIS is the SECULAR view” you’re putting your children in a precarious situation. Over and over I hear the testimonies of young people who were taught in this manner and then they walked away from their faith in college, because they felt the evidence against the so-called exclusive “biblical” view was so overwhelming. Is it more important to you to ensure your children embrace one narrow view on creation, or is is more important that they maintain their faith in Christ? It’s vital that they understand the battle is not between one view of creation and mainstream science. The real battle in this arena is between naturalism (defined here as “no creator” or a deistic creator) and theism. As such, the responsible approach is to teach the range of creation views held by Christian theists and the reasons why they hold their respective views.
I challenge you to read at least one full-length book written by a well-respected scholar from each of these categories: Theistic Evolution, Evolutionary Creationism, Old-Earth Creationism, and Young-Earth Creationism. If you need to wade into the waters a little more slowly, you would do well to choose one of the multiple-view-multiple-author books on the market, such as Three Views on Creation and Evolution . I also highly recommend this lecture by Dr. Alvin Plantinga: “Science and Religion: Where the Conflict Really Lies.”
Do I teach my children why I favor one particular perspective on creation? Of course I do! But ultimately, I want them to have a life-long faith in Christ that doesn’t stand or fall on one view of creation. I also don’t want them to get all emotional and defensive whenever they encounter someone with a different perspective. Rather, I want them to be able to have thoughtful, articulate, charitable, and well-informed dialogue, especially with non-believers. This is why I teach my children about the amount of latitude we have, as Bible-believing Christians, in our endeavor to correctly integrate scientific and biblical truths. Yes, orthodoxy demands limits to this latitude, no doubt. But please understand that those limits may not be as narrow as you’ve previously been led to believe.
I remember, with vivid clarity, my very first day in freshman Biology class at my undergraduate university. My professor, Dr. Beard, a distinguished white-haired gentleman in a tweed coat, walked silently down the center isle of the lecture hall, put down his briefcase, and proceeded to write John 1:1-3 on the dry-erase board:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
All things were created through Him,
and apart from Him not one thing was created
that has been created.