Interview by Karl W. Giberson

Evolution, the Bible, and the Book of Nature

A conversation with Francis Collins.

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One of my theologian friends once said, in great frustration over this issue, "I wish they had never put the Bible in the hands of ordinary people." It seems to me that we need to take more seriously the teaching ministry of the church. We encourage people to read the Bible on their own, but certain misunderstandings are bound to emerge with that approach. Young people are going to read Genesis and think of Adam and Eve as real biological parents of the human race.

I reread your Language of God recently with the stories of your childhood, and it didn't occur to me to think that some of those stories were just stuff you made up to give different insights into your character. I just read your stories and believed that was the way things happened. And that's the natural way many people read the Bible.

I think we should all read the Bible, and I believe in the priesthood of the believer. It's biblical to do so; it's certainly the way that Christ seems to be teaching us, but that means responsibility to read the Bible at more than the most superficial level.

Curious believers will want to go deeper, but that deeper searching has to involve more than searching through the Bible. We must also search through the other book that God gave us—the book of nature. We must not pretend that one of these books is untrustworthy if it seems on the surface to conflict with the other. It's our responsibility, as individuals and as a culture and I think, frankly, as Christians.

But this places a huge burden on the teaching ministry of the church to pass on that level of sophistication. I can't imagine evangelical churches embracing this task.

We must. Because what we're doing now is passing on a burden to the youth. And it's a burden that many of them are going to be weighed down with to the point where they will not have their faith anymore. Right now, many churches are telling their young people, "You have to adhere to this absolutely literal description of what we say Genesis means," and they put a lot of energy into conveying that in Sunday school and in home schooling curricula. It's not as if the church has not already invested in providing a perspective on this issue—but unfortunately they've invested in a view that's counter to God's book of nature. This is both unnecessary and tragic. But I have hopes that over time we can come to the realization that the current battle between the scientific and spiritual worldviews is not God's battle, but is one created by us. That means we should also be able to find a way toward peace.

Karl Giberson is the author of Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution (HarperOne) and executive vice-president of the Biologos Foundation. He splits his time between Gordon College and Eastern Nazarene College.

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