Evolution and the Young Adult Exodus

“The perception is that the denomination believes in evolution . . . no we don’t” —CRC pastor quoted in the July 2011 Banner (p. 37).

There has been lengthy discussion in the Christian Reformed Church about retaining and attracting young people to the denomination—in essence, us.

We are both 27 years old, CRC born and raised, and educated at Calvin College. When we moved five years ago, we joined a Presbyterian church (PCUSA) because there were no Christian Reformed churches in our new city. We did not leave because of faith issues, simply geography, but now we wonder if there is a place for us in the denomination if we return to a CRC area.

You see, we are evolutionary biologists. When a Calvin religion professor recently left the college over the well-publicized evolution flap, many Banner readers no doubt viewed it as confirmation that an anti-evolution view is the official position of the church.

When we did our own research into the Acts of Synod, particularly those of 1991 and 2010, we were pleasantly surprised to find that, officially, the church is not anti-evolution at all. If that is the case, then why does the perception that the CRC rejects evolution persist?

The evolution issue is a microcosm of why the denomination is hemorrhaging college-educated young adults.

The evolution issue is a microcosm of why the denomination is hemorrhaging college-educated young adults, even Calvin graduates.

While many CRC congregations remain fixated on issues like homosexuality, evolution, and the role of women, young people have moved beyond those debates. This leads some parishioners to ask, “What is wrong with what the Calvin faculty is teaching?” However, that is not the right question to ask.

Calvin has assembled some of the best and brightest minds the denomination has to offer. If CRC-raised Calvin graduates are turning their backs on the denomination, the real question congregations should ask is, “What is wrong with us?”

We find that the problem is not that we disagree with “official” CRC positions, but that too few of the CRC’s own members know what those positions are. This is both a failure of the church body to study—and synod to publicize—the decisions that synod makes.

During recent controversies, congregants have listened to loud voices propelling the fundamentalist evangelical movement, while the wisdom of their own synod and scholars is drowned out.

When we read The Banner, we still find many reasons to love the CRC: caring people, compassionate missions, and a rich theological tradition. However, the body of Christ has many parts. If evolutionary biologists are a foot, why does the body say to the foot, “I do not need you?”

The denomination needs to regain the trust of open-minded young people and scientists alike—to make us feel like a needed part of the body without fear of amputation, like the one that just happened at Calvin.

About the Authors

Steve Roels has a master’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology.
Sarah Bodbyl Roels will receive her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology in 2012. They are members of First Presbyterian Church in Lawrence, Kansas.

See comments (50)

Comments

Here we go again. Never mind what the Bible teaches. Listen to synod and scholars to tell you what truth is. They should be the final authority, according to what this article says. Those loud voiced fundamentalist who believe the Bible are drowning out the wisdom of synod and scholars. Be open-minded, right? Those who believe the Bible's teaching of creation are fools. Crazy fundamentalist.

I submit that you are wrong about why the church is "hemorrhaging" memebership. Why in the world would a Christian continue to be a part of a group who is so outspoken in its desire to pick and choose which parts of the Bible it ascribes to (evolution, homosexuality, man-made earth worship, etc.)? The very name "Christian" means a follower of Christ. Jesus himself referred many times to the Creation by God of the world and its species. There are so many observable and measurable refutations of evolutionary theory, that even in the secular classroom it can be debated successfully by a Creation Biologist. I would suggest you do some reading in the huge library of scientific studies by Answers in Genesis (answersmagazine.com), Institute for Creation Research (icr.org), (I know there are others) for a Christian AND scientific exposition on this topic.

There should be no room in the Banner - or any other Christian publication - for giving equal time to the alternative to Biblical creation.
Article 12 of the Belgic Confession - The Creation of All Things: "We believe that the Father created heaven and earth and all other creatures from nothing, when it seemed good to him, by his Word - that is to say, by his Son. He has given all creatures their being, form and appearance, and their various functions for serving their Creator. Even now he also sustains and governs them all, according to his eternal providence, and by his infinite power ..."

This should answer both of these issues for the Banner and its printed position. God created the earth and all therein, and sustains it with his hand.

Now if you wonder why fair-minded, intelligent folks are leaving the church, you need to be honest. They are leaving because the CRC seems to be embracing the Burger King theory of Christianity -- "have it your way." Why bother?

Terrific question, and soundly posed. I hope you get response; and a real one, for that matter.

I love the core teachings of this church. I sit through Sunday sermons and think "this is terrific." Then I walk out and listen to the dialogue between my fellow members or read another comment from "truthmatters" and think "what am I doing here?!"

I am perfectly at ease sharing a pew with my fellow member who believe that the world was created in seven days and that dinosaurs never existed. Why aren't they as comfortable sharing one with people like us who believe that evolution is an undeniable component of creation? Does it really matter that much?

To a significant extent, the CRC is inheriting the wind from a decision made long ago not to keep the church denomination and Calvin College separate, despite wisdom from it's own recent history, which would suggest it keep these two "Kuyperian spheres" in separated entities with separated authority/governance structures.

Rather than learn from this, the denomination appears ready to double down on this mistake by deciding to expand its claim of jurisdiction yet again into areas that Christians (even CRC members) should involve themselves, BUT NOT under the umbrella of their institutional church denomination.

Taking positions and politically advocating on issues like global warming (which involves science issues, economic issues and political issues), "social justice" (an ambiguous phrase that often and increasingly means government political advocacy), UN actions (Millenium Goals), and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (Hope Equals) will only get us more inherited wind.

Ignoring good structure will eventually bite you. Continuing to ignore good structure will eventually bite you even more.

"While many CRC congregations remain fixated on issues like homersexuality, evolution, and the role of women, young people have moved beyond those debates."

True, true.
So what do young people care about about?
Maybe:
Third-world poverty
Abortion/maternal health/environmental polluion
Social justice/inequality
Global warming/sustainability
And other symptoms of the abortion-industrial complex.

I find it interesting that the officially published articles in the BANNER all assert that young people are leaving the denomination because we do not sufficiently accommodate various trends in secular culture and society - homosexuality, global warming, social justice (aka socialism), Darfur, evolution, blah blah blah.

Forgive my skepticism, but think for a moment.

Why should a person commit to the CRCNA - as a denomination, I mean, not a particular instance of it in a congregation somewhere? What is there that is unique and distinctive about the CRCNA that warrants the commitment of a 20-year-old? If we were to adopt these BANNER-favored positions and become indistinguishable from the PCUSA, for instance, would that really increase the likelihood of a 20-year-old committing to the CRCNA? Why wouldn't they go to the PCUSA instead - why take the pale copy when you can have the original?

What IS the CRCNA? It used to be the 3 forms of unity defined us, but so many people don't honestly subscribe to those that we need a new FoS to add the Contemporary Testimony and the Belhar - as if that will make a difference. Where do we, as a denomination stand? What is it that defines us and identifies us? Some boilerplate vision statement that you can find in any of 10,000 congregations around the country? At present, with all this chasing after various political winds and cultural currents, blown about by every wind of fashion, you look at the CRCNA and there is no "There" there. If there's nothing really there for young people to join, why are we surprised they're not joining it?

""I am perfectly at ease sharing a pew with my fellow member who believe that the world was created in seven days and that dinosaurs never existed. ""

If you are so at ease, maybe you don't need to remain anonymous. Your statement is only made to diminish others. If you do not believe that God created the earth in 7 days, why are you sitting in the pew of a church based on the Bible?

Clearly dinosaurs existed. I've never heard of a creation scientist who didn't believe that, either. The images of dinosaurs - great lizards, called dragons in some cultures - are found in every primitive culture. Skeletons are found in every region of the world - in many instances giving direct proof of a world-wide flood; and directly disproving evolutionary theory (of millions of years required to lay down geologic layers) as they are found in the same geologic layers. For a person seeking the truth on layers and flood evidence, Mt. St. Helens is a good place to start.

For a person who needs to diminish others to promote his point-of-view, unfounded, ad hominem attacks seem to be the going strategy at the Banner.

It is really shameful that those who believe the Bible and the history of it are mocked by the CRC's own publication.

I am fascinated that you view that comment as a personal attack. There are several individuals in my church who believe exactly that. I know because they have told me so. My point is that views on evolution in this denomination run the gambit. I have no problem with that. Why do you?

This discussion would be enhanced if it reflected the report on Creation and Science referenced in the article itself, a report submitted to Synod 1991 and available on the CRC website.

This comment is for clarification. I am confused by how some of their statements fit together and am seeking wisdom:

I find the statement, "while many CRC congregations remain fixated on issues like homosexuality, evolution, and the role of women, young people have moved beyond those debates," confusing in the light of the statement, "during recent controversies, congregants have listened to loud voices propelling the fundamentalist evangelical movement, while the wisdom of their own synod and scholars is drowned out."

As best as I can read these two statements together... given the authors' frustration with their perceived gagging of synod and scholars it seems that as young adult they have 'moved beyond' this discussion by taking a certain position in a current argument just as the fundamentalists they refer to have taken a position.

Are they saying that other young adults in the CRC have taken the same position as them and therefore see evolution as a settled issue? I take that to be the case given their statement, "during recent controversies, congregants have listened to loud voices propelling the fundamentalist evangelical movement, while the wisdom of their own synod and scholars is drowned out."

I doubt too many young adults would say that the homosexuality, women in ministry, and evolution discussions are unimportant - nor do I believe the authors would argue such - but there are only two ways to move beyond an argument - one is to dismiss its importance - which I doubt the authors would promote given their choice to write an article on one of the issues - and to have one's mind made up.

As I read this article it seems that the authors are saying younger folks are leaving the CRC because it is talking about issues about which they have already settled. Is this how others read this article?

Sorry, I laid out my entire reading of the article and then failed to explain my confusion - I am confused because these three issues - women in ministry, homosexuality, and evolution have seemed to be hot button ones in my ministry with young adults - not issues they have moved beyond. Many of those young adults who have made up their minds on these issues have decided in a fashion contrary to the authors'. It seems strange to hear someone argue that young adults are leaving the CRC because they have moved beyond these discussions when these are three of the most discussed topics I have been asked by young people.

Final point of clarification: I meant many young adult I have worked with have disagreed with the authors' on the evolution discussion not on the two other hot button issues they mentioned of which we don't know their position.

This denomination is like the church of Pergamum and also Sardis, spoken of in Revelation. We have disobeyed the Lord our God and have gone the way of Balaam. There is the seduction, compromise and promotion within our walls to intermarriage with the false teachings of evolution, homosexuality, feminism, and interfaithism.

We commit fornication by holding hands with other denominations in the World Communion of Reformed Churches, and different ecumenical organizations who influence us to become worldly and earth-centric by developing programs, curriculums and teachings that forsake Scripture.

We have allowed the United Nations to invade our church through initiatives like the Micah Challenge and the Accra Confession of the WCRC that we endorse. They re-shape our doctrines to worship mother earth and conform us to government control of politics and religion by way of social justice (socialism), economics, political activism, global warming, and sustainability.

'Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die...remember therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it and repent! But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you." (Revelation 3 :2,3)

Really? Wow!

Well, I'm weighing in late here, but reading all of this is fascinating. If this is a denominational concern, then it seems that we, as a denomination, really have no consensus on how to read Scripture (which is what I thought our Confessions were a statement of). Until our denomination figures out how to read Scripture in both truth & love, our common identity will elude us.

@Michael B. -

Precisely.

….and Sarah said….. “CRC born and raised, and educated at Calvin College.”

Well, there you have it folks… Calvin College is fast becoming a Fundamental Transformation re education camp.

I know where this author went to high school and I am absolutely certain... “pre evolutionary biology ideology” was NOT… taught there… or implied there….ever…
Imagine the thousands of dollars spent over the years providing a Christian Education. I am livid that Calvin College has decided it’s ok to manipulate 13 years of solid biblical teaching.
If CRC-raised Calvin graduates are turning their backs on the denomination, the real question congregations (and parents) need to be demanding an answer is… What has gone terribly wrong at Calvin College?
Fewer and fewer people believe Calvin Grads….are the “best and brightest minds the denomination has to offer”. You see, a bright mind would KNOW exactly what has gone wrong at Calvin. And to make myself perfectly clear... its called...Progressivism..

Too frequently the common parishoner in the CRC is not well read and allows him/herself to be influenced by religious radio, or common religious and political thought of the area in which they live. The vast majority have no idea what Synod has said on various issues over the years and frequently are only suspicious of what comes out of faculty at Calvin College. Lack of familiarity with the official stance of the CRC, however, does not prevent members in a local church from making some of the younger members who accept what Synod has said from feeling very uncomfortable and sometimes unwanted in the local church. We may lament that fact but must not pretend that only our perspective is correct, nor that we don't need to support and encourage each other instead of each going our own way turning our backs on those who think differently.
(Your verification games are ridiculous!!)

The answer is rather basic if not simple.

Start teaching what God's infallible Word teaches! Return to the three forms of unity. We go to a Reformed Church to be taught not entertained, and return to singing exclusively from the Genevan Psalter. The man centeredness of your current songs is appauling to the LORD of hosts! Remember He drowns out all music that is not glorifying to the triune God. That would be the Psalms, Hymn and Spiritual songs as they are written in God's infallible Word.

Poor very poor decisions made at the CRCNA and global general synodz(s). Where has the Lord called women as disciples? Ordained and installed women as Preachers of the Word? Within His Church? Ordained practising homosexuals as pastors, elders and deacons?

Belgic Confession, Canons of Dort and Heidelberg Catechism is no longer being taught from the pulpit so that means sound doctrine is not being expounded.

Why are the marks of Christ's Church not being excercised?

Should I go on?

Your feedback is welcomed!

This article once again demonstrates the liberal agenda and leanings of the Banner leadership and staff. Why would a Christian Magazine print such a controversial and misleading article? Evolution is such a broad and misused term that lacks any meaning without some clarification. Do you mean Micro evolution (i.e. adaptation) or Macro evolution (i.e. Darwinian theory)?

That said, I was not surprised by the question posed by the authors who attend a PCUSA church, one of the most liberal denominations in the nation. Look at the three issues the authors used as her/his example.
Evolution, homosexuality and women in ordained ministry.
The PCUSA teaches that homosexuality is ok, but what they call homophobia is sin. (Homophobia is the code word for anyone disagreeing with homosexuality) “This report, (the 190th General Assembly 1978) affirmed its understanding that homosexuality was “not God’s wish for humanity,” yet opened doors for gays and lesbians to be members of the church, calling on the church to “reject … the sin of homophobia” and to work for the passage of laws prohibiting discrimination.
They have been ordaining women as Minister of word and Sacrament for more than 50 years. And they believe in Darwinian evolutionary theory. Is there any wonder that this couple is struggling with fundamental core beliefs of Christendom.

I say the PCUSA is probably the best place for you to worship, not that we do not want you, but you do not want us, at least with our fundamental evangelistic worldview.

I marvel at all the commenters who really missed the substance of the piece. It is not about evolution but about the need for CRC members to better understand how our reformed tradition informs us. At the heart of it we must continue to have a self critical spirit and allow the word to speak to us in the context of what those before us could glean from it, all the while trusting the spirit will make the message real for us. Thanks Sandra and Steve, you are welcome in my CRC any time.

I believe that God calls women to discipleship as well as men. I believe that God loves and has redeemed all of us - liars, cheaters, adulterers, homosexuals, murderers, and thieves alike. I believe we are called to care for the least of our brethren. I believe that the world evolved over millions of years rather than seven days. I am politically left of center. I believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and savior.

So where does that place me in relation to the CRC? That's a question I struggle with every day. Do I really belong here? Or, as many of you seem to imply, would I be better off in the PCUSA or some other "progressive" denomination?

I made my profession of faith with the utmost sincerity. I baptized my children with the same sincerity. I am often heartened by the acts of Synod and the denomination. But I still feel like an interloper amongst most of you.

@beesknow -

Of course the best and brightest minds in the denomination don't go to Calvin - just ask any Dordt College grad. ;-)

Seriously, though, while Calvin does offer an opportunity for a good education, it is increasingly unclear as to whether what Calvin offers is really worth the $15-20K more it costs to go there than other institutions.

As for the rest, I was not taught either in Sunday school or in high school or college or seminary that a 6-day, 24-hr reading of Gen 1 was theologically necessary, or that evolution - assuming it is governed as all things are by God's providential hand - is incompatible with the faith. Nor has this been the position of the CRC, of its creeds and confessions, or even a majority of its members. Indeed, materialistic evolution, sans miracles, is not a rational belief (see G. F. Baum's book DOCTORS OF MODERNITY, among others).

So it is highly unlikely that this is the reason we're losing members, young or old. It may be a convenient excuse for some, but it is not the reason they're going.

>As for the rest, I was not taught either in Sunday school or in high school or college or seminary that a 6-day, 24-hr reading of Gen 1 was theologically necessary, or that evolution - assuming it is governed as all things are by God's providential hand - is incompatible with the faith. Nor has this been the position of the CRC, of its creeds and confessions, or even a majority of its members.

Thanks for these words, Eric. If one of us "progressives" had said this, you can only imagine the response.

As I read through the comments I am brought to a new awareness. You see, I am a fundamentalist and I personally believe the CRC has lost its foundations including its stance on “solo scriptoria”. I feel that the leadership of the CRC has left me and many others in the dust and has moved so far to the left that I no longer recognize the teachings of the church, and I often wonder if I still belong in this denomination. Yet I find many self-proclaimed “progressives” who are disappointed with the lack of enlightenment they see in the church and wonder if they can still fit in as well. . So maybe we all need to take a better look at this denomination of ours and consider that perhaps it is not as bad as either of us may think. I believe the CRC is far too liberal and you progressives believe it is far too fundamental, so maybe, just maybe the denomination has found an uncomfortable balance between the two polar opposites that will allow all of us to come together in love and acceptance, and maybe even appreciation for each other. So if I have made any of you feel unwelcome or unaccepted, then please let me offer my sincere apology. I have faith that God is big enough to handle our disagreements and uncertainties and trust that all things will work out according to His good pleasure.

The mistake of the article is to assume that young people leave because the CRC does not have progressive enough positions on certain issues. This is just empirically false. Most of the data show that "progressive" mainline Protestant churches like the PCUSA, ELCA, Episcopalians, etc. are losing people while more conservative Evangelical churches are growing. Further, these same progressive churches are FAR older than a typical contemporary Evangelical church. Attend any PCUSA church in a major city and you will see a large, beautiful, but old building. Inside the building about 25% of the pews are filled with people who mostly have gray hair. These denominations have been able to stop some of the shrinkage on paper, not by growing but by merging.

Go look at the churches that actually have lots of young people. If you do, you will find they are contemporary Evangelical churches like Mars Hill in Seattle (near where I live). The church has thousands of members and when you visit it looks like more than 50% of them are in their 20s. So, the scientists should do a little empirical research on this question: who has a larger and more active group of young people--progressive churches or contemporary Evangelical churches like Mars Hill, Saddle Back, Willow Creek, etc.? You answer to stemming the loss of young people is exactly backwards.

Attention Eric:
This is off topic but I would like your opinion on this. I read that you were in the military.

My son's college room mate spent 6 years in the Navy after graduating. He now works for Triple Canopy and just returned from the Middle East.
Home for the holidays... I asked him about something I had heard on GBTV regarding the gangs that have infiltrated the military. He said that was very true and that they are known as "the stealers" meaning they are stealing guns, ammo etc. What say you?

Depends on your definition of 'evolution'--everybody believes in some kind of evolution: geologic, astonomical, micro-bio, and macro-bio.

This is the first thing to discuss; also, various views of evolution are not salvation issues; unless you don't believe in Jesus' life as recorded in NT.

@Beeknow

Yes, I was in the military as a chaplain from 1995-2007.

The people who make up the military are a microcosm of the general populace and there are some who discover that they can augment their salaries through illegal activity. Some of them organize and cooperate with civilian gangs. This also can involve drug trafficking, prostitution and other sex-trafficking (including "marriage" for the purpose of getting the woman stateside), alcohol - all the usual vices.

At the time I was in, and with the units I served, I did not see it as widespread, but then, one or two people in key positions can do quite a bit of damage, so it doesn't take a lot. The places where I did see it involved the NEX supply chain (high-value electronics), pharmaceuticals, and one guy who was certifiable selling guns to a foreign agent (who turned out to be a foreign cop in a sting operation - the sailor ended up killing himself). A well-disciplined unit has less of it. Not all units are well-disciplined.

So, yes, it's likely true. That does not mean the military is populated by large numbers of gang members. Most deserve the thanks they get.

@George V. W.

You're welcome. It has the added benefit of being true. :-)

And you're probably right - had you said it, you'd have been excoriated as just another lefty.

But I believe that if we are to survive as a denomination, we must stand on the 3 Forms of Unity (and only those 3, not the new ones people are trying to add via the FoS revision and the Belhar nonsense). Anything within those boundaries must be open, and there is nothing in those confessional statements that requires this literalistic reading of Genesis 1-11. I reject efforts to add creationism to the list of confessional requirements as fervently as I reject adding the CT or the Belhar to it.

We have enough by way of creeds and confessions, and if we stick to those - teach them, hold people accountable to them, trumpet them - we'll be much better off.

I am delighted by the active online discussion our article sparked. I didn't realize it was out yet since we don't get the Banner in Kansas until several days after West Michigan. I am happy to answer questions, respond to comments, and clarify our remarks in the article. Please understand that the IMHO section has a word limit so there is much more we could have said but didn't have the room to do so. What we DID say has certainly caught the attention of many here and I am pleased to continue the civil and courteous discussion with you all.

If the synodical decisions of 1991 and 2010 show that the CRC is not anti-evolution, then the church is doing a good job of hiding this. Personally I have felt for many years that discussions related to human development from their ancestors cannot be undertaken without me being forced out of the church. Perhaps it is my perception, but to me it feels similar to a gay/lesbian person not feeling free to discuss their true feelings.
It is high time that evolutionary biology gets accepted and books such as "Origins" by the Haarsmas become everyday reading.
Whitby, ON

If the synodical decisions of 1991 and 2010 show that the CRC is not anti-evolution, then the church is doing a good job of hiding this. Personally I have felt for many years that discussions related to human development from their ancestors cannot be undertaken without me being forced out of the church. Perhaps it is my perception, but to me it feels similar to a gay/lesbian person not feeling free to discuss their true feelings.
It is high time that evolutionary biology gets accepted and books such as "Origins" by the Haarsmas become everyday reading.
Whitby, ON

First clarification: The "best and brightest minds" I was referring to are those of the Calvin faculty, who I hold in high regard. I was not referring to the students, although they are pretty terrific too. Having spent time at a large public university, I can say that Calvin students take their studies much more seriously and are more willing to critically engage ideas in a mature way than the typical undergraduate.

Emphasis on education (about the Bible and about the natural world) is part of foundation upon which Calvinism was built. This is reflected in the truly excellent school systems built by Calvinists, including those I grew up in. However, I do not believe that these schools were built in order "shield" children from certain information but rather in recognition that children should be instilled with a desire for learning about God and God's world. Christian schools from pre-K to college should be built so students can ask, and be asked, "How do we respond to this information as Christians?" They were not intended to screen out information that doesn't fit a particular viewpoint.

@Frederick - Thanks for recommending the Haarsmas' book to the message board. I also recommend "The Bible, Rocks, and Time" by Davis Young and Ralph Stearley. It is a very dense and technical book at times, but it directly addresses claims made by groups like Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research. AIG and ICR are very appealing to some CRC members (see Jennifer Carlson's comments on this article) because they know how to "speak Christian." What I mean is that, as Christians themselves, they know what parts of their message will resonate with a particular set of Christians. It is this very appeal that allows many readers to overlook the questionable logic and scientific method these groups employ. It is understandably hard for those without a science degree to recognize the scientific problems with AIG and ICR, which is why I suggest that people read the books mentioned above. Don't let the matter be settled in your mind just because you read something you think you agree with.

Here are a couple key links everyone should check out if they haven't already:

The official position of the CRC on Creation and Science:
http://crcna.org/pages/positions_creation.cfm

The 1991 Synod report on Creation and Science, since updated by the actions of the 2010 Synod:
http://www.crcna.org/site_uploads/uploads/resources/synodical/creation%2...

PLEASE take the responsibility to read these if you really care about this topic (which sure seems like you do!)

You may call me a fundamentalist for what I am going to write, but that shows your ignorance of proper terminology. The CRC has always held to the inspiration of the Holy Bible and salvation through Christ alone. So what is the problem with stating that the Bible states that homosexuality is wrong{the PCUSA just endorsed ordination for practicing homosexuals as well as ordination for a pastor who denies that he needs a savior from sin}. . And what is the problem with stating that the official position of the CRC is that the Bible can legitamately be interpreted as being opposed to ordination of women elders. And we have never endorsed evolution as a denominaton. Most members of the CRC still believe in the historicity of Adam and Eve. Our creeds teach clearly that they were created good not fallen. We believe in the covenant of works and therefore also the necessity of Jesus living a perfect life for us{imputation of our sin and his righteousness}. You are probably correct that you would not be accepted back in he CRC if you no longer can attest to your agreement with the Historic creeds and confessions of the Reformation. After all we are still comitted to absolute truth and not post-modern relativism. All my children have also left the CRC, but it is because the CRC is drifting from its orthodoxy, not because it has failed to become more open minded to whatever is the latest fad in religion and culture, and closed minded to God's unchangable Word. Fundamentalists we are not, orthodox reformed calvanists and honorers of God's Word, Yes!

@Pastor Bernard

A belief in the historicity of Adam and Eve does not prevent an acceptance of evolution. It constrains what one believes in regards to evolution, to be sure, but I don't think anyone is arguing in CRC circles that evolution occurs - or even CAN occur - apart from the providential hand of God. This is particularly so when it comes to cross-species evolution.

Evolution within a species is obvious, however, and we make use of it in breeding various new strains of corn, tomatoes, apples, cattle, dogs, and so on.

I would also note that, as regards to plants and animals, in Genesis 1 these are created out of pre-existing materials ("let the land produce...") rather than by divine fiat ("let there be..."). So also is humanity created out of the stuff of earth and not by fiat. I find that significant in regards this present discussion. And none of this precludes the existence of a real Adam and Eve in history.

This, by the way, is an entirely separate issue from homosexuals in the church or women's ordination.

Numerous commenters, most recently Pastor Van Ee, have stated that the church should not be subject to the latest social fad. I wholeheartedly agree. Church doctrine is there to root our beliefs and provide a foundation for how we engage a broader culture. However, claiming that evolutionary biology is in any way a "fad" is like saying that a heliocentric solar system is a fad, or that a globalized economy is a passing phase. These things are underlying paradigms for the way the world and society operate, which have been developing for over 100 years of human history. They must be addressed by people of faith in a serious manner, not dismissed.

While I don't want the message board to get bogged down in specific scientific issues, there are couple terms, micro- and macro-evolution, that have been brought up a couple of times. This distinction is often made by those who question evolutionary theory. Microevolution generally refers to changes within a species, which are easily observed by scientists, even within short time frames. In fact, Sarah's research deals with directly observable evolutionary changes in a particular plant. Macroevolution refers to the process of species creation and appearance of new forms of life throughout the history of life. Those who say they "believe" in the reality of microevolution, but not macroevolution, have a greatly oversimplified view of evolutionary processes. In fact, these word actually describe two stages of the SAME process, and observations of evolution cannot just be placed in one box or the other. There is more cognitive dissonance in saying that one accepts micro- but not macro-evolution than there is in a complete rejection of evolutionary theory.

Was God allowed to have any design inputs whatsoever into "creation"? Just wondering.

I do believe the Roel's are right. To facilitate the growth and prosperity of the CRC, I think the more conservative, non-progressive, ignorant types should do what I did: leave the CRC to make way for the up and coming young progressives. When I was in the CRC I felt like I was just so much dead weight holding back the broad sweep of history. I have now gotten out of the way: progressive youth? The CRC is yours! Good luck!

@Hank - God isn't "allowed" design inputs, God HAS inputs because God is the Creator. You and I, along with every other organism, are fearfully and wonderfully made! Darwin himself commented on the grandeur and beauty of his theory of evolution. It is in that beauty that I see the hand of God. I do not need to see the hand of God in supposed "gaps" in evolution because I see God in the whole thing! That God is ultimately responsible for the beauty of the natural world is an article of faith. Efforts to "prove" evolution false (thereby requiring the existence of God) are ones that miss the point of faith and the point of science. There is no universally accepted proof of God and there never will be. But that doesn't mean that I can't see God's work in this marvelous creation.

@Paul - If you reread the article, you will see that I am supportive of the official position of the CRC on creation and science, a position that was drafted and voted on by Synod, where the typical delegate is probably 50 years old. My thesis has nothing to do with youth taking over the church or that the previous generation should step aside. Rather, I believe that my generation becomes disillusioned with the denomination when its congregants ignore the church's own positions and reject realities that young people know to be true. Just as parents try to instill a desire for learning in their children, they need to model it themselves.

Why don't we just deal with science and creation the way a child would? I feel like we make too much of one subject, especially science/evolution. If we are to call ourselves Christians, we live by faith and believe that God is Creator of all things and we should just appreciate the small things about science and not blow it out of proportion. I think we insult the Creator and develop idols when we go so far into depth on a subject that has so much controversy. Just appreciate evolution on a smaller scale and we need to quit trying to figure out God's ways... we never will!
P.S. " open-minded young people's" ways seem to be more universal and unstable. Stronger discipleship/new age training on a biblical basis needs to come from the CRC b4 evolution plants a seed in the church.

I don't think we all need to dumb down to evolution and start teaching our Sunday school pre-K's just yet, that their great great grand pappy and granny were apes, before that frogs, then fish who somehow developed legs and lungs without any observable evidence to back it up. That might scare them. Let's at least wait until college to tell them undocumented truth. I mean, it's okay if these young ones believe and understand the Bible as written for a little while isn't it? Or are we just letting them believe a lie?

I wholeheartedly agree that there are many in the CRC who don't think past the fundamentalist mantra where the intersection of faith and evolutionary science are concerned.

However, I don't think "amputation" is an accurate characterization of what happened at Calvin College last year. Dr. Schneider left the college by choice (although in circumstances that were no doubt tense), and Dr. Harlow is still there teaching.

The issue that generated the tensions was not their integration of theories of evolution with their interpretation of scripture, but rather the apparently serious inconsistencies between their interpretation of scripture and the CRC's confessional understanding of scripture. In other words, the tension arises from the allegation that their writings were in violation of the Form of Subscription. That matter is still in the process of being adjudicated.

@Charity - A child-like attitude seems attractive but I think we can be mature enough to discuss these issues and not sweep them under the rug. As a scientist, I feel I am called by God precisely to study the natural world in depth, not skim the surface or back off when we can't agree. In depth research on evolutionary processes has had huge implications for human society, everything from medicine to conservation of endangered species. A shallow understanding of evolutionary biology would not produce these benefits.

@truthmatters - I went to a Christian high school, where my biology teacher had to dance around the topic of evolution. I have had conversations with others my age who say that being shielded from evolutionary theory until college caused a crisis of faith. They feel betrayed that no one told them about it sooner. The opportunity to equip students with the tools to understand faith/science issues is being lost in many Christian high schools. High schoolers are ready to discuss and learn about this topic and it can be done in a manner that will both strengthen their faith and understanding of the natural world.

@Steve R. -

As you say, micro-evolution occurs, is observable, and I don't think controvertible.

But when you go from there to saying that evolution from one species to another is part of the same process, you lose me. IF this occurs, it would be reasonable to expect it to be part of the same process, but has it ever been observed? Has it ever been demonstrated experimentally? Darwin published his book, what, 1859? A century and a half of people eagerly looking for it, trying to replicate it, spelunking for evidence of some sort and...?

While I don't have as broad a familiarity with the literature as, I'm sure, you do, I'm equally certain that had such a phenomenon ever been demonstrated or observed, it would be shouted from the rooftops for decades.

I find R. F. Baum's arguments persuasive in this regard (DOCTORS OF MODERNITY: DARWIN, MARX, and FREUD) when he notes that, no matter what you do to fruit flies, they're either still fruit flies or they're dead when you're done with 'em.

@Eric - Demands for direct evidence of macroevolution generally arise when evolutionary theory is not sufficiently understood. A tremendous amount of experimental work HAS been done (and has been shouted from the rooftops, scientifically speaking) but no matter what scientists achieve, it is dismissed by doubters as being insufficient. We could define macroevolution as "speciation", that is, the creation of two distinct populations from one, where the populations can no longer interbreed. In that case, macroevolution can, and has been, observed within a human lifetime. There are cases of plant speciation that have literally occurred on university campuses, not experimentally but naturally. If you want to define macroevolution as the broad transitions from something like a fish to an amphibian, these are transitions that, due to their dramatic nature, cannot be directly observed in the career of a single researcher. Asking for this kind of evidence is like asking to see plate tectonics crash two continents together while you watch. You can directly observe tiny movements of India scrunching into the rest of Asia but the fact that this process is responsible for the Himalayas requires geologists to synthesize information from many sources. No one holds up plate tectonics as an example of an "unproven/controversial" scientific theory, so why do it with evolution?

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