This last Sunday was Transfiguration Sunday. It was also Darwin (or Evolution) Sunday. On Transfiguration Sunday we remember Jesus' glorification before his disciples Peter, James, and John-- a preview of his resurrection. On Darwin Sunday churches all over America focus on Darwin's theory of evolution which has forever changed the scientific and religious landscape.
I have hesitated to write this post because I have good friends who really get into Darwin Sunday. I also have good friends who reject evolutionary theory. I do not believe that the former have rejected the faith nor do I believe that the latter are dumb knuckle-dragging neanderthals (pardon the pun). In writing this post I risk offending both sides, but what I would rather see happen is some great discussion.
Before I comment on specifically on Evolution Sunday, let me set before you where I stand: I believe in macro-evolution because I think that is where the scientific evidence clearly leads us. It is a logical fallacy to assert as some atheists and Christians do that evolution denies the existence of God. Evolution is a process which God set forward and in which God participates. I do not think that evolution undermines the biblical texts, particularly the early chapters of Genesis. Indeed, I believe that those persons who read Genesis as a report of the "how" of creation misread those texts. Their hermeneutic is too restrictive and ill-informed of how the early Christians and Jews read Genesis specifically and biblical texts in general. I also believe that Christianity and science are not incompatible and those who believe so misconstrue both. My scientific interests are not so much in the areas of biology and paleontology, but astronomy and physics. The latter two disciplines also clearly indicate that the universe is quite old. We must never forget that many of the early scientists who provided the foundation of our current scientific disciplines were people of faith. One does not have to choose between Christianity and science, faith and reason. Indeed, those who draw a sharp line between faith and reason misunderstand the nature of both.
Now having said that, I must say that I am truly puzzled as to why a church would devote a Sunday worship service to Darwin and evolutionary theory? I have no problem recognizing Charles Darwin's birthday and remembering the huge contribution he has made to our understanding of ourselves and our world, but why devote a worship service to it?
I think Shane Raynor of The Wesley Report gets to the heart of the matter in reference to such motivation:
It's the religious liberal equivalent of evangelism. It's almost like they're saying, "Hey, we're one of you! We're not ignorant and intolerant like those other Christians. By the way, we also listen to NPR, shop at Whole Foods and drive hybrids. Please be our friend!
How true. I would also suggest that a fair number of pastors who so relish Darwin Sunday are former fundamentalists who have never been able to come to grips with their so-called "oppressive past," and Evolution Sunday is a cathartic experience which also serves as a way for them to "stick their finger in the eye" of a past they can no longer embrace.
I suppose what bothers me the most is that this past Sunday was also Transfiguration Sunday, a theologically rich event with much meaning for today's church. Instead of dwelling on that, some churches chose instead to use Darwin to trump Jesus. Evolution Sunday is one more example in the history of Protestantism in the twentieth, and now twenty-first century West, of relegating the liturgical calendar to the background in favor of pet issues. It is about time the church recover the liturgical calendar so that in worship the greatest story ever told will be told again and again in worship.
Fundamentalists may have lost sight of sound scientific evidence, but Mainline Protestants seem to have lost sight of the central character in the telling of the Gospel and in the church's worship. We do not need any more special or awareness Sundays, which are nothing more than special interest group politics working its way into the worship of the church. What we need is worship that clearly proclaims that Jesus is Lord by intentionally keeping Jesus at the center of our Sunday morning praise and preaching. I do not oppose dealing with evolution or any other controversial topic in various church venues. Neither am I unconcerned to raise the church's awareness over issues that have been neglected. I simply believe that worship is not the place for such matters. The church's worship needs to be reserved for the heart of the matter. In worship I do not want Charles Darwin, nor any other individual for that matter, trumping Jesus.
By the way, just because many Christians believe in evolution does not mean that religious sceptics and antagonists will all of a sudden find the gospel attractive. In my experience it just means for them that there is one less thing for us religious folk to be irrational about.
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Cross-Posted at RedBlueChristian