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Scientific Literacy and 21st Century Faith

Adam and Eve by Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto

In 2010, new discoveries in genomic research challenged a fundamental Biblical teaching: that humankind originated from a unique couple: the biblical Adam and Eve. Christianity Today reported:

According to a consensus drawn from three independent avenues of research, the history of human ancestry involved a population “bottleneck” around 150,000 years ago—and from this tiny group of hominids came everyone living today. …the size of the group was far larger than a lonely couple: it consisted of several thousand individuals at minimum – The Search for the Historical Adam | Christianity Today 1/16/15

While some dismissed this as an attack on faith, many Christian scientists conceded research’s validity. A BioLogos paper co-authored by Dennis Venema, biology chairman at Trinity Western University, and Point Loma Nazarene University biologist Darrel Falk declared flatly: The human population, “was definitely never as small as two … The data are absolutely clear on that.”

This story highlights a huge problem for Christianity. What should we make of scientific discoveries that create complications for the Bible? These discoveries threaten many people’s biblically informed Christian beliefs. Skeptics use research as ammunition to dismiss Christianity. And the media misuse research to cynically grab headlines.

The kneejerk reaction has always been to reject anything that contradicts the traditional understanding of the Bible. Research is blamed as a godless attack on true faith. And individuals who wrestle with these problems are accused of lacking faith.

Unfortunately, this unwillinginess to engage modern science has resulted in an exodus from Christianity. Many people now believe that to be a Christian, you need to check your head at the door, or at least keep it down to avoid detection. Others simply walk away.

Christian leaders must educate congregants in a new literacy. Rather than be afraid of the sciences, we need to learn to understand and engage them. This doesn’t require a degree in biology or astronomy. It requires understanding the process and tools of scientific study and the tools available to tell fact from fiction. Above all, we need to learn how to engage our faith in the modern world, and build bridges between believers and people who have been disenfranchised from Christianity as a result of these conflicts.

Published in Christianity Science