Freedom and Exploration. Freedom in Exploration.
Photo by Wiissa.
Today’s guest contributor is Tim Gardner, a husband, dad, and high school pastor at Faith Church in Pennsylvania.
Can I be a Christian and believe in evolution?
This session in Can I Ask That? changed the culture of our youth ministry. For the first time, our students began to explore their beliefs, ask questions, and express doubts in the context of a caring community. Having led this session I saw firsthand the freedom and peace it brought students about the perceived war between science and faith.
Here’s how two students now deal with the question, “Can I be a Christian and believe in evolution?” after going through Can I Ask That?
Julie is a pastor’s kid; she has always attended Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, youth group, you name it. Having been taught that God created the earth in a literal six-day period, Julie felt like she could never question this view, that doubting the “how” of creation would show weakened faith. At the same time, science made sense to her. She struggled through biology class and conversations with peers and teachers because of her conflicted upbringing. In the middle of our discussion on evolution, Julie declared, “Having grown up in church, I never knew I could even think about things like this.” For the first time, Julie felt the freedom to engage in this conversation. This question did not weaken her faith; it strengthened it.
John felt like he couldn’t talk in biology class; if he shared his views of God as creator, he would be shot down and embarrassed. Talking through topics of genre, creationism, and evolution, he began thinking through these issues in a different light. Bringing ideas about old-earth vs. new-earth theories into the conversation allowed John to explore the “how” of creation without feeling like he had to defend the “who” of creation, the fact that God created and made humankind in God’s image. Because of Can I Ask That? John became comfortable exploring his faith and is now able to articulate what he believes.
Having only been in my current church for less than six months, Can I Ask That? has expedited meaningful connections with my students. Hosting these sessions at our home and co-leading with my wife has added a more personal dimension to an already impactful study. It’s always good to wrestle with these questions personally, and it is a privilege to help students wrestle with these questions for themselves. This series created space for our students to investigate doubts and questions without the fear of being judged or rejected. We are creating a culture of freedom, not a culture of fear. We are starting to see the harvest.