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Science can help church keep its young folk


7:00 A.M. ET January 4, 2012

A web-only illustration courtesy of wordle.net.
A web-only illustration courtesy of wordle.net.

An article, “Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church,” highlights results from a study by the Barna Group. The findings were reported in the recently published book, “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church ... and Rethinking Faith” by David Kinnaman.

This nationwide study found evidence that for too many young folk, “Churches come across as antagonistic to science.” The study found “three out of 10 young adults with a Christian background feel that churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in (29 percent)” and that many young people are “turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.”

The research also “shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries.”

These findings are a clarion call for The United Methodist Church to be more accepting of science throughout all our ministries for the benefit of all God’s children. Embracing an attitude of reconciliation and partnership with science will be essential if we hope to attract young people and keep them engaged in pursuit of a rich spiritual life — rather than repelled from it — in a modern world where science continues to reveal objective truths about the natural world.

An Evangelical Lutheran Church in America brother in Christ, the Rev. Greg Cootsona, “found (him)self wondering whether members of (his) church really wanted to hear about how Big Bang cosmology relates to Genesis 1, or what the image of God means in light of contemporary brain science.” A trial balloon revealed the answer was unambiguously “yes” — his congregation was eager to explore how science interacts with theology.

Important to learn more

In this age of wide-ranging and significant scientific advancements, pastors certainly do not need to “teach” science. But, it is important for pastors to become more accepting of objective truths and pre-eminent scientific theories about the natural world upon which every single one of God’s children lives, most in desperate poverty.

To help other pastors bring the message to their congregations that science and theology can be complementary, Cootsona founded the Scientists in Congregations program to “identify resources for congregations and to catalyze conditions for a sustained, rich, generative engagement between science and faith.” Many denominations, including United Methodism, have recognized the advantages of the program. Because the program’s funding is limited, it is available now to only a few dozen churches

Fortunately, Sunday school classes and interest groups can use existing free or low-cost resources that promote and teach the compatibility of science with theology. For example, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and an evangelical Christian, has developed an excellent study and discussion series, “Religion and Science: Pathways to Truth.” This series offers extensive educational support materials including DVDs, participant guides, a leader’s guide and a course website that could be adapted for use in any number of church settings to help guide learning, reflection and discussion.

Not wanting to lose teens and young adults who have been made disciples for Christ, our United Methodist General Conference has, at each quadrennial meeting since 1992, moved in a variety of ways in a similar direction to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American regarding evolution.

The United Methodist Church's official positions as stated in the Book of Discipline (2008, ¶160.I.F) and Book of Resolutions (Resolutions 5052 and 1027) on science and evolution forthrightly and courageously address key issues at the interface of science and theology. General Conference is the denomination’s top lawmaking body. Through its official statements, the denomination has taken a stand against how some are using the debate in ways that threaten both constitutionally guaranteed religious freedoms and the constitutional rights of students in public school science classrooms.

Debate put to rest

The creation-versus-evolution debate was put to rest within science more than a century ago. Scientific evolutionary theory now is so extensively corroborated by overwhelming convergent evidence from many disparate traditional and emerging scientific disciplines that the proportion of scientist-adherents versus scientist-dissenters has become unprecedented. On June 29, 1987, Newsweek reported that of the 480,000 earth and life scientists in the United States, 99.85 percent accept evolution over creationist explanations of the natural history of our planet and its myriad life forms. Pope Pius XII put the debate to rest in Catholicism in his 1950 encyclical when he stated that evolution is not in conflict with theology. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The United Methodist Church and others have followed suit with similar statements from their leaders.

The task now is to educate all ages of our membership that the debate is over. We can explore the mysteries of the natural world and universe — the realm of science — and at the same time seek moral, ethical and spiritual guidance within humanity’s many faith traditions — the realm of religion. We need to understand that the creation stories in Scripture — some would call them parables or metaphors — use scientific-appearing descriptions to teach subjective truths about interpersonal relationships and spiritual responsibilities, but they do not represent scientific thinking or theories, and they do not reveal objective truths about natural history of the world and universe.

The young folk are right. To deny evolution is simply anti-science. Denial of evolution also demands rejection of reason and experience — two of the four capacities John Wesley urged all Methodists to bring to bear upon the task of developing a more complete understanding of faith and God’s many gifts. In our society, where creationists speak loudly, silence about how religion and science are compatible also comes across as anti-science and anti-reason.

General Conference guidance

Knowing that many clergy are not science experts, General Conference has provided guidance and resources through its official “endorse[ment of] The Clergy Letter Project and its reconciliatory programs between religion and science and urges United Methodist clergy participation.” The Clergy Letter Project is available for all of our congregations to participate.

As of this writing, more than 13,000 clergy of many faiths, including many United Methodists, have signed The Clergy Letter. The United Methodist denomination and so many thousands of individual Christian clergy have enthusiastically lent their public endorsement to the clergy letter initiative because of the inspired message of the mere two-paragraph letter. That message shines a light upon a path that has been elusive for such a very long time and sensibly reconciles scientific and religious perspectives on creation through a better understanding of the “different orders of truth” each is committed to exploring.

Each February since 2006, the Clergy Letter Project has promoted the celebration of Evolution Weekend — originally Evolution Sunday — and your congregation is invited to participate during 2012. Last year, more than 650 churches from all 50 states participated. Sign up for Evolution Weekend 2012 by sending Dr. Michael Zimmerman (mz@TheClergyLetterProject.org) an email with your name and title and the name and address of your church.

What a great opportunity to show the scientists and science-friendly members in your congregation — especially the youthful ones — that your church’s Open Hearts, Open Minds and Open Doors are fully open to them as well!

*Sherman, a veterinarian and life scientist, taught and conducted research for 25 years and now serves as National Program Leader for Veterinary Science at the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. He is a member of Oakdale Emory United Methodist Church in Olney, Md.

News media contact, Maggie Hillery, Nashville, Tenn. (615)-742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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  • Anne Constant Ewing, age 73, lived in Phila since 1966 except 3 years in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 5th generation Methodist. Worked ( still do somewhat) as a community organizer, which really means thinking through issues, breaking down projects into doable sections and helping people to get them done. 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    It seems to me that science is the study of WHAT there is in the natural world, WHEN in the past or now that it occurs, and HOW it works.  As tools and knowledge expands, this can be a huge study, full of details.
    The role of religion(s) is not what, but WHY, and science does not andy should not,  address that.

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  • ThinkingAl 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    There are many gaps in human knowledge about the natural world. One way to handle a gap is to say: “We don't understand this – let's seek an answer.” That could be called a scientific approach.

    Another way to handle a gap is to come up with a supernatural explanation. That makes God a “god of the gaps.” The theological danger of this approach is that when humans do find an answer to fill the gap, then the god of the gaps is diminished.

    There used to be a gap in our knowledge of whether the sun or the earth is the center of the solar system. The “god of the gaps” solution was that God made the earth first, and hence the earth had to be the center. Look at the consternation when about five centuries ago the religious community had to face up to the scientific discovery filling that gap with knowledge that the sun, not the earth, is the center of the solar system!!! Religion burned Giordano Bruno at the stake, and threatened Galileo – of all people – with the same fate!

    Sadly, the God of many of the commenters to this article is a “god of the gaps.” Thus their god is threatened in their eyes by the recent (a century and a half ago) understanding of how new species are created – by evolution through natural causes.

    We should instead revel in the fact that science has used and continues to use evolution techniques to fulfill religious goals of understanding disease, developing new pharmaceuticals to fight disease, developing higher yield agriculture to feed the hungry, etc.

    But alas, we try to protect our “god of the gaps.”

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  • TGWolcott 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    The "battle between evolution and creation" is an artificial one that is kept alive by fear, and, alas, by the efforts of those who profit from it.  What is needed is a clear understanding of exactly what science is (and is not,) but all too often it is lacking.  As a professor of biology, and a Christian (worshiping in a Methodist congregation since the ice sheets receded,) I'll try to give a concise explanation.

    Science is a set of tools for making sense out of observations.  "A" set, not "The" set.  It has self-imposed limitations:  1.  It assumes that only observable, measurable evidence can be used to test hypotheses.  Hopes, feelings, wishes and "beliefs" are not admissible.
    2.  It assumes that the "laws of nature" do not change (i.e., no supernatural entity will reach in and twiddle the knobs.)

    It is these limitations that give science its strengths and make it so hugely useful.  Using only measurable evidence makes science testable and (should) enforce objectivity.  We can verify the claims of other scientists because
    we should be able to measure what they measured; we should be able to repeat their
    experiments and get the same results.  That's what happened with "cold
    fusion," the reported results could not be replicated and it sank with hardly a ripple.  Assuming that the laws don't change is what permits us to predict future events, or extrapolate into the past from which we have no observations.  We make weather forecasts on the assumption that "the way things worked before is the way they'll work tomorrow." 

    Science works by disproving things, not by proving them.  We come up with our best guess of how things work...and then do our durndest to demolish that "hypothesis."  The hypotheses left standing are our (provisional) understanding, until someone comes up with a better idea and/or a way to falsify ours.  Politicians demand black-and-white answers, and "proofs," from scientists.  They're barking up the wrong tree.

    Science is used globally as a way of understanding the universe because it is so useful.  Note, however, that its underlying assumptions are not themselves scientifically testable.  Science, by assuming no supernatural knob-twiddling, leaves itself no tools to deal with the supernatural in any form.  Science has nothing whatever to say about religion or faith--they simply operate on different planes.  Science provides one sort of truth; faith provides others.

    Christians, therefore, have nothing to fear from the theory of evolution.  The theory is utterly silent on the subject of God because God is outside the boundaries that science can treat.  Science says, "If we set aside supernatural intervention, how can we account for the complexity of the universe?"  What the theory of evolution does is make sense of, and unify, an enormous array of evidence from many different disciplines (biology, biochemistry, geology...on and on.)  We use it because it is hugely useful, allowing us to both predict future events and make sense of the past. 

    Many scientists unfortunately step beyond the bounds of science in saying that evolutionary theory is Truth and creationist accounts are false, forgetting that science is provisional.  Since creationist theories are not based on scientific grounds (remember the assumptions of no supernatural intervention and limitation to physical evidence,) they are simply a quite different way to make sense of the evidence.  What they are not is science, and that's why they do not belong in science classes--except as a means of teaching students the difference.

    Christians regularly use the principles of science in their daily lives, without feeling that their faith is threatened (God, of course, is not threatened by any of this.)  Should we demand that Christians simply pray about whether to take an umbrella rather than looking at a weather forecast, because the forecast is based on the "no supernatural intervention" assumption and is a denial of their faith?  Evolutionary theory falls into exactly the same box. 

    In my view, God left us a staggering amount of evidence indicating that the evolutionary processes we document today are what He used through history to bring about biocomplexity.  Granted, He might have done so to test us or to fool the unbelievers, but that is inconsistent with the nature of the God in whom I believe.

    I hope this is useful to searchers for truth.

    Thomas G. Wolcott
    Professor [semi]Emeritus of Marine Science

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  • Gary Sherman 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Dear TG Wolcott -- What a beautiful expression of your beliefs, and what a thoughtful analysis of the issues surrounding creation and evolution!  I believe much of what you propose is accepted by many who have been privileged to study science and ponder God, and then think about how the two relate to creation.  I share your views in most respects but would very much appreciate your perspective on a few key issues that relate mainly to your first two sentences.  You wrote: “The battle between evolution and creation is an artificial one that is kept alive by fear, and, alas, by the efforts of those who profit from it. What is needed is a clear understanding of exactly what science is (and is not,) but all too often it is lacking.”
    While I think it can be argued that some of the battle is artificial and fostered to a degree by profit-motives, I’m convinced that the battle is in fact genuine for most whose opinions lay on either side of the debate.  There is risk to suggesting that disagreements are illusions when they are in fact real (but reconcilable). Roughly 60+ percent of Americans sincerely, and as a matter of faith in scripture, believe it is objectively true (or likely to be true) about natural history that the earth is less than 10,000y old and that all creatures including humans appeared in their present form at roughly the same time by divine fiat.  On the other side of the debate are the 93+ percent of scientists and 30-40 percent of the general population who sincerely believe, as a matter of faith in the integrity of scientific methodology, that life evolved essentially according to the modern scientific theory of evolution.  Quite apart from the distinct (somewhat diversionary) issue for most laity, i.e., proposing God as a knob twiddler (adjuster of residual error?) and/or initiator of evolution (spark of life in the first blob of protoplasm), there is still left, for many an average parishioner, the non-artificial sincere (pivotal) bone of contention that few are prepared to address directly.  Science contends with great certainty a scenario that is quite unacceptable to the typical creationist; that humans evolved from an apelike primate common ancestor according to the same essential mechanisms (matural selection) that allowed primitive non-sentient life forms (microbes, worms, etc) to eventually evolve (diverge) into the Chimpanzee and the dolphin (and everything else).  That is, human creation was not special in the manner clearly described in Genesis.  
    Rather than the battle being “artificial” and fostered by profit motive, it is more appropriately viewed as an “unnecessary” consequence of lexiconic imprecision, both unintentional and intentional.  The critical contribution made by the UMC endorsed Clergy Letter (CL) is the importance of being specific and pitfalls of giving free-rein to ambiguity.  Science permits one to search and discover legitimate and reliable objective truths about the natural world.  Scripture is not competent in this sphere.  The CL clarifies that “Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.”  In this realm, science is the duck out of water and should be humbled by its severe limitations. Together, these truths (for convenience call them objective and subjective truth realms) offer man opportunities to explore a higher truth plain (thus closer to God), one in which the two truth-sources complement and synergize rather than antagonize each other.  I agree with the UMC’s endorsement of the CL which “calls off” the battle not so much because it is artificial but because both the field of battle and what was being fought for have been so inadequately understood.
    From my commentary above, my thoughts about your second sentence might not be surprising.  You wrote “What is needed is a clear understanding of exactly what science is (and is not,) but all too often it is lacking.”  The immediate follow-on point of balance should be “Likewise, what is needed just as much is a clear understanding of exactly what religion is (and is not,) but all too often it is lacking.”  In this regard, your later proposition, that it is science that over-reaches (with no mention of religion over-reach), is noticeably one-sided, in the context of evolution.  Indeed, on the subject of creation, it is inappropriate religious overreach from the realm of subjective truth into the realm of science (where religion intentionally perpetuates belief, by over 50% of people, in young earth and de novo life-form creation as objective truth) that results in a serious disservice being done to millions by religious educators who are failing to understand and/or avoiding clarification of an ambiguity that need not exist.  The CL’s “different orders of truth” pathway is a powerful, liberating and promising option toward higher truth concerning creation, but the number who will follow this path will be directly proportional to the number of Christians and clergy who are able to resist asserting indefensible religious purview over the sphere of objective truth about the natural world.  It is these truths that are knowable by mortals through use of the minds they have blessed to possess and which religion should respect as beyond its competency and authority.
    Again, many thanks for your thought-provoking commentary and I look forward to a possible reply.   

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  • Lydia_Grace 6 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    This is a hard comment for me to write. I am one of the teens who has left the Methodist denomination (though not the church as a whole) in part because of this issue. As I began learning about evolution and things like that in school, I decided to do a little research on my own to make up my mind for myself as to what I believed (I have never been one to just believe whatever I hear without investigating). The more I researched, the more I became convinced that evolution was not scientifically proved. For every "proof" evolution had, creationism could disprove it. However, evolution could not debunk creationism. Creationism both debunked evolution and supported itself, making it the stronger theory. I finally came to the conclusion that to believe in evolution would be to turn my back on science. As I learned more about the beliefs of my denomination, I found that the Methodist church as a whole believed in "theistic evolution", an evolution directed by God. This both deviates from the Bible and from science. After long and prayerful consideration, I left the Methodist denomination.

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  • Lydia_Grace 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    I'm replying to my own comment to explain a little more of my story. You've given me a lot of food for thought, and I've been thinking about why I left the methodist denomination a lot. Thank you. I've realized something: it was not because of a certain issue, though I did have problems with several of the methodist denomination's positions. My problem was that I did not feel like the denomination was following the Bible, no matter what. The methodist denomination does whatever it can to get people to come to church. That is a wonderful thing that I love about the denomination. However, when it contradicts the Bible, it is wrong. How can we believe in an all powerful God and still believe that there's no way he could have created the world in seven days? How can we believe the Bible in God's true word and yet dismiss it's very first section, written like a historical document, as nothing more than a story? Also, the methodist denomination doesn't make it clear what it stands for. I had to search for the stances on issues on this website. My father, who was Methodist for years, didn't know what the stances were. We never talked about any issues but "nice" stuff like donating to food pantries in church for fearing that someone would be offended. (Donating food is a very good thing, but it's not controversial at all and isn't really making a stand.) As a teen who wants to make a difference in the world, this was stifling. I was in a denomination who seemed more interested in keeping everyone happy than doing God's will. When I started looking for a new denomination, I asked a minister of another denomination what the denomination's stand was on several controversial issues. I was so happy when he just told me, without trying to figure out what I wanted to hear. Even if I had disagreed with him, I would have been impressed that he told me without trying to impress me. I think that we need to tell people what God wants us to say, instead of what those people want to hear.

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  • Gary Sherman 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    Dear Lydia,   I'm sorry you decided to leave the Methodist Church. I hope you will, in time, reconsider as you learn more about faith and science. There may well be some sincere young people who elect to reject the mountains of concordant scientific evidence supporting gradual evolution of life on earth, and so decide to leave denominations that come to accept these scientific truths over literal interpretation of Genesis-1.  However, the Barna Study leaves little doubt that there are millions of scientifically and religiously literate young people who conclude differently.  These young people leave the church as a matter of integrity and respect for truth; they cannot bear to align themselves with a faith tradition that is unable at its very core to assimilate and partner with the grandest and most compelling truth propositions science offers to mankind (like the theories of evolution, the sun-centered solar system, and gravitation). These (also) sincere young people will reconcile faith with experience and reason in ways that lead them to, rather than deny, knowable important truths and so they will transcend the truth-limiting confines of fundamentalist religious thinking (by leaving such denominations) and move closer to God.  Thankfully there are denominations that honor and understand truth in ways that welcome both those who choose to and not to accept the gifts of both religion and science.  This means, that religiously and scientifically educated folk (young and old) will find welcoming spiritual homes, and that those ready to reconsider their assumptions will know there is a place in Christianity for them.  Like so many others, I am proud of Methodism’s commitment to open hearts, open minds and open doors.  Remember it was you who rejected Methodism by being less open, and not Methodism that abandoned you.  Methodism never told you must believe a particular way on this matter.The point is not that religion is wrong, it is that it strays regularly from the truth realm over which it has rightful purview.  Religion does have dominion over a different order of truth where science is a duck out of water. The metaphors and soul-inspiring lessons of Genesis-1 (and other biblical passages) are valid resources for those pursuing “subjective” truths capable of transforming hearts.  Fortunately for religion, it is this order of truth that science has little or no capacity, or interest, in pursuing.  This is important to understand because it defies the false claim that it is science that poaches into the subjective truth realm of religion.  Religion needs to acknowledge and extend the same humility with respect to objective truth about the natural world, the realm of science.  Your initial investigations that led you to conclude that creationism has debunked science, and that science has failed to call Genesis into question, reveals a superficial understanding of the relevant sciences, and demonstrates that you have yet to discriminate these two different but complementary orders of truth.  It also shows that you quite stridently place your understanding about the natural sciences above scores of Nobel Laureates and 100s of 1000s of scientists, many of whom are devout Christians.  If you had learned to distinguish truth realms you would know how many ways, in the realm of objective truth, that science has for all practical purposed, disqualified  (using radiochemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, geology, astronomy) biblical ‘theory’ of a young earth and many other qualitative and quantitative claims made in Genesis (e.g., earth existing before stars, daylight and plants existing before the sun, and all life forms appearing at one time less than 10,000 y ago in violation of indisputable geological strata/paleontology findings (this is just a brief list of evidence beyond intelligent debate)).  By contrast, in the realm of subjective truth, Science is all but powerless and religion is free to make (subjective) truth claims that anyone can examine and adopt as they please, according to the methods and beliefs their faith tradition employs.  In this manner science and religion can and should (indeed must) reconcile unnecessary differences, for the good of all God’s children.  It is only confusion about the different orders of truth that religion and science address that brings these two blessings to humanity into conflict. Those who foster continued antagonism rather than promote the greater righteousness that comes from honoring God’s perfect, love, truth, and reason (which embraces ALL truths including those revealed through science) do moral and spiritual harm to mankind, especially the most needy among us, because truth matters.

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  • Lydia_Grace 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Thank you very much for replying to me! I was very interested in your take on my comment. I have a few follow up comments to make.

    1) Just for clarification, I left the denomination for many reasons. However, the others were not important to this article, so I didn't go into them. I just wanted to share a different perspective on this article. 

    2) I love the open mindedness of the Methodist church. It was keeping an open mind that led me to investigate the whole story behind what I learned in school. However, I won't pretend I haven't learned something in order to keep a superficially "open mind". 

    3) I know I don't know everything. However, I'm going to follow the evidence and right now, it's headed in this direction, so this is the direction I am going to go.
    4) Evolution according to what I have learned in public school says that life came about by chance without God. Teaching in church that a theory is true, when the theory says it has taken away the need for God will not keep teenagers in the church. They will figure that if science has explained away God, they might as well just sleep in on Sundays.

    5) Just for clarification, you said, "led you to conclude that creationism has debunked science". Actually, it led me to conclude that creationism debunked Darwin's evolution by natural selection. Neither creationism nor evolution can be proven (using the scientific method) and both are theories. The evidence I have seen so far has indicated the creationism is the better theory, so until evidence to the contrary comes, I am bound by logic and science to believe creationism.

    6) Genesis does make some strange claims. As I have already said, scientific evidence has already led me to believe creationism. However, even if it didn't, if I truly believed that God was sovereign and powerful enough to rise from the dead, why wouldn't I be able to believe that he could create the world in seven days just by saying it? Also, the creation account reads as a historical account. If that is not true, then how do we know which parts of the Bible are true? How do we know any of it's true?


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  • ColtsFan254 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

       I want to encourage you with a knowledge that many many people in the UMC are thinking people who simply have come to differing conclusions.  I believe there are many people who respect science and are not antagonistic, but come to a different conclusion about creation that the theory of evolution.  There are others who do believe in some type of theistic evolution.  To me, this issue is important, but not central to the teaching of the faith about who God is.
         If we all agree that God created all that is, and that we want to uphold both Scripture and scientific inquiry, then we are in a good place, and I can agree to walk with others even if we disagree on some mechanisms of how God created.  I believe Satan is pleased when we feel we can't walk together in Unity over secondary matters in the church.  The referenced article clearly says that young people are leaving the church due to a perception of antagonism to science.  That is vastly different than saying we believe in the scientific method and scientific inquiry and have come to a different conclusion.  I have come to similar conclusions as you based on looking at the science, not because I am opposed to, or antagonistic in my view of science.
        I believe the open dialogue is actually what young people are turned off by.  That and a simple inability to articulate the basics of the faith in a complex world.  The church is viewed as having archaic answers that do not address the main needs of concerns of people today.  It is the church's inability to answer the 'so what' questions of life that turn many young people off.  There is an assumption that the church is close minded and ignorant.  (too often this is the case).  We need articulate, thinking people of orthodox faith to be outspoken for the sake of the Gospel in a loving way to care about young people.  We need to listen, and not answer their concerns in trite defensive ways.

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  • Lydia_Grace 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Hi ColtsFan254,

    Thank you! I agree with you. I think that the solution to unifying and keeping teens in the church is not by encouraging a theory that means God is not necessary.

    I do agree that little issues should not be what splits us. I wouldn't have left the denomination because of that (that was just one of the smallest issues that made me see that it was time to move on), but it didn't help. (I do still love the Methodist denomination and love many of it's strong parts.) I meant that teaching teens a scientifically unsound theory won't make them more likely to stick around (at least it didn't for me). In fact, it might make it worse if they feel that they are getting watered down information and then decide church isn't necessary. Or, if they do believe it, they will wonder why church is even necessary because God isn't needed for evolution, as they learn it in school.

    I especially like your last paragraph. I think that in many issues, including this one, much could be accomplished if people just listened to each other with an open mind and knew how to articulate and support their own ideas. So often, it seems like things are just believed because they've always been believed. Truth can stand up for itself, so never be afraid to learn how to defend your beliefs.

    Mainly, I just wanted to share a perspective on this issue, especially being a teen.


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  • faithistheway 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    Are religious leaders FAITH  in God so little today that in order to build their congregations one must start teaching evolution in with FAITH?  Are religious leaders taking "one verse, one text" and adding  their own interpretation from it in order to build membership? Are congregations now becoming "audiences" to be entertained into learning about God?
    I grew up with an "Ordained" minister not with someone who took a few courses over the internet and are now allowed to lead.  By his willingness to spend his money, his choice of career to learn the Bible and God's Word and through his
    "FAITH" I followed.  He made this decision by a calling from God  because of his "FAITH"  not from by being out of a job
    I realize religion is a business and funds are needed to keep it running.  What the young need today is a "HERO" and they need someone to teach them GOD can be their hero through "FAITH" .  But first they need a leader who is not swayed by the "New Age" teachings and only a leader who truly has "FAITH" in their heart and "Believes in the Bible"
    Christians are turning away from the church because of the Leaders today and their "lack of " knowledge and faith. 
    God Bless You All..


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  • Gary Sherman 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Religious leaders' faith in God is lacking when they do not understand that truth, both objective (from science) and subjective (from faith), is not to be feared but embraced as being of, by and about God. It is not entertainment to honor truth, it is a sacred obligation. Truth revelations can only bring us closer to God and, yes, that includes the many component and concordant truths underpinning the theories of evolution, the sun-centered universe and the big bang.  To reflexively rear up against emergent truths based on the presumption of literal ‘competing’ truth of scripture is the perennial folly of dogmatists, who offer pathways that too often lead to the sort of tragedies that have been repeated throughout human history with horrific consequences.  It is past time to seek pathways to spiritual growth that can take souls beyond the ties that bind so many to (typically the more fundamentalist) religious traditions that systemically fail to discriminate different orders of truth and thus too often contribute to commission of the sin of subverting bona fide truth.  By always placing scripture above truth discovered by any other means, the line is stridently crossed to idolatry -- of a book. "Idolatry" has been defined by Pastor Timothy Keller as taking good things and turning them into ultimate things. What many Christians have come to terms with, is that taking the “Good Book” (Bible) as inerrant and 'literally' true with respect to both objective and subjective truth (i.e., as the ultimate message with no mixture of error), is idolatry and, history proves, this is very dangerous to humanity and to the revelation of God’s perfection. Those who continue to idolize the written word of the biblical God as His immutable and perfect will will continue to shun, to the detriment of all, emerging truths that could bring them closer to God and to ways of life that will enable us all to more compassionately and lovingly serve our neighbors, and especially, the least among us. 

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  • Stephanie Culberson 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Nothing in the Bible supports evolution. When you try to make the Bible "fit" in with theories that are promoted as "factual science" you have gone far off base. Trying to mesh the two together to save the "young folk" is a huge mistake. James 3:1 states, "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment." I would be extremely careful about what I taught about this subject. Evolution is not based on science. It is a religion, just one that does not involve God Almighty. As Christians, we believe in the beginning was God. Evolutionists believe in the beginning was 'nothing'. Both are belief systems, both are religions. You cannot reconcile the two. You should probably do more research into this subject. Creation.com has many resources that can show you science and the Bible go hand in hand WITHOUT buying into this evolution theory.

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  • LRYoung 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    Hello All! I guess this is more directed to Gary Sherman than anyone else. Gary, I agree 10,000% with you! As a Biologist, College Professor, former Sr. High Youth Director, and current Young Adult Ministries Coordinator within my local UMC church I cannot agree more that we need to become more open-minded about the connectiveness and relatedness that exists between science and religion. My acceptance and belief in evolution and my strong faith have never been in conflict with one another ONCE I learned what both were all about... education and study was the key for me.

    Gary, I would offer myself to be of assistance in anyway to you in developing material, lessons, or whatever you may need, if anything in seeing this vital message and real partnership flow through our local churches within the UMC! Feel free to email me at LRYoung75@comcast.net

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  • Gary Sherman 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Thanks so much Larry!  I just sent you an email.  I appreciate your encouraging support of the now-documented proposition that attrition of young Methodists can be stemmed in part by reconcilling with science, rather than competing with, or deamonizing, it..

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  • crodenberg 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    This is the resolution that I am submitting to the General Conference:

    WHEREAS the United Methodist
    Church believes the Bible as a basic tenet, and

    we join in the Apostle's Creed that states that God is the creator, and

    we believe that God sent His Son to redeem us from sin and Jesus Christ stated
    that he was present at creation and gave us no teachings that would support
    evolution, and

    the laws of physics and chemistry and many scientists deny evolution, and

    creation scientists have published many research findings since 2000 that
    support creation and deny evolution, and

    Methodists do not want to stifle open discussion of all theories


    be it resolved that the United Methodist Church reaffirm the 2000 General
    Conference resolution that directs the General Board of Discipleship, working
    within its own structure, to develop study materials for all levels of the
    church which will bring all the theories of evolution and creation to the
    churches in a manner which will compare emerging areas of compatibility and
    areas yet unresolved in a reconciling approach to the relationship involved.



    as Christians, believe that God sent His Son to redeem us from sin. Jesus
    Christ stated that he was present at creation and gave us no teachings that
    would support evolution.


    a scientist, I have studied the Creation/Evolution argument for 60 years and am
    convinced that Evolution is a nonscientific teaching based on faith because the
    laws of physics and chemistry prove that evolution of living molecules from the
    random interaction of hydrogen atoms is statistically impossible. Because it
    violates the basic laws of science, evolution must be accepted on faith and
    becomes a religion. If evolution is impossible the other possibilities are that
    of Creation or the current concept that life came from aliens from outer space.
    Because we believe in the Bible and state in our creed that God is the creator,
    then we should support the teaching and research of creation scientists and ask
    that such research be given as much consideration in school as the questionable
    doctrine of evolution.


    argument that young people are leaving the Methodist church because it didn't
    support evolution is not true. A Central Texas Conference resolution supporting
    the teaching of creation along with evolution received most of the votes of the
    youth in attendance.


    A. Rodenberger, PhD

    Emeritus of Aerospace Engineering

    A&M University

    FM 2228

    TX 79504

    725 6816

    Cross Plains, TX First United Methodist Church

    by other members of the church

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  • mrpiano 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    When the church starts looking to Jesus Christ instead of John Wesley, something good will happen...

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  • Gary Sherman 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Surely we can agree that John
    Wesley's perspectives are, along with scripture, appropriate seminal references for a Methodist
    audience? Methodists have no doubt that Jesus and Wesley are on the same team. Proposing
    non-existent opposition between Wesley and Jesus will more likely foster
    continued and unnecessary antagonism rather than reconciliation based on faith
    in the sanctity of truths that bring you and me closer to God and Jesus

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  • StrugglingtostayUM 4 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    Again - say whatever it takes to get more people in the pews.

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  • Jeff Pospisil 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    I'm really struggling with the idea that this will bring more people into the church.  I've never know anyone personally to not go to church because of this issue.  This is only anecdotal, but, when I've asked people in the Dakotas about going to church, most of them don't go to church because they had a bad experience in the past.  Very few people seem to care a whole lot about the science issue.  They just want to go to a place where the people are authentic and actually care for you.  

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  • Gary Sherman 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    I respectfully suggest a qualification
    to your noble goal of filling the pews. Rather than fill the pews however we
    can, let's focus like a laser on the discovery and promotion of truth. Whether arrived at by using the minds we've been blessed with
    to apply reason and pursue science, or by reading and understanding Scripture to nurture the soul, or by discovering grander revelations by harmonizing these pathways to truth to build an even greater spiritual life, God will be nearer
    by and pleased with those who seek it in the spirit of good will and service.  Our young people understand what it means to be honest and the connection of truth to honesty is also plain to them.  Teach truth and they will come .  

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  • ColtsFan254 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

        I appreciate your terse comments. It seems that as a whole 'success' is being defined in the UMC as having more people.  It is not about clarity or soundness of doctrine.  It is not about making true disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, but rather it is about more people giving more money to support a failing earthly institution.  I should note this is a Western European and American definition and certainly not an African or East Asian vision for our denomination.  I too struggled in the past to remain in the UMC.  I exhort you  (or encourage) to read Wesley.  Go back to the roots of Methodism and may you stand firm in the knowledge of the doctrine we have received.  I am now a proud Methodist.  Not that I agree with all of what goes on in our denomination today, but because I know of our theological heritage.  It is rich.  Not only our doctrinal history, but also our history of being used by God to further the advance of His Kingdom.  That is what the Church after all is called to do.  There are many like you who toil and labour, but let us not do so in vain, but rather encourage one another as long as it is called today.  May we be bold in our action as we preach the gospel in word and in deed to this dying world.  And may we act in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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  • karenbueno 5 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    This is a comment on the comments!  I agree thoroughly with the article, and would take our questioning of some of our "beliefs" even further.  I am a 73 year old retired elementary school teacher.  I find way too many people in my United Methodist congregation, both young and old, to be trapped into thinking that if it is in the Bible that way, then that must be the way it happened.  We absolutely need more study on how Christianity can be understood by those who are educated and live in the 21st century, in this technological age.  Kudos on your creating classes to address these issues; evolution and other scientific discoveries which appear to contradict our faith views, but which need to be re-interpreted if Christianity is to live on.  I disagree with most of the comments below.

    Karen Bueno, Thornton, CO

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  • Gary Sherman 3 comments collapsed Collapse Expand


    you for your comments and insights concerning my article. Your views are supported
    in Methodism's highest principles, UMC's Doctrinal Standards. A close reading
    reveals the great care John Wesley exercised in avoiding language that comes
    anywhere close to suggesting the Bible is inerrant or a supreme guide to truth.
    This is not to say Wesley did not revere Scripture, but his hedging about face-value
    reliability of all that is in the Bible is writ large in declarations such as
    "Think and let think about all except that which is moral and strikes at
    the heart of faith." This leaves somewriggle-room for interpretation but Wesley's
    careful qualifications leave ample room for, indeed invites, embrace of truth
    revealed by other means, especially including those truths discoverable through
    reason and experience (2 points on the Wesley Quadrilateral.) This was (and
    still is) an important aspect of Wesley's unique perspectives in Christianity
    and his reputation as a theological visionary. 
    His vision of Christianity continues to serve and empower us to discover
    new pathways to important answers.  This
    is why it is not surprising that Methodism is the first denomination to
    formally endorse the Clergy Letter Project (www.theclergyletterproject.org). 

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  • ColtsFan254 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

      I hope you do know that the very term 'Wesleyan Quadrilateral' is a 20th century invention and that Wesley no where rights about it as such.  Albert Outler coined the phrase in 1964.  It is very helpful for us to understand a method of theological inquiry, but it is meant to be descriptive of Wesleyan thought, not prescriptive.  Also, you should look back into Wesley's ideas and comments on the authourity of Scripture, namely about inspiration.
        It seems that you believe, mistakenly, that the term 'inerrancy' as used in theology is about interpretation.  This is not true either.  The term 'inerrancy' is used in theology with regards to inspiration, which is a totally different theological concept than interpretation.  The foundation of Wesleyan thought, and Christian thought is revelation.  God;s revelation of Himself to us.  This is of course not limited to the Bible, which is generally called 'Special Revelation', but includes Natural Revelation, and of course the Word made flesh in Jesus.
         Your comments about religion and science being truths of different orders, is a modernist idea.  The bifurcation of the secular and sacred, along with it's comparmentalisation is creation of the age of enlightenment.  The UMC MUST get over modernity.  The only hope we have to speak into a post modern age is to stop being modern, and start being Christian.

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  • Gary Sherman 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand


    am aware that the naming as "Wesleyan Quadrilateral" appeared in
    1964, but a rose by any other name smells as sweet. It is quite irrelevant that
    a label was later given to a concept so important to Wesley and so fundamental to
    Methodism that it is raised up to great prominence in 3 of the 4 sections (101,
    102 and 104) of Methodism's Doctrinal Standards. Wesley is clear, scripture,
    tradition, reason, experience are elemental to Methodism and it is pretty clear
    that he would be forlorn if someone were tell him that his four revered methods
    for pursuit of faith were not recognized as valuable until 1964 when a
    descriptive phraseology, "quadrilateral" was coined.   The label is incidental and beside the point.

    say, "It seems that you believe, mistakenly, that the term 'inerrancy' as
    used in theology is about interpretation. This is not true either. The term
    'inerrancy' is used i n theology with regards to inspiration, which is a totally
    different theological concept than interpretation." Your strident assertion
    about what "inerrancy" means suggests you are unaware that a very
    large segment of Christian layity and Christian clergy roundly disagree with you. It
    is for this reason that many clergy themselves believe, and wish to perpetuate
    the belief, that it is wrong to question the view that it is objectively true
    that the world is less than 10,000 y old and all creatures were created at once
    by divine fiat.  For millions, inerrancy precisely means
    'interpretation' to the majority of Christians, notwithstanding your curious certainty otherwise. We would all benefit if others
    believed as you and I apparently do; that Genesis 1 in inerrant with respect o
    inspiration but not with respect to objective truth about natural history!.

    you say "Your comments about religion and science being truths of different
    orders, is a modernist idea." it may be modernist but it is the official
    stand of my denomination. The UMC-GC's endorsement of the Clergy Letter is
    courageous and clear. That letter makes your very point; scriptural truth is
    bound to the notion of inspiration and not to the interpretation of truth
    about the natural world. Modern is not bad if it reveals greater truth becuase all truth brings us closer to God. That an African American male is
    now 100% a person rather than 3/5ths of a man in America is a monumental good; as is the
    rejection of God's timeless and immutable truth that we should abridge the very right of Gays to live, by executing our homosexual gay brethren, merely for being gay.  Evil is insidious and Wesley's Quadrilateral leads us to greater truths that we must not shy from; it is our our most sacred moral and spiritual obligation to discriminate truth from untruth and good from evil..   

    for your thoughtful input!

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  • ColtsFan254 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

       I have read many of your comments on various articles and appreciate your heart felt comments.  I often disagree with you, but I do enjoy the way you are able to articulate yourself, and your love for the church is always obvious.
         I am not the youngest person in the church by any stretch, but I as I stated before I am 35, which rates me fairly young for a UMC member.  Most people who grew up with me in the UMC are still in church, but most go to Bible Churches which are far more conservative than the UMC.  I believe the Bible is the Word of God.  I believe, as did Wesley that in the Bible God reveals Himself to us, which means I do not worship the Bible, but I do believe the Bible, because it is from God.  Perhaps your view of the Bible is different.  It would seem to be.  It is not however the historic, or even Wesleyan view of the Bible.  Wesley had a desire to be a man of one book, and exhorted Christians to read it in the context of the historic understandings in the church.

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  • hfschwarzmann 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    GREAT to have this concept out front and on the table.... we as church have the evolving insight and 21st century to grapple with the mystery of science and theology and be on the cutting edge  being rational  and not a slave to dogma and literalistic ideas and concepts that lock God into a book or mind set.  We need to be honest about the challenges we face and be up front and honest about our evolving understandings as well as "what we do not know " or think we have certainity about nature and the big story that we and all people are a part of--- what science validates and what or  how we deceive ourselves. Yes let us grow up and be humble  and honest.    

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  • Gary Sherman 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Dear hfschwarzmannm

    Well summarized!  I appreciate your focus on our need to honest and unafraid in our quest for truth.
    Best --Gary

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  • fromindus 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    "The Language of God" by Francis Collins is a book we all should read.  He presents religion and science in a very understandable way with--no conflict.  Being director of the Human Genone Project which identified all of the genes in the human body led him to an even greater worship of our Creator God.  He states that when religion denies scientific truths it is as damaging to our world as science that denies a Creator.  

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  • Gary Sherman 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Dear fromindus,
    Thank you for this insight and reference to Francis Collins' book, "The Language of God."  A few years ago, Dr Colllins spoke at our church in Maryland, to a packed house.  At the same time as he presented compelling evidence demonstrating the veracity of scientific evolution of all species (including man), he explained why he is also a devout Chrisitan.  His warning about the great damage caused by relgion denying scientific truth should be heeded far and wide and the unrtoward negative consequences to our youth should not be underestimated.  Best --Gary

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  • Jeff Pospisil 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    How will this help attract young folk?  Above we are told that the ELCA, UCC, and PC-USA have decided to accept evolution.  I don't think any of these denominations are having success in reaching young people.  The same is said about changing the stance on homosexuality.  Which denominations tend to have a higher percentage of young folk?  Isn't it the conservative ones like Assembly of God?  

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  • Gary Sherman 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand


    perspectives I and others present are relatively new in religious history. If
    the strategy proposed were instituted today it could be years before the
    demographic shift in youth participation, and declines in attrition, would
    become apparent. The momentum of fundamental/dogmatic thinking within
    Christianity is enormous and so for that supership to make the turn it needs
    to, knowing as well that there will be antagonistic elements grabbing at the
    ships wheel to prevent the turn from ever occurring, one must expect the change
    of course to be very slow and meandering. "Better late than never" and
    "We didn't plan to fail, but failed to plan" come to mind as relevant
    to the unhappy future of the segments of Christianity that don’t heed the evidence
    now before them. Religion strangled by dogma will stagnate. Scientific
    truths will, by contrast, continue to accumulate and just as even fundamentalists
    now accept that sun is at the center of our solar system, future fundamentalist
    Christians will relent to the truth of scientific evolution. In the mean time I
    shudder to think how many young people will have rolled their eyes and rejected
    pathways to spiritual fulfillment because their spiritual leaders undercut
    their faith's credibility by encouraging them to believe in what either makes
    no sense to them, or they know is false. Its never too late and Methodsim's official
    endorsement of the Clergy Letter Project is an extremely important and courageous first step.
      Best regards.

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  • Michael Chance 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    I'm sorry, but I fail to see how replacing Biblical belief with radical secular Darwinism is advancing the idea that religion and science are compatible.  All it does is promote the idea that "religion" is just quaint and old fashioned, while science is "real" and "true".

    Instead of treating the Creation story as just a cute kid's Sunday school tale, how about giving real information about the advances in science made by various well known Christians, even thoughout the "dark ages", and the continuing accomplishments of modern scientists who didn't have to abandon their faith to pursue their vocation.

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  • Gary Sherman 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand


    aim is not to replace one with the other, it is to undo the misunderstanding
    caused by persistent confusion about the “orders of truth” science and religion
    address, and thereby form a great partnership. 
    The UMC has officially endorsed the Clergy Letter which says in part “Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the
    Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God,
    human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation
    expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation
    to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth.
    Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts. “  The critical key to successful harmonization between
    and synergy of science and theology is to teach mutual respect for objective
    truth-seeking in the natural world (the realm of science) and subjective truth-seeking
    that nurtures and guides the soul toward peace and salvation in the spiritual
    world (the realm of religion.)  Many young
    people will respect the honesty of those who clarify truths rather than obscure
    them with circular, inexplicit, and mysterious explanations.  They will recognize the honesty and respond
    well to it.  Conversely dressing subjective
    truth up as objective truth and vice versa will repel a good number.  Many of these young folk will leave the
    church entirely, or stay in weakened affiliation with the diluted conviction
    that comes from knowing the over-reaching declaration of the absolute
    reliability of scripture beyond the realm of subject truth (within which religion has
    rightful dominion) and into a realm of objective truth about the natural world,
    cannot be justified by either reason or ample verified evidence to the contrary.  Thanks for your comments.  Gary 

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  • crodenberg 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    There has been a change in the creation/evolution argument in the last 60 years with a lot of new findings in the last 10 years. Evolution is not scientific fact and violates the laws of science. As the atheist Sir Fred Hoyle said the probability of evolution is equal to a tornado blowing through a scrap yard and producing a 747 airplane. All pastors should be required to read BIBLICAL CREATIONISM by Dr. Henry Morris. I also recommend the book by Dr. Walt Brown, who has a PhD from MIT, IN THE BEGINNING.
    I have submitted a resolution to the General Conference to return to the 2000 resolution that stated we should support both creation and evolution and let our young people study all sides of the question. Personally after 60 years of study of the question I as a PhD in aerospace engineering am convinced that evolution is completely impossible and believe the young earth theory of creation science. Evidence is building in the last ten years of discoveries such as carbon 14 in diamonds, coal, oil and gas. If they were millions of years old there would be none. If they are a few thousand years old there would be some left.

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  • Frank Brown, Counselor, educator, pastor...30 years in various private and public sector positions..graduate degrees from private (UPenn) and public (Rutgers) Ivy League universities...most fulfilled by being a husband (25 years) and father (12 years) 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    Highly-trained scientists like Dr. Sherman work for the Institute for Creation Research (http://www.icr.org) and Answers In Genesis (http://www.aig.org). They would respectfully disagree with Dr. Sherman that evolution is established scientific fact. That a pope other religious leaders have issued statements to the effect that "religion is not at odds with evolution" does not mean much in that such leaders have also stated at various times throughout history such "verities" as "marriage of people whose skin colors differ is ungodly" and "payments to the church will result in freeing a soul from purgatory."  I have met many young people who are glad to hear a Christian say, "Evolution may have been God's way of creating life on earth, but then again, he is God, and I suppose he could have have done it any way he chose." We would do well to remember that he is God--we are not.

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  • Gary Sherman 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Mr Brown,

    you for your comments. Let me first make it clear that one reading of your first
    sentence could suggest to some readers that either I or scientists with
    training qualitatively similar to mine, work at the ICR. I of course have no
    connection to the ICR and I can say that not a single scientist I know works in
    an oft-labeled pseudo-science environment like the ICR.  I appreciate that your reference of similarity
    was probably limited to an assumed comparable credentials list but I just
    wanted to be certain your allusion was properly interpreted.  Evidence for the extent of abrogation of the principles
    of science and genuine scientific scholarship at the ICR is too voluminous to
    review or even list here but I encourage the reader to review at least the “scientific
    criticism” subsection within the following link.  As I appreciate criticism of those who would dare
    cite Wikipedia (especially a scientist such as myself), I humbly plead guilty but
    ask for lenience based on space limitations of the present format, and my
    assurance that I reviewed many of the seminal citations given in the article
    and they are legitimate and accurately interpreted. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I....  Evidence suggests that disregard for
    scientific principles is regularly and systematically practiced at the ICR, and
    for this reason even old earth creationists distanced themselves from the
    ICR.  Enough said!

    regard to the credentials of the Pope and other mainstream religious leaders and
    institutions (held by most in high regard) that I cited and to which you took
    exception, I refer with reverence and due respect to them as non-fringe sources
    worthy of our attention and serious consideration, not as infallible
    sources.  I won’t venture to expound upon
    the relative gravitas of the resources I used to support my proposition, as
    compared to the extreme fringe ‘researchers’ cited to make your points.

    point is excellent about youth accepting evolution occurring as scientists have
    theorized, while also believing the process was put into motion by God.  This would be a huge step toward reconciliation
    around many important aspects of ultimate truths relating to creation.  But this disregards that over 60% of
    Americans believe it is (or is likely) objectively true that the earth is less
    than 10,000y old and that all life appeared at once by divine fiat.  Let’s tackle this grand challenge to knowable
    objective truth first and not pretend that this overreach of Christian dogma is
    not at the very crux of the unfair dichotomy of truth claims presented to a religiously
    and scientifically well-educated young person. 
    That child becomes a victim of a moral crime if her religion subverts
    the objective truth about gradual evolution of life forms and replaces it with
    metaphor and symbolism religion disguised as objective truth.  t\Teach her that Genesis 1 offers subjective truth, however, define
    that term for her, and she will have a rationale that makes sense, and reasons
    to continue to embrace and benefit from both religion and science.  Whether random or non-random (God-guided) mutations
    and selective forces drove evolution to the biosphere’s current wondrous state
    are addressable by science too.  But let’s
    take this big issue one step at a time; for now let’s make headway where we
    should easily be able to do so.  If we can
    clarify rather than obscure orders of truth for our young people, we will have done something
    very special, and even transformative.
    Best reagrds,  Gary, (BSVM, MS, DVM, PhD since credentials were at issue)           

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  • ColtsFan254 7 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    I am a 35 year old elder in the UMC.  I guess I am no longer a young person having just eclipsed the 35 orbits around the sun mark.  I do not believe in the Theory of Evolution.  In fact, there is no being a Christian and believing in the Theory of Evolution.  The Theory of Evolution holds that all life is a cosmic accident.  Life exists due to complex chains of cause and effect, which were and are random.  Life began as an accident when conditions just happened to be right.  Speciation has occurred due to random mutations in genetic code that has no purpose or designated motive.
        This idea that life is a cosmic accident is what the Theory of Evolution puts forth.  This is in direct conflict with the idea that all life on earth, in fact all that exists was created with a purpose and by design by God.  These two are mutually exclusive thoughts.  The universe cannot be both completely random and designed by God.  This is a logical impossibility.
         Your article mentions that the Theory of Evolution is upheld by two of the four tenants of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.  This argument is just not correct.  It belies logic, and it clearly undermines Scripture which is the foundation of the quadrilateral.  Clearly it is not a controversial statement to say that Christians believe that God created the universe (identifying the mechanisms by which God created is another matter).  The Theory of Evolution rules out a Creator God.
        Where I believe the Church can have it's greatest hour is to talk about the 'whys' of Creation, rather that the 'hows.'  Galileo the noted Christian and Scientist stated his belief that 'the Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.'  I subscribe to this line of thinking.  It isn't anti-science at all.  What I do believe we should do as Christians is to once again rightly recognise the role of Theology (which is a science) to it's rightful place as the 'Queen of the Sciences' as it was historically.  This means that we view all scientific discovery through the lens of Theology. 
         Please note, I am in one way dismissing speciation, or evolution (macro or micro) as being incompatible with Christianity.  What I am doing is saying that the Theory of Evolution as it exists today lies outside the possibility of Christian belief.

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  • G Sherm 6 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    Or maybe our god is just so great that he created a world where he didn't have to break it's rules to create life. Does it make sense for God to create a world where he would have to keep going back and breaking his own rules to do things like create life? I personally believe that God is a bit smarter than that. Don't you?

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    (Edited by a moderator)

  • Gary Sherman 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Note to all, G Sherm is not me, the author (Gary Sherman)

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  • ColtsFan254 4 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    I guess I am not understanding what you mean by 'break it's rules.'  If God is in fact the Creator didn't He create the 'rules'?  I would agree whole heartedly that there are Scientific Laws.  I believe in the scientific method of experimentation, and gaining understanding through that process.
       What I simply do not understand, is a church which replaces God as Creator, with a secular Theory in which God has no place.  Christianity has always taught that God is our Creator, and that God is the Creator of all things.  The Theory of Evolution contradicts that very basic of Christian understandings.  I believe that deep discussion of 'how' God has Created is a wonderful discussion to have.  I believe we should use all sciences, biology, physics, chemistry, etc, to better understand the world God has created.  That is not being anti science.  It is being anti secular. 

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  • LRYoung 3 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    Without getting into a technical debate, I dont ever remember reading, learning, or even teaching  that evolution is a "cosmic accident", in fact, evolution is a response to changes within the environment - evolution is the adaptation of the flu virus to vaccines in its simpliest form. Evolution does not mean to replace, or even make more complicated - it means to adapt - while still maintaining just in less frequency certain traits and characteristics that are less suited for that given environment and time period, while allowing for more suited traits to flourish and develop. Its not about building the perfect species, just one that can survive. I am not sure how that goes against the story of creation? Every living thing responds to changes within the environment... the vehicle of responce is evolution.

    As I work with and read about young adults, what they are looking for is the ability to question, synthesize, and develop their own understandings of science and faith and not to be told what to believe. Its the "telling" part that turns off many youth and young adults - they are a generation of free-thinking, spirtual people and the real question is how do we embrace that? At my church we have a little saying that we worship in a 19th century-style church with a 20th century mind-set and aged congregation trying to exist in the 21st century and reach a 21st century generation(s).

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  • LRYoung 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand


    Thank you for that additional clarification. For me, I see God's hand in and through out evolution - having not created life as never changing and static, but having creating life able to adapt and change and evolve, being fluid. In those terms, God is still present within the process of evolution and is always present through time. I don't think it's a matter of science saying yes God is real, and I don't think it's a matter of religion saying evolution is real - I think its a matter of accepting that God has the ability to have created life processes with ability to respond and change. Science doesn't seek to answer the question of "Who" only "How", and Religion /Faith doesn't seek to explain "How" only "Who" and yes maybe "Why"... two very different disciplines seeking clarity on the same topic through two very different methods of study, but that doesn't mean they don't agree or that they can't coexist within the same arena... Religion is saying who is directing evolution while science is providing the how it is happening, complimenting one another.

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  • ColtsFan254 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

       I attempted to be as careful as I could in both of my previous posts about a clarification between the mechanism or process of evolution (evolving), and the Theory of Evolution as commonly taught.  I do not disagree with you that organisms adapt and change over time.  That is what I meant by us having a discussion about the mechanisms by which God created is a great discussion to have.  What I have a real problem with, is not so much a scientific problem as a philosophical one.  If we are to buy into the idea of random mutation coupled with natural selection, then we are in essence washing the hand of God out of the process of creation.  If genes mutate at random (or even through environmental or other external factors of natural origin), and those random mutations are then incorporated into the gene pool based on natural selection, then where is the room for God?
        Science has no ability to comment on or test for the supernatural.  A God who exists outside of space and time is simply inconceivable to science.  Not that scientists can't or don't believe, but because a transcendent God is beyond the scope of science.  Could or can God work through the process of gene mutation, and selection for adaption for the ever evolving nature of all organisms?  The answer, from a Christian perspective, is a resounding yes.  The only problem is that the Theory of Evolution has no room to allow for a God who acts upon the natural world for the purpose of creation.  Rather the physical world is all that exists, and therefore every action in the universe has a wholly natural explanation.
        As Christians we offer a supernatural explanation for the motivation behind creation.  there is simply no room for that with the current state of secular science.

       Now as to the idea that young people want the ability to think and question, I agree with you entirely.  I do believe that they are indeed hungry to learn and hear from the historic faith of the church as well.  I am the pastor of a church where the average age is less than 40.  We worship about 250 a Sunday, so in the UMC we are by no means a small congregation.  We are made up of people from all walks of life, and have people from a Catholic to Bible Church upbringing, to people who have never stepped foot in a church before.  We seek to be open and honest about our inquiries, but also want to reach out and embrace Christian belief as we have received it.  We do things like study the Spiritual Disciplines, the Creeds and catechisms of the Church, and even have a small group about to study the Order of Benedict. 
        There are ways for the UMC to move into the post modern world without abandoning our Christian heritage.  We did indeed become far too modernist.  At our Church we seek to follow Christ above modernity and post modernity.

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  • BillClute 3 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    "To deny evolution is simply anti-science"

    You need to be more specific.  When you say evolution what are you referring to?  Are you simply referring to changes over time or are you referring to a Darwinistic, evolution by means of random mutation/natural selection, or are you referring to some form of theistic evolution (i.e. it is guided by God)?

    If you're referring to the first option then, yes, it seems indisputable that organisms experience change over time, often referred to as micro evolution.

    If you're referring to evolution by means of random mutation/natural selection (Darwinism) then the case is far from closed.  It's a huge extrapolation to go from the empirical evidence for micro evolution to a conclusion that it is the factual explanation for the origin of the species.  By the way, for the theist that goes this route it would seem to lead to deism since God would not be involved, which is not consistent with the idea of a God that is personally involved in the universe as we United Methodist Christians believe.

    If you're referring to a form of theistic evolution where God guides it, instead of random mutation, then you aren't arguing for what the so-called scientific experts argue for.

    So, before stating that denial of evolution is anti-science please clarify what you mean by evolution.

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  • Gary Sherman 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    Bill(?) thanks for your very thoughtful and informed
    comments.  You make a good point and my
    only defense is that it is hard to write to a lay audience in a limited space
    and address all the great finer perspectives you are obviously conversant with.

    What I mean by evolution in the context of my article is what
    it is understood to be modern evolutionary theory in virtually every biology
    class, every genetics or evolution class and every life science laboratory. It
    is beautifully described in the free National Academies of Science (NAS) report
    entitled Science, Evolution, and Creationism (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php...
    ) I suppose this most closely aligns with the option you describe as referring to evolution by
    means of random mutation/natural selection (Darwinism; though) where you also
    go on to say that the case is far from closed because it is a huge extrapolation
    to go from the empirical evidence for micro evolution to a conclusion that it
    is the factual explanation for the origin of the species.  I appreciate the caution you make about
    extrapolation in science (it can be abused) but the NAS report explains so very
    well why it is no longer the huge extrapolation most lay folk assume it to be.  It is now more akin to extrapolating the
    existence and approximate magnitude of gravitational forces on Pluto and
    feeling comfortable that there is high validity to the extrapolations despite
    no one measuring it directly.  I would
    also encourage you to review this link about MSU scientist, Dr Richard Lenski,
    who most agree has conducted the first definitive documentation of speciation
    (in bacteria; http://scienceblogs.com/loom/2...
    fascinating story!  Search the web for
    evidence of speciation and you will be impressed with the weight of the
    evidence that it is occurring as we speak but does not raise a flag to draw
    scientist’s attention (and there are too few of us!).  We now have a
    good handle on random mutation rates and these rates of mutation fit very nicely
    with accumulated sequence differences between species such as chimp and human
    which exhibit just a couple of percent disparity in DNA code.  Astronomy, Physics, Geology, Paleontology,
    genetics and anatomical and molecular biology all point to the same truths and
    this concordance is incredibly powerful evidence that Geneis-1 is devoid of
    prophetic truth about objective reality. 
    I have sequenced DNA of equids (horses, zebra and donkeys), cattle
    (European and asian species) and the 5 extant rhino species (Black, White,
    Indian, Javan and Sumatran) to name just a few. 
    One need not spend much time in comparative genomics to appreciate that
    random mutation, given geological time spans and predictable differential
    selective forces, constitute more than enough time and spontaneous genetic
    variation events to produce new species. 
    We see and understand all the fundamental (if not all the finer)
    component steps; they are well defined by repeatable experimentation and in
    most cases even quantified where applicable. 
    Just because we have only understood the process for a half a century,
    and have short life spans ourselves (relative to the time scales of evolution)
    that prevent us from easily witnessing a rare event (speciation), doesn’t mean
    we can’t confidently infer validity of the mountains of evicence telling us that it does occur.  We
    don’t call it a huge extrapolation to walk a mile and a half in a direction we
    have never walked, but have studied extensively and up close in segments, if
    we already know we can easily walk a mile along a different familiar path.

    It would be a big step for
    Christianity to admit just a few of the most certain aspects of evolutionary
    theory: that life evolved gradually from simple to more complex life forms over
    vast periods of time (100s of millions of years and certainly NOT a few
    thousand years); that man like all life forms evolved from close common
    ancestors (hence only a few percent DNA sequence difference with primates) and
    from more distant (in time) common mammalian ancestor, thus a marginally
    greater percent DNA dissimilariy (~15%; but still 85% identical!) with dogs and
    cattle, and so on to more distant common ancestry with reptiles/birds.
    amphibians and fruit flies, and correspondingly greater differences in DNA
    homology.  These are among the most
    robust precepts of modern scientific evolution that are not seriously doubted
    by the VAST majority of Christian life-scientists (including Francis Collins
    *Evangelical Christian, Director of NIH), much less non-Christian scientists.  What remains in doubt is marginal to the
    theory; the core precepts of scientific evolution are in the same realm as the
    theory of heliocentrism of our solar system and the theory of gravitation.  Both are indirectly measured but their
    validity is not questioned.

    It would be an important step
    to get about 150 million Americans who are young earth creationists to understand
    the Genesis 1 may appear to be presented as science and not
    an accurate representation of objective truths about the natural history of our
    world.  Rather the Genesis creation story
    offers metaphoric and symbolic messages that inform subjective truth and speak
    to the heart.  If we get to a place where
    there is general understanding that evolution has occurred gradually over immense
    spans of time, great progress will have been made. Then a serious discussion can ensue
    concerning evidence for the hand of God in guiding evolution.  But first steps first!

    Thanks again for your
    comments and I hope you will take a look at the NAS report.


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  • BillClute 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Thank you for the clarification.  I suspected that Darwinism is what you were referring to, as it is what is commonly meant by "evolution" but on a subject like this it is important to not generalize too much.  I see from your reply that you're aware that this isn't simply a discussion of science vs. theology.  There are many distinctions that need to be made such as the definition of evolution that we have discussed but also what is meant by creation.  Just as evolution typically means Darwinisim, creationism typically means young earth creationism (YEC).  But that would exclude many that fall into the old earth creationist camp - people that believe God directed creation, some even accepting the bulk of evolution theory, excluding only the part about it being random (e.g. Dr. Michael Behe who is typically scoffed and demonized by the Darwinists).  When you really think about it, science is the study of cause and effect and if science concludes something to be random it has not come to a scientific conclusion but a philosophical one because random, by it's very nature is not something that can be fully tested.  When something appears to be random the scientist typically assumes that they do not have all the information and search further....except with Darwinism, where they decide to stop searching for the cause.

    I will look at the NAS report that you provided but I will also ask you to take some time to watch this debate at http://rfmedia.org/av/video/is... between William Lane Craig and Francisco Ayala.  Dr. Ayala is a well respected Evolutionary Biologist, and a Christian.  Dr. Craig is a well respected Christian Philosopher and theologian.  Dr. Craig is not arguing for creationism but his main point is that no evidence has been provided to justify the huge extrapolation from microevolution to macroevolution.  He even provides some evidence that points against random mutation/natural selection having the ability to explain the origin of the species.  Dr. Ayala, who knows evolutionary theory as well as anyone, asserts that there is plenty of evidence but fails to provide any.  I have searched for this evidence Dr. Ayala could not provide.  I have read some work by prominent evolutionists such as Coyne and Dawkins and have not found them providing the answer either.

    I agree that truth is what we are after but we need to make sure we understand what the argument is about and what the assertions are before declaring some blanket idea as "truth".

    In a Barna study a few years prior to the one you cited, it was shown that young people were leaving the church, basically, because we teach them that Christianity is true but don't teach them why.  They are not prepared to defend the faith when confronted with a college professor that claims that science has shown that there is no place for God or that God is a fairy tale, etc.  Unable to defend against these claims they leave the church, finding it to be irrelevant.  We, the church, are failing at preparing our youth....and it's not just the youth that are hurting but the majority of Sunday pew warmers are unable to defend the faith - to show how science, philosophy and history point to the truth of Christianity.


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  • Donnie T 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand

    Yet another John 16:3 moment. We need these young people like we need a hole in the head. If the UMC was Christian at all we'd purge them for our ranks, but instead we're siding with Godless scientists? Typical.

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  • Gary Sherman 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand

    Donnie T, 
    The enlightened religion, and the worthy Christian embrace and celebrate truth because God is, among other things, Truth.  Inspired by Jesus' example, the UMC gracefully offers (unlike yourself it would seem) the gift of open hearts, open minds and open doors to all people. Purging in disgust is not compatible with what Methodism esposes or Jesus teaches.  I encourage you to reverently and honestly seek truth (and therfore God), and to be more generous in your acceptance of others.  Best regards, Gary  

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