The first sentence in the Bible mentions the origin of the universe. The fifth word in English is “created,” translated from the Hebrew word “בּרא” pronounced “baw-raw.” Another way to describe the meaning of “baw-raw” is with the words “shape” or “fashion.” The account of origins in Genesis 1 uses “baw-raw” four more times. The second occurrence describes the creation of living creatures, and the following three uses describe the creation of humans. If the first verses of our sacred scripture outlines God’s creative ability to shape/fashion the universe and all life in it — including humanity — it must be important to understand this concept as we interpret subsequent chapters and books. Our faith in a creative God is part of the Vineyard Movement’s “Main” and “Plain” approach.
If you contrast the above approach with the educational system in the United States, where public schools are mandated to teach evolution and concepts of origins that are void of the supernatural, you might wonder, “How do we, as youth workers, help our students wrestle with opposing naturalistic and super-naturalistic concepts?”
Pope Paul VI stated that, “if methodical investigation within every branch of learning is carried out in a genuinely scientific manner and in accord with moral norms, it never truly conflicts with faith.”
If this statement by Pope Paul VI is accurate, then any conflict related to the origins of creation is not between science and faith. Instead, I see the conflict in question to be two fold. First, no one has the ability to observe, test, replicate, and verify precisely how the universe and life’s diversity came into being. Only large assumptions and inferences can be made, and hard empirical data is unable to be acquired. Because explanations regarding origins cannot be tested empirically, they are not science. Second, some Christ-followers view the Bible as moldable and inclusive of the latest inference-based assumptions and explanations to origins. I believe the contention comes from the confusing of faith for science and science for faith.
Some friends in the camp that subscribe to creationism erroneously claim the Genesis account outlines a scientific age of the Earth, and they deny any empirical data that suggests otherwise. Other friends, subscribers of evolution and/or naturalistic explanations of origins, claim energy, matter, life, and new species emerging from nothing to be science. There is a third camp of theistic evolutionists that confusingly subscribe to both naturalistic and super-naturalistic camps by claiming the latest inference-based assumptions/explanations of origins to be real science, while describing the Bible as a collection of anecdotal stories that may or may not necessarily be true. This third belief system perpetuates an illogical and inconsistent blending of naturalistic and super-naturalistic explanations.
When it comes to the topic of origins and what we teach the youth of the Vineyard, we must not “throw the baby out with the bathwater” by abandoning the Bible for the false science of inference and assumption. I encourage us to subscribe to assumption- and inference- free science that can be observed, tested, replicated, and verified. Let us be obedient also to God’s truth revealed in the Bible and acknowledge that it is “by faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command” Hebrews 11:3 (NIV).
The approach I suggest plays out beautifully in many aspects of faith and science. For example, the Genesis 1 account of our creation is the first place where major conflict arises. We read in the Bible that God created the first humans male and female, called Adam and Eve. Many in the naturalistic and theistic evolutionary camps question this statement to be an actuality, yet true science never conflicts with faith.
Mitochondrial DNA essentially is identical in all humans. Mitochondrial DNA does not undergo random sampling like the DNA found in the nucleus, which is a random combination of male and female DNA via sexual reproduction. Scientifically speaking there is no need to “believe” in Adam and Eve, because genetically speaking we can prove their existence. If all humans inherit mitochondrial DNA from their biological mother, a “first mother” with this mtDNA must have been. This first mother could not have become a mother without a male sexual partner, the “first father.” The issue of calling the biblical account of Adam and Eve accurate or not must not be between faith and science, because the contention with Adam and Eve is not if a first pair of humans existed or if this first pair were male and female.
As youth workers, if we could stop giving incomplete answers and dive deep into both scripture and the true science of empirical methodology, things from the origins of the universe to all the diverse life of today can be harmoniously understood both by faith and by science; conflict and contention will be no more!