Dr. Stephen J. Godfrey
We have undertaken this project in part for our own benefit, to record our intellectual pilgrimages from a young-earth creationist position to a place where we recognize that scientific observations and interpretations do not need to be accepted or rejected based on their conformity to a literal interpretation of Genesis. But we have also written for the benefit of others. We trust that this work will act a as stimulus to many who are asking how they should understand the Genesis account of creation in the light of more than 300 years of geological, biological, and astronomical data.
Our goal in this effort has been to show how each of us moved from a young-earth model of natural history and a literalist interpretation of Genesis to an ancient-universe model and a historical-contextual interpretation of Genesis. We believe that the evidence preserved in the fossil record demands conclusions that are at odds with the notion that the earth is young and that life has not changed substantially over time. Although it might seem to some, especially those who are now where we began, that we are trying to undermine Christianity, this was never our purpose. We have rather sought only to refute ideas and expectations that have no basis in reality.
Some of our readers may be among those who have rejected the claims of Christianity because the Bible’s cosmology appears to have no basis in reality, and who have therefore concluded that its moral and “religious” claims can also be rejected. Such people should consider, however, that if the account of creation in Genesis need not be understood as a literal description of actual processes, and need not be read with scientific expectations, then the moral message of the Bible may remain valid and applicable to everyone today, regardless of their scientific understanding.
There are many questions relating to the history of life on this planet for which we have no answer. This will not invalidate most of our observations. As a scientist, I am allowed to be wrong. It is the nature of the endeavor. However, as we contemplate the young-earth creationist literature, we recognize that within their paradigm, it is not possible for them to allow that they might be wrong on any particulars. This being the case, it is also not possible to effect change, to transform their paradigm into a dynamic, learning, growing one. How can this be? Their inerrant view of their paradigm is based on a selectively literalistic interpretation of Genesis. They make the claim that their interpretation is inerrant because the Bible is also inerrant. I know this from personal experience. Young-earthers believe that their interpretation must be free of error. But this is a very risky position. If the trustworthiness of the rest of the Bible depends on speculations which cannot ultimately be vindicated, sooner or later, you will have a rather unpleasant and rude awakening. I found my back got too sore bending over backwards trying to accommodate or deny new and existing evidence, or fearing potentially condemning discoveries. I have told you here how I finally began to walk upright.
Our desire is that you will be able to make an informed rational choice, not one based on emotion, lack of knowledge, or confusion. We hope that you will realize, as we have, that it’s time to stop trying to put the square peg into the round hole.
Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith
“Where did I come from?” “Where am I going?” “Why am I here?” All of us ask these questions about our ultimate origin, ultimate destiny, and ultimate purpose because we seek to have meaning in our lives. Since these questions ask not just how things are, but why things are the way they are, they cannot be answered simply by observation and reasoned reflection. To answer them, we must move into the realm of faith.
This book tells how its two authors initially went about answering the first question—“Where did I come from?”—through one kind of faith response: accepting and believing the teachings of one particular part of the Christian community. At the same time, they went about answering the third question—“Why am I here?”—through a different kind of faith response: stirring up the gifts that God had placed within them. At a crucial point in each of their pilgrimages of faith, they had to admit that the answers they were finding via the second route had come into hopeless conflict with those they had received by the first route. Although it felt as if they were abandoning their faith, as a step of faith they began to trust the fruits of the vocations to which God had called them, rather than the dogmatic pronouncements that had always provided such security up to that point. The end result has been to trade security for adventure in a continuing life of faith.
One theme that emerges in the following pages is that supernatural results may come through what seem like “natural” processes. Several interconnected examples of this phenomenon are described in this book, but taken as a whole, it provides another example. Where cosmological affirmation and speculation failed to provide a solid grounding for a life with meaning, the slow, patient process of growing into our callings is succeeding. We’re still growing. But these are the results to date.