room, but he disagrees for more than simply religious reasons. He
incorporates creationism into science class to help his students
develop critical thinking skills, to consider the biases in various
“Even when you’re only teaching data in the schools, there’s
always an underlying assumption with it, an interpretation,” says
Herbert, who holds a PhD from the Ontario Institute for Studies in
Education (OISE) and has authored the biography Charles Darwin’s
Religious Views: From Creationist to Evolutionist
(Sola Scriptura, 2009).
It’s hard for Christians to avoid the conclusion,
despite various levels of hesitation about evolutionary theory, that youth need to learn about it in school
– at least to be better prepared to face what lies
ahead in the broader world, if not at university.
Gary Chiang helps university students with just
those issues in his job as adjunct professor of biology at Redeemer University College.
His approach is similar to Herbert’s: Chiang stresses the difference between the value-neutral aspects of scientific theories and
the conclusions people draw from them, which are shaped by beliefs and assumptions. Absolutely everyone brings their “religious
views” to the table, says Chiang, who authored Rescuing Science
from Preconceived Beliefs (Doorway Publications, 2009).
“The evolutionist sees evolution in organisms reproducing,
while the creationist believes that biological reproductive mech-
anisms prevent one species from evolving into another.”
By engaging in rhetoric, neither proponent develops an under-
standing for the foundation of their differences and “the facts are
seen to support evolution or creationism once the mind has been
trained to accept either worldview,” Chiang says.
versity biology class,” he asserts. [Some Christian] students see the
science and say ‘I’ve been lied to.’ ”
Fears about teaching evolution are misplaced and counter-
productive, Venema asserts. Given Christianity’s venerable and
robust history, Evangelicals should not be so worried that faith will
be destroyed by claims that “observable natural processes, like
heredity or evolution, are part of the providence of God.
“Calling something natural does not somehow pit it against God
or Christianity. God is the Author of nature and
the supernatural,” Venema says. When Christian
youth are introduced to the variety of ideas rightly
and early on, their faith will not be shaken even by
any radically new future scientific discoveries.
Venema, who considers himself an evolutionary creationist, accepts that “God has revealed
Himself through nature as well as through Scripture. I have a personal experience of the Holy Spirit, and feel that what we find in nature is revelation
of God. These ways of knowing are complementary.”
The terminology can be a challenge, he admits. “I prefer ‘evo-
lutionary creationism’ to ‘theistic evolution’ because it puts the
emphasis on God as Creator through a providential evolutionary
process. We see His glory in the complexity of nature. Why is it so
hard to accept that God used evolution as His creative method,
which is ultimately and completely dependent on Him? Or that
through an ordained natural process we are still fearfully and won-
Combating atheist claims is as simple as sticking with science:
“Atheism is a philosophical position not mandated by any scien-
tific theory,” says Venema. “Science deals only with the natural
world. The existence of God is supernatural, or above nature. So
evolution can’t disprove God in that sense.”
is there and
But those facts that seem to point to evolution have to be
dealt with, says Dennis Venema, who teaches genetics at Trinity
Western University. “The church is needlessly setting up students
for a crisis of faith” by avoiding evolution or offering superficial
dismissals of it, he says.
Most “anti-evolutionary arguments won’t last through one uni-
A Challenge to Faith?
The intensity of the debate, and perhaps a lack of sophistication
in understanding the relative roles of faith and science, has many
Christian students living in a “cognitive dissonant state,” says Alberta biology professor Denis Lamoureux. If they’re raised with an
evangelical faith but are unprepared about these issues, some can
Evolutionary Creation or Theistic
Evolution: Theory that God worked
with natural processes including evolution to create life. God’s activity is
typically seen as progressive in time,
and potentially understandable in
terms of cause-and-effect sequences
of physical or historical events.
old Earth Creationism, day/Age
Theory or Progressive Creation-
What do you Call That?
ism: Theory that God’s direct role
in creation consisted of separate
creative acts spread out over several
billion years of time. The “six days”
of creation explained in geological
eras (vast time spans) as opposed to
24-hour instalments. Earth may be
four billion years old. Living things
were created over millions of years (or
some say in much less time).
Gap Theory of Creationism: Proposes a
significant gap of time between the be-
ginning of the cosmos and the Garden
of Eden. Genesis 1: 2 and Jeremiah