Should Christian colleges teach evolution?

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

So my dad just returned from the International Forum on Higher Education for the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities held in Atlanta, where the hot topic of the week was teaching evolution in Christian colleges.Francis Collins, author of The Language of God and founder of theBioLogos Foundation, spoke at the conference, urging professors and administrators to beware of placing students in the position of having to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith.

I think it’s important for Christian colleges to transition into teaching evolution (both micro and macro, if you make a distinction) for a few reasons:

1) The scientific data in support of evolutionary theory and an old earth is overwhelming and sound.  Scientists continue to make testable predictions based on the theory, and 99 percent of the scientific community embraces it.  Graduates entering any field of scientific study without a proper understanding of evolution will be severely crippled.

2) I fear that if Christian institutions continue to teach young earth creationism, they will render themselves irrelevant in the marketplace of ideas.  This only perpetuates the myth that religion and science are at odds, and that one has to choose between faith and reason. 

3) Biblical scholarship relating the creation account of Genesis and ancient Near Eastern cosmology continues to become more accessible to the average reader, so Christian university students are in a great position to learn from Bible professors why a literal, scientific reading of Genesis 1 and 2 need not be a fundamental element of the Christian faith. (The Lost World of Genesis One by John Walton would be great required reading for Christian college students.)

4) College is just about the best environment in which to wrestle with tough ideas and learn to think critically about your faith. Trying to “protect” Christian students by not exposing them to the science of evolution will only cause them harm in the long run. I can personally testify to the fact that, if evolution is presented to college students as being incompatible with their Christian faith, there is a good chance that many of those students will walk away from their faith later on in life, having been presented with a dangerous false dichotomy.

What do you think? Should evolution be taught in Christian colleges? Should both old earth and young earth models be presented, or are academic institutions obligated to stick with established science?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this controversial issue!

[For more on the science, see "Eight Reasons to Give Evolution A Second Chance"]

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