“What is your major?” a polite, but confronting woman asked me over the phone.
I held the receiver to my ear as I sat in a room full of several peers who attended my conservative Christian college. We were cold-calling alumni and doing are best to squeeze money out of the them. I hated it, but the job paid for my books.
“Chemistry,” I stated.
“So you’re a scientist,” she declared, more convinced of it than I.
“Yes, I suppose,” I conceded.
“Then tell me – do you believe in creation or evolution or both? You must have an opinion,” she accused me.
“Um. I. Ahhh … I don’t really know. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought much about it, I’m afraid,” I flushed and stammered, my 18-year-old brain racing to form an intelligent thought.
“Well, until you figure that out, and until the college figures that out, then I will not donate a dime to my alma mater,” she announced.
“OK …. thank you?” I replied, then hung up the phone and put her on the “do not call” list.
Later that evening I opened my Bible to Genesis chapter 1 and began to read it with fresh eyes. I had grown up in an evangelical Christian setting and was taught that earth was divinely created in 6 days roughly 6,000 year ago. It was so neat and tidy … with felt-board creatures and characters to match. But that evening, I began to question what my Sunday school teachers taught, especially when I read about day 4 … when God created the sun, moon, and stars to mark the seasons, days, and years. I stopped and wondered, “Well now, how were days 1, 2, and 3 marked if there was no sun or moon to count the days? And how have I never questioned this before?”.
I would continue to ask questions and search for answers over the next few years. My Old Testament archaeology professor challenged me to stop reading scriptures so literally, and suggested an allegorical reading. I rejected that little old man at first, but the twinkle in his eye – on the order of Santa Claus – made me reconsider. As I began to engage Genesis in a new way, a huge sigh of relief washed over me. I had been fretting on how to justify a literal reading of creation as stated in Genesis 1 and what I was learning about evolution in my biology 101 class. It just wasn’t adding up!
That woman on the phone? She was a research scientist at a large university. I would follow footsteps similar to hers one day. I would study the intricate lines of evolution and be amazed at the details of the smallest of organisms. That woman on the phone challenged me. To be open. To see. To learn. To look up. To look out.
In reality, I’ve never come to a conclusion about how the world sprang into being. Some talk of the Big Bang Theory. Others claim that God got the ball rolling. There are many other hotly debated theories, but I just don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me. That doesn’t mean I don’t keep searching, but the answer or non-answer does not define my faith. And my scientific beliefs are not affected by it. I don’t try to conform one to the other. I simply let the Spirit lead my faith, and let facts lead my world. And what I’ve found is that they tend to compliment each other rather nicely in the end.
And if there’s one thing I continue to learn on a daily basis it’s this: creation speaks his name without uttering words. From the unfathomable galaxies to complex microscopic beings, his characteristics are announced. His beauty is seen in the butterfly, his majesty in the mountains, his sense of humor in the platypus, his strength in a redwood, his nobility in a lion, his immensity in the oceans, his gentleness in the lamb, his complexity in a human, his attention to detail in a single orchid.
Much like I don’t need to know what type of paint or brushes an artist uses to complete a masterpiece to appreciate its beauty and the talent of its creator, I don’t need to know how the world came into being to appreciate its unspeakable brilliance and the glory of the Creator whose name is signed in the bottom right-hand corner.