Recently I was interviewed by Jonathan Morrow for his excellent new book Thinking Christianly (Zondervan, 2011). He asked me about Darwinism as well as reaching the next generation. Here is my brief excerpt. Enjoy!
Jonathan Morrow: It is commonplace to hear about the “overwhelming evidence” for evolution. Have you found this to be the case? Can you talk a little about the role that Darwinism plays in our culture?
Sean McDowell: There’s a well-known joke for lawyers that says when the facts are on your side, argue the facts. However, when you don’t have the facts, use emotion and state your case with absolute certainty. This is precisely what is going on with claims about the “overwhelming evidence” for evolution. We live in an information age, and materialist theories such as Darwinism are slowly going the way of the Dodo. Intelligent design (ID) is on the move. Many Darwinists know this, which is why they focus their primary attacks on ID being religiously motivated or based on ignorance and avoid engaging the actual arguments. But they can ignore the substance for only so long.
People often ask, “Couldn’t God have used evolution?” Certainly. God can create however he wants to. Yet it’s important to remember that Darwin intentionally devised a materialist explanation that excluded God from the process. Nature is the selecting mechanism, not God. If God somehow guided the process of evolution, we are no longer talking about Darwin’s theory but about some form of intelligent design. And if God is not part of the process, then it’s a short step to removing him altogether.
While I have significant reservations about evolution (see my Understanding Intelligent Design with William A. Dembski), my bigger concern is the role Darwinism now plays in society. Evolution has become an ideology. It is the creation myth that justifies the dominant worldview in Western culture — naturalism.
Since evolution is viewed as the “creative” force, then all aspects of nature must be “Darwinized.” Thus, we have books such as Literary Darwinism, Financial Dar- winism, and Evolution and Ethics. Everything, including morality, religious belief, psychology, sexuality, marriage, and more, must be seen from this perspective. These ideas are disseminated to young people through our universities. This is why atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett called Darwinism a “universal acid.” He’s right. If evolution were true, then everything demands a Darwinian explanation. But if evolution were false, then this would be a colossal mistake.
There is a temptation to avoid this controversial topic in the church. Why not just talk about Jesus? Remember, the Christian story makes sense only if we were created by God and then rebelled. Otherwise, what’s the need for a Savior?
Belief in God as the Creator is not simply blind “religious” faith but something we can know to be true (Psalm 19:1–2). I’ve seen young people come alive when they discover the evidence for intelligent design. It gives us confidence in our faith as well as in the God of the Scriptures. This is not a truth we simply store away in our minds, but one that transforms how we think about ourselves and other people. We really are made in the image of God, who loves us and has a plan for our lives. We can see the divine fingerprint from the tiniest cell to the depths of the universe.
Jonathan: From your perspective as a Christian high school teacher who also speaks to thousands of students each year, how well prepared do you think students are to leave our churches and live out their faith in college and beyond?
Sean: This question is the driving force of my ministry. We’ve all heard the statistics of young people leaving their faith in college, and it rightly concerns us. There may not be a silver bullet to fix this problem, but there are some areas which we must address.
Part of the problem is that the worldviews of this churched generation are largely unbiblical. According to the National Study of Youth and Religion, 18 percent of conservative Protestant youth have either a deistic or pantheistic view of God, 48 percent believe many religions may be true, and 42 percent are not assured of the existence of evil spirits. We need to teach substance. But we must connect this truth to their lives and relationships.
Young people are also relationally hurting. Many are lonely, depressed, and searching for real meaning. It’s difficult for young people who struggle with broken relationships and have emotional baggage to develop a biblical worldview. Many kids leave the church because they never built healthy relationships with their parents or other Christian adults. If we want to teach the biblical worldview effectively, we must first help kids get emotionally healthy.
This is why I deeply believe in mentoring. Jesus was a mentor. My hope is that mentoring will become as normal in the church in the future as small groups are today. Young people simply cannot survive temptations and intellectual challenges without caring, involved adults coming alongside to guide them.