How can we even introduce the topic and address the questions students may have?
A month ago or so I introduced a project The Author of Life funded by the Evolution and Christian Faith program administered by BioLogos. Diane Sweeney (a high school biology teacher) and Joshua Hayashi (a school chaplain) are producing a multimedia curriculum with seven short videos (about 5-7 minutes) to encourage high school students (and others) to think deeply about God’s role as Creator. Their collective experience as chaplain and teacher shapes the approach they take to reach students, either Christian or non-Christian who have questions and concerns about the relationship between science and faith. The videos are available on YouTube and Vimeo (links below). At the Vimeo site they can be downloaded for use in three different resolutions including HD free of charge.
Today I would like to take a look at their fifth and sixth videos. These videos introduce what is, perhaps, the toughest question in evolution and Christian faith – human evolution and the image of God. Episode 5, entitled How Our Creator Shapes Us is probably the most controversial video in the lot, introducing the topic of human evolution. Based on experience over the years it is clear that some Christians will find Diane’s view too conservative and others will find it too edgy. This is a discussion we need to have, however, and the video will provide a good way to introduce it into conversation.
Diane is convinced that science is the study of God’s created world and that anything we learn from it has to be consistent with who God is and how he created. She draws on the comparison with the development of a baby from a fertilized cell to a new born. This is the work of God and a process. She also makes comparison with the way a potter works – a pot doesn’t appear in an instant, but is the result of a slow, multistep process. “Evolution is a process of creation. All living things were forged in this same process. And in this way humans are no exception” 1:57-2:08 There is a historical record written in fossils, artifacts, and in the sequence of our genes. This leaves very little doubt that humans diverged from ancestors we share with other primates. (2:18-2:30) She goes on to reflect on the way humans became spiritual beings able to understand spiritual things and reflect the image of God. This could have been through revelation when time was ripe and God’s created form was ready for the next step.
The leader’s guide, available as a pdf file at The Author of Life, outlines several different models for Adam and Eve, along the lines of the ideas suggested by Denis Lamoureux, John Walton, and Jack Collins in Four Views of The Historical Adam and Denis Alexander’s view in Creation or Evolution: Do We Have To Choose? (I’ve linked a new revised and expanded version due out in September – you can get the old version immediately if desired). This can be an excellent way to start a discussion among high school students – especially skeptical high school students.
While the fifth episode may be controversial for some, the sixth should not be. Josh Hayashi, with the help of several of the students at his school, introduces the idea of humans created in The Image of God.
Josh starts with the ideas introduced in Psalm 8 as an echo of Genesis 1-2. “We humans house God’s very image to know him intimately through his son Jesus Christ. We are also different than the rest of creation in that God gave us a job or a charge to caretake, to be responsible for all of creation.” (0:57-1:14) We evolved in kinship with all of creation, but this is not what defines us as human. We have a drive to create for others as part of nature as humans created with a purpose as the image of God. This includes the urge for music, dance, and writing, all described by students in Hawaii. The scenery and music are beautiful. This is an excellent tool to introduce the topic with students in high school or college.
Possible Questions for Discussion:
Do you think evolution could be viewed as a creation process that shapes living things? Why or why not?
If we were shaped and created by God through evolution, who would Adam and Eve have been? Would this change your view of what being created in the image of God means?
If evolution shaped us, though God’s own hand, how would humans be different from any other living thing in God’s creation?
What difference does our charge as image bearers make in humans?
How can you participate in God’s creation as his image bearer?
It was a pleasure to get to know Josh and Diane at the ECF workshops this year and last. Their videos should prove a valuable tool.
If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net.