According to a recent survey by Lifeway Research, most Protestant pastors in the United States realize the Bible and evolution don’t mix. Three out of four pastors (73%) disagreed with the statement that God used evolution to create humans. Similarly, three-fourths believe in a real Adam and Eve.
But the other results are mixed. In particular, only 30% of the pastors “strongly agreed” that the Bible teaches a young earth (that is, around 6,000 years old). Slightly more “strongly disagreed” with a young earth. Those with a graduate degree were even more likely to reject a young earth and a real Adam (a possible consequence of the bias against the Bible’s inerrancy in many seminaries). On the other hand, younger pastors (18–44) were more likely to accept that the Bible teaches a young earth.
While we should celebrate a majority of these pastors rejecting evolution, the survey reveals some troubling trends. In particular, many of these pastors seem not to realize the connection between evolution and the age of the earth. Most understand that biological evolution is based on faulty assumptions about the past and is incompatible with Genesis. But they don’t see the same underlying assumptions about the earth’s supposed history over billions of years—an idea that depends upon flawed interpretations of rock layers, radiometric dating, and fossils.
In fact, many of these pastors seem hesitant to engage what the Bible teaches in the first few chapters of Genesis. Only about a third teach on creation and evolution more than once per year—37% do so rarely or not at all. Given that only about 40% of Americans believe God created humans in their present form only a few thousand years ago, silence on the matter no doubt only worsens the widespread confusion. (See two recent books Already Gone and Already Compromised, published by Master Books.)
With the rise of belligerent “New Atheists” and the growing influence of Christian organizations that teach theistic (“God-directed”) evolution, pew sitters need to hear a clear, consistent message about the Bible’s teaching. The average Christian is bombarded with muddled messages about “evolution as fact” and how it is supposedly a “friend” of Scripture.
If pastors don’t speak up—or if they simply accept evolution or an ancient earth—they’re relinquishing their duty to declare the whole counsel of God, including creation (Acts 20:27). According to apologetics expert Ken Ham, that attitude is the church’s biggest problem: “When Christians agree with the world that man’s fallible ideas about the age of the earth and evolution should be used to interpret God’s Word, they must also agree that the Bible can’t be trusted.”
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