The number of young evangelicals who hold this softer position is growing, says Jonathan Hill, a sociologist who has studied trends in attitudes toward science among the religious. They aren’t necessarily embracing evolution, but there is hope. “Younger evangelicals are no more likely to accept evolution than older evangelicals, but they are less likely to reject it,” says Hill, based on his research for the survey National Study of Religion & Human Origins. “And they are especially less likely to be ‘hardcore’ evolution rejecters who are certain of their beliefs and believe this is an important issue.”For Kramer, and probably many others who travel down this path, the journey was grueling and tortuous. When sent by a friend to the Talk Origins and Panda's Thumb sites:
Uncertainty, in this case, is a good thing: It means they’re open to considering new ideas. Among young evangelicals Hill surveyed, 25 percent of respondents reported that they simply had no idea what they believed about evolution, compared to 14 to 15 percent among those 30 and older.
To Kramer, the sites sounded hostile—as if they were “written as a direct attack on my faith” and “intentionally trying to jab a sharp stick in the eye of the Christians.” But they also sounded true. It was as if he had stumbled into a Pandora’s box, opening up question upon question that he felt ill-equipped to answer. For instance: OK, let’s say that an evolutionary process did take place. But if God was perfect, and God had chosen to use evolution, then why was evolution so flawed? “It was almost like my beliefs were colliding with reality,” he says. “There were just pieces in my mind that I could not put together … It was very scary.”In many ways, his journey mirrors that of Glen Morton, a geologist who began to doubt the validity of the young earth geological arguments. Morton also spent some time in the dark before finding his way back to the fold. His final thoughts are those of many of us who walk this fine line:
Kramer felt sick. “That’s when things got kind of messy,” he says. For about six months, he left his church and began questioning his faith. While he never fully embraced atheism, he experimented with being agnostic, trying to reconcile the puzzle pieces in his head. But despite his doubts, in the end there were just too many compelling reasons to come back: He liked his faith, his community, and, OK, also a girl in his youth group. “I kind of hobbled back to my faith,” he says. “Evangelicals were my tribe. And it’s kind of hard to let go of something.”
“We call ourselves creationists, and we’re stubborn about that,” says Kramer of BioLogos. “We purposely live between the cultural categories, because we disagree with the way in which the lines are drawn.” If you asked Kramer whether he believes in the words of Genesis or the words of Origin of Species, in the biblical God or the science of evolution, he knows what he would choose. It’s the same answer he’d give if you asked him whether the recent Homo naledi discovery is scientific or divine, or whether his 2-year-old daughter Josephine is a gift from God or nature. “I’d say both,” he says. “One hundred percent both.”Amen.