I loved dinosaurs growing up. When someone would offer to read me a story, I would pick out my dinosaur encyclopedia. I wore boys’ dinosaur pajamas and my first dream job was to be a paleontologist. But at some point in elementary school, whether due to someone’s comments or just general Bible Belt culture, tension developed between my love of dinosaurs and my faith. I became aware that many people around me did not believe in certain theories or facts about dinosaurs that I did. They did not believe the earth was 65 million years old, that the Big Bang may have happened, or that humans did not exist until millions of years after the dinosaurs became extinct. They cited as evidence for their disbelief the creation account in Genesis. I, wanting to be a good Christian, decided that I had to choose between my faith and my love of dinosaurs and science. I gave up my dream of becoming a paleontologist, became afraid of science that challenged my faith, and accepted (or at least told myself that I did) the belief that Genesis was to be interpreted literally.
It was not until college that I was freed from this debilitating approach to science and faith. During a difficult spiritual season my first year of college, I read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. It amazed me how reasonable this Christian seemed! In fact, he appealed to reason in his book to show the reality of Christianity. He had sincere faith, but it was also an informed faith. I soon found out, unsurprisingly, he did not adhere to a literal interpretation of Genesis. I decided that if a man of faith like C.S. Lewis could be a proponent of both faith and science, so could I. I became a secret theistic evolutionist. Seriously, I was scared to tell anyone! Gradually, I became more open about my beliefs when asked, but I still felt as though some people didn’t think I had faith as sincere as theirs because of my beliefs. The struggle for peace in this area of my life continued and ended up playing a significant role in my journey to the Catholic Church.
I recently wrote about my struggles with truth and my eventual conversion to Catholicism. My conversion helped me finally reconcile my intellect and my faith. I wanted so badly to be a follower of Jesus, but it seemed like I had to shove parts of who I was aside to do so. But as I wrestled with this, something was becoming apparent to me. Sacrifice involves the end or death of something. Surrender involves a cease in resistance and submission to authority. God didn’t want me to sacrifice my reason and my intellect to follow him. All he wanted was for me to surrender my reason and intellect it to him! I had falsely believed religious truth was simply spiritual and did not involve the physical (see Hebrews 11:1). This meant I had to accept all aspects of faith without help, guideposts, signs, or evidence. How wrong I was! Evidence of his glory and his presence are all around us in nature and in science. In fact, creation is supposed to aid us in our discovery of the divine (see Romans 1:20). He created all matter, therefore, he actually created science. He would never allow us to discover things in his creation that contradict him. Our perceptions about him may be expanded, but his ultimate purpose, his glory, will never be thwarted. For example, Genesis teaches us that God was not created but is the creator of the heavens and the earth. I believe this truth is Genesis’ primary purpose. It is meant to give us spiritual and even historical insight but not necessarily scientific insight. It is important to note that when Genesis was written thousands of years ago, the authors did not have the scientific knowledge we do now. Evolution gives insight into the processes God used. It does not make Genesis any less important. Actually, Genesis fills in gaps that science can never fill. Science will never be able to prove how something came from nothing, but Genesis tells us about an infinite, uncreated being. See how beautifully science and faith can complement each other when they are not seen as contradictory!
All of the earth proclaims God’s glory, the processes and the products of creation. If we knew everything about God, we wouldn’t need him. But how great a grace he grants those with a doubting heart like mine when he gives us glimpses of his glory through science. It is a shame I wasted years not giving him glory for all of the good in his creation. So, today, I praise him for the dinosaurs.
“Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth. Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, 159.
P.S. I would like to make it clear that my family never pushed me in either direction concerning the two interpretations of Genesis. My decision as a kid to reject some parts of science was due to other religious and educational influences.