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Where do we come from and how did we get here?These are questions people have pondered for centuries.One man has written a book on how two seemingly opposite views can become one.KSMU’s Erika Brame spoke with the author and one of his critics.
Reverend Michael Dowd is a born-again Christian who originally denied the theory of evolution… that is, until his first day of biology class as a student at Evangel University.“I actually had been passing out tracts and was totally anti-evolution. I believed that evolution was of the devil and all the evils of the world could be attributed to Charles Darwin. And I actually believed that so when I went to Evangel and I walked into biology class the very fist day. The biology teacher held up the text book that we were going to use,” he said.He says that text book taught the theory of evolution and he wanted no part of it, so he left the class.Later he met more Evangel professors who accepted evolution in what he calls a “God glorifying” way.
“The biblical and philosophy studies professors at Evangel were very godly, Christ-centered men and women and I got to know several of them. I prayed with them. I worshiped with them. One of them, I shared my life’s story with, but then I discovered after the fact that they’d embraced evolution. So I couldn’t write them off as the demonically possessed,” he said.
Dowd says his beliefs changed after meeting a former Buddhist monk, who taught a class about perfectionism and Buddhism at Missouri State University. Now, Dowd says he doesn’t see evolution and creationism as contradicting each other.He looks to the stories of the Bible f or moral guidance, but also believes that the scientific findings from the past 200 years should also be considered works of God.He says when a scientist finds truth, that is God speaking to humankind in the 21st century.
“You know one of the things I learned at Evangel University which has been so important to my life is that all truth is God’s truth. That wherever truth is found, it’s the divine, it’s God revealing truth, and whether that truth is found by a Christian or a Buddhist or a Hindu or any Atheist or anybody else,” he said.
He says there are five scientific facts from the past 200 years which prove God’s work through evolution.He lists them off as extinction, evolution, glaciers, plate tectonics, and star dust. All of these, he says explain his theory that creationism is married to the science of evolution, and that it couldn’t be understood without modern technology.
“Those five things could not have been revealed to any biblical writer. It would have been impossible for them to receive it. God couldn’t have possibly revealed it and those five things are indisputable in the scientific community,” he said.
Dowd has written a book on all of this called “Thank God for Evolution.”But, not all scientists or Christians agree with Dowd’s theories.Dr. Michael Tenneson is a biology professor at Evangel University. He says there are five western theories about the origin of man and how science and faith can be intertwined.He says Dowd’s writings place him in the category known as Theistic Evolution. Tenneson says this group views the book of Genesis as a poetic, symbolic narrative of the history of man.He says Dowd’s theories are not founded in core Christian theology.
“I find in Dowd’s writings he is not an Orthodox Christian period. His views on, particularly on the ways to know God are very universalistic, which is a common theme in our society today. It’s a spiritual theme, but it’s not an Orthodox Christian theme,” he said.
While Dowd attributes his acceptance of evolutionary theory partly to Evangel University, Tenneson says the university pushes students to think critically about their beliefs.“We tell them that there are a range of ways of doing this that are orthodox there within the Christian fundamental ideas and you can pick which of these views, after you see all the evidence. You can pick which ones suit you best. And we don’t tell them any one view that is the best or the most Orthodox Christian,” he said.
He says Dowd’s book presents arguments of both faith and science, but are not strongly supported by data.
“The evidence that he presents for his theories is too weak for me to buy into. And the other big criticism is that he’s representing himself as a conservative Christian, just does not line up with his writings,” he said.
Tenneson says he has followed Dowd’s work for many years and has also met with him.For the past two years, Dowd has been traveling the United States sharing his beliefs.For KSMU News, I’m Erika Brame.