Shuck and Jive

Friday, February 08, 2008

Evolution in the Star

Greg Miller of the Elizabethton Star wrote a nice article about First Presbyterian's celebration of Evolution Weekend. The newspaper is undergoing website changes. You can only view the article by going to the PDF site. I took the liberty of posting it here. I hope that will be all right with the good folks at the Star.

Greg did a very thorough job. This is almost a sermon in itself.

First Presbyterian Church to celebrate Evolution Weekend
By Greg Miller
Star Staff

First Presbyterian Church will celebrate Evolution Weekend on Sunday, Feb. 10, at 11 a.m.

“Evolution Weekend is an outgrowth of the Clergy Letter Project,” said the Rev. John Shuck, pastor.
“This was started by Dr. Michael Zimmerman of Butler University. This is from the Web site: “The Clergy Letter Project is an endeavor designed to demonstrate that religion and science can be compatible and to elevate the quality of the debate of this issue.” Evolution Weekend

Shuck’s sermon for this weekend is “Evolutionary Christianity.”

“The fact of evolution has caused me to look differently at many of the traditional Christian doctrines that were formulated when people believed that we lived in a three-tiered universe,” Shuck said.

“The ancients believed that the earth was flat and the sun, moon, and stars moved across the dome of the sky. Science has broadened our horizons of cosmology as well as the emergence and evolution of life on earth.”

Shuck continued, “Evolutionary Christianity takes seriously that the Universe is 13.7 billion years old and that life on Earth began 4 billion years ago. Human beings are part of this evolutionary process. Evolutionary Christianity begins with the facts of science and then seeks to understand our meaning and purpose. Evolutionary Christianity does not throw out traditional Christian theology by any means, but seeks to reinterpret it to fit our modern understanding. As our collective knowledge evolves, Christianity also evolves.”

Many people, Shuck says, “think that evolution is not very ‘spiritual’ or that it doesn’t leave a place for God. Phrases such as ‘survival of the fittest,’ ‘random chance,’ and ‘meaningless,’ are often used in association with evolution. Therefore, it tends to seem rather bleak.”

However, Shuck continued, “we don’t have to look at evolution in that way. We could see it as the way God creates the Universe. It is the ongoing process of God revealing the truth and majesty of the universe to us. As human beings, we have the important role of being the eyes, ears, voice, and consciousness of this ongoing, evolving universe. My sermon is going to focus on how evolution is spiritual and it is the way God is creating us. Far from being meaningless or random, evolution is instead meaningful.”

Shuck recommends the work of Christian author Michael Dowd. “He wrote a book, ‘Thank God for Evolution,’” said Shuck. “His book is an important resource for this sermon. He will be coming to the Tri-Cities in September.”

The Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Weekend supports the teaching of evolution in the public schools, according to Shuck. “While many voices in the church believe that Evolution is incompatible with Christianity, I along with 11,000 other clergy see science and religion as compatible as long as we understand that these two disciplines are different and complementary forms of truth.

“This is the letter:

“‘Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible — the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark — convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.

“‘We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children.

We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.’”

Science, Shuck says, “helps us understand how the universe works. Religion helps us find meaning and blessedness within it.”

In part, Shuck signed the letter “to show that there are congregations and clergy who value both science and faith. There is a great deal of misunderstanding regarding science and there is misunderstanding regarding how we see our religious traditions and the truth claims they make.”

Evolution Weekend began in 2006 as Evolution Sunday, according to Shuck, “and has broadened to include other faith traditions such as the Jewish tradition who worship on Friday evenings. The weekend is a time to hold classes and focus on science in worship in order to raise the level of discourse.” First Presbyterian has participated in the celebration all three years.

Shuck says he believes the theory of evolution is “helping us interpret our texts differently. Rather than see, for instance, the early chapters of Genesis as a history of cosmology, we can see it as a metaphorical expression of truth. It addresses questions of meaning for human beings. Why is it that we want what we cannot have? Why do we kill our brothers? Are human beings inherently evil or good? What does it mean to be created in the image of God?”

For Christians, Shuck says, “evolution challenges us to see how we view God acting in the world. As evolution is a process of change and adaptation, God can be seen in all of the evolutionary process rather than as a being outside of creation. We don’t have to devalue earth or look outside of it to be in contact with God. God deeply cares for all of earth and the Universe and is deeply involved in all of it. As scripture says, ‘In Him we live and move and have our being.’”

Evolution also challenges the idea that the world is going to end soon, according to Shuck. “It requires us to look again at texts such as the Book of Revelation,” he said. “An evolutionary awareness calls us to care for earth.”

Shuck continued, “Scientists tell us that our sun is about halfway through its cycle. In other words, we have billions of years left before the sun burns out its energy. Millions of years from now earth will still be spinning around the sun. The question is will human beings be here to enjoy it? We have a responsibility for leaving a legacy of life for our children and grandchildren.”

At 2 p.m. on Sunday the congregation will tour the Gray Fossil Site. First Presbyterian Church is located at 119 W. F St., Elizabethton. For more information, call 543-7737 or visit the Website,


  1. The letter the article quoted is spot on. Succinct and to the point.

  2. Grace won't be happy about this at all. I'm just saying.