Little Green Men and Lines in the Sand

In the movie Paul, Kristin Wiig plays Ruth Buggs, a young woman who lives in a trailer Paul-Alienpark and who was raised as an Evangelical Christian. She encounters Paul, an alien voiced by Seth Rogan, while she is wearing a t-shirt depicting Jesus shooting Charles Darwin and underscored with the tag-line “Evolve This!” In denial of what she has just seen and of the implications of meeting someone from another world, she steadfastly proclaims that the world is 4000 years old, that it can only be the product of an intelligent design, and that nothing can shake her faith that God made heaven and earth and created us all in his own image.

Paul, who is anti-religion, then communicates telepathically to Ruth, showing her the cosmos and the wonders of the universe. Upon discovering that the earth is in fact not 4000 years old, Ruth’s entire belief system is shaken. She concludes, since science is correct, that her faith must be incorrect. She then, quite humorously, realizes that she now can curse, fornicate, and drink. We are subsequently treated to Kristen Wiig’s comedic genius as her character attempts cursing for the first time.

Christians create a false dichotomy between faith and science when we insist that our faith depends on the earth being 4,000 years old and on Charles Darwin being wrong. By doing this, we unnecessarily draw a line in the sand between the realm of authentic faith and the realm of modern science. Young people like Ruth are therefore forced to step over that line and leave their faith when they eventually become convinced that the findings of modern science are indeed correct. It is my belief that this departure is a needless tragedy.

Ruth was correct: God did make heaven and earth and he did make us in his own image. The heavens themselves declare these glorious and profound truths. Rather than destroying her faith, Ruth’s encounter with the vastness of the cosmos could have, and should have, inspired wonder and strengthened her faith in our great Creator God. To link the truth of a Creator God, however, with the age of the earth and the manner at which diversity of species came about is not only unnecessary, but it also does great violence to the biblical text and the faith of countless of young adults like Ruth.

As a former youth pastor whose students are now in their 20s and 30s, I have witnessed firsthand the damage caused by an insistence on the notion that our faith depends on interpreting the creation account in Genesis as historical narrative. Like Ruth, many young people today are concluding that if science is true, then our faith must be false. The next logical step is to reason, as Ruth did, that the moral guidelines which are derived from our faith must therefore also be invalid.

To Christian parents, teachers, youth pastors, and any other people who have influence in the hearts and minds of our young people: I implore you, stop equating a belief about the age of the universe and diversity of species with orthodox faith. This does not protect our young people. Quite the contrary, it forces them to cross over the line you have drawn in the sand. Furthermore, and most tragically, it is absolutely unnecessary. It is my passionate belief that the great truths of our faith, such as the fact that we are made in God’s image, are even more powerful when we interpret the creation story in Genesis as we do Psalms: as scared poetry that reveal profound truth about God, humanity, and the universe!

2 comments

  1. Joseph Tuerff

    My wife and I had the privilege of hosting theologian William Lane Craig at our home several years back and got the chance to speak to him about this topic over breakfast. What was clear to me afterward was though he took an old earth position (a long creation account not evolution) it did not diminish his belief in the gospel or its transforming power. I remember bringing up the point often made that if death hadn’t entered the seen until Adam sinned how could evolution be true….to which I added in a Bob Newhart-like fashion. “..except for anything Adam and Eve picked and ate …it died I guess.” To which he exclaimed “…Vegitable death!?” I thought that was hilarious. : ) I believe Adam and Eve were real people. St Paul in Romans 5 clearly states that through one man -Adam- sin entered into the world and through the obedience of one man -Jesus Christ – many are made righteous. But I’m not too caught up on whether someone believes in an old esrth. If a person says earth is old and therefore the bible cannot be true and they are hung up on that, as an exercise, toss the gap theory out there and watch them pause as they try to wrap their minds around that. Then, seize the opportunity to take them to the real heart of the matter: tell them the who Jesus is; what he did for us; about their sin problem; and their need for forgiveness of sin that can only be found in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  2. Luke

    I completely agree with you John. One of my first struggles with my faith when I went to college was this exact false dichotomy. Luckily I came out the other side even more healthy. Now I am not afraid of science. Science is now a tool that is used to explore God’s universe. I have a few friends from school who are now atheists because the held so strongly to traditional Genesis and science being “false” unless interpreted through scripture. I think having faith in Christ should free us more into the realm of science. After all if God created the universe like Christians claim why would they be afraid of understanding it or studying it. Luckily I came out the other side not being afraid to erase the line in the sand but it took awhile and the temptation to abandon my faith was definitely there. I definitely do not blame any family or youth leaders because they were taught the same way. Anyways thanks for the great blog!

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