Poll: Pastors on Creation/Evolution

Derek Ouellette —  January 16, 2012

I sat across the desk of a pastor in the office of his medium-small church several months back. He said to me,

“Derek, one thing I’d like to see about your store are more books that critically think about the creation-evolution debate. Whenever I go in there all I see are books and pamphlets that promote a young six thousand year creation story.”

In all fairness, that perception is not exactly accurate. We do carry books by Karl Gibberson, Francis Collins, Hugh Ross and others. But yes, most of the books in our “apologetics” section promote and defend a six thousand year creation narrative. In fact, the fact that these books are classified under the section of “apologetics” rather than “science” tells quite a bit about the narrative of my store and target market.

I too wish that the store I work in would be broader in it’s approach to these matters. But that’s not the point of this post. I’m more interested in the fact that this Pentecostal pastor, who before entering the ministry specialized in biology, holds to the conviction of evolution. It made me wonder, how many other pastors believe in evolution.

Recently LifeWay published a poll where they asked 1,000 Protestant pastors three questions: 1) do you believe Adam and Eve were literal people, 2) do you believe God used evolution to create people, 3) do you believe the earth is 6,000 years old. Here are the results:

What do you make of these numbers? Is evolution an issue, do you think, that might motivate pastors to leave the ministry?

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Christine

    I’m not sure the ministers would leave the minister… but if they’re bothering him, I mean, they probably should leave him alone.

    If these pastors are American, of course. Two reasons: America is where the church dug in its heals and decided that evolution was a make-or-break issue for the faith, so millions of dollars and a lot of time has been spent on this particular doctrine (while the rest of the world goes *facepalm*). Second reason: the education system in America is one of the worst in the developed world. SRY, stats don’t lie.

  • http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/ Josh

    Since Mainline Protestant and Evangelical pastors were part of the sample, I expect the proportion of Evangelical clergy who don’t accept evolution is even higher. I see a few different ways to think about this: 1) Certain people select into the clergy, and they happen to be creationists, 2) The educational system for clergy (seminaries, essentially) mostly promote creationist ‘science’, 3) Pressure from the laity ensure that clergy maintain creationist stances. The big thing to note is that clergy are significantly more likely to be creationist than their congregations, which may explain why creationism still hangs around.

    • http://covenantoflove.net Derek Ouellette

      Doesn’t your #3 and your “big thing to note” point suggest contradictory things? Why would laity ensure that their clergy are creationists if the laity are not?

      • http://thechurchofjesuschrist.us/ Josh

        It’s not uncommon for these kind of processes to exist concurrently in a kind of social feedback loop. We might quibble about how the cycle started, but it doesn’t strike me as unreasonable to think that Evangelical churches ‘select’ creationist pastors and those pastors help perpetuate creationist ideas through their status as a religious authority. My general feel for Evangelicalism is that the more ‘conservative’ voices have a disproportionate amount of power; so on issues like evolution the ‘conservative’ viewpoint would be more common higher up in the power hierarchies, bolstered by the louder conservative voices in the laity.

  • http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A10ULJVWJGVUYD/ref=cm_cr_dp_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview Paul Bruggink

    If I remember correctly, surveys of Christian laity indicate that something like 40+% accept the notion that God used evolution to create people, which is higher than the LifeWay survey of pastors. My guess is that Christian laity have, on the average, had more exposure to what is really going on in science these days than the average pastor has had. In addition, there are still many Bible colleges, seminaries, and Christian leaders (Al Mohler and John MacArthur, for instance) who are very much against an old earth and biological evolution, much to the detriment of Christianity.

    Unfortunately, supporting the false dilemma of Christianity OR old earth & biological evolution is going to hurt Christian evangelism for many years to come, especially among our Christian youth.

  • Tom Eggebeen

    Is there a profile of the 1000 pastors asked?

    Sadly, it’s only in America where this anti-science approach has take such a strong hold – it’s hampering our ability as a nation to think about global warming, responsible environmental decisions, oil exploration, stem cell research, to mention but a few. In the original post, I appreciate the distinction between “apologetics” and science, but in truth, when apologetics drift away from the reality of the world, the world of God’s creation, it’s no longer apologetics, but ideological buffoonery bringing ill-repute to the name of Jesus.

  • http://None Herman Cummings

    The evolution theory is an irrational falsehood, zealously embraced by atheists, that is a phony conclusion of the 600+ million year fossil record. There is no “valid supporting data” for evolution. In a court of law, or in a public forum, the same evidence that evolutionists would use to try to “prove” the validity of that theory, I would utilize to reveal the truth of Genesis. In order to believe in evolution, you have to purposely ignore certain facts of reality. For example, when you see illustrations of primates being pictured as evolving into humans, it can be shown in a court of law that such a premise is impossible, because certain human and primate traits are different, and could not have ever been shared. The only “common ancestor” that humans and primates share is God Himself.

    Current Creationism has refused to teach the truth of the Genesis text, and either teaches foolishness (young Earth), or false doctrines (non-literal reading of the text). Creationists thoughtlessly try to prove “Creationism”, rather than seeking and teaching the truth of Genesis. How can an untruth, ever prove another lie, to be in error? You can’t do it. That is why Creationism fails. It essentially is also a lie, and should be discarded, even by Bible believers.

    The correct opposing view to evolution is the “Observations of Moses”, which conveys the truth of Genesis chapter one.

    Those that imply that God used evolution are infidels at worse, or clowns at best, that refuse to learn the truth of Genesis. The truth has been available for more than 18 years. Such a discussion is currently silly, and shows stubbornness against learning the truth of God’s Word.

    Herman Cummings

  • Sherry

    Hebrews 11:3 hangs our faith on the creation story–don’t know how a pastor could do different.

    • http://austind90.wordpress.com/ Austin

      There has been great work on that passage recently by a dear friend and professor at my undergraduate school. Check out “Hebrews 11:6: A Reassessment of the Translation ‘God Exists’.” Trinity Journal 27 (2006): 289-307.