PLNU hosted “Exploring Origins: Nazarenes in Dialogue,” this weekend, a conference which focused on bringing Nazarenes together to discuss their perspectives on theistic evolution which is the argument that you can be a Christian and still believe in evolution.
“It is important because we are a Christian liberal arts university in which we aspire to interpret God’s creation as adequately and faithfully as we can,” said Michael Lodahl, professor of theology and speaker at the conference. “This means taking seriously and honestly the deliverances of the natural sciences, even as we acknowledge that all scientific endeavor inevitably includes interpretation of data.”
The conference was granted almost $150,000 by Biologos foundation. They used that money to collect essays from pastors, scientists, and theologians to put on a website, make a book called “Nazarenes Exploring Evolution” and hold a conference where people are. The conference consisted of panels, interviews, table discussions and a video was shown called “From the Dust.” There were a registered 135 in attendance along with the 250 students who participated throughout the conference.
“We felt [PLNU] was probably the only Nazarene institution that would actually have the kind of gumption to take this on. It would be the most likely to,” said Mark Mann, a principal planner in the conference. “There are other Nazarene schools where this would be perceived as too much of a threat to some people’s faith. Also, we have a president and a provost who are very supportive of this kind of conversation.”
The main goal was that attendees would talk about their different beliefs about creation but would still recognize the unity through the 18 essentials of faith that make up the Nazarene doctrine.
“That God created through evolution…you don’t find that in the doctrines of faith,” said Mann. “So why should we be coming apart on this one that’s not one of our doctrines of faith. Let’s talk about our differences at the same time that we’re coming together to affirm our unity in all of these other ways. That’s why we’ve had worship, and we’ve had communion and we’ve prayed together”
Students were able to participate in a round-table discussion on their opinions of the topic with the other attendees from around the world.
“What I took away from the discussion was that it is important to realize that we will never have a definite answer to creation and that it’s important to be able to disagree with others in the church,” said Melissa Jensen, an exercise science major.
Despite the controversial topic, the conversation wasn’t hostile. Mann hopes that people will take what they learned and continue the conversation.
“It’s still a lot of work to do,” said Mann. “Hopefully folks can go out from here and be agents of change in the sense of carrying on a ton of healthy, grace-filled, spirit-led, Christ-like conversation in their churches and homes. “