Colossian Blog
July 5, 2012 | Lori Wilson

Article – Surrender

Surrender

Todd Charles Wood
June 1, 2012

In my previous Colossian Forum essay, I concluded that the way forward in the culture war over creation and evolution is surrender. As I saw it then (and see it now), surrender follows Christ’s own example of radical humility and surrender in the face of death, a death that would bring eternal life to many. But even as I wrote about this surrender, I honestly had no clue what it might entail. How does one surrender in a battle over truth? How would that achieve anything? Are we supposed to just let heresy into the church, whatever we think heresy might be? I’ve given these questions a lot of thought, prayer, and study, and I can’t say that I’ve resolved anything too clearly yet. At this point, however, I’m pretty sure I know what surrender isn’t.

I know that surrender doesn’t mean that we can just pretend it doesn’t matter. For some folks, that might seem like an easy way out, especially when the issues are complicated. Why try to understand the intricacies of argon-argon dating or genetic coalescence if you don’t have to? Is Genesis really worth all the fuss? I have to admit that for many individuals, ignoring the problem is probably good enough. It really is a complicated subject, and it’s not something you can get a handle on by reading a blog post or a magazine article. If it doesn’t affect the way you live your life, why worry about it?

But is that really the way we as the collective body of Christ ought to deal with differences? Especially when the disagreements aren’t just about whether to serve juice or wine, but about what the entire narrative of salvation really is? The creation/fall/redemption narrative has been part of Christian theology for centuries, and evolution appears to pose a profound challenge to that narrative. We all know that there are many who claim that evolution is not compatible at all with Christian theology, and there are also those who seem happy to begin the task of re-imagining theology for this evolutionary age. That sounds like an important issue to me. Maybe it’s not a discussion that everyone can participate in equally, but the Church needs to collectively address this problem. Surrender cannot mean ignoring the issue.

I’m also sure that surrender isn’t just letting the “other side” win. That’s the most obvious meaning of surrender, but that’s definitely not what Christ did on the cross. He couldn’t possibly let the enemy win, especially when His surrender was the very key to victory. If we are to follow His example, we can’t just let the other side win, whoever the other side might be.

I also think we shouldn’t let one side win because the issues at stake are far too important. On the one hand, evolutionary creationists claim that young-earth and progressive creationists distort or even lie about scientific research and discoveries. On the other hand, young-earth and progressive creationists claim that making peace with evolution undermines the heart of the Christian message. These charges are far too important to surrender without careful evaluation, especially if there’s some measure of truth in the accusations of both sides. It’s too soon to just let one side win. Surrender must be something more.

Looking back at the passion of Christ, I think we can find some guidance for our own acts of surrender in His Gethsemane prayer, “Not my will but thine be done.” Christ’s surrender was not to circumstances, the Devil, or other people. Jesus surrendered to God and God alone. [div id=”callout-right”]Looking back at the passion of Christ, I think we can find some guidance for our own acts of surrender in His Gethsemane prayer, “Not my will but thine be done.”[end-div]I take from His prayer two essential ingredients in surrender. First, Christ gave up His own desire to avoid the crucifixion. Second, Christ conceded to the all-powerful control of God the Father, trusting that He was working a much greater good through what seemed like impossibly difficult circumstances. How could that work in this debate over creation?

I think first we need to surrender our own selfish desires. In academic debates, like any other argument, personal desire goes beyond just being right. When I’m in a heated argument, I want my opponent to admit that I’m right. If I didn’t, there wouldn’t be an argument in the first place. I would just present my understanding of things, and my opponent would do likewise. Then we might talk about the potential weaknesses or strengths of our ideas, but that would be it. We’d end the discussion with a better understanding of our positions. In reality, arguments get heated when we want the opponents to concede to our superior understanding. That’s a vain and selfish desire if ever I heard one. For us to move forward in this creation debate, we must surrender that desire.

But wait, this isn’t just any old argument here. We’re talking about potentially serious problems. If creationists really are distorting science and bringing shame on the gospel, that’s a big deal, and likewise, if evolutionists are fundamentally altering the basic message of Christian theology. Is this something we can just sit down and have a chat about? This is the future of the Church at stake. We need to take some kind of action. Right?

That brings me to the second ingredient of Christ’s surrender: acknowledging the sovereignty of God. In the debate over creation, there’s a lot of hand-wringing over what will happen to the Church if evolutionists or creationists win. The evolutionists will destroy Christianity, or the creationists will turn us into a cult! It seems to me that these exaggerations both ignore the power of God. He’s preserved His Church for two thousand years through some grim and horrifying heresies. Should we suddenly expect that He’s powerless to guide us through this debate on creation? Does He really need us to step in and help Him out? Or are we just betraying our own lack of faith?

I think that the God who created this universe is still God enough to help us work out our differences. I know that His Word will accomplish what He sends it to do. He doesn’t need my help to get the point across. He doesn’t need me to defend Him. If we believe that God is sovereign – if we really believe it – then we really ought to relax and let Him do His work. Surely He can sort out all these debates when we seek His guidance, but if we try to control things ourselves, to selfishly get the other side to admit we’re right, we really will bring shame on the gospel.

I confess that these acts of surrender will not be easy. I really do want to recognize God’s sovereignty and to give up my vain desires, but as a young-earth creationist, I have grave concerns about the mixing of evolution and Christian theology. I feel like I need to do something, but maybe that something is surrender. Maybe I should cast myself at Jesus’ feet and ask Him to help my unbelief. I hope you’ll do the same, and perhaps together we’ll see God move in a remarkable way.

I think He’d like that.

 

Todd Charles Wood is an associate professor of biology and director of the Center for Origins Research at Bryan College. In his spare time, he enjoys classic movies, making pie, and traveling with his wife.

Suggested Posts
Your Passion to Transform the Church Can Go Further on #GivingTuesday
November 29, 2016 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Your Passion to Transform the Church Can Go Further on #GivingTuesday
Today, November 29, we’re participating the national day of generosity, #GivingTuesday. It’s a day when you can make a big impact by helping us build churches that people run to and not from. With your support, we’ll raise funds for The Colossian Way, a dynamic, proven process that equips pastors and lay leaders to have a new conversation about challenging issues facing the church. How can you be part of it? Here are a few simple ideas: Consider making a gift today on #GivingTuesday Help get the word out on social media, using @ColossianForum and the hashtag #GivingTuesday Take photos demonstrating why you love The Colossian Forum and post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Do something kind for another person and find a way to express the love and great hope we have as Christians. Together, we can make a church the place where every relationship is an opportunity to experience Jesus. Little by little we can change the way the world views the church—and it can be beautiful.
Navigating The Hard Family Conversations After An Election
November 16, 2016 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Navigating The Hard Family Conversations After An Election
Our contentious and polarizing presidential election is over, and emotions range from angry and hurt to thankful and gratified. You might be wondering how to be in community with people in your church, your circle of friends, and your family who voted differently than you. We encourage you to find a measure of hope in the ancient Christian virtues, and to join us in making prayer our first response. You've likely found yourself in the middle of some tough conversations during the past week. With the holidays coming up, the potential for messy situations magnifies. Dr. Chuck DeGroat of Western Theological Seminary wrote this practical how-to about navigating fraught family situations this holiday season. It's full of practical wisdom and reflection challenges that line up with The Colossian Forum's vision of Christian communities that behave like Christ in the middle of tough cultural conflict. Thanks for sharing this with us, Chuck. Navigating The Hard Family Conversations After An Election by Chuck DeGroat “How in the world do I do Thanksgiving this year?” my friend asks, with tears in her eyes. Can you relate? No matter the election result a week ago, family conversations were sure to be tense. After the many really wise blogs on The Twelve this week, I’ve been asked by friends and students to offer something practical. I’m not much for how-to’s, but I’ll do my best to provide some navigational tools for you. Forgive me, in advance, if this post is a bit longer than usual. Honoring and Hating Mother and Father There are many fascinating apparent contradictions in Scripture. How about this one? In Exodus 20, we’re called to honor our mother and father. Yet in Matthew 12, Jesus asks, “Who is my mother/brothers?” In Luke 14 he makes hating our family a prerequisite for discipleship. To honor our parents is to see them as God’s image-bearers uniquely bonded to us as kin. We do not easily dismiss a relationship with a family member (I’m never, ever coming to Thanksgiving with you again!) like we may a work acquaintance. However, while honor implies respect as a kin and image-bearer, it does not require agreement. Moreover, it absolutely does not mean submitting to abuse of any kind. Perhaps this is why Jesus makes his case so forcefully. In Christ, a new family/community is being formed (Galatians 3, Ephesians 2). Those invited to the table in this new Kingdom/family don’t have the time for intramural family disputes. They are the poor in Spirit, the weak, the lonely, the marginalized. They are the refugee family in your community, the Muslim family in your cloistered white neighborhood, the blue collar rust belt family feeling left behind. Read the rest of Chuck's post on The Twelve.