When I said in Sunday’s sermon, “For a theologian to pretend to be a scientist or a geologist is fraught with danger; and demanding that a particular view of science or geology is the only one a Christian can hold can lead to a rejection of the biblical record and stand in the way of someone accepting Christ,” I wasn’t speaking hypothetically. I know it can happen, because it actually happened here.
In the early 80s I preached a series of sermons on the first chapters of Genesis, focusing primarily on creation and the flood, and insisted that the view championed by Scientific Creationism was the only acceptable option. A gentleman who had begun attending CCC with his family had studied geology extensively, and couldn’t accept the view I was insisting to be the biblical view. I even went so far as to say that if you couldn’t accept the Genesis account literally, which was the way I was teaching it, neither could you accept the account of Jesus’ life and ministry to be literally true. Eventually he had to agree, and decided he therefore couldn’t believe in Jesus, and left the church.
I was devastated, but assured myself that I had faithfully preached the truth, and wasn’t responsible for anyone’s rejection of the truth. But then I discovered there were Bible-believing scientists who did not insist on holding to a literal six-day creation, and who felt that the earth could be as old as geologists said. After further study I took him a copy of a book that helped change my mind, and apologized with tears, but it was too late. The damage had been done.
We stayed in contact, and I was even asked to preside at his wife’s funeral six years after they left, but he expressed no desire to resume his spiritual journey. Then, twenty years after he left the church, he called me out of the blue and said he wanted to be baptized! My tears of apology became tears of joy!
I’m so thankful that we have a God who can clean up our messes, and even undo some of the damage we do. Like Paul, who was convinced he was serving God when he persecuted Christians, I thought I was being faithful to Him and His word when I created an unnecessary barrier to faith in Christ.
May God give us all the wisdom to know when we are wrong, and the grace to admit it.
God Bless, Rick