Preface Current Situation... 7

Content Preface............................................................................................ 5 1. Current Situation ....................
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Content Preface............................................................................................ 5 1.

Current Situation ...................................................................... 7


Scientific Theories and Creation Faith ...................................... 9

2.1 The Character of the Biblical Creation Narratives..................... 9 2.2 Creation Theology as a Subject of Christian Theology ........... 10 2.3 The Difference to the Scientific Perspective ........................... 11 2.4 The Cosmological and Anthropological Scope of Faith in the Creator ......................................................................... 13 2.5 The Fallacies of Creationism .................................................. 14 2.6 The Fallacies of Atheist Opposition to Creation Faith ............. 16 2.7 The Dialogue with Science ..................................................... 17


Educational Perspectives, School and Religious Education ... 18

3.1 The Demands of a Comprehensive and Differentiated Education ......................................................... 18 3.2 Religion and Science in School .............................................. 19 3.3 Creation Faith and Evolution Theory in School Teaching ....... 19 3.4 Didactic Principles for Addressing Creation Faith and Evolutionary Theory in School ................................................ 21 3.5 Future Problems as a Joint Challenge.................................... 22



Preface We are currently seeing an intense debate on the origin of the world, the theory of evolution, creation faith, and the way these issues should be addressed at school. This is certainly welcome as it touches upon a question that is fundamental to our view of the world. However, many contributions to the debate do justice neither to the state of scientific knowledge nor that of theology or a differentiated concept of education. They are certainly far removed from a Protestant understanding of creation faith. „Education describes the interrelation of learning, knowledge, ability, values and actions in the horizon of meaningful interpretations of life“ – thus runs the definition that the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) developed in its statement on Protestant perspectives on education in a modern knowledge society „Standards of Humanity; Education on a Human Scale“. This concept deliberately and clearly distinguishes between the factual knowledge available today and the meaningful interpretation of life from the perspective of Christian faith. Yet it is precisely this distinction that allows the two to be placed in a meaningful relation to each other. In contrast, many contributions to the debate about the relationship between scientific theory on the one hand and creation faith on the other in explaining the origin of the world and its life blur the distinction by placing the two at the same level. They therefore assume that either the theory of evolution must displace creation faith or vice versa. This approach does justice to neither side of the argument. Neither the attacks of a resurgent new atheism on Biblical creation faith nor the assaults on the theory of evolution carried out in the name of Christianity can strike the opposite party at its heart. Doubtlessly there are interpretations of both creation faith and evolution theory that can and need to be criticised. Yet this appropriate and necessary criticism can only be formulated outside of the false dichotomies much of the debate is caught up in. A Protestant understanding of faith must be characterised particularly by the ability to overcome this illusory alternative and to enable reasoned, valid criticism. It is therefore time to concisely lay out the position of the Evangelical Church towards both the theological interpretation of creation faith and the scientific theories of the origin of the world and of life at this point.


The debate on these issues in Germany follows different patterns and has a lower profile than it does e. g. in the United States of America. Nonetheless, clarifying our fundamental positions is of great practical relevance. It has, for example, been proposed that biology taught in school should refer to Biblical creation faith and religious education address the theory of evolution. The thrust of our own argument suggests that these matters are best placed in interdisciplinary projects where both the biological and theological perspectives can be treated on their own merits and in their appropriate contexts. It is increasingly becoming clear that the relation between these two perspectives can only be fully comprehended once the distinction between them is understood. This requires preknowledge of both the theological and scientific background that is taught and articulated in the school environment, not only for interdisciplinary projects, but also where either religious education or biology alone thematise the relationship between evolution and creation. The Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) hopes to contribute to spreading the knowledge and judgement required in this fundamental question through this reference statement. It was drafted by Prof. Dr. Michael Beintker and Prof. Dr. Friedrich Schweitzer. Prof. Dr. Martin Rothgangel, Prof. Dr. Ernst-Joachim Waschke, Prof. Dr. Michael Welker and other members of the two Advisory Groups on Theology and on Education, Children and Youth Work contributed in a consultative function. Further contributors also include Oberkirchenrat Dr. Vicco von Bülow and Oberkirchenrat Matthias Otte, both from the Church Office of the EKD. I wish to express my gratitude to the panel of authors for addressing this difficult issue and presenting their results at such short notice. I hope that this reference statement will find widespread attention among those who tackle with the origin of the world and of life and address the significance of Biblical creation faith in school and society. Both in education and in the personal approach to this issue, we can not allow ourselves to merely skim the surface but must be open to deeper insights and strive to articulate them. Berlin/Hanover, February 2008 Bischof Dr. Wolfgang Huber Chairman of the EKD Council


1. Current Situation To the astonishment of many, the question „creation or evolution“ has once again entered the public arena, especially with regard to school education, biology and religious education classes. For almost a century it had been thought that, at least in Germany, this issue had been settled for good by accepting the existence and validity of different, often divergent biological and theological perspectives on the development of life and humanity. Such complementary perspectives have by now been recognised as necessary in other fields as well: The most tried and true physical theory cannot – nor should it intend to - replace our sense of wonder when faced with the beauty of the universe; the most precisely calculated and digitised language model cannot render poetry superfluous; no degree of precision in research into social relationships can replace the expression of love between two people. The current debate on creation and evolution in school shows how little the relationship between faith and science has really been defined. Prejudices long thought extinct were expressed again – both against the theory of evolution and biology as a science and against theology, the Church and religious education in school. However, it is indefensible either to equate evolution research with a profession of atheism or to view Creationism of the kind widespread especially in the United States as the only Christian form of creation faith. Rather, Creationism deforms the Christian faith in the Creator into a factual model explaining the physical world that in the final conesquence abandons the alliance between faith and reason that is fundamental to Christianity. In view of this situation, the present reference statement aims to contribute to a return of the debate to a more reasonable level and provide impulses to address these vital questions. Among these, the position of the Churches and the theological community (at least in their great majority) on creation and evolution is surely a central one. The current debate was sparked in the context of schools, but it has quickly shown that the scope of the unanswered questions at its core reaches far beyond this field. Nonetheless, the best ways of reasonably discussing the question in school also will be explored in the following. Thus, a space can be created to deal with the questions and problems that – beyond today's misunderstandings, pushbutton issues and accusations – matter for the future: 7

Questions of living and surviving in the world and of an understanding of human nature and reality that can meet the demands of humanity.


2. Scientific Theories and Creation Faith 2.1 The Character of the Biblical Creation Narratives The two creation narratives of the Book of Genesis (Moses I) draw our attention to the origin of heaven and earth, the beginning of life and of humanity. They identify the creative act of God behind everything that happens in this world. The memorable sentence “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth“ (Gen 1,1) must be read as the overarching theme uniting the entirety of the creation process that originated the cosmos, the biosphere, and ultimately humanity. Even though the following first creation narrative (Gen 1,1-2,4a) is not based on anything approaching our current knowledge of the natural world, it lays out a subtle conception of world order. In a sequence of great eras of time, the “days of God“ (cf. Ps 90,4: “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night“), the cosmic, biological, anthropological, cultural and religious elements of creation are invoked and interwoven. Creation itself takes part in the divine creative act: the heavens divide, the earth brings forth, the stars reign and humanity is given the proverbial dominion over the earth. A simple opposition of creation and evolution would be alien even to this most important Biblical creation account. Unlike the account of the liberation of Israel from Egyptian bondage, the revelation of God's commandments on Mount Sinai or the prophetic message of judgement and salvation, the profession of belief in God as “Creator of heaven and earth“ is not part of the earliest traditions of the Bible. Rather, it represents a consistent development emerging from the belief that the God of Israel is not merely the God of his chosen people, but the sole God the entire world should worship. In the process, Israel adapted creation narratives from its environment in the Ancient Orient and reinterpreted them from the vantage point of its own experiences with God and its own understanding of the world. The places of professing belief in the Creator in this world are praise in divine service (cf. Ps 8; 19; 104) and wisdom's contemplation of the perfect ordering of creation. In both cases, reassurance in the world and comprehension of the meaning underlying its order are


emphasised while the question of the origin of being and the How of the creative act itself remain a mystery hidden to man (cf. Prov. 8, 22; Job 28; 38ff.). Accordingly, the creation narratives of Genesis could encompass entirely different and often at first glance contradictory ideas. For example, the first creation narrative (Gen 1, 1-2,4a) understands the creation of heaven and earth as the combination of the creative word and act and defines humanity – meaning all humans – as created in the image of God and imbued with the highest inalienable dignity as guardian of the order of creation. The following second creation narrative (Gen 2,4b-3,24), which is based on an older tradition, recalls the creation of humanity from „the dust of the ground“ and of the acquisition of divine knowledge through eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, thus problematising the capabilities and limitations of humanity in the world. Being created in the image of God, humanity – each individual human – strives to become like God. Old and New Testament agree in the view that the actual interest of the creation narratives is not cosmological or metaphysical. God's intent in creation goes far beyond the level of natural processes. Gratitude for the present acts of God is by far the most prevalent form of expressing faith in Biblical texts. As the work speaks the praise of the artist, so does creation praise its heavenly Creator: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands,“ (Ps 19,1). “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy, they will sing before the Lord …“ (Ps 96,11 f.). Yet creation faith also includes the lament of the finite nature of existence, mortality and precariousness, and raises the issue of God's intervention in saving and elevating his creation. From the perspective of faith in the Creator, our reality takes on a different character. It leaves its seeming autarky and we discover it in its relation to God. 2.2 Creation Theology as a Subject of Christian Theology The position adopted by Martin Luther in his exegesis of the first Article of the Small Catechism provides a good example. In line with the Biblical texts, he regards the divine creative act as an entirely current phenomenon. Without God creating here and now, the world 10

would perish, „where He does not begin, nothing could exist or become, where He ends, nothing can continue“. We cannot draw a divide between creation and continuation – God wills the continuation of the world through a continuous act of creation (creatio continua). Thus, it cannot be regarded as ever having been finished. John Calvin similarly placed his main emphasis on the current presence and action of God in the world when considering its nature as a creation. We do not realise that we are created by God through a speculative exploration of the first seconds of the universe, but through understanding our existence as a gift. The reformers saw the realisation that humans are creatures of God and on that understanding of the mystery of creation can embrace the fact that their existence is purposeful and finite at the core of creation faith. This does not render the createdness of our world a moot point, but it identifies the main point that must never be ignored. As Luther illustrates, you could move from university to university and learn all there is about creation. The faith in the Creator that the creed exemplifies is not found along that path. To embrace it, you need to understand yourself as created by God, as receiving everything from him and as able to express your gratitude for this. The 21st century presents creation theology with a twin challenge: On the one hand, it confronts (at many levels) a world view that perceives reality as though God did not exist. On the other hand, it must address the ethical problems arising from a careless attitude towards the environment in general and in particular from the new opportunities for interfering with the foundations of life through genetic technology. All adequate approaches to a modern creation theology must therefore both include a detailed hermeneutics of the Biblical creation narratives and seek dialogue with physics, biology, cosmology and anthropology. The ecological crisis that now appears to broaden into a threat to the world's climate has further revitalised the theology of the environment and the debate on how to properly and carefully husband it. 2.3 The Difference to the Scientific Perspective Faith in the Creator perceives the cosmos and the biosphere from a different perspective than the experimental natural sciences. It operates in dimensions detached from the plane of modern scientific 11

enquiry. The dimensions of the real that is named and recognised in this faith are closed to the scientific view and the methods of its choosing. Physics and biology are dedicated as precisely as possible to study the realm of the measurable and calculable. Their success is founded on their ability to dissect nature into quantifiable segments and to formalise these as objects of human rational understanding. God cannot be thus addressed as a measurable quantity or object. From a theological perspective, treating God at the same level as physical phenomena would not only be entirely inappropriate, but also inherently guaranteed to render any chance of understanding its object moot. The distinction from the natural sciences grew as they learned to base their approaches increasingly no longer on reasoned observation, but on mathematically derived and calculable data. Thus, Copernicus, Kepler and Newton developed a model of the world that could operate without the concept of an intervening God solely on the basis of its own inherent laws. In the 19th century, the theory of evolution took a dominant position as a similar model to explain the origin and development of species. Scientists and theologians had to accept the fact that the perspective of faith on nature and the concept that physics had of it increasingly came to diverge while biology developed models of the development of life that markedly differed from traditional beliefs. Evolution also informs the scientific view of reality itself: Human knowledge of the natural world continues to develop as old knowledge becomes obsolete at an ever increasing rate. The current state of knowledge can never be raised to the level of dogma – any attempt to treat it as such is fated to reject new discoveries that clash with the received world view. The conflict of the Roman Church with Galileo Galilei can be interpreted in line with this model, and the assaults on Darwin's theory of evolution are another case in point. These are, however, extreme cases. Most scientists remained religious people from deep conviction while most theologians learned to adapt the new knowledge while retaining their understanding of the creative action of God. The past and present role of many theologians as scientists and explorers is not purely a coincidence. To this day, a Society of Ordained Scientists exists in Britain. Dialogue between theology and the natural sciences in the context of conferences and publications are common in many parts of the world. 12

It would be wrong to say that the development of modern science furthered or even created modern atheism. Its roots lie elsewhere, mainly in an absolute concentration on secular rationality to the exclusion of all else and a rebellion against all things religious. Like the first advance into the limitless reaches of space, unimaginable to our ancestors, calls forth religious interest rather than denial, so does the modern study of the circumstances under which life came into being and our understanding of the profligate richness of the evolutionary process. Prominent defenders of the theory of evolution professed their Christian faith for good reason; the word of the pianist Alfred Brendel: „the more exactly we understand, the greater our astonishment“ apply to the study of nature as much as to that of music. Though the scientific, theological and spiritual approaches to the world share many aspects in common, faith and science do not represent, as it were, opposite poles of the same plane or should be viewed as competing and necessarily incompatible strategies of understanding reality. Faith in the triune God always deals with the fundamental direction of an individual human in all aspects and – correctly understood – encompasses all expressions of being. Physics and biology, like all other sciences, can be understood as such expressions. Where they are elevated to the status as the only thinkable expression and their perspective alone is to dominate human thought and belief, we can speak of scientism. A narrowing of human perception as it is represented by ideological scientism affects not only theology, but represents an assault on human thought in all its aspects. 2.4 The Cosmological and Anthropological Scope of Faith in the Creator It was mainly under the influence of Kant's „Critique of Pure Reason“ (1781) that distinctions between scientific, philosophical and theological perspectives and the respective competences they require gained ground. A greater understanding was acquired of what science can understand, where philosophical reflection is called for, where speculation begins, and what is a matter of faith. The realm of the sciences is such that the question of God can neither be scientifically asked nor finally answered. This allows theology to embrace the free development of the sciences and the progress of knowledge it brings. 13

This model of distinct competences has stood the test of time. Nonetheless, its weaknesses must be taken into consideration. There is particularly a latent tendency for the different perspectives to lose sight of each other. Physics, biology and theology then coexist, but no longer communicate. Their shared quest for truth is dissolved into a plurality of levels of understanding. In the end, this development blurs the very fact that the perspectives of the different fields intersect in the pursuit of an adequate interpretation of reality – although the fragmentary nature of human understanding does not allow us a satisfactory formula for this intersection. Thus, the distinction of perspectives must not be interpreted as a divorce. Creation faith has cosmological implications that cannot be neglected. Even though it is impossible to create a universal cosmotheology that unifies faith in the Creator with scientific knowledge into a coherent whole, some ideological exaggerations of the scientifically informed world view are called into question by it. Anyone who is convinced that the world and life ultimately exist through the creative will of God can not embrace coincidence as the sole criterion of interpretation beyond scientific theory. Creation faith makes claims on our interpretation of reality. Since the cosmos and the human environment are part of this reality, it unavoidably enters the realm of cosmology – also where it teaches us to see space and time as finite, as having a defined beginning (and end). 2.5 The Fallacies of Creationism „Creationism“ is a generic term for beliefs – propagated by a minority of Christians – that aggressively oppose the assumptions that underpin the theory of evolution. Based on the premise of a literal inspiration of the Biblical text, creationism defends the creation narrative as inerrant. Initially a North American phenomenon particularly strong in the so-called 'Bible Belt' of the South, it has slowly been gaining support in Europe over the past twenty years – especially where fundamentalist evangelical influences from the United States are strong. Creationism exploits the questions evolutionary theory leaves unanswered and aims to highlight its inconsistencies. In its effort, it has used arguments that can only be called questionable. By responding


to the ideological charge that an antireligious 'Ultra-Darwinism' imbued aspects of the theory of evolution with, the creationist position, too, has become a scientistic ideology. In response to the frequent association between creationism and Christian fundamentalism that was used to discredit it, its proponents have recently begun to give it a more respectable guise. It was reformulated to become scientifically acceptable, eventually leading to the acceptance of a developed form of neo-creationism into some school and university curricula in the United States. Neocreationists are untroubled by controversies over the so-called literal interpretation of the Biblical texts and do not cling to a Biblical calculation of the age of the world. They do, however, attack the prevailing scientific world view as an expression of atheism. In their view, some phenomena can only be explained satisfactorily through supernatural intervention. The laws and interconnections of the natural universe can only be understood with the assumption of intelligence as their cause, not through a random process of evolution. This premise led to the formulation of the theory of 'intelligent design'. In it, the teleological proof of God is resurrected through the argument that the complex and artful design of nature requires a purposeful, deliberately creating divine 'architect'. Adherents of intelligent design look for signs of the creative acts of God in creation wherever complexity and concepts of information could not be explained naturally. Yet despite the considerable effort in its defence, concepts of intelligent design must be regarded as pseudoscience: its hypotheses do not stand up to the scientific scrutiny. Like any genuine scientific hypothesis, the theory of evolution must, of course, remain open for criticism. Many of its assumptions are less certain according to the standards of biological science than its popular descriptions allow for. But to show up the weaknesses of a theory is not to refute it. There remain strong arguments in favour. As a scientific approach to explaining the origin of life and the wealth of different species it distinguishes itself by overwhelming plausibility and productivity as an explanatory model. In view of today's knowledge of natural history, clinging to the understanding of the Biblical creation narrative creates far greater inconsistencies than the assumption that the world we know is the outcome of a billion-year


process of natural development. Neither does this unwillingness to change do justice to the Bible itself. Further, creationism must be rejected specifically for theological reasons. It disregards the findings of history and systematic theology about the origin, shaping and meaning of the Biblical creation narrative and ignores the historical context of its development. In doing so, it robs itself of the opportunity to adequately interpret Biblical creation as well as wilfully ignoring the necessary distinction of theological and scientific levels of understanding. Its fundamental fallacy is the attempt to demonstrate and thus prove divine intervention in the cosmos and the biosphere by scientific means. This forces God into the role of an auxiliary hypothesis to use where science does not (yet) provide an explanation. Seeking out gaps in the theory of evolution to insert deliberate intervention by God does religion a disservice. Rather than bringing God into the natural world, he is moved out of it further with every gap closed by new scientific results. 2.6 The Fallacies of Atheist Opposition to Creation Faith This misreading and misuse of Christian creation faith is mirrored by the fallacy that seeks to logically extract a denial of God and an obligation to militant atheism from the insights of modern science. The example of doctrinaire Marxism illustrates the outcome of ideologically instrumentalising scientific results, however well founded and solid they may be. Faith in the Creator was vilified as inimical to science at schools in the former GDR in the name of a state monopoly on truth. The 'New Atheism' today propagated by Richard Dawkins and other authors seamlessly fits this pattern. It fundamentally absolutises its own perspective. Its proponents deny the existence of God on the basis of scientific arguments and do not stop even at defaming tenets of faith. The 'Ultradarwinist' world view they develop considers religion a relic of pre-scientific times that would disappear with the rise of scientific consciousness. As this disappearance does not happen automatically, it must be brought about in an ideological struggle in which they seek the support of what they consider scientific certainties. Faith in God is to be undermined by demonstrating that God is not required to explain the origin of the cosmos and of life. Here, too, their understanding of God is entirely based on 16

the misinterpretation of a 'stopgap' deity. Creationists and proponents of intelligent design are the enemy of choice in this conflict and are regularly declared to represent Christianity or even religion as a whole. The development of scientific theology, the achievements of critical and historical Biblical exegesis and the ethical strength of Christianity are routinely ignored. Yet an enlightened faith in God does not need to fear scientific knowledge. On the contrary, it seeks an open dialogue with science to discuss fundamental questions without fundamentalist barriers. 2.7 The Dialogue with Science In Germany, there is a long-standing tradition of dialogue between theology and the natural sciences. In the past 60 years there have been remarkable exchanges and promising approaches. The first nuclear explosion and the horror at the consequences of the unbound urge to invent provided a strong impetus to joint reflection. In the 1970s and 1980s, the talks saw a second high point caused by growing ecological awareness and the realisation of the conesquences a limitless exploitation of the natural environment would have. There were groundbreaking conferences and publications on the theories of open systems, the understanding of time in theology, philosophy and science, and on the responsibility of scientists. Today, many interdisciplinary dialogues take place worldwide especially on hermeneutical questions, the concept of humanity and eschatology. In Britain and the United States, respected universities have endowed chairs for 'Science and Theology' or 'Science and Religion'. This interdisciplinary dialogue on the interpretation of the world is of great importance for the orientation of the Christian faith in the world – and the philosophical and ethical orientation of modern science. Our approach to reality can only profit from the combination of different perspectives. However, this encounter requires suitable spaces and constellations. The Church will continue to regard this as an important task. Reflection across subject boundaries that accord each participant's competences and openness room promise considerable gains in insight and understanding.


3. Educational Perspectives, School and Religious Education 3.1 The Demands of a Comprehensive and Differentiated Education In a Protestant understanding, education means more than mere knowledge or abilities. It also encompasses the question of the ultimate cause of all knowledge, and the purpose of all understanding. Thus, questions on the theory of science and hermeneutics are as much part of education as those of the origin and goal of human life. Knowledge and science can only contribute to it if they are also understood in their ethical horizons. Education means the valuation of knowledge, understanding and reason, but also insight into their limits (cf the EKD's statement on education: „Standards of Humanity; Education on a Human Scale. Protestant Perspectives on Education in a Knowledge Society“, 2003). A comprehensive and differentiated education is only realised once different approaches to reality and avenues of gaining understanding can both be distinguished from and related to each other. The scientific concept of complementarity, the necessity of using mutually contradictory explanations in parallel, must also be made productive in the field of education theory. The current German debate exemplifies this with the distinction between practical vs. orientational knowledge (Verfügungs- und Orientierungswissen) and the distinction of different modes of encountering the world. These include its schematic representation in mathematics and natural sciences, its exploration and expression in language, literature, music and art, and the engagement with economy and society in history, economics, politics and law (respectively cognitive/instrumental, aesthetic/expressive and moral/evaluative rationality, cf. PISA-Study 2000). Religion and philosophy in turn need to be distinguished from all those as they address „questions of the whence, whither and why of human life“ and thus „problems of constitutive rationality“ (Jürgen Baumert). Altogether, the systematic introduction to different modes of encounter with the world forms the framework around which the curricula of modern schools are designed. Thus, immediate experiences of the world and interpersonal relationships are connected with scientific interpretations. Students must address the present differences and learn to reflect them.


3.2 Religion and Science in School If education needs an understanding of different modes of encounter with the world, the school can dispense with neither religion nor natural science. In this context it is not a central issue how this is organised in the context of any given institution – whether, for example, different sciences are accorded separate subjects. It is vital, however, that children and young people can experience differrent modes of encounter and realise their specific nature and unique qualities. This necessarily includes the relationship of these modes to each other. The establishment of specialised subjects for e. g. physics, biology or religious education guarantees adequate exposure to their perspectives on reality, but it can lead to a form of (self-) isolation of their respective approaches. Thus, a school organised in separate subjects is especially in need of cross-subject teaching units and approaches. Beyond its educational rationale, religious education in school is an expression of the freedom of religion mandated in Germany's Basic Law (Article 4 in connection with Article 7, Paragraph 3). It underpins the free practice of faith in the sense of a positive freedom of religion (on this issue, cf. the statement of the EKD on religious education „Identity and Dialogue. Position and Perspectives of Religious Education in a Plural Society“, 1994). This goal, too, can be met in a cooperation between subjects that e.g. allows it to address religious questions raised in science classes or clarify apparent contradictions between faith and scientific insight. Religious education has been striving for over a century to present an interpretation of creation faith that does justice to the categorial distinction between faith and science and is open for scientific knowledge. 3.3 Creation Faith and Evolution Theory in School Teaching Schools that are not beholden to any ideological position cannot have any taboo questions. Therefore, all subjects may in principle address both creation faith and the theory of evolution, though they must, of course, do so in a clear awareness of their respective competence and their responsibility for a well-founded education. As both creation faith and the theory of evolution are fundamental and formative aspects of our culture, albeit in different and often contrasting ways, it is desirable for any school to – critically - address both. 19

This cannot be viewed as a violation of the religious freedom of children or their parents as long as no influence – either pro- or antireligious – is attempted. The state's mandate of ideological neutrality does not mean that religion has no place at a state school or that children and young people need to be shielded from expressions of faith. On the contrary, a positive freedom of religion includes the right of students to express their own religious and ideological – including creationist – views in the classroom. The same does not apply to teachers, both in view of their pedagogical responsibility and their duty to refrain from indoctrination. Neither creationist nor other – such as atheistic – positions should be openly advocated by them. The Christian creed plays a fundamentally different role in religious education than in other subjects. This includes faith in God as the Creator, but not in creationism. Protestant religious education provided, as per Article 7, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law, „in accordance with the tenets“ of the Evangelical Church may thematise creationism, but cannot advocate it. This religious education rather subscribes to the conception of creation faith we outlined above and is therefore interested in conducting an open dialogue with the scientific subjects in full awareness of the differences. Such an engagement with creation faith and evolutionary theory – as well as with creationism – is desirable both from the educational and school perspective, but it leads the individual subjects to the limits of their separate competences. This applies to religious education as much as biology or other natural sciences. Teachers who hold degrees in both biology and theology may hold particular promise in bridging this divide, but in most cases the most advantageous approach will be cross-curricular teaching that allows two or more teachers to combine their respective academic competences. Thus, a responsible and balanced engagement with different approaches and academic disciplines as well as their insights can be ensured. The right of parents to opt out of religious education does not militate against such cooperative ventures. A combined unit does not constitute religious education as per Article 7, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law. Thus, it is not subject to any confessional requirement, though Protestant or Catholic religious education teachers may explain Christian perspectives and approaches on the basis of their respective denominations. Rather, its openness for


different perspectives and approaches is a constitutive element of its particular educational worth. 3.4 Didactic Principles for Addressing Creation Faith and Evolutionary Theory in School The following principles must be stressed both for work in individual subjects as well as in cooperative cross-curricular teaching: - World views and forms of engagement with the world are not created in the classroom. Therefore, so-called 'pre-scientific theories' and developmentally appropriate manners of understanding and interpreting the world are finding increasing attention in the didactics of science and religion. The conceptions of children and youths should also be embraced as a point of reference to begin educational efforts when it comes to creation faith and evolution. - An adequate approach to creation faith and evolutionary theory requires an understanding of theories of hermeneutics and science. Therefore it is particularly important didactically to familiarise young people with the different natures of various approaches to the world and interpretations of reality and humanity and to clarify the principles of scientific understanding. Especially commonly used and misunderstood concepts such as 'fact', 'proof', 'disproof' (verification and falsification), 'hypothesis', 'theory', 'progress of knowledge' etc. are in great need of such clarification. It would further be desirable to introduce students to the various models of classifying approaches, especially in the context of complementary thinking. - Productive clarifications are only possible if both creation faith and evolutionary theory are addressed not in terms of problematic and often hostile distortions, but from a differentiated understanding that is appropriate to each. References to Ultradarwinism or Social Darwinism are as inappropriate as to creationnism, however important a critical engagement with these ideologies is in the context of responsible education. Similarly, a presentation of evolution as a scientific criticism of (let alone substitute for) creation faith precludes a full understanding of both approaches and their respective separate character. Not only the theory of evolution, but also creation faith needs to be


thematised in careful awareness of its understanding in its appropriate field of knowledge. - Children and young people do not engage with creation faith and evolutionary theory independent of the cultural contexts they grow up in. Especially widespread popular and pseudo-scientific theories propagated by the media that seek to turn the theory of evolution into an ideology to obviate faith are problematic from a religious perspective. Such distortions of evolutionary theory, too, need to be critically addressed in school. Thus we can conclude that both the assertion that „Darwin proves God does not exist“ and that „God proves that Darwin was wrong“ are didactically flawed. Biology in school cannot claim the role of teaching ideological or religious issues and thus usurp the place of a counterpart or antagonist to religious education. 3.5 Future Problems as a Joint Challenge The conflict between creationism and evolutionary theory and its repercussions for schools have found broad attention in the public arena. Yet over this sound and fury, it should not be overlooked that both science and creation theology face far more pressing and immediately relevant problems today. The question whether and how we can survive and live on a world threatened from many sides, how to deal with the consequences of a drastic climate change that is at least in part human-induced, or how to secure the rights of future generations in a scenario of finite resources remains unanswered just as that of the limits of human intervention in our own genome. These and many other challenges face both theology and the natural sciences. The great overarching task is to contribute to survival and life in genuine humanity. The Christian faith understands the resources we need to live as gifts of God, teaches gratitude and stresses the need to take seriously the scope and limitations of humanity as created by God. It encourages us to contribute to the solution of society's problems in spirit of hope and responsibility with the strength of the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Published by the Church Office of the Evangelical Church in Germany Herrenhäuser Straße 12 30419 Hannover

The Origin of the World, the Theory of Evolution, and Creation Faith in School

A Reference Statement by the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany Published by the EKD Office Herrenhäuser Straße 12 · D-30419 Hannover Phone: 0049 511/27 96 0 · Fax: 0049 511/27 96 707 E-Mail: [email protected] · Internet:

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