A Canadian professor dedicated to reconciling religion and a belief in evolution gave two public lectures at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church over the weekend.
Denis Lamoureux, a self-described evangelical Christian and an associate professor of science and religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta, was invited by the American Scientific Affiliation, a network of Christians who work in the sciences.
Lamoureux holds doctoral degrees in evangelical theology and evolutionary biology and considers himself an evolutionary creationist.
Lamoureux said he wants people to move beyond the evolution versus creation debate and recognize that there are middle-ground positions between atheism and believing that a higher being created the world in six days.
He is particularly concerned with evangelical high school and college students losing their faith after taking science courses in college.
“They are not prepared,” he said. “I want to give them a position where they can keep their faith intact.”
He said 50 percent of evangelical students lose their faith at public universities by their fourth year of classes and said he himself lost his faith after taking a class on evolution.
Raised a Catholic, Lamoureux returned to his faith about seven years later while in the military and stationed in Cyprus. He packed a Bible in his luggage and said that reading the Gospel of John brought peace into his heart and made him realize that “good is worth pursuing.”
He said he initially began work on his evolutionary biology doctorate as a staunch anti-evolutionist. But, he said, after studying teeth and jaws for his degree, he recognized evolution at work.
Lamoureux said he doesn’t want to tell students how to think, he just wants them to be aware that there are a plurality of views and that science and religion don’t have to be like oil and water.
“They are waiting for someone to say, ‘You can love Jesus and accept evolution,’” he said.
For Lamoureux, evolutionary creationism is the belief that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit created the universe and life, including humans, through an ordained, sustained and design-reflecting process. That is, God is actively behind evolution.
Lamoureux said he is first and foremost a creationist in the professional theologian sense of the word, where everything around us is the result of a creator.
“I will fall on a sword for God the creator,” he said, “but I believe evolution to be true.”
His teachings have gained the criticism of scientist and notable atheist Richard Dawkins who has said Lamoureux’ beliefs have an air of desperation about them, but Lamoureux said he tries to have an enjoyable conversation about the issues.
Lamoureux said he has the first tenure-track position in Canada dedicated to teaching and research on the relationship between scientific discovery and Christian faith and is often invited to speak at Christian schools to speak on topics that professors at those colleges are unable to speak on themselves.
In Friday’s lecture at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, Lamoureux gave what he calls his basic lecture in which he proposes moving beyond a black-and-white debate on evolution and creation.
On Saturday, he said, things got a bit more controversial, during a discussion on Adam and whether he actually existed. Lamoureux presented several theories regarding Adam, including the traditional model of Adam and Eve and his own belief that there was no “hard and fast” Adam, but that somewhere along the evolutionary process, we began to bear the image of God.
Despite speaking on controversial topics, Lamoureux said that in 15 years of public presentations, he has only asked one person to leave — a man who told him he was Satan.