FASTLY - Faith & Science Teaching

Activity Map: Christian Views of Creation

Overview

What's the Focus

The purpose of this activity map is to briefly explore the different views held by Christians regarding evolution, creation, and the age of the Earth. The activity map is not intended to promote any one view or to cover all the related science. It focuses on helping students understand the contours of each view and to explore how understanding the views of others relates to the practice of loving God with our minds and loving our neighbors in the midst of disagreements.

The activity map has three primary goals:

  1. To encourage students to see that Christians with differing views of science and faith questions agree on a number of critical issues: the Bible is God’s Word and can be trusted, God created the universe, humans are unique in bearing God’s image, and creation shows God’s glory.
  2. To keep truth and love connected throughout all discussions of origins and to show that truth does matter even though there is disagreement not only about particular ideas about origins, but also about how essential questions of origins are to faith.
  3. To encourage students to treat others who disagree with them in ways that promote love of God and love of neighbor, and to fully engage  them in an initial exploration of different views that Christians hold regarding how and when God created.

It is recommended that work on this topic be coordinated between science and Bible teachers, and that good communication with parents be practiced. See the Activity Map on Engaging Parents for resources.

It is not necessary to use every activity in your class. This activity map is intended to offer a range of possibilities to enrich your existing teaching resources. While some of the activities form a possible sequence, you can select the ones most suitable for your context and adapt them to connect to your own plan for learning. Spending too much time on origins may weary students, so select a sequence that best matches your students’ existing understanding and interest in the topic.

Discover activities offer brief ways into the topic and are designed to set the stage and get students thinking.

Delve activities promote more extended learning. This is where the main substance of the lesson unfolds.

Debrief activities bring the sequence of the study to a thoughtful close by helping students reflect on how they have been invited to see science and faith anew.

You can mix and match these activities as you wish. It is not intended that all these activities should be used with the same class.

Quick Stop Lesson Plan

The best way to use this activity map is to explore all of the activities and see which ones fit in your particular teaching context. If you just need a quick way to explore the themes of the map, you can use the links below to preview and download a sampler of three activities selected from this activity map.

PreviewDownload Files

Discover Activities

Discover activities offer brief ways into the topic and are designed to set the stage and get students thinking.

  • Activity 0:12

    The Great Commandment in Science Class

  • Activity 0:15

    Agreeing and Disagreeing

  • Activity 0:25

    Right-ness and Righteousness

The Great Commandment in Science Class

In Brief

This activity encourages students to think about how love of God and love of neighbor remain central goals, even in the midst of disagreement. It engages students in quiet reflection and asks them to see disagreements in a new wayin the light of the Great Commandment.

Goals

Students will reflect on how disagreement relates to the call to love God and neighbor.

Thinking Ahead

When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

These commandments hold true in the science classroom, and teaching FASTly includes exploring their relevance there. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). In other words, disagreements, including those about faith and science, should be approached in ways that promote love of God and love of neighbor by building others up.

Christians agree about a number of foundational matters concerning creation. They agree that the world is God’s handiwork and that human beings are made in God’s image. But Christians disagree about how and when God created, about how faith relates to science, and about how central these questions should be to faith. This activity map explores these agreements and disagreements.

Because disagreement over faith-related matters can be stressful for some students, it is important to begin the activity map thinking about how to disagree in ways that promote love of God and love of neighbor. This does not mean abandoning all strongly held positions in order to be nice. Rather it means that a love of truth rooted in love for God has to be held together with the call to treat others with love even when they disagree. At this early stage, avoid classroom discussion of specific disagreements about creation. Tell students there will be a chance for that later.

Apply this reflection activity to yourself and consider how your own practice can model good responses when students disagree with your perspective.

As you embark on teaching about origins, it is recommended that you coordinate work on this topic between science and Bible teachers and that you practice good communication with parents. See the activity map on Engaging Parents, and especially the activity on Communicating Goals for resources.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • PowerPoint slide of Mark 12:30-31 or a Bible

  • Writing supplies for each student

Teaching the Activity

Quiet the students. Consider how the classroom environment can help create an atmosphere of quiet reflection if the lights are dimmed and if the teacher sits rather than stands to give instructions.

Ask students to think quietly about a time when they strongly disagreed with someone, whether a teacher, parent, friend, etc., and to reflect how they felt. Focus their attention on how they wished to be treated by the other person. Encourage them to think specifically about what things they wanted the other person to say or do. Give the students a minute or two to write their thoughts quietly.

Invite several volunteers to share what they wrote, or collect the papers and read some aloud. If you are going to read them, tell the students ahead of time and do not read identifying details. To protect student privacy and to keep the focus on response to conflict, do not allow anyone to write while examples are being shared or pry into the nature of the disagreement being described.

Display and read the Great Commandment to the class. Ask students to reflect for a few moments on how it applies to the experiences they just described. Ask them to reflect on whether there are occasions when they behaved toward others in disagreements in ways that they would not want others to behave toward them. Allow a few minutes for silent reflection.

Explain that the class will be exploring issues around which Christians have both significant agreement and disagreement. For five minutes, in small groups, have students draft suggestions for a class covenant on how disagreements should be handled in a way that shows love for God and for one another. As a whole class, create the class covenant from the groups’ suggestions. This will provide a framework for classroom practices throughout this activity map and beyond. Print and post it in a visible location. 

Conclude with the following writing prompt for either a brief journaling task, or to use to begin the next lesson: “How do disagreements give us an opportunity to show love to one another?”

Agreeing and Disagreeing

In Brief

By secondary school, most students are aware that Christians agree about many things and disagree about others. This activity sets Christian agreement and disagreement about creation in that broader context and relates it to love of God and neighbor. 

Goals

Students will consider areas of Christian agreement and disagreement and reflect on their relationship to love of God and neighbor.

Thinking Ahead

The goal of this activity is to potentially reduce harmful tension about science and faith issues by reminding students that Christians, while genuinely disagreeing on whether certain issues are essential to faith, find a common point of reference in teachings such as the Apostles’ Creed. Students may disagree as to whether these points of contention are acceptable or not. This activity merely recognizes that they exist, and therefore helps students to see that disagreements about science and faith are not unique.

The focus of this activity, as of the whole activity map, is on how Christians must promote love of God and neighbor while they both agree and disagree. This is a key emphasis in teaching FASTly. Consider how engaging students in reflecting on this perspective might have implications for your classroom practices and the kind of ethos you foster, and expectations you communicate, for how disagreement is to be expressed.

As you embark on teaching about origins, it is recommended that work on this topic be coordinated between science and Bible teachers, and you practice good communication with parents. See the activity map on Engaging Parents, and especially the activity on Communicating Goals, for resources.

Related Book Review: Emerging Adulthood and Faith by Jonathan Hill

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Ask the class to suggest several beliefs that all Christians hold. Take several suggestions but do not extend the discussion.

Display the Apostles’ Creed, or alternatively display Bible passages that have been widely taken as central to orthodox Christian faith such as Romans 10:9 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. For students unfamiliar with the Apostles’ Creed, point out that this statement of belief has been used by many Christian traditions since before 400 AD. Most Christians in most places agree with these beliefs because they help to define what it is that Christians hold in common. Note that this creed does not cover every important subject. For example, it does not mention beliefs about the Bible. It offers a core, not an exhaustive list.

Ask students as they read the Apostles’ Creed to count the number of distinct items listed about which Christians agree. The exact number is unimportant. The point of this exercise is to note how broadly we agree about a range of foundational issues.

Now ask students to work with those seated around them and list some matters that people who affirm the Apostle’s Creed might still disagree about. These would be doctrines and practices that vary among churches. Do not spend time discussing each item mentioned, and do not allow students to belittle views they do not hold. If necessary, remind students of the class covenant developed in Activity 1: The Great Commandment in Science Class.

If the class needs a prompt, suggest modes of baptism. Some churches baptize infants, others only baptize individuals who have made a public profession of faith, while others do both. Some churches baptize by sprinkling with water, others by pouring, and others by immersion. Students might mention other differences such as views on the events surrounding Jesus’ return, whether women may be pastors, the use of special vestments by clergy, the use of music in worship, whether clergy may marry, etc.

Conclude the discussion by pointing out that Christians agree about many important things but also have different views about other things. The idea that Christians disagree about everything and that we all basically believe the same way are both too simple. This means that Christian faith involves living with differences as fellow believers.

Note that part of the difficulty here is that we may also disagree about which questions are truly central and essential and which are secondary. How and when God created are two important areas where Christians disagree, including disagreeing about how central these questions are to faith. Nevertheless, if we disagree, it is important to do so in a way that is motivated by, and evidences love for God and love for each other (Matthew 22:37-40). As we grow in love, we hopefully may find that we also become better at pursuing truth together.

Right-ness and Righteousness

In Brief

The Apostle Paul was confident in his theological convictions, so it is instructive to examine how he taught Christians to treat one another when they disagreed about what God wanted them to believe and practice. This activity engages students in thinking through the alternatives to conflict when there are disagreements, and invites them to see that disagreements can be an opportunity to practice love. 

Goals

Students will understand that there are multiple ways to respond to disagreements, and that the Bible itself models more than one response.

Students will think about how the call to love one another might frame the origins debate.

Thinking Ahead

This activity considers how the Bible approaches disagreements and could be used in science class or in Bible class as part of learning about the origins debate. The New Testament shows the early church taking different approaches to disagreements about what God wanted Christians to believe and practice. See the activity map on Unity and Diversity.

Some New Testament issues seemed to be directly related to salvation while others, although important, were less critical. Acts 15 recounts how church leaders dealt with conflict over whether Gentile believers in Jesus had to become Jews in order to be saved. Church leaders met in Jerusalem to settle the question and try to honor the concerns of both parties and preserve fellowship. See the activity The Jerusalem Council.

Paul wrote to Christians in Rome and Corinth (Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8) about handling their differences over issues such as the acceptability of eating meat offered to idols. His advice did not include a resolution to the conflict. While he is clear about his own convictions, he is more interested in how believers love each other in the midst of their disagreement than in removing the conflict itself.

Christians’ differing views as to how and when God created have important implications for confidence in the Bible, and thus the foundations of faith. However, the issues Paul addressed had important implications for Christians at the time, such as whether eating meat offered to idols was participating in idolatry. Yet his instructions to them focused not on removing the disagreement but rather on how, in the midst of their disagreement, they must practice love of God and neighbor while they waited for a future resolution of the issue.

Some students might have difficulty accepting the idea that God could be content for us to disagree about any faith-related question. Do not force the issue, but be mindful of practicing any disagreement with them in a manner consistent with the point of this activity. Let them reflect on Paul’s example and maintain a focus on Jesus’ teaching that we must love God and neighbor at all times (Matthew 22:37-40). Teaching FASTly need not involve rushing to solutions of difficult questions, even if the questions are important ones.

As you embark on teaching about origins, it is recommended that you coordinate work on this topic between science and Bible teachers and practice good communication with parents. See the activity map on Engaging Parents, and especially the activity on Communicating Goals, for resources.

Related Book Review: After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters by N.T. Wright

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Copies of handout

  • Writing materials

  • Bibles

Teaching the Activity

Explain to students that part of learning about Christian disagreements regarding origins is thinking about how we should view disagreement itself. Is it fatal to faith if there are divergent views on an important topic? Tell students that they are going to examine some examples of how the New Testament approaches disagreement. Ask students to consider the following scenario: you are part of a church, and different groups of people in the church are in conflict with one another about the most Christian way to respond to a divisive cultural issue. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each of the following solutions:

  • Mobilize people in favor of what you are convinced is the right answer and silence or drive out the opposition.
  • Decide not to talk about the issue at all and let everyone do as they see fit.
  • Divide the church into two separate groups that each follow a different path and don’t interact.
  • Debate the issue until one side becomes weary or convinced and gives in.

Ask students: How do you think God would regard each of these alternatives? Are there any other possibilities?

Give each student a copy of the activity handout and read the “Background” paragraph with the students, drawing attention to the bold phrases.

Students are to use the text of Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8, and Galatians 3 to answer the questions on the activity handout. Follow this with some class discussion and allow for divergence of viewpoint concerning how central questions of origins are to faith. This is one of the issues at stake in debates about origins.

As a conclusion, ask students to suggest one verse from Romans 14 that best summarizes Paul’s main point. Romans 14:3, 14:13, and 14:19 are all good choices. If time and Bibles are available, you may wish to have students read the whole passages, Romans 14:1-15:3 and I Corinthians 8:1-13, and list examples of the selfless attitudes and actions Paul advocates.

Delve Activities

Delve activities promote more extended learning. This is where the main substance of the lesson unfolds.

  • Activity 0:45

    Meet the Cast

  • Activity 0:45

    Understanding Adaptation

  • Activity 0:30

    Why Do They Think That?

Meet the Cast

In Brief

This activity engages students in comparing the views of Christians holding three general positions: young-earth creation, old-earth creation, and evolutionary creation. Other positions exist but these three broad categories offer a way into the landscape of the discussion. The activity might take two normal class periods, but it will be a memorable lesson.   

Goals

Students will understand key elements of three major Christian views of origins.

Students will understand that agreement and disagreement are both part of debates about origins.

Thinking Ahead

Thoughtful Christians hold conflicting views about questions of origins. Teaching FASTly invites students to explore them with a concern for truth, yet without animosity. This activity is intended to humanize Christians in all three camps.

This activity is not designed to persuade students to accept or reject a particular view, or to cover all of the relevant scientific arguments and evidence, but to help them see that genuine disagreement can be accompanied by respect. This does not mean we pretend that the issues do not really matter. The different groups represented disagree quite strongly on some key issues and believe that those disagreements matter to faith and truth. Some students may already have strong feelings about these matters, or may find aspects of certain views especially appealing or threatening.

Encourage students to wait until later in the activity map to explore questions that might extend or emotionally charge the discussion. Do not allow the activity to become a debate about which view is correct. The activity primarily calls for the practice of careful listening and fair representation. Remember that whatever view you hold, in helping students understand the other views, you may be helping them understand a friend, acquaintance, pastor, teacher, or family member. Familiarity with all three views is helpful for leading this activity and answering student questions.

Three helpful books that compare different Christian views about how and when God created are Three Views on Creation and Evolution, edited by J. P. Moreland and John Mark Reynolds (Zondervan, 1999); Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, and Evolution, revised edition, by Deborah B. and Loren D. Haarsma (Faith Alive, 2011); and Four Views on the Historical Adam, edited by Matthew Barrett and Ardel B. Caneday (Zondervan, 2013).

Note that the view known as “Intelligent Design” is not included here because it is not necessarily a Christian position and is difficult to include it clearly on this spectrum. Aspects of Intelligent Design may be held by both Young Earth and Old Earth Creationists, and it is debated whether it really belongs to natural science or to philosophy.

If you wish, you could expand the cast to include a representative of atheistic evolution, making clear the distinction between this view and evolutionary creationism.

Related Book Review: Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning of Everything by Gerald Rau.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Handout for each student

  • A simple costume change for each of the three roles you will play, such as different hats and jackets

  • A name badge identifying the view (“Dr. E. Volution” or “Dr. Eva Lution”)

  • Teacher script: Meet the Cast Script

  • Meet the Cast Key

Directions:

Read through the script thoroughly so that you are familiar with the material. If questions arise about one or more of the views, you may want to explore just a bit more to feel comfortable presenting the perspective.
Consider creating names for each of the characters—the ones proposed are plays on words, but you may want to select others that better fit your classroom context.

Teaching the Activity

Tell the class that this lesson will explore different views that Christians hold regarding how and when God created. Give each student the handout. Announce that they will welcome three “guest speakers.” Each of them is a scientist and a Christian and believes God made everything, but they have differing views about how and when. The students’ responsibility is to listen carefully and fill in the information for each speaker’s view on the handout.

Tell the class that you will go get the first speaker. Step briefly into the hallway and put on the costume. Step to the front of the class, introduce yourself, and use the handout as an outline for explaining your view. Writing words on the board is helpful and can be made part of the act.

Emphasize the things that unite you and the other two speakers and be gracious about how your view differs, modeling love of God and neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). Be careful not to imply superiority or inferiority of one of the views through tone of voice or dismissive body language or odd costume choices. Aim to represent each speaker in a way they would appreciate. It works well to pretend that “all four of you” know and enjoy each other while maintaining that your differences are strongly held and important to you.

When it is time to leave, thank the class, excuse yourself, and change quickly for the next role. When all three “guests” have spoken, return as yourself and be sure students have completed and understood the handout. Mention that there are other positions on origins that Christians take and that the ones presented are just three examples.

Have students review and think about their notes, looking at how science is approached and how each view could promote love of God and neighbor. Discuss the following questions with the class in closing and/or collect written responses from students to assess understanding of the key points of agreement and disagreement.

  • What did you find most and least convincing about each view?
  • How do you think each view promotes love (for God and others)?
  • What do the three views have in common?
  • What dangers does each view see in the other views?

Optional Extra

Substitute actual guest speakers for your role play if you know one or more individuals who hold different views about creation, who can communicate with students, and—most importantly—who are gracious and respectful toward those holding other views. Allow more time if you invite real guests and be sure each has a copy of the student worksheet and understands their role in helping students fill it in.

Understanding Adaptation

In Brief

This activity focuses on parts of evolutionary theory that are not controversial for most creationists, helping students to see that one can establish a relationship within areas of agreement. It engages students in simulating a realistic, but noncontroversial, evolutionary change.

Goals

Students will understand how adaptation and natural selection affect a specific animal population, and how observation of such processes is related to larger questions about creation and evolution.

Thinking Ahead

The purpose of this unit is not to teach details about evolutionary science, but to offer an example of how learning more about particular scientific claims related to origins relates to approaching the larger debate with a “virtue lens” focused on loving others as well as pursuing truth. This activity focuses on genetic variation and adaptation. If you have time to teach a full inquiry-based lesson on this topic, you could adapt this activity accordingly.

A common student misunderstanding is that evolution means individual creatures change into something new. Students also sometimes wrongly assume that evolution is supposed to be automatic, so if God made amphibians from fish, there should no longer be fish. This activity can help students process those misconceptions, regardless of how much or how little they think God used evolution. This in turn may contribute to more charitable engagement with others around origins by reducing the number of false assumptions about what others in fact hold to be the case.

This activity explores a simplified example of the kind of evolutionary change that is accepted by most Christians, regardless of their views about how and when God created. This level of change is often called adaptation, which is part of microevolution, and results in a different variety of the same basic kind of creature. The modern debate about evolution focuses on larger changes that are thought to operate much like adaptation, but over much longer time periods, and resulting in radically new kinds of creatures, such as the first birds developing from reptiles. Young Earth Creationists and Old Earth Creationists point to most differences between creatures as evidence of God’s wise design and provision for His creatures through miraculous, special creation, yet the possibility of adaptive change is not in itself the point of controversy.

Remind students before, during, and after the activity that various views of origins could accept the level of change in the simulation, and that the simulation will teach them how the larger changes, which are controversial between different views of origins, are claimed to happen. There is much more to evolutionary theory than this one element, and to why Christians are so divided about it, but this activity may help students understand how studying microevolution can help one understand macroevolution.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Activity handout How Does Evolution Work and the Answer Key

  • Calculator

  • Ruler

  • Graph paper

  • If enough computers are available, have students do the graphing on Excel or another graphing program

Teaching the Activity

Begin by reading aloud the following four statements and asking students to write down whether or not they think creationists and proponents of evolution disagree about them.

  • New traits appear in creatures by genetic variation and are spread through a population if they provide a reproductive benefit.
  • Populations of particular creatures evolve over time as traits that are better adapted to the environment prove more successful.
  • Most differences that we see between creatures are due to miraculous special creation.
  • Major changes take place through evolution from one type of creature to another, such as reptiles evolving into birds.

Tell students that only the third and fourth of these statements are controversial and that scientists with various views about origins accept the first two. Ask students if this is surprising to them and what their assumptions were based on. Even if they are not able to articulate a specific basis for their assumptions, the question may help them realize that they were making assumptions.

Introduce students to the idea that small-scale evolutionary changes, called adaptation, are not the key issue in origins debates so much as larger scale changes. Stress that the activity they are about to do simulates adaptation, but will help them understand evolution in general.

Hand out copies of How Does Evolution Work and read the background story at the top of the handout. Ensure students have calculators, rulers, and graph paper before they begin. Check student work, especially their first few numbers. To get students started, it might be helpful to calculate the first number in each data table column as a class.

At the end of the activity, emphasize this “take-home” message: No individual snake got darker; the population got darker. Evolution of any kind is not about individual creatures changing into something new; it is about populations changing as better-adapted individuals survive and reproduce more than the others. Conclude by discussing:

  • Did this activity improve your understanding of adaptation and how it works?
  • If we know that this kind of adaptation happens, what is the real disagreement among proponents of different views of origins?
  • How might understanding adaptation accurately help you love others in the context of debates about origins?
  • How might misconceptions you may have about other aspects of and positions in origins debates affect the way you view and interact with others? What might this imply for how you should approach such debates?

Why Do They Think That?

In Brief

When making decisions about faith and science issues, Christians use reason, which is our ability to think, and tradition, which is our theological perspective, to interpret two sources of information: nature (God’s world) and the Bible (God’s Word), both of which are God’s gifts. This activity engages students in reflecting on how differences in interpreting these two gifts influence the positions Christians take regarding how and when God created.

Goals

Students will understand that positions on specific origins questions are grounded in differing views about how we should interpret different kinds of evidence.

Students will understand that differing views on origins may cluster differently in relation to different specific questions.

Thinking Ahead

The reasons we take certain positions on science and faith issues are complex. Christians with deep backgrounds in both the relevant sciences and theology study the same Bible and the same world yet adopt opposite positions regarding the age of creation and the degree to which God uses evolution. Teaching FASTly invites an exploration of the differing views that seeks understanding rather than quick victory. A useful way to explain the differences to students is that these scientists agree that both nature and the Bible must be taken seriously, but disagree about which is easier to misunderstand. Individuals might also have different opinions about what is at stake spiritually.

In his 1996 book, The Battle of Beginnings: Why Neither Side is Winning the Creation-Evolution Debate, Del Ratzsch observes that some Christians feel their souls are at stake if they embrace evolutionary ideas, while others see no such danger. This activity should not be approached as a way of pressuring students to change their views, but rather as a way of thinking about why others come to different conclusions. Even when we continue to disagree with someone, understanding more clearly how they may be thinking can help us engage more lovingly with them. It aims to help students see that specific beliefs are embedded in larger practices of interpretation. An activity such as this will make most sense if in your wider science teaching you encourage students to see science in terms of models and interpretations, rather than as facts to memorize.

Related Book Review: The Lost World of Adam and Eve by John H. Walton

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Display the question on the first slide of the Why Do They Think That slides:

  • How can scientists who are Christians believe the same Bible and study the same world yet wind up disagreeing so much about creation?

Give students a few minutes to silently write down thoughts in response to this question. Then display the second slide and ask the following questions of the class:

  • Is it possible for the first two categories, Scripture and Nature, to disagree if both are authored by God? (Christians would say no: the debates are between science and how we understand the world, and faith, how we understand Scripture, not between nature and the Bible. If God is the author of all truth, then science and Scripture, if properly understood, will not conflict.
  • Can the second two categories, Human understanding of Scripture and Human understanding of Nature, disagree? (Yes).
  • Why might the second two disagree? Let students figure out that one or both could be incorrect because of the fallibility of human understanding. If they do not get there on their own you could ask: if there seems to be a conflict, is it necessarily the case that one of the second two categories must be correct? If you have time and a thoughtful class, you could also mention the possibility that at this second level there could be agreement and yet both could be mistaken, as when both science and theology once believed that the sun circled the earth.
  • What might cause us to make mistakes interpreting the Bible? Or interpreting nature? Let students generate ideas. Suggestions might include traditions, ideologies, fears, carelessness, assumptions, other agendas, things we think we know from other sources, mistakes, willful ignoring of evidence we are not comfortable with, and so on.
  • Are we more likely to make a mistake in one area than the other? Why? This implies a further question that you may wish to explore: in cases of conflict should we always assume that a particular one of the two categories is the area where this is error?
  • Assume two Christians disagree about their interpretations of the Bible, or nature, or both. Even though they obviously disagree about something, what important things do they probably agree about regarding the Bible and nature? Let students wrestle with this, but eventually circle back to the Great Commandment, that as Christians we trust that the Bible and nature are intended to lead us into loving God more deeply and sharing his love with one another.

After this discussion, distribute the handouts and allow students to complete the worksheet with one or two partners. After the handouts are completed and collected, redirect student attention to the question that began the lesson and solicit responses.

Ask students if what they learned makes it easier to disagree about these issues in ways that promote love of God and neighbor.

Debrief Activities

Debrief activities bring the sequence of the study to a thoughtful close by helping students reflect on how they have been invited to see science and faith anew.

  • Activity 0:15

    Who Would Say That?

  • Activity 0:25

    How Different Are These Views?

  • Activity

    Forum on Origins

Who Would Say That?

In Brief

In this activity students match fictitious quotations with the Christian view of creation whose advocates would agree with the quotation, or with “none” if no Christian would agree with it. The purpose is to engage students in reviewing the similarities and differences among Christian views of creation.

Goals

Students will be able to match a range of belief statements to major Christian positions on origins.

Thinking Ahead

Prepare for how you will lead the closing discussion of this activity, which fulfilled two purposes. On the one hand the activity offers a tool for checking whether students have understood some of the differences between broad Christian positions on origins. On the other hand, it creates an opportunity to remind students that the positions of real people are often more varied and complex than broad labels and stereotypes can capture.

Work through the questions yourself and see if there are any places where you would want to phrase things differently, or have doubts about a statement that might otherwise seem to fit your position. This will allow you to share personally with the students about the limitations of such a list.

Think about how to communicate to students that viewing others charitably, in the context of love of neighbor, can involve both trying to understand their position and realizing that they are real, complex people and so they are more than their position. Adopting this holistic approach is part of teaching FASTly. The goal of this learning is not to have everyone in a neat category, but merely to have some means of navigating a starting point for listening well to others.

Note that an answer key is not included in this activity. There are two reasons for this. First, some Christians hold views that combine aspects of these three broad views, so there might be more than one justifiable way of answering. Second, the main value of this activity is the student involvement in thinking about the views and their implications, for example figuring out that only YECs would be likely to believe that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time. Discussing multiple possible answers can further deepen learning.

Related Book Review: From Nature to Creation by Norman Wirzba.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Distribute the handout and explain that it contains a list of fictitious quotations representing various Christian views about origins. Explain the acronyms (YEC: Young Earth Creationist, OEC: Old Earth Creationist, EC: Evolutionary Creationist) and instruct students to label each individual quotation with the acronyms for any groups that would agree with the statement, or with the words “All” or “None” if all or none would agree with it. Alternatively, work through the questions orally as a class.

If students worked individually, ask them to share their responses. If there are divergent answers, tell the class that doesn’t necessarily mean some of them made mistakes, and ask them why that might be so. Point out to them that the acronyms represent three broad types, and the views of individuals are often more complex and varied than these labels can capture. Discuss why it might be harmful to assume that the views of others are too tidy and fixed. Ask if anything on the sheet surprised anyone.

How Different Are These Views?

In Brief

In this activity, students are engaged in visualizing the degree to which three broad Christian views of how and when God created agree and disagree using a Venn diagram. Creating the diagram can serve as a review activity or an assessment tool to measure how well students understand the three views.

Goals

Students will show their understanding of similarities and differences among three main Christian views of origins.

Students will reflect on how understanding these similarities and differences can help sustain a charitable approach to others.

Thinking Ahead

Many secondary school students are familiar with Venn diagrams, but the class might need a brief review before beginning the activity. When working on the activity, insist students write each entry on the Venn diagram exactly as it appears in the list in How Different Are These Views. Students often abbreviate too much in an effort to save time and space, but that would make the sheet difficult for others to review and interpret.

Reflect ahead of class on how you would answer the closing questions. Think about how to help  students see that viewing others charitably, in the context of love of neighbor, can involve both trying to practice attentive understanding of another’s position and realizing that they are real, complex people and so are more than their position. This is teaching FASTly.

Related Book Review: Four Views on the Historical Adam by Matthew Barrett, Ardel B. Caneday.

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

Teaching the Activity

Have students take out their completed handouts, Meet the Cast StudentWhile students are looking at the handout, ask:

  • How different are these three views? Are all three similar? Is each one very different from both of the others? Are two of them similar and one very different? Discuss the question, but do not push students to a particular conclusion at this point.

Distribute the blank Venn diagrams and the handout, How Different Are These Views. Review Venn diagrams if necessary. Have students place each label in the appropriate area of the diagram.

When sufficient time has been allowed for most to finish, ask students to swap diagrams with someone they did not talk with during the activity and check one another’s work. When this is done, have papers returned to their owners and ask students to share anything that surprised them, or that they are unsure about. Some students might be surprised at how similar the OEC and EC views are to each other.

Point out that the acronyms represent three broad types, and the views of individuals are often more complex and varied than these labels can capture. Conclude with these two questions:

  • How can understanding the position someone takes, and how it hangs together, help you be charitable and focused on love of neighbor when discussing with them?
  • How can understanding that a person’s views are usually more complex than what is captured by any one position help you to be charitable and focused on love of neighbor when discussing with them?

Optional Extra

Some students enjoy making attractive displays. Invite some to make a poster-sized version of the diagram for displaying in the room. Making it will help them think about the information, and viewing it will help others do so as well.

Forum on Origins

In Brief

This activity uses a forum discussion format to accomplish several goals: engage student interest, provide public speaking experience, review what has been learned about Christian views of creation, allow students to think more deeply about one aspect of the disagreement, and give them an opportunity to practice discussing disagreements in a way that promotes love of God and neighbor.

Goals

Students will review what they have learned about Christian positions on origins by planning and conducting a class forum.

Thinking Ahead

Daniel T. Willingham (Why Don’t Students Like School? 2009) observes that students often remember what they actually think about in an activity, not necessarily what the activity was intended to teach. Although students may request a debate in this activity map, they can emerge from a debate having thought more about debating and winning for their position than about the information or attitudes the debate was intended to teach. Further, the inherently adversarial nature of a debate is an awkward fit with this activity map’s goal of learning to disagree in ways that promote love of God and neighbor, though some kinds of formalized debate can be helpful for this. A forum discussion, however, allows students to present and critique evidence for these views in a context that is less combative than a debate. 

Given these concerns it is important to think about how to structure this activity for the most constructive participation.

  • Assign groups (see the handout, Forum on Origins) rather than allowing students to choose them. This emphasizes the importance of understanding all the views, rather than defending one with which a student might agree.
  • The forum instructions refer to the class covenant from Activity 1: The Great Commandment in Science Class. If the class did not create such a covenant, spend some time discussing how to disagree in ways that reflect Jesus’ admonition to do everything in ways that reflect love of God and neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40).

Preparing the Activity

Needed:

  • Student handouts with forum instructions and helpful websites

  • Online access and/or literature supporting and opposing the positions to be discussed

  • Materials for students to prepare graphics

  • Timer for use during the forum

Teaching the Activity

Begin the first lesson in this activity with a brief writing or discussion prompt:

  • In what ways could it be a good thing if we hold different views about how and when God created?

Allow students to share their ideas, reminding them, if they don’t mention it, that Matthew 22:37-40 indicates we must do everything in a way that reflects love for God and neighbor, and disagreements provide challenging opportunities to do that, and so can be occasions for us to grow. Explain that this activity is such an opportunity as they investigate more closely the arguments for and against the different views Christians hold about how and when God created.

Distribute the student handouts and explain the forum’s purpose and procedures, detailed in Forum on Origins. Other resources you may add include:

Remind students that the main purpose of the forum is learning. You are not assuming they have personal positions on these matters at this point in their lives, but if they do, they can learn a great deal by clearly understanding the arguments for a position they do not hold. This will not only help to clarify their own beliefs, but help them understand clearly that why someone else holds a different position is a basis for respectful discussion with them.

Allow 4-5 days for students to prepare arguments and materials. Create a conference panel atmosphere on the day of the forum discussions by arranging seats in a circle or semicircle, rather than having speakers stand up front at a podium; by placing a water bottle or cup of cocoa at each desk; and providing small pads and sharpened pencils; and so on.

After the forum have students discuss the activity. Questions like these might serve as prompts:

  • Was this activity a good investment of our class time? Why or why not?
  • What do you remember from the discussions themselves that promoted, or was an example of, love for God and/or others?
  • What might be done differently in the future to make this activity more effective?
  • You may feel frustrated that we didn’t reach a final conclusion about who is right. How might leaving this question unsettled help you better love God or each other? 

Optional Extra

Older students with deeper science and Bible backgrounds may be divided into smaller teams to discuss a range of more specific and technical topics such as radiometric dating, scriptural and theological arguments relevant to how and when God created, the reliability of radiometric dating, big bang theory, biogenesis (the appearance of the first organisms), DNA evidence relevant to macroevolution, fossil evidence relevant to macroevolution (for example, fossils appearing to link birds to dinosaurs), whether the Grand Canyon is better explained from a young-earth or an old-earth perspective, and so on.