If you get to know me much at all, you find out pretty soon that, as far as representatives of my faith go, I love me some Billy Graham. LOVE. HIM. I used to really worry about who would speak for Christians such as myself and the millions of others like me after he was gone...and then, thankfully, Rick Warren came along, and I feel a little better. No man, even among men of God, are perfect, but there are some real stinkers out there, in my opinion, and I'd hate for those voices to be all that were left to speak "for me."
So, moving along, hey! I DO, in fact, have a point! I have long been really disturbed by the idea that many people seem to have that, if you are a Christian, you are automatically someone who disavows evolution and, in fact, many of the scientific discoveries and advances of civilization. I have a whole different take than I'm supposed to on that "Darwin Fish." You know, the "Jesus Fish" with the legs on it? I know that it's supposed to be a slam against Christians who proclaim their faith (in what I personally feel is a pretty benign, peaceful manner) by the display of a long-accepted symbol of Christianity, the twin-arc fish, often on their personal vehicles. The "Darwin Fish" adds legs to the fish, and to me, that's a near-perfect illustration of my feelings about the interweaving of science and faith. Yes, I am a Christian. And no, the fact that life has evolved (fish got legs!) over millions of years threatens my faith NOT ONE BIT. And do I "believe" in evolution? To me, that's like asking if I "believe" in genetics, or biology, or physics, or mathematics. If you're not clear, YES. I DO.
So it was that I read Friday's local paper with much rejoicing at the "Billy Graham on Christianity" feature that appears daily in the Style section. I'll just give you the abridged version:
An 8-year-old girl writes in and asks Rev. Graham, "Did Noah's ark have dinosaurs on it? Or did they maybe die in the flood?"
Just the question made me happy, because I knew--KNEW--that Rev. Billy would handle the question with aplomb, kindness, and above all, common sense. He wrote a lot about the importance of the story of Noah, and the pertinent ideas that we, as Bible scholars, should take from it, but before that, he addresses the Burning Question that has driven so many to distraction (I actually once attended--quite accidentally--a presentation by an admittedly faith-driven man who was VERY convicted in the idea that there WERE dinosaurs on the ark. He had a huge visual aid consisting of an ark on a papier-mache background with disembarking animals AND dinosaurs of all types. What I mainly recall is that he was, in his visual-aid, unable to maintain any sort of spatial/perspective accuracy between species, so that a cow, an Apatosaurus and a giant tortoise might have all appeared approximately the same size.):
Rev. Graham: Dear M.S.: Noah lived many thousands of years ago, and the Bible doesn't give a detailed list of what birds and animals were included on the ark.
The Bible does say, however, that the reason God preserved the animals and birds on the ark was "to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth" after the flood was gone (Genesis 7:3). Since dinosaurs apparently were extinct a long time before Noah, and also didn't appear after the flood, it seems unlikely that his ark included such creatures.
Ahhhh. Now, I'm not trying to start, nor do I have ANY desire to entertain, any "Was so! Was not!" discussion on the fact/fiction, literalism, or figurativeness of the Noah and the ark story. So don't even start, please. But what I would like to point out, and what I am grateful to the Rev. Graham for, are his statements such as "Noah lived many thousands of years ago...", which flies in the face of the whole "The earth is only 4,000 (or whatever) years old" fundie argument that makes my teeth hurt. I also very much appreciated the absolute acceptance of the FACT of dinosaurs (I'm honestly stunned at how many seemingly reasonable people can deny their existence), and also of the FACT that they were EXTINCT "a long time before Noah."
It may seem like a small thing, but to someone like me (and there are MANY of us), a devout Christian who believes that God imbued us humans not only with free will, but with the wherewithal, intellect, motivation, and opportunity to figure out this world He created for us, and the conviction that what we discover is not only not threatening, but intrinsic, to our faith...well, it means a lot. Thanks for listening.