When it comes to the debate between creationism and evolution, professor of biology Cara Wall-Scheffler and her father, professor of Scripture and Wesleyan studies Robert Wall, don’t see eye-to-eye.
Though they have always had a close relationship, Wall-Scheffler said that their differing beliefs inspired her to create a Ministry Panel, an event focused on bringing students’ expanding ideas on faith home to their families, friends and church communities.
The panel included Wall-Scheffler, Wall, professor of theology Kerry Dearborn, dean for the College of Arts and Sciences Bruce Congdon, professor of educational ministry Bob Drovdahl, associate professor of sociology Jennifer McKinney and associate professor of history Rod Stiling.
To a Demaray 150 of around 50 students, faculty and staff on May 15, Wall-Scheffler shared a story about a student whom she had conducted research with a few years ago.
Wall-Scheffler said that because of the student’s frustration at his family’s lack of communication, he ran away from home.
“He didn’t know what else to do,” Wall-Scheffler said.
She also explained that while many students in her class get excited about the topic of evolution, they often hit a wall when they try and share it with their families.
“How do we go home and talk to our families about what we’re excited about and have an actual conversation,” Wall Scheffler said.
Dearborn said that it’s important for families to analyze how they converse.
“What can and can’t they handle is really important,” she said. “Change and new ideas are often perceived by family members as criticism… You have to build on what your family already believes.”
Congdon said that though he was raised in a Christian home, his father’s interest in science allowed him to share different evolutionary ideas.
“It’s disheartening because I could go home and talk about these things, but I saw students who were facing difficulties when trying to explain their newfound interest at home,” Congdon said.
Wall emphasized that students need to understand the different ways in which their parents interact with them. He said that students often wonder how to address hot-button issues that the Bible and families see as black and white.
“You need to negotiate and manage the conversation in different ways,” Wall said.
Wall said that he knows this to be true from personal experience.
“We often want to dump product on people after we’ve gone through this long process to figure things out,” Drovdahl said. “The way you honor someone else is to let them go through the process themselves and then come to the product.”
Drovdahl noted this to attribute to the success in the father-daughter relationship between Wall and Wall-Scheffler.
“No one converts to any religious group based on theology,” McKinney said. “It’s all about social relationships… Having [a] relationship with someone going in the opposite direction can be hard, but listening to where they are going versus where you are going, you’ll find some things that intersect.”
She emphasized that science and faith are two different things and that people are not always going to be able to discern discrepancies.
“That’s why it’s called faith and not certainty,” she said. “Sometimes you have to figure out in a relationship how to slip things into the conversation… You don’t have any control over what [people] decide is the dividing line of religion.”
The panel also emphasized loving each other despite diversity and picking your battles.
“Scripture is far from simple,” Stiling said. “We never finish… Understanding will continue to grow and need to be enriched, and one of the places to start is to ask the Lord to help you be a learner all of your life.”