A poll commissioned by evangelical Christian group BioLogos found that pastors hold a variety of views when it comes to the origin of life and science, though Young Earth Creation remains the most popular theory.
The survey was conducted in 2012 by the Barna Group, which asked 743 Protestant pastors from churches across various Christian denominations in the U.S. to share their origin of life views. While BioLogos asked a variety of questions and is putting together a comprehensive, in-depth report in the coming months, the group released last week some key findings.
"The numbers varied widely based on a number of factors, however. Pastors of mainline churches were most likely to accept Theistic Evolution, while non-Mainline, Charismatic, and Southern Baptist pastors were overwhelmingly Young Earth Creationists. Pastors of larger churches were also more likely to accept Theistic Evolution," BioLogos said of the results.
According to the poll, 19 percent of Protestant pastors expressed certainty that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old and that God created life in its present form in six 24-hour days. Thirty-five percent said while they believe that God created life in its present form in six 24-hour days, they express qualified certainty, or doubt the "young" age of the Earth.
On evolution, only three percent were absolutely certain that God created life, that He used a natural process like evolution, and that natural selection can explain the rise of new species. Fifteen percent of pastors "leaned" toward this view, expressing some qualified certainty.
Meanwhile, 7 percent agreed with progressive creation, or the belief that God created life in its present form over a period of time but not through evolution. Eight percent "leaned" toward this old Earth view, expressing qualified certainty.
As many as 12 percent of Protestant pastors said that they believe God created life, but they do not know how.
Summarizing the numbers, BioLogos says that a slight majority of pastors, or 54 percent, support Young Earth Creationism, 18 percent agree with Theistic Evolution, and 15 percent accept Progressive Creation.
Other results showed that 72 percent of pastors with YEC views and 73 percent of TE pastors agreed with the statement that "the Christian community needs to take a serious look at its understanding of science and human origins in order to maintain its witness in the world."
Eight-five percent of YEC pastors said that they believe Christian disagreement on matters of creation and evolution compromises the Church's witness to the world, though 63 percent of TE pastors warned that "the Church's posture toward science prevents many non-Christians from accepting Christianity."
While most pastors expressed "major concerns" that embracing the idea that God used evolution might undermine the authority of Scripture and call into question the historicity of Adam and Eve, as many as 60 percent agreed that "some portions of the Bible are symbolic, but all that it teaches is authoritative."
A notable difference found between YEC and TE pastors was the amount of concern they had on how their doubts on the origins issue could impact their ministry. While only 17 percent of TE pastors said they feel they would have a lot to lose in their ministry if they publicly admitted their own doubts about human origins, 58 percent of YEC pastors expressed the same concern.
Other surveys that have asked pastors similar questions have produced varying results. A survey of 1,000 American Protestant pastors by LifeWay, released in January, found that 24 percent of respondents either strongly or somewhat agreed that God used evolution to create people, while 72 percent strongly or somewhat disagreed.
Another 46 percent of pastors strongly or somewhat agreed that the Earth is approximately 6,000 years old, while 43 percent strongly or somewhat disagreed with that assessment.
TE is more popular among the general U.S. population, a 2012 survey by Gallup found. While 46 percent of the 1,012 U.S. adults who were polled said that God created humans in their present form, 32 percent said they believe humans evolved with God guiding the process. Fifteen percent expressed that God had no part in the creation of life at all.