At a breakfast hosted by Politico, Rubio did not back down from comments he made to GQ last month in which he said the age of the Earth is "one of the great mysteries."
"I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States," Rubio told GQ.
On Wednesday, Rubio told Politico's Mike Allen, "Science says it's about four and a half billion years old, and my faith teaches that that's not inconsistent." Rubio is Roman Catholic but has strong ties to Christ Fellowship, a Southern Baptist congregation in Palmetto Bay, Fla., attending services often and listening to the church's podcasts.
"The answer I gave was actually trying to make the same point the president made a few years ago, and that is there is no scientific debate on the age of the Earth," Rubio, considered a strong contender for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, said.
"I mean, it's established pretty definitively as at least four and a half billion years old.... I was referring to a theological debate and which is a pretty healthy debate," Rubio said at the breakfast.
The Cuban-American senator went on to say, "The theological debate is, How do you reconcile what science has definitely established with what you may think your faith teaches? For me, actually, when it comes to the age of the Earth there is no conflict. I believe that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and I think scientific advances have given us insight into when He did it and how He did it.
"But I still believe God did it, and that's how I've been able to reconcile that, and I think it's consistent with the teachings of my church. But other people have a deeper conflict, and I just think in America we should have the freedom to teach our children whatever we believe," Rubio said.
In the GQ interview, Rubio had said, "I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in seven days or seven actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that."
Rubio also told Politico, "The more science learns, the more I'm convinced that God is real."
When Allen asked the senator if he believes homosexuality is a sin, Rubio, who does not support same-sex marriage, replied, "Well, I can tell you what faith teaches, and faith teaches that it is."
The Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin, Rubio said, "but it also teaches that there are a bunch of other sins that are no less. For example, it teaches that lying is a sin. It teaches that disrespecting your parents is a sin. It teaches that stealing is a sin. It teaches that coveting your neighbor and what your neighbor has is a sin."
"So there isn't a person in this room that isn't guilty of sin," Rubio explained. "So I don't go around pointing fingers in that regard. ... As a policymaker, I could just tell you that I'm informed by my faith and my faith informs me in who I am as a person -- but not as a way to pass judgment on people."
On the topic of abortion, Rubio said life begins at conception.
"I wish there were more folks in this town who are deeply committed to science and the belief in science would not ignore that scientific fact," Rubio said. "They're pretty brave about saying the age of the Earth, but they don't want to say when life begins?"
A challenge for the Republican Party moving forward, Rubio said at the breakfast, is applying their principles to the 21st century.
"We applied them to the 20th century, but now we have to apply them to the 21st century," he said.
Also in the GQ interview, Rubio said Sen. Jim DeMint, R.-S.C., is his best friend, behind his wife. DeMint announced Dec. 6 that he is resigning to head the pro-family Heritage Foundation.
Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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