Is Theistic Evolution A Legitimate Christian Option?

Title: Is Theistic Evolution a Legitimate Christian Option?

Text: Genesis 1:1, 3, 6, 9, 14-15, 20, 24, 26

Time: February 17th, 2010

I recently read a book written by a Christian, a scientist, Francis Collins, who argues that there is no incompatibility between Christianity and Darwin’s theory of evolution. He claims that Christians can believe that God created through the use of natural selection. And there are other well-known Christians too who claim that evolution is perfectly compatible with authentic, biblical Christianity. Yet despite the claims of these and other Christians that evolution takes nothing away from the biblical Christian faith, I must strongly reject this position. Why? Because evolution is most certainly not compatible with an authentic, biblical Christian faith. How can one read the Bible from start to finish and come up with an evolutionary understanding of God and creation? The only way this is possible is to twist and distort the biblical data to fit the consensus view of modern science, but why would we wish to do so considering science is an ongoing process, a method of perpetually pursuing truth in the physical and material world. It rarely reaches a definitive conclusion on anything — because there is always another test to be made, another theory to verify or falsify. Yes, there can be provisional theories that we accept as valid today, but we shouldn’t become too committed to any specific scientific finding because, after all, the history of science is one of theories coming and going. For example, who would have questioned Newtonian physics in the 19th century? Yet in the 20th century Einstein replaced many of the concepts of Newtonian science with his theories on relativity, time and space. As Christians we don’t want to tie our faith too closely to any current or popular scientific theory that may go in or out of fashion in the future. So that’s why it makes so little sense for Christians to jump on the band-wagon of Darwinian evolution and defend it as if it’s the one and only way of seeing how life came to be on the planet earth. Rather, the best Christian response to evolution should be one of skepticism and doubt. Not only from the scientific side of things, but more importantly, from the biblical side. The theory of evolution isn’t compatible with the biblical data of Genesis — as anyone who seriously considers the account of Creation will plainly see. Most atheists, to their credit, can see that the theory of evolution basically eliminates any talk of God creating life on planet earth. According to evolution no Creator is needed because life can be explained in purely naturalistic terms. But more importantly, a natural explanation of life, the evolution of all life from simple life to the most complex form of life is clearly not what the biblical creation account is describing. Genesis is describing a creation account not a naturalistic evolutionary account of life. There is a Creator being described in Genesis. Evolution needs no Creator in its account of life. Yet still, there are Christians, like Francis Collins, who insist that naturalistic evolution is still completely compatible with the Genesis account. So in order to explain how evolution is not compatible with biblical Christian faith, I’d like to briefly outline a number of reasons why these two — evolution and the Bible — don’t fit together. I don’t have the time or space to go into very much detail on each point, but I’d like to simply make the points and support them with as much information as I can to communicate the basic incompatibility. I’m not saying a person can’t be a Christian and still believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution; I’m simply saying that it’s not consistent; it isn’t correct. One can still be a Christian — and be confused or mistaken or mixed up. Christians who hold to the theory of evolution, thinking that it’s completely compatible with biblical Christianity, are confused, mistaken or mixed up. I’d like to try to clarify things briefly.

First, theistic evolution teaches a diminished God who doesn’t create directly. Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The first few chapters of the Book of Genesis describe the activity of a God who creates directly, not a God who hides himself behind the scenes and lets things happen passively. I’m struck by people who claim that evolution is compatible with the biblical view of God and who summarize the Genesis creation account by saying, “Well, we shouldn’t get bogged down in all the details of Genesis, but what we can all agree on is that God is Creator — God created.” But even that is saying too much if the theory of evolution is true. Darwin’s theory of natural selection teaches that all living things evolved solely through natural processes without any outside purpose or direction or guidance or intervention. In other words, if all of life can be explained solely through natural processes, who needs a supernatural god to account for anything? That’s why atheists consider the Darwinian theory of evolution as their strongest argument against God — it essentially eliminates any need to bring God into the explanation of reality. The only possible space left for God in the equation could be at the very beginning of the Big Bang and then at the very beginning of that first spark of biological life that launched evolution on earth. But the Bible doesn’t give God such a diminished view. In fact, just the opposite. The Bible describes God as the Prime Mover and Active Agent of all reality on earth and everywhere else. Francis Collins, in his book The Fingerprint of God, writes that he opposes the Intelligent Design movement. What is the Intelligent Design movement? It’s a scientific movement, among scientists and philosophers, which calls attention to certain natural and observable phenomenon that can only be adequately explained though design, that leads one to conclude that only through an intelligent designer can certain naturally occurring complex phenomena be explained. One would think a Christian, someone like Francis Collins, would be happy that traces of a Creator, of God, could be seen in the natural order. But no. Collins opposes such thinking. According to his theistic evolution belief, God keeps himself so far hidden that even carefully observing nature, no trace of God can be found. Evolution so explains everything in purely natural terms that any supposed trace of design or any inference back to a Designer from nature is bogus science. But is the God of the Bible so hidden away as the God of Francis Collins? No. The God of the Bible is anything but hidden; he is front and center. He is dominant in the Creation account in Genesis; everything comes from him and is related to him directly. He is visible and evident in Creation. And that isn’t just in Genesis, but throughout the whole Bible, even in the New Testament. For example, in Romans 1:20 the Apostle Paul states, “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” What could be clearer? God isn’t hiding behind the scenes of Creation; that’s not what Genesis says, that’s not what Paul says in the New Testament, but that’s what Francis Collins and theistic evolution teach — no trace of God is evident in the natural world, nothing in the nature would lead us to an Intelligent Designer. Instead, just the opposite is true. The Bible teaches that the Creation and the natural world do lead us back to God as Creator. The Bible teaches the Intelligent Design inference. And thus, the Bible teaches against the theory of evolution. Francis Collins and other Christians who hold to the theistic evolution position are wrong. They teach a diminished view of God. They rob God of his glory by trying to fit him into the naturalistic theory of evolution. God is not hidden; he is not hiding behind his Creation. But there’s more.

Second, theistic evolution teaches a God who speaks only to himself but is silent in public. Genesis 1:3, 6, 9.” And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.” The phrase, “and God said,” is repeated over and over again during the account of Creation. Now, according to the theory of evolution, nature itself can explain itself, can explain all of life in its different forms, can explain how every living thing came to be without any reference to a supernatural Creator. But the Creation account of the Bible describes a supernatural Creator speaking forth the Creation. God says, “Let there be . . .” and it came to be. The Bible describes God as speaking forth, speaking out, making his voice known to all of reality; he’s not silent, he’s not just muttering to himself, he’s not merely thinking of creating or whispering to himself, but speaking out loud. In the New Testament, John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” Now theistic evolution forces us to interpret the Bible, and God’s Word — God’s creative expression of himself — as something hidden and secret, invisible and behind the scenes. Why? Because evolution teaches that there is nothing for God to do in nature in respect to the process of bringing about all of life. Unguided natural processes guide the evolution of all life; no creative Word of God is needed to intervene at any point in the process. In fact, according to theistic evolution advocates like Francis Collins, it is impossible to detect any trace of God or God’s activity within the natural processes that bring about all of life. I’m not exactly sure why it’s so important for them to insist that the detection of Intelligent Design in Creation is impossible, or why trying to detect traces of God in nature through Intelligent Design is so anathema. Isn’t that what all Christians should expect to find according to Romans 1:20, “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” I guess it’s important for them to by loyal to Darwin’s theory of evolution and deny any need for a Creator or any trace of Creation in the natural explanation of all living things. If so, then we can clearly see where their loyalties lie — not with God and God’s Word, but in man-made theories and observations. Contrary to the “blessed man” in Psalm 1:1, they would rather “walk in the counsel of the wicked” and “stand in the way of sinners” and “sit in the seat of scoffers.” The God of theistic evolution muzzles God to speaking outside of the hearing of everyone and obscures God to acting out of sight of everyone. But that is not the biblical description of God. The Bible describes an active God who speaks out loud and acts out in the open. Yes, according to the Bible, there are times when God hides himself, and there are times when God is silent. But there isn’t any kind of rule that God must be hidden or that God must be silent. The Bible indicates that there are plenty of times when God is visible through his actions, in his Creation, and speaks through his Word. Theistic evolution teaches that God must be silent and hidden in respect to his creation. This isn’t biblical, this isn’t Christian. Theistic evolution isn’t biblical. But there’s something else.

Third, theistic evolution teaches a God who doesn’t interrupt natural history with supernatural miracles. Genesis 1:14-15, 20, 24, 26, “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years.’ And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens.’ And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.’ And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.'” Now Frances Collins and other Christians who hold to theistic evolution — those who accept Darwin’s explanation of the common ancestry of all living things from a single, simple living organism evolving through gradual, natural change over time with the help of mutations — these people would probably not want to totally deny God’s intervention into history with supernatural miracles, as the Christian faith teaches. But that’s because they haven’t worked out in any logical way the implications of their own Darwinian beliefs. Why deny God’s intervention, or even the possibility of God intervening in nature in respect to biology, in respect to the Creation, but allow for it in history? Does Francis Collins believe God intervened supernaturally in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Does he believe that Jesus bodily rose from the dead? The resurrection of the body of Christ would require a supernatural miracle; it would require the interruption of nature from its normal course. Bodies dead for three days stay dead — that’s a natural and scientific fact. But Jesus rose from the dead on the third day; a miracle occurred. Every Christian must affirm the bodily resurrection of Christ, even theistic evolutionist Christians. But the inconsistency is believing in God’s intervention in human history, but denying it in natural history — even denying the possibility of a miracle in nature in respect to creation, as theistic evolution Christians like Collins do. If they were consistent in their anti-supernaturalistic naturalism, they would deny both the possibility of miracles in creation and also in history. The Bible describes miracles occurring during the initial Creation and it also describes miracles occurring at other times, during different historical moments, including the resurrection of Jesus. It seems that Francis Collins and other theistic evolutionist Christians must pick and choose which instances in the Bible they would permit supernatural explanations and which instances in the Bible they won’t allow for supernatural explanations. They won’t allow for any direct miracles to happen in nature in respect to creation, but they will allow for miracles to happen in history, or at least during the historical moment of the resurrection of Christ. At least liberal Protestant theologians such as Rudolph Bultmann were consistent in their denial of all miracles and their affirmation of naturalistic anti-supernaturalism. At least they aren’t in the situation of “one foot in” and “one foot out” like Francis Collins. Theistic evolutionist Christians need to think through the implications of their inconsistent position and decide whether they are “all in” or “all out” in respect to biblical Christianity. Yes, it’s possible to be a Christian and hold to positions that are inconsistent, but it’s not good Christianity, neither is it healthy to live in such a schizophrenic way; it’s being double-minded. And just as James 1:8 says, “For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord.”

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3 Responses to “Is Theistic Evolution A Legitimate Christian Option?”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    YECists have already compromised the clear literal commonsense teaching of Scripture with science. First is the movement from flat earth to spherical one, second is the geocentric to heliocentric solar system and the third is illness is physical not demonic in origin. The only consistent literalist believes wholeheartedly that demons cause all illness, the earth is flat, heaven is above our heads, hell beneath our feet, the stars reside in a solid firmament a few miles above our heads, that the earth is the center of the cosmos and that creation occurred 6k years ago.

  2. jeffshort Says:

    i disagree with your summary of a literal interpretation of the bible. i know of nobody who doesn’t consider some contextual issues. for example, in psalms, “and He shall cover you with His feathers . . .” yet nobody believes God is a chicken! the bible has always been read with a view towards its context, the question has been, is, and always will be, what it the correct context for each proposition? that is where there is disagreemnt.

  3. lrcurtis Says:

    I think it would also help to point out that Psalms is a poetic book of the Bible, and therefor already provides the context for such writings. Genesis, on the other hand, is a historical book in the Bible, that is definitely mean tot be taken literally.

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