Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Creation and Evolution, part 2

[If you have not read the first post in this series, I suggest you do so now as it sets the stage for all subsequent posts in this series. Thanks for reading.]

The topic in this post is Theistic Evolution, or as some are now saying, Evolutionary Creation. This is basically the idea that modern, secular scientists are correct in their guess (that's what it is) that random forces in nature made life come forth on this planet and that one-celled life-forms evolved over billions of years into mankind and all other creatures. Obviously, Christians believe that there are no truly random forces but that God set things up so that we would come about eventually. Time doesn't mean anything to God so billions of years going by matters not at all.

Some might complain to these Christian evolutionists that it would be much simpler for God to have made what He wanted (mainly us) right away without all that evolution having to bring it about. Besides, it is difficult to reconcile this view with a literal reading of Genesis 1 and other scriptures. (This fact put me on the road to rejecting evolution.) One does not, theistic evolutionists assert, have to interpret Genesis 1 literally. It could be metaphor, declaring that God (the true God and not some other gods or something) created everything and that He should be honored. A primitive, pre-scientific world might mistake this as something to be taken literally, but in a literate, scientific age, we should accept whatever "science" tells us.

In fact, we non-evolutionists are told that not only should Genesis 1 not be taken literally, but that the first 11 chapters of Genesis should not be regarded as historical fact. It is some kind of metaphor, they say, that teaches us about human development until Abraham whose story begins in chapter 12. Then the rest of Genesis is literal history.

There are a lot of problems with this view. The book of Genesis has an introduction (chapters 1:1-2:3) followed by ten narrative sections. Even a cursory reading of chapters 2 through 11 show that it is written in the same manner as chapters 12 through 50. They are the same genre. No sensible scholar would read them differently. It is all historical narrative and that includes the part about Adam and Eve.

There can be no literal Adam and Eve according to Francis Collins, evolutionary creationist and head of the Human Genome Project. "The complexity of the human genome requires an original population of 10,000"*. So there can be no Adam and Eve at the head of the human race. But the New Testament clearly shows that they were literal people. Luke's genealogy (Luke 3:23-38) begins with Adam and ends with Jesus (recorded in reverse order). Paul clearly spoke of Adam as an individual human being who is compared to Christ. That fact of Adam and Christ is essential to Christian theology. And Jesus Himself spoke of Abel (Adam and Eve's son) as a real person. (Matthew 23:35)

I challenged one of these Christian evolutionists on this latter point. I averred that Jesus claimed that Abel was a real person and if he is real then so are Adam and Eve. I asked if he thought Jesus was wrong, assuming that he would realize his mistake. He responded by stating that Jesus was wrong about that. I was stunned. I never expected a Christian (let's be generous and assume he is one) to say that Jesus could be wrong about something. This is sheer blasphemy and if he does not repent then I feel sorry for him when He has to stand before the Lord and give an account.

So it is crystal clear that one cannot hold to evolutionary creation without distorting the Bible. It is absolutely necessary that a Christian believe in a literal Adam and Eve and reject the evolutionary hypothesis.

I promised that I would cover both strengths and weaknesses of these views, but there are not many strengths for evolutionary creation. Nevertheless, I will try. The evolutionary creationists themselves see it as a great advantage. They say that other views of creation that reject evolution make the gospel seem anti-scientific and therefore a stumbling block to scientists. Witnessing to them about the Lord is hard, they say, if you take a literal view of Genesis 1. Better to accept evolution and let scientists know that we do not have to be "anti-scientific" to be a Christian. This will make Christianity more palatable to them. Besides, if we teach something like Young Earth Creation ideas to our young people, they will go off to college and lose their faith as they begin to doubt the Bible. Better to teach evolution and the Bible (as evolutionary creationists understand it) and then they will not question or reject it when they become more educated.

I am not sure that is a real strength, but we all want to be both scientifically and biblically literate. There is one part of what they say that I think is a true strength however. They talk about what is called "natural revelation". Now this is not some concept that they dreamed up to convince us of their point of view. This is something that we, in our zeal to uphold the Bible as the Word of God, have sometimes neglected.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
Psalm 19:1


For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.
Romans 1:19

The Bible is supernatural revelation; nature (with true science) is natural revelation. Natural revelation can teach us some things about God. We should realize that sometimes science has informed, and changed, our understanding of the Bible. The best example is the idea that the earth goes around the sun rather than the sun going around the earth. Early readers of the Bible "knew" from both experience and scripture that the sun goes around the earth. The Bible talks about the sun rising and setting, etc.

We now know for a fact that the Bible does not teach that the sun goes around the earth but that it does appear that way from a human point of view. So now we read the Bible differently. Knowing that the earth goes around the sun, we interpret the passages that seem to suggest otherwise to mean that in our experience the sun seems to go around the earth. (It is interesting that we still talk about 'sunrise' and 'sunset' because we experience it that way.)

So, evolutionary creationists do remind us that we cannot use the Bible as if it were a scientific textbook. It is not. But it does reveal many things about creation that we could not know by natural revelation. There is also a great deal of difference between the fact of a heliocentric solar system and the hypothesis of evolution. The former belongs to observational science; the latter to historical science which is very speculative. There is a giant gap between observed phenomena and hypothesizing about things that can never be proved.

We need a good understanding of what the Bible teaches, and does not teach. And we need a good understanding of what science can tell us and what it cannot.

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