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Angles on Evolution – #2

When I became a Christian in 1980, I immediately disavowed my evolutionary leanings. How could I believe in God, and still believe in ape men? Well, 20-plus years later, you could say I’ve evolved.

400px-God2-Sistine_Chapel.pngOne cannot discuss the issue of evolution without broaching the world of science — which leaves the lay person at a clear disadvantage. The plethora of terms and concepts, theories and counter-theories, can leave your head spinning. Furthermore, if you’re a Christian, you must ultimately strain this volatile mixture through the sieve of Scripture . . .a heady task, for sure.

So how does the average Joe navigate this complex, landmine-laden subject?

Well, seldom do folks begin a discussion about evolution on equal footing. The term has come to mean different things to different people. For some, evolution refers to simple changes and adaptations within species. For others, the term is equivalent to an atheistic mantra. And to complicate matters, there are many, many points in between.

For better or worse, I have come to separate this vast, monstrous body of opinions into two camps: 1.) Theists and 2.) Atheists. (I realize this is simplistic, but what do you expect from an average Joe?) Theism is a broad term that refers to anyone who believes in a transcendant Supreme Being. As such, many non-christian religions are theistic, they just happen to believe in a different god. But the important point is: Some theists allow for various forms of evolution — they just believe the process was guided by God (this is called theistic evolution). But while atheists also believe in “the process,” they do not believe in a God Who guided it. To me, this is a crucial distinction in the evolution debate.

Why? FOR MANY CHRISTIANS, EVOLUTION IS SYNONOMOUS WITH ATHEISM. You either believe in God or evolution. There’s no middle ground. Nevertheless, I think this distinction is forced and does not take into consideration the broad spectrum of reasonable, intelligent opinions.

I am tempted here to begin riffling through this “broad spectrum.” There are many camps, some of which are arrayed in battle. Let me instead quote from Peter Kreeft’s, Handbook of Christian Apologetics:

Scientists and philosophers do not all agree about whether evolution is possible, whether the nature of species makes evolution impossible or not. The jury is still out, though many people on both sides feel absolutely and totally convinced.

There is no impossibility on the side of the Creator. If God wanted to arrange for species to evolve from each other by natural means, he certainly could have created such a world.

So as far as either scientists or theologians know, evolution is possible. Whether it is actual, whether it actually happened, is undecided. The theory is indeed in scientific trouble. Perhaps it can be salvaged. This is for science to decide.

I’ve discovered that Christians despise this ambiguity, this grey area. They don’t want to wait for “science to decide” anything. It is much easier to portray the natural sciences as darwin1.jpgantagonistic toward Christianity and distance oursleves, than to weigh evidences and opinions. In the process, we demonize those believers who espouse — or at least, tolerate — scientific method.

I agree with Kreeft: If God wanted to use evolution, He was entirely capable of doing so. Not only that, I think there is a reasonable amount of evidence to suggest that some kinds of evolution (micro or macro) occured. Furthermore, from my perspective, BELIEVING THE BIBLE DOES NOT MEAN WE CANNOT BELIEVE IN EVOLUTION.

Again, the real distinction (as wishy-washy as it may appear) goes back to my earlier point — God or no God. Being a theist does not make one a Christian, but it does put them light years ahead of an atheist. At this point, I am willing to concede ground. For to me, the biggest battle facing contemporary Christianity is not theistic evolution and its variations, but the strident atheism that drives contemporary scientific opinion and denies the central core of the biblical message.

More. . .

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Jeanne Damoff December 8, 2006, 4:14 PM

    The biggest problem I have with evolutionary theory is that it is taught in schools and universities as fact. As Kreeft says, the theory is “in scientific trouble.” That’s putting it mildly. But will atheistic scientists admit as much in general discourse? Not on your life. Since Darwin’s time, so much biological science has been built on this shaky foundation, some would rather defend it to the death as the house crumbles around them than admit maybe they based their life’s work on a lie.

    The question, then, becomes, “Why would men of inquiry defend a troubled theory so rabidly?” I would say it’s because they can’t abide the alternative. If God created the world and rules sovereignly over it, then they (the scientists) must subject themselves to Him. They aren’t willing to do that, so they choose to go down with the ship instead.

    I’m also deeply bothered by the stereotype that suggests only the uneducated refute the claims of evolutionary theory. It’s a fallacious argument intended to discredit anyone who challenges the god of science. And yet, many brilliant scientists throughout history have believed in God and practiced science to His glory. Before Darwin (a Johnny Come Lately in historical terms) and even in his day, many great biologists/scientists (Sir Isaac Newton, Carolus Linnaeus, Louis Pasteur, etc.) were literal creationists. Their science didn’t require evolutionary theory to flourish, proving said theory is not a cornerstone to biology as many modern-day scientists would have us believe. Even now there’s a healthy camp of brilliant, ivy-league educated scientists who embrace creationism based on honest reviews of the evidence. They aren’t intellectually inferior to their atheistic counterparts, but they’re painted as superstitious fanatics.

    As you say, honoring God as God is the first step in discovering truth. And yes, if He wanted to use evolutionary mechanisms in creation, He certainly could have done it that way. But I tend to be wary of a theory that seems structured at its core to distance itself from Scripture and God. “Theistic evolution” can only work if it upholds the Word of God without compromise. I’m not willing to smoosh Scripture to make it fit any theory devised by man. If that makes me anti-intellectual, well, alrighty then.

    Yeah. So, did you notice I have strong opinions on this topic? 🙂

  • janet December 8, 2006, 5:47 PM

    I won’t pretend I can argue all this in scientific terms. My thought:

    1. I do believe that science (in general) is trying to explain away creation without a Creator. If you won’t admit God did it, you’ve got to come up with something.

    2. Could God have used evolution if He wanted? Of course He could do anything He wants. I just dont’ see why anyone would think He had to. Jesus walked on water, turned water to wine, multiplied bread and fish, raised the dead. All of this with no effort. God split the Red Sea, sent plagues, turned water to blood and sticks to snakes. He has ultimate power to create from nothing, defy the laws of nature, without material to work with or time contraints. His miracles don’t need time to brew. Genesis seems to state it so simply. Is it mind-blowing that He could create all the animals and man in one day? Sure, but God is a mind-blowing God.

    3. I also think that to some degree this is one of those small disputable issues. I have Christian brothers and sisters who hold different opinions on this than I do. I don’t question their salvation or love and faith in God.

    As always, a great series of posts to get us thinking. God bless, Mike!

  • Heather December 8, 2006, 11:20 PM

    Like Jeanne, I don’t know all the scientific terms. It seems to me that bright scholars argue boths sides and that both sides have to make assumptions and leaps of faith at some point in time.
    My main beef against evolution: evolution requires the act of death, which means that there was death before mankind evolved, which means that there was death before the fall, which pretty much negates a pre- and post- fall difference. It makes the curse, well, stupid.

  • Heather December 8, 2006, 11:22 PM

    And, sorry, one last footnote: it also means that God is not a good God, for it means that death is a part of God’s creation rather than a result of the fall. A good God that created death just for the heck of it? Then why would Jesus come and die and why would He need to resurrect and defeat Death? Why would He care about Death’s sting?

  • Mike Duran December 9, 2006, 4:54 AM

    Thanks for the terrific comments! Jeanne, I appreciate your passion and agree about the atheistic prejudices that drive the biological sciences. The suggestion that the theory is in “scientific trouble” however, would be rigorously disputed by many (most?) in the scientific community. Are we prepared to say that everyone who endorses evolution is intentionally perpertrating a lie? I’m not. Furthermore, as people committed to truth, we must be willing to listen objectively / dispassionately to opposing points of view. I am not enough of an expert to stop listening about this subject, even to those I may disagree with.

    You said: “Theistic evolution” can only work if it upholds the Word of God without compromise. I’m not willing to smoosh Scripture to make it fit any theory devised by man. You didn’t just say, “smoosh Scripture” did you? Rememeber that one does NOT have to believe in the Word of God to believe a Superior Being created and guides the world. Someone who believes that Zeus made the world could be considered a theistic evolutionist. Furthermore, I don’t think evolution necessarily denies the Word of God. Again, this comes down to semantics. When evolution is used to explain the Origin of the material Universe, it is absolutely incompatible with Scripture. However, if its used to explain a mechanism by which species evolved, it is not nearly as threatening.

    As we all agree: If God wanted to use evolution, He could. Scripture doesn’t deliniate the exact process anyway. God made man out of the dust of the ground, which is kinda what evolution suggests. However, Scripture is very clear about one thing: You and Me and the World we live in, are not a cosmic accident. This is where Christians and the scientific majority diverge.

    Thanks so much for your comments, Jeanne. (And I hope I didn’t smoosh any Scriptures.)

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