Tag Archives: Evolutionary Creationism

“Theistic Evolution:” Was Everything Perfectly Good Before the Fall?

Micheangelo’s depiction of the Fall of Humanity, in the Sistine Chapel. Did evil enter the world, when Adam and Eve sinned, or did evil sneak its way into the world prior to the Fall?

A new 2017 book released by Crossway publishers, Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, is an array of essays meant to discourage Christians from embracing so-called “theistic evolution.” But what exactly is “theistic evolution?”

I have never been happy with the term, as it leaves the question of, “who is this particular God?,” up in the air. Is the theos in “theistic” referring to the God of the Bible, or some other divine concept? A lot of people believe in “God,” but that does not mean that they embrace the God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

Instead of “theistic evolution,” the name “evolutionary creationism,” embraced by the folks at Biologos.org, an organization started by Francis Collins, one of the scientists behind the Human Genome Project, is a specifically Christian description, as it grounds the concept of evolution within a biblical concept of creation. But is evolution really compatible with the Bible’s teaching on creation? Do the authors of this new book succeed in promoting its thesis, in dismantling “theistic evolution“? Or to put it another way, in the authors’ efforts to take down materialistic evolutionary philosophy, and its influence on evangelical Christianity, have they set up a straw man?

Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique contends that the prevailing biological theory of evolution should not be accepted whole-heartedly by Christians, as it works to undermine certain traditional biblical ideas about creation. It is a challenging argument, that the thoughtful Christian, engaging with scientifically-informed skeptics, must wrestle with.

Presumably the authors all hold to an Old-Earth Creationist viewpoint, one that accepts the well-attested antiquity of the earth, while denying macro-evolution. Young Earth Creationists, to the contrary, believe the earth to be less than 10,000 years old. But according to reviews I have surveyed, nowhere does the 1,000-plus page book actually take a stand on the age of the earth.

ReasonsToBelieve president, Hugh Ross, has written a thoughtful (partial) review of the book. Ross, an Old Earth Creationist himself, broadly accepts the book’s thesis, but he also points out some weaknesses. For example, at least one essay proposes that the natural order of the world only became corrupted after the Fall of Adam and Eve in the garden. It is true that God was originally pleased with what he created, declaring it to be all “good.” But does that tell the whole story of what we read in Genesis 1-3? The text also gives some indication that all was not completely hunky-dory by the time Adam and Eve first arrive on the scene.

What does one make of the presence of a crafty serpent in the garden? (Genesis 3:1) If all was created “good,” how did such a deceptive creature make its way into God’s “good” world? Furthermore, did not God command the first humans to “fill the earth and subdue it?” (Genesis 1:28) Why would God insist that the earth be subdued, or domesticated, if there was not some form of elusive chaos permeating God’s good world, that needed to brought under the Creator’s control?

These observations within the biblical text do not necessarily take away from the goodness of creation. Nevertheless, they are there in the text. If we take biblical inspiration seriously, we must still account for all of what the text says. As I understand the term “Evolutionary Creationism,” those who advocate for it are trying to grapple with these biblical observations.

C. S. Lewis put it this way, in The Problem of Pain (p. 134-135)

“It seems to me, therefore, a reasonable supposition, that some mighty created power had already been at work for ill on the material universe, or the solar system, or at least, planet Earth, before ever man came on the scene; and that when man fell, someone had, indeed, tempted him.”

The authors of Theistic Evolution go to great lengths to say that “Neo-Darwinism” subverts the Scriptural witness, and there is much to commend this view. But do these criticisms fairly apply to “Evolutionary Creationism?” If I understand Lewis correctly, then it would appear that at least some of the authors of Theistic Evolution may have chosen to ignore the above uncomfortable, Scriptural observations.

As evidenced by the recent furor over Pope Francis’ critique of the traditional translation of the Lord’s Prayer, God’s role in temptation, is indeed a difficult biblical topic. However,the Book of James teaches that God could not have tempted Adam and Eve to sin, so it must have been some force of evil, present in the world prior to the Fall:

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13 ESV)

Furthermore, the Apostle Paul in the Book of Romans tells us:

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” (Romans 8:19 ESV)

But when did this agonizing wait from creation start? Was it after humanity’s fall or prior to the fall?

I do not necessarily agree with all of Hugh Ross’ critique, but I think his review is very much worth reading. If someone has read Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, please leave your thoughts in the comments section below, as I would like to know what you think.  Here is the trailer for the book.


Does the Bible Speak Definitively On the Age of the Earth?

Albert Mohler

Albert Mohler: Theologian and defender of a Young Earth view of Creation.

C. John Collins

C. John Collins: Old Testament scholar and defender of an Old Earth view of Creation.

I recently listened to a debate between Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. C. John Collins, with the provocative title, “Genesis and the Age of the Earth: Does the Bible speak definitively on the age of the universe?” Christians have very different views on this topic, and sadly, a lot of debates of this sort tend to descend into either rancor, or simply talking past one another, particularly for debates with non-believers. But this debate, intended for an audience of Christian pastors, was different, and for that reason, I thought it worthwhile to make some notes and share them here on Veracity. You can view the debate yourself at the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s website, and I would encourage you to do so to get the most out of my following comments and observations (another synopsis of the debate is available here).

Al Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, answered the debate question with “yes.” But in doing so, I appreciated what Mohler had to say about the very nature of this debate. As he put it, there are three different orders of theological debates that have an impact in the church:
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What About the Cavemen?

Some of this Veracity blogger's distance relatives, or just a really bad TV show from the 1960s? (It's About Time).

Some of this Veracity blogger’s distance relatives, or just a really bad TV show from the 1960s? (It’s About Time).

One of the most persistent challenges in trying to reconcile Biblical truth with the findings of modern science is this: What do you do with the cavemen?

The mainstream scientistic consensus today is that there have been human-like creatures discovered in the ancient fossil record that predate humans like you and me. Names such as Cro-Magnon man, homo erectus, and the neanderthal fill our imaginations with images of semi-ape, semi-human creatures hobbling or running around with crude tools, making grunting noises, many of them living in… well… caves. My wife thinks I must be related at times to these creatures, particularly when I get out of bed in the morning, bumping into things when I am barely awake!!

But seriously, could it be that these brute creatures are related to us, we homo-sapiens, or is such a concept alien to the teaching of the Bible? Does the existence of these creatures insult or even undermine the Christian concept of the special status of humanity’s uniqueness?

News within recent years suggests that there is some evidence of actual interbreeding between modern humans and neanderthals thousands of years ago, as in this story from the British Natural History museum:

So what does the Bible have to say regarding creatures like the neanderthal?
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Bill Nye & Ken Ham Debate: One Year Later

A year ago today, popular children educator Bill Nye and the president of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham, debated one another at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Has anything changed within a year?

Bill Nye was recently interviewed by the folks at BioLogos. Two things stand out to me in the interview:

  • For Bill Nye, “creationism” means believing in a Young Earth that is only 6,000 to 10,000 years old. Other forms of “creationism,” including Old-Earth Creationism as articulated at Reasons to Believe and Evolutionary Creationism as articulated at BioLogos simply do not count as “creationism.”
  • For Bill Nye, the science of evolution does not allow a reasonable person to see any divine “plan” in nature… at least for him.

If you accept the black-and-white categories laid out by both Bill Nye and Ken Ham, it leaves very little room for talking about harmonizing the God of the Bible’s Creative activity with contemporary science without compromising either the Biblical authority on the one hand or modern Science on the other. I was not very thrilled with the debate as it just seemed as though the participants kept talking past one another, something that comes out in the Answers In Genesis video linked below.

Has there been more fruitful dialogue to come out of the Nye/Ham debate over the past year? I will let you be the judge, but from where I sit, it does not help the situation when even Christians find themselves unable to see past their own prejudices, confusing making a stand on the Truthfulness of God’s Word with merely being uncharitable towards others with whom they disagree.

*SIGH*

But allow me to make a positive illustration: At the National Conference on Christian Apologetics that I attended in October, 2014, with a few Veracity friends, I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Michael Behe, one of the leading lights of the Intelligent Design movement, discussed here earlier on Veracity. I also met Hugh Ross, the president of Reasons to Believe, a favorite here at Veracity. I told both gentlemen that I was a bit bothered that while there were Young Earth, Old Earth, and Intelligent Design people represented at that conference, the Evolutionary Creationist camp represented by BioLogos was conspicuously absent (this is ironic since WORLD magazine soon thereafter made the counter-claim that BioLogos excluded prominent critics from a BioLogos conference … I guess WORLD magazine never covered the National Conference on Christian Apologetics… more *SIGHING*).

What Michael Behe and Hugh Ross said was refreshingly encouraging. While both  disagreed with the view of Darwinism held by the folks at BioLogos, and both nevertheless continue to try to persuade others to their point of view, both men still count a number of their critics at BioLogos as being friends.

Wow. What a novel concept: Embracing fellow believers in Christ as friends, even when you strongly disagree with them on a particular non-salvation issue.

Perhaps if others in the creation/age-of-the-earth/evolution debate within the Body of Christ had that type of attitude with one another, then when you have debates with folks like Bill Nye, it would not seem like you were always talking past the other person.

Thanks, Dr. Behe and Dr. Ross!


The Tinkering Engineer and Design

In Why Evolution is True, biologist and atheist Jerry Coyne seeks to drive a wedge between intelligent design and NeoDarwinian evolution, favoring the latter. But what if the Bible and "real world" engineering both make a case that there is less of a contrast than what Coyne would have us believe? Would a little imagination from an engineer help?

In Why Evolution is True, biologist and atheist Jerry Coyne seeks to drive a wedge between intelligent design and NeoDarwinian evolution, favoring the latter. But what if the Bible and “real world” engineering both make a case that there is less of a contrast than what Coyne would have us believe? Would a little imagination from an engineer help?

When God created the world did He do so as a Master Engineer or as a Tinkerer?

I recently finished listening to an audiobook by Jerry Coyne, a University of Chicago biologist, and vocal critic of Christian interpretations of science. In Why Evolution is True, Jerry Coyne is making the argument that the biological theory of evolution rules out the possibility of Intelligent Design. Evolution does not reflect the divine activity of a Creator. According to Coyne, the biological world does not resemble the work of someone creating things from scratch. Instead, the evolutionary process demonstrates the work of tinkering; that is, working with a limitation of available parts, experimenting at putting together different solutions. Tinkering is not very efficient, nor does it always produce the most beneficial results, hardly becoming the activity of a Divine Creator. But for Coyne, this tinkering is exactly what NeoDarwinian evolution is all about… and it is true.

Jerry Coyne did his undergraduate work at the College of William and Mary, finishing in the 1970’s. I currently work at William and Mary as a network engineer. Coyne is a superbly skilled scientist, but I need to respond to him as an engineer. Continue reading


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