Monthly Archives: January 2008

Does Evolution Require Atheism?

Over at Parchment and Pen, Vance McAllister continues to wax eloquent regarding the all-too-common misconception that evolution requires atheism. Here are a few excerpts from the conversation:

. . . there is nothing atheistic about evolution or an old earth. That is the basic disconnect going on here. It is not some atheistic conspiracy, or some anti-religious agenda. It is just straightforward science that provides the best explanation from the data, and that is something that is put together by scientists of all theological positions, from Christians to Jews to Muslims to, yes, atheists.

Evolution is not something that atheists came up with to explain things without God, it is not the “atheistic alternative”, anymore than photosynthesis or gravity are some atheistic way of explaining those phenomenon without God. We, as Christians, have accepted the thousands upon thousands of scientific concepts and theories that make no mention of God, without a blink. Yet, these handful of concepts somehow become “atheistic,” even though they are presented by the same community of scientists we trust entirely regarding everything else.

All because these particular concepts happen to conflict with one particular interpretation of portions of Scripture. The Bible says that God created the rainbow and put it in the sky as a message to us. Is it thus an “atheistic” concept that these rainbows are created by light refraction? Is the message from God any less clear, is it any less of a miracle or less likely to be “of God” just because we now know exactly how God did it?

It is ultimately philosophical naturalism that is the true foe here, not evolution, since [evolution, whether macro- or micro-] is merely a scientific theory that says nothing at all about God . . . . It is that ATHEISTIC approach to origins that we should be engaged in combat with, and the Creationist[s’] battle with the mere mechanisms [of evolution] simply distracts from that primary battlefield and, ultimately, weakens the Christian position.

I couldn’t have said it any better! You go, Vance!

 

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Questions for Answers in Genesis #1

One of these days, I’ll get around to discussing Dr. John Walton’s take on Genesis 1 in greater detail. For now, I’ve got a few observations from the last several Answers in Genesis e-newsletters:

Here’s one that, even as a YEC, would cause me to do a double take (emphasis mine):

Molecules-to-man evolution is a belief concerning what supposedly happened in the past, but no one was there to see it happen. Thus, evolutionists are free to postulate stories about abiogenesis (non-living chemicals evolving into life), stellar evolution, or ape-men without direct observation. Such scenarios are merely belief statements. The ideas Darwin espoused were his beliefs concerning the past. They are not science in the sense of scientists being able to observe these things actually happening. However, we do not have to depend on mere guesses about the origin of the universe and life. We can thankfully refer back to the eye-witness account—the Bible.

I’m curious to know who that “eye-witness” is that saw God create the heavens and the earth. Anyone?

Here’s another that requires some creative eisegesis:

The Bible clearly teaches that when God created Adam and Eve, the world was perfect (i.e., “very good”). There was no death and bloodshed.

“Clearly teaches” that the world was “perfect”? I’d be curious to know how many hands would raise if one asked a group of people who thought “very good” can be equated with “perfect.” Moreover, what passage of Scripture teaches that there was no death or bloodshed prior to Adam’s fall? I couldn’t answer that as a YEC, and I can’t now. Consider this: What good is a threat of physical death (the result of eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil) without an example in nature?

From the same newsletter comes this statement, with which I can tentatively agree (with one exception):

But a Christian who believes in evolution over eons as told by evolutionists must also believe that God used death and bloodshed over millions of years as a way to bring man into existence. For them, the fossil record is not a sign of God’s judgment in the Flood, but of the cruel nature of the world they believe God created.

The one exception is AiG’s use of the word “cruel.” What makes animal death “cruel”? By what standard is AiG evaluating the “circle of life”? To me, AiG appears to be making a subjective judgment on the nature of animal death, as the idea has absolutely no Scriptural support. From my perspective, the concept of “no animal death before the Fall” is required to provide the YEC paradigm logical consistency; I can respect that. However, I think the idea creates more problems than it solves. Can one successfully argue that Adam never performed a Pink Panther (you know, “dead-ant, dead-ant, dead-ant, dead-ant, dead-ant, dead-ant, dead-ant, de, de, de, de, dead-ant”) during his walks through the Garden? What to do about the high unemployment rate for trillions of bacteria that reside in our own digestive system to keep it healthy?

This leads me to a question that, as a YEC, I had never really considered before: Why would a single act of rebellion by mankind cause the vast transformation of his “perfect” world (and, by extension, the universe) into a cosmos of chaos and violence? Did God ever threaten Adam with that consequence? Or should we only limit God’s threat to what the Bible really says:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17, ESV; emphasis mine)

That’s it, folks. Only man’s longevity, caused by his inability to access the Tree of Life (Gen 3:22), was threatened. Nothing else. Every other consequence is purely imagined. Of course, with man’s access to the Garden denied, there were some other sub-consequences (Gen 3:17-19). I’ll discuss those in a future post.

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It’s Like Looking at Our Solar System’s Baby Pictures

Astronomers at my alma mater have found what appears to be a newly-forming solar system located only 450 light-years away! Check it out here!

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Dr. John Walton & Genesis 1

Instead of summarizing Dr. John Walton’s treatment of Genesis 1, I figured I’d post Walton’s own hour-long online presentation. If no one has the patience to watch this outstanding flash presentation, let me know and I’ll sum up some of his best take-aways . . .

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Spectrum of Beliefs on Evolution, Creation and Literalism

Vance McAllister has done an excellent job of laying out the different positions in regard to evolution, creation, and biblical literalism. After reading his spectrum, head on over to Reclaiming the Mind Ministry’s Parchment and Pen blog and The Submerging Influence blog for additional discussion. Of course, feel free to discuss on this blog as well!

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Here is the spectrum generally, you can review the descriptions further below to see what each refers to:

1. FE
2. Geo
3. YEC
4. Gap (OEC)
5. Progressive (OEC)
6. TE1
7. TE2
8. TE3

(note: the Intelligent Design position could apply to any of these, other than possibly TE 3).

So, let’s look at the spectrum! See where you land:

1. Flat-earthers – believe that a plain reading of Scripture indicates that the earth is flat. Very few still hold onto this belief.

2. Geocentrists – believe that the sun and all the stars literally revolve around a fixed and unmoving earth. Still a surprising number of these around, although it suffered a major setback after the late 60’s. They have a plethora of Scripture and theological bases to argue from, however, and insist that a literal reading of Scriptures requires geocentrism.

3. Young-Earth Creationists – believe that the earth and universe are both young (less than 10,000 years old) and that all the diversity of species is the result of special creation, based on a literal reading of Scripture (even if not AS literal as those above).

4. Gap Theorists (a form of Old-Earth Creationism) – believe that the earth and universe were created at the time science says, but that God created Man and all the animals at the “young earth” time frame (with a huge “gap” in between. Some believe this is a “re-creation”, God having scrapped an earlier version (dinosaurs, etc).

5. Progressive Creationists (aka “Day-Age Creationists”, another form of OEC) – believe that the earth and universe were created at the time science says, but that each “day” in Genesis referred to an indefinite period of time. Genesis is an historically and scientifically literal account (using that alternate form of the word “day”), just that it happened over a VERY long time period.

6. Theistic Evolutionists (with a literal Adam and Eve) – believe in an old earth and universe, and accept that God used evolution as part of His creation, basically as science describes it. But they feel that there was a literal Adam and Eve in a literal Garden. Some attribute this Adam and Eve to an instance of special creation, others to election as “representatives,” etc. Also believe in biogenesis, not abiogenesis.

7. Theistic Evolutionists (no literal Adam and Eve, but biogenesis) – believe that Man evolved along with the other species (pursuant to God’s plan), but that the initial spark of life was immediately God induced. Some even push this forward to some mass special creation of a variety of “kinds” around the Cambrian period, with all the species evolving from there.

8. Theistic Evolutionists (abiogenesis) – God created everything and established the full system of natural laws upon with the universe and the earth would work. And it did work, entirely naturally, as God intended. With life arising at the time and place He had known it would, etc. So, here the “abiogenesis” would not mean that life arose without God, only that God built how life would first arise right into the “program.” This is not “deism,” however, since it says nothing at all about God interacting with and even directly intervening in His creation at any point in time (such as a particular event 2000 years ago, for example).

A bit of a side category is the Intelligent Design movement of recent years. This asserts that whatever you accept about creation, there is firm evidence that the universe and the earth in particular were designed with specific intelligence, by a designer, and not happening entirely naturally. Those holding this opinion come in each of the flavors mentioned above (other the last one, presumably), although the most recent and influential of these have been essentially Theistic Evolutionists of the first or second variety (whether they would claim that title or not). Also, some Theistic Evolutionists prefer the term Evolutionary Creationists.

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Evolutionary Creationism (EC) vs. Theistic Evolution (TE)

In one of my previous posts, Steve asked a question regarding my use of the term “evolutionary creationism,” or EC. I figured I’d let Denis O. Lamoureux from St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta, speak to the differences between EC and “theistic evolution” (TE) in his outstanding essay “Evolutionary Creation”:

The term ‘evolutionary creation’ to most individuals seems like a contradiction in terms. This would be the case if the words ‘evolution’ and ‘creation’ were restricted to their popular meanings. That is, if the former is bound to an atheistic world view, and if the latter refers exclusively to literal 6 day creation. However, evolutionary creation moves beyond the common use of these terms and the simple ‘evolution vs. creation’ debate. The most important word in this category is the noun ‘creation.’ Evolutionary creationists are first and foremost thoroughly committed and unapologetic creationists. They believe that the universe is a created reality that is absolutely dependent for its every moment of existence on the will and grace of the Creator. The qualifying word in this term is the adjective ‘evolutionary,’ indicating the method through which God created the world. This view of origins is often referred to as ‘theistic evolution.’ However, that categorization places the process of evolution as primary term and makes the Creator secondary as only a qualifying adjective. Such an inversion in the order of priority is unacceptable to evolutionary creationists.

 Clearly, some may use the two terms synonymously, but I prefer Lamoureux’s distinction. Even Howard J. Van Till, in Zondervan’s Three Views on Creation and Evolution, prefers not to use the term “theistic evolution”:

Although the author of this chapter finds this label [“theistic evolution”] to have serious shortcomings, the editors have nonetheless chosen to employ it. . . . the author asks that his position be known, not as theistic evolution, but as the fully gifted creation perspective. (p. 161; emphasis in the original)

I believe the EC term to be fairly recent, and considering Van Till’s use of the term “evolutionary naturalism” to describe atheistic evolution (pp. 164-165), I feel justified to assume his approval of the term “evolutionary creationism.” In fact, in the same chapter, Van Till states:

. . . I have sometimes used the label evolving creation for my perspective. I think it’s a much better term that theistic evolution . . .

However . . .

. . . but it still has the problem of having to deal with all the negative attitudes that a majority of Christians have toward anything that even sounds like “evolution.”

Van Till has a point, but his term “fully gifted creation” does not succinctly describe his view very well. But back to what makes EC, well, EC. Lamoureux writes:

. . . evolutionary creationists claim that through an ordained and sustained evolutionary process God created the entire universe and all of life, including human beings. . . . God’s actual creative method is found through scientific discovery and not by reading the opening chapters of Scripture. . . . Three features distinguish evolutionary creation from other positions on the origin of the universe and life. This view of origins firmly: (1) believes in a personal Creator and the evolution of the world, (2) upholds the foundational principles of conservative Christianity and modern science, and (3) rejects the ‘God-of-the-Gaps’ [i.e., Intelligent Design —Mike Beidler]. . . . evolutionary creationists predict that as biology advances, fine-tuning arguments for the evolution of life will be discovered. Therefore, instead of looking for ‘gaps’ in nature where God purportedly intervened to create living organisms, these Christians see the Creator’s glory expressed in the robust continuum of life from the first cells to human beings. The faith of evolutionary creationists is strengthened with every new finding in biological evolution because each discovery declares the faithfulness of God to His living creation.

 

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Thank “God” for Evolution?!?!

Pardon the brief interlude . . .

I was very excited when I came across this article yesterday. Those who have traveled the path that I’m currently on would surely get pumped over sound bytes like:

“We don’t try to show evangelicals or young earth creationists or intelligent design people that we’re right and they’re wrong. Evolution gives me a bigger God, an undeniably real God.”

I even thought that he might favor preterist or postmillennial eschatology:

“If somebody believes that Jesus, the cosmic janitor, is going to return on a cloud and clean up the mess we made, they’re more likely to have a less responsible way of thinking about the future and handing on a healthy, sustainable world.”

The article, for the most part, sounded quite encouraging. When I visited the Rev. Michael Dowd’s website and began surfing some of the video clips, I began to grow wary. Could I be misunderstanding who the Rev. Dowd believes God to be? I figured I would hold off judgment until I read his book, Thank God for Evolution! How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World, a .pdf version of which he is offering for free from his website. (The website will show it as out of stock; simply request to be emailed when it arrives and await several emails that send you back to the website to provide contact information as well as the webpage from which you can download the file.)

My suspicions appeared to be confirmed when I skimmed the several pages of endorsements beyond those of the Nobel laureates quoted first: pastors from the Unity Church of Christianity, the Unitarian Church, and the Unitarian Universalist Church; an individual from the Association of Global New Thought; new-agers Matthew Fox and Barbara Marx Hubbard (no relation to L. Ron Hubbard but just as New-Agey); and the list goes on . . .

We’re certainly not off to a good start. I figured that the best place to start skimming the book would be to search for the name of Jesus:

“The core teachings of Christianity will remain foundational. The marvels of public revelation will not unseat them. Jesus as ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ will still be central in an evolutionary form of Christianity, just as the backbone of our common ancestor who swam in the sea more than 400 million years ago is still within us, providing vital support. Moreover, Jesus as “the way, the truth, and the life” will be universalized.” (p. 67)

“Simply, get that you are part of the Whole, and then commit to living in deep integrity—and follow through with it. By being and doing this you will effortlessly express your creativity, take responsibility for your life and your legacy, and listen to your heart for guidance from the source of your existence. You will naturally love Reality (God) with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. You will love your neighbor as yourself. And, yes, this is ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ that the early Christian gospels portray Jesus the Christ incarnating.” (p. 112)

“Christian leaders and laity alike have long recognized that it is not beliefs about Jesus that will save Christians. It is, rather, faith in him (i.e., trust in the values he incarnated, the integrity he enfleshed). The key to salvation is committing to Christ-like integrity. Being ‘in Christ’ and being ‘in evolutionary integrity’ (or, deep integrity) are different ways of saying essentially the same thing.” (p. 169)

“As a creaTHEIST, I choose to regard as no coincidence that the mythic stories of Jesus the Christ so well match what we now know both experientially and experimentally through the public revelations of science. ‘Getting right with God,’ ‘coming home to Reality,’ ‘abiding in Christ,’ and ‘growing in evolutionary integrity’ are different ways of saying the same thing.” (p. 179)

All I can say is that this will be an interesting read . . .

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My Evolving Views on Creationism

Several years ago, I introduced my children to the world of dinosaurs through BBC’s fabulous Walking with DinosaursDVD series. I enjoyed watching their jaws drop as the computer animators brought the extinct animals “back to life,” but I cringed every time the concept of evolution was mentioned, or whenever “XXX million years ago” popped up on the screen. The only reason I allowed those things to be viewed was that I felt I owed my children the benefit of grappling with the same questions I had as a child. It would surely do no good to shelter them from the creation/evolution controversy; I would better serve my children by exposing them to all sides of the issue, thus allowing them to work things out for themselves.During the course of my life as a Christian, I prided myself in looking at every theological issue from as many points of view as possible. I knew that an honest assessment of the facts would require me to know the opposition’s point of view thoroughly and represent it as faithfully as I could. Strangely enough, that approach would make me realize how easy it is to misinterpret Scripture, especially when I (or the opposition) failed to utilize the historico-grammatical method of interpretation and honor the historical and cultural contexts in which the Bible was written.

Using the historico-grammatical method of interpretation in the past, I had tackled the subjects of soteriology and eschatology with vigor, firmly grounding myself in Reformed and preteristic theology after agonizing paradigm shifts. For some reason, however, I was not quite ready to apply the same methodology to the debate over origins and the proper interpretation of Genesis 1. My unwillingness to explore these topics began to crumble as a close friend and I began meeting on a semi-regular basis to discuss all sorts of theological issues. Having considerable respect for my friend’s intelligence and knowing him to be a devout follower of Christ, I figured that questioning my YEC position would probably do me some good.

Approximately one year ago, I began reading David Snoke’s A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, which presented a strong scriptural defense of an old earth. I was still unconvinced, however, of Snoke’s method of explaining the six days of creation as anything other than six, 24-hour days, especially considering the use of the phrase “there was evening and there was morning—the nth day.” At the same time, I was asked to critique and copy-edit Tim Martin and Dr. Jeff Vaughn’s Beyond Creation Science (see cover above). Martin and Vaughn’s arguments began to reinforce those of Snoke’s. It wasn’t long before I went for the “90% solution” and accepted the scientific evidence for an old universe. Still, the proper method of understanding Genesis 1 eluded me. I knew that the historico-grammatical method would prove to be the key, but I didn’t know where to look for resources that used this method faithfully.

Perhaps it was God’s hand that I had just purchased Dr. John H. Walton’s NIV Application Commentary: Genesis, which, coincidentally, my good friend had also purchased. After several conversations on the origins debate, we decided to read the book together. What I read in those first few chapters blew me away. I had discovered the key to resolving (in my own mind) the YEC/OEC controversy!

More on this book’s impact in my next post . . .

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ProgRossing Toward an Old Universe

Continued from “Retreating to My YEComfort Zone
Those old universe arguments continued to haunt me, even in my YEComfort Zone. During one of my overseas deployments, I engaged in some friendly email conversation with an irenic atheist, who desired to prove to me the strength of evolutionary theory, both biological and cosmological. Many of his arguments for an old universe were compelling, despite my best attempts to hide behind the Institute for Creation Research(ICR).

It was about this same time that my father sent me several books written by progressive creationist Hugh Ross, one of which was Creation and Time. Although Ross’ approach to Genesis 1 was intriguing, I felt uncomfortable with his concordism, which seemed forced in many places, e.g., the “creation” of the sun and moon on Day 4 as actually a “revealing” of these two astronomical bodies as the earth’s thick cloud cover began to disperse. The real nail in the coffin, however, was Van Bebber and Taylor’s Creation and Time: A Report on the Progressive Creationist Book by Hugh Ross, which made very clear to me that progressive creationism’s requirement for animal death prior to the Fall of Adam directly contradicted Scripture (cf. Romans 5:12).

About the same time, ICR began promoting Dr. Russell Humphreys’ white hole cosmology, which attempted to reconcile an apparently old universe with a young earth using the theory of gravitational time dilation. The opportunity to accept scientific findings pointing to a universe billions of years old was freeing, especially considering it allowed me to maintain a literal reading of Genesis. However, Humphreys sometimes revealed a tendency toward forced concordism, with which I was not terribly comfortable. Still, it appeared to be the best of both worlds for many years ..

 

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