Critiquing the Creation of This Evolutionist

Several months ago, I came across a discussion of this blog on the CARM.org website. I was intrigued, to say the least. In fact, my primary critic, an apologist using the handle Mellotron, as well as the others involved in the discussion, was unaware that I was lurking. It was very interesting to observe the ongoing discussion unimpeded by my involvement.

After contacting Mellotron to request his permission to repost his critique of my journey from young-earth creationism to evolutionary creationism, he readily assented. So here it is, in full. For now, I’ll let my readers comment on Mellotron’s critique. After some time has passed, I’ll respond point-by-point in a separate post.

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I’ve read through Mike Beidler’s blog and all of his “steps of the journey” so far, and I would honestly say that it IS an interesting blog by a sincere, honest, evangelical (at least so far) seeker of truth. A committed Christian man (at least so far). Really really clear explanation of Beidler’s life journey and how he arrived at the TE position. Sincere thanks for the head’s-up on this blog, Reb. I did enjoy reading it.

But, now that I did read about that Beidler’s journey, I would also say that there are some big problems there. I am not using that phrase “at least so far” in a comedic or joking manner.
Let me share some of my concerns.

Despite the clearly positive, intelligent, pro-dialogue approach of Beidler’s blog, and the obvious evangelical influences of his family (especially his father and his book-gifts), you can already see some really serious evolution-erosion (the kind Weisberg and Rachels talked about) brewing.

In brief, here’s the problems.

1. Beidler’s transition away from belief in OEC (a la the non-evolutionist John Walton) into Evolution via Gould and Van Till, is really really quick there….like a matter of mere months, not even a good full year.

That’s too quick, Reb. Beidler didn’t find any compelling evo-refutations of the overall OEC position that fast. In fact, as I reading each ‘step of the journey’, I don’t see where Beidler actually locates any compelling rational refutation (or set of refutations) from Gould and Van Till that would justify an abandonment of the overall OEC position itself.

Instead, at some point, he just stopped listening to the OEC’s (except when he needs somebody to run interference against the YEC’s). That’s not good.

I’m specifically saying that Beidler has gone too fast and thereby he FAILED to really “Test all things, hold fast to that which is good” (as the New Testament commands us) before jumping over to the TE position.

2. You can see clear erosion of Beidler’s biblical faith taking place even while Beidler was still transitioning from YEC to OEC.

Yes, Beidler was YEC-literate to some degree, with help from Daddy, but you can see from Beidler’s roommate hitting him with the starlight problem, that Beidler needed much more YEC education and training. And Beidler was apparently—totally—unprepared as a YEC to engage the challenge of TE when the roommate brought it up by suggesting evolution was compatible with Christianity. So the seeds of erosion were planted early on, especially in college.

Walton must also be mentioned in this respect. I have a lotta respect for OEC evangelical scholar John Walton (and one or two books of his as well), but one of Beidler’s discussion partners was able to point to the problem with Walton’s approach:

Walton’s “ANE approach”, when applied to Genesis, abandons the baseline Bible interpretation rule of “Scripture Interprets Scripture” and replaces it with “My Expert Opinion of ANE Texts Outside the Bible Interprets Scripture.”

(Indeed, when you hear Beidler say things like “the Hebrews would not have interpreted Verse So-and-so that way”—well, that’s exactly the same wording my atheist professor sometimes used to attack the historical and doctrinal reliability of the Old Testament!!)

Abandoning the “Scripture interprets Scripture” rule and replacing it with anything else…..hey that’s MAJOR erosion, bar none.

No wonder Beidler later allowed atheist Gould and TE VanTill to interpret Scripture for him. Beidler had already allowed Walton’s expert ANE opinions to interpret Scripture for him, instead of allowing Scripture to interpret itself. So when the other guys came along later……boom! Walton got dumped and so did the OEC position.

3. Speaking of Van Till……

Quote:
“(Van Till)rejected the idea of God as a supernatural being who took care to design every galaxy and blade of grass.

The God he sought couldn’t have designed everything at the outset, because the universe that science reveals is always unfolding, always changing.
He began to think of God as a silent presence within nature, the source of the nameless awe he felt when studying the genesis of solar systems and the life of our endlessly fertile planet.”

(Please notice the highlighted part Reb—You’re talking about a Christian College professor who doesn’t even believe in the God of the Bible anymore!!! He had to retire early because he no longer believed in God whom he said he believed in when he originally signed the Christian College’s doctrinal faith statement. THAT’s what TE may ultimately do to a person!!)

Quote:
“If your faith requires supernaturalism, or a God who wields overpowering control over nature, then yes, evolution will challenge that,” says Van Till, who took early retirement from Calvin College in 1999. “The key is to correct your portrait of God,” he says.

(Van Till rejects supernaturalism now. That means rejecting a supernatural Resurrection of Jesus Christ too. Think it over. He’s a TE.)

Source—”The New Theology”, Chicago Tribune, 1-19-08

4. Speaking of Gould and NOMA…….Notice that Beidler never ever mentioned how he was coping (as an evangelical Christian) with the first commandment of Gould’s NOMA:

Quote:
The first commandment for all versions of NOMA might be summarized by stating: “Thou shalt not mix the magisteria by claiming that God directly ordains important events in the history of nature by special interference knowable only through revelation and not accessible to science.”

In common parlance, we refer to such special interference as “miracle”—operationally defined as a unique and temporary suspension of natural law to reorder the facts of nature by divine fiat. . . . NOMA does impose this ‘limitation’ on concepts of God . . . .”

—Gould, Rocks of Ages

In other words, gotta abandon ALL historical claims of God doing ANY miracles in history, period. Even the Resurrection of Jesus Christ goes in the trash can. Otherwise you’re violating NOMA. Gould really means it. He is not joking with you or me.

But Beidler never addresses that one. He went ahead and accepted Gould and NOMA anyway. But he says he’s a Christian. No resolution.

Beidler gives NO indication that he’s spent an equal amount of time (nay, make that “spent any amount of time”) studying rational critiques and rebuttals to Gould’s NOMA and Van Till’s conception of TE.

Okay. Didn’t mean to do all this writing. These are just some notes I took while reading the blog like you asked YEC’s to do. I’m just trying to show you that I took your suggestion seriously.

But here’s the most important thing.

By his own admission, Beidler has NOT shown that evolution is compatible with Christianity. He is still struggling and has NOT found a reconciliation between the two.

Read the final paragraph of the final step, Step #12:

Quote:
Of course, if you’re a committed theist as I am, there will certainly be a struggle involved in accepting the scientific evidence for biological evolution and the common descent of man.

There is much to consider, especially as it concerns such theological concepts as biblical inerrancy (including the inspiration of Scripture and the historicity of the opening chapters of Genesis), the origin of sin, the problem of evil, and what lies ahead in mankind’s future. It is to the discussion of these topics that this blog now turns …

7 Comments

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7 Responses to Critiquing the Creation of This Evolutionist

  1. I suspect that Mellotron would disagree so totally with my own beliefs that my response would be worthless, but anyway:

    1. I”m not sure I agree with Mellotron’s problem with the speed of the transition away from OEC to evolution. Whilst your transition was swift, I think that this was due to a basic dissatisfaction with OEC/YEC belief. In my own experience, I didn’t even begin looking at evolution until I’d thoroughly read writings of people like Dembski (on Intelligent Design) and Walton (whom I admire greatly as an OT scholar). It was their arguments that I felt were lacking, that first made me turn to evolution as an option.

    2. I’m not sure what Mellotron means by ‘erosion of biblical faith’. But then, I think I agree him at a most basic level here – I don’t think ‘scripture interprets scripture’, is a basic erosion of faith, I think it’s a reformation innovation that has major flaws of its own.

    3. For Mellotron’s third point, he gets a bit sensationalist (his first two points were fair, even if I disagree). Because Van till is a theistic evolutionist, he rejects supernaturalism. Beware, all who believe theistic evolution! I, for one, thoroughly believe in the supernatural, and thoroughly believe in evolution. I can’t imagine one reason why they aren’t compatible. In fact, theistic evolution without a belief in God is not theistic evolution at all – it’s simply evolution.

    4. I’m not sure where Mike said he accepted NOMA unconditionally. Did you do this, Mike? If you did, I think #4 is a good point. But then, Christianity is, after all, a paradoxical religion in many respects.

    And finally, Mellotron, the fact that Mike is continually struggling with his faith is a good thing – as you said yourself, Test all things! I don’t believe Mike’s intention was to convert anyone, but to open peoples eyes to the fact that there are multiple interpretations possible that are valid from the biblical texts.

    But I think you’re misinterpreting Mike here, Mellotron. The struggle in accepting scientific evidence is not with Christianity, but with doctrine. Inerrancy and the nature of inspiration, historicity of Genesis, origin of sin, the problem of evil, eschatology – that’s all doctrine. Much of it is doctrine God fully expects us all to struggle with. By assuming that because Mike admits having to rethink these issues due to evolution means that he’s proven that evolution is not compatible with Christianity, you’re revealing an assumption of yours: That your own brand of reformed evangelicalism is the only right interpretation of the bible.

    Considering that that damns every person calling themselves Christian for the first 1500 years (minimum) of the faith, I’d hesitate a moment before making that claim.

    God bless,

    Damian

  2. AMW

    I’ll just address two of Mellotron’s points.

    1. The timeframe in which you jettisoned YEC may have been short, but that’s not necessarily an indictment against your thought process. As an ex-YEC myself I’d say it’s more of an idictment against the low level of evidence, reason and argumentation to be had from the YEC position.

    2. The position that “scripture interprets scripture” is one that I am highly suspicious of. It is nowhere laid out in the Bible itself and is of relatively recent origin. Moreover, I doubt that it can be consistently applied from a YEC position. Let the Bible outside Genesis 1 interpret that chapter and you’re pretty well stuck with a three-tiered univers.

  3. I think it’s laughable that Mellotron analyzes you as if you are some literary character and presumes to be able to show “where you went wrong.”

  4. Brian

    Mike,

    At least now we know that your journey was not knowledge-based at all, but resulted solely as a result of a college roommate sowing seeds in your brain and then Daddy not doing his fatherly duty. How odd of me not to pick up on that. Just think, if you had just been privy to a little more “YEC education and training”, you wouldn’t be in this terrible predicament. Almost to much to bear!

    Brian

  5. Gosh, I went from YEC to OEC in about 1995, and then it took eight or ten years to transition to TE. So, Mellotron would like the fact that I was slow on the uptake? You caught on faster, and that makes your journey suspect?

    His entire argument is based on slippery slope thinking. Some of my friends argue that science is dangerous because of where it might lead us. I reply that if truth is to be found on the side of a slippery mountain, than that’s where I’ll reside, even though it looks “safer” up on the crest, or down in the flat land.

    You humbly admit that accepting the science of evolution has been a difficult as you “struggle” to put it together with Christianity. And Mellotron uses that admission against you?

  6. Tom

    Hi Mike,

    Typically you have to pay a shrink hundreds of dollars for such scrutiny. Congratulations on having such interested readers!

    Beware Mellotron’s words! You could end up like me! 😉

  7. Damian, AMW, Thomas, Brian, Cliff, and Tom,

    Many thanks for your comments! They’ve actually helped me see some problems with Mellotron’s methods of argumentation that I didn’t see at first.

    Like I mentioned in the post, I’ll be dealing with Mellotron’s critique in a separate post. Might be a while, depending on how bogged down I get with my language studies. But I will answer a few specific questions posed directly to me.

    Damian,

    I’m not sure where Mike said he accepted NOMA unconditionally. Did you do this, Mike?Nope. I’ve merely expressed my admiration for Gould’s NOMA principle in general, not in its entirety.

    The struggle in accepting scientific evidence is not with Christianity, but with doctrine.Well said, Damian! Dang, if I’m not going to use that line in the future.

    AMW,

    The position that “scripture interprets scripture” is one that I am highly suspicious of. It is nowhere laid out in the Bible itself and is of relatively recent origin.You have no idea how much that statement hits close to home. I’ve recently abandoned that philosophy after discovering it to be an utterly baseless position.

    Thomas,

    I think it’s laughable that Mellotron analyzes you as if you are some literary character and presumes to be able to show “where you went wrong.”No skin off my nose. I’m actually used to being analyzed as a literary character (see the section “Mike Beidler Tuckerisms). 😉

    Brian,

    Just think, if you had just been privy to a little more “YEC education and training”, you wouldn’t be in this terrible predicament. Almost to much to bear!If I end up going to hell, I’m suing my roommate and my dad.

    Cliff,

    His entire argument is based on slippery slope thinking. Some of my friends argue that science is dangerous because of where it might lead us. I reply that if truth is to be found on the side of a slippery mountain, than that’s where I’ll reside, even though it looks “safer” up on the crest, or down in the flat land.Heh. Here is a mashup of a Dilbert cartoon I created a while back. (For those not familiar with Dilbert mashups, the Dilbert website allows one to replace the punchline in the last panel.) You should enjoy this one. 😉

    Tom,

    Typically you have to pay a shrink hundreds of dollars for such scrutiny. Congratulations on having such interested readers!Thanks, Tom! I’ve actually been critiqued three times, including this one. The first time is mentioned in my most recent post on Lamoureux’s book. The second time was when an old internet acquaintance called me a “functional atheist.” (Just perform a quick search for my name and then read the associated footnote.)

    Beware Mellotron’s words! You could end up like me!No worries, Tom, although I think you wouldn’t mind me evolving in that direction. 😉

    Thanks to all for the support! Hope Mellotron swings by to check out y’all’s comments!

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