Earlier this week, I posted ‘Evolution and Christianity?’ (which can be read here: https://bengarry.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/evolution-and-christianity/). This post, in summary, was an attempt at reconciling theology and evolutionary science by the particle physicist and Anglican priest John Polkinghorne. The post prompted my friend Adam Hellyer (Twitter: @AdamHellyer) to write this response as a comment. I thought that his comment was a very good response to the post and well worthy of copying up as a full blog post. I encourage anyone who read the first post to read this also and to give it the same degree of thought. Without further ado, this is his response:
Great to see you diving into a topic that is so dear to me. I have done extensive research into all sides of the arguments and hope I have landed on a rational position, that keeps the Word of God as the infallible truth, while considering scientific endeavour. I have included parts of your blog with my comments underneath. I hear your disclaimer that these views are not your own, so please don’t feel my comments are an attack on you (but some of his arguments are very weak)!
Evolution and Christianity?
“Recently, I’ve started to tread more carefully… the weight of evidence from scientific …”
It’s very important when assessing the ‘weight’ of scientific evidence, to understand the philosophies driving the research. Most science is not as unbiased as the scientists would claim (see following).
“My mission now is to look at all the angles of this debate that I can … whilst remaining consistent with sound Christian theology.”
Unfortunately there never will be a rational scientific belief that sits well with theology, until those conducting research abandon presuppositions such a philosophical naturalism, materialism and uniformitarianism, all of which are fundamentally atheistic.
“The first point to make is that the idea of evolution clearly encourages thinking of creation as involving an unfolding process and not simply as a single initiating act.”
The Bible sees creation as an unfolding process that took place over a set, not indefinite, time period. The Bible never claims God’s involvement was limited to a single initiating act (this is a classic straw man, by misrepresenting ‘creationism’ he has created an easy target for his argument), but creation does begin and end, we are not currently in a moment of creation, but God continues to sustain the world He made, and be involved with it.
“Polkinghorne goes on … creationism … can just as easily support the idea of the detached God of deism.”
A belief in a creator God who made the world in 6 days is completely incompatible with deism, which believes he made the world and left it alone. Deism fundamentally holds to the belief that God is only known through observation of the material world, not by special revelation. However, the only reason 6 day creation is recorded in scripture is because God didn’t leave the world alone and kept revealing Himself again and again to speak to and interact with people, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and in this case Moses, to whom He gave Genesis 1, by special revelation.
“The God involved in evolution … not just that so-called first cause.”
The ‘God’ involved in evolution would also be a god who used pain, death, disease and decay to bring about life. A view of God totally incompatible with Genesis or any other part of scripture. And the Bible never treats God as a first cause only, Colossians tells us God continues to sustain all things by the word of His power.
“Polkinghorne goes on to warn … ‘deistic Spectator’”
Deism is not a Christian belief, it dates from the Enlightenment, and has been fought by the church for over 200 years. It was the introduction of Deism, following the French Revolution, that paved the way for Erasmus Dawin, and his grandson, Charles Darwin, who were both deists, to bring evolution to the world. Deism was only one step away from atheism, most evolutionists have now made that leap. Richard Dawkins credits Darwin with making it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.
“…and the second is the ‘Cosmic Tyrant’…”
Once again a straw man argument. I have never yet met a believer, who believes God is a cosmic Tyrant. The idea of ‘free will’, even if tempered with a dose of predestination, is found in all orthodox christianity, otherwise sin would be impossible, or an act of God (as you mention later).
“… Malignancy … [then] ‘Two theological concepts … creatures who are truly other and who are truly allowed to be and to make themselves.’”
The idea that God created a world with inevitable, built-in malignancy, is against everything Genesis and the rest of scripture teaches us. The idea that this was a limitation He placed on Himself is flawed. He is not limited, He is only patient. Malignancy, the Bible clearly teaches, is a product of sin, not God’s perfect creation. The wages of sin are death, hense the need for Jesus death. Theistic Evolution, even if it claims to, leaves no room or reason for Adam, sin, or Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice. (Incidentally, human reproduction is not creating life, scripture is clear, all life comes from God. He is the Author of Life. To argue we create life would be a great argument in support of abortions. What we start we can finish. But what God starts only God may finish)
“The second concept is the idea of theistic evolution, accepting all that science can tell us about cosmic and terrestrial history, but setting the story in the context of the unfolding of God’s purposes”
This a dangerous concept, accepting all science uncritically. Science is far from perfect or unbiased. The things scientists believed 25 years ago are already wrong, why sacrifice 2000 years of unchanged theology for a theory yet to be nailed down.
“… theistic evolution allows Christians to accept that the natural world … still remaining open to the possibility of God’s action …”
God involving Himself in creation is never Biblically ‘interference’, for everything still belongs to Him.
“…though I wouldn’t be surprised if a biologist could explain why negative mutations are necessary in the evolutionary process.”
The evolutionary process is so far from being proven. While some variation within kinds has been observed, Evolution on a scale required for God to have used it as a mechanism for creation has never been observed. Negative mutations are a product of the fall, and the fact that all of creation is perishing.
I hope you will find my comments helpful. I don’t wish to sound closed minded, but in the words of GK Chesterton, “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” My stance is to agree with the Bible first, and then science wherever it agrees.
“Virtually every form of theological liberalism arises from an attempt to rescue Christian theology from what is perceived to be an intellectual embarrassment – whether the virgin conception of Christ, the historicity of the miracles recorded in the Bible, or, in our immediate context, the inerrancy of Scripture and the Bible’s account of creation.”
Dr R Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, No Pass from Theological Responsibility – The BioLogos Conundrum, 2010
“Whenever ‘science’ and the Bible are in conflict, it is always the Bible that, in one manner or another, must give way. We are not told that ‘science’ should correct its answers in light of Scripture. Always it is the other way around. Yet this is really surprising, for the answers which scientists have provided have frequently changed with the passing of time. The ‘authoritative’ answers of pre-Copernican scientists are no longer acceptable; nor, for that matter, are many of the views of twenty-five years ago.”
Edward J Young, Days of Genesis, 1963
“A slavish genuflection to the latest trends in academia seduces our leaders into conformity. One apologist once described this pattern as the ‘treason of the intellectuals’. If the secular establishment ridicules such tenets as the inspiration of the Bible, then insecure Christian professors, desperate to be accepted by their peers, quickly flee from orthodoxy, dragging the colleges, seminaries, and ultimately the churches with them. It is a weighty price to pay for academic recognition.”
R.C. Sproul, Evangelical Lap Dogs, 2002
There you have it! If you have any thoughts, feel free to comment below.