Clarification On Discussing Evolution

Is Evolution an important question to discuss? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

My post on the Ham/Nye debate has been getting a lot of attention and it’s been getting a lot of questions, which is understandable! A number of people have wondered about my position and asked if I really think the question of evolution is unimportant.

Yes and no.

Suppose you want to know if Christianity is true. All you need answered is one question. Did God raise Jesus from the dead? If that is true, then Christianity is true and Jesus is the King of this world. If that is not true, then Christianity is not true and you can move on.

How do you establish the resurrection question? You do a historiographical study of the evidence that we have such as found in the NT and in the surrounding culture of the time and other writings outside of the NT. You find the explanation that best explains the data.

Do you need Inerrancy to do this? No. Inerrancy is an important topic, but if there was an error in Scripture, it would not mean Jesus did not rise. The Bible is not an all-or-nothing game and it would be ridiculous to treat it as if it was.

So let’s make a hypothetical situation here. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument, and I do not believe this at all, that the first two chapters of Genesis are in error. Does that mean the whole NT is untrustworthy? No. It does not. It just means we need to change our doctrines of inspiration and Inerrancy. Note I am taking a scenario that is unfavorable towards us intentionally and using it to show that the central truth can still stand.

So in that case, I again repeat, if you want to know if Christianity is true, you don’t need to answer the question of evolution. If evolution is wrong, I would rather someone come to Christ with a belief in evolution, than to avoid Christ while having a true belief that evolution is wrong. I am more interested in getting people to Christ and removing as many hurdles from them as I can. I don’t want them to think they have to overcome a hurdle with evolution. Just show them what alone is essential.

So then, is the question of evolution important? Yes. But this is in a scientific sense.

The Bible is a book of history. I do not believe it is a book of science nor is it intended to be. This is not to fault the Bible or science. It is simply to admit the Bible is interested in teaching us God’s activity in the history of the universe and is not interested in telling us how the planets in our solar system move. It is also not interested in telling us how to do math, how to paint a masterpiece, or how to get in shape, even though there is nothing wrong with any of these and many are important.

Of course, I say this realizing the Bible contains other aspects such as moral teaching and Wisdom, but these are not to be separated from its history. The history is central to the text and the moral teachings are an outworking of that history.

As I said, the view I take on the matter is that of John Walton. You can hear my interview with him here. In this view, the creation account as it were is not a scientific account but is a functional account. You can have literal 24-hour days where God gives the orders on how everything is to behave and still have billions of years of Earth history prior.

What does this say then about how God created? Nothing. Not one thing. God could use fiat creation in Genesis 1 and 2 and Walton’s view is safe. God could also use evolutionary processes and Walton’s view is safe. Now where do you go to determine which view is accurate? You go to the sciences.

Evolution is a scientific question and if it is to fall, and I care not if it succeeds or falls, then it will fall scientifically. Right now, it is the leading naturalistic theory. There is no denying that. That does not mean it is true, but it means it is a serious contender.

So why do I not speak on if evolution is true or not? Simple. I am not a scientist. I do not possess the knowledge in the field. If I was up against a scientist and had to discuss it as science, I would not stand a chance whatsoever. I could not critique evolution from a scientific perspective. I could not defend it from a scientific perspective.

And I’m fine with that.

Too often in the apologetics field, someone can think they have to master everything and have an answer for everything. You don’t. It’s okay to say you don’t know some matters. Many of us have seen the atheists who think they are such experts on history and philosophy and really, they are just embarrassing themselves. Unfortunately, too many Christians when they speak without knowledge on scientific matters are also embarrassing themselves and this only presents a barrier to those atheists who are skilled in the sciences that will keep them from entering the Kingdom. It will give them the impression that Christians just believe what they are told without thinking about it. (Like we do when we see atheists quote “The God Delusion” as an authority.)

Now if you want to critique evolution, then have at it! Go for it! Just make sure that it is a scientific critique and not a Bible critique. The last thing we need is to have this be the case of science vs. the Bible. As soon as we put that to the world, guess which one they will go with.

Also, we must be clear on evolution. I am fine with anything that can be established scientifically as I believe fully that God wrote two books, Scripture and nature, and all truth is God’s truth. If something can be shown through science, then we should accept it.

So could it possibly be shown through science that mankind evolved through a long process of time? Sure. The process could be possibly shown scientifically. Could it be demonstrated that there is no God behind the process whatsoever? No. That is then philosophy and not science. In the same way, I do not think we could use science to PROVE that there is a deity. I think we could establish probabilities either way, but hard proof relies on metaphysics.

This is one reason I hesitate with Intelligent Design. If one takes Intelligent Design to mean do you believe there is a designer behind the universe, where every Christian would be an IDer, but it depends on what kind of universe. What I see most in the ID field is concern about the mechanism which makes God more of an engineer.

The mistake we often make is thinking that if evolution is shown to be true, God is out of a job. Atheists and Christians BOTH make this mistake. This is a concept that I do not think does justice to the Biblical concept of God. For instance, in Colossians 1, we are told that God by His power sustains the universe. The same is said in Hebrews 1.

It is not the case that the universe can just exist on its own. What is holding it in existence? What is sustaining it. Evolution does not answer the question of existence, the most important question to answer.

What this means for me is I can go to someone like Richard Dawkins and say “I will grant you anything about evolution you can show scientifically. Now what is your argument against theism?” If he wants to establish an eternal universe, fine. We’ll do it! If he wants to establish an eternal multiverse, well he can knock himself out! We’ll do it! None of those answer the question of existence itself as you need to explain not just the existence of the universe, how it came about, but the existing of the universe, how it is today.

If someone wants to go out and argue against evolution, I say let them. Just make sure the case is scientific. If evolution will fall, it will fall because it is bad science and the God who gave us Scripture is the one who gave us science as well. Bad science can be shown scientifically. Maybe it cannot be shown right now. Maybe it can be. I don’t know. I just know that I won’t comment on it because it is not my field and the truth of Christianity does not depend on it.

I am an active defender of the new creation beginning in Christ. I am anxiously awaiting its full fruition. My salvation does not lie in Genesis. My salvation lies in Easter Sunday.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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6 Responses to “Clarification On Discussing Evolution”

  1. Michael Snow Says:

    Two excellent resources pertinent to this discussion: R.C. Sproul on natural reveleation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIwHT_b72Bk
    Augustine on Genesis, warning against misusing Scrpture and voiding natural revelation http://noanswersingenesis.org.au/saintaugustine.htm

  2. Mike Gantt Says:

    Nick,

    I fully agree with you that the history of the resurrection is far more important than the history of Gen 1-2. And I agree with many other things you said here in this post. Nevertheless, here are some thoughts to consider:

    — If evolution was merely a matter of science, then I think your suggested approach would work. In fact, if it were merely a matter of science, I could never have an opinion on it, because I don’t know enough science to formulate an intelligent opinion. Niether would I want or need to have an opinion onit. However, evolution is a matter of history as well as of science. And since the Bible contains history, and says that history is important, I cannot simply walk away from the issue of evolution.

    — John Walton’s view of Gen 1-2 may, as you say, stand even under evolution. Nonetheless, John has more work to do if evolution is true because evolution-believing geneticists claim that Adam and Eve being progenitors of the human race is not possible. And they are not the only evoutionists who claim this. I know that John holds to the historicity of Adam and Eve, so he’s got to have some way of justifying that in the face of evolution.

    — You are right to want to remove stumbling blocks or even unnecessary steps between an unbeliever and Christ. However, if the biblical account of creation, or the flood, or anything else diminishes the historical credibility of the Bible in an unbeliever’s eyes because such accounts sound like fairy tales in the light of evolution, it’s going to be that much harder for the unbeliever to accept biblical testimony about Jesus’ rising from the dead.

    Our faith in the new creation is indeed more important than our faith in the old, but our source for the former is also our source for the latter. Evolution, because of what it implies about human history, undermines our source on the latter point; we must therefore be wary of collateral damage on the former point.

    I fervently wish I could walk away from evolution, but the shadow it casts on the historical reliability of the Bible (I’m not even talking about inerrancy) is darkening the atmosphere for this generation of young people…and perhaps for generations to come.

    Dante Ting, who comments on your blog, is showing signs of a reasonable attempt to reconcile the history of the Bible with evolution, but I have not yet heard enough to feel comfortable accepting or rejecting his view. I think Christian apologetics is going to continue to lose ground on at the hand of evolution until Christian apologists put forward a less agnostic answer on this issue..

  3. Mr.applemonkey Says:

    I’ve been following this topic and I just wanted to make a comment because I can 😀 I like how no matter how you slice it, atheists don’t have a case. You can’t disprove God with evolution. I honestly don’t know enough about science to make an informed choice about whether the earth is 13-14 billion, under 10,000, or heck, let’s get very unreasonable and say it happened yesterday and everyone is involved in a mass hallucination. The point of genesis is to have a starting point. It could be literal, or it could be symbolic. I don’t know which is ultimately true. Until I get undeniable proof that evolution is true I’ll reserve myself to YEC as a default since I see a few scientific problems raised with evolution that need to be resolved. If I’m wrong, I only look stupid to science, and I am perfectly fine with that. Again, science isn’t my forte and I could be misinformed. However, God doesn’t need to go on the wayside and Jesus isn’t disqualified as the Savior as a result. So I can get behind what you and dante ting are saying. I can’t side with your viewpoints until I know for sure, but I don’t think your in error either. Like you said, God is behind science too and it would be wrong to think otherwise. Overall, as long as I get Christ right I’ll be eternally happy.

  4. Bunto Skiffler Says:

    [NPeters] “So let’s make a hypothetical situation here. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument, and I do not believe this at all, that the first two chapters of Genesis are in error. Does that mean the whole NT is untrustworthy? No. It does not. It just means we need to change our doctrines of inspiration and Inerrancy. Note I am taking a scenario that is unfavorable towards us intentionally and using it to show that the central truth can still stand.”

    Why stop there? Go all the way towards grammar & meaning itself.

    sincerely,
    Imams & Quran ‘Scholars’ of Hadith Literature

  5. triple Says:

    Hi Nick.

    Would you say that Old Earth Creationism (and what logically followed) fit in with the Biblical view of a “good earth”?

  6. Bunto Skiffler Says:

    [NPeters] “The mistake we often make is thinking that if evolution is shown to be true, God is out of a job. Atheists and Christians BOTH make this mistake.”

    Inane. BTW custodial positions for unprovable deities available, see shift supervisor.

    sincerely,
    commonsense understanding, science & technology, what-is-true, etc.

    ===

    Wait, I think Nick might have a point!

    sincerely,
    religion, willful ignorance, god-as-figment-of-the-mind, et.al

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