Atheistic Meteorology or Divine Rain?


Of course a non-literal reading would reduce problems in accepting evolution, even if evolution is not true. This is stating the obvious. It’s a bit like saying that my objections to evolution are due to believing scripture… the difficulties would be dropped if I was an atheist. But this is a kind of generalization which is essentially not helpful to the discussion of evolution in particular, and the details of the Genesis account.

We also have the problems of dealing with a non-literal reading, or even a semi-literal reading of Genesis. How far do we go? What objective standards do we use? Why are some parts literal and other parts non-literal? Are the standards external or internal to scripture. Can we use literal parts to understand non-literal parts? or vice versa?

Was Jesus deluded? Was Paul mistaken? Was the redeemer promised? Is sin the fault of man or of God?

Can miracles happen? are miracles all natural? are they delusional?

What is the resurrection? Did Moses and Elijah really appear with Jesus on the mount before Peter James and John?

Is evolution directed? Is it undirected and accidental? Is human death different than animal death? What is a soul?

What is eternal life? Will the righteous and unrighteous really be separated? Does man have choices? are his thoughts predestined?

etc., etc.,

These questions cannot be determined or helped by loose allegorical stories which are in essence determined to be untrue and impossible.

Even metaphors must refer to something real and reasonable. Or at least a metaphor must refer to something definable.

And then, when in doubt, evolution must answer credibly, the scientific questions and criticisms. If it is inviolable, then we know that it is nothing more than another faith competing for the minds of people.

In that case, we as humans begin to choose the faith which gives us hope, and gives us certainty of the character of God, and not the hopeless undirected faith of an accidental universe in which any outcome is equally valid.

Your questions are also mine… that such explanations would be necessary for biologos to fulfill a valid vacumn in the spectrum of positions on the interrelationship between scripture and evolution. Biologos has said: "We believe that God created humans in biological continuity with all life on earth, but also as spiritual beings. God established a unique relationship with humanity by endowing us with his image and calling us to an elevated position within the created order. Thus, BioLogos believes that God created humanity using the process of evolution and endowed us with his image. - See more at: They state in the same article that either a naturalistic process or a miraculous process for the creation of man is possible: God could have used a miraculous process to create our spiritual capacities, or used some combination of natural processes and divine revelation to develop these capacities. Either way, God is the creator of our whole selves, including both our physical and spiritual aspects. - See more at:

They choose not to pick the exact process. But they agree that the process was not accidental; that it was directed at some scale to achieve the obejctive at which it arrived.

Philosophically, I agree we cannot limit God. But from the perspective of scripture, the character of God, and our relationship with God, it is obvious that the story of Genesis was not necessary, if indeed man did not create the rift with God, and if God did not create man “good”, and in good relationship with himself, and if man is not intrinsically different than the rest of creation. And in fact, the story of Genesis merely becomes an obstacle, rather than a benefit in that case.


Dawkins baldly asserts:

“No sane creator, setting out from scratch to design a flat-fish [talking here specifically of plaice, sole and flounders], would have conceived on his drawing board the absurd distortion of the head needed to bring both eyes round to one side.”9
But, what special knowledge does Dawkins possess, entitling him to make pronouncements about how and what the Creator should or should not have done? Elsewhere, his faith in naturalism as the ultimate truth explains his arrogance:

“But if an engineer looks at an animal or organ and sees that it is well designed to perform some task, then I will stand up and assert that natural selection is responsible for the goodness of apparent design.”9Dawkins, R., Climbing Mount Improbable, Viking Penguin, London, p. 68, 1996 (

So we can see that it is not just about the simple process. It is also and mainly about ascribing responsibility for “goodness”. Dawkins wants to blame God for what is bad, and credit evolution for what is “good”. Scripture does the opposite(somewhat), by crediting God for what is good, and blaming man for what is bad. Naturalists/materialists say that there is no good and no bad, but merely what is, is. Of course, they also say there is no God, and that man is merely a glorified animal.

When we pray for healing, we know that God can use natural processes, doctors, medicine. Or he can sidestep these processes, and intervene directly. Belief in evolution denies God’s ability to intervene, and so will disregard and deny any apparent evidence of that event, even if it existed. As demonstrated by Dawkins above. Such a belief is suspect.

(Jon) #23

A non-literal reading is not necessary to harmonize evolution with Genesis 1. Ironically those who claim to read Genesis 1 literally, are typically reading it non-literally to suit themselves.


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Am I to take your statement literally? or non-literally?


In general, I use the term evolution as a worldly term, random and accidental undirected events influenced by natural conditions leading to a slow and gradual change of one primal species into the millions of varieties of kinds and species we have today.

(Jon) #27

Literally. I’ll say it again. A non-literal reading is not necessary to harmonize evolution with Genesis 1. Ironically those who claim to read Genesis 1 literally, are typically reading it non-literally to suit themselves. The main reason for this is that they’re reading it anachronistically, and trying to make it agree with modern science.


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It sounds like disharmony, not harmony to me. Literally. I leave it to you to explain in detail how every literal word and literal phrase and literal paragraph in Genesis 1 harmonizes marvelously with evolution.


I don’t care too much whether it is Darwinian, Lamarkian, Wallacean, Dawkinian… but it is the main theory of evolution promoted as random mutations causing change in alleles that result in the multiplication of all the present species from one original microbe over long periods of time.

Descent with modification is a bit vague, but supposing it were shown not to be random at all, but quite specifically directed, then it would certainly be different than the common perception of the theory. However, this by itself does not mean that evolution in the traditional sense could not be deemed to be teleological; but it is normally built into the theory that it is antithetical to any notion of God having designed such a process.

The problem is more with the historical-grammatical understanding of Genesis as apparently conflicting with the implications of common evolutionary theory. Of course, if evolution is merely defined as “a change in the allele frequency in a population” then there is no inherent difficulty even with the historical-grammatical reading of scripture, since creationists of every stripe believe that there are changes in allele frequencies.

Have you elucidated your understanding of the literary features which seem to indicate something other than historical-literal, or as more often indicated as historical-grammatical. I know you have indicated your conclusion, but I’m not sure I’ve actually seen your reasoning.


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(Jon) #32

What I actually said was “A non-literal reading is not necessary to harmonize evolution with Genesis 1”. For more information, see here.

(Charles Alexandre Roy) #33


First off I’ll just say, you should all go out and buy the book “Paradigms on Pilgrimage” from which this article was taken. The second half of the book deals with understandings of Genesis and why a “literal” interpretation is likely not what the author of Genesis intended. (So to be faithful to scripture, we should ditch the wooden literalism found in so many Protestant churches). It also addresses many of the theological implications of all of this. Definitely an excellent and informative book!

The way I see it there appear to be three main ways of dealing with the “problem” created when the Bible attributes processes now understood through meteorology, embryology, and etc to the action of God. (These aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive either) Option one is to say that in a general sense God does oversee and control all these things. By having created the universe with it’s particular starting conditions, by setting the laws of the universe as they are, and by sustaining the universe moment by moment, God ultimately is the one who sends rain and knits us together in the womb. Option two would be to suppose that God is actually still intimately involved in events that appear to be well-explained by natural laws. Perhaps at the quantum or sub-quantum level (or through other dimensions) God is able to manipulate the world in a way that at a more macro level it still appears to be following particular natural laws and can still be described by them. Perhaps he uses something like the butterfly effect to achieve this. In that way God could still be affecting rainfall despite our ability to predict patterns accurately. Option three would be to argue that those who composed the Bible were never given supernatural insight into the workings of the world (it seems implausible that they would need it - and why was the super-advanced information that they were given lost? (For shipbuilding or etc)) Consequently, any aspects of the natural world that they attributed to the action of God due to their lack of understanding can be taken with a grain of salt in terms of modern scientific implications.

In terms of the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible there wouldn’t be major consequences because the best (abridged) articulation of inerrancy (as I understand it) is that the Bible is inerrant in terms of what it is actually affirming. In most cases the Bible isn’t primarily making claims about the “natural world” but even if it is, we can still pick any of the above options to account for why such affirmations don’t undermine the Bible as a whole. This isn’t to say that I entirely endorse Gould’s NOMA model as I believe that God is intimately involved in the world and sustains it from moment to moment.

Anyways, whichever of the above option or combination of options people choose (and there are likely others) it seems unlikely to me that we can overly separate our treatment of evolution and meteorology as though God treats them differently. In other words it seems unlikely that God would create through a process of evolution that looks like it follows certain natural laws (like meteorology) but which he is actually manipulating or applying some sort of “radical contingency” to. I feel like our conclusions on all of these should be consistent, whichever way we lean. That being said, as Alvin Plantinga explains in his book, “Where the Conflict Really Lies,” the natural laws that humans have come up with to describe how things work in the world are merely descriptive of how things normally go and they are only really applicable in a closed system. God can ultimately do whatever he wants in this universe without “breaking” any natural laws because they don’t really apply to an open system in which God is acting.

Whether God was somehow stepping into the “natural world” in undetectable ways to guide evolution or whether evolution was “programmed” to unfold according to initial conditions that God specified, it seems unlikely that the crux of whether evolution was teleological or not has to do with whether anatomically and morphologically modern humans were the end result. Personally, I don’t really see why it matters whether or not God wanted a specific set of lifeforms with their particular anatomy. Being in the image of God seems to have a lot less to do with our anatomy than with spiritual realities and if some other creature had evolved that was deemed sophisticated enough to have a spiritual nature, it would have likely been made in the image of God. (See C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy) As for declaring evolution to be with or without telos that seems to be more of a faith stance than anything and couldn’t really ever be affirmed or denied by science either way. I would say that the same thing goes for rainfall. It is outside of the purview of science to declare whether something does or does not have a purpose. That being said, if we are ok with an essentially naturalistic explanation of precipitation and embryological development, then surely an explanation (at one level) of evolution in natural terms isn’t too far of a stretch. That we can explain the process in physical terms doesn’t affect whether the thing is or is not with a telos.

Eddie, as far as I can tell I think I pretty much agree with everything you’ve written here (including taking into consideration the ancient Near Eastern context when interpreting the mythological elements in the genesis account and etc). I just don’t understand why you are so concerned about whether or not a specific set of lifeforms are guaranteed by evolution or not.


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(Roger A. Sawtelle) #35


I see the issue as a scientific issue more than a theological.

Darwin states that Nature guides evolution, but does not say how in a verifiable manner. It is my observation based on much scientific research that Natural Selection guides evolution by making all life forms adapt to their ecological niches.

Since Nature cannot think, but was created by God Who can, it follows that God guides evolution through God creation of basic life forms and their genes, and the creation of the environment and how it changes.

There is no question that life has and continues to change in a well defined, specific direction. The only questions then is how and why? Scientists who say that this cannot be determined are being less than faithful to their discipline.

Basically we know how weather works and how, although climate change reminds us that climate and weather are not static and also subject to change.

“The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehendible.” Albert Einstein.

(Charles Alexandre Roy) #36


I better understand where you’re coming from now, thanks for explaining.

Personally, I wouldn’t really see a specific set of lifeforms being guaranteed by evolution as an overly large hurdle with respect to God’s sovereignty.

I see 2-3 hypothetical ways around the issue. Number one would be to say that God didn’t really want a specific set of lifeforms but only certain broad categories, such as sentient beings. This isn’t the best approach as it still leaves the question of whether evolution could even guarantee that much. (Then again, maybe it can’t and maybe this is the 87th universe God has created…) Option two would be to say that although God could have somehow caused evolution to guarantee specific outcomes, he limited himself and allowed it to proceed on its own. This would be similar to how God limited himself in the person of Jesus. It doesn’t affect his sovereignty because he is choosing to limit himself and allow things to play out. Option three would be to argue that guaranteeing specific outcomes with evolution is logically impossible and is therefore not a failure of omnipotence (and God’s sovereignty) to be unable to perform. If I am not mistaken, Thomas Aquinas (who was pre-enlightenment) argued that God cannot do logically impossible things such as create a rock too heavy for him to lift and the like.

Check out these two (fairly short) posts that discuss that concept a bit more if you like:

Now of course, it’s possible that God can in fact do logically contradictory things but if he can, then no human reasoning about God accomplishes much and Bible verses that tell us to love the Lord with all our soul, strength, and mind seemingly fall flat. That’s not to say that we will ever fully understand God by any means but just that it seems like there would be no point in applying our minds to God if he is so beyond logic.

(Charles Alexandre Roy) #37


Thank you for responding.

I am doing my best to follow your train of thought. Of course, evolution does help organisms adapt to their ecological niches but that being said, once they are adapted, do you think that they stop evolving? I know that once a population is very well adapted to a niche it often remains relatively unchanging over time but surely even in that sort of population there is competition and the odd favorable mutation that occurs.

I was also wondering upon what you are basing your comment about there being no question that life has been changing in a well-defined direction. Do you mean over the entire course of evolution? Also, wouldn’t it go beyond the bounds of science for scientists to say that life will continue to change in a well-defined direction? That seems like it would be saying more than the available information allows us to predict which would be irresponsible of scientists to say.


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(Benjamin Kirk) #39

Hello JohnZ,

This makes zero sense.

You complained in the other thread about the textbook definition, changes in allele frequency in a population over time, being “fraudulent” and “truncated,” yet here, you’ve omitted it entirely.



It is not omitted, but captured within the definition.