Hi. I have been recently introduced to this website and as a Christian who also has convictions that are founded upon the Bible, have concerns about many of the ideas coming from those who have contributed to the arguments for God controlled evolution, or theistic evolution etc. I am a simple person…only a residential contractor, but who does have a number of chemistry and other science credits from college where I ultimately graduated with a business degree. In my simplicity I have found my consciousness pushing back at the theories man has concocted as a result of “science” which is supposed to be undergirded by the scientific method. In other words, if it seems that the fossil record suggests macro evolution and an old earth yet this cannot be proved definitively by the scientific method which is impossible in this case, then I would recommend high levels of reserve to immediately debunk what Scripture seems to suggest on the many levels. Since the very nature of existence of life is so amazingly miraculous in so many respects, so could the development of species in short periods of time by God’s hand which according to naturalistic science would be impossible to notice. And I don’t buy it that offering a nibble of acceptance to all the terms of naturalistic science helps the cause of acceptance of the terms of the Gospel either towards those who practice it. Instead, The Bible seems to encourage people over and over and over again that He is so beyond understanding amazing and wise that His prerogatives and creations might be additionally hard to interpret. He does not need us to follow Him. He does not need us to interpret what He has done in time, He can use grass to accomplish His desires and the Gospel is a truth that relays itself in this same light combined with the fact that God loves us love us loves us! Attempts to convince a person to rationally accept God on the terms of human rationale may do nothing more that build an idol and a temple for human rationale even pasted with a bunch of theistic jargon, thus placing God down the totem pole. Unfortunately, on many different occasions as I have read some of the articles and arguments on this website, this is what I sense is occurring. Looking at Job’s 3 friends were so intelligent sounding and elaborate in communication of argument after argument that described God’s intention in Job’s situation to which God replied that they were 100% incorrect, so we as studiers of creation must be much more reverent and humble in our interpretations. God is outside of time and is outside of our realm of wisdom more so than a slug is outside of the realm of a humans. We need to treat Him with reverence as such. Thanks for your ear and His blessings. Greg
Coming to Peace with Evolution and Christian Faith: My Story
I spent some years of my life in contracting. You can’t tell me that stuff is simple! (For proof that it’s not, just ask any of these science-y types to set up a correctly-sequenced, realistic construction schedule for even a basic home. ) As an avid commenter here with no official standing to do so, allow me to welcome you to the Forum.
Turning to the substance and tone of your comments: I think you’ll find most in the evolutionary creation camp actually agree very strongly with your comment that “we need to treat Him with reverence as such.” If science teaches us anything, it’s that we are pretty insignificant in the grand scale of things and that God’s creation is awesome, and I mean that in the truest sense of word: “prompting a response of awe and reverence.”
Second, people don’t adopt the evolutionary creationist stance in order to win people over to faith in Christ. We adopt evolutionary creationism because we feel the evidence merits it. We do feel that certain stances are likely to turn people off to faith in Christ, but that’s a secondary point. Truth is the motivator, not attractiveness.
Finally, I think several commentators here are probably better placed than I am to address your core assertion that
but I’ll give it a stab. I presume you mean that macroevolution is not repeatable in a lab unless of course you have 20 million years to watch. While this is true, it’s only part of the story. The truth is that “macroevolution” has passed every test science has put to it over 150 years. (I put the term in quotes because scientists don’t really grant that there’s any difference between micro- and macroevolution, because the decision of what counts as one or the other is completely arbitrary.) The evidence for it is extremely strong, and comes from several different completely independent fields. Others have done a better job than I could of explaining that evidence, but I would just encourage you to look into it. As a good place to start, I would recommend Falk’s book Coming to Peace with Science. It’s about as clear and accessible an explanation of the basic evidence for macroevolution that you’ll find, and by a believer, at that. The man’s got a knack for explaining things at a popular level. If you got through a chemistry course in college, this is peanuts… more like watching an episode of Nova. Much easier than wiring a house!
Aside from all the science, there’s the issue of Scriptural interpretation, when you refer to “what Scripture seems to suggest.” I need to tackle some stuff around my house, so I hope others will chime in on that question, which is critical. Suffice it to say, most of us here don’t feel we have to sacrifice a bedrock commitment to Scriptural authority in order to embrace evolutionary timelines.
Anyway, thanks for commenting and engaging.
All the best,
I actually wholeheartedly agree with you on this, and I think many others here would too. But I wonder if maybe you are misinterpreting some of the arguments you have read here, or are attributing a motivation that isn’t really there.
The goal of BioLogos is to celebrate and explore the harmony between what God reveals in nature (science) and what God reveals in Scripture. Our main audience is made of people who are already convinced (or becoming convinced) of certain facts and realities about the natural world, but worry that because of some perceived conflict between what they know from science and what they think the Bible teaches, they must choose between faith and science, or the Bible and nature. As Christians, we are definitely not trying to “debunk” Scripture, or prove that science “trumps” Scripture, or claim that truth one can reason to or empirically observe is superior to truth accessed through faith.
I have never met anyone who has been argued into faith. And you are right that if someone could be argued into faith, then their faith would rest on the shaky foundation of their own reason and understanding. Our faith is supposed to rest on the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Science can never describe the whole of reality, or answer all of our questions, or solve all of our problems. The most important issues that cut to the core of our humanity are spiritual and moral issues that require revelation of truth about the spiritual dimension that intersects and interacts with our physical/natural reality. Scripture and the Holy Spirit reveal truth about spiritual realities, not science.
The very nature of existence is mysterious and miraculous. Furthermore, the idea that God united himself physically and spiritually with humanity and his human death and resurrection made a way for us to be reconciled to God and united with his Spirit, a way to defy our natural propensities toward pride and selfishness and live righteous and just lives instead, a way to ultimately defy the physical reality of death… these are mysteries and miracles to be sure. And I have not heard any “rational” or “scientific” argument that gets you anywhere near these truths. Revelations from science and the natural world will never get you to “Jesus died for my sins to reconcile me to God.”
One more thought. Actually a question.
Maybe you could shed some light on this perspective for me because there is something I honestly don’t understand about the thought process of people who hold these ideas (and I know many people who agree with you, I’m just too chicken to ask them.)
These people who share your perspective on science, if they were to be diagnosed with cancer, would trust their doctor’s recommendation for a course of chemo or radiation therapy or a surgical intervention. They fly in planes and ride in cars. They trust emergency warnings from the national weather service. They believe the lunar landing actually happened and is not a hoax. They don’t get too worked up about whether or not their electricity comes from a nuclear plant, as long as the lights come on when they flip the switch. If some of these people had some extra cash, they wouldn’t have a problem investing in petroleum companies. So, in all sorts of different areas, they trust the applications of scientific knowledge. They put their health and their personal safety and their finances on the line when they do so, and it doesn’t seem to be an issue for them.
But all of the sudden, when the application of scientific knowledge is the age of the earth, or radioactive dating, or common ancestry, or fossils, scientists transform from being these trustworthy people who make our lives better with advanced technology to being these incompetent liars who have mere guesses and “concoct” creative stories whose true motivation is to stick it to God, Christians, and the Bible. Now all of the sudden their “knowledge” and “science” and “theories” get dubious quotation marks.
But it is the same biology, chemistry, physics, and geology as they used to develop medical treatments, locate oil, send up space craft, predict hurricanes, and split atoms! It is just a different application. How does something completely trustworthy become completely untrustworthy just because the context changed? How are the same facts and constants and models that are perfectly acceptable in context A, automatically suspect and discounted in context B?
HI Greg, enjoyed your post. AMW and Christie pretty much stated my main impressions, but let me add a few comments related to the account of Job, since I also think it relevant, and it is one of my favorite books. Job’s friends tended to be inamored with their knowledge and certain in their ideas as you stated, but remember that what they were so sure of was their concept of God and his justice, in other words, their theologic interpretation. And as you stated, they were wrong. Intellectual humility is a subject of one of the recent blogs on this site, and I agree that it never hurts to be reminded of our limitations, not only in science, but in our finite understanding of an infinite God.
Welcome to the Biologos forum, my brother; I’m glad you’re here! When I was a college student, I said many of the things you say in your post. Since then, I have learned a few things that have made me shift my view on these matters. I will list them here in the hope that you find at least some of them useful.
Hundreds of years ago, a remarkable argument took place among Christians. On the one side stood scientists and a few theologians allied with them, who stated that recent scientific discoveries demanded a re-examination of the traditional interpretation of certain Scriptures. On the other side stood luminaries still widely respected today–Luther and Calvin, among others–who insisted that the scientists’ babblings were the folly of men that were refuted by the clear teaching of Scriptures such as Joshua 10:12 and Psalm 104:5. Luther stated that he believed the Holy Scriptures rather than those who were throwing astronomy into disorder. Melanchthon averred that “it is a want of honesty and decency to assert such notions [of the scientists] publicly, and the example is pernicious. It is the part of a good mind to accept the truth as revealed by God and to acquiesce in it.”
And what was this clear teaching of Scripture that disreputable scientists were trying to throw into disorder? That the earth was the unmoved center of the universe.
Today, we have trouble understanding how godly, wise scholars could have made such an obvious (to us) mistake. That the earth is not the unmoved center of the universe, and that it revolves around the sun, are so obvious in the 21st century that we automatically regard Psalm 104:5 as a poetic passage that is not trying to say anything about science.
Hundreds of years from now, I suggest, Christians will be wondering why so many esteemed theologians of the 20th and 21st century could not understand that the opening chapters of Genesis are poetic passages that are not trying to say anything about science. (If the Lord does not return in power to end history before then, but that’s a topic for another day.)
My wife and I had the privilege of serving the poor in West Africa for several years as part of a Christian humanitarian organization. As I struggled to become fluent in the local dialect of Arabic, I became aware that word-for-word translations from my English into the local language were not a good way to communicate. Typically this happened when they started chuckling over something I had not intended for humor. Or when they just stared at me like I had uttered a non sequitur…which I had obviously just done in their language, in spite of my best efforts. The literalistic, word-for-word method of translating between my language and theirs was sometime successful, but at other times led to spectacular failures.
This experience helped me realize that the books of the Bible are themselves embedded in a particular cultural context–a particular language at a particular time for a particular people. Furthermore, we should not expect that a literalistic hermeneutic was always lead to successful understanding. While the Scriptures are intended for everyone at every time, they were written to a particular set of people in their particular context. We should therefore not be surprised that a literalistic “translation” of some Scriptures will lead to misunderstanding, just as they led to misunderstandings between me and West Africans. We should not be surprised that we need a solid understanding of ancient Hebrew culture to understand some of Genesis, for example.
If you have about an hour to devote to understanding this issue, the best resource I can suggest is John Walton’s series on “Genesis through Ancient Eyes.” My favorite part of the series is the whimsical commentary of Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales. You may or may not agree with Walton, but I guarantee you will enjoy watching the videos.
I can lay no claim to scientific expertise–I am a software architect/budding data scientist with a lifelong science hobby. I go to science museums; I haul out my 4.5" reflector on a clear winter night to spy on the moons of Jupiter or the Mare Tranquillitatis. And I listen to my scientist friends.
The Christians among them, I have learned, view science as a working out of the Cultural Mandate in Genesis 1:28. Learning the math and the mechanisms of nature, they feel, is an important part of being made in God’s image to rule over the earth. They are not trying to undermine God’s revelation; they are affirming it! And that’s what drives Christian biologists and paleontologists who join with their colleagues in helping us understand the science of life. That’s what drives Christian geologists who help us understand the earth and its fascinating history.
Sadly, some scientists try to turn science into a claim against God. They claim that science is the only way to gain knowledge; all other approaches such as religion must be rejected. It is right to reject such a claim; the scientific method is designed only to help us analyze God’s creation, we might respond. It is not designed to analyze God, who cannot be pinned down through mathematical equations.
But let us not throw out the baby with the bath water. We can reject unwise philosophical claims made by some scientists without rejecting the good fruits of science. Among those fruits are the discoveries that the earth is spherical in shape, that it revolves around the sun, that it is billions of years old, and that it has supported the evolution of life over those billions of years.
Thanks for coming to the forum to discuss these important issues, Greg. May the God of wisdom lead you, and all of us, into His truth!
On my blog I one analyzed an article by Ken Ham whose underlying premise was: “Why would a believing Christian trust the word of materialist scientists over a message from God?” You may find my response to be helpful.
Hi Greg and welcome. Your comments focus directly upon the task BioLogos has undertaken, and I hope some of the responses help you make sense of the question which was the title of an old Michael Caine movie: _“What’s it all about, Alfie?”_As Alfie was to learn (too late), leading a good and happy life on this earth depends on following a well-formed ConScience–a word composed of: With Knowing. I am guessing that you, like many or most of the contributors to this Forum, were raised in an environment that made Scripture a major part of that Knowing. Raised as a Catholic, the Church’s Magisterium was also a part of that Knowing for me. However, as I was drawn to a career in science, it seemed obvious that, yes, Science should also be part of what constitutes my ConScience.
But it was not that easy. As I learned about the evidence for evolution, about the geological evidence for an age old earth, about the astronomical evidence for the earth’s position in an unbelievably immense Cosmosphere, it was tempting to promote Science to the dominant (or only) contributor to the Knowledge that formed ConScience, pushing Scripture to the edges of irrelevance. Like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins since then, some of my friends and colleagues took this course. As you put it, they set up their intelligence as an idol.
But to be fair to them, is it not chutzpah of the highest order to think that we humans actually matter in the cosmic scheme of things?–that we are actually made in our Creator’s Image? For this we must rely on Revelation. But yet we would hope that this foundation of our Faith does not ‘fly in the face’ of Reason or Science. And it doesn’t.
Theologically, it may seem heretical to believe that an all powerful Creator can have needs. And my belief that God’s plan through evolution included the eventual appearance of Intellect that could attempt to Know its Creator and adore Him–this belief is certainly anthropomorphic. So what? Any attempt to Know Him must perforce arise from the mind that He bestowed on us. It is anthropomorphic to believe that our adoration of Him gives Him a higher level of satisfaction than grass, the ability of which to grow and nourish herds of ruminants is admittedly somewhat miraculous. Given a free will which we misuse, we are certainly broken. But still we are more miraculous than grass. We humans have been granted (not earned) the miracle of Jesus becoming human to lead us to the potential that God sees possible.
Greg, my final point is this: In my opinion at least, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are the exceptions–most scientists are agnostic because of humility not arrogance. They do not set up their intellect as some sort of idol. Your mind is as capable Eintein’s or Hawkin’s in the attempt to know God. Science tends to overlook His most important attribute: Love!
Now hold on, there. I am as about as science-y as they come but even I know you start with the foundation. And then, um…the plumbing?..No wait, the frame, and then, you know, the roof, and then the plumbing or maybe the fireplace. And wires go in there someplace. Then the floor. OK…never mind.
Thanks Albert: Your thoughts are interesting. My gut sense in much of the discourse that I read on this website however is still what I would compare to that of Job’s 3 friends who were absolutely 100% convinced in their finite minds by all logical measures that Job was suffering due to his sin. And they so intelligently relayed their message to Job, confident that God, whom they did correctly describe at times, was punishing Job and how he needed to repent. For this, I believe that Christians everywhere need to call their scientist brethren to be more agnostic towards science and more trusting toward revelation. I see way too many attempts on this website in convincing people away from being agnostics to science and towards being doubtful about revelation. That is my honest opinion.
As far as your suggestion that agnostic scientists are so because of humility and not due to revering idols, this is, all due respect, counter intuitive because when God made us, He created in us a propensity for worshipping something. Eternity and transcendence is built into the fabric of our souls (book of ecclesiates) and when God is not the vacuum filler, then must be something else…the definition of an idol. For this, I must conclude that if a person does not have Christ and is a zealous scientist, they may be placing the very practice of such in the “god” category and for this, Biblically it will be really hard to convince me that we must come down to the level of such a person in order for them to be accepting of the tenets of the gospel. The tenets of the gospel are that God does not need us in the sense that this relays the correct mindset to all human beings that we are as different from Christ as the builder of the house is different from the house. (Hebrews) We are compared to that of sheep…who fall into a crag on the hillside and can’t get up and who will follow other dumb sheep over the cliff because that is what we do. Before regeneration, we were dumb, deaf, blind mute just like the idols we were chasing. The amount of knowing and understanding we were capable of and still are as Christians by the way about any subject including the one that debates creationism vs evolutionism is probably less than one billionth of a percent of what is even true on the topic…which God does know. I for one will take much more reverent steps towards coming to understanding these items we talk of and as far as the gospel is concerned repentance away from self-reliance and meism and disobedience is only necessary for a gospel of love that forgives from such to be understood. And the more I grow as a believer, the more and more I tend towards better understanding of my ineptitude of understanding the vastness of God’s to boot!
His greatest blessings to you my friend Albert. May we all share the gospel of hope that frees us from the sin that places anything, good, bad and neutral alike in place of God who is outstandingly beyond us in every single degree. When we meet Him one day face to face, hopefully we were not of the types like the disciples who thought they deserved the closest seat to Jesus based on human rationale where God has to say, sorry my son, you are saved but your reward category has not claim for a mansion close to town, but rather is a shack in the outer courts.
I think you need to look at the book of Job again.
Job’s friends were not scientists, but theologians. They said that Job must be guilty of a terrible sin, because God would not punish him with all these many catastrophes otherwise. Job said that he was not perfect, but he had not committed any terrible sin, so there was no reason for God to punish him.
Job trusted his reason, and his experience of the goodness of God. His friends trusted in bad theology of their day. I would agree with Job against the bad theology no matter how well intentioned of YEC.
But what do you conclude when a person does have Christ and is a zealous scientist? Are they necessarily an idolater by choice of their vocation? In the case of the fellow Christian who is a scientist, there is no “coming down to their level,” because they are a brother or a sister in the faith. The overwhelming majority of scientists who profess saving faith in Christ accept the evidence for an ancient earth. Even if they may disagree on the mechanisms of evolution, they accept the evidence for common descent. This fact is what is most salient to me in the creationism/evolution debate. Why shouldn’t I trust my brothers and sisters in Christ who understand the finer points of science? I’m not choosing an atheist opinion over a Christian one, I’m choosing an informed Christian expert opinion over a non-expert Christian opinion.
Roof first Sy, in case it rains.
5 posts were split to a new topic: The Copernicus “science v. church” story is wrong
Are you referring to the discussions that happen on the Forum, or to actual articles at biologos.org? It would be helpful to understand specifically what is giving you the impression of rationalistic arrogance on our part. If you’re drawing this conclusion from the discussions here, I need to give the standard disclaimer that this discussion board is not meant to be representative of the views of our actual organization. 95 percent of the commenters here have zero affiliation with BioLogos.
Hi Christy: Here lies the issue: “Scientists” who are charged with the duty of developing a hunch on the way things work that thereby gets initial testing that evolves to a hypothesis for more testing for the evolution of that to a theory which, after many definitive results concludes to a law. I am finding a real tendency in this world for the “scientist” to thereby take the inch of validity in this process of law making by that “scientist” and and arrogantly translate this into a mile of assumption on the way things are even when they cannot be tested like the above scenario explains. It blows my mind when “scientists” declare in definitive language that such and such occurred x number of millions of years ago when methods of such determinations are impossible to even engage in such bold conclusions. This is not humility but self righteous pride.
I find it really interesting that even the laws of physics that have been counted on as legit and firm are being reevaluated due to progress in the fields of quantum physics. Did you know this?
So the gospel which should be the pinnacle topic in such discussions should not be hinging (in the minds of Christians and non Christians alike) on human rationale, but on GOD who created us, and designed the universe, and developed His creation on a timescale, in all due respect to those who think they know themselves, that is most likely well beyond our understanding…If He is capable to design a DNA strand, He could have run what appear to be evolutionary cycles that took millions of years by our estimations in an hour could He not? Humans view things through lenses that are subject to what we think is possible in our earthly existence and that is what science is based upon as well by the associative property. God created it all and knows how He created so I will choose to, again, be an agnostic towards human perception and more trusting to revelation which ultimate was the means by which I came to an absolutely mind blowing experience where God has chosen over and over to use me as a weakened vessel for His glory after I confessed to Him my sin, weakness and frailty to find forgiveness at the cross! His blessing to you Christy!
Greg, it sounds like you are in a good place, but I would like comment on one of your statements in particular, and perhaps leave the others for later. You stated:
".If He is capable to design a DNA strand, He could have run what appear
to be evolutionary cycles that took millions of years by our estimations
in an hour could He not?"
My thought is: Indeed he could have, but the question arises, would He?
Would God create the appearance of great age where there is not, knowing that such a deceit would call His character into question, and possibly draw His people away?
Would God say in His word that:
( Romans 1:19-21)" since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For
since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal
power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from
what has been made, so that people are without excuse."
and then create a world that is not clearly seen, but that is something that it does not appear to be, thus calling the truth of his word into question?
These questions are part of why I believe the word of God and God revealed, as well as accept as likely the scientific data as to the age of the earth and so forth, with the supposed contradictions being due to my limited understanding and faulty theology.
Blessings on this day, as well as the days to come.
Hi Roger: Of course I recognize the difference between the scientist and the theologian. I think you miss my point. I believe that God has embedded into the precepts found in Job here that what is observed as seemingly true by the “wise” counselors of Job’s 3 friends were observations that were not wise at all. Likewise, if one supposes that what is observed as being true about what occurred 100 thousand years ago let alone a million years ago based on human rationale and considers this as ultimately true when we as Christians believe in a God who does the miraculous, then this could indeed lead to a tainted interpretation as well. My theology thus rests more on our great God who transcends the seeming “reality” as I would see it…ESPECIALLY realities so great as to have occurred way deep in the past. I will not be the one to promote division with my fine brethren who love the Lord who are young earth creationists when we all are worshipping God who stands alone outside of even our frail perceptions of who we think He is all about and how He really caused our existence to come to be.
Greg, in 1951, as a grad student at the U. of Chicago, I took a course in Radiometric Dating given by Prof. Willard Libby who was then ‘fine tuning’ the corrections needed for the Carbon-14 method of dating for which he later received the Nobel Prize. And yes, it was mind blowing to see how it could take ancient wood of established ages (Sumerian and Egyptian relics and Sequoia tree rings) as standards and extend the method to dates as far as 40,000 yrs ago. When you have the world’s foremost expert explain the details to you, and you have the chance to verify them in the lab, its hard NOT to be convinced. About this time other scientists were working on other radiometric measures; mainly parent/daughter ratios, such as uranium/lead and potassium/argon, which are appropriate for much earlier dates–namely for millions and even billions of years. For these dates to be meaningful, extraordinary care must be taken to insure accuracy. But it is also important to note that these methods depend to a degree upon ‘scientific faith’–that the half-life of the unstable parent is fixed and cannot be altered by physical factors, such as heat, or pressure, etc. This seems verified by all the tests that have been made in the laboratory, but we have no theory that explains it.You will find other contributors to this Forum have covered this subject in greater detail. But keep in mind, Greg, that it is the essential strength of science that all past theories are open to revision–no Dogma is sacred. Misleading theological dogmas are much harder to correct. [quote=“grog, post:16, topic:5941”]
I find it really interesting that even the laws of physics that have been counted on as legit and firm are being reevaluated due to progress in the fields of quantum physics. Did you know this?
Incidentally, I agree with @Relates when it comes to Job’s advisors. They were acting as Theologians not Scientists in pretending to know the Mind of God.
Chiming in here again from the peanut gallery.
Glad to hear you won’t be promoting division with YEC folks. Me, neither. I come here and post semi-anonymously. In my real life, where most of the folks in my home church are YEC-sympathetic if not YEC-ers themselves, my views are not known. This is because I have no interest in forcing people onto this journey of squaring with the scientific evidence, which can be at times disorienting and difficult. God bless them in their faith.
I must say I find that, more often than not, in my experience (and I can only speak for myself, of course), YEC folks, not EC folks, are the ones promoting divisions, as they attempt to split off those “liberal” “compromisers” as not “real” Christians like the rest of us “Bible-believing” folks. This creates a division that’s not really there, because as you said, we’re all worshiping the same God in all His awe and mystery, and we are all trying to make the best sense we can of Him given the evidence we’re aware of, while seeking simultaneously to submit ourselves humbly to the transforming truth of His word.