Do Evolutionary Theory And Scripture Contradict Each Other?


(Jonathan) #1

Does the theory of evolution contradict the bible?
I am pondering: would it not be more reasonable to assume that God created the cosmos (and life) in 6 literal days as recounted in Genesis rather than believing that he utilized Macroevolution (I like to make the distinction) to diversify life on the planet from some very basic organism (which He created)???

What I’m also wondering: to what extent is Evolution scientifically sound that we should be modifying our Christian faith to accommodate it? Why has it not yet been upgraded to a scientific law??? (To my understanding, the Bible has never had to be modified to fit any scientific entity, even a scientific law!)

This is an important topic, as the authority of scripture seems to be at stake…


(Mervin Bitikofer) #2

Hi, Jonathan; and welcome to the forum!

You lead in with a lot of important questions and like all of us bring a few apparent assumptions to the table too. As tempting as it is to dive in and respond with answers, (which I’m sure you’ll get plenty of proposed ones here before too long --maybe a few of my own in there too) I’ll instead respond here by asking a question or two in return.

If we take the understanding that the Genesis account has the first human being created from the dust of the earth, doesn’t that also come bundled with the idea that God took that “dirt” and molded a man from it? In other words, the man wasn’t just “poofed” into being by a command, but by a process, right? I also wonder if that dirt had living organisms in it like all dirt today does? In which case, even on the YEC understanding, wouldn’t this process have included prior life?

You seem willing that our Scriptural understandings should be accommodating to those things, “laws” of which we are most confident. That interests me as well – what hard division, if any, exists between the things we call laws and everything else. Do you consider that the “theory of relativity” is established? And yet it is still commonly referred to as a theory.

Just some questions to ponder.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #3

One last one to throw in here yet … Do you think of the origins controversies of today as being a special and unprecedented case in this? Or would you say the authority of Scriptures have been challenged before? such as when geocentric cosmology had to give way to heliocentric cosmology for example.


(Curtis Henderson) #4

Hi Jonathan,

Thanks for your interest in the forum. Let me ask this first before I respond in a significant way. Are you genuinely interested in dialogue, or are you more interested in having the forum participants “realize the error of their ways” and agree with you?


(Christy Hemphill) #5

People put some research into this question on this thread: Why is evolution a theory and not a law?

Welcome to our forum, by the way. :grinning:


(Matthew Pevarnik) #6

I’m sorry, reasonable to assume that the Cosmos is 6,000 years old? I study Cosmology on a daily basis and the universe is really really huge. There is no good model to explain how light can get to Earth in such a little amount of time. In addition to objects being far away, they also are created with a history. I.e. we see galaxies colliding, relativistic jets that are hundreds of thousands of light years long, exploding stars, star nurseries, stellar streams, metal poor stars, etc. In other words, we see a universe that looks like it’s followed the laws and models of Cosmology for billions of years but God just made it to look like it’s old. We can actually put initial conditions into super computers and the known laws of Physics and actually recreate our universe and its structure: http://www.nature.com/nature/videoarchive/universe-simulation/index.html

So when you say it’s more reasonable… I will have to disagree.

The authority of Scripture is at stake in the same way it was during the Galileo trial. The battle was mistakenly framed as the authority of Scripture itself vs. science and not an interpretation of Scripture vs. science. A fun quote by Bernard Ramm is related to the Gap Theory (which you clearly do not affirm). Anyways, believe it or not, in 1954, 7 years before Whitcomb and Morris refined the arguments of 7th day adventist George McCready Price, this is what Ramm said:

“The gap theory has become the standard interpretation throughout hyper-orthodoxy, appearing in an endless stream of books, booklets, Bible studies, and periodical articles. In fact, it has become so sacrosanct with some that to question it is equivalent to tampering with Sacred Scripture or to manifest modernistic leanings”.

Crazy that in 1954, questioning gap theory was equivalent to questioning and tampering with the Scriptures themselves. None of this will likely change your mind, but you are doing the same thing that Day Agers did in the 1950s, just with Young Earth Creationism. #NothingNewUnderTheSun

Another cool quote was Augustine vs. Lactantius debating whether the Earth was spherical vs. flat. Augstine reasoned that:

Since Scriptures ‘confirm the truth,’ if it is proven that the earth is round, and there are, in fact, antipodes (or people on the other side of the earth), then Augustine was more than willing to accept the scientific position against his own sensible and biblically based position.

Thanks for posting though!


(Jonathan) #7

A few things…
For me, the observation that I take from this passage is not that God used a process to create man, but that he personally shaped man (as opposed to him speaking the rest of the cosmos into existence). That already separates mankind from the other creatures. Since we cannot test the actual dirt that God used to create Adam, we really won’t know if there were microorganisms in it (which there may have been, but I fail to see the difference that would make).

Also, as a man-made thing, science makes no claims to perfection. So, if science says one thing, and the unerring word of God says another, I would be inclined to side with the Bible (as in, if a scientific law goes against the bible, I would side with the Bible, as science has been wrong before, and will continue to make mistakes.

Do I consider the origins controversies of today as being a special and unprecedented case it this…Or would I say that the authority of scripture has been challenged before…
I fail to see this as an either/or statement. Of course I would say that the authority of scripture has been challenged in the past, but today’s example in the origins debate is especially interesting as in it is more concerned with science challenging core constructs of scripture.


#8

I will just point out that interpretation of Scripture is also a man-made thing and should make no claims to perfection.


(Jonathan) #9

As an individual who seeks the truth of this matter, I am genuinely interested in dialogue. However, if a party on the forum is “erring” (and I certainly do not claim to be above error) it is my hope that they would come to agree with the truth.

Now, as I have spoken a lot about truth, I have left an opening for a Pilate-like “what is truth” remark. I believe that absolute truth (the “Logos”) is found in the person of Jesus Christ (e.g: Jesus said: I am the Way the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through Me).


(Jonathan) #10

Interpretation in which area?


(Jonathan) #11

@pevaquark
What do you think of this quote?
“Christianity has fought, still fights, and will fight science to the desperate end over evolution because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the son of God…If Jesus was not the redeemer that died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing.”
G. Richard Bozarth, “The Meaning of Evolution,” American Atheist, Sept. 20, 1979, p. 30

This pretty much sums up my reasoning (on the philosophical/religious front) for not believing in evolution.

Also, I do not strictly adhere to the earth being exactly 6,000 years old. As far as I can see, there are a couple potential gaps where (most likely no more than 1,000 years could be admitted) in the Biblical record.


(Phil) #12

It is interesting how easy it is for us to mix ideas. In this way, as a modern oriented person, it is hard to see how the forming from clay can be literal, as the molecular constituents of clay are not the same as a biologic creature, and the elemental structure would have to be "poofed " into different elements to make a body. If we accept that God can do that, and I do, then why did he not just do that (poof) in the first place? If we accept that God could have spoke everything into existence in one instant, why then did he take 6 days to do it?
In my mind, the answer to those questions is that the story is not about the physical process, but is about the meaning we can get from it. We are told that everything is created, that the sun and moon are not gods, that God is responsible for all life, that we are creatures of the dust, formed by God and we will return to dust again, just to voice a few things off the top of my head

quote=“J.E.S, post:1, topic:36218”]
to what extent is Evolution scientifically sound that we should be modifying our Christian faith to accommodate it?
[/quote]

Regarding this question, I do not feel that I modify my Christian faith in any way to accommodate evolution. I really do not see any facets that differ depending on whether I accept evolution or not. It certainly may effect how I interpret some scripture, but if anything I see that as a deepening of faith, as I “peel the onion” so to speak. (though I think we tend to think we peel the onion from outside in, and in most cases, we actually start at the center, and find that the amount we do not know expands with what we learn.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #13

What makes you think any of this from Bozarth is correct – especially his initial assertions? I’ll presume you don’t extend your notions of infallibility to him too? There are some of the more militantly anti-theistic atheists that love to push this to anyone who will listen and help them promote it. Do you have a good reason to extend your trust to them over and above scholarly Christian brothers and sisters who have helped shine more light on the real history of how science and Christianity have related? (And more than a few scholarly non-believers have helped with this too, in case you simply have the predisposition to think atheists are just more trustworthy)


(Curtis Henderson) #14

I would suggest that a more accurate question would be “Does the theory of evolution contradict my interpretation of the Bible?”

The BioLogos forum is not limited to those that accept evolution and is also not limited to Christians. But having now qualified my upcoming statement, a high majority of the forum participants accept both the authority of scripture and the theory of evolution. The two are not mutually exclusive.


(Jonathan) #15

Definitely no. I simply wanted to hear people’s thoughts on this quote.

Do you believe that the Bible is infallible (considering that you call my views of infallibility “notions”)?


(Jonathan) #16

What is your view of Evolution and of Scripture’s authority that allows them to be mutually inclusive?


(James McKay) #17

I don’t know what @pevaquark thinks of that quote, but I can tell you what I think of that quote: it’s a brown, smelly substance produced in copious quantities by the male of the species Bos taurus.

Evolution does not necessarily mean that Adam and Eve were not historical persons. It does not necessarily mean that there was no Fall. It does not necessarily mean that there was no original sin.

In any case, even if it could be shown that Adam and Eve were not historical and there was no Garden of Eden and it was all just a parable or something, it still wouldn’t mean that there’s no such thing as sin. It would not mean that there was no need for a Saviour. Jesus came to die for our sins, not just for the sin of Adam and Eve.


(Jonathan) #18

How do you now interpret the scripture which Evolution has caused you to reinterpret?


(Curtis Henderson) #19

I believe there is a large amount of ambiguity in the Biblical account of creation. Some of the previous responses have addressed these. Do you believe that God literally scooped together a pile of clay, formed into the shape of a human, possibly with highly detailed internal organs, then changed all the earth chemicals into functioning organic molecules? Or do you think it more likely that this is a figurative account of His careful forming of humankind?

If you subscribe to the former view, I seriously doubt I can add anything worthy of your attention. If you subscribe to the latter view and accept figurative language, then it would then be possible to accept figurative language in the rest of the creation account. I am a member of a long line of Christians that accept the Book of God’s Word and the Book of God’s Works. Scientific discovery is continuously expanding what we can understand of God’s Works, and is overwhelmingly supportive of the theory of evolution (micro and macro), suggesting the Biblical creation account should be considered figurative instead of literal. Figurative interpretation does not mean that I consider the Bible fallible.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #20

My choice of the word ‘notions’ was more in regard to where all you might (or might not) let it apply – rather than trying to cast doubt on the conviction itself. But on that latter point, I do hold to a conviction of Scriptural infallibility, though were you to press me on what I mean by that, we would probably discover that we invest different things into that concept. My conviction is that scriptures are infallible in all that they affirm. A lot of folks just look at that last qualifier and accuse the speaker of using weasel words. But I don’t see any way around doing the hard work of trying to discern the depths of wisdom to be found by any mature believers wanting to dig deeper. I’m probably more willing than you (I’ll guess) to distinguish between Scriptures, and our understandings of Scriptures when it comes to infallibility or inerrancy --even as that applies to the Genesis accounts. Now I know you will readily say that evolutionary creationists here are quite fallible in their take on Genesis (and I wholeheartedly agree with you in that by the way). But where I’ll bet you and I part company is that you suddenly drop all such distinction when it comes to the understandings of Genesis with which you find agreeable within your tradition; and conflate those particular understandings together with Scripture itself trying to squeeze it all underneath that protective umbrella. Now there is nothing wrong with any thinking person thinking they are right – we all usually do. The tricky part, though, comes when we insist that our views are the biblical ones thereby shutting down all discussion (or any possibility for growth should we prove to be wrong.) Even here, I’m not saying such strong claims are always inappropriate. Again all of us who know the Bible well (or fancy that we do) will make strong claims sometimes. These Genesis creation passages are not such a place where I think this advisable.
I will not plant my flag on these particular Creationist hills – especially if doing so calls me into conflict with the testimonies and praises sung to God by the rocks, hills, and stars themselves. I know that what the heavens and hills declare of the glory of God is not Scripture itself, but it is spoken of (favorably) in Scripture, and that is enough for me.