Note: There is exciting news for the BioLogos website: we have a major revision planned to roll out soon. Designers and programmers have been hard at work for several months updating our look, organizing the resources, and making the entire site mobile-friendly. Much of the BioLogos staff will be engaged in testing the new site for the next couple of weeks, hoping to work out all the kinks before we go live. So we’re taking a bit of a blog hiatus—at least from new content. We’re going to run some excerpts from a couple of books that we think you’ll find interesting. The first excerpt is from Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God. Each chapter of the book deals with a common objection to biblical Christianity by skeptics. This week, we will be reprinting the chapter entitled, “Science has Disproved Christianity". This gives a good, basic explanation of one of the fundamental commitments of BioLogos, namely that science and Christianity need not conflict with each other. In today’s selection, Keller points out that the difficulty some people have reconciling evolution with Scripture is rather a difficulty reconciling evolution with a particular interpretation of Scripture. Tomorrow, Keller will wrap up his argument with a brief reflection on how we should look at faith and science in light of the destiny of the whole universe as revealed in Christ.
Doesn’t Evolution Disprove the Bible?
What about the more specific issue of how evolutionary science fits with the Biblical account of creation in Genesis 1 and 2? Surely there we have a head-on collision. No, that’s not the case.
Different Christian thinkers use all of Barbour’s models of relating science to faith—conflict, dialogue, integration, and independence. Some Christians in the highly publicized Creation Science movement take the conflict model and insist that Genesis 1 teaches that God created all life-forms in a period of six twenty-four-hour days just several thousand years ago. At the other end of the spectrum are Christians who take the independence model and simply say that God was the primary cause in beginning the world and after that natural causes took over. Other thinkers occupy the central positions. Some hold that God created life and then guided natural selection to develop all complex life-forms from simpler ones. In this view, God acts as a top-down cause without violating the process of evolution. Others, believing there are gaps in the fossil record and claiming that species seem to “appear” rather than develop from simpler forms, believe that God performed large-scale creative acts at different points over longer periods of time.
The relationship of science to the Bible hinges not only on how we read the scientific record but how we interpret certain key Biblical passages, such as Genesis 1. Christians who accept the Bible’s authority agree that the primary goal of Biblical interpretation is to discover the Biblical author’s original meaning as he sought to be understood by his audience. This has always meant interpreting a text according to its literary genre. For example, when Christians read the Psalms they read it as poetry. When they read Luke, which claims to be an eyewitness account (see Luke 1:1- 4), they take it as history. Any reader can see that the historical narrative should be read as history and that the poetic imagery is to be read as metaphorical.
The difficulty comes in the few places in the Bible where the genre is not easily identifiable, and we aren’t completely sure how the author expects it to be read. Genesis 1 is a passage whose interpretation is up for debate among Christians, even those with a “high” view of inspired Scripture. I personally take the view that Genesis 1 and 2 relate to each other the way Judges 4 and 5 and Exodus 14 and 15 do. In each couplet one chapter describes a historical event and the other is a song or poem about the theological meaning of the event. When reading Judges 4 it is obvious that it is a sober recounting of what happened in the battle, but when we read Judges 5, Deborah’s Song about the battle, the language is poetic and metaphorical. When Deborah sings that the stars in the heavens came down to fight for the Israelites, we understand that she means that metaphorically. I think Genesis 1 has the earmarks of poetry and is therefore a “song” about the wonder and meaning of God’s creation. Genesis 2 is an account of how it happened. There will always be debates about how to interpret some passages—including Genesis 1. But it is false logic to argue that if one part of Scripture can’t be taken literally then none of it can be. That isn’t true of any human communication.
What can we conclude? Since Christian believers occupy different positions on both the meaning of Genesis 1 and on the nature of evolution, those who are considering Christianity as a whole should not allow themselves to be distracted by this intramural debate. The skeptical inquirer does not need to accept any one of these positions in order to embrace the Christian faith. Rather, he or she should concentrate on and weigh the central claims of Christianity. Only after drawing conclusions about the person of Christ, the resurrection, and the central tenets of the Christian message should one think through the various options with regard to creation and evolution.
Representatives of these different views often imply that their approach is the One True Christian Position on Evolution. Indeed, I’m sure that many reading this will be irritated that I don’t take time here to adjudicate between the competing views. For the record I think God guided some kind of process of natural selection, and yet I reject the concept of evolution as All-encompassing Theory. One commentator on Genesis captures this balance well:
If “evolution” is . . . elevated to the status of a world-view of the way things are, then there is direct conflict with biblical faith. But if “evolution” remains at the level of scientific biological hypothesis, it would seem that there is little reason for conflict between the implications of Christian belief in the Creator and the scientific explorations of the way which—at the level of biology—God has gone about his creating processes.
Excerpt from THE REASON FOR GOD by Timothy Keller
Reprinted by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2008 by Timothy Keller
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blog/doesnt-evolution-disprove-the-bible