Doesn’t Evolution Disprove the Bible? | The BioLogos Forum


(system) #1

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

Notes


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blog/doesnt-evolution-disprove-the-bible

(Brad Kramer) #2

As with previous posts in this series, Pastor Keller is not available to comment, but you are free to discuss his ideas below.


(Albert Leo) #4

Pastor Keller has just solidified my position as a ‘theological maverick’ who sees Genesis in reverse. I see Genesis 1 as the best account ancient peoples could give of Origins, especially the fact that God made male and female humans simultaneously and was pleased with the result. But can anyone believe that Genesis 2 is an actual account of how God made male and female humans? Did God actually make the male (Adam) first, then ask him if he found any of His newly created animals attractive enough to mate with? Only after getting a negative response from Adam, did God then, as an afterthought, create Eve? Is that not an insult to God’s intelligence?

Parts of Genesis 2 can be considered uplifting poetry, e.g. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” But isn’t it more likely that some other (obviously not God-inspired) author, being familiar with the Babylonian myth, the Epic of Gilgamesh, had enough clout to insert a slightly altered account of the First Man, Enkidu, who at first lived with (and ‘sported’ with) the animals? The Biblical scholar, Jastrow thought so. Possibly this same author is responsible for Genesis 6, a retelling of the Gilgamesh Flood.

I can understand the solo scriptura attitude taken towards the NT, but I readily admit that there are parts of the OT that I think should be considered apocryphal. This section of Genesis 2 is one of them. There is no exegetical escape for it.
Al Leo


(Mervin Bitikofer) #5

@aleo

Well, or one could just refrain from imposing faulty exegesis on it. I’m glad we have it. Our pastor just preached a sermon on the Genesis 2 creation account as it stands, all by itself. So often it plays second fiddle to Genesis 1, or is rushed off the stage too quickly to give way to the Genesis 3 events.

One of the points made is that we need both reminders – the Genesis 1 / psalmist reminder that we are “very good” --even just a “little lower” than angels. But just as importantly we need the other reminder too (courtesy of Genesis 2) that we, like the animals, are also not much above dust, and are in fact, with them made of it. We need both reminders, each at various seasons of our lives and thoughts. It is a beautiful account and also a reminder that it is not good to be alone.


(Albert Leo) #6

Hi Mervin
Perhaps I read too much into Pastor Keller’s distinction that one could consider Genesis 1 as ‘poetical’ but Genesis 2 tells us how humans were really created. In other words, we can take as literal truth that Eve was an afterthought, created after all the other animals proved unsuitable as a mates for Adam! If we cannot use poetry or allegory, what exegesis can possibly rescue this passage? I deem it apochraphyl–not inspired by God. Does that make me discount Jesus’ Good News? No, it does not.
Al Leo


(Mervin Bitikofer) #7

I had noticed too, Keller’s distinction between Genesis 1 and 2, where he suggested the former as poetic and the latter as the “how it was done” account. I think that a rather crude and inaccurate “division of labor” between the two accounts; but perhaps the brief excerpt above does not have enough details to do Keller’s view justice.

While believers no doubt come in all shapes and “doxies” (and I’m certainly not questioning your convictions embracing the good news of Jesus); I think it important to demonstrate, all the same, that it isn’t necessary to go through such heterodox maneuvering as to jettison entire creation narratives just on the (already more than shaky) exegetical ground that modern mechanistic impositions on the texts (either one!) causes one to then find silly assertions (like Eve being an afterthought). I know you also find such teachings objectionable since, in fact, you are willing to write off Genesis 2 if those things come bundled with it. I’m just here to tell you that I agree with you that such things certainly are false, but the difference is that I don’t see those kinds of things as being what Genesis 2 remotely teaches in the first place.

So I guess my response to your question of “what exegesis could possibly rescue it?” is to turn your question on its head and ask “What is this exegesis that you are embracing that so badly fails the text, when so many theologians throughout history have accepted its authority without being then compelled to these same wayward conclusions?”

That may not exactly be a helpful response, and I’d be glad to get more positive as needed about some of the things I do see that text teaching if you want more examples. I’ve already shared a couple big ones in a prior response above about our being dust and not being alone. But there is much else discussed there too – more than I think you are giving it credit for.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #8

@aleo

I failed to note in my response above, that you seem to uncritically accept Keller’s premise that poetry and allegory is in this case easily identified (and apparently limited to) the first of those two creation accounts. Again, I’m sure that Keller’s real view allows for much more nuance than my simplistic summary above allows --so this should probably be written with apologies to him.

But you note it also, Aleo, as a conditional premise for your rejection of Genesis 2 – which you made it sound as if you consider it a done deal. I know that “allegory” and “poetry” have been given something of a bad name by so many who (on modernist grounds which frankly seem embarrassingly indefensible) can only see inferiority in those genres when compared with the assumed superiority of the mechanical accounts of things. I don’t think Keller makes any case (not here anyway) about why there isn’t a generous mix of poetic Truth all throughout both of these early creation accounts, not to mention all the other creation accounts in Scriptures, nor why such Truth should be inferior to mechanistic-style accounts we are taught to prefer today.

I have a son finishing up his anthropology degree, and he recently taught me a new informal word used in some anthropological circles: “doxa”. It refers to the beliefs that are so universally imbibed or adhered to in a culture that they are invisible, unarticulated, even unconscious. They are the mental air you breathe, the axiomatic grounds of all our intellectual commerce. At least those descriptions are my take-away from what he described to me, so this all may not match technical definitions in the field from whence I’m borrowing it. Anyway, it seems to me that we have many barely articulated beliefs that we labor to keep in critical sight here, that are in danger of becoming our “doxa”, and already are for many people today especially among the devoutly secular science enthusiasts. (I’m guessing that anthropology as a whole today must be ahead of most of the other scientific fields in such self-reflection, having already taken stock of their embarrassments from the last couple centuries and profitably reaped a fitting humility from the effort). But the rest of us are in danger of acclimating to some of the more pathological doxa from militant secularists who remain stuck in the 19th century thought. And our approach to Scriptures or anything of sacred import is tugged off course by this invisible force, even among well-intentioned believers.

I don’t know that any of this applies to you specifically, Aleo; it would be presumptuous of me to think so. As so often is the case, though, your comments became the occasion for my ramble, for what it’s worth. If anything here provokes productive lines of thought for you, I’ll be happy.


(Albert Leo) #9

Hi Marvin
Like you, I was unaware of the use of word, “doxa” in scientific terms. I always thought of “doxy” as either a prostitute or a wiener dog. Of course in theological circles there is “orthodoxy”. One learns something new every day (or at least one should).

And it is true that doxa operate insidiously in each of us and only with careful introspection do we become aware of them. When I was in grad school at the U. of Chicago, all of the chemistry majors were male. Almost all the authors of the articles in the chemical journals were male. Now, as I enter data from J. Med. Chem. into our database, more than half the authors are female! I don’t consider my self chauvinistic, but it still is hard to get used to, and so, unconsciously, I am prejudiced.

Returning to the topic of Genesis 2, in my opinion (as a reasonably well-read layman) the story that Eve was created as an afterthought was NOT God-inspired. It has, very likely over the years, led to a great deal of misogyny. Like many other theologians, pastor Keller has tried to limit the damaging nature of this passage by exegesis. But to do so, he actually has, in effect, re-written it. It is the re-writing that is God-inspired, not the original.
Al Leo


(Merv Bitikofer) #10

I certainly can’t disagree that texts, whether legitimate or not can be misused for misogynistic or other evil purposes.

I note that technically your proclivities that have been prodded to adapt to new gender roles were perhaps at one time part of your “doxa” but can be considered that no longer by virtue of the fact that you know about it, can reflect about it here holding it up to critical light. That brings it out of doxa and into discourse – probably a very healthy thing in this example.

But I also hasten to add that not all doxa will be insidious, to the extent that we can generically consider the specifically inconsiderable (or have something forced up from doxa up into the visible world of discourse). I suspect it would be impossible to mentally process anything if we didn’t have many doxa in place. So we can be glad they are there generally even if some of them will be evil or misused.

Probably nobody would be more surprised than Pastor Keller to learn that somebody ranks his writings as above Scripture. I mean … I do hope and believe that God does still inspire and lead writers today too, and I do believe he has much good insight here. But I don’t follow you in this case of holding a history of abusive uses against the “originals” such as we have. It does make for an opposite trajectory in terms of progress vs. degradation. And neither one of those fits human history very cleanly.


(Henry Stoddard) #11

Hello again my friends!

I believe there is no conflict between evolutionary creation and the Priestly Account of creation in chapter 1 of Genesis. Chapter 1, the Priestly Account, is more advanced than the Jahwist Account of chapter two. I feel that the priestly account actually teaches evolutionary creation . I ask all my friends here to read the Priestly account and tell me what you think.

May the blood of Christ touch all your lives.

Henry


(Albert Leo) #12

Both Christians and atheists seem to agree on one main factor that separates humankind from other animal forms: we have the ability to transmit information from one individual to another by means of symbols–words that when used in grammatical fashion transmit concepts from one mind to another. That is a truly miraculous achievement–unparalleled in the history of life on earth, especially when the concepts are something like "what is my purpose in life?" and not something simple like: “danger! eagle flying nearby”. (Monkeys do that.) But as the concepts become more complex, the author has no guarantee that the receiver will decipher them as intended, and the transmission may create a concept entirely different than intended.

If God directly inspired both Genesis 1 and 2, surely He would have the author chose words and frame them as text that had the least likelihood of faulty transmission–even after translation into another language. If the concept God wanted the author(s) of Genesis to transmit was something like: “I created you in My image, and I wish to have a relationship with you and your progeny”–then the meaning of the passage in Genesis 1 comes through loud and clear:

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
And He blessed them and told them to be fruitful–an obvious command to be loving and considerate of each other.

Genesis 2, on the other hand, supports the creation of Adam ‘from scratch’ and only through allegory can this be made to agree with his creation through evolution. If the delayed creation of Eve, after the other animals were found unsuitable as mates, is supposed to teach us male readers in the following years to treasure and protect our weaker mates, then let’s freely admit it has done a lousy job. That concept has been badly garbled. Instead, Genesis 2 supports chauvinism.

We Christians owe a debt of gratitude to the ancient Jewish people who broke away from the polytheism so prevalent at the time. Must we insist that God kept them from any errors in the process?
Al Leo


(system) #13

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