How I'm Changing my Mind about Evolution: The Journey so Far*

Welcome @LM77. You might like @DeborahHaarsma and @LorenHaarsma 's work from a Reformed perspective.

It has been republished in a more ecumenical form below, but Deb Haarsma, the director of Biologos, and her husband are associated with Calvin College in Grand Rapids (very Calvinist).

I have both their book and short video series, which is very accessible to the lay person, I think.

I am not Calvinist, (more like @jstump), but enjoy reading the perspectives. Blessings.

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I certainly don’t think so.

But then perhaps this requires a closer examination of what sola scriptura means to me, which certainly does not buy into the nonsensical rhetoric that the Bible interprets itself. I understand sola scriptura to mean that the Bible is the sole authority put into the hands of men regarding Christian belief and the content of God’s message to mankind in Christianity. What it certainly does not mean is that Bible is the sole source of truth or the only communication of truth from God to Christians.

So for example, what shall we say of the doctrine of the Trinity which is not in the Bible in any way shape or form. This is rather difficult since this is the defining belief of the Christian religion distinguishing it from other religions like Islam. Does this mean this doctrine rests on another authority for Christian belief in either a church organization or tradition? This is what sola scriptura denies. The doctrine of the Trinity is not a matter of God given authority over Christian believe but the authority of consensus on the meaning of words, in this case the meaning of the word “Christianity.”

Christians certainly believe that the doctrine of the Trinity reflects the best understanding of God which is consistent with all of scripture, and that alternatives like Unitarianism and Arianism run into conflicts with scripture. And so they could make the argument that it is indirectly contained in the Bible. But that is definitely a matter of interpretation.

In any case, I certainly do not support an understanding of “sola scriptura” that requires Christians to use a literalism condemned by Jesus in Matthew 13 in order to ignore all the information that God sends us from the earth and sky, as well as altering the text of the Bible to force it to fit such an interpretation as well, which is what YEC requires.

Not a question for me since I don’t even see how Christianity is compatible with reformed theology… at least not as I understand it.

A fellow Brit, and Calvinist here! Welcome, brother :+1:

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On the first question no it doesn’t. The Bible is silent on the scientific view of creation and it only states that God made the universe for His glory and good pleasure. So I see no conflict with believing with evolutionary creation and sola scriptura.
On the next one I feel I’m unable to fully answer since I am more of Wesleyan-Methodist theology and not Reformed. But I would see no conflict with it as it present no conflict with my Wesleyan theology.

One thing I would not say is that it is not in the Bible in any way, shape or form. :slight_smile:

It is true that the way it is articulated in the Apostle’s Creed is not directly quoted from some passage of Scripture. However, there is good support in the Bible for carefully make inferences from a multitude of passages and arriving at the doctrine. This enterprise is much like the method used by paleontologists and biologists, who carefully make inferences from a multitude of genomic and fossil data to arrive at the theory of evolution. In my opinion. For whatever that’s worth. :slight_smile:



That is another creed never agreed to by an ecumenical council. But even the more conservative form agreed to in the Nicean council, the doctrine is still not in the Bible.

Yep. That is what I said. Or at least, that is the opinion of Christians including myself – that the rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity seems to requires some degree of dismissal of some passages or other in the Biblical canon. The passage which tipped the scales for me was Phil 2:6. Passages like John 1:3 and Col 1:16 which attribute the creation of the world to Jesus can be taken as metaphorical, and by using the word “logos” John 1 opens itself up to metaphorical understandings also.

But I love the fact that the Christianity defining doctrine of the Trinity is not actually in the Bible for it puts a rather big cork in the mouth of Xtians going on and on about this or that not being in the Bible. All truth is not in the Bible – not even close. So the most I will grant “sola scriptura” is that the Bible is the sole authority that God has given into the hands of men for what Christianty consists of. That is something I can support wholeheartedly particularly in contrast to the idea of God putting authority in sinful human beings, usually to support some delusion that they can speak for God. AND notice this is not the same thing as saying that God does not use the mouths of people even children (maybe even especially children) to speak to us. This is particularly noticeable when the message from God we receive from the mouths of others is not always what they were actually intending to say to us.


Thank you for the welcome, @Randy, and for the book recommendation. I’ll add it to the reading list! Great to hear that they are of the Calvinist perspective too.

That’s OK. I am not Arminian, but enjoy reading/listening to their perspectives. There are many great thinkers in that category: CS Lewis, AW Tozer, William Lane Craig, Alistair McGrath, to name a few. In fact, from my UK perspective, I would argue that Arminians have the market cornered on apologetics at the moment. In that sense, Calvinist have some catching up to do, perhaps.:slight_smile:

Yes, this is more or less what Sola Scripture means. In essence, it deals with the authority of the bible more than its content, specifically where a Christian should seek a final appeal in doctrinal disputes. In that sense, it is closely related to the sufficiency of scripture. To claim that the bible is the only source of knowledge we need or the ultimate authority on ever matter is to go beyond the doctrine and stray into biblicism (See rent post here for more on that.). Sadly, that is not how it is always explained.

Thank @Diplodocus! Also bonus points for an awesome username! Where in the Uk are you from?

Oh, I totally agree. A robust process of developing theology has a lot in common with the scientific method. In many ways, exegesis is the scientific method applied to the bible since it seeks to 1. gather evidence, 2. draw conclusions from that evidence and/or uses it to test a hypothesis.

A final point on the two questions I suggested to @Kathryn_Applegate.

First, thank you to everyone who has had a stab at them. I’ve enjoyed reading your answers.

Second, these are questions which I have had to (and now have) answered myself. That process was eased by having a large digital library and a powerful piece of bible study software to mine said library. I say that not to brag, but to point out that many do not have that luxury. What I am saying is that given the number of reformed folk at Biologos perhaps BioLogos could play to that strength by adding a couple of reformed flavoured entries to the common questions section. That would let any from this perspective know straight away that EC is a serious option for those of a reformed background. As I say, just a thought. :upside_down_face:


I know some things are changing, but it seems to me that many Reformed scholars work in environments that are not always that encouraging when it comes to mulling these things over. OT scholar Bruce Walke was forced to resign from Reformed Theological Seminary over a video he made for BioLogos. Former BioLogos Fellow Peter Enns lost his job at Westminster Theological Seminary over the things he said in Inspiration and Incarnation. Reformed Pastor Tim Keller has taken a lot of heat in some circles for things he has written about being open to the idea of evolution. If you know of any Reformed Bible scholars who are dying to write for BioLogos, you should put them in contact with Jim. :slight_smile:


London. Yourself?

Oh yes, isn’t that the truth. Sadly, some sections of the Reformed community have become a very hostile stronghold for YEC. And those who speak out in favour of alternative options are then heavily criticised by those sections of the community. As another example, posters on Puritan Forums don’t have much good to say about Tremper Longmann’s views on Adam and Eve either..

I’ll be honest, I find the tone of voice used in some of the Reformed YEC corners of the origins debates extremely depressing. Calvin was a phenomenal biblical exegete and (whatever one thinks of his conclusions) an exceptionally gifted theologian who regularly engaged with extrabiblical material (contemporaries, church fathers, philosophers, etc.). Sometimes he did this positively, sometimes negatively, some times disastrously. Whilst I can’t say what his conclusions might have been, I’ve no doubt that if Calvin had access to ANE literature contemporary scientific knowledge he’d have been engaging with that too.

Since the Reformers didn’t have access to this ANE material, we shouldn’t be surprised that Reformed theologians and scholars who are interacting with it will sometimes come to conclusions not reflected in Reformed tradition up to this point. This should be cause for open and honest conversation and latitude, not theological name-calling and witchhunts!


Also London, we’ll Greater London I guess! West London to be specific, near Heathrow Airport.

Nice. I’m very close to you then. I’m South West London, a 20ish min drive from Heathrow. What are the chances!

Have you read “The Banner,” the Christian Reformed publication? They sometimes have good articles on this, I think (Calvin College is their flagship higher education institution and they generally accept evolution)

It seems to me that the CRC and RCA have different atmospheres when it comes to creation-evolution discussions than the more New-Calvisim/Gospel Coalition oriented denoms like the PCA, Reformed Baptists, and some parts of the SBC.

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It would be interesting to me to read a thread on the unique advantages and difficulties of melding a Reformed and evolutionary paradigm

Ditto. Maybe I’ll set up a post later if I get a moment.


@Randy @Christy

I am probably outside any attempts of the classical Christian classification system, raised in the Lutheran Church, currently a paying member of the CofE opposite our house. Not sure about the CRC, RCA PCA and SBC either, but most likely I am a heretic to all of those acronymic denominations anyhow.

I never had any problems with Genesis and evolution as I have thought that the writers of the bible gave a philosophical account of Genesis in the context of a theistic worldview. Instead of describing complicated species interrelationships they gave a poetic description of reality that is accessible even to the illiterate and allows us to build a meaningful relationship with reality. That is what working worldviews are about. The meaningless relationships with reality peddled by modern materialists who perceive themselves as an accident of nature (albeit a lot of children these days truly are) is bound to cause a mental crisis when it comes to a meaningful relationship with reality. Their perception of being the result of not a loving creation, but an accident, together with a view of survival of the fittest as in outcompeting each other makes for a toxic worldview justifying a very selfish behaviour.

My change in understanding of my Christianity and of evolution came following some serious shakeup of my brain in the form of contact with my horses rear hoof. Ever since I understand Christ entirely different and why the horseshoe above your door can be luck. If it would have been on the horses hoof there would not have been any return from that contact. This way it was sufficient to crack the skull that the blood could flow out as not to squeeze the lifeout of the brain cells, and the brain was still left in one piece. However I do not recommend to take such drastic measure to others but hope to give arguments to shake up our thinking instead.

The biggest problem bible readers have with the interpretation of the bible, particularly those who believe themselves to be “skeptics” is our own arrogance when it comes to interpret the story told by those “primitive goat herders” as the late Hitch called them. To me a primitive person is one who thinks of one’s forefathers as primitive because they did not have iPhones.

What should be clear to critical thinkers is why evolution is anything but a random process, but a highly regulated process with a rather long time constant in the feedback loop. After all, to a timeless creator this is not a problem but it leads to incredible fine fine tuning. And, unlike claimed by famous atheists, it does not lead to the development of a crap eye in humans with a better eye given to the squid but an eye precisely optimised for it’s purpose in the environment it is needed to operate in. Only modern secularists would wish to have a squid’s eye, but then “irony mode on:” as the eye is an extension of the brain that goes with it, perhaps their eyes have not yet evolved as far as their brains :slight_smile: “irony mode off”.
“irony mode on again” The same is true for their demand for a seperate hole for feeding and breathing. They should by now have learned not to stick the food up their nose. :slight_smile: And if they really insist on decoupling the tubes leading to either hole completely they have to accept the mucus flow, needed for washing the dust our of the respiratory system of land living animals clean the lungs of land animals, instead of being recycled through the stomach would just run down from their nose. It would make them not only soundbut also look like snotty children :slight_smile: “irony mode off”

So what it takes to accept the process of evolution, for those who are afraid of it, is to overcome the fear of having to believe it to be a random godless process promoting the “law of the jungle” e.g. being the top predator makes you win, and a process that makes God obsolete. Quite the opposite.The law of the jungle is equally misunderstood due to the fascination of humans thinking of themselves as being top predator, not understanding that the top predator is not us but the humble microorganisms, just because we are blind to the obvious in our pride. It’s either them or the mosquito that brings them

Key is to understand what the law is, the law that governs the process of evolution, the law of all laws that governs all existence. Jesus told us what it was, as on it there hang all the laws and the prophets. Survival fitness is the ability to love thy neighbour like thyselves,e.g. thy parents / brothers and sisters and ones children !!!not yourself as in oneself!!!, no narcissism involved. If elements of a system fail to be altruistic, but act selfish, any system will have to eliminate those elements - or get extinguished itself because it becomes unstable. The intriguing thing is that this law is valid not only for biological life but also for planetary systems where each individual element contributes to the stability of the entire system in an extremely fine tuned way.

Hope this is a sufficiently reformed evolutionary paradigm.


Yep, that’s very much my sense too. I have plenty of kindred spirits in the PCA but not many of them are willing to say so publicly.

@LM77, I’ve noted your suggestions for new CQs. For now we’re up to our ears in much-needed CQ ideas on a wide range of topics, but I get the strategic nature of your request. Perhaps you could PM me your own responses to these questions and we could discuss further. :slight_smile:

Thanks @Kathryn_Applegate, I’d love to. I’ll try and get some initial thoughts to you by the weekend, if that’s OK?