Mark N Reynolds on accepting the Tension of Faith & Science

(George Brooks) #1

Below is a fascinating treatment about the impact of Evolutionary Theory on this self-confessed Young Earth Creationist. He does not rail against Evolution - - but calmly questions why some Christians are so worried about Evolutionary theory:

Darwin, Being a Christian, and Evolution
(September 17, 2017)

“…of course, one can believe in Darwin’s theory and evolution and be a Christian. People have been doing so since Darwin’s day and they have done so with intellectual consistency.”

[But the author implies it is not a free meal!]

“Evolutionary mechanisms account for some things, but start asking impertinent questions [in Science Class] and instead of explanations, one gets anger. Whether it is a history of failures regarding the origin of life, difficulties actually constructing a “tree of life,” the abrupt appearance of species, or many other scientific and philosophical problems, there is more than enough room for dissent.”

[The author makes it clear the same sentiment should apply in Sunday school class as well!]

"Assume, as [his friend] “M” does, that the Darwinian account is true. Assume no Adam and Eve. “M” wants to know where “original sin” fits in the picture? And of course, this is easy to do. If the standard view is correct, the moment of original sin came when beings were capable of differentiating between what is and what ought to be and then chose what should not be.

[^So clear, so easy, so effortless in his conclusion… while we here in the shade of the BioLogos umbrella continue to tangle … ]

“A mere animal might kill, but it does not know what it does. The “fall” would be the moment when we, humankind, knew we should not, but did. What did Jesus do? Jesus saw what should be and came and did what He should every time. We killed him for this decision. This was less important than what Jesus did. He came, He saw, He conquered!”

“In Adam’s fall, the fall of the sentient hominid, we sinned all and we go on sinning. In Christ, there is a chance to take a different road, by grace, through faith, and under the great mercy of God.”

“I am a **[Y]**oung **[E]**arth **[C]**reationist, but if I am wrong, I would still be a Christian. We need to keep calm and carry on with the dialectic, wait, and see what turns out to be true!”

[More compassionate thoughts are in the article…]

(Curtis Henderson) #2

Thanks for bringing this to the forum, George. Dr. Reynolds was my boss for a few years as Provost at my university. Before moving to Houston, he spent many years at the Honors College at Biola, even though he is Eastern Orthodox - a fascinating guy, to say the least! I’m not certain I could have (or should have) openly disagreed with him at the time, but I can certainly respect his intellect and rational approach to evolution. I fervently wish more YECs would follow his example.

(Noah White) #3

As a student at HBU under Reynolds for 2 or so years, I agree with Curtis’ assessment. He’s a challenging and interesting thinker. Thanks for sharing, George!

(George Brooks) #4

Isn’t it rather interesting that someone with Eastern Orthodox credentials finds it so easy to avoid being ensnared by the the ‘tar baby’ of Original Sin?

It is consistent with my prior postings where I suggest that having more Eastern Orthodox folks “in the house” helps take the toxic sting out of Paul’s writings…

(Curtis Henderson) #5

I’m from a Southern Baptist tradition, but the concept of Original Sin never made sense and never seemed to be consistent with scripture. The Bible clearly teaches our own responsibility for our sin, so when it first started is of lesser importance. As my views on creation have changed over the years, the importance of Adam and Eve’s sin has grown continually weaker.

(Phil) #6

Same tradition here. It seems most rank and file are pretty schizophrenic in their beliefs, if that one minute they may proclaim how we are individually responsible for our sin, and the next affirm original sin. Also, will assert the need to willfully decide to accept Jesus, then the next lean toward Calvinistic God in control statements. I suppose we all do that to some extent out of ignorance, but it seems most evangelical churches tend to be very light on theology, and heavy on dogma.

Regarding the article, I thought it very good, and made some good points, but ironically he states, “start asking impertinent question and instead of explanations, one gets anger” referring to questioning evolution, when what we tend to see is that same response when questioning YEC beliefs. I suspect to hazards of questioning the prevailing beliefs are much greater in Christian circles and universities than they are in secular schools.

(Laura) #7

That’s a good point, and I agree with you. I think we are not always conscious of the ways in which we “project.” I have heard too many YEC speakers refer to evolution as a “fairy tale,” which, if they were being a bit more honest, they’d probably realize their views had more reason to be labeled that than something that is scientifically based.

(George Brooks) #8

I found the article quite difficult to interpret in the conventional framework of “YEC” vs. Non-YEC. Who Was this person somehow occupying the terrifying no-man’s-land somewhere between BioLogos and YEC?

And then when @cwhenderson casually mentiioned that he comes out of an Eastern Orthodox world view - - it suddenly made complete sense !!!


I found this section in the article to be a bit ironic:

“My faith does not depend on it and yours should not either. The interesting question to me regarding Darwin and theories of evolution is not: “Is it compatible with Christianity?” but, “Is it true?” Would one accept Darwinism if one were not a metaphysical naturalist? Maybe, but one wishes that the defenders did not so often betray ignorance of basic philosophy and philosophy of science.”

Mr. Reynolds should take his own advice. Scientists follow methodological naturalism, and it is this philosophy that led to the acceptance of evolution.

On top of that, I would suspect that Reynolds is as much of a methodological naturalist as Darwin or any scientist when it comes to other matters. Reynolds probably accepts the Germ Theory of Disease, or the Theory of Relativity for the very same reasons that scientists accept the Theory of Evolution. Experiment after experiment supports all three theories, yet Reynolds wants to put evolution in a different category, and the only reason I can find is that evolution conflicts with Reynolds’ religious beliefs.

The martyr complex doesn’t help either:

“Evolutionary mechanisms account for some things, but start asking impertinent question and instead of explanations, one gets anger. Whether it is a history of failures regarding the origin of life, difficulties actually constructing a “tree of life,” the abrupt appearance of species, or many other scientific and philosophical problems, there is more than enough room for dissent.”

The anger comes from the realization that the person they are talking to is not interested in the science, but rather in denying science. Creationist arguments are not valid arguments against evolution. They have been refuted a thousand times, yet they keep springing back up. Guess what? People are going to get a bit angry when people try to use arguments that were refuted decades ago.

The correct route is to study the science, get a degree, and DO THE SCIENCE. That’s how the rest of the scientific community did it, and that is what creationists need to do as well.


I have seen that a few times myself. YEC’s will accuse “evolutionists” of believing that life popped into existence from nothing. It is quite interesting when you reply, “Isn’t that what you believe?”.

There are also many instances where YEC’s try to refute evolution by claiming that it is “based on faith”. Once again, the reply is “isn’t that what your beliefs are based on?”. It is quite interesting to see YEC’s cite faith as a reason to reject a belief.

(Laura) #11

Yeah, that’s true. In my experience, that seems to be an attempt to put both creationism and atheistic evolution on equal footing – which contributes to the idea that they’re both faiths anyway, and therefore it’s wrong to teach one in public schools (as a fact) and not the other.

Accompanying comments may include “I don’t have enough faith to be an evolutionist,” etc.

(system) #12

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