Theistic Evolution

Hi to my 2 readers, I’m back! (for now).

Enough heresy hunting, here’s some Orthodoxy. This position is fairly complex and subtle, but I think (and believe) that it gels most effectively with science and the Christian faith.

Anti-science Creationists like to cite supposed negative consequences of teaching evolution, particularly the descent of Man. I could write equally disparaging things about silly creationist models that are based on bizarre, selective misreadings of the physical evidence. Asserting young-earth creationism also implies the creator is out to deceive the world, most of the worlds scientists are deceived or malicious, and reality is an illusion.

Theistic evolution is good science *precisely because* it is compatible with evolution — the standard scientific model for the origin of life. Evolution is based on facts and evidence. Who cares if Theistic Evolution is “good” theology! Is it TRUE? Is the Bible true? I say yes to both questions.

And in fact Theistic Evolution is good theology because:
a) the big bang theory (attested by cosmic background radiation, red shifts etc) implies an uncaused First Cause (God)
b) there’s no need to take Genesis 1 so literally
c) it’s the Catholic Church’s position on the question of origins
d) it acknowledges the unseen hand of God throughout history — and that’s compatible with an observable fact: God is invisible. Theologically it’s uncontroversial to say that to us Earthlings, God’s glory is veiled, but He is transcendent and immanent.
e) it shows that God is a God of order, sustaining Creation by His word (law). YEC implies God changes the laws of physics on a capricious whim.
f) humanity’s part in evolution, and God’s patience in developing the species, shows that our material existence is of great value, and our sojourn on Earth is part of the grand design. This contrasts with the Gnosticism inherent in anti-science creationism.

Here are some examples of how it fits with the Bible.

Proverbs 25:2
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

Ecclesiastes 3 even explicitly states that men are beasts and that a man has no preeminence above a beast!
18 “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.
19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.
20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.
21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?”

Isaiah 45:18
For this is what the LORD says—
he who created the heavens, he is God;
he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it;
he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited—
he says:
“I am the LORD, and there is no other.”

Romans 1:19
Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Science is about knowing, while religion is about believing. In John 20:29 Jesus said,
Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

This post was motivated by some randomly googled rhetoric.
Some of the material above was ‘borrowed’ from ‘Confronting creationism in science class

I highly recommend these thoughtful sites:
Dr. L. G. Collins


31 thoughts on “Theistic Evolution

  1. You want Science to explain Christian Faith but this will never happen.

    Faith by definition is “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.”

    This doesn’t mean Christian Faith is illogical and without evidence. It simply means that your Christian Faith should not be dependant on these things. I get the feeling that your Christian Faith is dependant on the “fact” that science gives evidence and logical proof.

    If this is the case it would not be Christian Faith, but Christian Fact.

  2. I disagree strongly with your use of the Ecclesiastes passage.

    This verse is the thinking of a man reasoning as if there were no God.

    Would you also say that life is meaningless?

    Come on you can do better than that!! You can take a verse out of context of the whole and use it to prove almost anything.

    The other passages do nothing to prove what you are saying either.

    Faith isn’t only about believing. It is only in faith that we have true knowledge. It is the fear of the Lord that brings wisdom. It is in God’s light that we see loght. (Psalm 36:9). It is Jesus who is the truth.

  3. Sorry I was rushing to an exam when I wrote that last comment.

    Allow me to elaborate regarding Ecclesiastes. The verse you quoted is clearly someone reasoning as if there were no God. They are (like most of Ecclesiastes) trying to find meaning apart from God. But the conclusion of the matter is that there is no meaning in life if we do not fear God.

    If you take this verse as actual fact, why not take the second verse of the book as fact. “Meaningless, meaningless – everything is meaningless.” You don’t use these verses to say that life is meaningless, because that is to ignore the wider context of the book. This is your error in the use of Ecclesiastes 3:18-21

  4. Hi Jonathan,
    I am well aware of the limits of science. I am reminded of the impossible exam question: “Define God. Give two examples” 🙂 Of course science can never “prove” God.

    But speaking logically/intellectually my faith is based on one wonderful, historical Fact: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Speaking emotionally/spiritually my faith and hope rests on the loving-kindness and grace of my Lord. I hold both fact and faith, mind and heart, in agreement.

  5. Hi Scotty,
    I thought the Ecclesiastes quote was rather good. What exactly didn’t you like about it?

    I’m aware it’s a bit melancholy & sad, much like the rest of Ecclesiastes really. I was trying to show that the Bible offers support for the “evolutionary” idea of Man somehow emerging from primeval chaos, little better than the other creatures on Earth.

    PS: How’d your exam go?

  6. I have no problem with the passage.

    I have a problem with your use of it.

    Refer to earlier comment for details.

    Exam went ok thanks – was “Christian Mind” (apologetics type) paper.

  7. I didn’t use the Bible quotes as proof texts to establish some abstract propositional logic. I simply wished to demonstrate with a few examples that it is plausible to find harmony with Science and Scripture.

    You also are taking some bits of the Bible literally and others figuratively — but the opposite way round from me!

    I hope my position isn’t completely unreasonable, I know you see things differently. In particular I find your exegesis of Ecclesiastes unconvincing. The “conclusion of the matter” does not negate the Teacher’s observation that life is generally meaningless. The Teacher also observes that man suffers the same fate as the animals, and our station in life is not much different from theirs.

    I don’t take the Bible as a science text. Genesis 1 tells us that the sun and moon and stars were not created until the 4th day. In a void universe with no sun, moon, and stars…what is a day? If you read this passage in the light of logic and the *context* of scientific knowledge, it must be figurative!

    (well, it makes sense to me at least 🙂

  8. If you read this passage in the light of logic and the *context* of scientific knowledge, it must be figurative!

    So you read the bible in the *context* of Science? If the bible is the absolute standard of Truth would it not make more sense to view science in the *context* of scripture?

    I would say this:
    If you read this passage in the light of logic and of scientific knowledge, there is no reason why it can’t be literal!

  9. oh and I’m curious as to why you linked to a page that goes on to explain that if evolution is true then Christs death was for nothing?

    If Adam is not literal then neither is Jesus and there goes salvation.

  10. Thanks for the comments Jonathan.

    When Jesus was talking about “it’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven” was he talking literally? Is the ten horned Beat of Revelation a literal monster that’s going to rise out of the sea like Godzilla?

    For some reason it’s OK for you not to take Ecclesiastes 3:18-21 literally. What’s forcing you to take an Genesis 1 (an ancient Hebrew cultural tradition), as literal scientific fact?

    Science does NOT support YEC claims; to most biologists, geologists or physicists, it’s not even worth wasting time arguaning about. They are getting on with real research and contributing to the sum of human knowledge.

    NB: I link to people who I find interesting and who I might have quoted. It doesn’t mean I submit to everything they say.

  11. Rom 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are
    made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

    Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

    Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

  12. Thanks Anon, I couldn’t agree more! Everywhere I go I see evidence of my Eternal Creator. I see starlight from a million miles away; I see the avian descendants of the ancient dinosaurs waddling around in the form of ducks; I see amazing mountain ranges formed by eons of tectonic shifts; I see beautiful people formed in the image of their Creator. From the ‘dust of the earth’ God has chosen us, to be his children and bear the imprint of heaven, despite being humbly clothed in flesh.

    It makes me rejoice in the hope set before me and my fellow man, given from the bounty of our mighty Maker. I am glad that he has blessed me with education and and insight into his ways. Through science I can better appreciate the wonderful cosmic harmony. The Lord has set the stars in their place, and the universe obeys his immutable laws.

  13. When Jesus was talking about “it’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven” was he talking literally?

    Yes, I think Jesus was talking literally. He is refering to a Man who is trying to enter heaven by his own good deeds, and I’m sure you will agree that It is no easier for a Man, by his own inherant goodness to enter heaven than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

    For some reason it’s OK for you not to take Ecclesiastes 3:18-21 literally.

    I do take Ecclesiastes Literally. But you still need context! It is written by a man wrestling with life. Making observations and recording his thoughts. Vs 18 begins with “I said in mine heart”, it is what he is thinking. If Vs 18-21 are not the thoughts and wrestling of the mind of a man and are “biblical truth” then so is Vs 22 “Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?”

    So if it is as you say, that “man has no preeminence above a beast!” then there is also no salvation, no life after this, as man must simply live and rejoice in his works as this is his lot. There is nothing after that.

    The problem I have is that I see people saying that Genesis 1 is Not literal for no other reason than the fact that it doesn’t fit with the “facts” of Science and Evolution. That because we’ve been taught that the science of evolution is fact then obviously Genesis mustn’t be literal.

    This is an illogical conclusion if the Bible is your ultimate standard.

  14. Re: Taking passages Literally and Context.

    If the Bible is the standard of Truth, then all context and how you take passages (whether literal or not) can only be tested against other portions of scripture. I don’t want you to think that I pick the context, etc simply because it best suits something I wish to argue.

    It should be the other way around. Scripture in the correct context should form the basis of the arguement. No simply be ammunition for our own arguement.

  15. As I have previously postulated, I believe there is a fundamental flaw in your thinking.

    Creationism and science are by no means mutually exclusive.
    Science is merely a tool – it doesn’t tell us anything in and of itself.

    The theory of evolution is no more bound to science than is creationism.

    Science can be used to lend just as much weight to creationism, as it can to evolution.

    In fact, there is no pure, conclusive, scientific evidence that can unequivocally verify the theory of evolution, hence the fact that it is but a theory.

    No-one has seen nor documented a instance or example of one kind of creature becoming another.
    With the inconsitencies in dating methods, no-one can say for sure just how old the earth is.

    It really is a matter of faith.
    And as a Christian, the Bible with its accounts should be our primary reference, with any other material carrying secondary authority.
    It’s hard to maintain this perspective, but I believe we must.

  16. Yeah spot on Dan.

    Peasant if you don’t like Dan’s use of the word faith – exchange it with assumptions. All science and indeed all life is grounded on some fundamental assumptions we make.

  17. The problem with YEC is this:
    When the famed German physicist Wolfgang Pauli would criticize the theories of his colleagues, he would often declare them to be ganz falsch, utterly false. But on one occasion Pauli was shown the paper of a young physicist and remarked, “It is not even wrong.” By this he meant that the work contained such erroneous thinking that it could not even be considered ganz falsch.

    I have found that creationist arguments have several attributes: circular logic; poor understanding of the scope and power of current scientific knowledge; a pseudoscientific “theory” of origins that defies sense; and a peculiarly legalistic interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. They really need to work on their material.

  18. Ok… so you believe the Scientific Evolution Model of how things were created is Fact.

    If this is ‘Fact’ as you claim could you please explain to me how the earth came about? How old it is? How Humans came about. How old Humans are? Where Does Adam fit in. And where does Jesus? fit in?

  19. Re: comment #13:

    Huh? The problem with YEC is that some German guy thinks it’s so bad that it can’t even be considered wrong?

    That’s hardly relevant, reasonable, nor evidential.

    I have question for you – it’s a difficult question, but I’d be interested to hear your answer:

    You’re a bible-believing Christian, I assume. Without any consideration or refernce to any written/published/recorded material or evidence except that found in Scripture (that’s the difficult bit), what is your gut/intial feeling/understanding of the issue of creation/earth-age?

  20. If I try and think with my gut and follow holy writ without using common sense I might conclude that the world is flat, pi=3, and fossil evidence is an elaborate hoax

  21. Questions become tiresome when one is misunderstood and misinterpreted. I don’t claim to have answers for everything. I accept the findings of science, AND I believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God.

    Perhaps you may wish to consider the shortcomings of the YEC model. The creationist argument style goes like this:
    a) probe for holes in science (of which there are many, for human knowledge is incomplete),
    b) triumphantly announce some minor shortcoming in current theory, then presume the whole thing is invalid
    c) offer some kooky alternative theory, but not too often, because kooky ideas cannot withstand a tenth of the scrutiny applied to science every day. Examples of such ideas:
    – antediluvian vapor canpoy
    – reinterpreting the geologic column
    – denying laws of physics, such as the stability of the universal gravitational constant and the speed of light (and ignoring illogical consequences)

    John 1 says the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus also came to set people free from the shackles of the Law and promised the life of the Spirit. Thus I believe that the sum of revealed truth is far greater than ink on paper — it’s a vital relationship with the Living God, and living in harmony with the tangible, material creation, which God has blessed and said ‘it is very good’.

  22. Since you’re talking about kooky ideas…

    Evolutionists offered a kooky idea. Until evolution had been considered, most people were of the belief that each creature had been created according to it’s own kind. They took the word of Scripture at face value.
    The idea that a fish could grow legs, turn into a monkey, and then into a man was (is) a kooky idea.

    The old earth (millions of years) belief is a kooky idea. Until it had been considered, people took the creation account and genealogy of the Bible at more or less face value, estimating the age of the earth at around ten thousand years.

    So how about you get some perspective before you talk to us about kooky ideas?

    Given your scorn of the antediluvian vapour canopy, how would you explain
    the biblical references to:
    “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
    And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.” – Gen1:6-7

    …and consider that during the flood, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, yet there had never been any rain before this time. (Genesis 2 says that God had not yet sent any rain, and that the plants were watered by streams that came up from the earth – the first mention of rain is at the time of the flood.)

  23. I accept the findings of science

    It then should not be difficult for you to explain to me how the earth came about? How old it is? How Humans came about. How old the Human race is?

    AND I believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God.

    It then should neither be difficult for you to tell me where Adam fits in to creation? And where does Jesus fit in to that?

    The Bible is after all the story of the Redemption of Man (By Jesus). Man only need to be redeemed because of the Fall (By Adam).

  24. Galileo said: “I do not think it is necessary to believe that the same God who has given us our senses, reason, and intelligence wished us to abandon their use, giving us by some other means the information that we could gain through them.”

  25. I agree with that quote, but I don’t see how that is relevant.

    I have no problem reconciling what my senses, reason and intelligence tell me with the account of creation found in scripture.

    What was your point?

  26. Hi Jonathan,
    the Earth was formed from the ashes of a burned out star, it’s 4.5 billion years old, homo sapiens are descended from Mitochondrial Eve, and Homo Sapiens has been a distinct species for around 200 000 years.

    Adam & Eve (and the Fall) are probably symbolic, representing the entire human race. The Garden of Eden seems analogous to the condition of a human heart, but I’m open to other ideas. The human race not only needs to be redeemed for Adam’s sin, but also for our individual and collective sins since then. I’d also say that redemption isn’t about sin as such, it’s about restoring relationship.

    Hope that answers your questions, sorry I didn’t take them seriously before.

  27. I’ve read your posts and the comments with interest and couldn’t help but wade into these murky waters. I have been on both sides of this argument and eventually found both wanting. I have discovered that I can no longer place myself on either side exclusively because I do not now read Genesis as a science text nor do I believe that science has all of the answers it purports to have.

    For what they’re worth, here are a few observations:

    1. Peasant you are asking, no demanding, that I believe that ALL creation scientists, who are mostly Christians, are universally dishonest or incompetent or both while accepting that evolution’s proponents are (I’ll give you mostly) neither.

    2. You claim that if the earth really is young, then God is lying through His creation, which implies that there is no other possible way to read the data and that there is no source of deception in spite of scripture’s clear statements that the Enemy rules the “world” (i.e. anything not of the Kingdom of God).

    3. Both sides of this argument assume that what we consider constants today (i.e. the rate of the passage of time, speed of light, radio decay rates, planck’s constant, etc., etc.) have always, everywhere existed as we regard them currently in this sector space. In fact, we know that at least some of those “constants” are rather pliable when in close proximity to a black hole, for example. Science also knows that the forces present at the instant of the Big Bang are unimaginably greater, as were the effects of those forces on matter, time and space.

    I submit that there is simply too much unknown by science for anyone to take a position of such certainty. Then too, the Bible can hide as much as it reveals and no matter how you read it, you have your pre-suppositions (learned theology) will colour your perceptions. It isn’t scripture one should question, but man made theologies.

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
    In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
    Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
    It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
    Proverbs 3:5,8 (ESV)

    While this shouldn’t be read as a promise, but it is a salient homily.

    Peasant, please do not mis-quote scripture as you did in the “needle” example. Heaven wasn’t mentioned in any of the 3 Gospel references and “Kingdom of God” refers not (or not only) to “pie in the sky when you die”, but to all believers here, now, living under the Lordship of Jesus. In any case, it is by the grace of God, not through man’s achievement that we enter His kingdom.

  28. Peasant,

    Good to see you making the journey down this patch. I not that the usual objections from ‘young earth’ christians is thta one will have to givce up their orthodox theology in order to accept evolution or old earth science.

    Fortunaetly this is not the case. Much has been written on this subject by greater minds than mine in the form of Kenneth Miller, Carl Drews, Roland Mushat Frye , J.P. Moreland and many many more.

    I usually get the quick retort from young earthers that “you cannot just interpret the bible your own way”, well I would say that it is impossible not to! Everyone reads the Bible how they want to. It takes revelation from God to really learn his character. And then you get the usual flood ov verses about man’s knowledge being weak and true wisdom coming from God. Well, if thta is tha case why don’t people read John 1 literally where it talks about the LOGOS of God – Logic!

    Also there are plenty of orthodox eamples of Biblical text being taken metaphroically or simbolically. That’s why we have hermenuetics and exogesis!

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