How Should Christians Think about Evolution?
Christianity and Science: Part 4 of 12
- Imagine a child growing up in a fundamentalist church, taught the following things:
(1) God is a Trinity, and anyone who denies = heretic.
(2) Jesus Christ is fully God, fully man, and anyone who denies = heretic.
(3) Christ died in our place, for our sins, and was raised, and anyone who denies = heretic.
(4) Christ will rapture his church prior to the 7-year tribulation, and anyone who denies = heretic.
- Child grows up, is exposed to different views of rapture/2nd coming at Christian college.
- What might be negative result when his rapture view is challenged? Will question everything.
- It is important that we not treat all issues with same weight.
- Evolution is a complex issue, and by itself not of great weight.
- But taken in a certain way, it can transform our understanding of central Christian doctrines.
- My goal: We may not all agree on every issue here, but let’s not let the tail wag the dog.
What Is Evolution?
- Term itself means “change over time,” which is unobjectionable.
- Example: how many breeds of dog exist? Dog breeding displays evolution.
- So why is evolution controversial?
- Neo-Darwinists make two claims about evolution:
(1) Evolution is driven by natural selection.
- Definition: organisms/populations with characteristics more suited to survival/reproduction will survive and reproduce more successfully than others.
- Mutations sometimes occur in gene reproduction, and sometimes this offers an advantage.
- Example: Finches Darwin observed had beaks uniquely suited for eating on Galapagos Islands.
- Natural selection is also an unobjectionable idea.
(2) Evolution accounts for the diversity of all forms of life as descended from the same ancestor.
- Somehow, life originally arose from non-life; scientists admit ignorance on how.
- Darwinism is an attempt to explain how, once life appeared, it became so diverse.
- Darwinists picture evolution as a single tree of life.
- What is it about #2 that is controversial?
- Dawkins: “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”
- Story offers an explanation of origins (but not total) that can leave God out of the picture.
- Neo-Darwinism is the reigning paradigm in science today.
- Many Christians have embraced it in some form. I want to raise two issues it could affect:
Two Doctrines Potentially Affected by Darwinism
I. Darwinism and the Doctrine of God
- There are different ways Christians have incorporated Darwinism into Christian theology:
(1) Quasi-Deistic evolution (my term)
- God created/sustains the universe, but does not direct evolution; it is entirely random.
- Karl Giberson: “I am convinced in advance that the world is not an accident and that, in some mysterious way, our existence is an ‘expected’ result.” But Giberson also says, “I side with Darwin in rejecting the idea that God is responsible for the details.”
- Darwinism has altered the doctrine of God here; this is not Christianity.
(2) Theistic evolution
- God created the universe and directed the course of evolution to get to humanity by design.
- Is this logically coherent? Can something be both random and directed?
- Strangely enough, yes: Prov. 16:33: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”
- What is random to human observation is, nevertheless, directed by God.
- Respected teachers who hold some form of evolution: John Stott, Henri Blocher, Tim Keller (however, all affirm historical Adam, and that is important!)
- Theistic evolution is logically possible, but does it seem to fit with the biblical picture of God?
- Categories of God’s work: (1) Creation (unusual work), then (2) Providence (ordinary work)
- Theistic evolution applies ordinary providence to what Scripture describes as creation.
- Gen 1:20-25; note: “according to its kind”; appears to be an order in the distinctions.
- On origins: “orchard of life” seems to fit the biblical picture better than “tree of life”
II. Darwinism and the Doctrine of Man
- Here there are more significant problems.
- Christian theology vs. Darwinism on humanity:
(1) According to Christian theology:
- Man is the image of God.
- Human death is unnatural.
- Man is the crown of creation.
(2) According to Darwinism:
- Man is an evolved animal.
- Human death is natural and positive.
- Given enough time, man will evolve into something else (better?).
- In order to synthesize the two, you have to modify Darwinism significantly here.
- Theistic evolution would need to say God miraculously intervened when it came to humanity.
- By some miraculous work, God made some hominids his image.
- By some miraculous work, God removed them from the process of death (but then re-imposed).
- By some miraculous work, God stopped the process of evolution with humanity.
- How much of Neo-Darwinism is left once these modifications have been made?
- Neo-Darwinism really presents a different storyline from the Bible:
- Gradual ascent vs. creationfallredemption
- Alistair Robertson: “If evolution is true, we don’t a savior, we need more evolution.”
- We may land in different places on aspects of this issue, but as Christians we must:
(1) Protect our doctrine of God.
(2) Protect our doctrine of humanity; don’t let the tail wag the dog.