Doubt and Evolution
I know it bothers some Christians that some of their fellow followers of Christ don’t believe in evolution. They’re embarrassed. They hear the new atheists in the media dogmatically insisting that if you’re a Christian who doesn’t believe in evolution you are delusional, or imbecilic, or loathsome. Richard Dawkins and other new atheists encourage people to ridicule and mock those who disagree with their views. (Hamilton, Dawkins: Mock Them. Ridicule Them. In Public. With Contempt.) Unfortunately that approach has trickled down to too many people. The result is some Christians hear disparaging comments from friends or coworkers who have been influenced by Dawkins and other new atheists–and they feel intimidated.
Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham
After the Bill Nye-Ken Ham debate a thirty-something asked me some questions about evolution. He said he wondered if I might have better answers than Ken Ham from my “many years of research.” That made me laugh, because most of my life I’ve studied fire science professionally, and the Bible only as a lay person. I haven’t studied the issue of evolution or creation much. My favorite scientist who has studied these issues is a guy named Jack Akin. He’s a bio-chemist who works as an environmental engineer and he seems pretty down to earth from what I know of him. He once helped Kathy and I move a friend of Kathy’s (on short notice) which says something about his humility I think. If you’re interested you can check out his website here: AkinfortheTruth.net.
All that being said, as long as we’re in this series on doubt, and since the Nye-Ham debate is on people’s minds, I do have a few thoughts about the issue of doubt and evolution.
Evolution vs. Christianity: A False Perception
Too many atheists and creationists like to present evolution and modern creation science as though they’re locked in battle. There are reasons to do this of course. To quote the Deep Thought computer from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:
“So long as you can keep disagreeing with each other violently enough and maligning each other in the popular press, and so long as you have clever enough agents, you can keep yourselves on the gravy train for life.”
Some people like to present evolution and the Bible as a conflict so they can sell books. And the media is happy to help. They’re happy to help because the writers in the media need a story, every day, and that’s more difficult than most people appreciate. And to make a story work they have to have a conflict. (There’s an old adage in journalism: No conflict, no story.) And while I appreciate the position journalists are in, their propensity to emphasize conflict can create a false impression. This is the case when it comes to “evolution vs. the Bible,” or the idea that you can either believe in evolution or you can believe in the Bible, but you can’t believe in both.
But someone who believes the Bible really has three options. They might believe in theistic evolution. Or they might believe in recent creation. Or they might believe in progressive creation over millions of years. A Christian is actually free to let the evidence lead them where it may. But an atheist evolutionist has to make all the evidence fit into one option, so he will choose evolution every time, even if the evidence points to a Creator. (There have been some notable exceptions.)
An example of a group of Christians who believe evolution and belief in the Bible are compatible is the Catholic church, one of the largest denominations in the world. (Magisterium Is Concerned with Question of Evolution for It Involves Man) A notable individual example is Dr. Francis Collins. He’s a follower of Jesus and a scientist who believes in evolutionary science. (He was also the head of the Human Genome Project. See Why Do I Doubt? And Why Did Peter Carry That Rock?) Princeton professor of theology B.B. Warfield is another individual example. He was a staunch defender of the inerrancy of the Bible but also enthusiastic about Darwinism. (Zaspel, B.B. Warfield on Creation and Evolution)
You Don’t Have to Doubt
I encourage you to do your own research. The incompatibility of science and the Bible, and even evolution specifically, is just not there. The truth is, concerning evolution, there are a range of views available to the Christ follower.
So you don’t have to feel rattled the next time you hear a disparaging comment about a Bible believer who doesn’t embrace evolution. That social pressure isn’t a good reason to doubt anyway.
Can I give you my best advice? Don’t let any of it become a distraction to what’s central to the Christian faith: the person of Jesus Christ.
Invest yourself in him.
Get to know him.
Timothy Keller: The Reason for God
[Image via Photo Phiend – Creative Commons]
In The Reason for God author Timothy Keller explains the thinking of those who reconcile evolution with the creation account in Genesis. (Keller himself ascribes to this view.) Keller writes, that the writer of a given portion of the Bible should be interpreted as he wants to be interpreted. So if the writer adopts a lyrical style in Genesis chapter one–or say Judges chapter five where it says the stars came down and fought for Israel–he wants the text to be read as poetry. So it makes sense for the reader to read it as poetry. But, where the writer in the Bible wants the text to be read as a historical account, such as in the gospel of Luke, we should read it as such. In contrast to the lyrical style of Genesis chapter one or Judges chapter five, Luke writes: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account…”
All communication is this way. If I say to my wife in the frozen food section of the grocery store, “You’re so hot, you better leave or you could melt everything in the frozen food aisle,” (Yeah, I know, but that’s as poetic as I get.) I don’t mean to be taken literally. But if the store is on fire and I say to my wife, “We better leave, because it’s going to get really hot, and smokey,” of course I want her to take me literally.
It’s reasonable to read Genesis chapter one as poetry. But, Keller asserts, Genesis chapter two is written to be read as historical narrative. (Not that it will include everything modern historical narrative would contain, but the intent of the author was for it to be read as historical narrative.)
Obviously there will always be disagreement about how to read certain parts of the Bible, Genesis chapter one included, but it doesn’t make sense to say you have to interpret every part of the Bible literally to ascribe complete authority and even inerrancy to the Bible. Judges chapter 5 being a clear example.
For those who read Genesis chapter one poetically, they recognize the text as having not addressed the process by which life was created. So the evolutionary biological process is a viable interpretation of the Genesis account.