In my last blog post I issued a challenge of sorts regarding the importance to “Man Up” and choose your position when it comes to the forces at work behind human existence. Our choices, as I see it, come down to ‘purposeless accident’ or ‘Divine design.’ It’s one, or it’s the other; we do not have the luxury of remaining neutral. A great question that came out of the ensuing discussion asked, basically— Why is it necessary to equate “purposeless accident” with evolution? Couldn’t evolution be the tool God divinely designed as the means to bring about humanity?

It’s one thing to debate the validity of evolution with the individual who refuses to consider supernatural means in the origin of MAN; it’s quite another thing when the individual proposes that evolution is the means employed by The Supernatural One to bring about the end result that is MAN. But for that person, the Christian evolutionist, there are some interesting difficulties to wrestle with as a result. This post is intended to deal with just a few of these difficulties. In my next post, already in the works, I’ll attempt to deal with a few of the pivotal potholes I see in the pavement of the evolutionary highway itself.

1) False Starts
Interestingly, both camps that support Darwinian evolution as the means of explaining the appearance of mankind (advocates of ‘purposeless chance’ as well as advocates of ‘Divine design’) share a similar problem: the matter of ‘first life.’ “Why can't we say that God "created" life because He created an earth in which various chemicals could interact to eventually become rudimentary DNA?” asked a recent ‘Divine design’ visitor to my blog. As this question seems to imply no need for supernatural “meddling” once all the non-living chemical components for life are created and accounted for, the answer is the same for both camps: Because there is no scientific evidence to indicate that life can spontaneously generate from various, non-living chemicals, any more than there is evidence that my amazing Apple computer can spontaneously generate from a pile of metal bits, loose wire and motherboards. What needs to be understood is that, using the analogy of the computer, there isn’t even evidence to show how the components themselves, the “pile of bits and wire” came into existence, much less the computer itself. It would be helpful if we could simulate an environment, complete with all the necessary, non-living chemical components and then duplicate this “first life” in a laboratory experiment; unfortunately, no one has been able to do so. “Science, you might say,” notes science journalist John Horgan, “has discovered that our existence is infinitely improbable, and hence a miracle” (Science and Christianity: Four Views, 139).

2) Natural vs. Supernatural
‘Fine,’ the Christian evolutionist might say, ‘Let’s say God was necessary to make the first living organism (whatever that was), but— the rest of the process could be done without Him.’ This seemed to be the tone in another recent comment on my blog by a supporter of Divinely-backed evolution, who kept referring to 'random' and 'natural' processes—“Note that both micro and macro evolution use the exact same mechanisms, random mutations being selected for or against by natural selection, the only difference is the degree of change over different lengths of time”(I’ll address ‘micro’ & ‘macro’ evolution in my next blog post). My question is— Isn’t that language contradictory to “Divine design?” Doesn’t ‘random mutation’ by definition mean there was no ‘design’ behind it? That it could just as well have evolved in a different way, along a different evolutionary trajectory that did not lead to the spirit-filled creature that is Man? And what about the “selection” process for the progress of life? When it comes to which mutation is more advantageous and, by extension, which life form is thus “selected” to survive, is it  ‘nature’ that is selecting and guiding those mutations, or is it God? ‘Natural selection’ or ‘supernatural selection?’ Random processes imply random results, which is confusing if a person is claiming that God is behind and directing the evolutionary process as a way to arrive at a very specific end result that is Man. If the Christian evolutionist is saying God set up the scientific framework of laws that would make evolution possible, and that that qualifies everything which has emerged since as His ‘design,’ then unless you’re also saying that this creation scenario under the guidance of scientific laws would have produced exactly the same results (humankind) were it repeated hundreds of times with the same beginning variables, what you’re describing is still chance, and not God that brought about the being that is Man.  Again, it seems as though a choice needs to be made on this point; I struggle to see how this language is reconcilable. Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, put it this way: “To say that God guides an inherently unguided natural process, or that God designed a natural mechanism as a substitute for his design, is clearly contradictory” (Strobel, The Case For Creation p.23). Darwin himself once argued that if we admit God into the process, then God would ensure that only “the right variations occurred… and natural selection would be superfluous” (Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, 329-30).

But let’s hold off, for the sake of argument, and take either ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’ selection as the means for evolutionary change and increased complexity. Because either way— whether the selection of ‘which life-form would survive’ was truly “natural” or if the selection was “supernatural” and guided subtly by the hand of God— this leads the God-believing evolutionist into another, more complicated difficulty.

3) The Problem of Death (“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men…” Romans 5:12)
According to the Bible, prior to the sin of Adam and Eve, the created world was devoid of sin. There was no wrongdoing, no suffering, no want, no sickness and— no death. Death, according to the Bible, is a bi-product of sin. And not just “spiritual death”— that is not the sole implication of Scripture— but physical death as well. So what’s the problem? Namely this— Darwinian evolution, the theory of change from simple to complex, is a theory dependant on death. Natural selection, evolution’s chief tool, is a process dependant on the death of the weak and the survival of the fittest through competition in order to pass on the favorable traits necessary to live on and evolve in a hostile world, all for the designed purpose (according to the Christian evolutionist), of bringing about God’s finished product that is Man. The problem is… the first book of the Bible depicts a non-hostile environment, free from fear or competition or… death— until, until, fully formed man makes a choice to disobey his Creator. How does a theory of Divine design by means of natural selection (or Divine direction for that matter) address this important inconsistency? There is only one way, as far as I can see, and it’s the same way the atheist would address the problem—by challenging the credibility of the Bible.

A last (but by no means final) difficulty in this brief study that perhaps would have fit better under “False Starts,” comes into focus when the God-fearing evolutionist reads the Biblical order of creation.
4) The Order of Creation (DAY 5: “So God created… every winged bird according to its kind.” DAY 6: “And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind.” Gen. 1:20-25)
What we have here is the Bible’s description of the order of creation events. Assuming with the Christian evolutionist that what’s being described is the order in which animals evolved on the earth, you immediately run into what I understand as a basic evolutionary problem of sequence. This is because the evolutionary theory would likely reverse this order of events, having ‘winged birds’ follow or evolve from some creeping reptile. I think this is a fair inconsistency. Again, how would the ‘Divine design by evolution’ respond to this? I would assume by another assertion that the Bible is not a science book, or some similar argument. But it’s important to admit that the more details you “bend” in the Bible to make it match up with unproven theories, the less ground you leave yourself to stand on when it comes to what you can really trust in that Book. In the end, you are unavoidably making a decision about which you trust more.

Surrounded By Grace,


  1. I enjoyed reading the blog. There is one thing that hasn't been mentioned -- the second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that natural systems tend to go downhill in complexity and concentration of energy. Evolutionary theory directly contradicts this. It would seem to me that either (A) evolution occurs only with the help of purposeful, extra-natural interference, OR (B) not at all. Science does not throw out laws in favor of theories, but vice versa.
    -- Dave

  2. The second law of thermodynamics deals with entropy, not necessarily complexity, and only applies to closed systems into which no external source is pumping energy. Go outside around noon, look straight up, if there's no cloud cover you will likely notice a very large, very bright source of energy that fuels virtually all life on earth. The earth is not a closed system, therefore the 2nd law of thermodynamics does not apply.


  3. An interesting read Josh, here's how I would answer some of your points. (I have to break up my reply into two parts as it got a little long)

    1) "False Starts"

    While the field of abiogenesis is still relatively young, research has suggested some quite plausible ways in which the first proto-cells could have developed. You can find a fairly easy-on-the-brain explanation of some of this research here:

    2) "Natural vs. Supernatural"

    Omniscience makes variables rather superfluous. If God already knows all possible outcomes of any random event, and if God created a universe with laws governing all aspects of each "random" outcome (i.e. chemical reactions), and if God has foreknowledge of each selection pressure that will select for or against each random occurrence, then is that event truly random to God?

    It's also important to note that we're only talking about the evolution of the body, not the evolution of the soul. Theistic evolutionists believe that at some point in the evolution of human beings God chose to intercede and impart His "image", those divine spiritual attributes of the soul, to man much like what C.S. Lewis described in "The Problem of Pain":

    “For long centuries, God perfected the animal from which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all of the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. . .Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say “I” and “me,” which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past. . .We do not know how many of these creatures God made, nor how long they continued in the Paradisal state. But sooner or later they fell. Someone or something whispered that they could become as gods. . .They wanted some corner in the universe of which they could say to God, “This is our business, not yours.” But there is no such corner. They wanted to be nouns, but they were, and eternally must be, mere adjectives. We have no idea in what particular act, or series of acts, the self-contradictory, impossible wish found expression. For all I can see, it might have concerned the literal eating of a fruit, but the question is of no consequence.”

    Thus, whether or not the physical form of man may have been different due to this random mutation or that selection pressure is somewhat irrelevant as what truly matters in this context is the condition of the soul, not the condition of the body. Would some fundamental aspect of Christianity change if we had twelve fingers or if we had tails?


  4. Part II

    3) "The Problem of Death"

    The simple answer is that "death" as it relates to the Creation story is referring to spiritual death as opposed to physical death. The creation account is more of an analogy written to be understood by an ANE audience, not a modern historical narrative.

    Additionally, even if the ToE was completely disproved tomorrow with no room left for the slightest doubt that it was false we would still know that things have been living and dying on this earth for billions of years. That fact is attested to by the fossils we find stretching back for eons in the earth's strata. Evolution merely provides an explanation for why we find fossils in the order which they appear.

    4) "The Order of Creation"

    This is actually probably the easiest to answer. The creation account is not a historical narrative, it's more of an analogy written so that the audience of the time could understand it; the purpose of the account has to do with the "why" of creation, not the "how".

    And again, it isn't actually just "evolutionary theory" that wants to mix up the order of creation. Even if the theory of evolution did not exist the fossils do, and we always find them in a very specific order known as the law of fossil succession.

    All evolution does is explain why we find these fossils in this order, it doesn't actually "place" the fossils there.

    As far as "bending" the Bible to fit science goes I simply don't see this as a matter of trust or compromise. After all, Christianity has used scientific knowledge to reinterpret scripture in the past and I don't hear anyone complaining that we've chosen science over God by saying that the earth orbits the sun.

    If God is the author of both the Bible and creation we shouldn't need to choose one or the other; we should be able to reconcile both.


  5. Well, "IL," whomever you are, you don't disappoint-!- I wondered how long it would take for your response. Thanks for checking back in!

    1) "False Starts" ~ "easy-on-the-brain explanation"- Are you kidding me? I'll keep reading through that site, but you clearly have a greater grasp of biology than I do. What I did gather, however, still seems to back up my current point: it still seems no one has been able to demonstrate the spontaneous generation of life from non-living chemicals. The RNA World Theory is still built on assumptions. "Assuming the presence of pools of RNA nucleotides..." it begins, after an honest admission of “elusive” evidence that has been “a major stumbling block.” What is the elusive evidence? It is the question of where was the RNA itself formed? Where did the cells come from that made it? Where did all the nucleotides come from? On these basic points, they seem able only to offer guesses. Some might call this ‘faith.’

    2) “Natural” vs. “Supernatural” ~ Just for fun, I want to challenge your understanding of ‘foreknowledge’ and ‘omniscience’ as it relates to variables. As I do this, I’m also challenging my own understanding, but hey—why not? Your point stands if omniscience and foreknowledge are trapped in the context of ‘time.’ God knows ‘ahead of time’ and so variables are not really variables, but instead, are pre-determined. But what happens when we remember that God exists outside of time, so that technically He never ‘was’ or ‘will be,’ but always ‘IS?’ In the same way, He technically has no knowledge of what ‘was’ or ‘will be’ because His knowledge always exists in the eternal “now.” So that what looks like billions of years of variables to us on a huge timeline stretching from ‘past’ to ‘present’ is simply happening ‘now’ for God, no matter ‘when’ it is for us. This would seemingly reconcile the problem of ‘chance’ vs. ‘determinism,’ as well as ‘free will’ vs. divine sovereignty,’ because no matter when we’re choosing something it’s happening ‘now’ for God. Just something I’ve been thinking about.

    On a less painful level, your lengthy (but poignant) C.S. Lewis quote resolved my question—you don’t seem to think the process of natural selection is truly random or ‘natural’ at all, but is, in fact, directed.

    3) “The Problem of Death” & “The Order of Creation”~ I can’t say I’m surprised at your answer to these, which seemed basically the same; I assumed this was the only way someone could resolve the inconsistencies. I guess what does surprise me is how breezily you seem to make your claim of interpreting these passages as simply “analogy” rather than as historical narrative. On what do you base your assumptions? As for the fossil record and what it reveals, I’ll save my response for the upcoming post, where you can then wear me out with yet another admirably brilliant response. ;)


  6. The text is rather arduous, but if you click on "Building a Proto Cell" on the first page I linked you to, and then begin with "Nucleic Acids" you can scroll down and find a series of narrated animations that do a good job of explaining this. I wholeheartedly agree that this is all very hypothetical at present. Still, the implications are quite interesting.

    That's a very interesting description of omniscience, and I can't see how I would disagree with it even if I wanted to. I would quibble, however, with saying that because God has knowledge of all possible variables then all things are "pre-determined". I think it would be more accurate to say that God is aware of every possible outcome. Then again, you are the one with the masters degree.

    As for my Lewis quote, you'll note that I said Theistic evolution sees things "much like" Lewis did, not "exactly like". Natural selection is not random in that it is determined by an organism's environment, but I don't think God is intervening in every selection pressure for every living things at all times.

    I base my characterization of Genesis as more of an analogy than a historical narrative on several things; namely on the fact that it's descriptions of the physical universe are similar to that of other ANE concepts, and not at all similar to reality. For example, if you read the bible without any kind of scientific knowledge you could not help but think of the world as a stationary circle with a domed "roof" around which the sun and moon rotate. This is entirely consistent with how people of that time viewed the universe, but is entirely inconsistent with how the universe actually works.

    The creation account can be interpreted as literal, and it can be interpreted as more of an analogy. However, only one of these interpretations has the benefit of agreeing with virtually everything we know about the universe. When I first started becoming interested in this issue I was very much the literalist, but the more I learned about the world the more I realized that the only way for Genesis to be literal is for God to have created an intentionally deceptive universe. And that doesn't seem to jive with God being a god of truth.


  7. As an aside, in researching the fossil record you may want to do yourself a favor and avoid the all-too-common pseudoscience sites like Answers in Genesis or the Institute for Creation Research. These organizations have earned a reputation for intentionally misrepresenting issues and flat out lying to their readers. At the very least double check their claims with a rather large grain of salt. If you'd like some far more credible resources you might look to the:

    U.S. Geological Survey

    Transitional Forms and the Evolution of Phyla

    Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective

    Are all good places to start, especially as the last two are articles written by Christians.


  8. Thanks for your continued patience; I'll get to a response by tomorrow, Lord willing. It's been a couple of crazy days. I'm really enjoying this exchange, BTW.


  9. (PART 1)
    Because we’re both Christians, the nature of this discussion can’t help but be fundamentally different from a discussion involving, say, an atheist and a Christian. That’s because, simply, we can reference the Bible into our discussions without having to quibble over its relevance to the conversation. So… let’s reference the Bible.

    At one point I think you clarified your reasons for not taking these chapters in Genesis as historical narrative when you admitted “that the Bible doesn't describe evolution. . .but then the Bible doesn't describe a lot of natural phenomena accurately, probably because that's simply not why it was written.” A bit later, you continued along a similar thought- “For example, if you read the bible without any kind of scientific knowledge you could not help but think of the world as a stationary circle with a domed "roof" around which the sun and moon rotate. This is entirely consistent with how people of that time viewed the universe, but is entirely inconsistent with how the universe actually works.”

    In his book, Systematic Theology, author Wayne Grudem writes, “The Bible can be inerrant and still speak in the ordinary language of everyday speech.” It’s important to understand that there’s a difference between saying the Bible has incorrect information and saying it has unscientific information. “The descriptions which the Bible gives concerning nature are neither scientific nor unscientific, but phrased by words that are non-technical and often general, so that even the common reader can follow the thought” (Josh Mcdowell, Answers To Tough Questions). Likewise, Grudem points out—“The Bible can speak of the sun rising and the rain falling because from the perspective of the speaker this is exactly what happens…From the standpoint of the speaker, the sun does rise and the rain does fall, and these are perfectly true descriptions of the natural phenomena the speaker observes” (Systematic Theology, 91).

    While I understand this to be a common treatment of the Bible, that it is only authoritative in areas of “Faith and Practice,” and so we don’t need to take it seriously in areas of historic detail or scientific facts, I believe this position weakens the trustworthiness of the Word of God. “But the Bible repeatedly affirms that all of Scripture is profitable for us (2 Tim. 3:16) and that all of it is “God-breathed,” Grudem continues—“Thus it is completely pure (Ps. 12:6), perfect (Ps. 119:96), and true (Prov. 30:5). The Bible itself does not make any restriction on the kinds of subjects to which it speaks truthfully” (Systematic Theology, 93).

  10. (PART 2)
    This was the reason I was surprised by your easy dismissal of the creation account as historical narrative— because it appears as a strong statement against the inerrancy of Scripture. By inerrancy I again appreciate Grudem’s definition: “The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact” (Systematic Theology 91). What this definition means, basically, is that the Bible always tells the truth, and that it always tells the truth concerning everything it talks about. If the most simple reading indicates the passage is meant to be understood as a historical narrative of the order of creation, then the information contained in that account, including time (“…and there was evening and there was morning…”), sequence (“…the third day”) and means (“And the rib…he made into a woman…”) is to be considered 100% historically reliable. There are simply no reasons scripturally to indicate the need to read the creation accounts in any way other than how they are presented—as a historical narrative of the creation account.

    On other occasions you have similarly commented that--”If God is the author of both the Bible and creation we shouldn't need to choose one or the other; we should be able to reconcile both.”
    But my question really centers around what happens when you can’t reconcile them—I think it’s important what you choose to do at that crucial point. One solution, when some sort of conflict emerges, is to automatically interpret scripture to fit the closest scientific theory— which makes sense if you attribute to each equal inerrancy. But I think it’s important to admit that there would seem to be more room for error on the side of science, which is dependant on the theories and trustworthiness of flawed and fallen man, then on the side of Scripture, which claims for itself inerrancy (2 Tim. 3:16). After all, how often has science backpedaled and admitted to error?(

    Nobel prize winner Arno Penzias said of the processes of creation, “The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the first five books of Moses, the Psalms and the Bible as a whole.” For all of these reasons I personally believe it’s always the safer choice, when it comes to an issue where faith is required to reconcile conflicting information, for Christians to assume the inerrancy of Scripture over the inerrancy of science.

    I’ve been advised by those I respect that I should not hope to change anyone’s mind through this medium, and I understand the point; these debates could continue forever without resolution. Truth, removed from the context of love, is nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2), it’s pointless. The last thing I want is for my blog posts to degrade into pointlessness, to account for ‘nothing’ by getting caught up in heady intellectualism and nothing more. I want them to mean something and affect someone. That being said, though I don’t expect a response to this comment that communicates complete or even partial agreement, I want you to know I appreciate and respect your engagement in this discussion. I’ve enjoyed it, and I respect your love of knowledge and truth. Are these differences the most central issues of importance to our faith? No; we are allies and brothers if we both cling to the cross of Christ as our only hope for life and redemption, and for that common ground I am most grateful.


  11. Part 1

    I simply disagree that the most simple reading is automatically the most reliable; not only is such a notion seemingly predicated on nothing more than theological gymnastics, but I don’t think you (or anyone else for that matter) can actually apply it consistently. Again, going back to those passages of scripture that refer to a stationary earth and a mobile sun – the most simple reading is that the earth is immobile and the sun moves relative to it. The ONLY reason Grudem can even begin to talk about the accounts being written from the point of view of the observer is because he has already reinterpreted it based on scientific knowledge. If we were truly interpreting scripture completely independent of scientific knowledge there would be no reason to accept heliocentrism in the first place. Ravi Zacharias’ warning that “The danger of a simple faith is simplistic answers. . .” is nowhere more true than on this issue. Being a pastor I’m sure you’ve studied a great deal of theology, so you and I both know that, in fact, the simplest interpretation is not always regarded as the best interpretation, even from a literalist standpoint. So claiming this seems to me as more of an ad hoc explanation of why we are willing to use science to interpret some scripture but choose to ignore science in regards to other parts of scripture than it does a consistent method of dealing with conflicts between interpretation and observation.

    I certainly understand the tendency to reduce this debate down to saying we must choose whom to trust and, at the end of the day, man is fallible. I used to use that same argument myself. However, in reality this is simply a matter of degree. I’m going to make some assumptions here so please don’t be offended, but you probably don’t have a problem making this argument because you only perceive there to be a discrepancy between science and the Bible on a few points. What if, on the other hand, science and the bible disagreed on EVERY point? Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that this is the case, but am simply offering this hypothetical to explore whether you really believe that the simplest interpretation is always the best irregardless of scientific evidence. If the answer is “yes” then let’s revisit my point on geocentrism – isn’t the most simplest interpretation of scripture’s description of the earth and sun a flat earth in a geocentric solar system? If so, why aren’t you a geocentrist since, as we would have established, scientific evidence does not matter?


  12. Finally, science doesn’t “backpedal” when it admits error – self-correction is built into the scientific method. In actuality all scientific conclusions are open-ended; that is, they are left available to be revised, amended, or replaced in the light of new evidence. This does not mean that science does not reach accurate conclusions, nor does it equate modern conclusions to past erroneous conclusions. As Asimov wrote,

    “’. . .when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.’

    “The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that "right" and "wrong" are absolute; that everything that isn't perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong.”
    The Relativity of Wrong

    Which is a long-winded way of saying that science is not a process of one absolute error followed by scientists starting from scratch and building another absolute error, but is instead a process of refinement in which errors lead to a progressively more accurate understanding of the universe.

    If I still believed that a literal interpretation of Genesis was opposed by science on but a few small points I would still be a literalist. However, when I became interested in this issue I decided to learn all I could about the science, and the more I learned the more I realized that for a literal Genesis to be true just about everything in science has to be dead wrong. Plate tectonics, Relativity, E=mc2, Population genetics, sedimentary rock formation, linguistics, archaeology, biology, genetics. . .none of it can work with a young earth. Why do you think God would create this enormous universe filled with a history stretching back billions of years that was all just a lie?


  13. (PART 1)
    There are, of course, more hermeneutical factors involved in correct Biblical interpretation than just ‘the simplest reading,’ and I in no way meant to infer it was the sole means, applied across the board, for getting at an accurate understanding of Scripture. A great deal of correct Bible interpretation hinges on understanding the literary forms employed in its writing. The different forms of literature in the Bible come with different rules to aid in accurate interpretation. ‘Poetry’ has its own rules and ‘prose’ has its own rules, and so on.

    The face-value meaning of Scripture that relates narratives, history and events is frequently dismissed due to its use of “unscientific language.” As I said before, much unnecessary confusion could be avoided if people understood that many of these literary forms are written in what is called ‘The language of appearances,’ or, ‘Phenomenological Language.” R.C. Sproul defines this as “language that describes things the way they appear to the naked eye” (Sproul, Literary Forms, Part 1)

    I notice, as sophisticated 21st century, scientific people, that we can still admit to appreciating the beauty of a ‘sunrise’ or a ‘sunset,’ without being accused of trying to reintroduce the ancient Ptolomaic view of the universe. That’s because everyone recognizes this as an accurate description of how we observe the world, and having knowledge of what’s REALLY going on doesn’t change the accuracy of saying it appears a certain way ‘to the naked eye.’ This is descriptive language that matched the frame of reference of ordinary people. Just as these ordinary people in Bible times could walk outside and observe the sun ‘coming up’ and ‘passing overhead’ and ‘going down,’ so can and do we ordinary people today, in scientific times. Grudem defined inerrancy as meaning that “Scripture, in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.” It is not contrary to fact that the sun appears to ‘rise’ and ‘set’ when viewed with the naked eye.

  14. (PART 2)
    When the broad structure of a Biblical passage is marked by all the normal characteristics of historical narrative, and unless a figurative, metaphorical, analogical or allegorical interpretation is allowed by the passage itself, you cannot use the rules of interpretation that apply to other literary forms—such as poetry or prophecy— to correctly understand the meaning.
    “When the reader turns to the first chapter of Genesis, or the book of Jonah, the first question must not be “How can I fit this into what some modern scientists say?” but “Is this written as history?” The answer to that last question must be “yes,” since the entire book of Genesis is written in the form of history. The Jews never doubted it, and neither did the Christian church until a century and a half ago. We cannot pick and choose to suit our convenience… If someone says Genesis 1 and 2 are poetry or myth, then why not say the same about the story of Babel or the Flood or Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or, in the book of Exodus, the escape from Egypt or the manna in the wilderness? No one has yet shown where in Genesis it is clearly no longer poetic and certainly historic. The simple truth is that, like the book of Jonah, it is all written as history. We may choose not to believe its accuracy, but if we follow the rules of hermeneutics, we cannot seriously doubt its intention to be accepted as fact… The evangelical who relies upon the argument that Genesis 1 and 2 (or 3 and 4) are poetic and not historical has abandoned sound principles of interpretation in order to avoid what appears to be a scientific problem; why then does he not abandon Jonah as well—or, more particularly, the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ?” – Brian Edwards, Literary Forms and Biblical

    Taken at face value, as a historical narrative, the language of Genesis is clearly descriptive of “how” the world came into being, “how” sin entered the world and “how” God began to unfold His plan of salvation.

    I don’t wish to be a modern version of the church authorities who refused to even look through the eye-piece of Galileo’s telescope. The Church was foolish to ignore his discoveries then and it’s foolish for Christians to stick our heads in the sand and ignore scientific discoveries now. However—I think it’s fair to be reminded that these religious leaders were not close-minded and ignorant because the Bible told them false information—they were close-minded and ignorant because they had drawn inferences—NOT on the basis of sound Biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, but on the basis of earlier theories of science!

    You suggested I am employing ‘theological gymnastics’ to hold my position. You also are engaging in ‘gymnastics’ if you believe science catches every single error, or that, once discovered, those errors are discarded. If that were the case, honest science would have removed misleading information and diagrams about the Miller Experiment, Haeckel’s embryos and the skewed significance of Archaeopteryx as evolutionary benchmarks from modern science textbooks long ago. Sadly, this is not the case; they’re still there.

  15. (PART 3)
    My point is that until science ‘backpedals,’ ‘back-tracks,’ ‘refines,’ or whatever you wish to call admitting to an error, until these errors are discovered and amended, there remain many potential areas in which theories are inaccurately, yet authoritatively portrayed as ‘fact’ by both sides, either to defend Scripture or to ridicule Scripture. And when these are discovered and the ‘corrections’ or amendments are applied, both sides must face the embarrassment brought on by pride and prejudice.

    That is why it seems much wiser, if science is constantly in a state of change and refinement, for the Christian to hold to a revealed Truth that does not change, understood through careful exegesis and honest hermeneutics-- when it comes to matters of uncertainty-- while we wait for science to refine its views.

    We either trust that the Bible does not mislead us or we imply that it does. If I could boil this down to a sentence, it would seem you take issue with Biblical inerrancy. If that is the case, fine, let’s just say so and we can agree to disagree. It allows you to interpret Scripture in a way that fits your views and values, just as my belief in inerrancy allows me to interpret Scripture in a way that fits my views and values. I doubt we're going to convince each other to abandon either on this point. So be it.


  16. Part 1

    I’m simply going to have to disagree with you on the entire book of Genesis being written as a literal history, especially in regards to the first two chapters which have their own distinct style. The creation account certainly has some elements of history in it, and it certainly has some poetic elements in it as well. For example, there are two contradictory accounts of the order of creation which strongly suggest that the intent of the account is didactic, not scientific/historical.

    Furthermore, I also disagree that the “church” interpreted Genesis the same way until a century and a half ago. Prominent figures from Augustine, to Aquinas, to Calvin spoke of Genesis as being allegorical and/or symbolic. The current trend of ultra-literalism or hyper-orthodoxy is, in my view, a reactionary trend which arose as a result of scientific discoveries. As Bernard Ramm pointed out over fifty years ago,

    “. . .the idea of creation is a rather complex idea. Evangelicals were not always aware of the great deal of thought put into this matter by Augustine and Aquinas. As a result evangelicals posed the problems of modern science as resolving down to: (i) fiat, instantaneous creationism; or (ii) atheistic developmentalism. This is certainly a gross over-simplification, not a genuine probing, of the entire concept of creation. By putting the question this way, every bit of developmentalism in science made the evangelical position that much more difficult of defense. Evangelicals, by putting such a premium on discontinuity, had no recourse but to fight any continuity in any of the sciences as if it were the devil himself. With no real philosophy of creation, evangelicals defended a position that violently contradicted the findings of science.Evangelicals of today who fail to see these problems in their larger dimensions are but perpetuating the losing strategy of their brethren who lost the battle in the previous century.”

    Our modern concept of “historical” is just that: modern. Ancient peoples did not share our views on accuracy or the importance of correct chronology, and Genesis simply does not fit neatly into one category or the other. Ramm continues,

    “It is not intellectually consistent to condemn science as satanic while having teeth repaired by scientific technicians, wearing glasses prescribed and ground by other scientists, covered with clothing produced by chemists and engineers, with a body saved from premature death by an appendectomy performed by a scientist, and with a mind trained in a school system working with methods provided by educational scientists.
    “Such a position makes the words of God and the work of God clash. Certainly, the pragmatic truthfulness of science as witnessed by a modern industrialized society, modern rapid transportation and communications, modern medicine, and modern warfare, cannot be denied. This is incontrovertible proof that in many regards science is on the right track. To this extent science has opened up the secrets and meanings of Nature, the creation of God. To set theology against science is simply to oppose Creation to Revelation, and Nature to Redemption. Yet, it is the uniform testimony of Scripture that the God and Christ of redemption are the God and Christ of creation.”
    Bernard Ramm, The Imperative Necessity of a Harmony of Christianity and Science


  17. Part 2

    While I appreciate that Christians who rejected heliocentrism did so on the basis of faulty inferences based on poor interpretations of scripture, the fact remains that these were no understood to be faulty inferences until AFTER the scientific evidence supporting heliocentrism became undeniable. It seems, then, that “careful exegesis and honest hermeneutics” goes hand in hand with scientific refinement as only the former allowed the latter in this case. And wouldn’t that make sense if God is the author of both?

    I don’t think that science catches “every single error”, but the process of science is designed to eliminate errors. As far as your three examples of persisting scientific errors go, it seems you have been reading Jonathen Wells, which is unfortunate. Of your three examples only Haeckel’s embryo diagrams are a valid criticism (Haeckel did fake some of his drawings and his theories were later proven wrong), and you are correct that certain textbook authors should remove them from their texts. Archaeopteryx and the Miller-Urey experiment continue to be valid examples of evolution and abiogenesis respectively.

    This is not an issue of scriptural inerrancy, it’s simply an issue of interpretation. Furthermore, can you really compare the refinements of science to the “revealed truth” of Christianity? If you and I could go back in time a hundred years we would no doubt find that the “revealed truth” of that age was quite different from the revealed truth of today, and this discrepancy would only grow the further back in time we traveled. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not advocating some kind of moral zeitgeist in which “revealed truth” actually changes, what I’m saying is that our understanding of what “revealed truth” is has changed over time just as our understanding of how the universe works over time. Additionally, science already has refined its views on a plethora of issues from numerous fields of science and none of it is compatible with a literal reading of Genesis. What are we to do then?

    What is misleading is to claim to be a God of truth and then to create a universe with a false history consisting of billions of years, a false history of life that looks evolved, and a false history of geology that looks like slow changes over time. An analogy, on the other hand, is not misleading – it is simply a way to make very complex explanations simple enough to understand. Look up any basic definition of electricity or a description for how DNA replicates and what you’ll get is essentially an analogy which puts what is actually occurring into a form the average person can understand. Does this make virtually all such descriptions “misleading”? I certainly don’t think so.

    As an aside, I know you can't agree with me even if you wanted to as you've probably signed a statement of faith that prohibits it. The last thing I would want is to miss out on your excellent blog posts and hilarious announcements, so if you'd like to agree to disagree that's fine. If, however, you find the time and/or desire to continue I'm always game.


  18. Thank you IL, glad you enjoy the blog in general! I plan to address more on the science side of things (Miller Experiment, Archaeopteryx, macro/micro) in the next post. As for our discussions in this post, you’ve made your case for what you believe and I’ve made my case for what I believe. Although I have not signed anything that prohibits me from honest discussion or truth-seeking, and although I have what you might call a "hankering" to challenge your comments about 'contradictory creation accounts,' 'literal' history and your sweeping dismissal of hermeneutical rules of interpretation, for now I’m prepared to put our arguments to rest and allow anyone who’s actually still following this exchange to make up their minds for themselves, in light of the implications to life and faith. See you on the next post.



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