Evolution's theology
  • Paul November 2011

    No, I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I think evolution is compelling, so it's no mystery why those familiar with the scientific data generally accept it. But I believe that the theological challenges to evolution are even more compelling, despite my best efforts to understand the biblical data another way. That leaves me in the position of seeking alternative explanations of the scientific data, something which presents an entire set of challenges all of its own but which I do not believe is an entirely fruitless task...

  • Michael November 2011

    What is the difference between a bacteria dying and an aphid?

    Also can Paul refer me to the biblical texts to support this?

  • SimonSimon November 2011
    Thanks for the explanation Paul - unlike the ID lot at least you are honest about what motivates your views on this topic.

    So what do you make of the arguments that Gavin & I have been making earlier in this thread?
  • Paul November 2011

    The short answer is that I've not been persuaded by them. It seems to me that the death that came in by Adam was both spiritual (in the sense of alienation from God) and physical (he returned to the dust). This connection between sin and death in all its aspects permeates the whole of scripture, and it seems impossible to me to understand the necessity of Christ's physical death and bodily resurrection without it. Furthermore, passages such as Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 reinforce this in the way that they link the death that came by Adam with the resurrection life that came by Christ. 

    Of course, other biblical data bears on the question of the compatibility of evolution with scripture, such as the arguments for a historical Adam from whom the entire human race is descended, the arguments for the universality of the flood and the role that it plays in salvation history, and so on. But the causal connection between sin and death is central in my thinking because it bears upon my understanding of the atonement. 

    I should add that, although it is the biblical and theological data that lead me to a young-age creationist position, and although I think evolution is a compelling explanation of the scientific data, I do not believe that young-age creationism is without evidential support from science.

  • Michael November 2011



    What is the evidential support from science for YEC?


    Also did aphids die before Adam went wrong?

  • GavinM November 2011
    Paul, I admire your honesty and your desire to keep looking for answers. I was much of your mind until about 2005. It was then that I started looking into both the theological and scientific issues more widely than just from the perspective I had grown up with. Not at all saying you haven't but that's how it was for me.

    I don't pretend to have everything sorted perfectly for myself now and I'm always learning new things. For me though it was the multi-stranded nature of the physical evidence (cosmology, evolution, archaeology, history) that kept telling the same story that convinced me that maybe my prior theological interpretations weere effecting my conclusions about the scientific evidence of origins. So I began to look into scientific critiques of both ID and YEC (which I had enthusiastically supported until that point) to see if they had genuine merit of their own beyond just my childhood acceptance of them. In the end I concluded that the 'standard' scientific model provided (and still does) a far superior explanation of the evidence available and that the YEC/ID proposals in terms of science were inadequate and unsubstantiated.

    I then had to place that new understanding into a theological context that went beyond just origins and into a context of a Sovereign God who was behind the whole of existence, every moment, every thought and whom meant something beyond just being a cosmic tinkerer given the grand story that science had laid the universe out to be. If God was the Creator and was still its Lord he had to be constantly involved in that story and not just on a part-time basis when things needed a tune up.

    I was still convinced of the existence of God and of salvation through Christ, nothing from science ever threatened that. For me though I couldn't continue to hold onto my previous theologically-derived interpretations of origins along with my new assessment of the scientific evidence. This lead me on to a difficult time of re-aligning aspects of my theology (in fact looking into theology deeply for the first time in my life) to encompass evolution, cosmology, physical death, sin and suffering and all the other things that go along with it. Pleasingly though as I investigated further I discovered that fellow Christians have been doing this successfully for as long as the Church has existed and since well before the rise of modern science. People had trod the same steps as I had many times before and for many different reasons, all coming to similar theological conclusions and this was a great encouragement.

    If anything my theology and belief have been re-invigorated by this journey. Its helped me to both understand my faith as not being being just a set of facts or rules to abide to, but rather a conviction that our God is Lord over all we see around us, across space, across time and within that He permits His Creations true freedom. That freedom means that I am fallen and insufficient by myself, but despite the vastness of all the Universe and my tiny, tiny part in it He still thinks I am worth something and worth stepping down into history in order to rescue me from myself. That is a God of complete love and grace, that is a God I will respect and worship far more readily than a God who keeps tinkering here and there, micromanaging everything and who ultimately only came to save us in order to correct a single human screw up we made in his initial plan.

    The mutual journeying into the details never stops (and as I've said can be invigorating) and our understanding of God and His character and will always grow. My conviction remained throughout that ultimately the our source for everything is in God. For me the evidence for evolution was too strong to ignore and the evidence against it didn't stand up to inspection. Theology was also open to it today and throughout history and welcomed it even at points. For me both continue to mutually enhance the understanding and appreciation of the other.

    (On your specific point of Adam returning to dust, is the theological point God is making there not just that Adam will physically die but that he will return to the nothing he was without God, that without God he is just dirt and that is all he will amount to? This to me speaks of spiritual death as much the physical.)
  • Paul November 2011

    Thanks, Gavin, for your thoughtful reply. I'll read and digest it carefully and may have more to add later. However, for now, may I recommend what in my opinion is one of the most helpful books from a young-age creationist perspective:

    Leonard Brand, 'Faith, Reason, and Earth History' (Second Edition, Andrews University Press, 2009)

    I particularly like the irenic tone Brand strikes; there's no railing against evolution or evolutionists here. He is also someone with a long career in research (mostly in palaeontology), and is the author of many peer reviewed papers in mainstream journals. He explains how his creationist views have informed and directed his research, with specific examples. I highly commend his textbook to everyone, whatever their views. I'm not naive enough to think it will convince all its readers, but it might just stimulate some deeper thinking and help us all to understand one another better.

  • SimonSimon November 2011
    My journey with the whole origins question dates back to November 1985 when I received an issue of the National Geographic magazine with a holographic image of a million year old skull on the front. This issue became my prize possession and one week I took it into the Sunday school at my American Southern Baptist church. What followed was an altercation with the Sunday school teacher and a visit to the pastor who convinced me of the theological "truth" of 6-day creationism. This was a view I held until 1996 (including taking part in a debate at my school where I represented the YEC position) when I read Philip Johnson's book "Darwin on Trial" and became convinced of old earth ID. I was then a loud supporter of ID throughout my undergraduate years studying Biochemistry (again taking part in debates as I rather like confrontation) until about 2002 by which time I was doing a PhD. I remember vividly being in the shower one morning and suddenly having the epiphany that it didn't matter how God created, the important thing was that God did create. This was a huge relief to me as I was continually coming across evidence in my studies that suggested ID was wrong, but thought that if I gave up ID I would have to give up Christianity. After this epiphany I came across Christians in Science and met some of the brightest people I know, and (like Gavin above) was relieved to find that many Christians had walked this road before and were able to happily reconcile their faith with evolution.

    This is probably one of the reasons why I view YEC and ID supporters as being a bit naive, because these were both positions I adopted at periods in my life when I knew a lot less about biology, philosophy and theology. Similarly I am well versed in most of the arguments as I myself used to use them! I do accept that in some ways it is more intellectually challenging to hold the theistic evolution position, but then again life is complicated. I have found theistic evolution places my faith on a far securer footing than either of my previous positions. As such I do think both YEC and ID are simplistic world views that are just not adequate enough to account for the scientific and theological marvels that we see around us. I can see why people who don't spend much time thinking about science or theology may adopt them, but I cannot understand how anyone who has spent any time studying these things can hold to either YEC or ID.
  • Michael November 2011

    Thanks Simon - an interesting story.

    Very different for me. I had little Christian upbringing and was never anti, but no faith. I became a Chrsitan shortly before graduating in geology and never came across YEC for 3 years until i went to L'abri except reading ANTriton's devestating revue of the The Genesis Flood in the Christian Graduate in 21970. I lauughed long and loud but no one heard me as I was in the middle of a desert. LAbri gave me a shock but it took me a few hours to find the flaws in the books. L'Abri made be doubt evolution for a time but not geology.


    I consider YEC to be totally wrong-headed and often fraudulent and ID not much better