Should Christians Embrace Evolution?

Norman Nevin, ed.

The subtitle on this recent book, "Biblical and Scientific Responses," expresses its intent. It gives the appearance of a collected response to a book by Denis Alexander, Creation or Evolution, Do We Have to Choose? It's a mixed bag of excellent and merely good essays by different authors, every one of which cites Alexander, often primarily, for the position they then go on to demolish. Alexander seems to be one of several aggressive new theistic evolutionists, including Francis Collins, whom I have mentioned several times in my weblog (see my assessment of his take on evolution here).

If you are involved in the creation/evolution controversy, or if you have not made up your mind whether there is a middle ground between what the Bible teaches and the public posture of the Darwinist religion, this book is a must-read. Otherwise, it's pretty technical. That's not bad. The science is documented, often better than I have found elsewhere.

The first half of the book is devoted to why the Bible teaching on sin and redemption is utterly incompatible with an evolutionary -- or even old-earth Creation, but they carefully don't say that -- history of the earth. The brunt of the argument, repeated by several of the authors, is that if death and suffering are not the result of the sin of Adam, then Paul's teaching on the atonement of Jesus Christ makes no sense at all. This is not a new argument, but it seems to me that we need to be careful we do not read too much into the words "death" and "suffering". Paul clearly tells us that when Adam sinned, "death passed to all people." That clearly contradicts the evolutionary model proposed by Alexander, where (so he is quoted) Adam was merely an arbitrary human selected from a population of 10 million or so hominids who had been living and suffering and dying for thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of years before this representative "Adam" was given the insight of spirituality.

The problem I saw when I first heard this argument, is that it does not necessarily contradict the semi-evolutionary model that some old-earth Creationists hold, where the animals had been around for millions of years living and suffering and dying, but God specially created Adam and Eve, as reported in the Bible. We moderns, infused as we are with Darwinistic pseudo-science which erases any distinction between humans and animals, might tend to see the death that came on all people as a result of Adam's sin and equate it with the death of animals. I have not found where the Bible clearly tells us that animals also die as a result of Adam's sin. It's not an unreasonable interpretation (which I suspect is true), but not so clear as that we are all direct descendants of Adam and Eve, or that Adam lived less than 10,000 years ago. The authors in this book do not address this point, but one of them, David Anderson, does point out that the redemption which comes when Christ returns and restores all things, including the corruption of all creation which was subject to decay [Rom.8:21] as a result of the Fall. Does that mean animals will also stop dying? I think probably so, but it's hard to say for sure. The "lion [lying] down with the lamb" seems to suggest it.

Another of the authors, Alistair Donald, points out that if Alexander is correct, and that we must change our theology to accommodate evolution "red in tooth and claw," then two thousand years of pastoral care must be rewritten:

Surely scientists, who properly understand evolutionary theory, would be better equipped to explain to grieving relatives the reason for the demise of their six-year-old. [p.25]
... which he points out is (according to the Darwinists) completely without meaning or significance or any redeeming virtue. It's a silly point, something a Feeler (pastor) would appreciate more than a Thinker (scientist). It does not establish that one position or the other is true, but only how awkward it is for us who prefer to tell the parents that suffering and death is the result of Adam's sin, and not part of God's perfect and loving Plan for the earth and for all people.

Another contributor, R.T.Kendall, makes the interesting case from Hebrews 11 that we should be looking to the Bible first, and not to science, for our understanding of how the earth came to be. If, as some scientists who are also Christian (the order is significant) like to say, "All truth is God's truth," and if we have truth in "two books," the Bible, which tells us how to go to heaven, and science, which tells us how the heavens go, then one of those "books" must take precedence over the other in points of conflict. Kendall clearly opts for the Bible:

By believing God, then, we understand that time and space were created by the word of God. It may be that in fifty or one hundred years, more and more scientists will believe this even by empirical knowledge. This should not surprise us. For, after all, empirical knowledge has failed to make their theory today more than theory. One wonders how far behind science generally is as a result of scientists' uncritical acceptance of evolutionary thinking.

Hebrews 11:3 says it is by faith that 'we' understand. 'We' understand; others may not. 'We' do. Who are 'we'? The company of believers. The world may not understand. Many scientists may not understand. But 'we' do -- we who are the family of God. Because creation really is a family secret. It is something we understand by faith. It was never meant to be understood by those outside the family. It is not a case of believing in creation and then being adopted into the family; rather, we are adopted into the family and then we discover the truth. One of the problems some Christians create for themselves is that they get defensive about a family secret, and then it becomes a family scandal. The Christian should never apologize for what has been revealed by the Holy Spirit, regardless of whether those outside the family ever come to affirm the same thing. [p.113]

This is an awesome insight, especially in consideration of the scientific issues raised in the second half of the book. In point of fact -- this book does not say it, but they should have -- the "book" that is science is not a book from God at all, but rather a human interpretation of the data, and a crummy one at that. I believe it was Ken Ham who pointed out in a different context (but the same debate) that we all agree on the data: "billions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth." The Biblical Flood does adequately explain the data. We are not being unscientific in making that observation.

The second half of this book deals with the scientific data concerning evolution. The science is up to date, and certainly casts a lot of doubt on the recent arguments that Darwinists have been using to try to make their case. Earlier this month in my blog, I proposed that a hybrid human-chimpanzee would not live to birth because of the chromosomal differences. The issues are much more complicated than I supposed, but not so as to invalidate my hypothesis. Geoff Barnard in his chapter(s) cites extensive data suggesting that the differences are much more pervasive than the Darwinists are admitting. Nevermind what they want you to believe, the jury is still out on this one. I'm not worried.

The final conclusion leaves no room for doubt:

Should Christians embrace evolution? Our answer is an unequivocal 'no'! [p.220]
I agree.

Tom Pittman
2011 August 13