Christians & Evolution

Christians often have a very confused relationship with scientific discoveries – we use them of course, but there’s a significant portion of evangelicals who become very sceptical especially when it concerns the origins of life.

Tim Challies wrote

The…reason I am a six-day creationist is that I believe this is what science tells us. I believe science confirms a literal six-day creation and a young earth. I find the science demanding millions or billions of years less compelling than the science supporting a much less ancient universe. Even though so many people today scoff at even the suggestion that the world may be young, I find the old-earth science built upon very shaky and ever-shifting ground.

Not only this but is convinced that sooner or later the majority view will come into agreement, quoting G.I. Williamson

I do not believe that there is, or ever will be, any scientific discovery that will be able to discredit what God has spoken. Yes, scientific theories do appear to discredit that creation account. But be patient. In time it will be seen that those humble Bible believers were right all along: it was a six-day creation.

Challies & Williamson have, I think, fallen into this mistake so clearly explained by Augustine

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world … Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn … If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

So then it’s worth taking the time to consider why a majority in the scientific community think the way that they do, and ask the question ‘how do we know that evolution is really happening?’

Then there are failures to really grasp what evolution is and isn’t saying, no one is saying you descended from a chimp and while we’re on the subject of chimps you don’t really share 99.7% of their DNA either.

Yet for many people, Christian or not, there is an awful lot about our universe that appears designed.

Richard Watson, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Southampton in the UK says

When we look at the amazing, apparently intelligent designs that evolution produces, it takes some imagination to understand how random variation and selection produced them. But can natural selection explain the suitability of its own processes?

Evolutionary scientists often stumble on this themselves with the limitations of language. Talk that natural selection is intelligent and learns or that evolution develops strategies seems to lend weight to the idea that it’s no accident.

So why do Christians struggle to accept evolutionary theory?

Brad Kramer suggests there are 5 main reasons

  1. A plain reading of the Bible doesn’t allow for it.
  2. Evolution makes it difficult to understand Adam, the Fall, and sin (and thus the work of Christ).
  3. Micro-Evolution is fine, but Macro-Evolution is just an unproven, unscientific theory
  4. Creation bears the marks of Intelligent Design, not blind, purposeless evolution
  5. Evolution is driven by a secular, worldly agenda

I think these reasons largely hold true  (Scot McKnight weighs in with his thoughts here) and we’ve already alluded to 4.

I find the fossil record comes up when people attempt to argue no.3 which makes fossils like this snake with legs tantalising. It might even be enough to make Ricky Gervais think again (about 10 minutes in & there is some bad language).

However, the main thing is, it should drive us back to the text – back to Genesis and consider what it is saying and what it isn’t saying.

Noting that a worldview derived from Genesis is not anti-science and neither is the worldview of Genesis similar to ours. Yet as Andrew Wilson discovered in teaching on the whole book of Genesis, your view of origins affects so much of how you read the rest of the book.

Every time I thought I’d thrown the origins theme out of sight, it just came back and hit me in the back of the head, like a boomerang. If you read human origins that way, what does that do to your reading of the line of Cain and the line of Seth? What does it do to your take on the Nephilim? How does the flood work in that account? What about Aboriginal Australians? The table of nations? Babel? It was only on working through the whole book together, and seeing how every exegetical decision is linked to every other one, that I realised quite how far-reaching the implications of one’s view on origins actually are.

So this was a 500 word introduction as to why you should listen to all the talks from this year’s THINK conference on Genesis.

Photo by kevin dooley

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2 Thoughts to “Christians & Evolution”

  1. Thomas Boulton

    How can I hear Andrew’s talks?

    1. Hi Thomas, I was hoping they would have been made available by now, I’ve asked Andrew and he says they’ll be online soon. I’ll update with a link here as soon as they are.

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