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Are all evolutionists atheists?

At CMI, we receive many enquiries from people who do not agree with our biblical creationist stance. J.R. from South Africa was lent a Creation magazine and took the opportunity to send in a letter to the editor. We publish J.R.’s letter along with our response in hopes that it may be a helpful example in how to engage ‘friendly skeptics’ of biblical creation.

J.R. writes:

I have recently been lent a copy of Creation magazine (38-3 July 2016), and have read it with interest. There is, however, one fundamental issue that concerns me greatly. I refer to the impression that I gained as I read the magazine, namely, that in your view the term evolutionist seems to be regarded as synonymous with the term atheist. This is most regrettable, even if it is unintentional, and is an issue which needs to be addressed by your editorial committee.

Perhaps all atheists are evolutionists, but not all evolutionists are atheists. There are many believers, including scientists, who accept the Bible as the word of God and accept evolution as the theory that best codifies current biological knowledge. They also acknowledge that, If serious problems or objections arise—and it is biologists, not theologians, who must judge the merits of these objections—it will be up to biologists themselves to modify, or even abandon, the theory. It needs to be realised that science is ultimately a self-correcting enterprise, and that incorrect deductions, false hypotheses and faulty mechanisms will be abandoned with time as new facts are found, new data uncovered and new discoveries made. For the moment, many (myself included) see evolution as the wonderful blueprint that God used to bring about (create !) the wide variety of life-forms on earth. We are creationists in every sense of the word, and see evidence of design wherever we look.

If allowance is made for the use of phenomenological language, for the use of symbolical and picturesque imagery, and for the necessity that Genesis should be intelligible and meaningful to an ancient, pre-scientific culture as well as to today’s scientifically literate society, then it is possible to harmonize the early chapters of Genesis with current scientific understanding (including an historical Adam and Eve). The scientific discovery that the earth was not at the centre of the solar system enabled a false interpretation to be corrected—a correction that is now universally accepted. This “false interpretation” arose as a result of the then current philosophical climate and the phenomenological use of language, for example, in Psalms 93:1 and 104:5, etc., which perhaps was not initially recognised.

Now, none of this proves or disproves the validity of evolution as the Creator’s chosen method of creating the biosphere—theories come and go. But whether or not evolution in one form or another is ultimately shown to be true and valid, let us still be willing to praise God for the wonders of His creation.

Lita Sanders, one of the editors of Creation magazine from CMI-US, responds:

Dear J,

First, thank you for reading Creation magazine! It is always encouraging to hear of people who are open-minded enough to read publications that disagree with their perspective, which is a prerequisite for true dialogue. You might be encouraged to know that the editors of Creation magazine discussed your feedback in a recent meeting.

Unfortunately, you did not specify how you feel we equate the term ‘evolutionist’ with ‘atheist’; a more specific comment would have been helpful. We do acknowledge that some Christians and other theists are evolutionists, as we point out in Can Christians believe evolution?.

However, some of our Ph.D. scientists (my own specialization is in New Testament, but I work closely with Ph.D. scientists) would take issue with other statements in your message. First, you say “biologists, not theologians, must judge the merits of these objections” when science and theology conflict. Why? Surely it is theologians who are specifically trained to interpret Scripture and to draw out its plain meaning. Furthermore, Scripture claims to be infallible, while science is constantly changing and updating (which many say is one of its positive points). Also, CMI’s staff includes Ph.D. biologists, including one of the editors, Dr Don Batten.

I would also challenge the conception that science is always a self-correcting process. As we point out in our article about peer-review, scientists are human beings, complete with the motivations and conflicts of interest all of us have. And it seems the secularization of the sciences has made things worse, as there is currently an epidemic of fraud in science. When you add in the fact that Scripture teaches that humanity apart from Christ is in rebellion against God and therefore suppresses the truth that He is the Creator (Romans 1:20), biblically, we should not expect secular scientists to automatically interpret the results of their endeavours in a God-honouring manner (though of course there are many biblical creationist scientists who do).

I come to this issue as a biblical specialist, not a scientist. And Scripture plainly teaches that God created the earth around 6,000 years ago (see also The biblical minimum and maximum age of the earth), and that He made the various ‘kinds’ of plants and animals separately, and that Adam and Eve were the special creations of God who were the first humans. Furthermore, when the New Testament authors seek to make important theological points about soteriology or the Resurrection, they draw their precedent from creation, and in such a way that presupposes that it is straightforward history! You may say Scripture is wrong like the theistic evolutionists at Biologos, or seek to reinterpret it to fit evolution, but the most preeminent evolutionists alive today know how wrong you would be to try to fit Christianity and evolution together. Richard Dawkins called theistic evolutionists ‘deluded’.

Contrary to the myth that has been built up relatively recently, the whole Galileo affair wasn’t science vs. religion—it was science vs. science—most of the opposition came from Aristotelian astronomers, not Christians (the linked article deals with this issue, including the poetic passages you cite). This Aristotelianism came to dominate the interpretation of Scripture, and the whole thing was exacerbated by political missteps by Galileo. So really, the Galileo example should be a warning to us not to let current popular science determine our biblical interpretation.

I hope you continue to engage with our material thoughtfully.

Published: 18 February 2017

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