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Are all evolutionists atheists?

Published: 18 February 2017 (GMT+10)

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 Cosner, 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.

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Readers’ comments
David B., Canada, 21 February 2017

Thank you Bruce B. for your comment! That has been my experience also. Belief in Jesus did not immediately change my belief in evolution, but my acceptance of God's Word as inerrant in time led me to change my view on evolution - combined with good teaching and wisdom pointed out to me from other believers regarding the science behind both creation and evolution. Organizations like this have gone a long way for me to see the 'errancy' of accepted evolutionary theory and belief, and the facts behind an alternate creation explanation for much of what is taught - and where I haven't had answers yet - I've had patience and grace to wait for God's revealing (in time, I have received many such answers by learned men holding to a Biblical view of origins). Again, thank you!

Henri D., South Africa, 20 February 2017

Thank you Dr Cosner for this response. I think for some people science (which they often write with a capital letter) is itself a god. It still surprises me to see how people cling to the idea that science is such a pure and honest endeavour. I've had to deal with people who say they "believe" in "science" to solve the problems of this world. Are they perhaps forgetting how many problems it had caused in the past? I am certainly not against science and really enjoy studying operational science, especially in the field of engineering, but we have to be honest about the damage it has also done over the decades and even centuries. But for the anti-theist, that is soon to be forgotten, because it is a handy mantra as they seek to chastise especially those of the Judeo-Christian faith.

Graeme M., Australia, 20 February 2017

I am bemused by the so called professional scientist/biologists not being challenged by their discoveries, as there has to be found anomalies that are absolutely contrary to the flow of the evolutionary philosophy! How is it that they can see design in a man-made creation without necessarily seeing its forming, and yet doubt the greatest Creator to ever to exist, deny design, because they didn't witness the making, so then posting it under 'nature', a constant an 'accidental process'! Its no wonder their,'come what may' expectations! Regards, Graeme.

Stanley L., United Kingdom, 18 February 2017

Just two points:

1. Since everything created was VERY GOOD Evolution would not support that statement since it would involve many deaths.

2. For everything to develop into such a variety of creatures that we have on earth from primeval cells by mutation when so much development would be required in so many different directions is a concept which could not possibly be explained be evolutionists. Even billions of years cannot reasonably be stated as a contributary factor.

Mark S., Canada, 18 February 2017

J.R. wrote, "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."

J.R.'s mistake is that he makes the assumption that the variations in kinds observed today has the power to create. Only a superficial view of what scientists discover makes that conclusion. When digging deeper and examining more closely, we see evolutionists using imprecise and speculative language: "perhaps," "maybe," "likely," "could have," "supposed," and so on.

Thankfully, there are scientists who disclose the actual limitations in place. Thankfully, there are theologians who defend a straight forward reading of the Bible and show how a consistent (I can't emphasize enough the word "consistent") reading of the Bible shows that long ages are refuted by Genesis and other verses and passages such as Exodus 20:11 and Mark 10:6.

I challenge J.R. to really defend his comment that he can "see evolution" when molecules-to-man evolution is supposedly something which happened billions of years in the past. That really isn't something we can view; it's something one can exercise blind faith in believing, though. But God expects us to have reasons for what we believe and he expects us to discern.

Thanks CMI for your ministry and the resources you produce!

Morris G., United States, 18 February 2017

Scientific evidence itself disproves evolution but such evidence is banned by the evolutionary establishment. Intelligent design is to be seen everywhere in life. Teaching and informing the public about the irreducible complexity found in life forms has been banned by evolutionists because such complexity necessitates the prior existence of information, a non-material component of life. Evolution is based upon materialistic naturalism as an explanation for all that exists. Both science and theology witness to the fact that evolution and Christianity are incompatible.

Norman P., United Kingdom, 18 February 2017

An excellent piece of correspondence, conducted in the right spirit by both sides. I know from my own personal experience how liberating it is when the historical truth of God's word, centred in the crucified and risen Christ, is fully vindicated.

Bruce B., United Kingdom, 18 February 2017

Once we make the choice to commit ourselves to Jesus and to follow Him in all things, i.e. become Christians, we are also committing ourselves to accepting that His word the Bible is inspired by Him and is therefore true in all respects. In this we have no choice. The Bible is either completely true, i.e. inerrant, or it is not. Logically no one can be truly a Christian if they cannot accept biblical inerrancy. If any part of the Bible can be shown to be wrong then we are lost. We should all have the humility to accept, on the occasions when we think the Bible is wrong, that we simply don't have the wisdom or knowledge to understand and interpret the passage with which we are struggling. One of the greatest delights of my life came from my acceptance of biblical inerrancy. I commend it to all Christians as that beacon which shines bright through the darkness of our fallen world.

Dr Jean R., United Kingdom, 18 February 2017

I would like to underline the fact that the limit between "creationists" and "evolutionists" is not as clear cut as both authors suggest As far as I am concerned, I believe that

1) evolution does exist indeed, but it is a very minor factor compared to I.D., being only able to change the shape of a beak or the length of a neck for instance. Obviously G-d is able of DNA editing at large scale.

2) Adam and Eve, the first HUMAN BEINGS were created by G-d 6000 years ago. Before that creation, Homo Sapiens was only an "animal".

Hence, the 2 creations in Genesis are not contradictory. They do not describe the same event.

Lita Cosner responds

The process which you are referring to as 'evolution' is the result of natural selection, which only acts on genes that are already there. See Natural selection questions and answers.

The idea of pre-Adamic hominids is unbiblical. Scripture clearly states that Adam was created from the dust and Eve from his side; not that they were chosen from a pre-existing population.

Glen H., United States, 18 February 2017

This is similar to the question of whether one can be a homosexual and a Christian. While it may be possible to be a homosexual or an evolutionist and a Christian, what IS impossible is to be and evolutionist or an atheist and a Christian and be consistent.

Lita Cosner responds

I would disagree with this comparison. Someone practicing the sin of homosexuality is disregarding the Bible's clear command. Evolutionists have a faulty understanding to be sure, but is incomplete understanding a sin? I certainly hope not (and so should you)! It is possible to affirm that evolutionists are wrong without declaring them to be in open sin or unsaved. Now, if someone has been presented with the clear truth of the Bible's teaching of creation and they reject that, it's a different matter.

Dean R., Australia, 17 February 2017

If you take the view that science is self correcting, based on the evidence it is also fraudulent as you state, it also a dictatorship & strongly divided & just as much a philosophy of sorts. reveals the murky waters for what they are & helps us to see that with a precise, honest clarity & one magazine is probably not enough to build a solid case anyway. Science tells us nothing of angels & demons yet Jesus taught such things. Scripture is full of historical accounts that science has been scratching its head & arguing over for centuries. Did death really come before the fall? Did God not really mean day when He says day.Do we really need science to tell us the resurrection from the dead after three days is OK. When Christ comes again will it take Him billions of years to create a new heaven & a new earth??..

Paul S., Australia, 17 February 2017

If someone has been reading the Bible for 2 years and is not a creationist, I don't reckon they are saved. It is that fundamental.

Lita Cosner responds

Demanding a completely correct doctrine of creation after 2 years? Thank God for His grace that some people are saved even though they have less than a complete grasp of biblical teaching!

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