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Denis Alexander’s hermeneutics: heretical, horrible, and harmful

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Published: 6 August 2020 (GMT+10)

Introduction

denis-alexander
Denis Alexander

Denis Alexander (born 1945) is Emeritus Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge. He holds a PhD in Neurochemistry (Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London), and worked as a molecular biologist in Britain and abroad. He is author of numerous books on science and faith, editor of Science and Christian Belief, and speaks publicly on the intersection between science and Christian theology. He is a passionate advocate of Darwinian evolution, and a harsh critic of ‘young earth’ creationism (YEC)—or as CMI prefers, ‘biblical creationism’. While a professing evangelical Christian, his books on science and faith deride the YEC position and reinterpret fundamental biblical theology through the lens of evolution (theistic evolution). As I aim to demonstrate, this makes his writings subversive and dangerous to unwary readers who are seeking biblical answers to questions of origins.

Two of his most theologically influential books, Creation or Evolution, do we have to choose? (2nd edition, 2014) and Is There Purpose in Biology: The cost of existence and the God of love (2018) have received general reviews by CMI. This article will not focus on Alexander’s scientific teaching, rather his theological views as exhibited in the latter books and also his Genes, Determinism and God (2017).1 The aim is to present a layman-friendly warning, regarding Alexander’s devious misuse of theology. Specifically, the way that he reads evolution into Scripture, as a starting assumption. Typical of theistic evolutionists, Alexander treats evolutionary history, rather than Genesis, as the higher authority, and evolution’s billions of years of death and suffering before the Fall as fact. The historical events of Creation and the Fall of a real Adam and Eve are treated as ‘allegorical’. This article critiques Alexander’s theological views in the light of Scripture showing that they are found wanting.

Genes, Determinism and God

book-cover-1
Heavy on science and philosophy, but light on theology, Alexander draws conclusions based on evolution.

When Alexander addresses theological issues, they are framed within the constraints of evolutionary theory as his starting assumption. For instance, the concept of humans created in God’s image is seen in cosmic evolutionary terms: “Like the universal background radiation that points to the Big Bang origins of our universe, the notion of humankind made in the image of God is constantly there in the background [of our genetic heredity] … ”2 Furthermore, “it is taken as read” that we need to accept evolutionary theory in order to understand “the theological notion of humankind being made in the image of God.”3 Thus he lays bare his a priori evolutionary assumptions as foundational to his thinking.

The person of Adam, receives meagre treatment, with his name appearing nine times in the entire volume.4 Alexander recognizes that Genesis 2 teaches that Adam was created in God’s image (imago Dei). However, Alexander suggests, the imago Dei is best understood as applying to all humanity, rather than one individual.5 Adam is not treated as an historical figure, rather the archetype of humanity. Evolution implies a continuum of development from ape-like ancestors up to modern humans, therefore the concept of a first human couple is lost in the mists of time. Evolution robs Adam and Eve of their unique status as the first humans created in God’s image; more on this will be said later. Alexander argues that because Adam is not historical, the imago Dei does not apply to an individual, but should be understood as a type of theological argument, called a polemic. He cites John Walton, who reasons that Adam as the image of God is a polemic against the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) creation myths, which treated people as servants to the gods.6 To be made in God’s image, and given responsibility for Creation, is a promotion for humans, so Alexander says. However, this idea assumes Genesis is one of many beliefs competing within the ANE market-place of ideas—not the inspired Word of God, predating and refuting all other, later pagan beliefs.

When it comes to the concept of ‘mind’, Alexander sees this as purely a product of evolution. “Complexity and size of brain, tool use, culture and social practices, together seem to render it highly likely that the extinct hominins [supposed primitive human ancestors] who preceded us in evolutionary history must have had, if not exactly human free will, then something like it … ”7 For Alexander, people possessing the capacity to relate to God is thanks to the evolutionary process, rather than God’s sovereign act of Creation. He clarifies this idea further: “ …the idea of humankind made in the image of God as referring to the gradual evolutionary process, stretching back over millions of years, whereby the distinctively human neuronal capacities have emerged that enable moral sensibilities and religious practice. All that we know about evolution suggests that this is indeed the case and genetic variation has of course played a critical role in that story”.8 This idea of emergent ‘God awareness’ is completely at odds with the unique special creation of Adam and Eve as described in Genesis.

Regarding morality and free will, Alexander argues from genetics rather than Scripture. Revealingly, within the book’s 385 pages, ‘sin’ is mentioned but twice9, not within the context of Scripture, but from the perspective of a French novel on nature versus nurture. Alexander’s starting point is evolution, rather than Scripture. This has profound implications for his understanding of sin, judgment and God’s righteousness, which are all robbed of their power and made subservient to naturalistic thinking. These theological concepts receive their full treatment in the works reviewed below.

Is there purpose in biology?

book-cover-4
If evolution represents real earth history, then the ultimate purpose for biology cannot be the same as that taught in the Bible.

Surprisingly, Alexander has nothing to say about Adam in the 287 pages of this book. Chapter six, titled “Death, pain and suffering and the love of God”, lays bare the destructive influence of evolutionary ideology for biblical authority, inerrancy and right theology. Alexander recognizes there is “pain and death in biological processes.”10 He admits such things are ‘natural evils’, but dismisses them as being truly evil, being contingent on amoral animal instincts, rather than free moral choice. However, this says nothing to explain how God could describe animal suffering, death, and bloodshed as “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Alexander reasons that if a dog kills a child, the dog is not held morally responsible, but the owner is.11 But this is precisely why ‘natural evil’ is a huge problem within evolutionary thinking; theistic evolutionists have no adequate theodicy. (Theodicy refers to the vindication of God in view of the existence of evil). God is the ultimate Owner of Creation, and if He created using evolution, then He is directly responsible for all the horrors of death, pain and suffering of His creatures.

Alexander’s solution is to kick the problem into the long grass, with the excuse that death won’t be part of the New Creation. True, it won’t, but that raises the question as to why it won’t? The answer is never supplied by Alexander, but lies within the perfect nature of God (1 John 1:5) who is incapable of creating anything that is evil, or causes suffering and death. God is not the first cause of these things—sin is.

Of course, Alexander recognizes Jesus’ ministry involved healing the sick, demonstrating that the coming Kingdom will be free of death and suffering. But if the Father created using evolution, with its accompanying death and suffering, why is the Son contradicting the Father’s will by defeating death and suffering? Evolution sets up an unsolvable dichotomy even within the Godhead. Duplicity becomes a divine attribute in Alexander’s scheme.

The practical reality of this error is exposed, when considering pastoral advice offered to those suffering from cancer, or other debilitating terminal illnesses. Alexander quotes philosopher Laura Ekstrom: “With respect to those offering theodicies to those enduring pain and loss, ‘Just shut up’, remains to my mind decent advice”, to which Alexander adds “Wise words indeed”.12 Those who compromise theodicy with evolution are the ones who should ‘just shut up’ for such bankrupt theology can never heal the hurting. Indeed, to build ethics on evolutionary foundations is a lost cause. If God really used evolution to create, then cancer, disease, death and suffering are all “very good.” That God is the first cause behind all human suffering is not a comforting message for the bereaved.

With evolution at the foundations, all accompanying theodicies are like houses doomed to destruction. Alexander surveys the various ideas which theologians have put forward to reconcile evolution and theodicy. Laying them out, with pure deism on one side and what he terms “total control” models on the other side. In between lie varying shades of heresy from ‘process theology’ and kenosis, which suggests God emptied Himself for the sake of His creation’s ‘freedom’. Such ideas represent full-frontal attacks on God’s sovereignty. God is likened to an explorer who doesn’t know where He will end up, or that Creation is an exercise in cosmic suck-it-and-see.13 But this is what evolution means: God tinkers with creation, hoping and waiting for a good end result. This is the opposite of the Almighty God of the Bible who speaks and a perfect Creation leaps into being.

Alexander critiques each theodicy in turn, but in so doing exposes the fatal flaw in his own thinking. Describing the creative spoken activity of both God (at Creation) and Jesus (His New Testament miracles) he states:

“There is never a hint … [that] these words of command entail any self-emptying on God’s part. Rather the opposite, creation for God doesn’t seem to entail any effort at all as far as Scripture is concerned”.14

This statement is only true if the account of Creation in Genesis is real history! But this is a far-cry from the billions of years of death, suffering and bloodshed involved in the evolution of life. These two concepts (biblical history and evolutionary history) are irreconcilable. Because of this, the ‘evolver god’15 and the Creator God of the Bible are fundamentally irreconcilable.

Scripture makes clear that Creation declares God’s qualities (Romans 1:20; Psalm 19:1–4). Alexander, appears to find this embarrassing, declaring “such passages … provide a fairly minimalist list … The main Purpose … is not to reveal … the character of God… ”16 In contradiction to Alexander’s position, the Apostle Paul says God’s ‘eternal power’, ‘divine nature’ and ‘glory’ are clearly revealed in Creation. Furthermore, Genesis 3 provides revelation as to why Creation is fallen, and marred by death and suffering. But according to Alexander “there is nothing in the biblical view of creation that suggests that God ‘designs’ … organisms … to do nasty things to other living things.”17 This is true, but it is also sly, ignoring the biblical origin of attack-defense structures as a result of the Curse upon Creation. Alexander’s ploy to let God off the hook is simply to state, “God is not like some heavenly engineer who goes around ‘designing’ things.”18 Alexander gives the example of parasites, which he reasons cannot teach us anything about God’s character. But this is only a given, when we recognize the Fall as an historic event, which Alexander does not.

This cosmic cop-out fails to address the root problem: All of these natural evils result from the Curse upon Creation in response to sin; they are not the direct first-cause of God’s very good creative power. In removing the actual, historical Fall from his theology, Alexander is forced to remove God from being Creator (in any meaningful biblical sense). Alexander’s solution to theodicy is akin to an army blowing-up their own bridges as they retreat—a wholesale destruction of biblical doctrine. Alexander quotes from Darwin, who wrote to his friend Asa Gray regarding natural evil’s implications for God’s goodness:

“ …But I own that I cannot see as plainly … evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidæ [wasp parasite] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice …”19

However, Darwin was describing a fallen world, marred by sin, not the original very good Creation of God. Remove the Fall, and all hopes of a consistent and true theodicy are lost. When it comes to who really is responsible for ‘natural evil’, Alexander is quite forthcoming in his heresy: “God really is ultimately responsible for all the ‘biological evils’ of the world (but not the moral evils arising from human free will) … ”20

book-cover-3
Like the sarcastic monkey image, this book winks at the historical realities of Creation, Adam and Eve, and the Flood, and pours scorn upon all who hold an historic understanding of
Genesis 1–11.

Creation or evolution, do we have to choose?

Of the three books reviewed here, Creation or evolution … , is by far the most theologically dense, and at over 500 pages in its second edition, represents Alexander’s theological tour de force of theistic evolutionary thought. Inevitably, there is some overlap in theological themes with Is there purpose in biology?

Adam and original sin

Alexander considers that humanity cannot be descended from one couple, Adam and Eve. This leads him to deny outright fundamental biblical doctrines, including original sin, which places him outside the evangelical camp. He states, “the idea of a single couple who somehow transmitted their sin by inheritance to the whole of humanity cannot be sustained …”21 Alexander thinks in terms of a founder-population, of around 10,000 individuals, to whom God revealed Himself, and these, in turn, rejected His revelation.

Alexander recognizes that Augustine, of all the Church Fathers, was most succinct in describing the doctrine of original sin. However, he thinks Augustine’s theology needs to be “adjust[ed] if it is to become consistent with both Scripture and science.”22 Alexander suggests correcting one of the greatest theological minds in history, and by extension 1700 years of church doctrine, in the light of evolutionary presuppositions. Alexander’s arrogance is astonishing. Furthermore, he considers the “overwhelming” genetic evidence for a “significant population already in existence” at the time of Cain and Abel “subvert[s] Augustine’s interpretation on this point [of original sin].”23 Alexander’s interpretation of Romans 5:12 is particularly spurious where he describes the death that resulted from Adam’s sin as merely “spiritual”. No, death is real and physical. It cannot be separated from sin, which represents spiritual death. Alexander’s attempt to separate both, rings hollow. The Apostle Paul is quite clear on this point—physical death spread to all people, through sin, which means spiritual death. Sin and death, really is a package-deal.

Adam, death and Christ’s atonement

Alexander tries, but fails, to divorce the link between Adam’s sin leading to physical (and spiritual) death and Christ’s physical death upon the cross to atone for the sins of a fallen world. He states, “we should find in the New Testament an emphasis on Christ dying for the sin of Adam. That emphasis is not only lacking, the idea itself is not even mentioned.”24 Because Alexander is blinded by his evolutionary presuppositions, he fails to recognize how such truth is foundational. He asks, “Why should Christ’s physical death be so essential for his work on the cross?” He rightly sees that a key understanding of Christ’s death is its fulfilment of the Old Testament (OT) animal sacrificial system. He then states the “very first” OT sacrifice was made by Noah after the Flood (Genesis 8:20): “So the idea of sacrifice dealing with a curse arising from human sin arises very early in the biblical account.”25

However, Alexander fails to notice that sacrifice occurs much earlier in history than Noah. Genesis 4:4 records the first sacrifice by a human of an animal. Abel brought a first-born lamb from his flock as an offering, which God ‘respected’. But how was Abel to understand such an act would be respected by God? We need to look to the first implied animal death recorded in Scripture, which was an act of God to clothe Adam and Eve’s nakedness with animal skins (Genesis 3:21)—which would have necessitated the shed blood of one or more animals, possibly lambs. This sacrifice was performed after the Curse was spoken over Adam and Eve’s sin, and the proclamation of the protoevangelium (first gospel proclamation), which promised the Seed of the woman would conquer the Serpent (Genesis 3:15). This is ultimately fulfilled in Christ, the sacrificial Lamb of God. The word ‘atonement’ (Hebrew kafar) means ‘covering’, and is used throughout the Levitical sacrificial system to describe God’s response to the shedding of blood. That Jesus’ atonement is the fulfilment of biblical salvation history, Alexander cannot deny. By overlooking the creation account, Alexander cuts the theological roots from the tree, for within Eden’s earth the doctrine of blood atonement and Messianic sacrifice is planted and grown.

Alexander’s evolutionary tunnel vision reveals why he denies the link between Adam’s sin, death and Christ’s atonement: “But as far as the consequences of Adam’s sin is concerned, given that the New Testament does not seem to link Christ’s sacrificial death to the supposed physical death resulting from Adam’s sin, then there is no need for us to do so either.”26 An astonishingly glib dismissal of fundamental doctrine indeed! Romans 5:14–21 speaks precisely of what Alexander says is missing in terms of the link between Adam, death and Christ’s atonement. It is spiritual blindness on Alexander’s part not to acknowledge the obvious connection. Rather, when he senses that he can’t adequately defend his position, he turns to attack his critics, evidenced by this arrogant statement: “Those [YECs] who deny the reality of physical pain, disease and death before the fall are like ostriches with their heads in the sand. The reality will not go away.”27 Despite Alexander’s protestations, Scripture is crystal clear: Death (both spiritual and physical) came as a result of Adam’s sin. The need to atone by blood is rooted in this historical fact, and is the foundation of all that follows in Scripture, fulfilled in the ultimate atoning sacrifice made by the Creator who became our Saviour.

Evolution’s package deal—natural evil plus theodicy

Back to the million dollar question, Alexander asks: “how a good God could choose to bring about [life] … by such a long and wasteful process that involves so much death and suffering?”28 To answer this, Alexander starts not with Scripture, but with evolution. Pain is part of the “package deal” of how God created: “Once we have carbon, phosphorous [etc.] … synthesized in the dying moments of exploding stars, then this is the package we’re likely to get given …”29 Alexander’s flippant phrase ‘likely to get given’ reduces human suffering to the whims of cosmic roulette. Gone are all concepts of God’s sovereignty.

Alexander lists six essential categories for life in terms of their positive and negative aspects. For instance, bacteria, are essential to life, but can also kill us. Recycling of biological cells (apoptosis) is essential for growth, but its dysfunction leads to deadly cancer. He calls this balance of good and bad the ‘package deal’ of biology.30 But this package deal is what we observe now, in a fallen world. The ‘package deal’ is the cursed hand31 Adam chose when he rebelled against God, not what was originally given in creation, which God called “very good”.

Alexander’s biblical definition of death is false because he fails to acknowledge the biblical definition of life. For instance, his definition of death includes apoptosis, and organic food chains, involving break-down of micro-organisms, etc.—all of which were vital components of the original perfection. So, if Alexander is going to use this modern scientific definition of life vs. death, it is little wonder he rejects any notion of the pre-Fall Paradise with no death. Alexander’s definition is completely unsustainable from a biblical perspective.

Alexander states, “there is never any indication that there was no physical death or eating of meat before the fall.”32 He flatly rejects the plain teaching of Genesis that God gave only plants for man and animals to eat (Genesis 1:29–30; 2:16), blindly asserting, “it is unlikely that this text refers to vegetarianism.”33

Thus, Alexander includes the eating of plants in his definition of death.34 Clearly, Scripture makes distinctions between the different creatures God made. Air breathing animals with blood, are defined as ‘living creatures’, Nephesh chayyāh (Genesis 9:3–4). Creatures that do not come under this category include plants, and likely, invertebrates such as insects, as well as microscopic creatures on down to bacteria and viruses. Although all these (excluding viruses) would be classified as ‘alive’ biologically from a modern scientific perspective, Scripture would not view them as ‘nephesh-life’ in the same way as it does for higher orders of animals. Alexander fails exegetically at this point because he refuses to read Scripture in the light of Scripture. Instead, he insists on reading into the Bible (eisegesis) a modern, scientific definition of life, which is precisely what he falsely accuses YECs of doing.35 In so doing he rejects the clear teaching of Paul, that death came by Adam (Romans 5:12–21; 1 Corinthians 15:22–50).

For Alexander, we are not so much children of the Heavenly Father as we are children of the heavenly stars. He reasons that without a “particular resonance, no carbon would have been made in the stars and we would not be here. But arguably not only carbon-based life, but also carbon-based pain, suffering, disease and death are written in… Biology really is a package deal.”36 Alexander’s package deal mentality directly incriminates God with causing his creatures to suffer all the agonies of death. This is the ‘evolver god’ of Alexander. For him, death, bloodshed and suffering have nothing to do with the Fall, sin, or the Curse—it’s how God allowed life to evolve. It means all this horror is directly God’s responsibility. This is probably one of the greatest slanders against God’s good character that can be raised against Him by His creatures.

Alexander’s theodicy utterly fails to vindicate divine providence in view of the existence of evil—it vilifies Him!

Pain and death before the Fall?

Alexander thinks it arbitrary to believe that Adam’s Fall accounts for death and suffering. He poses the example of a deep sea fish, asking why it is suffering for the sake of Adam’s sin, far away on land?37 But Scripture has something to say about Adam and the fish (Genesis 1:26). This verse describes a three-way relationship between: the Creator, Adam as Creation’s federal head, and creation, which includes fish. That relationship was marred because of Adam’s transgression, and so the Curse for disobedience effected Adam and all creation, including fish. Because of that disruption, God has promised those relationships will be restored in the New Creation, a reversal of the effects of the Fall (Revelation 22:3). However, if this was how the system was originally created, using evolution, then God is directly responsible for the suffering of His creatures, even including the fish.

Alexander testifies that, as he learned about fossils and genetics, he came to the conclusion: “death and disease had always been present in living things. So I went back to the Bible and was quite surprised to find that in any case there was no evidence at all for the kind of Milton’s Paradise Lost type imagery of the pre-fall state upon which I had been raised.”38 On the contrary, Alexander saw what he wanted to see. He clearly defers to the wisdom of the age to reinterpret Scripture to make it fit the thinking of men.

No pain, no gain?

The issue of whether there was no pain before the Fall is more subjective, and Alexander exploits Scripture’s silence on the subject to his advantage. He recognizes pain is a vital protective mechanism in the bodies of more complex animals but assumes the evolution of the nervous system over millions of years, to account for pain sensing. This means he fails to distinguish the ability to feel pain (as means of protection) from external sources of pain (including psychological pain) that are due to the Curse; for example the pain of losing a loved one from cancer or a debilitating disease, not to mention the physical and mental pain of the disease sufferers themselves. Clearly, the former is a good protective design feature, the others are tragic effects of the Fall. Such distinctions have profound theological implications, which Alexander fails to distinguish, being willfully blinded by his evolutionary presuppositions.

God delegated responsibility to Adam, stewardship of Creation for the benefit of people and the planet—the Creation Dominion Mandate (Genesis 1:28). However, when Adam sinned, the Curse made this task impossible, meaning Adam’s race would never fully alleviate the effects of the Fall. Jesus succeeded where the first Adam failed. As the Last Adam, Jesus fully represented man before his Creator, and demonstrated the Kingdom of God when he fed the hungry, healed the sick and raised the dead. This was a temporary restoration of what had been marred by the First Adam. Creation will be eternally restored in the New Creation, where death itself will be done away with eternally (Revelation 21:1–6). Alexander acknowledges this, in part, but fails to recognize that the Kingdom is pictured in Revelation as a restored Edenic Paradise, where the effects of the Fall will be done away with.39 Alexander is the embodiment of the old proverb: “there’s none so blind as those who will not see.”

To be, or not to be—cursed?

Alexander’s exposition of Genesis 3 concerning Eden’s tree of life, the knowledge of good and evil, and Satan as the serpent, are basically sound, recognizing their accompanying symbolism. This is one reason why Alexander’s hermeneutics are dangerous, because at many points in his book, he argues ‘like’ an evangelical. He does not believe in the historical truth of the Genesis Creation account, but he correctly understands that by eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve were exercising moral choice outside the will of God. It is at this point sin entered God’s perfect creation. However, how does any of this mean anything if big-picture evolution40 actually occurred over millions of years of earth history? It’s either all true, or none of it is true. Alexander attempts to cast doubt on the traditional understanding of death entering through sin by stating that Adam and Eve didn’t drop dead on the day they ate the forbidden fruit, hence their death can only be understood as ‘spiritual’.41

The grammatical context of Genesis 2:17 entails that the words “in the day” (Hebrew for day, yom) means “when”, rather than conveying a 24-hour day. The doubled Hebrew use of the word “to die” makes the death sentence absolute, literally “in dying, die”, which was fulfilled in Genesis 5:5 when Adam died at 930 years. Alexander’s claim that Adam only ‘died spiritually’ when he ate the fruit is refuted at Genesis 5:5, which is the outworking of the Curse; Alexander’s theistic evolution is incompatible with the Fall and Curse. Adam eventually died physically as a result of sin, but not on the same day he ate the forbidden fruit. Alexander is willing to concede that, “on the day they died spiritually, they also came under the sentence of physical death, which was to happen later, although the text itself does not demand such a gloss.”42 That Alexander should call a fundamental doctrine such as the origin of death “a gloss” is astounding. The text is categorical: the sentence of physical death was passed as a result of sin, the verbal command which he dismisses as a gloss came from the very mouth of God! In fact, Alexander’s flippancy at this point is borderline blasphemy.

Moreover, he is blatantly incorrect to state, “God curses not them [Adam and Eve] but the serpent (3:14) and through Adam, the ground (3:17).”43 This is wilful ignorance, because Genesis clearly indicates that both Adam and Eve came directly under the Curse. For Eve, childbirth would be with sorrow (Genesis 3:16), and women would become subject to their husbands. For Adam, his work would be with sweat and toil (Genesis 3:17–19a), and both would eventually die (Genesis 3:19b).

Regarding childbirth, Alexander tries to claim that “women certainly knew all about the pain of childbearing prior to that time … suggested by … the Hebrew term rabah meaning ‘increase’ or ‘multiply’ ”44 Alexander is only certain of this, because of his a priori belief which colours his entire thinking. Evolution would mean Eve was not the first woman, but untold generations before her all likewise travailed in pain. Alexander’s notion is absent from the Hebrew grammar.45 English translations state that God “will surely multiply your pain…” in response to Eve’s sin, and are not teaching a description of normal past conditions (see Pain in childbirth: result of the Fall or fear?).

To escape the inevitable consequence of death that came as the result of Adam’s sin, Alexander states the following: “The reminder to the man that he would return ‘to the dust’ (verse 19) seems not to be a consequence of his disobedience… Adam is destined to return to the earth anyway.”46 As we have already seen, this is a complete denial of the plain reading of Scripture, where God categorically states death was a consequence of Adam’s disobedience.

Baptize evolution into your faith!

Alexander is guilty of reading evolution into the Bible and trying to force-fit his theology accordingly. He states: “Running through the text is an evolutionary narrative thread, which describes how God brought biological diversity into being and continues to sustain it all moment by moment.”47 This ‘narrative thread’ is entirely in his imagination. He makes a stunning admonition to justify his unsubstantiated and blatant eisegesis: “Once we have baptized evolution into our Christian worldview… we will see [it no longer as] the sinister intruder, or the ‘universal acid’… but rather as the process that God has chosen… to bring into being all the amazing biological diversity that we see all around us.”48 In other words, embrace error as your friend, and you will no longer see error as the enemy. Alexander is tacitly admitting evolution was never part of the Christian world-view, if it has to be ‘baptized in’ (his sacrilegious language at this point is quite unpalatable). Alexander’s creation theology is entirely foreign to the Scriptures, as is his theodicy and theology of God. Alexander’s ideas are weighed in the balance and found wanting, and so must be rejected outright.

Conclusion

Evolution, for Dr Denis Alexander, is the lens through which he reads Scripture, and everything is coloured by it. Billions of years of death are required as evolution’s creative driving force—all prior to the Fall of Adam and Eve. Such thinking is a fundamental denial of the Fall, a renunciation of the omnipotence of God’s creative abilities, and a disavowal of God’s goodness in creation, which was not marred by death, suffering or bloodshed prior to sin.

Alexander’s theology can be likened to the Lernaean Hydra of Greek mythology—cut one head off and two more sprout up to take its place. The kindest thing for a doctrine that grows two arguments for every one refuted, is, like the fate of the serpent Hydra of old—burn it to the ground. Alexander’s poisonous brand of theistic evolution (and similar compromises) are only fit for cremation—roots, fruits, branches and all. Reading his books, Alexander really does seem to speak at times with a forked tongue. If that sounds too strong, consider that, like the serpent of Eden, we have seen many instances where Alexander is essentially tempting his readers with the subtle words, “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1). Yes, God really did say!

It is to be hoped that this article may act as a strong warning. Alexander’s theology includes much that is heresy; beware of his insidious compromise, which represents a clear and present danger to unwary Christians who may not have strong biblical foundations. Many have read Alexander’s works. Some will have been confirmed in their rank unbelief and rejection of Scripture’s clear revelation regarding Creation. Sadly, others will have had the foundations to their faith eroded by his subtle, sly, and deceitful arguments against the historical account of origins as set forth in Genesis. In the final analysis, such hermeneutics are indeed heretical, horrible and harmful.

References

  1. A general review is available online by: Billauer, P.P., Genes, determinism and God by Denis Alexander - a review, Metascience, Springer Publications, 2018, papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3113848; accessed 8 May 2020. Return to text.
  2. Alexander, D., Genes, determinism and God, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 283, 2017. Return to text.
  3. Ref. 2, p. 281. Return to text.
  4. Ref. 2, pp. 24, 30, 281, 285, 287. Return to text.
  5. Ref. 2, pp. 281, 287. Return to text.
  6. Ref. 2, p. 293. Return to text.
  7. Ref. 2, p. 267. Return to text.
  8. Ref. 2, p. 280. Return to text.
  9. Ref. 2, p. 24. Return to text.
  10. Alexander, D., Is there purpose in biology? Lion, Oxford, p. 218, 2018. Return to text.
  11. Ref. 10, p. 219 Return to text.
  12. Ref. 10, p. 220. Return to text.
  13. Ref. 10, p. 223. Return to text.
  14. Ref. 10, p. 225. Return to text.
  15. An expression first used by Bell, P., Evolution and the Christian Faith: Theistic evolution in the light of Scripture, Day One Publications, Leominster, 2018. Return to text.
  16. Ref. 10, p. 229. Return to text.
  17. Ref. 10, p. 230. Return to text.
  18. Ref. 10, p. 230. Return to text.
  19. Ref. 10, p. 238. Return to text.
  20. Ref. 10, p. 228. Return to text.
  21. Alexander, D., Creation or evolution, do we have to choose? Monarch Books, Oxford, p. 299, 2014. Return to text.
  22. Ref. 21, pp. 342-343. Return to text.
  23. Ref. 21, p. 343. Return to text.
  24. Ref. 21, p. 350. Return to text.
  25. Ref. 21, p. 351. Return to text.
  26. Ref. 21, p. 355. Return to text.
  27. Ref. 21, p. 355. Return to text.
  28. Ref. 21, p. 366. Return to text.
  29. Ref. 21, p. 368. Return to text.
  30. Ref. 21, p. 369. Return to text.
  31. That is, like a “hand” of cards, staying with the metaphor of a “deal”. Return to text.
  32. Ref. 21, p. 338. Return to text.
  33. Ref. 21, p. 337. Return to text.
  34. Ref. 21, p. 377. Return to text.
  35. Ref. 21, p. 185. Return to text.
  36. Ref. 21, pp. 370, 436. Return to text.
  37. Ref. 21, p. 337. Return to text.
  38. Ref. 21, p. 337. Return to text.
  39. Ref. 21, p. 339. See also “All restored … but to what? Evolution and the future new creation”, ref. 15, pp. 218–239. Return to text.
  40. Of course, change within the Genesis kinds (even speciation) is not in dispute here, rather the descent of all kinds of creatures from a common ancestor. Return to text.
  41. Ref. 21, p. 324. Return to text.
  42. Ref. 21, p. 325. Return to text.
  43. Ref. 21, p. 325. Return to text.
  44. Ref. 21, p. 326. Return to text.
  45. The Hebrew of Genesis 3:16 states: הַרְבָּ֤ה אַרְבֶּה֙ harBâ ´arBè; i.e. a hiphil infinitive followed by a hiphil imperfect verb, referring to an action which occurs in the present or future. English translations correctly translate as God would “greatly increase” Eve’s childbirth pain. Return to text.
  46. Ref. 21, p. 326. Return to text.
  47. Ref. 21, p. 212. Return to text.
  48. Ref. 21, p. 213. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Rev Robert W.
Creation or Evolution: Do we have to choose? No. But not for the reasons given by our defector. Why? Because there is really no evidence for Evolution at all.
Gavin Cox
Many thanks for your comment Rev Robert. I certainly agree there is no evidence for evolution as you say. However, its not about the evidence for people like Alexander, rather, their starting assumptions that drive their interpretation of the evidence. Evidence has to be interpreted, it cannot speak for itself. So unless we start with God's Word we cannot arrive at correct conclusions about evidence. This is the point of my article, Denis Alexander and those like him have rejected God's Word as the foundation to interpreting evidence. For Alexander, the Bible needs to be interpreted in light of current, scientific evidence, not the other way around. So, evolution or Creation, do we choose? Yes, we choose God's Word and start from there.
Frank G.
What we have here is just another person who thinks it's necessary to mix God and evolution (implying, insultingly, that evolution deserves to be given top credibility) and seems to believe he's going to be the one who finally gets it right!
Bud B.
This is a nice assessment of Professor Alexander’s books.
I was surprised a bit to read, “‘Once we have carbon, phosphorous [etc.] … synthesized in the dying moments of exploding stars, then this is the package we’re likely to get given’ …Gone are all concepts of God’s sovereignty.“

Alexander has as his basis, evolution. Isn’t the entire premise of evolution that God’s sovereignty is a fiction and the entire universe is one enormous “craps shoot”? So of course “Gone are all concepts of God’s sovereignty”.
Giancarlo B.
Wow. The level of irrationality and dismissive attitude in Dennis Alexander. The way he dealt with those who counsel on suffering is a display befitting of one who is a .... He is essentially silencing counsel to those who are suffering by explaining why they are suffering and a hope through it. Well what do you want us to say to those, Prof. Alexander? "Lol, suffering has been here millions of years, get over it, normie." Not even Michael Jones (a theistic evolutionist himself) would stoop so low in regards to evil and suffering. Prof Alexander is a belligerent fringe of the theistic evolution camp. TE is obviously false, but Alexander is a whole other level of dismissive ... Sorry, CMI, but a person like this deserves nothing but ridicule and mockery. The level of irrationality it displays and unashamed intellectual schizophrenia is appalling.
Gavin Cox
The one thing Dennis Alexander is not is 'fringe'. He is an outstanding geneticist and scientist and for that reason is respected within the British Evangelical scene, which makes him so dangerous because of his aberrant theological views. Many Christian leaders take their lead from his writings, which are very influential and widely read. My job is to calmly expose his writings to the light of God's Truth and find them wanting. I hope what I have written for CMI is a solemn warning to unwary Christians flirting with compromise in the area of origins, not to give up on biblical authority in favour of the respect of men.
Melvyn F.
Thanks Gavin, a brilliant summary of this mans influence and power. We have crossed swords with the Faraday Institute over many years and with his followers who have been brainwashed by his teaching and thinking. Many exhibitions at various summer conferences have seen his team being given centre stage at various seminars were we have been refused a platform to give the creation view and/or ultimately barred from reapplying to exhibit in the future. Now they a concentrating on persuading Bishops to make their Cathedrals available to promote their views on evolution. They have the finances and the influence with the academics that run our major churches to ride rough shod over God's Word with their seemingly plausible interpretation of the Bible. As you so rightly say let's put God's Word first and then use our logic and science to support His Truth instead of undermining it.
Gavin Cox
Many thanks for your warm and wise words. We can but pray that Alexander's influence (and his ilk) will be side-lined in favour of trust in the Truth of God's Word. May God prosper His Word and work!
David G.
Thanks Gavin for doing this.

Alexander and those of similar mind seem to have their world-view dominated by materialism, rather than a major purpose of Genesis 1, to show that matter, energy, space are subject to mind: the will of God, no less. They are left with the only source of the obvious teleology of life by relying on the two gods Isaiah warns about in 65:11: Fortune and Destiny.

Genesis 1 shows God in close loving and involved relation to his creation and we his 'creatures-in-his-image'. Myths such as Alexander promotes serve the universal function of myth in delocating the creator so there is no connection with us and God is pushed off into the 'never never'.
Rob S.
As the discovery of dinosaur soft tissue and DNA proves, Alexander's God is not the God of the Bible, but just another idol of man's own invention.
Kathy K.
This person does not know God; otherwise he would understand God’s word and Know why man needs saved. I say if God ... made in his image, in the blink of an eye, he certainly wouldn’t have a problem creating in 6 days and resting on 7th - not because he was tired, but because he had created ALL that he knew man would need on this earth. And he set an example for us to rest in him. Thanks for the review. Very interesting.

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