Evolution, the age of the earth and blasphemy
Yes, they are directly connected!
Published: 7 August 2018 (GMT+10)
The title of this article seems provocative doesn’t it? Maybe even a little extreme. For most Christians, to suggest such a connection would seem shocking, and maybe even offensive. However, there is a link from evolution and the age of the earth to blasphemy, and when seen will, I trust, be very clear.1
Unfortunately, many Christians and churches in the western world are compromised by holding some form of ancient earth view in order to be ‘progressive’, ‘scientifically relevant’, and to accommodate the Bible to evolution and/or billions of years. In the thinking of those who hold these views, such accommodation preserves the Church from becoming irrelevant. In this thinking, the ‘young earth’ creationists are seen to be the problem, holding back the church with an outdated, outmoded, ‘fundamentalist’, and frankly embarrassing view of the world. Surely then, to accuse those who hold to an old earth position of ‘blasphemy’ is an extreme position to take? But when this subject is brought into the light of Scripture, the link between the evolutionary, ‘old earth’ world-view and blasphemy becomes stark and clear.
Joining the dots from evolution to blasphemy
Something happened recently that crystallized the issue for me and enabled me to see the link more clearly than I had ever seen before. The realization came when I attended a church meeting where a medical doctor was giving a talk titled, ‘Are Science and Christianity in Conflict?’ It was divided into two parts, the first dealing with science (which I broadly agreed with) and the second half on the perceived ‘conflicts’ of ‘science’ with Christianity, which I strongly disagreed with.
Questioning the Bible and Jesus
The second half of his talk was highly problematic. The same scientists and the same scientific process that, in the first half of his talk, he had so eloquently described as fallible and capable of manipulation, were now being held up as the ultimate arbiters of truth by which we should measure Scripture! Without even going into any evidence, he simply stated the earth was billions of years old, that the fossils proved this, and that evolution had occurred (conflating natural selection with evolution). There was not even a mention of how the investigators’ world-view affects how they interpret the data they are investigating. Six-day creation, Adam and Eve, and Noah’s Flood, he said, were to be understood merely as Old Testament parables, there to teach us moral truth. Otherwise, so the doctor argued, how could Noah fit all the “millions of species on the ark?” (but see here).2 In the same way, he reasoned, Jesus taught using parables which, according to the speaker, were non-historical and non-literal, and were told purely for the purpose of presenting ‘theological truths’. So if Jesus could do it, why couldn’t the Old Testament writers? (See here)3
During the question time, I asked the speaker how he could accommodate millions of years of death before Adam’s sin when the Apostle Paul makes it clear that, before Adam sinned there was no death, bloodshed, or suffering.4 He gave no clear answer. In fact, he said, “I don’t know”. I also asked him where he drew the line with biblical authority—because modern scientists tell us that six-day creation and Noah’s Flood are all physical impossibilities, and the same scientists and their methods will also tell us virgins don’t give birth, water can’t be turned into wine and dead men don’t rise? Again, these simple questions seemed to blind-side him.
At the end of the meeting, I approached the speaker one-to-one and asked him several direct questions, which served to crystallize the whole issue in my mind (and possibly his). I pointed out that when Jesus discussed the creation of man (Matthew 19:4–5) and Noah’s Flood (Matthew 24:37–39; Luke 17:26–27), He clearly spoke of them all as historical events, not parables.5 If modern science tells us these events didn’t happen, then don’t we have a problem with the reliability of Jesus’ teaching? His answer was that Jesus was “speaking from the knowledge of His time”. I asked, “Was Jesus in error then?” That seemed to cause him some embarrassment because he answered, “Well, if you think that then you didn’t understand a word I said!”
Then it dawned on me: if people are consistent in their thinking, a belief in an ancient earth and evolution ultimately forces them to say Jesus was in error! Jesus believed in a historical Adam and Eve, created at the beginning (Mark 10:6) on day six of creation week and not at the end of a multi-billion-year period of evolution involving death before Adam’s creation and fall into sin. And Jesus believed in a global Flood and a historical figure called Noah. If these were only mythical as the speaker suggested, then Jesus was wrong in His teaching! But, some may argue,6 Jesus ‘emptied Himself’ of His deity, and therefore was limited to the knowledge of His time? However, Jesus clearly stated, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me” (John 7:16, cf. John 14:24).
If any doubt remains, this is what Jesus said in John 12:49: “For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.” In other words, if Jesus was in error, so was God the Father, and to suggest this is blasphemous, pure and simple! To say God is capable of error, or can tell untruths is an act of blasphemy, and to say Jesus taught error or untruths is also blasphemous. Scripture clearly declares that “God cannot lie” (see Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Romans 3:4; Hebrews 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:13; Titus 1:2).
So, accommodating the Bible to ‘science’ (i.e. methodological naturalism) is a dangerous compromise. Trying to force-fit the message of the Bible’s history with the claims of naturalistic science is basically to say God has lied and Jesus was in error. Frankly, it matters not how many letters a person may have after his/her name (and CMI does not decry good scholarship and qualifications), it doesn’t qualify someone to blaspheme!
Nothing new under the sun
The idea of Jesus as a ‘man of His time’, and therefore capable of being mistaken, is first seen in the teachings of Arius in the 4th century (termed by theologians the Kenotic heresy).7 This is based on a misunderstanding of the Greek word ekenōsen, which describes Jesus as ‘emptying’ Himself, found in Philippians 2:6–7. The context of that verse is clear though. It refers to Christ’s attitude of humility regarding His place and authority in heaven as something not to be used to His own advantage—as our exemplar of humility. When Jesus took on human nature he humbled Himself even to the death of the cross. Jesus emptied Himself of His heavenly glory by taking on human flesh. We must keep John 1:1–14 in mind, as it was the Word who became flesh, and the Word was God—in all His fullness! It was not the case that the ‘Word divested of Divine attributes became flesh’ (see this discussion).
However, the clincher in the argument is what the resurrected Christ said, and no one would argue that after His resurrection Jesus continued to be limited, because He had already returned to His Father. And on the road to Emmaus it was the resurrected Christ who in unqualified terms confirmed the writings of Moses (Luke 24:27), the same Moses who wrote of the six-day creation, Adam and Eve, and Noah and the global Flood.8
Steve Chalke’s ‘New Reformation’, recycling old errors
Lately, the idea of Jesus as a ‘man of his time’ along with the other biblical writers, and the Bible as fallible, has been much promoted by Steve Chalke in his new ‘95 Theses’, posted to YouTube. Referring to genocide, he calls Moses “a Late Bronze Age thinker [who] puts late Bronze Age words and morality into God’s mouth.”9 For Chalke, the Bible contains “conflicting and even contradictory views”. He goes on to say that, “to take the Bible seriously is not always the same thing as taking it literally [and that a] failure to be clear about this has led to some huge confusions around all sorts of passages, for instance, the Genesis creation stories or Noah and his Ark”. Chalke reasons, “none of the Bible writers took direct dictation from God; at the same moment their writing bears both the hallmarks of some of the limitations and preconceptions of their times and cultures.”10
So here we have it: biblical authority has been made subservient to the thinking of men when it comes to ‘science’. If the biblical writers, especially Moses, were incorrect in their views of history—specifically the events and figures of creation and the Flood—then by extension Jesus was also incorrect because He upheld those same teachings about Earth’s history. Not only that, but Jesus’ Heavenly Father would be implicated in falsehood for allowing His Son to teach untruths. This is blasphemy. Jesus Himself anticipated the unbelief of those who did not accept His word when He stated, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12) and, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46–47). The implication is clear, a failure to believe Moses implies that Jesus is in error and so is His Heavenly Father. And if Jesus’ earthly teachings are unreliable, so are His heavenly teachings which centre on salvation and eternity. These are very serious and weighty issues indeed.
Ever since Arius questioned the deity of Jesus Christ in the 4th century, the Church has faced constant challenges to its understanding of the Bible as God’s inerrant Word. The fundamental teachings, that Jesus is God Incarnate and that the biblical writers were inspired of God to write without error, have likewise been challenged by such heresies. Ever since the Enlightenment and particularly since Darwin published his Origin of Species, theories have multiplied in an attempt to further challenge and weaken the Church in its stand on biblical inerrancy and authority. My experience speaking to the medical doctor—who described Jesus as “speaking from the cultural knowledge of His time” (regarding creation and the Flood)—joined-the-dots for me. It was suddenly obvious that viewing the events Jesus spoke of as ‘mythical’, implicated both Him and His Heavenly Father as guilty of error. Accusing Jesus or the Father of accommodation (which is tantamount to deliberate deception) or of factual inaccuracies is a blasphemous position to take. Lying or inaccuracy are impossible for a morally perfect Being whose attributes include omniscience (i.e. to be all-knowing).
So, am I accusing every Christian who holds to a theistic evolutionary/old earth position of directly blaspheming Jesus and God the Father? No, because the fact is, most Christians don’t join-the-dots when they accommodate evolution and long ages into their understanding of the Bible. However, what I am saying is that to attribute error (and by extension) falsehood to Jesus and God is blasphemy. The evolution-creation debate is certainly no side issue—it strikes right to the heart of the Divinity of Christ, right to the heart of the righteousness of God, and right to the heart of our understanding of biblical inerrancy and authority. Simply put, evolution and an ancient earth force those who hold those views to say, in effect, God and His Son are wrong or have lied about history, and that is to commit blasphemy. The link between evolution, the age of the earth and blasphemy is now clear.
- I am not suggesting that Christians who hold to evolutionary and/or old earth views are not saved. However, this issue is certainly a biblical authority issue, if not always directly a salvation issue—see Can Christians believe in evolution? Return to text.
- This is a very careless conflation of modern species with original Biblical kinds. Noah wouldn’t have needed to put ‘millions of species’ on the ark, most of which are sea creatures or microbes to boot. Return to text.
- This is a fallacy because the genre of Genesis is not parable, but historical narrative. Besides it is merely an assumption to believe the parables of Jesus were non-historical—they may well have been actual events, but told in parable fashion so as to illustrate spiritual truths. Return to text.
- See Romans 5:12–19; 8:19–23a; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22, 45–47. Genesis refers to nephesh-chayyah; only higher animal orders are considered alive in the biblical definition; see creation.com/nephesh-chayyah. Return to text.
- This doesn’t discount parables as having historical bases. Return to text.
- See an article written by the Biologos foundation which was later taken down; but see discourse.biologos.org/t/how-human-was-jesus-was-he-omniscient/35976 Return to text.
- See the box by Jonathan Sarfati, ‘Theistic Evolution and the Kenotic Heresy’, in: Wieland, C., Jesus on the age of the earth, Creation 34(2):51–54, April 2012; creation.com/jesus-age-earth. Return to text.
- See the excellent discussion, ‘A Man of His time?’ in: Bell, P., Evolution and the Christian Faith, Day One Publications, pp. 59–96, 2018. Return to text.
- Chalke Talk 8 (04:06-04:16), www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0aGvt_znqA&t=184s Return to text.
- Chalke Talk 12 (02:58-03:43), www.youtube.com/watch?v=hY1bRmXTb-Q&t=146s Return to text.