“Evolutionary creation”, round squares, and other nonsense
Published: 5 January 2017 (GMT+10)
BioLogos and other theistic evolutionary groups use the term ‘evolutionary creation’ to reflect the idea that God could have used evolution to create the world. BioLogos even has an article titled “Why should Christians consider evolutionary creation?” We offer a rebuttal to help Christians better understand the issues involved.
Evolution is a challenging subject to consider in light of biblical faith, so it is often easier to ignore or reject it than to engage in meaningful discussion of the topic.
This is the familiar strawman that creationists are unaware of the ‘evidence’ for evolution. But in fact, there are Ph.D. scientists who are biblical creationists, and in fact, around 20% of Americans are considered scientifically literate but reject evolution.1
Yet considering evolutionary creation has important benefits for Christians both in our relationship with the Creator, and in our relationship with other people—both believers and non-believers.
One wonders how Christians are supposed to have a better relationship with our Creator by contradicting what He has revealed in his written Word, the Bible. Conversely, it’s questionable that we can impress unbelievers by tacitly accepting that secular science trumps our own book.
First, Christians should study evolution because, like all the natural sciences, it is the study of God’s creation.
Evolution is a philosophy through which evolutionists interpret biology. Michael Ruse even noted that, “Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, as secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality.” Biology, as opposed to evolution, is a valuable area of science, which doesn’t need evolution. Creationist Ph.D. biologists testify of the amazing design present in living things that requires a Creator.
Creation itself is a complementary revelation to what God has communicated through Scripture, and through the created order God shows how and when he brought about the life we see today—to his honor and glory.
While these sentiments might sound nice, when we look at what they are actually saying, there are several concepts introduced that are at the heart of theistic evolutionary error. First, creation in and of itself is not a revelation—at least not in the way that Scripture is. Scripture given in propositional statements, e.g. factual statements about something. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) is a statement that can be said to be true or false. A sunset or a flower can testify to God as Creator (Romans 1), but is not propositional. Furthermore, creation is affected by the Fall, so does not reflect its Creator in the same way it did before. Also, human minds are affected by the Fall so do not receive this witness in the way we should.
Second, the created order in and of itself cannot tell us how God created; we require revelation for that. But BioLogos puts things precisely in the wrong order—they use ideas derived from a wrong interpretation of biology to change their interpretation of Scripture, instead of allowing the clear propositional statements of Scripture to control our interpretation of creation.
And does theistic evolution honor or glorify God? This may seem controversial to say, but the god of theistic evolution is not the God of Scripture. God is glorified in how He created—how Scripture proclaims He created. Theistic evolutionists argue for a god who used a cruel process that entailed suffering and the extinction of most forms of life over billions of years. How can they then argue that death and suffering is the consequence of sin, and that Christ’s death and resurrection defeats death, which is ‘the last enemy’ (1 Corinthians 15)?
The regular patterns in nature that we call natural laws have their foundation in the regular, faithful governance of God. Thus we believe that God created every species and did it in such a way that we can describe the creation process scientifically. The scientific model of evolution does not replace God as creator any more than the law of gravity replaces God as ruler of the planets.
Often, evolutionists will conflate operational and historical science although it’s a distinction famous evolutionists such as Ernst Mayr and E.O. Wilson agree with. The sort of science that has to do with repeatable experimentation is called operational science. So when we study how genetic traits are inherited, or what designs are the most aerodynamic, or the difference in air pressure depending on altitude, those are one type of science—if I get a result, someone else can do the same experiment to see if they get the same result.
But when we are examining origins, we’re investigating things which are historical events and not replicable. Whether land animals were created on Day 6, or whether a fish crawled out of the ocean several hundred million years ago, neither event is available to us today, and so we are speaking about something fundamentally different. What we need in this case is a historical record of what happened, and Christians believe that the Bible is a trustworthy historical account.
Can we describe the creation process scientifically? While we can describe some aspects of God’s providential upholding of the universe scientifically as the laws of physics, etc., we should not expect the origin of the universe to be able to be explained naturalistically, any more than we should expect a scientific explanation for how Jesus turned water into wine or raised Lazarus from the dead. Christian theism entails the supernatural, especially when we’re discussing origins. The failure to recognize this is one of BioLogos’ more pernicious errors. They have accepted the atheists’ a priori ‘rule of the game’: rejection of supernatural creation.
Second, considering evolutionary creation aids the church in its gospel mission, including discipling young Christians in their faith. An anti-evolution attitude can harm Christian young people by presenting them with a false choice between pursuing science or holding to faith. One recent survey showed that a key factor in the evangelical church’s loss of credibility among young people is its assertion of anti-evolutionary creation models that contradict virtually all the evidence we find in nature.
Both creationists and theistic evolutionists claim that their view helps young people keep their faith. The difference is that creationists have evidence of how harmful evolution is to students’ faith, and how biblical creation can help students stay in the church during college years when so many fall away, as shown in the Fallout! DVD.
Similarly, a hostile attitude toward evolution can hinder evangelism if seekers hear that they must reject evolutionary science before they can follow Christ.
Following Christ entails rejecting any competing claims that aren’t compatible with Scripture. That being said, we’ve never argued for biblical creation being a salvation doctrine. Many people working for CMI and other creation ministries once were saved theistic evolutionists.
However, we would challenge the assumption that telling an evolutionist he can keep his evolutionary faith and still believe in Jesus would make him more likely to convert. Richard Dawkins openly scorns that option, and respects that at least biblical creationists are consistent.
On the other hand, studying evolution as a God-ordained process helps Christians refute the argument that science leads to an atheistic worldview.
An atheistic worldview certainly doesn’t lead to science. In fact, all major branches of science were founded by Christians. And today, many scientists doing practical work such as inventing the gene gun, MRI, and even designing mechanisms for Olympic bicycles are biblical creationists.
By showing that the science of evolution is a description of God’s processes and not a worldview in and of itself, Christians can expose atheism as a secular philosophy and not part of science.
Again, they don’t recognize the distinction between operational and historical science and are thus out of step even with leading evolutionists. And they equate evolution with science. The actual description of God’s creative work is in Genesis, and it is not compatible with evolution and billions of years.
Because today’s culture is saturated with science and technology—from the latest communication gadgets to new biomedical advances to discoveries of fundamental particles—engaging culture means engaging science.
And all those things are products of operational science, which creationists don’t oppose, and actually engage in, as noted above.
Since evolutionary science is integral to modern biology
No it isn’t. An opponent to creationism noted “While the great majority of biologists would probably agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky’s dictum that ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,’ most can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas.” No area of biology, including medicine, requires evolution (“except evolutionary biology itself”).
the church must grapple with the evidence and implications of evolution in order to be a witness in the public square.
What they mean is “The church must roll over and say ‘uncle’ and cede any authority to speak on scientific issues from a biblical foundation.” But accepting the implications of evolution would ultimately impose naturalism on the rest of Scripture, too; not just Genesis 1–11. The same hermeneutic which would demand reading billions of years into Scripture would also demand that we read the account of the resurrection of Christ in a naturalistic way as well. The same goes for morality: there are widespread demands for Christians to change their stance on biblical morality to the secular consensus, e.g. marriage.
Informed Christian voices are critical for leading bioethical discussions on issues such as stem cells and the use of DNA information in caring for the unborn, the aged, and the disabled. Today, evangelical Christians can show that we love God’s work in the created order by taking up full participation in cutting-edge research and advocating for science as a tool to protect rather than prey upon the helpless.
Indeed, informed Christian voices are important in public debates over medical ethics. But if theistic evolution takes away anything distinctively Christian about our worldview and how we think about God’s actions within the created order, that waters down our witness. Only the teaching that God made humans in His image is essential to the sanctity of innocent unborn and post-born life. Conversely, Dawkins, who teaches that humans are just an evolved ape, regards dolphins more highly than Down Syndrome babies, hence their widespread abortion.
Science is a way of loving God with our minds. When we seek to understand the created order through science we bear witness to the Creator and glorify him through our work.
We agree, but this does not require theistic evolution, and in fact, theistic evolution undermines this.
Biblical creationists will always face challenges to our commitment to a plain reading of Genesis from those who attempt to read billions of years and evolution into the creation narrative, so it is important to know how to answer their most common arguments. And today, there are more resources to help creationists do this than ever before. Some may argue that it is ‘unloving’ to oppose other professing Christians, but confronting error is actually the most loving thing we can do for theistic evolutionists, because taken to its logical extent, the philosophy BioLogos promotes is actually evolutionary syncretism, not Christianity. In reality, there is no such thing as ‘evolutionary creation’, just like there is no such thing as a round square, or a married bachelor. What BioLogos is promoting is actually naturalism with a deistic veneer. Don’t fall for it!
References and notes
- Puiu, T., One in five Americans are deeply religious and scientifically literate, but reject evolution, 30 January 2015; zmescience.com. Return to text.