Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say No!

A Review of Denis Lamoureux’s Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!

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Over the last number of years, influential evangelical theologian and scientist Dr. Denis Lamoureux1 has been actively promoting evolutionary creation.2 In his new book Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes! Lamoureux offers a number of explanations to justify his belief in evolutionary creation. This review will focus on several key issues raised in the book.

Either/Or Thinking

Lamoureux begins by describing his journey from young-earth creationist (YEC) to evolutionary creationist.3 Early in his life, Lamoureux believed he had to make a choice between believing in evolution or in creation and now asks his readers:

Why couldn’t the God of Christianity have used evolution as his method to create the universe and life? And a related question: Is there a godly way to read the account of creation in Genesis that isn’t literal?4

First, YECs do not say that belief in God rules out belief in evolution. They do, however, argue that the whole point of Darwinian evolution is to show that there is no need for a supernatural Creator, since nature can do the creating by itself. Evolutionary creation is an attempt to synthesize evolution and the Christian faith, which, YECs would contend, invents a syncretistic creator-God of one’s own imagination. In other words, the God of evolutionary creation is not the God of the Bible. Second, the question is not “is there another way to read Genesis that isn’t literal” (which is a caricature of YECs5) but is rather “what does the text of Genesis say and teach?” Sound exegesis of Genesis 1 leads to the conclusion that its author intended to teach that God created everything in one week (Exodus 20:8–11).6

God’s Two Books?

In order to defend the theory of evolution, Lamoureux places God’s general revelation in nature (God’s works) in the same category as His special revelation in Scripture (God’s words).

However, the evidence a scientist finds in nature is always interpreted according to a philosophical and religious worldview, and this is particularly the case when a scientist is trying to reconstruct the unobserved, unrepeatable past to learn about origins.

Since the entrance of sin into the world, man can gather true knowledge about God from His general revelation only if he studies it in the light of Scripture.

The predominant worldview controlling scientists today is naturalism, the philosophical and religious idea that nature is all there is and everything can be explained by time plus chance plus the laws of nature.7 But we must keep in mind that sin has affected our minds and, therefore, how we view natural revelation (Romans 1:21, 28). Man’s rebellion against and alienation from God distorts his thinking. As theologian Louis Berkhof states, “Since the entrance of sin into the world, man can gather true knowledge about God from His general revelation only if he studies it in the light of Scripture.”8 It is therefore necessary to interpret natural revelation in light of special revelation.9

This does not mean that we should conclude that we can learn nothing from studying nature. Rather, our interpretations of the discoveries made in nature must be consistent with the special revelation found in Scripture.

The Book of God’s Works

According to Lamoureux it was the book of “God’s works” in the fossil record that eventually led him to accept evolution as being true. The evidence of evolution he cites is a number of supposed transitional fossils “proving” the evolution of fish to amphibian, reptile to mammal, and land mammal to whale.10 However, even the late evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University rejected gradualistic evolution (in favor of punctuated equilibrium) because of the “extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record.”11 The fossil record falsifies the theory of evolution, but it confirms the teaching of Genesis 1—that God created different kinds of plants and animals to only reproduce variety within each kind (not for one kind to change into a different kind).

The uncritical nature of Lamoureux’s acceptance of evolution is seen in his statements such as this one: “If God created the great sea creatures like whales on the fifth day of creation in Genesis 1, why did he place useless little back legs in numerous species of whales?”12 Actually, those little “legs” are not useless and are in fact pelvic bones that serve as anchors for reproductive organs.13 Evolution needs to tell us how a creature gets new body parts and new functions, not how it lost the parts and functions its ancestors already had.

The Book of God’s Words

Lamoureux repeats the often made claim that “creation does not deal with how the world was created, but rather focuses on who created it.”14 But this is a claim imposed upon the Bible and not one it makes itself. While Genesis 1 does not tell us that God created by natural processes, it does tell us that He created things supernaturally by speaking them into existence (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26; Psalm 33:6, 9). This is in contrast to the natural process of procreation from the “seeds” in the plants and animals by which they would multiply and produce more of their same kind. Lamoureax also wrongly argues “that real history in Scripture begins roughly around Genesis 12 with Abraham.”15 However, there is no textual basis for this assertion because Genesis 1–11 is historical narrative and intends to give historical data. For example, Genesis 5:1–5 gives dates and events for Adam’s life. In Genesis 11–12, there is no transition from non-historical to historical, and it is not treated as a separate literary category from Genesis 12–50. Genesis 12 begins with a waw consecutive verb, wayomer (“and he said”) indicating that what follows is a continuation of chapter 11 and not a major break in the narrative. There is no major difference in Genesis 1 grammatically and in form to the other historical accounts in Genesis because there is no break in the literary style in the first twelve chapters. These are all in the same literary category because they use the same rubric toledot (Genesis 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10; 11:27; 25:12, 19; 36:1, 9; 37:2). Moreover, the biblical chronologies in the Old Testament such as Genesis 5–11 and 1 Chronicles 1:1 present Adam alongside numerous historical individuals, such as Abraham. But if Adam did not exist, as Lamoureux believes, why should we believe Abraham was historical?

If Adam did not exist, as Lamoureux believes, why should we believe Abraham was historical?

Because Lamoureux accepts evolution as fact, he likens the book of God’s words to “ancient science.” In fact, his primary emphasis on interpreting Genesis is in light of the worldview of the ancient Near East (ANE). Lamoureux, therefore, describes Genesis 1 as an “ancient poetic structure”16 which he believes God used as a vehicle to communicate spiritual truth.17 Lamoureux uses the supposed parallels between the days to argue that Genesis 1 is poetry. However, these parallels simply do not exist.18 And Genesis 1, unlike the ANE creation myths, does not use mythical poetic language.19 Genesis 1 contains a Hebrew verb form (wayyiqtol) which is a standard marker of historical narrative in the Old Testament. This verb form is characteristic of other historical narratives, such as Genesis 12–50, Exodus, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings.20 Furthermore, even if the genre of Genesis 1 were poetry, this would not itself mean that it is not historically accurate.21

And narrative in the Old Testament does not communicate myth.

Lamoureux’s belief that Genesis is “ancient science” leads him to interpret passages that deal with the physical world through what he calls the “message-incident principle.” This means that the Bible’s spiritual truths are inerrant, but it presents them in the appearance of incidental and errant “ancient science.”22 One evidence Lamoureux gives for this is his belief that in Genesis 1:6–8 the rāqîaʿ (firmament) refers to “a hard dome.” He states, “The original biblical word translated as ‘firmament’ means ‘a hard dome.’ Why did ancient people believe this? . . . When they looked up at the sky, they saw a massive blue dome. To conclude there was a heavenly body of water held up by a solid structure made perfect sense.”23 However, this claim is simply wrong, as Anderson shows.24 Even fellow theistic evolutionist and Hebrew scholar, John Walton, who once argued this point, now rejects it.25 Although there are different views on the rāqîaʿ amongst YEC, it is probably best to see it as space or sky (see Genesis 1:6–8, 14–22).26 Lamoureux’s belief that Genesis 1 reflects the erroneous “science” of ancient people is an idea based upon a modern assumption and not a biblical one.27 Understanding Genesis this way is a movement away from “an original, singular, and unique worldview on the part of the Hebrews,”28 and downplays the supernatural revelatory nature of Scripture.

Accommodation

Lamoureux recognizes that referring to the Bible as “ancient science” brings with it the accusation that God lied; therefore, he is quick to point out that this is not the case, as God “accommodated in the Bible and permitted the use of an ancient understanding of origins in the creation accounts.”29

Lamoureux confuses the concept of accommodation with the idea of error in the Bible.

For Lamoureux the concept of accommodation30 means Genesis is ancient (i.e., false) historiography; the human author of Genesis 1 believed the events happened just as described, but because of evolution we now know they did not. This does, however, imply that God is responsible for communicating a flawed worldview to His people. Lamoureux confuses the concept of accommodation with the idea of error in the Bible. Rather, the traditional understanding of accommodation means “that [God] speaks truth in such a way that we can understand it, insofar as it can be understood by human beings.”31 For example, parents often accommodate their children with the question “where do babies come from” by answering, “They grow in mommy’s tummy.” On the other hand, to answer, “A stork delivered the baby,” would be a lie, not an accommodation.

Because Lamoureux recognizes that Jesus held to six-day creation,32 he applies the idea of accommodation to his teaching in Matthew 19:4–5.33 The belief that Jesus accommodated His teaching to the supposedly erroneous beliefs of His first century hearers does not square with the facts. Jesus never hesitated to correct erroneous views common in the culture (e.g., Matthew 7:6–13, 29). Jesus was never constrained by the culture of his day, if it went against God’s Word. He opposed those who claimed to be experts on the Law of God if they were teaching error. His numerous disputes with the Pharisees demonstrate this (Matthew 15:1–9; 23:13–36). The truth of Christ’s teaching is not culturally bound but transcends all cultures and remains unaltered by cultural beliefs (Matthew 24:35; cf. 1 Peter 1:24–25).

Nevertheless, Lamoureux is inconsistent with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19, because he rightly accepts that divorce is not God’s intention for marriage and believes it is “a message that our generation needs to hear and obey.”34 But if the “ancient science” that is taught in the Bible is incorrect in Genesis 1, then why isn’t the Bible’s theology and morality (e.g., on divorce) that is grounded in Genesis also an ancient, erroneous way of thinking? The Bible’s morality and theology cannot be separated from its history (see 1 Corinthians 15; Matthew 22:23–33).

Young-Earth Creation

Throughout the book, Lamoureux’s testimony is that he moved from YEC to evolutionary creation; however, his knowledge of YEC is seriously misinformed:35

Clearly, young earth creationists embrace scientific concordism and read Genesis 1 very literally. They claim the facts of science line up with the statements in Scripture about the origin of world. These Christians sincerely believe that the Bible is a book of science.36

YECs are often accused of being overly literal in their interpretation of Genesis 1, an unfortunate accusation since most YECs explain their hermeneutic as “grammatical-historical interpretation.”37 Moreover, YECs do not believe the Bible is a book of science, but rather that it contains a reliable, historical account of the creation of the world and humanity since God divinely revealed them both. The most serious problem for YEC, according to Lamoureux, is that it is in conflict with every modern science that deals with origins. . . . “Moreover, nearly every university throughout the world fully endorses, teaches, and practices the evolutionary sciences in cosmology, geology, and biology. This leads to an important question. Are we to believe that all these scientists are completely wrong about evolution?”38

YEC is by no means anti-intellectual since many academics throughout church history as well as in the present day have accepted the biblical account of creation as history.

This is bizarre reasoning from Lamoureux since he accepts the resurrection of Jesus and His miracles.39 The vast majority of secular academic institutions, however, would reject these as mythology. The secular academy is hostile to Christianity precisely because it is controlled by evolutionary, millions-of-years thinking. Belief in supernatural creation stands against a dominant intellectual system that establishes what is considered intellectually “credibility” in the secular academy. Evangelicals who feel intellectually accountable to the academy then must come up with another way to understand Genesis that is acceptable to the secular world, which is what Lamoureux has done. YEC is by no means anti-intellectual since many academics throughout church history as well as in the present day have accepted the biblical account of creation as history.40

But are we to believe that all these professors at all these secular universities are wrong about evolution? Well, for one thing, not all the professors believe in evolution. There are many scientists and professors in other departments of these universities who do not believe in evolution. Some are open YEC or open proponents of intelligent design, and many others are secret evolution-doubters or evolution-deniers who keep quiet about it because of the understandable fear of persecution (verbal attacks, denial of tenure, loss of job) they may suffer if their views became public.41 Furthermore, the majority of the world’s professors are also wrong about their sin problem and their need for the Savior (which is a major reason they are wrong about evolution), and Jesus said the road is wide that leads to destruction and many go that way (Matthew 7:13–14).

Lamoureux acknowledges that it was his time at theological college that changed his views from YEC to evolutionary creation.42 He recounts the challenge of his theological professor, who asked,

Denis, if you gave up your belief in six-day creation, would you also give up your faith in Jesus?43

Lamoureux’s rejection of YEC and acceptance of evolution may not have resulted in his giving up his faith in Jesus. However, he has had to reject other vital doctrines of the Christian faith: a historical Adam,44 original sin,45 and the inerrancy of Scripture.46 In doing so, Lamoureux has given up his foundation for even needing Jesus: if there is no Adam or original sin, then why do we need a Savior?47

Conclusion

Lamoureux’s book is yet another failed attempt to reconcile evolution with the Bible. It is also evidence of what has to be conceded theologically in order to submit to evolutionary dogma. Evolutionary creation is ultimately an appeal to the wisdom of men over the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:18–21).

Footnotes

  1. Dr. Lamoureux is associate Professor of Science and Religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta.
  2. Lamoureux says of the term theistic evolutionist, “I don’t care for this term because it makes the noun “evolution” the more important category; and it turns the Greek noun theos, meaning “God,” into merely a secondary adjective. I find such an inversion in the priority of words to be completely unacceptable. God is never subordinate to any scientific theory. Evolutionary creationists believe that the Creator ordains and sustains all natural processes in the world, including the evolutionary process.” Denis O. Lamoureux, Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes! (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016), 118.
  3. Lamoureux says it was not until theological college that he discovered there was a way to read Genesis (as ancient poetry) that allowed him to believe that God used evolution. Lamoureux, Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!, 26–30.
  4. Ibid., 23.
  5. See Simon Turpin, “Is Genesis 1 Literal, Literalism, or Literalistic?” Answer in Genesis, May 2, 2016, https://answersingenesis.org/hermeneutics/is-genesis-1-literal-literalism-or-literalistic/.
  6. Though choosing not to believe that Genesis 1 was real history, neo-orthodox theologian James Barr understood that it was indeed the intent of the author. James Barr, Fundamentalism (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978), 42. For further reasons why Genesis 1 should be read as real history see Steven W. Boyd, “The Genre of Genesis 1:1–2:3: What Means This Text?,” in Terry Mortenson and Thane H. Ury, eds., Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2008), 163–192.
  7. In the science journal Nature, evolutionary scientist Dr. Scott Todd states, “Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such a hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.” S.C. Todd, “A View from Kansas on That Evolution Debate,” Nature 401 (1999): 423.
  8. Louis Berkhof, Introductory Volume to Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1932), 60.
  9. Berkhof correctly states, “Some are inclined to speak of God’s general revelation as a second source; but this is hardly correct in view of the fact that nature can come into consideration here only as interpreted in the light of Scripture.” Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology: New Combined Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1946), 96.
  10. Lamoureux, Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!, 33–43.
  11. The full quote from Gould is this: “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.” Stephen J. Gould, “Evolution's Erratic Pace,” Natural History 86, no. 5 (May 1977): 14.
  12. Lamoureux, Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!, 41.
  13. See Roger Patterson, Evolution Exposed: Biology (Hebron, KY: Answers in Genesis, 2006), 73–74, also at https://answersingenesis.org/natural-selection/natural-selection-vs-evolution/.
  14. Lamoureux, Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!, 47.
  15. Ibid., 120.
  16. Lamoureux, Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!, 30.
  17. Ibid., 86.
  18. See Ken Ham, “It’s not So Parallel!” Answers in Genesis, December 10, 2011, https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2011/12/10/its-not-so-parallel/.
  19. Genesis 1 does not contain the type of synonymous parallelism found in Ancient Near Eastern myths. See Abner Chou, “Genesis—The Original Myth Buster,” Answers in Genesis, April 1, 2013, https://answersingenesis.org/creationism/creation-myths/genesis-the-original-myth-buster/.
  20. See Boyd, “The Genre of Genesis 1:1–2:3: What Means This Text?,” 163–192.
  21. For example, Psalm 78 and 136 recite some of the key events of the history of Israel in poetic form.
  22. Lamourex, Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!, 89–90.
  23. Ibid., 29.
  24. Danny Faulkner with Lee Anderson Jr, The Created Cosmos: What the Bible Reveals About Astronomy (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2016), 40–49.
  25. See John Walton, “Archetypal Creation View,” in Four Views on the Historical Adam (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 67–68.
  26. See Faulkner, The Created Cosmos, 49 and 58.
  27. Noel Weeks argues, “When we identify a certain element of Scripture as coming from the scientifically naïve assumptions of time, and therefore distinguishable from the theological content of the biblical message, are we interpreting Scripture in its historical context? . . . The answer is an unambiguous negative! That distinction is a modern one and thus is part of what we bring to the past. It looks very much like a popular version of Kant’s distinction between the noumena and the phenomena. So an interpretation of the biblical text in which such a distinction is foundational involves an element of eisegesis, no matter how much the user may intend to put Scripture in its context.” Noel Weeks, “Cosmology in Historical Context” in WTJ 68 (283–293) (2006): 285.
  28. John Currid, Against The Gods: The Polemical Theology Of The Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 23.
  29. Lamoureux, Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!, 86.
  30. Lamoureux defines accommodation as this: “Yet, for the Lord to reveal himself to ancient people in the past, he came down to their intellectual level. In doing so, God used their understanding of nature (ancient science) and their writing techniques (ancient poetry) as vessels to deliver life-changing spiritual truths.” Ibid., 31.
  31. John Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Harmony Township, New Jersey: P&R Publishing Group, 2013), 601.
  32. Lamoureux, Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!, 115.
  33. Lamoureux believes that Jesus “employed incidental ancient sciences to reveal inerrant spiritual truths” (132).
  34. Ibid.
  35. Given everything Lamoureux says about YECs in the book (e.g., literalists, the Bible is a book of science), it seems he was not grounded well enough in what YECs actually believe.
  36. Ibid, 114.
  37. Of course, this method of interpretation takes into account such things as literary genre, metaphors, and figures of speech (e.g., Genesis 2:23, 4:7, 7:11).
  38. Lamoureux, Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!, 115.
  39. Ibid., 120.
  40. For a list of creation scientists see https://answersingenesis.org/creation-scientists/.
  41. See Jerry Bergman, Slaughter of the Dissidents (Southworth, WV: Leafcutter Press, 2008) and his Silencing the Darwin Skeptics (Southworth, WV: Leafcutter Press, 2016), and the Ben Stein documentary film Expelled.
  42. One of the reasons Lamoureux gives for his rejection of YEC was the influence of his professor at theological college: “Only weeks into my first term one of the world’s greatest theologians stated in class that “the biblical creation accounts were obviously written in picture language . . . his claim that the creation accounts had ‘picture language’ rocked me.” Lamoureux, Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!, 26.
  43. Ibid., 28.
  44. See Denis O. Lamoureux, “Evolutionary Creation View,” in Matthew Barrett and Ardel B. Caneday, eds., Four Views on the Historical Adam (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 37–65.
  45. See Denis Lamoreux, “Beyond Original Sin: Is a Theological Paradigm Shift inevitable?,” Perspectives on Science and Christian Belief 67, no. 1 (2015): 35–49.
  46. Lamoureux, “Evolutionary Creation View,” 63.
  47. For more on Adam’s importance to the gospel, see Simon Turpin, “How Do Some among You Say There Is no Adam? 1 Corinthians 15: Adam and the Gospel,” April 16, 2016, https://answersingenesis.org/bible-characters/adam-and-eve/how-do-some-among-you-say-there-no-adam/.

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