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A recent article in Third Way Magazine in the United Kingdom suggests that Christians should celebrate Darwinism. But are they deceiving their readers?
A recent article in Third Way Magazine in the United Kingdom suggests that Christians should celebrate Darwinism. Third Way Magazine is a broadly evangelical periodical, hovering somewhere between conservative and liberal theological opinions. Its theologically broad stance can be understood when it is realised that the magazine’s title is taken from a quote from The Dust of Death by the British-born, US-based evangelical leader, Os Guinness.1
The article, “Viva la Evolution,” is written by Dr. Denis Alexander. Dr. Alexander is a member of one of the U.K.’s largest conservative evangelical churches and is a frequent speaker at conservative evangelical events, such as the annual Word Alive conference.2 He is on the national board of the organisation Christians in Science, which takes a theistic evolutionist position, and is, in turn, heavily influential in the U.K. branch of the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF). He is also a molecular biologist, working at the prestigious University of Cambridge. Alexander’s article is an apologetic for the theistic evolutionary position, and is a subtle, yet actually scathing, attack on creationists.
One of the deep mysteries of the early 21st century is why one set of Christians go round churches trying to persuade another set of Christians to disbelieve the theory of evolution. This is in a world where people are dying to hear the good news about Jesus for the first time, where thousands are made homeless in cyclones and where millions still live without clean water supplies. Trying to persuade Christians to disbelieve Darwinism soaks up huge resources that could be better spent elsewhere.
The implication of that paragraph is threefold:
These statements are made without any evidence being given. In fact, all three implications are false. Dr. Alexander is not a stranger to ignoring facts, however. In a TV debate, also featuring Professor Steve Jones (an atheist evolutionist), Professor Andy McIntosh (one of AiG–U.K.’s associate speakers and the head of department at one of the U.K.’s leading universities) and me, Dr. Alexander made the claim that “no biologist disputes Darwinism” (this would be true if he’d have instead said “natural selection,” which creationists don’t dispute). Andy and I gave him the names of several who dispute Darwinism and molecules-to-man evolution.
Even before Darwin, some Christians were beginning to notice that naturalistic explanations of evidence were creeping into science in contradiction to Scripture.
More recently, I was involved in a radio debate with Dr. Alexander on a Christian radio station. Amazingly he repeated his extraordinary claim that no biologist disputes Darwinism. This forced me to point out that he had been corrected on this point before and that his repetition of the erroneous claim either reflected on his memory or was perhaps an attempt to bamboozle the listeners. His Third Way article makes a similar claim: “Biologists are in no doubt that the evolutionary account is broadly correct.”
Dr. Alexander goes on to claim that anti-Darwinism is a “very modern phenomenon.” It is, obviously, only as old as Darwinism. Yet even before Darwin, some Christians were beginning to notice that naturalistic explanations of evidence were creeping into science in contradiction to Scripture. In fact, it is clear that men of faith, from the ancient post-New Testament church onwards, interpreted Genesis as historic truth.3 It is interesting that liberal theologians who deny the truth of the Bible have no difficulty recognising this, whereas it is compromising evangelicals who want a figurative interpretation of Genesis. For example, the liberal Hebrew theologian James Barr said this:
As far as I know there is no Professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1 through 11 intended to convey to their readers the idea that:
- (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were approximately the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience;
- (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the Biblical story;
- (c) Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguished all human and animal life except for those in the Ark.4
It is clear, therefore, that belief in the historical truth of Genesis is not a new phenomenon.
Dr. Alexander suggests that evolution is a neutral phenomenon, which fits with any worldview. This is not the case. Evolution does not, in fact, fit with a historical-grammatical reading of Scripture—and the historical-grammatical method of interpretation has long been held to be the most appropriate way of handling God’s Word. Consider Alexander’s argument here:
If there is a personal God with intentions and purposes for his creation, then we expect order, directionality and the emergence of personhood. This is precisely what evolution offers.
I beg to differ. We do not expect the “emergence of personhood” from our belief in a personal God. Rather our belief in a personal, omnipotent God leads to an expectation that personality would be directly created by God—in the manner in which He Himself said He did it (Scripture clearly teaches that Adam was made directly from the dust of the earth and that Eve was directly made from the rib of Adam, both by the supernatural work of God).5 In this paragraph and elsewhere, Dr. Alexander begins by erecting his own presuppositions, followed by a declaration that evolution matches these. As Professor Andy McIntosh has said in the sidebar accompanying this article, “The reason an increasing number of scientists disagree strongly with [Alexander’s] thesis is precisely because the detailed scientific evidence does not support the Neo-Darwinian synthesis.”
Dr. Alexander’s weak arguments become even weaker when he addresses the theology of the Fall of Genesis chapter 3. He says:
I take the early chapters of Genesis to represent a profound theological essay, written in figurative language that is foundational to our understanding of the rest of the Bible.
I accept that the early chapters of Genesis are foundational to the rest of the Bible’s teachings. But Dr. Alexander has not come to grips with those foundational truths of Genesis. How could a figurative sin lead to a spiritual death of a man and woman in a figurative garden? And how could this possibly result in the real suffering and death of Jesus Christ, the Last Adam. Alexander supposes that a pair of Neolithic farmers were chosen by God and called “into fellowship with Himself.” He supposes that these would just be two of many with “no physical way of distinguishing between Adam and Eve and their contemporaries.” If Alexander is right, then some humans could have been descended from other non-human Neolithic people. Yet Eve was to be “the mother of all living.”6
The only appeal that Dr. Alexander can make to attempt to fit these evolutionary ideas with the Pauline necessity for a real Adam is to repeat John Stott’s idea (as described in Understanding the Bible7) that the first couple were the “Homo Divinus.” How much more sense it makes to assume that there was a real Adam, created in real time by the God who exists, and that this real Adam committed a real sin in a real Garden, resulting in real death—so that we require a real death on a real cross by a real Saviour to pay the penalty for our real sins! Alexander’s view that the figurative Fall brought about only spiritual death (“a broken relationship between humankind and God”) is wholly inadequate and inconsistent with Scripture.
If we can doubt the veracity of Genesis, why not doubt the veracity of the Virgin Birth—or the Resurrection?
“Creationists are wrong in thinking that if you accept evolution, then somehow basic Christian doctrines will be watered down or even jettisoned,” opines Dr. Alexander, “That is not my experience, nor do I observe that happening in the lives of my many Christian colleagues who are evolutionary biologists.” In my experience, the creationist concern criticised by Alexander is justified. For a start, it is clear that Alexander has already jettisoned the most basic and fundamental of Christian doctrines—he holds that original sin is based not on fact, but on allegory. Therefore, original sin’s reality is undermined.
Far from such a position being incidental, it has led to the secularisation of so many institutions. For example, how many of the world’s great universities and places of learning were founded on Christian truth, but now preach godlessness? If we can doubt the veracity of Genesis, why not doubt the veracity of the Virgin Birth—or the Resurrection? (And indeed many do so.) Even so-called evangelical leaders are today casting doubt on concepts such as original sin and penal substitution.
The issue of creation and the truth of Genesis matters precisely for these reasons. The issue is fundamental to our correct understanding of the whole of biblical truth.
“On a planet of light and darkness you need eyes, so eyes are what you'll get, and indeed compound and camera eyes have evolved independently more than 20 times”
Where is the evidence? This thesis is immediately disproved by the hard scientific facts of double calcite (image correcting) lenses in many of the Trilobites of the Cambrian explosion and Ordovician—even if one does accept the timescales, there are no precursors in any of the rocks of the Precambrian. The reason an increasing number of scientists disagree strongly with this thesis is precisely because the detailed scientific evidence does not support the Neo-Darwinian synthesis. We strongly disagree because of the science itself. It is not polemic which wins cases, but credible scientific evidence.
Dr. Alexander’s appeal to genomics is robustly challenged by John Sanford of Cornell (Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome). He has shown that the real experimental evidence is of genetic decay—there is no new information from genetic mutations. Even if there were some mutations that were beneficial, they would get swamped by the deleterious ones of the well-known Kimura distribution. The best inference from the scientific data is that information (like software in a computer) is non-material and not defined by the matter it sits on or the energy used in the information retrieval system. There is no scientific backing for the claim that information (e.g., for eyes evolving) could arise by random mutations + natural selection, not least because the thermodynamics of the molecular machinery involved is against such a notion.
Frankly, the obvious inference from the evidence (whether it be eyes—the so-called 20-fold convergence idea in Neo-Darwinian interpretation; feathers; the bird lung; the brain of humans; and so on) is straightforward intricate design. The more evidence that is studied in detail, the more the Darwinian stories of in-between structures (half eyes, for instance) are shown to be nonexistent. This is the reason why many scientists are realising that the science has outgrown the philosophy of evolution and that a paradigm shift to a straightforward design thesis is urgently needed.
On the biblical side, Dr. Alexander is wrong here as well. Creation was by the spoken Word of God (John 1:3; Hebrews 1:3) through Christ, who shows the same power in the miracles of His ministry. There was no process—the waters were stilled, the lame walked, the deaf heard—all this was immediate. The theology of redemption in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 is predicated upon a real Adam who brought death into the world following the Fall—and not before it. The whole evolutionary thinking of death being integral to the created Adam is denied by the Scripture. If there is not a real Adam in a real garden of Eden, then by the same token we have no assurance of a real Christ and a real Resurrection to come.
—Professor Andy McIntosh