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Charles Darwin knew his “dangerous idea” contradicted biblical creation. Rather than exposing the contradictions, however, some church leaders want to blend the two. The newest effort by BioLogos has taken the evangelical world by storm. But at what cost?
According to Darrel Falk, A Point Loma Nazarene University professor, people like me shouldn’t exist—at least in theory.
The congenial president of the up-and-coming think tank BioLogos, which advocates God-directed (or “theistic”) evolution, Falk minces no words when it comes to biblical creation: “It is a travesty that young people who begin the journey of following Jesus are told that they have to believe something which a little science education makes clear cannot possibly be the case.”
Given that view, my journey should have ended where it started. Raised by a former pastor who embraced evolution and Christianity, fed on a steady diet of PBS science programs and The Discovery Channel, insulated from any notion of a young earth through public education, I was handed a faith “broad enough” to handle Charles Darwin.
According to Falk, I already had it all. I knew enough facts to embrace evolution over millions of years and Christianity. I had escaped what he calls evangelicalism’s “barrier” to faith, which forces young people to abandon the Christian journey once “they’ve studied the science or trust those who have.”
Contrary to his view, embracing evolution derailed my “journey” toward Christ. I didn’t join the parade. Instead, like millions of my peers, I rejected—and even despised—the church.
Proponents of theistic evolution claim they rescue people from a hopeless and unnecessary choice. As Falk puts it, “People don’t have to choose between age of the earth and Bible-believing Christianity, nor between evolutionary biology and Bible-believing Christianity.” But in reality their position dangles us over an abyss.
Karl Giberson, an Eastern Nazerene College professor and former executive vice president of BioLogos, admits that the organization has staked out a “precarious” middle ground.1 He calls it the “accommodationist” position between Christians who accept the “long-disproved” notion of a young earth and atheists who will have nothing to do with religion because science has proven it to be obsolete.
But the very notion of a shaky “middle ground” suggests a fundamental flaw in this bridge’s design. Namely, what’s the standard for deciding what’s correct and what’s not? If some scientists’ claims contradict Scripture, what, then, is the final authority?
Giberson instructs Christians to trust the recognized experts in their respective fields. For example, you should listen to Dr. Francis Collins at the National Institute of Health on matters of biology, over those who are outside the mainstream. And you should trust Giberson himself because he is “active” in the creation/evolution debate.2
And that’s where the problems begin—where theory meets reality. Finding such a balance requires inserting a layer of interpreters—in this case, naturalistic and atheistic scientists—between the reader and the Bible. But if we rely on human interpreters who reject the possibility of God, what of the balance then?
For Giberson, duct-taping a work-around is simple. Reject what atheistic scientists like Jerry Coyne and Stephen Hawking say about God, but accept what they teach about biology and cosmology. The problem is that both men advocate theories about the unseen past that rely on prior assumptions, which reject the possibility of God from the outset.
In reality, BioLogos’s balancing act doesn’t remove barriers to trusting Christ. It establishes new ones. By separating matters of God from matters of science, they build a wall that leaves God out of efforts to explain the real world. While the Bible claims that God is not only the Creator but also the foundation for all understanding (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10), BioLogos takes a position that relegates Him to insignificance.
Though an atheist, Coyne recognizes the end result of BioLogos’s balancing act: “Theology changes when either science or secular reason forces it to.”3 In essence, biblical interpretation must change when secular “science” says it must. Sola scriptura (Scripture alone) gives way to scriptura per scientiam (Scripture through “science”).4
Theologian and author E. Calvin Beisner explains just how precarious a position theistic evolution is in. “Anyone familiar with the history of science should laugh at the notion that ‘science’ (as if it were some monolithic, unchanging body of knowledge) should determine our interpretation of Scripture rather than vice versa. Unlike the shifting sands of science, ‘the word of God stands forever’ (Isaiah 40:8).”
Modern-day theistic evolution is more nuanced than to reject the Bible’s authority outright. BioLogos and similar groups claim that the Bible is God’s Word from beginning to end. At the same time, they minimize the importance of the origins debate, especially in light of the gospel. But what happens when their views are put to the test?
At the end of the day, the theological modifications required by the acceptance of evolution are vast and utterly disastrous for biblical Christianity. —Albert Mohler “Science and Religion Aren’t Friends,” October 2010 Blog
While a person’s belief about creation is certainly not a precondition of salvation, that fact alone doesn’t remove the significance of the doctrinal issue. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of the most outspoken critics of theistic evolution, asserts that a great deal is at stake: “At the end of the day, the theological modifications required by the acceptance of evolution are vast and utterly disastrous for biblical Christianity.”
Some write off such criticism as exaggeration. But Mohler is not alone. Stephen Davey, president of Shepherd’s Theological Seminary, summarizes a key point that theistic evolutionists seem to overlook: “God’s creation is not some incidental paragraph in a creed—creationism is a vital part of Christianity. In fact, it is absolutely connected to the gospel and to the believer’s future hope.”
These leaders point out that theistic evolution, even if some of its supporters are sincere Christ-followers, promotes a position that ends up watering down the gospel itself. The distinctives of the Christian faith—including the broad impact of Christ’s work on the Cross—get washed away. If God did not create a perfect, sinless world, why does the Apostle Paul call Jesus Christ the Last Adam, whose work on the Cross redressed the sin and death that Adam brought into this world (Romans 5:11–19)? If there really never was a Curse, how can the cosmos be awaiting restored peace and perfection (Romans 8:19–22; Revelation 21:1–7)?
BioLogos’s president, and others like him, contend that such complaints are fundamentally flawed—and, in fact, harmful. Falk believes that we give people a “crutch” to support their rejection of Christ if we portray belief in evolution as inconsistent with biblical Christianity. “This proposition is exactly what gives atheists the excuse they are looking for.”5
But is that really the case? God opens His Word with a literal, historical account of creation in six literal 24-hour days. How could those revealed facts hinder anyone’s ability to believe what the Lord says about Christ’s miraculous resurrection and redemption? Do we really believe that the gospel is more effective if we hide, discount, or contradict other portions of Scripture?
That approach is what drove me away from trusting Jesus Christ. My father handed me the ready ingredients for a smooth theological blend. But evolution and faith proved to be an insoluble mix—with faith being scraped off the top.
And I’m not alone.
Today the United Kingdom looks quite a bit like what BioLogos would like to see in America, but a willingness to wed evolution with faith hasn’t produced a vibrant Christianity there.6 In fact, the opposite seems to be true. Two-thirds no longer have a connection with any church.7 And similar stories have been repeated throughout the once-Christianized West, which has “accommodated” evolution for generations.
No one can serve two masters. “Either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). I came to understand that Christ expects us to make a choice. Who is our Lord? You can’t make the demands of the gospel any clearer or more helpful than that.
Since it was founded in 2007, BioLogos has risen to international prominence as the leading advocate of theistic (“God-directed”) evolution. Its primary goal is to convince evangelical Christians to embrace evolution and an old earth, claiming that they have no impact on the gospel and can be harmonized with “the belief that the Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God.” How do their claims hold up under scrutiny?
If God’s Word is “authoritative,” as BioLogos claims, it should be the foundation for understanding all truth. Jesus said to His heavenly Father, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17), and He told His disciples that this truth would set them free (John 8:30–31). While the Bible never claims to be a scientific text, everything it says about living things and earth history is true.
The Bible is clear about our origins. Genesis 1–3 were written in a historical narrative style, like the rest of Genesis, depicting historical people and events. Moses later confirms that Genesis was a literal, historical account of God’s creation “in six days” (Exodus 20:11). Jesus Christ confirms that God made Adam and Eve “at the beginning of creation” (Mark 10:6). These passages exclude any possibility of evolution and an “old earth.”
Since evolution over millions of years contradicts the Bible’s history, BioLogos resolves this conflict by arguing that the early chapters of Genesis “are not meant to be interpreted as a step-by-step account of when or how God created the world.” The only way to reach this conclusion, however, is to ignore the basic rules of Bible interpretation (hermeneutics) and to reject the Bible’s supreme authority—inspired by the all-knowing God whose Word trumps humanity’s ever-changing ideas.
BioLogos gives priority to the claims of secular scientists. Their website says, “Overwhelming scientific evidence points to an old earth,” and “The data are clear that humans have been created through an evolutionary process and there was never a time when there was a single first couple.” But no evidence speaks for itself; all must be interpreted. By relying on fallible dating methods, which depend on unproven assumptions, rather than Scripture itself, BioLogos is guilty of exalting man’s fallible ideas above God’s Word.
In their effort to reconcile evolution with the Bible, proponents of theistic evolution also wipe away the cosmic impact of the Curse and of Christ’s full redemptive work. Romans 8:22 makes it clear that the whole creation groans as a result of Adam’s sin. Acts 3:21 and Colossians 1:15–20 teach that when Christ, the Creator of all things, comes again He will restore all things. At that time, the Curse of Genesis 3 will be removed, and a glorious new heavens and earth will exist (Revelation 22:3).
The denial of a “first couple” similarly attacks the gospel. “Jesus and the apostle Paul clearly consider Adam and Eve to be historical,” explains theologian Cal Beisner. “Paul makes our whole understanding of the relationship between the redeemed and Christ contingent on Adam’s being a historical individual just as Christ is (Romans 5:12–19; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 15:46–49). Take away Adam as a historical person, and the whole understanding of the federal (covenantal) relationship between Christ and believers collapses—and with it the gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone because of the federal (covenantal) imputation of His righteousness to believers.”