Is there an ever-widening canyon between scientific intellectualism and the Christian faith? Is theistic evolution a legitimate way to bridge that gap? Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S., explains.
[Editor’s note: the original email below was posted on our website as an open letter without any commentary from Answers in Genesis. Since this letter adequately summarizes the beliefs of many theistic evolutionists who contact us, it is important for us to offer a critique of this letter.]
I am a young Christian and biologist, currently studying zoology and microbiology, who has been closely watching the Creation\Evolution debate with ever widening eyes for the last few years now. I find myself trapped between my scientific interpretation and the peer pressures of my faith. You see, I stand in the middle of this argument, which is ever widening the canyon between the scientific intellectualism and the Christian faith.
Your description of this ever-widening canyon is inaccurate. It is not a debate between scientific intellectualism and the Christian faith. The debate is between those who reject the plain words of Scripture, particularly concerning creation and the age of the earth, and those who accept it. This is a battle of worldviews. Biblical creationists base their worldview on the unchanging and infallible Word of the omniscient Creator. Evolutionists (and adherents to every other worldview) base their thinking on the frequently changing words of fallible men who did not observe the beginning of our world.
Christians who adopt evolution are inconsistent because they are accepting the foundation of the humanistic worldviews. Essentially, they are telling God that they believe Him when He told us about the Virgin Birth, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Christ, but they do not trust Him when He tells us about how He created the world. We are thankful that these people do believe the Virgin Birth, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus, but why wouldn’t they be consistent in their thinking? If they want to adopt the secular thinking of naturalistic scientists about the age of the earth and creation, then why not adopt the world’s thinking on these other miracles? After all, many of these same scientists would tell us that the Virgin Birth and Resurrection of Christ could not possibly have happened based on what we know from “scientific” study.
There is a significant group of people from the world Christian community who are being thrashed by those on both sides of the Evolution/Creation debate. Let me enlighten you from my own experience what this group is feeling.
Yes, we consistently receive vitriolic and cruel messages from people who claim to be Christians. Actually, it is often professing Christians who treat us worse than many atheists. So we are well aware of the animosity that exists. We also know that some young-earth creationists have been guilty of attacking fellow Christians. This is unfortunate, but it highlights our sinfulness and gives us another reason to be grateful for God’s grace in forgiving our sins.
We should treat people with gentleness and respect as we answer their questions and objections (1 Peter 3:14–17). Answers in Genesis has long made it clear that we do not make biblical creationism a litmus test for the Christian faith; nor do we question the sincerity or faith of professing Christians who believe in billions of years. What we question is the consistency of their thinking.
As a biologist I can see no evidence which discredits the theory of Evolution.
And that same evidence can be shown to be consistent with biblical creationism. We have the exact same evidence, but we start from different worldviews, so we often reach different conclusions when it comes to past events.
I have come to know the ideas behind its mechanics clearly and in detail, by my own intuition and exploration.
So you have reached the conclusion that God’s Word is wrong or needs to be reinterpreted based on your own intuition and limited exploration? You are setting yourself up as the authority over God’s Word, which is essentially the same thing Adam and Eve did. They wanted to decide truth for themselves rather than trusting the words of their Creator.
As a Christian I believe in the Almighty Creator.
Excellent! But do you believe this Creator is capable of explaining to mankind what, when, and how He created? Genesis reveals these things, but you are calling for a reinterpretation of those words based on the ideas of fallible men. Do you believe the Almighty Creator is capable of creating our universe and everything in it in six normal-length days? Is He capable of telling us about it?
The Idea of Evolution does not in my eye discredit this faith. I see Evolution as simply the physical explanation of the process by which God created the wonders and complexity of the natural world. For this reason I receive prejudices from both sides of the argument.
Evolution was developed in an effort to explain how life came into its present form apart from God. Remember, it isn’t your “eye” that counts here. God has revealed to us the truth about the Creation Week, and He is intelligent enough to explain it to us in a way that mankind could understand it—yes, even to those allegedly pre-scientific people who wrote Scripture. To claim that mankind was not advanced enough to understand the Bible (as many old-earth creationists argue) is not only an attack on the intelligence of the holy men of God who wrote Scripture, but it is also an attack on the intelligence of God who is perfectly capable of giving us His Word in a manner that is understandable to His audience over thousands of years and across many cultures. He said He made everything in six days, so teaching anything contrary to that is an attack on the truth of His Word.
I am told by Creationists that, Christianity is inseparable from Creation . . . . or Any one who believes in Evolution is not a Christian. (a friend of the author) Yet, I am a Christian! I am told by Evolutionist and Creationist that Evolution disproves God. Yet, for me it can show his existence.
As stated earlier, belief in a young earth is not a litmus test to determine if one is a Christian or not. It is false to say that anyone who believes in evolution is automatically not a Christian. However, if evolution were true, then it absolutely would disprove the God described in Scripture. Rather than a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, holy, pure, just, merciful, true, and loving, as described in Scripture, you would have a god who needed to repeatedly tinker with creation until satisfied with it, who caused trillions of creatures to suffer and die prior to sin, who stated that the death and suffering of these trillions of creatures was “very good” (Genesis 1:31), and who is either incapable of or unwilling to reveal the truth about how and when He created.
Since you propose that God used evolution, how do you deal with the numerous differences in the order of events in Genesis 1 and the alleged evolutionary sequence of events? For example, the Bible tells us the earth was created three days before the sun. The evolutionary view has the sun long before the earth. The Bible teaches that God made flying creatures on Day Five and land creatures, such as reptiles, on Day Six. Yet many evolutionists say that birds evolved from reptiles, so reptiles must have been first. Dr. Terry Mortenson pointed out these and many other inconsistencies between the Bible and evolution in his article about the importance of the order of events.
It seems that neither the Evolutionist or the Creationist can be wholly in the right. Is not each is arguing in response to the others accusations? Neither side is capable of true science as long as they continue to focus on this debate. Although, there are great and true scientists on both sides each responses to the other as if they are not. There is hypocrisy everywhere regarding this argument.
Actually, when we accurately interpret and believe the Word of God, we are wholly in the right because we are in agreement with the words of the omniscient and morally perfect Creator. Although we don’t claim to be infallible in our interpretation, the basic meaning of most passages is not too difficult to grasp. This is especially true with passages written as historical narrative, like Genesis 1–11.
“True science” is based on the biblical worldview. In His Word, God has revealed the basis for the preconditions of intelligibility, such as laws of logic, morality, and uniformity of nature. If evolution were true, there would be no basis for laws of logic or morality, and nature would not be uniform. So although there are good scientists on both sides, it is only the scientist who starts with God’s Word that can be consistent in his beliefs. Evolutionary scientists must assume their view to be false in order to use science, yet they often fail to recognize this truth.
With great concern I am writing this to Creationist because I know that you are Christians and are open to the will of God. I wish to stop the debate as soon as possible for it is damaging the intellectual community and Christianity’s reputation. I have seen Christians viciously attack students for their support of the evolutionary theory. And I have seen people turned from Christianity because of the division caused by this argument.
Once again, we do not condone viciously attacking anyone. We are called to speak the truth in love and to gently and respectfully give an answer to anyone who asks us a reason for the hope that is in us (Ephesians 4:15; 1 Peter 3:15). It is sad when people think negatively about Christianity because they see Christians behaving poorly. Shame on us if it is our actions or words that turn someone from Christ, but shame on them if it is the truth from God’s Word that repels them. Ultimately, unbelievers know the truth, but they suppress it in unrighteousness, so their punishment will be just.
Why do you segregate Christianity and the intellectual community?
Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Although we are supposed to keep the unity of the Spirit that we share with fellow believers (Ephesians 4:3), we should not conform to this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). In other words, we must trust in Christ and His Word rather than the thinking of this world. As we stand for the truth, we will necessarily be at odds with a world of people who love darkness rather than light (John 3:19).
Why do you segregate Christianity and the intellectual community? I realize that many in the “intellectual community” are not Christians, but there are many Christians who are intellectuals. We have several staff members with advanced degrees in scientific disciplines and theology. Are we not qualified to be considered as part of the intellectual community?
Creationist and this magazine especially has the ability to stop this debate.
It would be great if we could put a stop to this debate, but the fact of the matter is that as long as man is in rebellion against the Creator, there will always be people who reject or reinterpret His Word as they attempt to justify their unbelief.
Do not abandon your ideas about creation, but stop and listen to the evolutionists and say, ‘You have reason to accept this theory as I have reason to see creation through my own insights’, lets go about our business with an open mind.
Why do you want to set yourself above God’s Word? Do you really think your insights will be more accurate than God’s explanation of what He did? If the omniscient, eternal God has revealed the truth about the past, why would you ever want to sit in judgment over His words? So although God has given you the freedom to reject His words, He has also given you an opportunity to trust and obey His Word.
If this sort of thinking makes me closed-minded, then I’m happy to be guilty as charged. However, it seems rather closed-minded to me when people refuse to accept or consider the inerrant Word of God. I’m content to allow God to tell me what He did rather than trying to tell Him that He didn’t know what He was talking about in Genesis.
And most importantly lets be prepared to admit that evolution cannot disprove God just as Creationism cannot prove him. Christ is proven by love not theoretical Debate.
Why should I be prepared to deny the law of noncontradiction? God revealed that He made everything in six normal-length days. If He lied about that, how would that not diminish my beliefs about the God who cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18; Titus 1:2)? Either God created in six normal-length days or He didn’t. There is no middle ground on this! Either we trust Him or we don’t.
I find it interesting that when Jesus was engaged in debates, He regularly quoted Scripture. Consider the time He was questioned about divorce and remarriage in Matthew 19 and Mark 10. He quoted from Genesis 1–2. Why would He do this unless He knew it was authoritative and accurate? Since we are supposed to model Christ, then it is perfectly acceptable and right to use the Scriptures when dealing with ungodly philosophies of the age.
Please, help me to stem the fire that was lit years ago. Let us show people that Christians, in Christ, have the humility, courage and love to step back from this fire and remove the logs that continue to feed this debate.
Throughout church history, the vast majority of Christians believed that God created everything in the span of six normal-length days approximately 4,000 years before Christ. We are not fueling the fire when we faithfully proclaim the truth of Scripture. Rather, those who believe in billions of years and encourage people to dismiss God’s Word on this topic are the ones who brought this division into the church. If it is divisive for us to proclaim God’s Word, then that simply illustrates how far removed from biblical authority the church has become.
My views are open to be scrutinize by all. Feel free to release this letter to others. I would be pleased to receive a response from others. Write back ask me about my stance or to tell me where I have gone wrong, if that be the case.
Sincerely T. J.
T.J., thank you for taking the time to write to us. It is definitely more enjoyable to discuss matters like these with an irenic spirit. I am encouraged by your desire for unity in the church, but true unity can only exist where truth is present. The truth about the past will not be discovered by the educated guesses of intelligent people who refuse to accept the truth that God has already revealed in His Word. God is the one who has always existed. He was the eyewitness to the events of creation, and He has given us an infallible record of what He did during the Creation Week. Just as true Christians are united in our belief in the completed work of Christ on the Cross and His subsequent Resurrection from the dead, we should unite around the true history given to us in Genesis, a history that was confirmed by Christ Himself.
Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S.