Sunday, April 24, 2005
Reassessing the Theologic Impact of Evolution
I have long believed that evolution has no theological significance. Probably the biggest reason for this was that a friend of mine was beeh one of the most fervent Christians I knew and also believed very strongly in evolution. He told me that he simply believed that evolution was the method that God used to create.
While I disagreed with him greatly on the issue of creation/evolution, it was obvious to me that this was not a major doctrinal issue, because I had great respect for him. I have held this viewpoint for at least 15 years. Recently, however, others have been pointing out the problem with this view.
Here are the main incompatibilities of evolution with scripture:
|Evolution Says||Creation Says|
|From death came Adam (natural selection operates primarily through death of unadapted species)||From Adam came death (before the fall, death was unknown, and all animals were vegetarian)|
|All animals form a continuity||Animals were created with discontinuities|
|The world is billions of years old||The world is thousands of years old (while some disagree whether or not Genesis is poetic, Exodus 20:11 is very clear|
|The flood was local, and we continue to have local floods||Noah's flood was global, and destroyed the entire Earth, and God promised never again to send a similar flood|
|Creation was not very good||Creation was very good until Adam's sin|
While some of these are minor issues, the first one is not. It is the very basis for the need for Christ. While some have argued that the death of Adam is spiritual only (and he would have died physically anyway), that interpretation ignores many of the aspects of death included in the Genesis narrative, including the ability to eat meat after the fall and not before, and the groaning of creation after the fall through thorns and other problems. While there are several possible interpretations of Genesis, it is clear from their writings that those who have opted for old-Earth interpretations have done so for the express purpose of incorporating prevalent philosophies of the earth into Christianity, and not because that's the best reading of the text. Likewise, that sort of ploy is used unconsciously to include the anti-Biblical ideas of evolution into Christian theology, such as from death came Adam.
This brings up another issue -- that of taking man's ideas over God's ideas. The fact is that the whole point of the Bible is to trust God and what He says over what others say. The Bible repeatedly warns against those who are right in their own eyes. In order to be a Christian you HAVE to be willing to trust God over and above what you think and what others think. The cross is a stumbling block to some and foolishness to others -- to think that we should synchronize their ideas with those of God is a mockery of God.
However, this does not mean that there is one and only one possible interpretation of a verse. The question comes about -- why are you re-interpretting this verse? Is it because you truly think that the verse means something else, or is it because man's ideas force you to re-interpret the verse to read into them man's ideas? If it is the latter, then you are saying that you are smarter than God, and that your ideas are more important. What's really bad about this is that once man's ideas become official Church teaching, when man changes his ideas it is the Church that is left holding the bag.
A clear case of this is in evolutionary racism. During the first part of this century, the evolutionary biology textbooks taught that there were four races of man -- australoid, negroid, mongoloid, and caucasoid -- and had evolved in that order. Caucasians were the most advanced race. While this was not the origin of racism, it has both fueled and solidified racist thinking -- giving people a false comfort of believing based on facts. This led to numerous heinous atrocities including the hunting of Australian aborigines, and the display of a Pygmie from Africa in the Bronx Zoo. This was justified because they were viewed to be from lower forms of life. This thinking infected the Church, too, who had mostly given up to evolutionary thinking. However, after the second world war, the implications of this type of racism were obvious. The mind of the world changed. But, of course, the Church since then has been blamed for producing racist people. And the charge is not that far from the truth. They were a party to it. They forsook the Word of God for a lie, and that is the outcome. Had they remained true to God's word, it would have been a great victory for the modern Church.
All of this has led me to believe that evolution is the modern idolatry. I know there are many idols that we have in our lives -- money, comfort, pleasure, etc. However, I think that evolutionary thinking has plagued Christianity the same way that other syncretisms have in the past. The difference is that the Church isn't seeing it because it isn't an obvious idol. However, secular humanism is the antithesis of Christianity, and evolution is the core foundation of it. Letting evolution modify our understanding of the Bible is the same as syncretism with idol worship.
It's not being anti-science, either. There is nothing wrong with supplemental information to scripture. The difference is that, as Christians, we regard the scripture as authoritative. Other understandings come below that, not above. We are to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. By its own admission, scientific knowledge is tentative. However, we let the tentative results of science trump belief in the authoritative word from scripture. As Christians, our authority is in scripture. Ceding that to other authorities is the equivalent of idolatry.
So what to do with Christians who are participating in this? I think the best thing to do is to help them see what is happening, and why it is problematic. This is probably the thing which has prevented me from believing this -- I don't like confronting others, especially on matters of faith. But God has really been dealing with me in this area, and I think I'm going to have to start helping others individually to see the conflict between evolution and Christianity, rather than just doing so impersonally on the web.
Also, just to point out for those theological evolutionists that are still out there, the theory of evolution as it is usually formulated is against you, too. Most formulations say that it is both undirected and unsupervised, which specifically excludes you. The idea that evolution is not in conflict with theology is pretty much just a ploy to limit resistance, rather than a real nod to theology. Just like the Churches in the past and racism, you too will be left holding the bag.
Some people have worried about whether such a stance will drive people away from Christianity. This is entirely possible. However, that is the nature of Christianity -- it is a stumbling block to some, and foolishness to others. Christ himself said that in order to follow him that you should count the cost before following Him. This is a far cry from the modern idea of salvation at any price. While our job is to present Christ for and to all people, it is NOT our job to change the message to make it more palatable. The message is what it is, and if proclaiming the true message of Christ causes people to turn away from God, then that will just have to happen. It's sad, but Jesus said that He will divide. We have become so scared of people rejecting us that we have started rejecting scripture in order to bring more people in. In that case, what are we bringing people into? Just another way for people to be right in their own eyes? In that case, we are bringing them to destruction on the pretext of bringing them to life.