Anything “theistic” about theistic evolution?

creation_michaelangelo

The debate about creation vs. evolution is on my mind today. Yesterday, as I was putting some finishing touches on my sermon (which I have preached somewhere before) about “Mount Eden,” I happened to see a related item.

Bruce Waltke, a highly-respected well-loved Old Testament scholar, resigned from his chair at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida after making statements favorable to theistic evolution. This theory is a conflation of the Biblical creation account and Darwinian evolution, saying that God used the process of evolution to create human beings.

The Bible says that God created the universe out of nothing, and man and woman out of the dust of the earth. All of these in six days of creation. Evolution says that after a “Big Bang” which happened on its own, life came into being, and this life  evolved into fish, birds, horses, apes, and finally human beings.

How do we harmonize these two views? We don’t and we can’t! It’s absolutely, totally impossible, even if this world continues into the next 14 billion years, nay, into eternity. Someone please tell me how we could reconcile God forming Adam out of the dust of the ground and Adam evolving from the Big Bang. These two views are mutually exclusive of each other; one cannot believe the Scriptures as the inspired, inerrant and infallible word of God and at the same time believe in the evolutionary process.

According to the 2003 Cornell Evolution Project Survey of leading evolutionary scientists, 87 percent deny God’s existence and 88 percent reject life after death. This is why many theistic evolutionists are mere deists, believing in a god who created the world but is not sovereignly and actively involved in the evolutionary process, not even knowing how the process will turn out. Many of them also do not believe in a “good” creation, so that man was not perfect from the very start.  Although well-known evangelicals such as James Dobson, Hugh Ross, John Ankerberg and Gleason Archer, support theistic evolution, it is not surprising when some of these advocates later abandon the Christian faith altogether, just as Calvin College Professor Emeritus Howard Van Till and (once-fundamentalist) paleontologist Stephen Godfrey did. Fence-sitting in the creation-evolution issue can be dangerous to one’s soul.

Among Reformed theologians, respected names such as B. B. Warfield, W.G.T. Shedd and A. H. Strong are mentioned to support this view. In recent years, the tide seems to be slowly turning in favor of evolution, as a few eminent professors such as Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns have questioned the historicity of the creation account, including that of Adam and Eve. Why would God need a historical Second Adam when the First Adam was just a myth? (Rom 5:12-19; 1 Cor 15:22, 45) And if the First Adam was a myth, then original sin is a myth, and Christ’s substitutionary atonement for his people is pointless.

Who will be next to be swept by the tide is a dreadful thought.

Some Christians want to harmonize these two diametrically opposite views of origins solely because they had surrendered to the pressure of atheistic science, ashamed of being ridiculed. They want to have their cake and eat it too. Dr. Waltke himself succumbed to this pressure, saying, “If the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult . . . some odd group that is not really interacting with the world.” But the problem is that evolution, for many, is the launching pad into unbelief, precisely because it is man’s rebellion against God – no Creator, no accountability, no conscience. It is the answer of the godless atheist to the question of origins. Even pagans create stories about how life began from some Supreme Being, but not the atheist.

Evolution of ManThis is why there is nothing “theistic” about theistic evolution. Various theories about creation have been proposed, but they all boil down into two opposing views: creation and evolution. Creation views include the literal, 6-day/24-hour-a-day view, the framework hypothesis, the analogical view, and Augustine’s instantaneous creation theory. Evolutionary views include “theistic” evolution, the gap theory, and the day-age view, all of which allow for a mix of creation and evolution. A view of Christianity that accommodates science that contradicts Scriptures, no matter how convincing it may sound, must be rejected, because the Scriptures is our only ultimate source of authority and salvation. As Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, in his book God’s Pattern for Creation: A Covenantal Reading of Genesis 1, affirms,

Scripture alone authoritatively interprets the biblical account of creation. The claims of modern science cannot determine the interpretation of the Bible… God created man immediately from the dust of the earth. Man did not evolve from lower animals (96).

This is why I am committed to the following points my denomination, the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA), affirms concerning creation in its 2001 Synod:

• God the Father almighty created the heavens and the earth and all things visible and invisible.
• The Father created the heavens and the earth out of nothing.
• God gave every creature its shape and being.
• The creation and fall of man.
• The historicity of Adam.
• Man was created good, in a garden, and tempted by the devil, committed reckless disobedience.
• God’s words to the serpent in Paradise are noted as the first revelation of the Gospel.
• Adam plunged himself and his offspring by his first transgression into perdition.
• Adam’s fall into sin and our connection to it.
• God came seeking man when he, trembling, fled from Him.
• God created all things good in six days defined as evenings and mornings. This means that we reject any evolutionary teaching, including theistic evolution, concerning the origin of the earth and of all creatures (italics mine).

“Theistic evolution,” therefore, is a very dangerous path to take, because it may just be a temporary stop in the migration from faith to unbelief. Or worse, a theistic evolutionist may be assuming he is a Christian, when in fact, his faith is merely what sociologist Christian Smith has identified as “moralistic, therapeutic deism.”

Here are some other blogtalk about this issue:

“Why Waltke Subscribes to Theistic Evolution” by the Triablogue

“Bruce Waltke Headed to Knox Theological Seminary?” by Christianity Today blog

“Waltke Situation Letters” by JRDKirk

“Bruce Waltke Staying in the Discussion” by the InternetMonk

“Bruce Waltke and the Scientific Orthodoxy” by Uncommon Descent

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12 thoughts on “Anything “theistic” about theistic evolution?”


  1. I don’t see any name or authorship for this article, but I must say the tone and content reflects a lack of depth, clarity, and Christlike charity. When it comes to research, you should have enough respect for both Christian and non-Christian people to read their writings before commenting (let alone putting anything in print) – have the same integrity as the people you are criticizing. Bruce Waltke or Alister McGrath would never write the article you have. That should tell you something. Furthermore, people who hold to theistic evolution are not “sitting on the fence.” This phrase means they are undecided, of two-minds or agnostic (James 1:5). But putting asides your lack of depth, judgemental posture, and your cynicism, your line of reasoning is not biblical. Do you really want to hold the presupposition that those who embrace this theory on how God expands His creation are in real danger of transforming into a deists, or Dawkins-type atheist? You need to think about this a little harder. You need to also recognise how the opposite is true – that many non-Christian people who work in scientific research, especially cosmology, are moving towards faith in Christ specifically due to expanding scientific (which includes evolutionary) research. Will this not affect the sciences? Have you even considered that God will clarify, refine and even re-write evolutionary theory as scientific search keeps pace with a clearer revelation of Creation? Our God is one who reveals Himself and creation displays His glory – this is to be believed by Christians. Furthermore, god is to be trusted in this. He is His own best evangelist and apologist. Or have you not considered that most of the top scientist don’t see exactly eye-to-eye with Darwin himself, and their positions have and are shifting. Currently Dawkins states openly that he is an agnostic, not an atheist – what will tomorrow bring for him as he observed Creation? Consider conversions in China? God is changing scientists and scientific theory and you should know this.
     
    Perhaps the more slippery slope amongst us non-theistic evolutionary, conservative Evangelicals, of which I am one, is converting to what Jesus preached so strongly against and warned His disciples to have nothing to do with – letting a little bit of knowledge and authority turn us into Pharisees. The New Testament is full of this primary teaching on Gospel living and true discipleship. In all fours Gospels, Jesus relentlessly describes the battlefield for our souls – which seems to be the sharp point of your discussion. If there is any major rejection of the Christian faith by this generation, I see it much more in true Christians becoming Pharisees than atheists. Knowing the truth about what pleases God (the great commandment) and what reveals His heart and mission for His world, and rejecting that, is a great disgrace. Theories of origins for the people you have mentioned, and many Evangelicals throughout history who would disagree with them, would call these secondary issues. But many of us have no secondary issues – the Atonement through Christ alone has just as much personal significance for us as how we interpret the Book of Revelation, and why we part company with people who disagree with us. Many of us are more anti-Evolution or anti-Catholic that we are pro-Christ, and our non-Christians know it. Not exactly the salt and light God has in mind for us. Perhaps this is why the Church in the West is so fractured, has little transformative effect on culture, and we have to endure so many cults.
     
    We need conversion and discernment. Two questions for the un-named author: Will there be some (including the names of the people you have mentioned in your article) theistic evolutionary Christians in Heaven, who may need their principles of interpretation righted, along with the rest of us? Will even one Pharisee inherit the Kingdom of Heaven? Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do (and blog) flows from it.

    1. The whole Bible has a system of doctrine. Believing in one thing affects the rest of the system. So there is a “slippery slope” in terms of doctrine. We see that throughout church history. For example, if we’re pro-Christ, then we should be anti-Catholic and anti-evolution in our views. Most evangelicals today have one view: that is, doctrine divides, but we should unite at all costs, including the cost of true religion.

  2. the ape is a completly different species.
    humans come from Adam and Eve
    87% of scientests have no faith  turely awful fact .

  3. Waltke actually believes that God supervised evolution as the process to make man and all the rest of creation. This is why it’s called theistic evolution:

    By “theistic evolution” I mean that the God of Israel, to bring glory to himself, (1) created all the things that are out of nothing and sustains them; (2) incredibly, against the laws of probability, finely tuned the essential properties of the universe to produce adam, who is capable of reflecting upon their origins; (3) within his providence allowed the process of natural selection and of cataclysmic interventions–such as the meteor that extinguished the dinosaurs, enabling mammals to dominate the earth–to produce awe-inspiring creatures, especially adam; (4) by direct creation made adam a spiritual being, an image of divine beings, for fellowship with himself by faith; (5) allowed adam to freely choose to follow their primitive animal nature and to usurp the rule of God instead of living by faith in God, losing fellowship with their physical and spiritual Creator… (202-03).

    This is different from Darwinian evolution, which is just like you said, evolution by natural selection and random processes (which is why Charles Hodge calls it atheistic):

    It may well be that I am the only one on the faculty holding the view of creation by the process of evolution as understood by mainline science, apart from its normal atheistic philosophy.

  4. Hello Paul . . . I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind providing some clarifications regarding your comment.  By “Christianity”, are you referring to professing evangelicalism?  Also, in by your statement, “Most of the people in our church believe in evolution . . .”, are you saying that most of the people in your local congregation believe that all species were produced from lower species through random genetic mutations and natural selection?  Do they affirm that Adam and Eve are historical figures?  If they do not affirm that Adam and Eve are historical figures, do they affirm that mankind was ever fallen in any sense?  Thanks.

    1. Usually, I’m thinking of professed Evangelicals when I say “Christianity,” though I’ve been at Bible studies with “born-again” Catholics that I would include as well. More specifically, I’m referring to the media picture of Christians. They see liberal and conservative Christians, but neither have any of the power we read about in Scripture.
      “Liberal” Christianity is so against Biblical morality that I generally don’t bother discussing it in this context.
      Since we have no official position here at our local congregation, I mean evolution in a very general sense in that there was once only one-celled creatures, later there were fish, then amphibians, then reptiles, then mammals, and the later creatures descended from the once-celled organisms.
      Some or many in the church cannot accept that humans evolved. Some do.
      Most believe in a literal fall.
      It almost never comes up or is discussed because when a person is saved–really saved, and in a church–the very first issue for God is showing that person that there’s no good in themselves. So the fall–whether it was a literal fall in a literal garden or not–gets established very deeply in the heart of a disciple or he/she really can’t grow much in Christ.

      1. I’m definitely with you when you say people must realize that “there’s no good in themselves.”  The question is, why are people not good in themselves?  What would be the basis for their arriving at this conclusion?

        In my reading of the Scriptures, I find that Adam is repeatedly and consistently referred to as the first human being, an individual who lived at a specific time and in a specific place, and one who committed a single act of rebellion which resulted in death entering the world.  It is difficult for me to understand how a church which is attempting to be faithful to the Scriptures can give any credence to an idea that Adam was anything else.  Is not the leadership of your church concerned about those who deny that Adam was a historical figure?  If not, I would like to know what other view of the Fall could possibly be allowed, how death could have been a consequence of it, and why it would get “established very deeply in the heart of a disciple.”

  5. “Among Reformed theologians, respected names such as Charles Hodge, B. B. Warfield, W.G.T. Shedd and A. H. Strong are mentioned to support this view.”
    Sir, pls. elaborate on this. How did these Reformed theologians support “theistic evolution?”

    1. I must strike Charles Hodge out of my list of Reformed theologians who affirm theistic evolution. Here’s some excerpts from his article, “What is Darwinism?”:

      “In common with the whole Church, that this infallible Bible must be insterpreted by science… (which are) ascertained truths concerning the facts and laws of nature. The proposition that the Bible must be interpreted by science is all but self-evident. Nature is as truly a revelation of God as the bible, and we only interpret the Word of God by the Word of God when we interpret the Bible by science.”

      “Darwin rejects all teleology or the doctrine of final causes… We have thus arrived at the answer to our question, What is Darwinism? It is Atheism… His theory is atheistic, that the exclusion of design from nature is… tantamount to atheism.”

  6. The problem is not theistic evolution. The problem is the lack of power in modern Christianity because of the lack of preaching Christ’s Gospel.
    Jesus only took disciples who would forsake everything and everyone for him and for his Gospel. He said that we *cannot* be his disciple otherwise (Luke 14:26-33). The modern, watered-down gospel doesn’t have the power Paul’s Gospel had. Paul’s produced a righteousness that could be seen and that answered all arguments.
    The huge falling away rate that exists now is the product of powerless Christianity. Jesus said to judge a prophet by his fruit. Science has incredible fruit. It sends men to the moon. It heals diseases. Christianity? It produces mostly worldliness, division, and a right-wing political agenda.
    Not very impressive.
    Atheistic evolution would have no appeal if Christianity had power.
    Better to focus on getting our house in order than arguing against rather powerful scientific evidence. Most of the people in our church believe in evolution, but no one falls away to atheism because the power of our Gospel is evident. Some fall away, running from the demands of the Holy Spirit upon their life, but none fall away to unbelief and atheism.

  7. More so, how could God start molding the dust into an ape first so it can evolve later into a man?

    1. Maybe the first one-cell amoeba came from the dust of the earth. And we know the rest of the story… The Not-So-Almighty God was so inefficient and incompetent that it took him 4 billion years to create man from the dust of the earth! The extreme opposite of Augustine’s high view of God whom he said could have created the whole universe in an instant.

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