Wednesday, January 21, 2009

creation and evolution

I am reading up on creation and evolution. Normally I avoid divisive issues, but I think the evidence for a very old earth and an older universe is compelling and irrefutable, and that the evidence for evolution is nearly as compelling to the point that we can hold both to be true. I continue to read on this, so I'm in a learning mode right now.

God has given us two great books to read: nature and Scripture. Or in the words of Deborah B. & Loren D. Haarsma, from their helpful book, Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, & Evolution, from God's world and from God's Word. We need to read them both and let them both speak for themselves, never letting one change the other. And we need to remember that the problem lies in us- in our lack of understanding, not in either of the books, when there seems to be contradiction between the two. That book is actually designed for use in churches, and is comprehensive in an introductory way to the issue of origins, and the interplay between faith and science.

From what I gather, much of Charles Darwin's science is good, and has been verified to the point that he is more influential now, near his 200th birthday- February 12- than ever before. Unfortunately he ended up letting his problem with Christianity as he saw it, impact his science to some extent. Although it doesn't impact the main point of it.

The problem that we as Christians have to battle, as I see it, is not differences where Christians lie on this issue, some for example, holding to Young Earth Creationism, as opposed to those of us who hold to a Theistic Evolutionary model. The problem is where an anti-Christian faith has impacted the science of such people, like Richard Dawkins. Their view would be a part of what is called evolutionism. The idea that all can be explained in naturalistic evolutionary terms, so that natural selection makes any notion of a god not only unnecessary, but undesirable. So that we end up battling evolutionism and naturalism, which in themselves are not scientific. By the way, in Richard Dawkins' case, his recent diatribe against faith in God has really undermined his academic standards, according to those who understand the scientific and philosophical issues involved in that, from what I have heard and am gathering.

There is more that I intend to read on this. So it's a formative time for me in my understanding on origins. There is so much to say here, and a good place to start is with the book I cite above. It interacts with different Christian views, and it comes out where these two scientists are themselves, both professors at Calvin College. They cover in an introductory fashion scientific and theological issues in this.

(Many of my thoughts here come directly through the book mentioned on this post. I take no credit for originality or first hand learning, here. Strictly based on reading others, and forming judgments from that, and especially in this post, from the book mentioned above.)

What might anyone like to add here?


The Wingnut said...

My Dad and I attended their January Series lecture. It was very interesting, very informative, but I found myself half-wishing that they would personally choose and defend one of the theories that they presented.

I guess for me this question has been settled.

By that I mean that I feel no need to debate about human origins, or the meaning of Genesis, or how (or when) it all actually happened.

I am comfortable with the mystery surrounding how God created us in His image, and delight in every new scientific discovery, and how said discoveries shed new light on our ever-changing view of God's Scripture.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Actually in their book you do see where they come down: for an old earth and theistic evolution.

I heard it online, and thought it was good, but basic.

Marcus Goodyear said...

I came out of the closet about this last year. I believe in evolution--or at least the version you describe of old earth theistic evolution. After reading The Language of God and talking with Francis Collins and John Medina, I decided the Christian community was doing itself a disservice by not speaking out against scientific readings of genesis.

For what it's worth.

L.L. Barkat said...

I like that you are thinking. Searching. I imagine God can handle all our questions, our wonderings, and that He smiles from time to time (or sighs) at our strivings and our declarations.

Craver Vii said...

I think you already know that I am convinced of the teachings of young earth creationism. It happened how it happened, and I hope that Christians of all persuasions make an honest effort to connect with reality. And then, if after our efforts, we disagree, I hope we can still be loving toward one another. The results of our searchings DO make a difference, but the biblical mandate to love one another is paramount.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Glad for the opportunities you have had. And you state it quite well.

The evidence for an old earth and universe is so overwhelming, that the only thing I think they really have to fall back on is the appearance of an old creation theory.

But this would seem to contradict God's truthfulness as set forth in general revelation, I believe.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, I'm not sure really why I did this post, or have come out, or do come out in the open as I do.

But like you stated, it's a striving for truth from God. Thankfully God is a god of grace.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I agree, but with opposite conclusions. Yet in the end, love trumps all, when we don't agree, love trumps all in Jesus.

And I appreciate your spirit and thought here, as always.

preacherman said...

Ted great post and discussion. Does time matter to an eternal God? Doesn't scripture say, "A thousand years is but a day...?
" If you look closely to the way God created the world it follows evolution. Does it matter how the world was created? Is it a salvation issue? I wonder why we as believers spend so much time arguing the isse. Can we be believers and believe in science and evolution? Do we as believers understnad the difference between theory and fact? It is a theory...The big band is a theory... Just something to think about.
I really enjoy reading your blog brother. You challenge our views and help us grow in our faith and knowledge of God. Keep up the great work you do with this blog!!!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Actually scientists use theory involving matters that are simply testable. I mean they continue to be tested, but that doesn't mean they aren't considered solid.

Einstein's theory of general relativity is a case in point. It's considered solid at least at its base, and a better take and replacement of Newton's law of gravity, from what I read.

Thanks, Preacherman. I agree. And you are gracious, as always.

Ted M. Gossard said...


Though we may end up disagreeing in the end, I believe we can still both be united in the work of Christ in the world.

Dave J. said...

Bold of you to bring up the subject, Ted, but I think you have a balanced readership that makes this worthy of the discussion.

I began the year studying a bit of the technical aspects of this, especially how young-earthers dispel the evolutionist science. Fascinating stuff.

1. If you accept evolution, you are suddenly 'at risk' of the slippery slope of rationalizing the Bible.
2. If you accept creationism, you find yourself trapped in circular logic that ends up with dinosaurs living with humans.

Its like choosing republican or democrat: the truth is somewhere in between, but its muddy and mysterious. Its just a way-harder position to explain clearly.

For fun, do some google-research on 'Poe's Law'. It helps explains why conversations like this can get out of hand.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Dave J., You may be ahead of me on this, or at least we might get our two heads together from time to time.

I am surprised I've come out on this side, but a professor and scientist, RJS on Jesus Creed, really made me think that in all probability this is correct. Before I had held it as a distinct possibility, really for years. But just never pursued it. The books seem pretty convincing to me, but maybe down the road, conceivably, I could change or be adjusted somehow in my position.

However I did it not because I was necessarily bold, though maybe this is bold whether good or bad. But because of the problem I see with people being afraid of science, thinking it will be threatening to their faith.

I'm pretty well convinced that an interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 will not side well with Young Earth Creationism, and that it will side much better with the impact such a message had culturally against the creation stories of the gods, particularly, as I recall, from Babylon.

That Poe's Law is interesting. I think definitely some of that has gone on on Scot McKnight's blog, Jesus Creed, in the past, in the controversial blogs. Scot insists the heat be turned down when he spots it, and won't tolerate sarcasm, but only respectful discussion.

Andrew said...


This is a hot-button, gotta-respond, can't-stop-biting-my-nails-over-it issue for me. After all, I was a biology major in college, and I teach high school biology now and then.

I too think the Long Day/Old Earth versions more compelling, but they're not without significant theological difficulties (e.g., Was there death in a world that was "very good"? Did death only enter the universe when Adam sinned, or did death only spread to Man when Adam sinned?).

I'm going to have to stop here, because I could yak on forever about this. I think the biggest issue indeed are the philosophical presuppositions of naturalism and materialism. They're a total sham. On top of that, purely Darwinian science undermines its own demand for empirical evidence which it claims is so necessary for true knowledge. But I digress.

Ted M. Gossard said...


I can so much concur with you that there's way too much to be said on this all the way around.

I think one major key is to let the Bible speak the way it did to the original hearers, and then go from there. They certainly would not have understood billions of years, or the debate today in scientific terms over Genesis 1 and 2. The impact of Genesis 1 and 2 ends up being theological, as the language used there was in terms of their understanding of the world- not scientific, at least not directly so. I think the book I mention presents the surprising number of basic views well, so that you understand where Christians are coming from.

Of course naturalism and evolutionism has to be fought. That is where the real battle lies, in my estimation. Not with evolution, or its science. But with metaphysical arguments by some, when science becomes faith, and an attack against faith.

It is interesting that on the day Adam sinned he did not die a physical death. Yet death did occur.

I would strongly recommend that you read the book I mention on this posting, along with The Bible, Rocks and Time.

The Wingnut said...

Perhaps death did occur, yet was accepted as just another transition, as birth.

Perhaps when Adam fell, the thing that changed was not death itself, but our fallen, selfish view of death as the "end of the road".

Instead of accepting death as a natural part of God's design in Creation, humanity now viewed death with fear and sorrow.

Instead of rejoicing as Creation once more enters God's presence, we mourn as it leaves our presence.

When Adam fell, he gave power to death it never had before, a power that Jesus had to take away again.

just a thought.


John said...

Ted -
I agree with what you say here. I know Greg Laughery (director of Swiss L'Abri) and George Diepstra (worker at L'Abri and world renowned neurobiologist) are working on a Creation and Evolution book/article. Also, I would encourage you to look up the work of Matt Walhout from Calvin College. He does a lot of work in this area, I believe.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Also I want to say that I realize you have probably thought through at least much of what I mention here and beyond. Though the sources I refer to would be even more interesting to a scientific mind like your own.

Ted M. Gossard said...

The Wingnut,
Thanks for your interesting thoughts on death. Yes, maybe that is an answer. Certainly Paul's words in Romans (and 1 Corinthians 15) are the word of God and true. But exactly what they mean is what the issue is here. Or what the meaning could allow.

I'm not even finished with the book mentioned in this post yet (though I did read ahead at points to get previews of what I was going to read later). But the authors do explain their position well from both a Scriptural as well as scientific viewpoint.

But interesting thought, and I like the way you put it.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Quite interesting. Thanks.

Ted M. Gossard said...

One thought on death I picked up from reading the book. If humans were created immortal than why the need for the tree of life in the garden? Remember that God barred entrance into the garden lest the humans who had eaten of the forbidden tree, take of the tree of life and live forever.

Death is an intruder and an enemy in Scripture, the last enemy that will be destroyed. This will be so, as I understand it, in the new creation in Jesus.

I am still working on all of this. Not to solve problems myself, but to see the work that has been done, as well as the positions Christians take.

In the end we must be true to God's revelation given to us in Scripture, true to God's revelation given to us in nature/creation. And love all Christians who differ with us on this subject. We must not let such matters divide us in our fellowship in the Lord.