Saturday, February 7, 2009

Darwin vs. Creation: A Necessary Antithesis?

I don't get into Faith and Science discussions really simply because God has not blessed me with the brains for science. I wish I could do it, but alas. But Christine does math, so I am at least vicariously linked to science (?). This is a fun graphic from the economist that relates to some questions I have about Christian belief and scientific understanding of the world.

Regarding evolution: Why do many Christians feel evolution represents the paragon of godless secularism? Presumably because evolutionary theory offers an explanation of human origins that does not require God. But note, evolution does not necessarily imply godless origin of the world. God could have ordained the world's creation via evolutionary processes. The sticking point is defending the claims of scripture.

Regarding 7-day creation/ism: Why do many Christians feel that Christian faith requires commitment to a 7 day creation? Presumably because (1) the story of creation in Genesis 1-2 tells of a 7 day creation, (2) to believe in a 60 billion year creation suggests the Bible was wrong, (3) the Bible cannot be wrong and (4) therefore Christian faith requires belief in a 7 day creation.

See some of these helpful links:
Hypothetically speaking, what if the writer of Genesis 1-2 literally intended to be telling a story about how God providentially created the world and cares for it and about how the world is to rely on God in all things, but did not literally mean that God brought the world about in a matter of seconds? (Don't yet say, "But that's not what it says." This is just a thought experiment.) What if the science of the world's creation never even crossed the storyteller's mind? In that case, would a commitment to reading the Bible literally still prohibit a belief in evolution?

Another hypothetical, let's suppose that scientists actually documented incontrovertible proof for the theory of evolution. If this were to happen, would 7-day creationists then (1) say the evolutionary scientists must have made a mistake, (2) say Genesis made a mistake or (3) change their understanding of the meaning of Genesis 1-2?

If #1, then we have a serious problem, for this means that there does not need to be any recorded verification of any kind for true Christian faith. Anyone could always appeal to their own interpretation.

#s 2 or 3, do not undermine the Bible's claims to authoritatively describe the human experience, its helpless state and its source of salvation. The idea that any data-mistake (numerical, geographical, historical, etc.) disproves the Bible is one of the greatest lies to have deceived the Church. Genesis 1-2 can be read in other ways, and I think that there is compelling reason to believe Genesis has no scientific intentions. Thus to read it as making claims about physics, chemistry and biology is actually to misread it.

I could, perhaps should, and even want to keep going. But I have reading to get to. But I plead to the Church, to Christians who see their high-school science classrooms as enemy territory: examine carefully, does scripture prohibit evolutionary explanations? Re-examine. Do not supply the automatic response that you've been told it "correct." Ask, why is it correct? Is it correct? And if it is correct, then no one will be offended if you ask and decide it is.


  1. Well.. I was one of those hardcore #1 types until I got into this conversation with one of the pastors I work with (I work at a church) and one perspective he gave me was that to God, in scriptures it says that a thousand years is but one day to him, so perhaps a "day" was more in a metaphorical sense. :-)

  2. yes, it does seem that scripture itself contains differing opinions or descriptions of God's relation to the creation process. that doesn't necessarily mean the opinions contradict one another, but they describe the matter differently. Therefore, the importance for Christians is not on the scientific "how?" but on the theological "so what?" of God's creative act.

  3. by the way, thanks for reading! my intent with posts like this one is, honestly, to be just clearer on the "sides" people take on hot topic issues. agreement or disagreement aside, it would help everyone if we'd take a second to actually try to understand what the different "sides" say and why! :-)

  4. Recently I was reading a bit of "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins (The book is just too shiny to pass up). I read a section in the book which, I thought, made a very good point. It argued that it was silly to believe the universe was too complex to be brought about by mere chance, but that a creator, who we view as infinitely more complex, was. It lead me to 2 ideas.

    1. God is the simplest thing imaginable and is not inherently "intelligent". What we see as intelligence is a complexity brought about to help us understand the Creator.

    2. Everything we see is a reflection of an aspect of the Creator. The thought being that this "revealing" is what replaces intelligence in design. From the smallest cell to the most complex creation, I believe everything is an image of a concept. Sort of like Plato's cave except I don't think an amoeba casts much of a shadow.

    Before reading Dawkins' book, I really had no interest in evolution. Not so much because I thought it was false, but because I didn't see any value in it. However, after changing my views a bit, I really wish I would have payed more attention in biology class. Understanding evolution may teach us a lot about God, our past, and our future. I guess the odd thing here is that faith, not science, lead me to believe that evolution is more logical than "intelligent design". What I have been trying to figure out since is how something so complex comes about without intelligence as I cannot yet reconcile the ideas of natural selection and pure chance with my understanding of God.

    On the other hand, it seems that most early Jewish and Christian writers seemed to be somewhat agreed that the Biblical account of creation took place in a limited span of time and it does not seem wise to simply ignore this.

    Just a thought, let me know what you think and please forgive my ignorance.

  5. Wow, there's a lot here. You raise some interesting points. And I too wish I had payed more attention in biology. The idea of God as simple is a provocative thought. At first blush, it makes a lot of sense; it would also seem to fit with Aristotle's description of the Final/First Cause in book 12 of the Metaphysics, which has been very influential in the history of (Christian) philosophy on the nature of God. It may be helpful if we could have a more simple view of God today, not only in philosophy but in the church. So I like that point.

    Your other point that everything we see is a reflection of an aspect of the Creator is also very attractive to me. It fits very well with Schleiermacher's view that every way humanity relates to the world brings about this sense of our "absolute dependence" upon the creator. Earlier in his career he called "absolute dependence" on God a "sense and taste for the infinite", which gets back to that idea of the simplicity of God. When we talk of God we are not speaking of a human being without thoughts and ways like humans. It may be much more faithful to think of God is in much simpler terms.

    The only thing I'd really disagree with you on is that everything is an image of a concept. Or at least, I'd have to hear you spell it out a bit. I think that concepts are the product of experiences.

  6. I wonder, can we say that concepts are the product of experience without saying that the things (or images) we experience through our senses are based on concepts? I do believe that all concepts are understood through experience so we may be saying the same thing.