Of all the internal debates within Christianity, the subject of evolution is one which often sparks the most controversy and argument. Should Christians accept Darwin's theory, and what does the Bible really teach?
by Suus Wansink
Dr Denis Alexander, director of the Faraday Institute at Cambridge University has given a resounding "no" in answer to the title of his book: Creation and Evolution: Do we have to choose?
“As far as Europe is concerned, Christians started modern science. It’s very sad to see a segment of the Christian community that has become anti science and reject a theory which gives the framework for the whole of modern biology with no theological or scientific need to do that.
“They are sadly misled if they think defending creationism is going to help evangelism or church growth. It just means the scientific community think they are stupid for no good reason. That’s very sad. I don’t think we should put unnecessary blocks in people coming to faith.”
Believing that six day creationists hold an “extreme view” which attracts a lot of publicity, Dr Alexander wants Christians to accept evolution as the process God used to create life on earth.
Creation Ministries International (CMI)
But Dominic Statham from Creation Ministries International (CMI) and author of Evolution: Good Science? says evolution undermines the Bible.
“If you accept the theory of evolution, then you’re going to start saying the Bible isn’t quite right about creation. As soon as people say the Bible isn’t quite right about creation, they‘ll ask ‘is it quite right about this global flood?’ As soon as they say ‘I don’t think it’s quite right about that’, it’s a slippery slope and people say ‘what about the virgin birth and the resurrection?’”
James Lee, who is studying preaching at Spurgeon's College, London doesn’t buy the slippery slope argument and accuses it of adding unnecessary “heat” to the argument.
“Six day creationists feel they are defending the one historic interpretation of Genesis one and two but I think there’s always been diversity and there’s always been debate.”
Dominic argues that the “clear majority” of Bible scholars prior to the 19th century “accepted a recent creation in six literal 24 hour days…The view has changed as people sought to accommodate science or what some claim to be science into the Bible.”
He also asserts that “very few people” deny Jesus believed in a literal six day creation and Adam and Eve.
"I concluded the theory of evolution was ideologically driven rather than scientifically driven"
“I’d always be nervous about claiming to know exactly what Jesus and Paul would have done with verses we disagree about,” James hits back. “There’s different genres in the Bible. We’d interpret a poem very differently to how we would a historical narrative. Poetry is still true, it’s just God’s word in a different way.”
But rather than ditching evolution in order to embrace Genesis, Dr Peter Enns, author of the Evolution of Adam has re-examined what the Genesis story communicates.
Dr Denis Alexander
Author of Creation and Evolution: Do we have to choose?
The most controversial element of Dr Enns new book is his assertion that Adam and Eve did not exist as historical, real figures.
While admitting such a belief raises difficult theological questions (how did sin enter the world? What makes us human), Dr Enns is confident in his view.
“The fact that Evolution causes theological problems doesn’t mean evolution is wrong. It means we have a theological problem.
“I have to take the word of the majority of scientist both Christians and non Christians from whom I believe the evidence is absolutely overwhelming and cannot be denied.”
“The fact that Evolution causes theological problems doesn’t mean evolution is wrong it means we have a theological problem."
Dr Alexander claims no one had ever heard of creationism when he was a student at Oxford University. “Young earth creationism started in the early 1960s. It’s a very new movement.”
“There was a poll done in 2009 of the British population. Around 10% of the British population are young earth creationists, which is quite high. It’s been exported from America in the past few decades.”
While Dr Alexander is convinced of the validity of evolution, Dominic describes the idea as a “faith”.
“People say belief in evolution is scientific and people of faith believe in creation but the reality is that evolution is every bit as much of a faith as belief in creation.”
Dominic’s journey through the complex scientific and theological implications of accepting evolution began eight years ago when he struggled to reconcile evolution with the Bible.
“I decided to look into it myself. I wasn’t looking for evidence against evolution, I actually wanted to know what the evidence for evolution was. I was quite amazed. I expected to come across strong scientific arguments supporting that position, I was surprised they didn’t have them. Bit by bit I concluded the theory of evolution was ideologically driven rather than scientifically driven.”
Dominic quotes James Barr, a professor of Hebrew at Oxford University in the 1980s as saying: “Probably, as far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the idea that creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience”.
There is one point that Dominic and some evolutionaries agree on: A young earth interpretation of Genesis and a modern day mainstream view of evolution are incompatible.
The Evolution of Adam
Peter Enns controversial new book
From six day creationists through to theistic evolutionists there is little consensus.
It's not just the arguments that cause disagreement, but the arguments about the arguments.
Is the following quote a summary of the absurdity of evolution or a false dichotomy creationists love to pose? “Are we made in God’s image with a divine purpose, or are we the lucky descendants of haphazardly advanced primates, having evolved up from the right combination of proto-amino acids, and a nearby lightening strike (Frankenstein-style), one lucky day, long, long ago…?”
Theistic evolutionaries will claim the science has tipped the balance and Darwin’s theory although often modified, was heading in the right direction. They will be criticized for not taking the Bible seriously enough. Creationists will question the accuracy of dating methods and some fossils. They will be criticized for peddling a ‘conspiracy theorist’ attitude toward science.
As Christians debate the past, what will it mean for the future? Again, there is little consensus, but James believes attitudes among young Christians are changing.
“We’ve come out of a very dogmatic period as a church where you followed your denominational line on issues. Our generation has come out of that saying we’re post denominational, we want to look at things ourselves and come to our own conclusions and be independent thinkers.”
Christian attitudes toward evolution do appear to be evolving. Whether they are progressing or digressing is another matter. Perhaps only time will tell.
May 3rd, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes