01 February 2019

A Creationist and Evolutionist Rapprochement?

Response to "Ten Theses on Creation and Evolution That (Most) Evangelicals Can Support": Part 2
(See part 1 here.)

by Dr. Colin Eakin

Christianity Today has published an article by Todd Wilson entitled "Ten Theses on Creation and Evolution That (Most) Evangelicals Can (Mostly) Support." These theses—termed "Mere Creation" when first developed—were the result of some "grappling" (Wilson's term) that occurred when he brought his belief in evolutionary creationism to his new church and its commitment to a literal six-day creation paradigm. What was the outcome? Part 1 of this two-part post reviewed the first five theses along with Wilson's supporting commentary. We now continue with a look at the final five theses, with some concluding remarks.

  1. Human beings are created in the image of God and are thus unique among God's creatures. They possess special dignity within creation. This is a true statement, taken right out of Gen. 1:26-28. But don't miss how Wilson's embrace of evolutionary creationism places himself in a real pickle as a result of this thesis. Evolutionary creationists cannot say that the version of humans we see today are the ones made in God's image. Why not? Because evolution presumes the human species, like all species, is constantly progressing to a more highly developed form through environmental adaptation. In an evolutionary paradigm, every species is always evolving to a higher order of being, and this must also include humans. Thus, for the evolutionary creationist, there is no way around this dilemma: either humans are never quite made in God's image, because they continue to evolve, or they are made in God's image because God is evolving just as they are. Both are profoundly unbiblical perspectives.
  2. There is no final conflict between the Bible rightly understood and the facts of science rightly understood. God's "two books," Scripture and nature, ultimately agree. Therefore Christians should approach the claims of contemporary science with both interest and discernment, confident that all truth is God's truth.

    Two books of infallible truth? Hardly. Jesus declares God's Word to be truth (John 17:17). He says, " . . . If you abide in my Word . . . you will know the truth . . .." (John 8:31-32). Thus, believers can be certain that if their convictions about anything—natural or spiritual—are anchored to the Word of God, they will always be aligned with God's truth. But God never made the same promise about His creation. He never said to anchor oneself according to discoveries about the natural world made by finite minds. He never said that the origin of the universe and everything in it could be uncovered using scientific constants of today applied to the beginning of time. In fact, He says the exact opposite. In Chapter 3 of his second epistle, Peter specifically instructs the reader not to assume uniformity of natural processes at the beginning and end of time. He writes that foolish scoffers will be the ones to say, " . . . all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation" (v. 4), with the obvious implication that you do not want to be a foolish scoffer. Peter goes on to unveil that catastrophic events outside the bounds of uniformity marked the creation of this world, and will also mark its end. Using this paradigm, where uniformity of nature is not presumed at the bookends of time, we have a framework from which to acknowledge the uniformity we see in the present, while at the same time we can trust the Bible's literal rendering of how the world began and how it will end.

    Note also that if you take Wilson's "two books" proposal to its logical conclusion, it actually makes all truth relative. How so? Wilson contends his two sources of truth will ultimately agree, but he admits that this might only be seen in eternity. Until then, what happens when they yield conflicting conclusions? Which source gets the final say? The Bible? Science? Sometimes one and sometimes the other, whichever seems to be the most compelling? That is the definition of relativism, and is certainly not the approach of a biblical inerrantist. Ironically, this was the approach of the mainline Protestant church and other institutions (e.g. Fuller Seminary) in the 20th century, when in a Faustian bargain they surrendered biblical inerrancy in order to curry favor with the world. The result? A landscape of institutions fast declining into irrelevancy, having no discernible sign of (nor any interest in) biblical orthodoxy whatsoever. Mark this: whenever one sees the proposed "two books" paradigm in operation, the Bible is always subordinated to the latest so-called "scientific" discovery, with a predictable corresponding deterioration into heterodoxy, then apostasy, and ultimately heresy.

  3. The Christian faith is compatible with different scientific theories of origins, from young-earth creationism to evolutionary creationism, but it is incompatible with any view that rejects God as the Creator and Sustainer of all things. Christians can (and do) differ on their assessment of the merits of various scientific theories of origins.

    The Christian faith is not compatible with evolutionary creationism, theistic evolution, or whatever term of the day is in vogue. But don't take my word for it. This assessment is according to the ultimate Master, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Where? As noted previously, Jesus Himself refers to the creation of Adam and Eve as a historical event in Mark 10:6 (cf. Matthew 19:4), where He quotes from both Gen. 1:27 and 5:2: "But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.'" In those twelve words, Jesus utterly refutes the underpinnings of evolutionary theory.

    How so? First, Jesus uses the past tense—"made"—to confirm the creation of the first humans as a finished product. In other words, the process was immediate and complete, not developmental and ongoing, as must be the case with evolution. Second, Jesus states that this male and female were created "from the beginning of creation," and not billions of years after the world was formed. And since—according to Jesus—humans were created "from the beginning of creation," the sixth day on which they were created must have so close in time to the first as to be nearly indistinguishable in the whole of creation. Third, by claiming that, "from the beginning, God made them male and female," Jesus is here establishing human sexual reproduction as the means by which the species has procreated from its inception. This statement of Jesus invalidates the possibility that humans could have ever derived from single cell organisms via asexual reproduction. With an eloquence and economy of words that only the Lord Himself could devise, Jesus completely exposes and repudiates the lie of evolution.

    How do we know Jesus was referring to a specific Adam and Eve in His reference to male and female originating at the beginning of creation? From the context of Jesus' statement. In Mark 10, Jesus is explaining God's perspective on marriage and divorce. As He continues (Mark 10:7-8), Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24: "'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'" To what reason is Jesus referring? He is referencing the prior verse in Genesis 2:23: "Then the man said, 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.'" What man? The only man referenced in Genesis 2, and actually named in verse 20: Adam. Thus, these verses specifically relate to the instantaneous and mature creation of woman from Adam. In fact, the only man and the only woman in the Bible up until this point were the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. So, by referencing Genesis 2, Jesus clearly affirms his belief in the creation of a literal Adam and Eve on the sixth day of the earth's existence. It may be that, according to Wilson, "Christians can (and do) differ on their assessment of the merits of various scientific theories of origins." But Jesus is clear where He stands on the issue.

  4. Christians should be well grounded in the Bible's teaching on creation but always hold their views with humility, respecting the convictions of others and not aggressively advocating for positions on which evangelicals disagree.

    This thesis is in itself an oxymoron. How so? Ask yourself, how can Christians be "well-grounded in the Bible's teaching on creation," and yet not defend that ground when confronted with any challenge to that ground? Being "well-grounded," by definition, means to stand your ground. It means to understand something in a way that will not move you from your foundation. Well-grounded Ph.D. students in any other field are expected to make a defense of their foundation of knowledge when their course of study is complete; no degree ensues without it! But Wilson wants well-grounded students of creation to bend at the slightest breeze of opposition, if that opposition is coming from someone who professes to be of the same faith. This isn't biblical humility; this is post-modern, theological drivel! Following this advice, Jesus would have remained politely silent or even agreeable when Satan presented Him with what he had learned from Scripture (Matt. 4:6). As it happened, Jesus did not respect the conviction of another (in this case, the devil), but rather aggressively advocated an opposing position, rebuking Satan's false interpretation of Scripture with His own true one (Matt. 4:7).

    In contrast to Wilson's idea, biblical humility occurs when one completely submits one's own contemplations of the world to God and His Word. The humblest Christians are those who stay most true to the Word of God, not letting the appearances of the world disengage them from commitment to the truth of the text (Prov. 3:5-6). This goes against the trend in post-modern evangelical Christianity, where a so-called "hermeneutic of humility" has arisen, which in reality is nothing of the sort. This hermeneutic suggests that certainty and intransigence in presenting one's own convictions on a topic of controversy is arrogant and spiritually immature. Wilson claims, "In practice, humility and a desire to preserve ecclesial unity mean respectfully listening to the views of others. It also means not agitating for change or grandstanding with one's own views. On a complex, sensitive, and contentious issue like origins, it is best for evangelicals of goodwill not to aggressively advocate for positions on which evangelicals disagree." Elsewhere he writes, "It is a sign of childhood or adolescence to be agitated by a less than black-and-white world."

    Really? Jesus was polemically agitated in His hostile interaction with the Pharisees on "complex, sensitive and contentious issues," such as the kingdom of God, proselytizing, the Sabbath, tithing, persecution of His faithful messengers and the like (Matt. 23:1-36). Later in the NT, the Apostle Paul writes that we are to be imitators of him, as he is of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). So what does Paul recommend when the truth of God's Word is under assault, passive regard or confident rebuke? His model is Christ as he compels the church in Corinth to, " . . . destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete" (2 Cor. 10:5-6). So Jesus gets agitated when the black-and-white instruction of God is assailed, and Paul does the same. How can the true believer do anything less?

    Why was Paul so incensed at arguments and lofty opinions raised against what God has said in His Word? Because false teaching in one area has a way of spreading to all areas, and with false teaching comes proclivity to sin; the book of Jude lays this out plainly. Because of this, Paul writes to that same church in Corinth, "Who is made to fall (i.e. drawn into sin), and I am not indignant?" (2 Cor. 11:29b). According to Paul, righteous indignation in the face of false teaching is the appropriate and indeed, biblically prescribed reaction for those who would establish themselves as true followers of Christ. As Pastor John MacArthur has said, one sign of Christian maturity is when God is dishonored and you feel the insult. Now obviously, not every theological difference is a polemical hill on which to die. But as we have already established with Thesis #1 in Part 1, the issues at stake if a literal, historical view of Genesis 1-2 is surrendered are comprehensively devastating to the Christian faith. This is why, on the issue of creationism versus evolution, the admonition of Paul pertains: " . . . the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will" (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

  5. Everything in creation finds its source, goal, and meaning in Jesus Christ, in whom the whole of creation will one day achieve eschatological redemption and renewal. All things will be united in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

    This is the sort of statement one expects from someone who is not a true biblical inerrantist, and therefore struggles to comprehend the true plan of God, as found in His Word. It is true that Jesus Christ is the source of creation (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:3), that all things presently hold together in Him (Col. 1:17), and that, in time, all things will be united in Him (Eph. 1:10). It is not true that everything in creation finds its source in Jesus Christ, for that would make Him the Author of evil, which the Bible repudiates (Hab. 1:13; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5). It is also untrue that the "whole of creation will one day achieve eschatological redemption and renewal." Much of creation is headed for devastation and ruin, when Jesus returns to judge the earth, inflicting vengeance and promising eternal destruction on those who rebel against God and do not obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus (2 Thess. 1:8-9). We'll concede Wilson's larger point is true, that ultimately everything in this world—including evil—is ordained for the glory that the Father is bestowing upon His Son. But the Son's preeminence above all things is precisely why it is so important to see what Christ has to say about origins (see Thesis #8 above). Since our Master's position on origins negates any consideration of evolution, so must our own.
Conclusion: As you can see, the theses upon which Wilson and his church have joined in agreement on the issue of creationism versus evolution leave much to be desired. These ten "theses" should cause the biblically committed believer to grieve for both Wilson and his congregation; Wilson for his meager understanding of both biblical inerrancy and the limits of science, and his congregation for their error in judgment that brought him to their pulpit. No effort to bridge the divide between those who believe in some sort of evolutionary creationism and those who hold fast to a literal creation scheme will ever be successful. While one side holds fast to the truth of the text, the other routinely jettisons these textual convictions whenever human reasoning based upon so-called "science" commands, regardless of formal protests of inerrancy or a "high view" of Scripture. And once one begins to allegorize the Scripture to accord with the unsubstantiated conjectures of finite minds, where is the end point? Why stop playing fast and loose with Scripture at Genesis 2? In fact, most evolutionary creationists do not stop there, which is why most who side with evolution also stray into ideas of egalitarianism, supersecessionism, preterism, postmillennialism, and similar sorts of theological error. Wilson's article should stimulate biblically-faithful believers to commit themselves to uphold the biblical record of Genesis 1-2 in a literal historical manner, and refute those who would peddle any evolutionary alternative.

Dr. Colin L. Eakin Pyromaniac

Dr. Eakin is a sports medicine orthopædic surgeon in the Bay Area and part time teacher at Grace Bible Fellowship Church's Stanford campus ministry. He is the author of God's Glorious Story.

1 comment:

Jim Pemberton said...

Excellent analysis.

Some of these same arguments are also made by Old Earth creationists. That's a different discussion, but where OE arguments follow these, the arguments are similarly bad ones.

As to the form of the arguments themselves, they are all centered on the authority of Scripture in one way or another. The first argument, for example, begs the question that answered would yield a category error. That is to say that what they mean by saying that people are made in the image of God and have certain dignity is different than the orthodox understanding. The deceit here is for an orthodox Christian to think, "Oh! So you theistic evolutionists are actually orthodox on that matter. Theistic evolution might not be so bad after all." You have to watch the categories closely. When I evaluate arguments, I look for category errors like a hawk. Someone being deceptive, whether intentionally or not, will usually conflate categories. I look for people who can accurately explain category differences especially where those categories reflect or falsely mimic biblical theological categories.

The two-book narrative that holds natural revelation in authority as equal to special revelation is particularly troubling. The common argument for pressing this is the old Galileo saw. This is held up as an example as to how natural revelation can correct our understanding of special revelation. What's completely skipped is that we never needed Galileo's observations to get Scripture right on the matter. We only needed good hermeneutics. The Scripture was clear all along and the Catholics had long removed themselves from following Scripture. What needed correcting wasn't a right understanding of Scripture, it was the doctrine of Scripture itself. We didn't need Galileo for that either. Interestingly, what is being put forth in the two-book narrative is a RETURN to the same poor doctrine of Scripture that they claim to correct.

That brings me to the last observation I have, namely that the poor hermeneutic being used according to the poor doctrine of Scripture being proposed is to take clear texts and interpret them in different ways and say, "Well, it COULD be interpreted this way," as though the perspicuity of Scripture allows for different valid interpretations such that we get to pick and choose which interpretation we like. That goes back to the observation in this article that the two-books view actually makes truth relative. The deceit here is to have the unwary believer think, "Oh, so evolution is actually a legitimate reading of Scripture? Well, it might be legit, then." Beware when people say that the text could be interpreted some other way and then propose something that is contrary to what the text says or has only been an interpretive option for a short time. For this reason, I'm not favorable to the chiliastic framework view either. I don't like new theories of what the Scriptures really mean. There is the possibility that something new can be seen today that only clarifies further what we already know the text says (like medical knowledge we have today that only validates eyewitness accounts in Scripture), but don't tell me the text doesn't mean what we've known it to mean since the time of the apostles.