Questions – What about Intelligent Design? (RJS)

A couple of weeks ago I posted on the book by Karl Giberson and Francis Collins The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions and posed a few questions… specifically What arguments against evolution do you find convincing? Why? and What arguments would you like to see discussed on this blog (in future posts)? A number of comments asked questions and made requests for future posts. These questions could be grouped into two general categories – theological questions and scientific questions. The theological questions centered primarily on sin, death, and what it means to be human. These are key questions – and we will return to them in future posts.

The scientific questions centered on evidence for evolution and on the objections and alternatives raised by the proponents of Intelligent Design.  Questions were raised about the issues of time, the reliance on millions or billions of years for processes to occur, the complexity of biological systems (and they are exquisite and beautifully complex), self organization, the development of species, and the concept of irreducible complexity. Again, these are all important questions.

I would like to start a discussion that touches on these issues – but I would like to start the discussion not with science, but with philosophy.

Why do you think Intelligent Design is an appealing concept – either to yourself or to others?

What is intelligent design arguing against and what is it arguing for?

I have a book, Intelligent Design Uncensored by William Dembski and Jonathan Witt, that was sent to Scot by the publisher. Scot passed it on to me. This book is a discussion of various ideas in Intelligent Design, but one thing seems clear from the tone and tenor of the argument. The motivation for Intelligent Design is not scientific, it is philosophical and theological. The opponent is philosophical naturalism. At the end of the book, summing up the arguments, Dembski and Witt write:

This book began with a question: Are the things of nature the product of mindless forces alone, or did creative reason play a role? The question is fundamental because so much hinges on it. Are humans worthy of dignity? Are they endowed with certain unalienable rights? If humans are the mindless accident of blind nature, entering and exiting the cosmic stage without audience, in a universe without plan or purpose, what right do we have to puff ourselves up and talk of human rights and human dignity, of meaning or value or love? In such a cosmos, love is but a function of the glands, honor and loyalty nothing more than instincts programmed into us by a blind process of random genetic variation and natural selection. Such a cosmos is ultimately meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

At the heart of this book is a conviction rooted in reason and evidence: the evidence of nature points away from such a pointless universe and toward a universe charged with the grandeur of a design most remarkable. (pp 153-154).

This is a sentiment with which I agree. I am a Christian because there is evidence within creation for a creator. The heavens declare the glory of God. The intricacy of a biological cell and the formation of a child likewise declare the glory of God.

Giberson and Collins also agree with the sentiment behind this paragraph. The statement coming out of the Theology of Celebration Workshop last November emphasized this point. The term scientism encompasses the philosophical naturalism that motivates Dembski and Witt.

In contrast to scientism, we deny that the material world constitutes the whole of reality and that science is our only path to truth. For all its fruitfulness, science is not an all-inclusive source of knowledge; scientism fails to recognize its limitations in fully understanding reality, including such matters as beauty, history, love, justice, friendship, and indeed science itself.

But is opposition to philosophical naturalism enough? It seems to me that the intelligent design movement, at least as described in this book, is not so much a search for intelligent design as it is an argument against evolutionary mechanism in creation. The way to undermine philosophical naturalism, they seem to feel, is to undermine evolutionary biology. The second chapter, entitled The Design Revolution, places the blame for philosophical naturalism on Darwin and his theory, at least it places much of the blame here. “Ground zero” notes Dembski and Witt “in the controversy has been intelligent design’s challenge to modern Darwinism. This is because Darwinism is the lynchpin of modern materialism.” (p. 24). Later chapters develop the theme, chapters with titles like The Poison of Materialism, Breaking the Spell of Materialism, and The Book of Nature, Lifting the Ban.

In future posts I will consider some of the positive arguments for design, most importantly Michael Behe’s proposal for irreducible complexity. But today I would like to pose a question about the necessity, or even the wisdom, of a strategy for combating philosophical naturalism that uses as a main thrust negative arguments against evolutionary biology.

Is it important to undermine evolution and the theory of evolutionary process that has grown out of Darwin’s early observations? If so why?

About a month ago Kathyrn Applegate posted a reflection on a disagreement between Richard Dawkins and Craig Venter, and the way this disagreement was presented by William Dembski: Dueling Scientists and the Tree of Life:  Analyzing the ID Response.  The issue here isn’t that Dembski disagrees with evolution and supports intelligent design, but that he twisted the event to support his point. A couple of years ago I posted on Tiktaalik roseae and Friends again concerned with the way scientific evidence was presented, inaccurately and selectively, in the desire to undermine evolutionary biology. In my series on Stephen C. Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell most of my concern with the book was with the rhetoric and the rather loose method of dealing with the sophisticated arguments for evolution and the arguments made in origin of life research. One of the features of Intelligent Design Uncensored that disturbs me is again negative argument against “Darwinism” using rather loose methods of engagement. The science is not treated fairly.

As most readers here know, I find the evidence for evolution overwhelmingly convincing. In Dembski and Witt’s book those Christians active in science, convinced by the evidence, are cast as compromisers, either deceived by or bullied into, assent to the consensus scientific approach. The book is difficult to read because of the demeaning rhetoric. Now those who write from the perspective of evolutionary creation are often guilty of the same offense – the rhetoric against others, including fellow Christians, damages the opportunity for real conversation. This is not a problem confined to one side of the discussion. But it is a real problem.

If you believe that evolution is not true, as Dembski and Witt do, what is the best way to go about making the point?

How should Christians approach these disagreements and issues?

What kinds of ethics should govern our engagement?

If you wish to contact me directly, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]

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  • AHH

    Why do you think Intelligent Design is an appealing concept – either to yourself or to others?

    Only time this morning to briefly address this point.
    I think the appeal is the human desire for certainty, the desire to have our beliefs validated. Especially in our modern world, science is seen as the #1 way of knowing. So if we can have scientific proof of God (or at least strong evidence), that is perceived as being superior validation to the relative fuzziness of experience or history. I think there is an assumption in much of ID (this was stated pretty explicity by movement godfather Phil Johnson) that a god who did not leave scientifically detectable “fingerprints” would be diminished and not worth worshipping.
    This is perhaps a case in the bigger category of we humans assuming up front what we think God is supposed to be like based on our fallen ideas, rather than letting God be God (who might choose to work in more hidden, humble ways).

    So I agree with RJS that the main motivation is philosophical and theological, not scientific. Of course the motivation is not so relevant to evaluating any science the ID people might do (which unfortunately is pretty negligible); real scientists have all sorts of motives for what we do and the results must be evaluated on evidence, not analysis of motivation.

  • Phil N

    I find people argue over this and other topics for one of three general reason.
    1. To truly get a grasp on the subject matter and concepts.
    2. To win their argument and win someone over.
    3. To prove they are right.

    Within the creation and evolution debate the stakes are set very high because of the apparent contradictions about origins between Holy Scripture and scientific consensus. Many people can not live with the tension, and so draw lines and defend their philosophical positions at whatever the cost, and too often the ends justify the means, making us all look like fools.

    I’ve been guilty of this all too often and just find myself listen more than talking lately.

  • RJS,

    You claim, “The motivation for Intelligent Design is not scientific, it is philosophical and theological.” Clearly, it is the latter, but why can’t it also be the former? We are all guided by our paradigms. Let’s just be honest about it.

    Regarding your question, “How should Christians approach these disagreements”: This is important. I’m not a scientist. My main concern is the protection of the Christian faith and those who adhere to it. There is just too much in evolution that compromises the Faith. Even atheists will confess that their greatest evangelistic tool is Darwin. Many testimonies also affirm this fact.

    What then of the Biologos people? Wherever there is a clash between evolution and Scripture, they will inevitably reconfigure Scripture to conform to Darwin. This seems to say a lot about their head master. Yes, this sounds very judgmental. Please prove me wrong!

  • DanS

    For the record, Demski responded to the charge of misrepresentation by Applegate here:

  • Rick

    Daniel Mann-

    I agree with your comments about the personal bias and presuppostions that all scientists bring to the table.

    “There is just too much in evolution that compromises the Faith.” What part of it “compromises” the faith?

  • T

    I agree with RJS, that the appeal of ID is philosophical. But I think that needs more fleshing out. Using a forest and trees analogy, science is very good and helpful at studying the “trees” of how life has evolved in a multitude of very small ways. The vast bulk of evolutionary biology seems to me, a non-scientist, to have real value here.

    But when scientists attempt to assemble their many trees together in an larger narrative or theory or story (and tell us about the “forest” of life, so to speak), the story they inevitably tell is called something like “A Glorious Accident.” When I hear that, I’m always taken aback by having such foolishness come from such bright people. I think, these people are truly blind. They strain at gnats and swallow camels. The can’t see the forest for the trees. So, for me, the tendency of the scientific assumptions to become conclusions, for the assumptions to become a way of life and not just a way of study, makes me wary of the trend of science as the only path to any knowledge of the world that matters.

    If evolutionary biologists were more content, at the popular and textbook levels, to quit calling the universe and all life a glorious accident (and calling that “science”) then ID wouldn’t have any draw at all, philosophic or otherwise. We live in a time where science is pushing to answer all questions in physical terms alone. How is such a push to be properly questioned?

  • Jorge L

    It is next to impossible to separate out philosophy from “science.” The very idea that one can do so is itself a philosophical move, not a scientific one. Pure “scientists” who think they are arguing purely “scientifically” rarely confine themselves to this putative “pure science.”

    And, IF a scientist were to do so, what he can then say about the way things ARE is very much circumscribed–because “pure science,” in the way that has come to be thought of, merely offers explanatory models for collected data. It cannot, qua “science,” speak to the existence or absence of anything unmeasurable, of Intelligence.

    Therefore, anyone, “scientist” or no, who rejects Intelligent Design, will necessarily be making philosophical arguments as well as scientific arguments, just as those arguing for ID.

    So it’s just not intellectually credible to reject ID because it’s “bad science,” without first acknowledging that part of one’s “science” argument is itself philosophical. One cannot, from within empirical evidence available to “science,” prove or disprove, the existence of Intelligence, God, Ideas, Forms etc.

    There was a time when Science simply was Philosophy, the “natural” part within Philosophy. No one thought that a sharp distinction between “Science” and “Philosophy” was possible or intelligent. That most scientists (and non-scientists) today think not only such a sharp distinction possible but the only philosophical way to do “science,” is itself a questionable philosophical belief. Empirical data do not by themselves compel one to embrace belief in the Sharp Distinction just as empirical data do not compel one to believe in the Integration of the two.

    Both positions are PHILOSOPHICAL positions. Scientists who embrace a Sharp Distinction are philosophizing, those who reject it are philosophizing. Yet deeply embedded in the general as well as the professional Scientist psyche is the mistaken notion that those who embrace the Sharp Distinction are true Scientists and those who embrace Integration are mere religionists or philosophers.

    Until Scientism recognizes how inextricably philosophical its Scientistic and Objectivist claims about Science are, they will continue doing disservice both to Science and to Philosophy, unwittingly.

    And it’s the unwittingness that’s the real killer, intellectually.

  • DRT

    I can’t understand the need for ID on the basis of philosphical or theological arguments as Daniel Mann suggests. If god created everything then he created the evolutionary mechanism and we should be appreciating how wonderful that mechanism is, for the glory of god.

    Why would we need to propose another mechanism?

  • John W Frye

    The ID proponents live in a story that cannot see the God of the Bible using evolutionary biology as a means for the origins of human life. The “fingerprints of God” analogy. Christian evolutionists live in a story that allows for both God as Creator and God using evolutionary means to achieve God’s creative design. Why do Darwinian evolutionists use evolution evangelistically? Because YEC and some ID’s ignore the data that are there and get trapped in the either/or categories. As a result unsuspecting young Christian thinkers get exposed to the data in universities and feel pressed by the either/or and sadly abandon the faith. Admit it, that unnecessary bailout by Christians to (godless) science is massive.

  • If you believe that evolution is not true, as Dembski and Witt do, what is the best way to go about making the point?

    They need to do the science. It is not adequate to pick around the edges of evolutionary biology to find inconsistencies and problems. Those sorts of things will always be present. Science is never a completed project, there is always something (or several somethings) that don’t make sense- at this time. If they want to make the case for ID they need to provide the support for their hypothesis.Our current understanding of evolutionary biology didn’t happen overnight, it took years, decades of serious, sustained research. ID will have to do the same.

  • DRT

    T#6: says that evolution supporters say ” the story they inevitably tell is called something like “A Glorious Accident.”” when attempting to tell the big picture.

    T, I think part of the problem is that the big picture is that god designed the universe as a probabalistic mechanism. If the odds of humans occurring is quite small, then replicate the events a whole lotta times and it will happen. That’s no accident, but it is probabalistic and relying on probabalistic outcomes is quite valid.

  • normbv

    Perhaps ID, Evolution and the Bible are all true. What a glorious God we have. Does the acceptance of Evolution as the mechanism of God somehow set aside His Intelligent Design of such? Perhaps it is the confusion we have in mixing “dead” Naturalistic Evolution without intelligence behind it that is the debate for some. If we have some who profess ID but are opposed to Evolution then perhaps their God is not big enough.

  • Darryl

    I am notorious for not reading the comments before I post my comment! Sorry, everyone! Just didn’t have time.

    I cannot answer the first question with the comfort of someone who knows. However, I think Behe’s irreducible complexity is a powerful argument against evolution. I will not restate it…after all, it took him a book!

    Now, as a person who’s father taught him how evolution was junk (and he was a highly educated man in the field of medicine), and as a person who wrote a 40 page research paper in high school attacking evolution (please I hope no one unearths that paper!). I have come to the conclusion that I don’t know much (all those who know me are nodding their heads vigorously). To intelligently discuss ID or theistic Evolution, we must put aside the name calling and view that those on the other side (whichever side that might be) are ignorant morons or sell outs who just haven’t learned true critical thinking skills.

    Honest and helpful conversation only happens when two people sit down with humility and listen to arguments afresh. To let the person who believes differently state his or her case fully–and actually entertain that stated case with the idea “I could be wrong.” It doesn’t mean you have to agree or give up your convictions. But it does demand humility.

    I am also gifted with stating the obvious. But the obvious is usually the hardest thing to do.

    I certainly do not think we should attack or belittle those Christians who honestly believe differently regarding ID or Evolutionary theory.

  • I think one piece of the puzzle is that many people truly have difficulty comprehending the tremendous complexity of evolution and concepts like millions (much less billions) of years. It is simply easier to grasp that an intelligent being somewhere created everything in some directive mode.

    Furthermore, for many, they see no downside to disregarding evolution but they see significant challenges to their faith if evolution is true. ID provides plausibility for disbelief in evolution. I need dig no further. And as most of us are not scientists, and the issue has little practical impact on my daily life, the plausibility is sufficient to send me on my merry way.

    Clearly there are ID people who wrestle with issues at a much deeper level but very often I get the sense of listening to talking points rather than to someone who has really wrestled with the complexity.

  • Robert

    I’m not nearly as concerned with the how of creation as I am with the who of creation.

    Who created all of this seems to be far more important to the biblical record than how.

    That said, I employ an ID argument often when discussing these matters with skeptics. ID is a strong case imho. I couple it with other views of creation than young earth. (I’m an extremely old earth proponent)

    The ID case is just as valid as others. Lest we forget all scientific reasoning is based in philosophy. It is also based in abductive reasoning. When we begin to speak of origins the scientific community ceases being “scientific” and becomes primarily philosophical cosmologists.

    That isn’t a bad thing. Philosophy is the underpinnings of all thought and practice. Science is just as philosophical as, say, religion. The failure of the modern project is found in the absolutism of scientific propaganda when it actually is speaking philosophically. The “scientific” critique of ID is nothing more than a philosophical argument against a philosophical argument.

    I like ID, just as much as other means of talking about the creation event. But I always leave with the truth that none of us can absolutely know about the creation event so we need to be far more concerned with the “who” than they “how.”

  • I also stand with those who perceive that ID’s primary import is philosophical/theological—not scientific. Sadly, it increasingly appears Dembski, et al., have been trained in the MacArthur/Mohler school of engagement on these issues. For my part, I think Lennox embodies the appropriate type of engagement on this issue; see his God’s Undertaker for an example. I deeply appreciated his take, while ultimately disagreeing with some of his conclusions.

    All I know, at the end of day, is that science is nothing to be afraid of (to stick our heads in the sand, when the truth is outed, is, as Waltke rightly said last year, to relegate ourselves to cultic status). While no doubt adopting the basic contours of the neo-Darwinian synthesis do provide challenges to how we’ve conceived of traditional doctrines, it by no means is worthy of the fear-mongering, broad-brushed label of “compromising the Faith.” Now, that’s example of how not to engage the subject.

  • What ID is arguing for is something very like this thought-experiment:

    It’s a short read, but – IMHO – a very thought-provoking one. If ID is correct, then something kinda like that happened on Earth. Some stuff was intelligently designed, and some stuff evolved. If ID is correct, there should be signs we could detect in biology, like ‘irreducible complexity’.

  • pds

    “The motivation for Intelligent Design is not scientific, it is philosophical and theological.”

    I think that this is completely false and misleading and you are heading down a very unhelpful path by focusing on and questioning perceived motives and suggesting the ID folks don’t care about science. They care very much about science and they think that philosophical naturalism has hijacked science and led to false conclusions.

    Frankly, I have found that the TE folks are fairly unsophisticated about philosophy and the philosophy of science. Name a leading Christian philosopher who thinks that design arguments from nature should be dismissed the way the folks at Biologos dismiss them. Not Plantinga, not William Lane Craig, not Dallas Willard . . .

  • pds


    Do you really want to assert that Michael Behe is not motivated by science, despite all that he has written to the contrary? This will not move the conversation forward.

    I frankly wonder what motivates you to say such a thing?

  • Larry Barber

    Trying to detect God through intelligent design is, in my opinion, a lost cause. The truth is that we have no idea what the hallmarks of divine design are; all we know how to recognize is human design. Even in human design the best designs are marked not by their complexity but by their simplicity, so why assume that divine design is marked by complexity and not simplicity?

    Intelligent design, since it imparts human characteristics onto God, really seems to me to be in the business of idol creation. In this case the idol of God as the Great Engineer in the Sky.

  • Jeff L

    I’m on the faculty at a state university, and in that environment there is simply no way for a Believer to avoid the issues of evolution and the two Genesis accounts. It’s something that Christian college students bring up repeatedly.

    Misleading information about evolution, propagated by ID proponents and the YECs, is extremely unhelpful. It makes it look as though we Christians have something to hide. College students, who have already had their worldview rocked by courses in biology, geology, and astronomy, are left w/o anything to cling to. Too many simply surrender their faith and move to secularism and scientism.

  • DRT

    pds, I am trying to learn here. With science, there will always be the question of god influencing something that we do not, as of yet, have a scientific answer for. Given that, we are left with two choices, attribute that step to god, or try to figure out what we do not know.

    As I see it, ID cannot prove that something was god because you cannot rule out that there is just another natural mechanismm that we do not understand yet.

    What part of that is a problem?

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    I think that intelligent design is an appealing concept because it appears to be a “defensible” line of defense by those who feel, consciously or subconsiously, that science has increasing encroached on formerly exclusively religious territory.

    Just in biology…

    Science has established that the age of the earth is about 4.5 billion years old. the YEC trench is not a “defensible line” agsainst this assault. A religious fallback to the OEC trench took place among most Christians.

    Science has established that life took billions of years to develop and evolve and that all life on earth arose from a pool of common ancestors in a process continuing today. OEC is not a defensivble trench line against this assault and there was a retreat by some Chrstians to the next perceived defensible line, ID.

    In the meantime, those sponsoring ID noted that the previous retreats were required because both YEC and OEC make definitive statements of fact that can be verified (or not) scientifically. The ID sponsors have chosen a strategy of now being “fuzzy” as to what “ID” means. Does it reject common ancestry? It depends. Does it reject common descent? It depends. Does it reject the fossil record? It depends. What does CSI mean? No rigorous definition is forthcoming. What is Ireducible Complexity? No rigorous definition is forthcoming. ID, instead of digging a well defined trench, has created a swamp where nothing is consistently (or testably) asserted except that evolution is wrong.

    Science continues the assault. The advances in studies of the human genome and related genomes show that there never was a time when just two humans lived on planet earth. This calls into doubt historical Adam and Eve, implicating serious theological positions.

    What next? I think many peopel are afraid of the scientific advances and what lies ahead and therefore reject solid science and consider ID to be the best line of defense to perceived scientific encroachment upon religious beliefs.

    “Percieved” is the key word here.

  • Stop. Enjoy.

  • pds

    DRT #23,

    I agree that neither side can “prove” causation of historical events, like the origin of life. Historical sciences look for the “best explanation.” If we rule out design as a possible explanation at the outset, we limit our ability to figure out the truth. And we can become blind to the evidence for design. Why should we do that?

    You said:

    “Given that, we are left with two choices, attribute that step to god, or try to figure out what we do not know.”

    Third alternative: tentatively posit design as the best current explanation, and keep exploring other possible explanations.

    Ever since the 1950’s new evidence of design in nature keeps mounting, as I chronicle here:

    Should we ignore this? Both Tim Keller and Francis Collins tap into some of this evidence in their recent books.

  • rjs

    pds (#19),

    I am not asserting anything at all about Michael Behe here.

    In fact if you read the post I specifically said that I will consider the positive arguments for design, most importantly Michael Behe’s proposal for irreducible complexity in a future post. I don’t agree with Behe’s conclusion – but he has put forth a positive proposal that needs to be dealt with fairly.

  • ABOUT COMPROMISE: Generally TEs tell us that we have to be humble about our interpretation of Scripture. However, the NT usage of the OT does not allow us the flexibility that the TE requires. Just consider some of these verses:

    • Luke 3:38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

    • Jude 1:14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones

    ADAM WAS THE SOURCE OF SIN: Romans 5:12-14 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned– 13for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

    ALL CREATION FELL AS A RESULT OF ADAM’S SIN: Romans 8:20-22 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

    AS ADAM SIN, SO CHRIST’S OBEDIENCE: 1 Cor. 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

    THIS REFERS BACK TO Gen. 2:7 WHERE GOD BREATHED INTO ADAM GIVING HIM LIFE: 1 Cor. 15:45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

    • 1 Tim. 2:13-14 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

    • 2 Cor. 11:3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

    JESUS AFFIRMS HISTORICITY OF BOTH GEN. 1 AND 2: Matthew 19:4-6 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” [Notice that this history forms the basis of theology!]

    RESTORATION TO “SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST” MAKES NO SENSE: Acts 3:21 He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.

    • John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

    • 1 John 3:8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

    • Rev. 12:9 The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

  • pds

    RJS #26,

    You made this statement:

    “The motivation for Intelligent Design is not scientific, it is philosophical and theological.”

    You could have limited the statement to Dembski and Witt or to their book, but you made a general statement about ID.

    I don’t think it is accurate as to Dembski and Witt either. Both are concerned with, and are motivated by, the pursuit of knowledge, including scientific knowledge.

    Having said all this, I accept your clarification.

  • RJS, you were “concerned with the way scientific evidence was presented, inaccurately and selectively”… and with “the rhetoric and the rather loose method” I think these have been a hallmark not only in the science-creation-evolution debate but also in the past with other debates such as over the Bible’s inerrancy, human sexuality, equality of the sexes and on down. Of course there have been honest apologists too, though rather few and far between.

    A lot of the problem is simply marketing. If you don’t successfully heap on the scorn, your lack of vehemence might not sufficiently impress your intended audience.

    More fundamentally there is a feeling of threat. The long preferred story we have propagated has been questioned. The idea that we were uncritical and that our own version of the story may just be wrong is clearly a possibility that we don’t prefer to face up to. So, historically speaking, I think science seemed safe enough when dealing only with how questions, but ‘Darwin’ (modern science) is seen as wanting to also tackle the why questions and that’s just not acceptable.

  • Rick

    Daniel #27-

    RJS has posted here about many of those passages in the past, and perhaps our interpretation of some of those may need to be tweaked (Romans 5 for example: we may need to look closer at how Eastern Orthoday handles it). Other passages may be more challenging. However, I am not sure any require us to “compromise” our faith, especially if we consider the essentials of the faith.

  • R Hampton

    I can’t understand the need for ID on the basis of philosphical or theological arguments as Daniel Mann suggests. If god created everything then he created the evolutionary mechanism and we should be appreciating how wonderful that mechanism is, for the glory of god.

    Why would we need to propose another mechanism?


    The real issue is that ID’s base theological assumption is that truly random events (as empirically measured by scientists within our universe) can not be reconciled with divine providence. One or the other can not exist.

    This assumption differs from the Roman Catholic Church, many Protestant sects, and theistic supporters of Evolution in general. As Thomas Aquinas argued, by design God gave things their nature, so did he give contingent things a contingent nature. Thus God’s foreknowledge of contingency means that his chosen history for Creation includes only those contingent events that favored his plan (why would he chose a history in which they did not?)

    This principle is the same for Nature as it for Free Will. Just as God does not dictate the choices we make in our lives to preserve God’s plan for human history, God need not dictate random events for evolution to proceed accordingly.

  • Rick,

    These verses point to fundamental truths that underlie the entire Gospel;

    1. God created a “very good” world where all were herbivores. It wasn’t a dog-eat-dog bloody survival fest (Darwin). (And how could God then be mad at Cain for merely following God’s original plan — the “survival of the fittest?”)

    2. We screwed everything up — not God — and are therefore the source of sin and death. Darwinism cannot allow for a perfect world, a Garden, a Fall and the sudden advent of sin and death.

    3. God provided the “Second Adam” who would turn everything around (not back to the initial “survival of the fittest”) and restore all things (Acts 3:21).

    The Darwinian worldview is entirely opposite. It is no wonder that many have concluded that if Darwin is right, then Jesus must be wrong.

  • John W Frye

    Daniel (#32),
    I don’t believe anyone on this thread of comments incuding RJS who posted it believes in *Darwinian evolution.* Please accept the important emerging scientific and theological nuances in this vital conversation. Thanks!

  • DRT

    OK, let’s assume the scenario that I am god and that I created various forms of life by designing specific aspects that I interjected into the process mid stream (ID is true). I am also the god that created everything else, though I did not interject myself into the process mid-stream (again ID is true as applied to living organisms). But, these people whom I designed are blown away by everything that I have created and do not distinguish between the things I just let happen, and the things I tweaked. Because they see my mark in all of it. Would I be disappointed? No. I would feel that my creation is giving me praise and honor.

    Now assume that I did not tweak anything in substance, instead I only worked through the consciousness of the people via my spirit. But, a bunch of people in my creation get infatuated by a little tail on something or some other part of creation and start insisting that it is that little itty bitty part that is my signature and they institute that mark as my presence in creation. Would I be disappointed? You betcha!

  • DRT

    I hit the button a bit too soon.

    What is wrong with seeing god’s mark in all of creation?

  • Larry Barber

    At most all, Darwin (and Lyell and Hubble and so on) have shown is that some of us, maybe most of us, have been reading parts of the Bible wrongly. For this we, as Christians, should be grateful, as they have brought us closer to a correct understanding of God and of scripture, whether they intended to do so or not. It is not a question of pitting science against scripture, but how to best understand _all_ of God’s truth and to have the humility to realize that our understanding, and the historic church’s understanding, of God and scripture may have been wrong.

  • Come now, Daniel (#32).

    1. There’s utterly no biblical warrant for suggesting that all living things were “herbivores” before the event described in Genesis 3.

    2. If I’m reading you rightly, I don’t see how evolution has any ability whatsoever to deny the ability of a sentient being made in God’s image to disobey the command of God, i.e., to commit a sin of origin.

    3. No disagreement there. But it seems you’re assuming that just because a “bent” is “natural” that it is therefore just/righteous. We humans act contrary to “survival of the fittest” all the time. For my part, I think this is part and parcel of what it means to be a Christian in this chaotic world.

    A “very good” world, incidentally, is not “perfect.”

  • RickK

    RJS – I really like the question “What kinds of ethics should govern our engagement?”

    Mainstream scientists are ruthless and brutal at criticizing each other’s work. Review panels and presentation Q&A is harsh and unforgiving. And an establish scientist found falsifying data or drawing a clearly erroneous conclusion loses status in the scientific community. Sure, scientists are human too – money, alliances and favoritism can influence the outcomes. But in the long run the process seems to work. I am comforted by the self-policing nature of this process and the standards of integrity that it demands.

    Yet I struggle to find any cases where prominent ID researchers criticize each other’s work. And I have no confidence that the same standards of integrity will be applied with respect to data and methodology and conclusions.

  • RickK

    DRT said: “But, a bunch of people in my creation get infatuated by a little tail on something or some other part of creation and start insisting that it is that little itty bitty part that is my signature and they institute that mark as my presence in creation. Would I be disappointed? You betcha!”

    There is something rather disturbing about the image of the Creator of the Universe stooping to diddle with the hair on a germ’s bum.

  • DanS

    DRT 35 – “What is wrong with seeing God’s mark in all of creation?”

    Answer: Nothing. No Christian who supports ID or Creationism would object to seeing God in all of creation.

    For ID, however, the questions are fairly simple. On a positive side, are there hallmarks of “design” that distinguish purely natural cause/effect phenomena from phenomena that may have actually been “designed”, regardless of the mechanism. On a negative side, does mutation + natural selection fail as a mechanism for some (not all) of the phenomena we observe.

    For creationism, it is a Biblical/hermeneutical issue first, scientific second. I am not entirely in step with YEC, but I do agree with them that Scripture presents a God who is LORD over nature. Naturalism, (both philosophical and methodological) posits a universe where ALL things WITHOUT EXCEPTION, are the product of natural cause and effect.

    In the biblical account, Jesus did many things that at least suggest He was not always bound by natural law, and there is NO REASON from the text to think he should have been. The Virgin Birth, the feeding of the 5000, changing water to wine, etc. If I accept the definition of science that says ALL things without exception are explainable in reference to natural law, then to be consistent, I MUST assume those New Testament events were also somehow “within” natural law, which would mean either that Natural Law is above God, or that God chose to limit himself to working within it – but there is no reason whatsoever for making that assumption, save for agreeing with the secular naturalist definition of science. If I accepted that as the starting point, I would eventually conclude the NT miracles did not actually occur and either were parlor tricks or hallucinations of more primitive minds. That would only be logical – more logical than concluding God works in ways that are “undetectable”. (What is undetectable about whether a man, dead four days, can walk out of a tomb?

    Such a starting point requires much of the testimony of scripture to be reinterpreted. Most troubling here and at Biologos, is the suggestion that Paul’s cosmology was simply wrong, leading to the obvious question: “if so, on what basis can we conclude his theology is right?”. Naturalism is an acid that eats first the historicity of the faith and causes the spiritual truth to crumble as a result.

    I see nothing satisfying of convincing about accepting any form of naturalism and trying to reconcile scripture to it, taking it upon ourselves to “correct” both Genesis and Paul in the light of naturalistic science. They are different world views. If GOD is LORD over nature, he authored natural law and is not a slave to it, either in the New Testament events or the Old. And if I accept the miracle of the Resurrection or virgin birth (Creedal essentials) on the basis of the testimony of the NT writers, I have no problem accepting that God can be “maker of all things seen and unseen” and that He may well have used methods that have nothing whatsoever to do with natural law, particularly in Genesis 1.

    In short, the elevation of the scientific establishment to magisterial status and the elevation of methodological naturalism to creedal essential is the primary problem in my mind. If on opens the door to causes that are outside of nature and two things happen: 1) one will lose credibility in the secular academy and 2) scripture can tell a consistent story that need not be so harshly sequestered into the status of cultural artifact.

    I am grateful for ID and the courage of its advocates in the face of monumental opposition and outright hostility.

  • John W Frye

    Is there the possibility of a supernatural naturalism? That is, a God who brought about what is recorded in the Genesis record but by natural, evolutionary means? It seems that many arguing for ID cannot get out of the “either/or” trap. The evidence for evolution is there. Not the hackneyed “Darwinian evolution,” but a defensible theistic evolution. Why can’t this middle way be accepted by the YEC and some ID’s?

  • DanS

    John 41. A supernatural naturalism is theoretically possible. That’s what many at Biologos and here seem to argue for. But such a view simply forces a major rewrite of too many biblical texts to be credible to many of us. And many of us do not find naturalism (supernatural or otherwise) to be anything more than a hyper modern assumption, one that can not be verified and an assumpton that is completely unnecessary if there is in fact a “supernatural” to begin with. In other words, it doesn’t satisfy – it fails to answer the basic questions that a more traditional reading of scripture seems to answer.

  • DRT

    I am curious what ID will say when the James Webb telescope discovers evidence of live on another world.

  • DRT

    DanS, I interpret you comment #42 as saying that you will not believe an alternative explanation no matter the evidence since you said “forces a major rewrite of too many biblical texts to be credible to many of us.” Is that true?

  • DRT

    Rick#39 said :There is something rather disturbing about the image of the Creator of the Universe stooping to diddle with the hair on a germ’s bum.:

    I started writing a short story that had three versions of god and how they are each trying to up each other in their method of creation. It is obvious when you go down that path that the god who figures it all out then makes one broad stroke to “make it so” is the bestest and baddest of the bunch. But, I don’t have the discipline to finish the story yet….

  • Chris,

    Here’s the verse you were doubting:

    Genesis 1:29-30 – Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

    He follows this up by saying that it is “very good.” There’s no indication of any animal death here – no room for Darwin, unless we compromise Scripture away by claiming that Darwin is about the physical world and Scripture is about the spiritual.

    As someone else stated, if we can’t trust what Scripture says about the physical world, we have no reason to trust what it says about the spiritual! Besides, this formulation undermines theology, which is built on the physical – historical events.

    Consequently, I’ve never dialogued with a TE who seemed confident of the riches we have in Christ. Instead, we have to take a “humble approach to interpretation,” according to the TE. If only they were equally humble about their embrace of Darwin!

  • rjs


    No matter what we say (since I would be one of those TE’s you’ve dialogued with, at least via the blog) you doubt it. But please don’t cast aspersions on others as you put forth your position on these issues.

    Do you think animals were suddenly given canine teeth – their structure and biology changed upon Adam’s sin (or I’ve heard sometimes after the flood)?

  • DanS

    DRT #44 – Alternate explanation of which? I assume you mean an alternate explanation of the meaning behind the biblical passages? Interesting question. My personal view:

    I’m obviously willing to concede that the biblical writers did not use scientific terminology, used figures of speech, poetry, etc. and that there are some passages of scripture that are a less than clear. Genesis 1 is an example, as “light” exists before the sun, for example, raising Augustine’s question about the meaning of the word “light”. So I’m not a stickler for a 24 hour day, a 6-20,000 year old cosmos and I think it is clear scripture doesn’t assign a date to Genesis 1.

    But on the other hand, when Biblical genealogies include Adam alongside other historical figures, when Paul makes a number of vital soteriological points based on Adam, it seems clear enough that Biblical writers understood Adam to be an historical figure – no less historical than Abraham or Joseph or David. So I can’t go beyond that without undercutting a consistent internal scriptural witness and embracing what I would consider a schizophrenic hermeneutic. If Paul was just parroting a cultural understanding of human origins in what was a major soteriological argument, on what rational basis can we hyper-moderns mystically insist his understanding of invisible spiritual truths is not also based in a first century culture and simply wrong on the facts? Even Augustine in City of God argued long and hard for the historicity of the Fall and its consequences. Not many, prior to the modern era, would find a shred of credibility for the alternate interpretations being foisted onto the text since Darwin became the prophet of the materialistic age.

    I’m saying such a hermeneutic just doesn’t work to “save” Christianity by making it compatible with Darwin. One can make that sort of leap if one chooses, but I see it as hopelessly double-minded. “Feet planted firmly in mid-air” as Francis Schaeffer put it. It saves Christianity by completely altering the basic human problem the cross addresses. It asserts the authority of the text after obliterating its historical credibility.

    So I guess my point is that yes, I do see things as an either/or. If I become fully convinced that common descent of man is true and that there is no direct relation between sin and death, no historicity to Genesis 1-11, my alternative would be agnosticism, not EC. I would not be able to adopt the Evolutionary Creation viewpoint, as I think it is simply not honest with the text.

    Fortunately, I don’t have much faith in attempts to look at present physical data and come to firm conclusions about what really happened in the distant past. So for now, I don’t feel too threatened by it all. And I do get frustrated with the contempt often shown for Christians who don’t kiss the ring of the scientific pontificate.

  • RJS#47,

    When TEs uniformly fail to provide any detailed understanding of the first several chapters of Genesis and instead insist that we have to be “open” or “humble” about our interpretations (and consequently about the entire interweaving network of related truths), it follows that they are “open” or agnostic about Scripture in general. Sometimes they go further by denying that the Bible is about the physical world. If they tear at the foundation of Scripture, it will not support their lives, and they will only enjoy a diminished joy in believing (Col. 2:23).

    When you start buttoning your shirt at the wrong button, everything will be out of place – the necessary fate of starting with Darwin. This is not “cast[ing] aspersions on others,” but an observation of the consequences of our worldview choices.

    You ask about the possibility of herbivores being transformed into carnivores at the Fall. I’ve read that genetic coding for presently unexpressed biological systems/structures has been found within certain genomes. Perhaps foreseeing the Fall, God had implanted “carnivorous” instructions to be activated at the Fall? But I am not a scientist, so I’ll leave this for others to ponder. However, I am unwilling to jeopardize what is immutable and precious (Scripture) for the changing whims of the present scientific consensus.

  • John W Frye

    Daniel Mann (#49),
    “…it follows that they are “open” or agnostic about Scripture in general” is a blatantly untrue statement. I’ve read rjs enough to know that she deeply respects Scripture as God’s revelation to us.” The arguments advanced by 21st century Christian evolutionists clearly take to heart Paul’s references to Adam in ways that allow for an evolutionary means of human origins and correlated to Paul’s theology of creation and fall. Don’t accuse those who disagree with you as holding a less God-honoring view of Scripture. That is a lie.

  • rjs


    I could make similar negative statements about YEC’s …

    … They refuse to acknowledge the clear discrepancies in scripture, particularly those in the first two chapters of Genesis.

    … They allow their theology to shape the discussion of scripture rather than allowing the text to inform theology.

    There are at least as many conundrums and necessary contortions with the view you you put forth as with the view I am presenting and working out.

    … When you start buttoning your shirt wrong everything is out of kilter… the necessary fate of refusing to actually let scripture be scripture and trusting God.

    You see this simply doesn’t get us anywhere and never will. I know that you are sincere in your approach, but so am I.

    I am not tearing at the foundations of scripture – I am challenging one (not entirely consistent it seems to me) interpretation of scripture. It happens to be the interpretation that you favor.

  • DanS

    RJS 51

    “… They allow their theology to shape the discussion of scripture rather than allowing the text to inform theology.”

    That is, in fact, what I see ECs doing to Paul in spades. Nothing in the text of Paul’s letters suggest anything resembling the methodological naturalism that rules the day in the EC camp. Nothing in the text of the entire scripture suggests all can be explained in terms of natural cause and effect.

    Leaving aside any of the specific battles over any single verse or passage, we have a long Biblical narrative that repeatedly portrays God performing acts that are clearly outside of the normal cause-effect workings of nature. Fires that do not consume, water instantaneously changed to wine, seas parted, dead raised, men walking through walls and on walking on water.

    We have on the other hand, a late theological/scientific convergence dedicated to the belief that everything that exists can be explained in reference to natural law. It has been stated from this perspective, more than once, that Paul was simply wrong on the facts about the historicity of Adam.

    Who is letting their theology overrule the text?

    Scripture is incompatible with naturalism, philosophical and methodological. That’s the point of this disagreement. That’s why I cannot embrace naturalistic evolution and be a Christian at the same time. They cannot be reconciled without radically altering one or the other.

    In my mind, EC fails because it is not honest with the whole thrust of text, which screams that the Supernatural touches history in ways that are not in accord with fixed natural laws..

  • RJS,

    Yes, we all have our problems– interpretative and otherwise. However, the TE has an additional problem, one that is endemic to the TE approach — the TE is no longer doing exogesis, but eisogesis (imposing an alien theology upon Scripture.) This can’t but prejudice our understanding of Scripture.

    Yes, challenge the YEC and the OC, but challenge with Scripture and not an imported popular system of thought. Perhaps we need to be transparent about our presuppositions. Although I value and respect science and although I will allow science to influence my interpretation of Scripture, it would be wrong to allow the present science consensus to DICTATE it (2 Cor. 10:4-5).

  • rjs


    Of course the text screams that the supernatural touches history in ways that are not in accord with fixed natural laws. God is in, and desires, relationship with his creatures. This is the story of scripture.

    But it doesn’t mean gravity is a fiction, electrostatic interactions are fiction, the speed of light is a fiction, … it means that these are manifestations and properties of God’s creation.

    It doesn’t mean that the evidence in the human genome (for example) of common descent is a fiction. Now one can argue aspects of ID – which is why I separate this from some of the other arguments. But the argument cannot simply be philosophical – a need to refute philosophical naturalism.

  • DanS


    And if Jesus walks on water, does that show that gravity is a fiction? Of course not. If Jesus is born of a virgin are the normal rules of biology a fiction? Of course not. These are one-off events that simply are not confined to nature alone.

    Hypothetically, if the universal constants of natural law were in flux on day one of creation because God had not “fixed” them in place yet, would that mean the speed of light is a fiction? No, the speed of light would not be a fiction. Again, creation is a one-off event where “natural law” alone might not apply.

    But if scientists practice their craft in such a way that all events through all time MUST be ASSUMED to be purely the result of natural cause and effect, is the Genesis account therefore a merely fictional story with a theological message?

    My point is that the practice of science in the modern world is too dependent on the assumption that natural laws are absolute. If held consistently, this view of reality must exclude all miraculous events, not only in the Genesis accounts, but in the affirmation of the Genesis accounts in the New Testament and the miraculous signs surrounding Jesus as well. We can’t pick and choose which miracles we think are historical and which we think are allegorical and be consistent in a claim to value the authority of scripture. That is not how scripture portrays the history of Israel and the church. It is one cloth with a Supernatural story line.

    So I cannot reconcile EC with historic Christian faith because EC is overly committed to methodological naturalism and distorts the overall Biblical narrative.

  • DanS

    And on what basis do you make the claim that natural phenomena such as the speed of light “are manifestations and properties of God’s creation.”

    Having adopted a view that says God’s activity is not detectable in nature, it seems that is an assertion without any means of support or any means to refute. A leap of faith?

    I don’t expect you to accept ID or any form of creationism. I just am reiterating the point that EC does not “save” Christianity or rescue it from the academically shunned backwaters of YEC fundamentalism. It simply tries to bend a few troubling passages to make them acceptable to the Science academy, but in the process causes a chain reaction that makes the whole Biblical narrative unstable. We cannot untether the New Testament from Genesis without setting the whole boat adrift. The mission of Biologos and EC will ultimately take the church to the same nether regions that most of the mainline churches have drifted…theological chaos and moral confusion. I see it as a losing proposition.

  • normbv

    The problem is that DanS and Daniel Mann are trying to claim the high road of scriptural interpretation by proof texting. Scripture interprets scripture; and along with that interpretation there is a vast amount of ancient first century and second Temple literature that points out that a literal reading is not the way the Hebrews composed or understood their literature. To yank the literature out of its surrounding cultural and ancient theological context is a gross misrepresentation of its purpose. It is a complete waste of time to try to refute “proof testers”, as that game is designed to appeal to those who are limited in their knowledge. This site has had numerous discussions where these background issues are being discussed. To come in here and make blanket and categorical statements that no one who adheres to evolutionary ideas has performed their due diligence is disgraceful to say the least. That is simply speaking from ignorance or is simply deceptive in nature.

    Sorry to be so blunt but these remarks are getting tiresome

  • Normbu,

    I certainly agree that Genesis 1 & 2 present interpretative difficulties and that we need to interpret contextually. But just provide one credible Darwinian interpretation of ANY verse to demonstrate that you take Scripture seriously.

  • Unapologetic Catholic

    The “retreat” analogy I made above is demonstrated in some of the comments above.

    There appears to be a genuine fear that the “slippery slope” of Biblical interpration is real and if you give up a literal version of Genesis then you must also logically give up the Resurrection.

    I don’t agree that such slippery slope exists at all but it’s a genuine concern.

    What people may not realizes is there’s a reverse “slippery slope” operating as well. If you can’t accept basic science and apply the necessary anlytical skills to a pretty well established fact, people will legitimately wonder what else do you have wrong?

    Certainly you’re not going to be persuasive to inquirers and searchers interested in the Christian Faith.

    I cringe every time I see a YEC presentation on the TV.

  • Unapologetic,

    You are right about the slippery slope. I think that Karl Giberson of Biologos is an excellent example of this. In “Saving Darwin,” he argued how you can be an evolutionist and a Christian at the same time, but acknowledged:

    • “Acid is an appropriate metaphor for the erosion of my fundamentalism, as I slowly lost confidence in the Genesis story of creation and the scientific creationism that placed this ancient story within the framework of modern science. Dennett’s universal acid dissolved Adam and Eve; it ate through the Garden of Eden; it destroyed the historicity of the events of creation week. It etched holes in those parts of Christianity connected to the stories—the fall, ‘Christ as the second Adam,’ the origins of sin, and nearly everything else that I counted sacred.” (9-10)

    However, a few years later, he wrote:

    • “In The God Delusion [evolutionist and New Atheist Richard] Dawkins eloquently skewers the tyrannical anthropomorphic deity of the Old Testament—the God that supposedly commanded the Jews to go on genocidal rampages and who occasionally went on his own rampages, flooding the planet or raining fire and brimstone on wicked cities. But who believes in this deity any more, besides those same fundamentalists who think the earth is 10,000 years old? Modern theology has moved past this view of God.”

    When cultural-scientistic norms replace Scripture as the ultimate authority, this is what we should expect!

  • normbv


    You are chasing a straw-man. Your presupposition is built upon the premise of reading Genesis literally and understanding Paul’s use of Adam as biological. Theologically Paul is describing Adam and Christ in a covenantal man understanding of the ANE in Rom 5. This is why we should not take Paul’s application of “all” men from a Rom 5 reading to infer a biological transference of “sin” but is a covenantal one. Otherwise when he says that “all” men are righteous through Christ we are going to be saddled with a universal application without the need for faith. All men are in Adam because all men sin like Adam chose to. Adam represents a works oriented dispensational headship in which Christ replaces him as the New head [of the Body of faithful] in which we rest in His faithfulness and not our own. Paul illustrates this covenant mindset in Eph 2 in which the two groups of humanity [Jew and Gentile] are bonded into one New Man corporately.

    Eph 2:14-15 For he himself is our peace, who HAS MADE US BOTH ONE and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility BY ABOLISHING THE LAW OF COMMANDMENTS expressed in ordinances, that he might CREATE IN HIMSELF ONE NEW MAN IN PLACE OF THE TWO, so making peace,

    Genesis 1 & 2 are not Hebrew outlines of the physical creation of the universe and biological man but are ANE Hebrew representations of Israel’s origins story stemming from Adam and the Law. They are simply detailing from their ancient culture that their faith origins begin with a man they called “Adam” who was the first to walk with the God of Israel [YHWH]. The mystical animals and creatures such as the serpent are representative motifs of the mass of humanity surrounding them portrayed through symbolism. All of this is there in their ancient literature if we will allow ourselves to recognize it but first we have to dispense with our preconceived Greek led mindset that overtook the church through the ages and get back into the Hebrew mind.

    This Hebrew understanding allows us to dispel ourselves of the biological constraints and realize that the Genesis story if a faith story of origins told from an ancient mindset. We are free to understand our physical world and humanity as it reveals itself to us and we don’t have to go about trying to undermine that revelation anymore.

  • Normbu,

    Thanks for taking up my challenge. (I hadn’t expected that you would.) However, let me try to understand what you are saying:

    1. Adam isn’t an historical but a figurative head.

    2. The first chapters of Genesis reflect an understanding of ANE thinking. Therefore, we need to understand them as a polemic against this worldview and not a physical description of creation and the Fall.

    3. Consequently, these teachings do not rule against evolution.

    I hope I’ve got you right on this. If I haven’t, it might make the following comments irrelevant:

    1. Even if Genesis 1-3 are polemical, this fails to argue that they are not also historical. History often (or always) contains lessons that can be used polemically.

    2. You haven’t offered any evidence that Adam and the Fall aren’t also historical.

    3. Meanwhile, there are many positive lines of evidence that demonstrate that these events are historical. (Please see the verses I listed at #27) The genealogies and progressive narrative argue strongly in favor of Adam’s historicity.

    4. Also, your explanation doesn’t rule in favor of evolution. It merely weakens the Bible’s defenses against it.

    5. By unhinging theology from history, all interpretative is then up for grabs. Undermining the Bible’s teachings about the physical world undermines all apologetics, which reasons from the known (the seeable) to the unknown. You thereby undermine all confidence that we can truly understand the Word and joy in the Word.

  • John I.

    Re RickK @ #38, “And I have no confidence that the same standards of integrity will be applied with respect to data and methodology and conclusions.”

    It would be foolish to presume that there is a level of integrity in science that rises above the integrity of sinful man.

    Although I was taught in my stats classes years ago that many studies had bogus conclusions, and had to read that famous review of APA papers, a more recent study is: “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”, John P. A. Ioannidis, PLOS Medicine. Here is the abstract: “There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on . . . Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias. In this essay, I discuss the implications of these problems for the conduct and interpretation of research.”

    Or how about the so-called “science” that Cordelia Fine
    debunks in “DELUSIONS OF GENDER: The real science behind sex differences”.

    Science is no winner in the good ethics and good execution of methodologies pageants.

    I’m personally quite underwhelmed by the so-called evidence for naturalist evolution as a complete explanation for where we are today, given the existence of the universe and its physical laws. I’m not saying it’s impossible, just that it’s not conclusive. I find prima facie arguments against design to be primarily philosophical and not scientific and evidence of the close-mindedness of most of the scientific establishment.

    I find ID appealing because it’s interesting, and because it has forced more detailed examination of many biological issues, as well as added to our knowledge.

    I think that ID is not monolithic and is too diverse to make it easy to say what “it” is for and against. There are various streams of it. And so I think at least some streams of it are against bad science as much as they are against anything else.

    I think that the unscientific oppostion based in poor philosophy and reasoning has required a philosophical response from many in the ID camp. However, it is also evident that most atheists see evolution as a major reason to believe that all religion is false. Whether or not it is true that Darwinian evolution necessarily entails the falsity of the non-material, a response to this is obviously required.

    John I.

  • normbv


    You said … “Adam isn’t an historical but a figurative head”

    I believe “Adam” to represent a historical figure just as Christ is a historical figure. However he is an ancient individual even to the Jews, yet Israel presents him as their legalistic forebear in Law and worshiping YHWH. The story details around him though are mixed with symbolism in telling this story. It’s a common method in the ANE.

    As you can see above I do consider Adam a historic individual and the fall is historical as well. However the fall is a loss of eternal life while in relationship with God. That’s the picture of the Garden which Christ restores. Being expelled from the Garden is prophesied to be reinstated by crushing the head of Satan who enticed Adam and Eve to partake of the commandment/Law. [The legalistic minded Jews who refused Christ are portrayed as offspring of the serpent/Satan]
    Christ completed that task by bringing the faithful back into the Garden and eternal life by removing the Law/commandment that required our own human effort which Paul says we could never succeed in. We now rest in Christ.

    All interpretation is not up for grabs: the overriding story of the movement of archaic Hebrew legalism out of archaic paganism into Christianity is a consistent story line told with many differing facets. Once one recognizes that the story is consistently pointing to Christ the Messiah and the eschatological end culminating with a new mode of existence then there is little if any divergence in all of scripture. If you get the Messiah [Christ] down as savior for faithful relationship then you’ve got it.

    Those listed in Hebrews chapter 11 were faithful toward this picture of Christ even in days of old and are representative of true Israel’s hope. A thorough study of Hebrew literature illustrates very candidly that they [faithful] were looking to get out from under the burden of the Law imposed by corrupted priest and kings. Thus the reason for their overthrow with a new kind of Kingdom through Christ as the better High Priestly King. Adam was their origins story and is why Paul makes a point of reference to him during his expose in Rom 5-8 and 1 Cor 15 and regards Adam as typifying Christ as stated in Rom 5:14.

    As an evolutionist it behooves us to know the totality of the scripture because many science minded folks get off by chasing the wrong story of scripture and also think it must be about biology and science. It’s about faith and redemption.

  • Normbu,

    Sorry, I must have misunderstood you! I certainty agree with you about Christ’s scriptural and historical centrality. However, I don’t see how any of this argues in favor of evolution??? This had been my original challenge — To provide a Darwinian interpretation of any one verse.

  • Jeff L

    Can you give a hypothetical example of “a Darwinian interpretation of any one verse”? What would it look like?

    I’m having a very difficult time understanding what you are getting at.

  • normbv


    What set me off was it appeared you were portraying that no one with an evolutionist mindset no matter whether they were believers or not could resonate fully with the message of scriptures without doing harm to them. I hope to demonstrate that indeed an evolutionist can know scripture and resonate with them and comfortably ascribe all things to God. We are not all “dead materialistic” evolutionist out there who profess that there is nothing behind evolution. Indeed evolution is one of the fingerprints of God’s unbelievable majesty. What you might want to do in the future is limit your application to non faithful evolutionist who refuse God’s word. I think it is a miscalculation though to stigmatize evolution in simplistic terms. Even if one upholds a form of Darwinian evolution doesn’t mean that God didn’t set that principle in motion just as he did the physical realm of the Universe with Gravity and the atomic structure and its magnificence.

    Now I to have a problem with scientist who tread into Genesis with out having done their scriptural home work. That is why RJS and Scot are providing a wonderful forum for some to search these subjects. Who has time to become expert in all facets of investigations. If you are good in science you are not very likley to have the time to become proficient in systematic Theology. Likewise the theologians also do not have time to develop expertize in Genesis through Revelation but when they do they start producing better work.

    And yes the bible doesn’t speak to evolution and its ideas as that wasn’t its purpose. Thus the reason one can go about their scientific business. 🙂

  • R Hampton

    Daniel Mann,

    The Roman Catholic Church believes the soul is immediately and directly created by God, not by Evolution or the act of reproduction. Hence the evolution of Man does not contradict the “breath of life” because it is the soul makes us more than animals.

    Forgive the length of this quote, but I feel it’s necessary to answer your question faithfully:

    69. The current scientific debate about the mechanisms at work in evolution requires theological comment insofar as it sometimes implies a misunderstanding of the nature of divine causality. Many neo-Darwinian scientists, as well as some of their critics, have concluded that, if evolution is a radically contingent materialistic process driven by natural selection and random genetic variation, then there can be no place in it for divine providential causality. A growing body of scientific critics of neo-Darwinism point to evidence of design (e.g., biological structures that exhibit specified complexity) that, in their view, cannot be explained in terms of a purely contingent process and that neo-Darwinians have ignored or misinterpreted. The nub of this currently lively disagreement involves scientific observation and generalization concerning whether the available data support inferences of design or chance, and cannot be settled by theology. But it is important to note that, according to the Catholic understanding of divine causality, true contingency in the created order is not incompatible with a purposeful divine providence. Divine causality and created causality radically differ in kind and not only in degree. Thus, even the outcome of a truly contingent natural process can nonetheless fall within God’s providential plan for creation. According to St. Thomas Aquinas: “The effect of divine providence is not only that things should happen somehow, but that they should happen either by necessity or by contingency. Therefore, whatsoever divine providence ordains to happen infallibly and of necessity happens infallibly and of necessity; and that happens from contingency, which the divine providence conceives to happen from contingency” (Summa theologiae, I, 22,4 ad 1). In the Catholic perspective, neo-Darwinians who adduce random genetic variation and natural selection as evidence that the process of evolution is absolutely unguided are straying beyond what can be demonstrated by science. Divine causality can be active in a process that is both contingent and guided. Any evolutionary mechanism that is contingent can only be contingent because God made it so. An unguided evolutionary process – one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence – simply cannot exist because “the causality of God, Who is the first agent, extends to all being, not only as to constituent principles of species, but also as to the individualizing principles….It necessarily follows that all things, inasmuch as they participate in existence, must likewise be subject to divine providence” (Summa theologiae I, 22, 2).

    70. With respect to the immediate creation of the human soul, Catholic theology affirms that particular actions of God bring about effects that transcend the capacity of created causes acting according to their natures. The appeal to divine causality to account for genuinely causal as distinct from merely explanatory gaps does not insert divine agency to fill in the “gaps” in human scientific understanding (thus giving rise to the so-called “God of the gaps”). The structures of the world can be seen as open to non-disruptive divine action in directly causing events in the world. Catholic theology affirms that that the emergence of the first members of the human species (whether as individuals or in populations) represents an event that is not susceptible of a purely natural explanation and which can appropriately be attributed to divine intervention. Acting indirectly through causal chains operating from the beginning of cosmic history, God prepared the way for what Pope John Paul II has called “an ontological leap…the moment of transition to the spiritual.” While science can study these causal chains, it falls to theology to locate this account of the special creation of the human soul within the overarching plan of the triune God to share the communion of trinitarian life with human persons who are created out of nothing in the image and likeness of God, and who, in his name and according to his plan, exercise a creative stewardship and sovereignty over the physical universe.

  • Jeff L.

    Sorry that I wasn’t more clear. I’m referring to any verse that would support the idea that God created through macro-evolution, and therefore, animal death had been part of creation.

  • JST

    Outside of the resurrection and the miracles, science trumps the Bible because of the simple fact scripture is not a science textbook nor was it intended to be by God.

    There’s not a person here who doesn’t know more science than Moses or Paul, and that shows through their writings.

  • Normbu,

    I’m confused about where you stand. You wrote:

    • “The bible doesn’t speak to evolution and its ideas as that wasn’t its purpose. Thus the reason one can go about their scientific business.”

    You seem to suggest by this that the reason the evolutionist is free to “go about their scientific business” is because physical creation isn’t a concern of the Bible?

  • JST,

    If you can trust Paul and Moses about physical things, why should you trust them about spiritual? How can you take the Bible seriously?

    You claim to believe in miracles, but what will happen when the theory of evol. begins to encroach upon even that domain?

  • R Hampton

    Daniel Mann,

    This is how the Roman Catholic Church developed its Biblical exegesis, in marked contrast to modern Protestants (unlike Luther who did not categorically reject historical Christian interpretations):

    The Pontifical Biblical Commission, in its document The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, has laid down some important guidelines. Here I would like especially to deal with approaches which fail to respect the authenticity of the sacred text, but promote subjective and arbitrary interpretations. The “literalism” championed by the fundamentalist approach actually represents a betrayal of both the literal and the spiritual sense, and opens the way to various forms of manipulation, as, for example, by disseminating anti-ecclesial interpretations of the Scriptures. “The basic problem with fundamentalist interpretation is that, refusing to take into account the historical character of biblical revelation, it makes itself incapable of accepting the full truth of the incarnation itself. As regards relationships with God, fundamentalism seeks to escape any closeness of the divine and the human … for this reason, it tends to treat the biblical text as if it had been dictated word for word by the Spirit. It fails to recognize that the word of God has been formulated in language and expression conditioned by various periods”. Christianity, on the other hand, perceives in the words the Word himself, the Logos who displays his mystery through this complexity and the reality of human history.[147] The true response to a fundamentalist approach is “the faith-filled interpretation of sacred Scripture”. This manner of interpretation, “practised from antiquity within the Church’s Tradition, seeks saving truth for the life of the individual Christian and for the Church. It recognizes the historical value of the biblical tradition. Precisely because of the tradition’s value as an historical witness, this reading seeks to discover the living meaning of the sacred Scriptures for the lives of believers today”, while not ignoring the human mediation of the inspired text and its literary genres.
    – Pope Benedict XVI, September 30, 2010

  • normbv


    Do you understand how the New Heavens and Earth correspond to the Old Heavens and earth? Heb 1 says the old H & E will be rolled up like a scroll. Heb 12 says that at Mt. Sinai God shook the earth but in the new H & E they will both be shaken. Hopefully you realize that the physical earth wasn’t shaken with Moses giving the Law. Nor should we suppose when Christ removes the Law through judgment upon old covenant Israel and its Temple that there would be a corresponding physical demise of Heaven and Earth.
    The new H & E is the new kingdom through Christ

    Heb 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

    You see the biblical use of Heaven and Earth is the old Hebrew way of speaking about God’s creation, decreation and recreation of modes of existence for His faithful people.

    God created the first Heavens and earth in Gen 1 & 2 but if you notice in Gen 2:1 it is the creation of God’s Heavenly host [people]. John in Rev 21:1 says this first H & E are being replaced with one without the Sea, moon and Sun as Christ and God is the light. The Sea represents Gentile seperation and the Sun and Moon were given for festivals and seasons to mark the Jewish calander under the old Law. John is simply saying that in this new Kingdom of Christ where God comes and dwells with man that the distinction between Jew and Gentile is removed along with the constituent elements of Temple worship.
    This language is what I refer to when I say one must become proficient in Hebrew terminology and expression. What seems plain and literal to us often has no resonance with the ancient writers and their intented audience.
    As I pointed out earlier that once you grasp this language then it starts to become obvious that trying to read physical H & E into the discussion is not even on the table in Genesis nor Revelation.

    You see Daniel the Hebrews were not concerned with the how of God’s physical creation but with their place in the proper order of such. They simply looked around and used the natural world to illustrate God’s purpose for them. We have taken these ANE constructs and have simply misunderstood their symbolic intention. Motifs and symbols resonate throughout the scripture to tell the story. Thats simply the way these ancient people told story. Again it was all about life, death and redemption as the people of God and living eternaly under that covenant blessing of God.

    Rev 21:3 ESV And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

    Rev 21:22-23 ESV And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. (23) And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

  • JST

    Genesis and evolution are both true, both from God, and I take them both seriously. To deny science is to deny a gift from God that would not have been granted if it were not intended to be used. If the Bible did not exist, do you argue that neither would Christ?

  • rjs

    Daniel Mann (#71,72)

    The bible speaks to certain aspects of creation – it speaks to the fact that God is the creator and that the objects in creation are not “gods” to give two examples (there are more).

    But I don’t think that the bible speaks to the science of evolution any more than it speaks to the science of chemistry, quantum mechanics or particle physics. It doesn’t even speak to astronomy in more than a phenomenological manner. We don’t care that the text assumes an ancient cosmology inconsistent with earth as a ball in space orbiting the sun. This is simply irrelevant to the purpose of scripture.

    Thus, despite their limited knowledge of astronomy, cosmology, or evolutionary biology I still trust Moses and Paul on those things which they knew from personal experience or direct relationship with God. There is absolutely no reason to think abstract science is one of those areas.

    With respect to your question to JST: The science of evolution cannot encroach on the miracles in scripture.
    This is like asking “how can you trust that Rome was in existence in the first century when you know the sun is a ball of gas?”

    An assumption of philosophical naturalism can encroach on acceptance of the miracles in scripture – but this we (or at least I) explicitly deny.

  • RHampton,RJS and Normbu,

    Please do not mis-characterize me as a “literalist.” This is merely a misapplication of a term to wrongly discredit creationists. As I have already stated, I seek to understand the Bible contextually as you do.

    You cannot make the wooden and artificial distinction that the Bible is not concerned about the physical creation, but just with the spiritual. Besides, the history of the physical creation is often used by the NT as a rationale for the spiritual and moral. For example, when Jesus was asked about divorce, He answered by appealing to the way God had constructed the world and marriage:

    • “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the BEGINNING the Creator ‘made them male and female ‘ (Gen. 1:26-27) and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ (2:24)? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

    Had He evolved them from amoral hominids who were naturally having multiple partners, Jesus would have been wrong. Besides, His moral lesson – based on the history of creation – would have been undermined.

    The physical cannot be separated from the spiritual any more than the theology of the Cross can be separated from the history of the Cross. To do so is to cut out the very foundation of the Bible.

    Besides, do you have any Scriptural justification to demean the teachings of the Bible regarding the physical world? Instead, the Bible gives us no warrant whatsoever for such a distinction (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

  • Tim


    “With respect to your question to JST: The science of evolution cannot encroach on the miracles in scripture.”

    This isn’t entirely true. The sciences of geology and paleontology can certainly “encroach” on the “miracle” of the Flood.

  • rjs


    In no way am I denying what Paul said in the letter to Timothy.

    All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

    Scripture is inspired by God for a purpose, … for training, teaching, and forming, so that we are equipped for every good work.

    Jesus uses Genesis to put a foundation under the argument that marriage is ordained by God, part of the divine plan. Whatever method(s) of creation brought this to be this is true. And the point of Jesus is also a (perhaps the) primary moral and theological point of Gen 2. This is a great example where Jesus was certainly using scripture for training, teaching, and forming for good work in relationship with each other. It should be, it must be, the text that shapes and forms us through the Spirit.

    But … using 2 Tim 3:16-17 as a “proof-text” for inerrancy, especially this kind of inerrancy in the “science” of scripture (its teaching about the physical world) is a misuse of scripture. It is ripping a text out of context to prove a point alien to the intent of the text.

  • rjs


    It also encroaches on the miracle of the formation of Eve from the rib of Adam, and for that matter, the miraculous appearance of a diversity of language after Babel.

    But I wasn’t considering Gen 1-11 as a text that described the miracles of God in that fashion. I was thinking about the text from Gen 12 – Revelation, which is the story of God’s people and his relationship with his people.

    Personally I think we have to view Gen 1-11 as a different genre than Gen 12 – 50.

  • Tim


    I think the main differentiator is effect in the “natural” world rather than so much a Genesis 1-11 vs. Genesis 12-Revelation distinction. Miracles that are claimed to have occurred, granted by “supernatural” cause, can still be seen to have a significant “natural” effect. Those miracles that, if true, should have left a discernible imprint on the natural world are rejected if that imprint is never found.

    Hence the Flood is rejected as none of the geological and paleontological records directly contradict what one would expect to find if a global Flood ever occurred during the time of man. If the geological and paleontological records were unclear on this point, I wonder whether your judgment with respect to the “genre” of the Flood story would change.

    So, outside of Genesis 1-11, we find the “miracles” performed in Egypt in the form of plagues. Now, plagues don’t leave an impact so much in the harder sciences of geology, paleontology, or the like. But archeological and historical analyses fail to detect any record of these events having occurred. Which is a little curious. I mean, death of every firstborn child in Egypt. The Nile turning to Blood. Boils. Plagues of Frogs, Locusts, and Lice. Absolute darkness for 3 days. Literally a mini-apocalypse of “Biblical proportions.” Sure the Egyptians had their pride. And they would not likely have written in their records that the God of the Hebrews defeated them terribly. But there would have likely been some account. Explained in some other way. Like the Egyptians angering one of their deities through impiety or some offense, and the Pharaoh then making things right.

    But where is the record of any of these events having happened? Remember, this was supposed to occur mid-2nd millennium BC. It’s not exactly a dark-age for archeology in Egypt. Sure the records never complete, but we do have quite a wealth of data. And an event of this significance? The likes of which the Egyptians would never have experienced before or since? Totally absent from any record? That’s hard to believe.

    But I can’t imagine you hold to a “literal” interpretation of these plagues of Egypt RJS. So is this a different “genre” as well? What is the criteria then for making these “genre” identifications? When something runs smack into dis-confirmation by scientific modes of inquiry, at that point then adjust the genre the account is assigned to, while everything else is still presumed to represent accurate, and often miraculous, history?

    Jesus walking on water would leave no trace in the scientific record. The water stayed the same after he walked on it as it was before. There is no real “natural” imprint left, as should have been for the Flood. Nor would the event stand out as a matter of history from the typical accounts of miracles in that day, of which the populous were often deeply credulous of stories of fantastical supernatural events – as contrasted with the Egyptian plagues, which should have stood out as a matter of historical record given their immense magnitude and severity.

    Some make the charge that “genre” identification has become a way to extricate oneself from facing serious questions relating to the integrity of the Biblical text. If there is one hard and fast rule for genre identification, among the non-fundamentalist crowd, it seems to be that if science says the account cannot be (or is improbable to be) so, then the genre is adjusted such that the literal historical claim is made no longer. Is this an intellectually honest approach? Or is this making excuses for the text by adopting an a priori unfalsifiable strategy? The text can never be “wrong” because any time it conflicts with science, we change our interpretation of what the text means?

  • Tim


    Should be: “Hence the Flood is rejected as the geological and paleontological records directly contradict what one would expect to find if a global Flood ever occurred during the time of man.”

  • normbv


    I go further than RJS does in that the whole bible is a different genre. 😉 As Christ would often state to his audience, that it takes ears to hear and eyes to see. Discernment of parable language and literature is always difficult for an outsider to discern the underlying message.

    Daniel M. … Paul explains the biblical context of the husband and wife in Eph 5:31,32 in which he states that it’s about Christ and the church. It’s a poetic insertion of fidelity that people would have understood and recognizes as the relationship of Christ and His wife the church. The implication is that Genesis was written for different motives than we might think at first glance.

  • Normbu and RJS,

    In the Matthew 19:4-6 account, Jesus is affirming the historicity of Gen. 1 & 2, arguing that God actually and historically created Adam and Eve at the BEGINNING and historically MADE them one flesh. Had He not HISTORICALLY done this, His argument against divorce would collapse as foundation-less. His opponents could then easily counter, “No Jesus, marriage just evolved and divorce had been permissible along the way!” If Jesus regarded these accounts as historical, we are mandated to do likewise.

    Theology rests on history, and it doesn’t appear that either of you are willing to engage this reality.

  • rjs


    Jesus quoted scripture “have you not read …” and was in dialog with people from the same culture and time. They would not have introduced alien concepts to the discussion any more than Jesus would. He wasn’t there to give a discourse on history or to write a commentary on Genesis and creation.

    I would like to hear from a scholar how polygamy fits into this in Jewish culture. It seems to be out of the picture in the first century, although it was certainly in play in the Old Testament.

    I agree with you that our theology rests on history. But I think you misuse history and misuse the text of scripture in making this particular argument as “proof” for the historicity of Adam. The argument from Jesus’s use of Gen. 2 in the discussion of divorce is particularly unconvincing because it is an inference from reading between the lines.

  • RJS, While I agree that Jesus’ primary purpose wasn’t to teach history, history nevertheless played an integral roll in His reasoning.

    If you don’t find this example particularly compelling, let’s look at another:

    • 1 Tim. 2:11-14 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

    Although Paul’s moral lesson might be disagreeable, he does base it on the history of the creation account (Gen. 2) and of the Fall (Gen. 3). Had these events not taken place, Paul’s argument would utterly collapse.

  • rjs


    Paul is trickier. It seems clear that Paul both thought and taught that Adam was a unique individual. He also takes the creation account in Genesis 2 at face value in this passage.

  • Tim


    Correct me if I’m wrong here. At this point of the thread, we’re dealing with the trustworthiness of Scripture, and how that relates to the “apparent” conflict between science and Scripture, correct?

    And you made the claim that Genesis 1-11 represents a different genre than the rest of Genesis 12 – Revelation. Correct? Such that those who try to use, say, Jesus or Paul’s statements with respect to affirming the historicity of an actual primordial Adam & Eve, being “specially” created progenitors of our species are falling victim to a genre identification error. Correct?

    And therefore any conflict between evolutionary science and the Bible is reconciled. Again, correct? Let me know if I’m not tracking with you here.

    So, what of the issues I brought up with respect to genre identification on Exodus? Are those who maintain full historicity of the plagues, essentially reading the text as a straightforward historical narrative then misidentifying the genre? If so, what is the genre? And how does one determine that? And is how one determines that intellectual honest? Or is just an excuse to “protect” the text from saying something we now consider in all likelihood false (such as the plagues of Egypt having happened in the manner described)?

  • rjs


    Exodus is a big topic, relevant to our general theme. But not as relevant to the science/faith discussion.

    I don’t think your comment or question is off topic. But because Exodus is a big topic, and one I have not thought about nearly as much or as carefully as some of the others, I don’t have the expertise to say much about it without the investment of some serious time and effort.

  • Tim


    OK. That’s as fair and straightforward a response as any I’ve heard 🙂 Perhaps that might be a good topic for some later point in time if you’d ever like to open that up for investigation and exchange of views.

  • DRT

    In my relatively short time in attending evangelical churches, it seems to me that it is quite common for the preacher to make stuff up to make the point. I have seen wide, commonplace, use of tweaked situations in lecture. Isn’t that your experience?

    I don’t think the standard for literal truth of historic events is as important as people think.

  • RickK

    @John I #63

    Yes, science has yielded false results. But it would be folly to suggest that the scientific process fails to find reliable truths and make very tangible progress, and that it is the best mechanism we’ve found so far for doing so.

    It is arguable that the only “discoveries” or advancements we’ve made in the discussion of God in the past 500 years have been made by science. Natural philosophy has made great progress in demonstrating what God isn’t, what God doesn’t directly do, and where God can’t be found. Where once God was seen to operate directly, now we know that if God is indeed acting, it is indirectly through natural predictable processes with traceable cause and effect.

    Compare that progress in our understanding to the progress we’ve made in any purely theological discussion. How much has the discussion about “why is there evil” changed in the past 1000 years? How much has our understanding of the concept of the Trinity changed in the past 1000 years. How much have these discussions really progressed? What have we definitively learned? What have we definitively ruled out?

    Compare that to our understanding of the scope of the natural world, both in space and time. Look how much theological energy today is devoted to the interface between science and faith.

    So John, I do think science is a reliable source of progress of human knowledge, and I believe the self-correcting nature of the process is where much of the value is derived.

    One final point. You said: “However, it is also evident that most atheists see evolution as a major reason to believe that all religion is false.”

    All evolution does is remove another case where God was given credit for direct intervention in the natural world. There were atheists before evolution, and there are atheists in the hearts of many of the people around you in church. Doubt is ever present, and it is driven not by evolution, but by the fact that much of the population is simply driven more by logos than mythos.

    Maybe it’s genetic. 🙂