Evolution is “theoretically possible” but “unbelievably unlikely”: thoughts on creation and evolution from John Piper

In a recent 6-minute podcast, “Can We Reconcile Creation and Evolution?”, John Piper shares his thoughts on the (in)compatibility of evolution and the Bible.

Piper summarizes his thinking under three headings:

Theoretically, evolution is a possible Christian option, provided God is not absent (which is a view consistent with some form of “theistic evolution” popular among many evangelicals).

Though allowing for the option theoretically, theologically a Christian view of evolution requires a first man–an Adam. (This would seem to undercut–neutralize–the theoretical acceptance of evolution.)

Third, Piper says that exegetically evolution is very hard to accept, given the many clear passages about God creating animals “according to their kind” and humans.

I think it would have been much better had Piper simply said, “For theological and exegetical reasons, I reject evolution,” rather than offering evolution as a theoretical possibility only to remove that possibility moments later.

In my opinion, what I sense here is Piper’s public expression of cognitive dissonance. He is smart enough to know that evolution cannot simply be brushed aside, but he is struggling with how to align that with a literalistic reading of the Bible, which is a non-negotiable requirement of his theology.

I appreciate Piper’s dilemma, but evolution and biblical literalism cannot be reconciled. At some point I feel Piper will have to step over the line, one way or the other. He can’t have it both ways. In the meantime, podcasting inchoate thinking runs the risk of being taken by his listeners as a fully formed position. This does justice neither to the matter of evolution and Christianity, nor to the spiritual formation of those who follow his teachings.

Piper outlines four specific “stumbling blocks” for accepting evolution, the first three of which build off of his theological and exegetical misgivings. I fear those versed in the evolution/Christianity discussion will find them to be simplistic and biblicistic, and I won’t dwell on responding to them.

1. Death as a curse–both in Genesis and Romans–does not refer simply to human death but to all death. Hence, the Bible’s view of the origin of death and evolution are incompatible. 

2. Genesis affirms that God made animals according to their own kind.

3. Genesis affirms that Adam was created out of the dust of the ground and animated by God’s breath.

If these are the types of blocks that cause Piper to stumble, then (1) Piper needs to move to a deeper level of engagement, and (2) there is no real “theoretical” acceptance of theistic evolution: Piper’s theological and exegetical misgivings already dictate how God created, and that “how” rules out evolution in any meaningful sense of the word.

4. Intuitively, Piper cannot comprehend how evolution can account for the complexity of life. 

This last point, which echoes Intelligent Design, leads Piper to conclude that evolution is “unbelievably unlikely.”

Again, I appreciate Piper’s dilemma, and I also recognize that in his position he needs to field questions from his followers, so he can’t just be utterly silent.

But, rather than supplying more confused thinking on the internet that only adds fuel to a culture war mentality, it would be more helpful if Piper were to say something like the following: “Evolution is a very tough issue for me. I feel I can’t just reject it, but to be honest, the idea creates a lot of theological tensions that I haven’t worked out yet. I need more time to put the pieces together before I offer public opinions.”

Rather than feeling he needs to provide an answer he is clearly not prepared to give, Piper could model that it’s O.K. to be uncomfortable and to take time working out a theological issue, rather than relieving the tension prematurely.

A constituency rooted in seeking truth with others, rather than culture war polarization, will be able to accept that type of response. They might even be a bit relieved to hear it.







another article on inerrantist biblical scholars and “protective strategies”
Here’s something new: Genesis is in “crisis” and if you don’t see that you’re “syncretistic”
Is Tony Campolo a Bad Parent According to Proverbs?
“Patterns of Evidence” and patterns of culture-war rhetoric: (2)
  • http://www.spiritofthescripture.com Joshua Tilghman

    Good points. Biblical literalism and evolution cannot be reconciled. Piper is just blowing smoke and can’t be open and honest about it. The only way theologians will ever be able to reconcile evolution and the Bible / God is to admit that the Bible was never meant to be literal. Ancient Jewish mysticism has always alluded to the fact that the Bible isn’t literal. Perhaps they are correct.

  • orton1227

    Regarding the “death as the curse” spreading to everything…the more I study history and the Bible, the more I see that the Hebrew’s primary understanding of “death” was Sheol, not bodily death. The curse was that when they died (physically) they went to Sheol and not to Christ’s side. In other words, in a word association game, if I say “death”, we would say “body” or “physical”, but the Hebrew would say “Sheol”. With Christ the curse was lifted as God “did not abandon His soul to Hades”. The curse was the blocked access to eternal life with Christ, not eternal physical life.

    So I don’t think extending “death” to flowers and animals would make much sense to the Hebrew.

    • jjkratt

      Great comment and insight. I agree with your assessment. From my studies, “the death” that Genesis and the rest of the Bible including Paul in Romans 5 is not technically physical death, but about a covenant death or fellowship death. Sheol is very accurate, but, it also extended into the present life for the covenant faithful (and unfaithful) since they were kicked out of the garden where God dwelt, immediately. (The rest of the bible is all about how to get back into the garden; the tabernacle and temple being representative of this dilemma.) Adam died “in that day,” which is what God said would happen, but Satan said “no you won’t die in that day;” people tend to believe Satan not God and say Adam died 900 or so years later with his physical death, which isn’t “in that day.” Adam was told that “in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened.” Then later, having ate, his eyes were immediately opened. That was the same “in that day” that Adam was said to “die.” So the same “in that day,” both his eyes were opened and he died. What happened the same day their eyes were opened? They were exiled from the garden. Death. That is the death Hosea talks about concerning Israel’s exile, and is the same death Jesus came to fix: resurrect fallen Israel (Hosea 13, Ezek 37, Dan 12) and bring the Gentiles into that resurrection promise.

      If we take “fellowship death” as the definition of the death of Adam, then everything clicks throughout the rest of the bible, which defines how Christians today can experience full forgiveness, salvation and redemption in Christ, and “not come into judgment but pass from death to life,” even though we still physically die. People still die, only now, there is a covenant remedy in Christ. Otherwise, if physical death is what Adam brought, then everyone still pays the penalty of their sins through their physical death to await a physical resurrection, which makes the cross ineffectual for anyone today. If Adam didn’t bring physical death, then physical resurrection is not what we are waiting for in Christ. Yes, what you believe in Genesis has tremendous repercussions for what you believe about soteriology (salvation) and eschatology (last things).

      For a more detailed look at these things I highly recommend “Beyond Creation Science” by Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn. Though the authors don’t accept evolution, the forward is written by a man who does and I believe what is presented in that book fits perfectly with what is discussed here.


  • dopderbeck

    Excellent post

  • Brian P.

    1. How is death a curse? How would the adaptive benefits of natural selection over mutation occur without death and subsequent generation’s birth and life?

    2. How are animals made according to a “kind?” This is a philosophical ontology not represented in biology’s workings itself. Animals are made hereditarily from a mixing of their parents’ genetic materials with some amount of mutation.

    3. Genetic evidence does not indicate a separate biogenesis for any human species at any point in history.

    4. Though once not, evolution now seems quite intuitive to me. It took a fair bit of research and reading though for me to breakthrough prior, implicitly taught pop presupposition and philosophy of science.

    Given the above, I find it difficult to take Piper seriously in the big things when he has an alternative understanding of the little things.

    (P.S. Anyway we could get Piper to explain the source(s) of the genetic material of Jesus of Nazareth?)

  • Chad

    Pete, do you see this as a more difficult pill to swallow (the possibility of a non-historical Adam) for Reformed theologians than for non-Reformed in that imputation of guilt requires Adam’s historicity? Is it a theological system that is at stake more than anything else?

    • peteenns

      Absolutely, though I think the problem is huge for any literalist hermeneutic.

      • Brian P.

        I personally identify with that. When I lost belief in a historical Adam, a whole lot of the “problem statement” of the story line was thrown out. I had in hand a solution that was in search of a problem.

        • Andrew

          IMO almost all of Reformed theology is solutions in search of problems . .

    • http://www.anzaholyman.com Anzaholyman

      This is so true Calvinism falls without the fall.

  • Mark Chenoweth

    His first point is usually the hardest to work through. I’ve been interested in reading philosopher Michael Murray’s book on animal suffering for a while. His tentative point is that the only animals that are fully concious of the pain that they feel are the upper apes and humans.

    Murray is attempting to make some sort of sense of animal suffering presupposing an evolutionary perspective. It sounds very speculative but it’s at least an attempt at answer. Bill Dembski’s attempt at making the effects of the fall ontologically prior seem to be a bit more speculative and certainly not very faithful to a close reading of the text.

    Anyways, do Piper’s objections commit him to a young earth position? Although I have significant disagreements with old earth creationists, I think people like Hugh Ross are very respectable people. I find it harder to respect people like Ken Ham, mostly because of his polemical writing style, which Ross and the other guys over RTB lack.

    As far as I know, Piper isn’t calling anyone heretical for believing in evolution, that’s a good thing. Could be worse. : ) Although, I’m probably heretical to Piper anyway, since I’m Eastern Orthodox. haha

    • Andrew

      Ever spent time with a dog that was abused? To claim that only humans and higher primates “are conscious of pain” is bad science and simply doesn’t make logical sense.

      • Mattan

        Claiming that the human sentiments you feel when you observe an abused dog are somehow logical is bad science.

        I am not arguing that dogs don’t feel pain, but we heavily anthropomorphize animals to the point where we ascribe detail that might not be there. You can still have all the behaviors of trauma, conditioning, emotion, etc without the creature having a self-conscious awareness of these things. Furthermore self-conscious awareness is likely not a black/white issue. There are plenty of humans who are capable of self-consciousness, but spend much of their lives just reacting with little depth of self-reflection or stepping out of the moment to observe ones own thoughts. Dogs are likely conscious to a degree, but not to the same degree that we ascribe to them with our human observation.

        • Andrew

          I don’t think anyone would ascribe that a dog has the same level of self-consciousness as a human being, but higher self-conscious is not a prerequisite to be in a state of suffering.

          Also, study after study are showing that our mammalian cousins have much more cognitive capacity/emotional intelligence than we previously thought, and I believe we’ve only scratched the surface. The arguments that it’s just our own projections being placed on irrational creatures is quickly getting buried by contrary evidence.

  • Don Johnson

    Piper uses his own incredulity of evolution as an argument? How bogus is that, since he is not a biologist nor do he play one on TV.

    It is true that HIS way of interpreting the Bible is not able to reconciled with HIS very superficial understanding of evolution and the evidences for it. But he does not want to admit that, so he fudges and dodges and weaves. He is NOT a good example of someone to listen to in this area of the intersection of science and faith. But at least he has taken a TINY step away from those who stridently claim that one cannot be both a Christian and believe in evolution.

  • Jeff

    With reference to “according to their kind”, the preposition before the word translated as “kinds” can also have a distributive sense like in Job 7:18 -”You exmine him every morning and test him every moment” – Williams Hebrew Sytanx, para 281, 3rd edition.

    Many translations have this same phrase in Leviticus 11 as “every kind of animal” which makes more sense than “according to their kind”. Since many scholars have noticed a link between Lev. 11 and Gen 1-3 it seems likely that Gen 1 should translate it the same “every kind of fruit-bearing tree” “every kind of cattle”. The NRSV is one such translation that captures it nicely.

  • http://meaninginhistory.blogspot.com/ mark

    Perhaps a better idea for this post would have been an explanation of why anyone should care what Piper thinks.

  • http://meaninginhistory.blogspot.com/ mark

    Perhaps a better idea for this post would have been an explanation of why anyone should care what Piper thinks.

    • Brian P.

      Popcorn. Never forget the popcorn value of theological dialogue.

    • http://misoriented.blogspot.com Mike Blyth

      Maybe we should care because he’s quite influential to an awful lot of other people.

    • http://caveat1ector.wordpress.com Hydroxonium

      It’s just unfortunate that the blind can never see their own blindness, until they are healed.

  • CraigCregger

    I have never understood the death question to begin with. Take Romans 6:

    for the wages of sin is death but
    the gift of God is eternal life

    even when I was first a believer, it was obvious to me that Paul was comparing spiritual aspects of life and death. Sin = spiritual death, gift of God = spiritual life. Adam either:

    1. was literal and his sin brought a spiritual separation for all his descendents
    2. was literal, but only a proxy for all of human kind and brought spiritual separation for all me
    3. was allegrical, but communicated the notion that we are spiritually separated from God

    Say what you want about a literal or allegorical Adam, but the “everything physically dies” argument just doesn’t make sense.

    Also, before Adam sinned, it would appear that creation was already a mess – the serpent, if you picture him as Satan (as all evangelicals do) had already rebelled, along with his fellow angels. Adam did not bring that on, it was already there.

    • http://caveat1ector.wordpress.com Hydroxonium

      I too find that the traditional theology of Adam is highly misguided. But just because fools have made up a silly reason for the existence of physical death dose not mean that Paul is not also speaking about physical death and physical eternal life.

      The complete living human soul comprises both body and spirit.

  • Bathybius Haeckelii,

    The Evolutionism-Creation kerfuffle isn’t complicated once you understand the collision of two reality principles. One believes that the entire biosphere was created by a personal, eternal, transcendent, omnipotent Being. The other believes that time, with the undesigning, impersonal, mojo inherent in all pre-biotoc elements, creates everything. Evolutionism, consequently, has no sense of what it’s doing, but does an unspeakably complex job, nonetheless. “It” performs exactly like Bathybius Haeckelii, the glop found at the bottom of the North Atlantic in 1857 that many scientists thought was simple, living matter. Piper needs to say that Evolutionism worships a very long-term, elegant act of spontaneous generation.

    • Raphael Verelst

      A very long term act of spontaneous generation.

      I don’t think you realize the contradiction in your sentence. Of course you don’t, you’re a creatard.

  • rvs

    Too many systematic theologians interpret ambivalence, doubt, whimsy, etc., as sin, which is then thrown out with an overcompensating bravado and grave tones. I have seen Piper and other 7-point or 5-point or 12-point Calvinists do such things. That said, I appreciate Piper’s effort to leave room for theistic evolution, or is this simply a performance on his part? If the headline of this podcast were to be “Piper Opens the Door for Theistic Evolution,” then would his reputation suffer mightily among his supporters?

  • Andy

    And here is the challenge…both the the evidence for evolution and the possibility of literalism eing wrong are both HUGE hurdles for many evangelicals..they’re almost too big to face together but they are inseparable. I know that when I first read this kind of stuff it shook me to my core. I felt the choices were literalism or spong-esque liberalism…..ken ham or dawkins…I wonder about how to effectively help people through these questions together …as for me it was initially a very painful process.

  • http://www.internetmonk.com chaplain mike

    “Piper could model that it’s O.K. to be uncomfortable and to take time working out a theological issue, rather than relieving the tension prematurely.”

    Wow, what a thought! But you can imagine a pastor in that tradition ever admitting this? Not a chance. To be a pastor by definition means that you have worked out the kinks and have grasped the system of sound doctrine. This is not just a theological issue for the likes of the neo-reformed — it is an ecclesiological, pastoral, and personal issue of the highest stakes.

  • Tom

    Excellent article!

  • Stephen

    The fact that anyone cares what John Piper (PhD in theological reading of Romans 9; not a joke) has to say about evolution is a nice illustration of what psychologists call “the prestige bias.” To oversimplify, this refers to the intuitive tendency to care about and even allocate credence to the opinions of someone who has prestige/recognition/fame in some particular area (say, being a famous musical “artist”) about something completely unrelated to their area of recognition and fame (say, politics).

    Though it sounds as though many of Piper’s comments are about biblical “exegetical” matters relating to evolution (so, in fairness, something directly related to his area of expertise and recognition among many evangelicals), the significance of much of what he says goes beyond those areas when he starts talking about evolution’s theoretical possibility and then classic (supposedly) scientific ID arguments.

    Of course, a fun irony in all this is that the basis of the prestige bias, which is the requisite building block for evangelicals to care what Piper has to say about evolution, resides in evolution. It’s an evolutionary adaptation that enabled people to cope (relatively successfully) with living in groups in our evolutionary past. Of course, like many parts of our evolved brains, some of these functions worked better for us in the past than they do in the present (i.e., our strong drive to obtain sweet and fatty foods served us well when such things were very scarce, but that drive hasn’t exactly been wonderful for our health now that such foods are abundantly available).

  • Larry S

    I learned a new word today: INCHOATE
    Pete wrote: “In the meantime, podcasting inchoate thinking runs the risk of being taken by his listeners as a fully formed position.”
    Online Definition: INCHOATE: Just begun and so not fully formed or developed; rudimentary: “a still inchoate democracy”.

    Thanks Pete – and thanks for the post.

    Larry S

  • Herbert W Johnstok, B.S., D.D. (hon)

    Dr Enns, I feel that I must speak out on this important issue.
    The biblical, theological and scientific views of John Piper are a very tough issue for me. I feel I can’t just reject his ideas outright, but to be honest, his ideas create a lot of theological tensions that I haven’t worked out yet. I need more time to put the pieces together before I offer a public opinion, e.g. calling him a moron, which even if true, would not be a charitable label to use. Perhaps it might be best to say that he has “a zeal not according to knowledge”
    Your humble servant,
    Herbert W Johnstok, B.S., D.D. (hon)

  • Herbert W Johnstok, B.S., D.D. (hon)

    Didn’t I read somewhere that John Piper graduated from Hamburger University? Maybe that is the problem.

  • http://www.coffeeringstheology.wordpress.com C.M. Granger

    Why all the Piper bashing? If you don’t agree with him, pat yourself on the back.

    • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist

      There are probably more constructive and thoughtful ways for you to interact with this post. Enns has a very good point – namely that Piper’s answers are, indeed, inchoate. At what point does being honest with ourselves about someone’s poor performance become bashing? Your response is not thoughtful – it is rhetoric, and somewhat tired. I welcome alternative voices, and I’m sure Enns does too, but you must come to the table with substance.

      • http://www.coffeeringstheology.wordpress.com C.M. Granger

        There probably are, but being admonished by someone whose on-line persona is Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist, is rich with irony.

        It becomes bashing when the comments are pure ad hom. There is a difference between reasoned criticism and infantile sarcasm.

        • Andrew

          I would argue that Piper has made enough publicly “infantile” comments himself that he’s more than opened the door for a little sarcasm coming his way. Humility is not a trait he exhibits.

          • http://www.coffeeringstheology.wordpress.com C.M. Granger

            What comments would those be? Please provide some examples to substantiate this assertion.


          • jim V

            So, then, Andrew – you believe in an “eye for an eye”? This is the problem that CM is talking about. You think that just because you find some things Piper has said “infantile” that gives you justification to be rude, sarcastic, and insulting. I’m sorry, I must have missed that verse in the NT where Christ or any of the NT authors said it was OK to be sarcastic and insulting when another person says one to many “infantile” things. It is amazing to me how people like you can be so blind to the hypocrisy in their comments when they are ridiculing a person they hate because of lack of “humility.” Ridicule can only come from a lack of humility, sir.

      • http://www.coffeeringstheology.wordpress.com C.M. Granger

        And I wasn’t refering to the post itself, per se, but the comments.

        • jim V

          Unfortunately, I would advise Dr. Enns to stop posting articles about John Piper. You disagree with him on almost everything – we get it. I don’t agree with him on a lot of things, too, but I think he needs to stop feeding the clearly bitter and insatiably mean-spirited comments that come on this board whenever Piper is brought up. At this point, he is just doing more harm than good in my opinion.

    • Devon

      Exactly….I cannot believe some of the unchristian comments here….and the worshipping of Darwin to boot! Very sad and unbiblical!

  • Herbert W Johnstok, B.S., D.D. (hon)

    The only reason I make fun of Pope John XXIV is that I am a Protestant.

  • Leo

    I believe the tension comes into play because most Christians are taught from a very young age that God created everything in six literal days, so any other view is blasphemous. When I’ve broached the subject at my very fundy church, it has caused some unfavorable reactions. “God said it, that settles it” without questioning -IS the prevailing view in the church today, unfortunately. Galatians 5:6 is lost on many fundamentalists.

  • Leo

    When our church presented a 13 week Answers in Genesis video “teaching” series- at least 100 people showed up in full support of their dogma. One fellow, after the video at the Q/A, actually said that to question what the bible says is to mimic the serpent in Genesis 3. In other words, don’t question what the bible says because we don’t want to be like Satan. Ugh.

  • Bev Mitchell

    It’s very difficult (for some, impossible) to move away from the literal reading of Scripture. It’s almost impossible to imagine anyone with the reputation and influence of Piper to move very far from a life-long stance that requires literal readings of texts like Genesis 1-3. We need to be thankful that he at least feels the heat enough to say theistic evolution is theoretically possible – even if this time around, at least, he takes it back immediately.

    It may be equally impossible to imagine someone like Piper fully accepting as Christian someone who does accept evolution and a less than literal Adam. A related thought would be “What if Piper would at least say it’s OK for his followers to make up their own mind on the issue without being kicked out of the flock?”Could it be that this small opening, this tiny glimmer of light, is a move in this direction?

    Thanks for this Pete. You may have highlighted a first tiny spark. We probably should keep this as a point of reference and wait to see what happens next.

  • James

    I think the findings of science, even evolution, help us better interpret ancient Scripture and apply it more faithfully today. Why insist on the literal read using old fashioned (modern) lens when we could discern a deeper intent applicable to every day needs? The deep meaning of a particular passage (a creation account, for example) is always conditioned by canonical development culminating in Christ AND the particularities of current life and witness. Thus the Word of God is alive, powerful and sharp!

  • toddh

    It is hard to move away from a “literal” reading of scripture. And scary. For me, it came through work by Dr. Enns and others about how to read Genesis in its ancient context. I hate biology and have no interest in evolution, so I really don’t care whatever theory explains how we got here. But I can’t believe that God expected ancient understandings of the universe to be forever how humans understand the universe when those theories were clearly wrong. A view of scripture similar to what’s set forth in Inspiration and Incarnation seems to me to be the only way forward if a person wants to interpret scripture and have any kind of intellectual integrity.

    • James

      There are some fairly serious scientific efforts today in search of genetic evidence for the original set of species God created in the garden–each plant and animal “after his kind.” The bulk of natural science today helps us see that little phrase might better read–”Their seeds produced plants and trees of the same kind…each (sea and air animal) producing offspring of the same kind.” (NLT) Well, naturally, this is how reproduction occurs! We also know there is seemingly endless variety in speciation. Reminds us of the truth: the “manifold (multi-faceted) grace of God.”

  • Bev Mitchell

    Just had a chance to listen to the clip. Pastor John may wish to take a couple of biology courses! The amazing examples that impress him so much are trivial compared to what he could have used. Has he heard of the origin of mitochondria or chloroplasts? The amazing molecular coordination of manganese and carbon atoms that make the splitting of water possible and, with that, all oxygen burning life on the planet? The fact that virtually all complex organisms are dependent on close associations with other organisms (often bacteria or fungi) for healthy living and even life itself? Or, the amazing epigenetic networks that allow us to finally see how information in complex living things must flow down as well as up the levels of biological organization, just to make life as we know it possible?

    The thing about creation (the theological viewpoint) and nature (the biological viewpoint) is that they both celebrate life, which all can agree has been a phenomenal success. A multi-billion year success. Order out of chaos is one way to describe it. We can also see it as life coming from death. Life is undefeated. Individuals die, but life continues. Resources for life on this planet are extremely limited, but, through recycling all of the necessary components, life continues. Life wins. That sounds like something a loving creator might be behind.

  • Leo

    “Biblical Authority.” Has anyone had this “trump card” played on them by a YEC? You give up biblical authority if you, for instance, disagree with Ken Ham. They don’t explain how exactly, but there it is.

  • Bob Forbes

    Way to go, boys. I’m sure John Piper will be putting out a new podcast shortly.

  • AJG

    Piper is extremely confused. He states that the main reason evolution has been put forth is to leave God out of the subject of life. No. The main reason evolution has been put forth is that it is the best (only!) scientific model that has been put forth and has all the evidence on its side. Darwin and Wallace did not develop the theory of natural selection to kill God. They developed it because it made sense of the world they observed.

  • summers-lad

    Resurrection after death is unbelievably unlikely. I doubt if it is even theoretically possible, according to any ordinary theory. And yet the evidence points to the truth of Jesus’ resurrection; I don’t believe there is any better explanation than that it really happened. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming. Happy Easter.

    P.S. (in case anyone reads this as a fundamentalist view) I agree with Peter and with the general thrust of the comments re evolution. It is, I think, intuitively unlikely, but the evidence points very strongly to it.

  • http://www.coffeeringstheology.wordpress.com C.M. Granger

    Could someone direct me to a succinct presentation or article that lays out all of this evidence for evolution? I would appreciate it.


    • AJG

      C.M. I would recommend the following three books to you:

      1) Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne: http://goo.gl/u4Xkr
      2) Relics of Eden by Daniel J. Fairbanks: http://goo.gl/Ytv1n
      3) Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Sean Carroll: http://goo.gl/IiOMo

      Just a note, Coyne is an atheist, Fairbanks is a Mormon and Carroll is Catholic I believe, so you will get a set of diverse views. If you read and understand these books, I suspect you will become convinced that evolution is a fact as well as a theory.

      • AJG

        I’ll add a fourth book as well:

        4) Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters by Donald Prothero: http://goo.gl/q1ix3

        • http://www.coffeeringstheology.wordpress.com C.M. Granger

          Thanks AJG, I’ll check those out….

          • summers-lad

            Not on evolution, but on geology and the age of the earth, I would strongly recommend “Testimony of the Rocks” by Hugh Miller. Written in 1854, this is a series of lectures by a pioneering geologist who was also a prominent member of the Free Church of Scotland, and although much of the science is inevitably dated now, it presents a harmony between the “two revelations” (nature and scripture) which has probably never been bettered.

          • Troy
          • jim V

            I would recommend anything by Michael Ruse – “Darwinism and Its Discontents” or “Can a Darwinian Be a Christian?” – for starters. Ruse is an agnostic (leaning towards atheist), but he is extraordinarily respectful of people of faith.

            I remember in a Sunday morning class in my PCA church, we studied evolution and creation conflicts and I was impressed by how many of the attendees acknowledged that Darwin put a lot of work and gathered good evidence for his conclusions. Not everyone in the class was convinced of evolution, but just that little insight allowed them to be less hostile to the idea that reasonable people, including Christians, can be convinced that evolution was the process of development used by God for the creation of our universe/world/species. So, not everyone at conservative churches are the troglodytes you some here may think they are.

    • Bev Mitchell

      C.M. All good suggestions so far. For a leisurely if long wander through the history of life try Dawkins’ “The Ancestor’s Tale”. It’s long because the story is so grand. It’s breathtaking because we are all part of it. Dawkins does not recognize the author, but he is among the best at explaining what the author has made possible and continues to make possible. The perspective taken is to begin with humans and work backwards, stopping along the way to visit a lovely selection of our ancestors. Get one of the larger format editions to better enjoy the great illustrations and photos.

      • http://www.coffeeringstheology.wordpress.com C.M. Granger


        I don’t take Dawkins seriously, he has no credibility….and the particular book you cite doesn’t sound like proof of anything.

        Thanks for making a suggestion though…

        • Bev Mitchell

          OK. I thought you were looking for good biology. If you’re looking for good theology, then I completely agree with you.

          • http://www.coffeeringstheology.wordpress.com C.M. Granger

            He may be a fine biologist, but his rabid anti-Christianity and complete ignorance of the subject he portends to refute make his work dispensable. There are other biologists worth reading.


    • Andrew

      Darrel Falk’s _Coming to Peace with Science_ is also great. Check it out on Amazon. Extremely readable, too.

    • SebZear

      If you’d rather not take the trip to the library, here’s on online resource for your convenience: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

  • Leo

    CM, Try: Finding Darwin’s God by Kenneth Miller (Catholic and professor of cell biology at Brown U.) Actually, you can watch any of his presentations on YouTube.

    The Language of Science and God by Francis Collins is good, too.

  • http://www.coffeeringstheology.wordpress.com C.M. Granger

    Thanks for the suggestions Leo

  • Leo

    Dawkins is somewhat of a horse’s rear-end, but even Christian biologists hold his works of science in high esteem. His philosophy on the other hand is as Plantinga says “jejune.”

  • jim V

    Dr. Enns,

    You wrote: “Rather than feeling he needs to provide an answer he is clearly not prepared to give, Piper could model that it’s O.K. to be uncomfortable and to take time working out a theological issue, rather than relieving the tension prematurely.”

    I’m not sure how what Piper is doing is any different from what you do a lot on this blog, Dr. Enns. You openly question your faith, your belief in the Bible, you often discuss areas of knowledge outside your expertise and do so honestly and openly – allowing all to see where you struggle and contradict yourself. Why can’t Piper do it? Do you think because you hold the title of Professor and he is a Pastor that you can produce less anxiety and confusion among Christian readers or listeners when you discuss you thoughts on topics that are not “worked out theologically?” I would say – good for you, John Piper, your showing us that you too often have conflicting thoughts about issues theological and scientific.

    I’m disturbed by all the Piper bashing going on in this thread. Even if you don’t agree with Piper on most issues, and maybe even vehemently so, I thought most of the people commenting here were Christians called to love their brother (or sister), even if they are a “weaker member” on certain subjects. I’m seeing less love and more judgment. I don’t agree with Piper on his Biblical interpretations and his views of evolution either, but I love the fact that he is thinking about them, and publicly so. Shame on many of you for demonstrating just as much judgmental attitude as you accuse Piper of.

  • http://maximizingmarriage.com/ Sebs | MaximizingMarriage.com

    I don’t have any problem with Piper’s response.

  • ct

    Evolution is garbage science, more worth mocking than anything the Flat Earth Society puts out.

    Stop putting Piper’s words into a form you, an apostate, and a rather odious one at that, can approve of.

    • Leo

      @CT, Evolution is “Garbage science”? You may want to re-think that statement. Evolution is affirmed by 98% of all biologists (Christian and non-Christian). Christian theism and evolution are not incompatible.

    • toddh

      Oh, I get it. It’s april fools. Good one CT.

  • ct

    >Evolution is affirmed by 98% of all biologists (Christian and non-Christian).

    98% of biologists refuse to see a difference between living and dead cells. They accuse any who do of being ‘vitalists.’

    • Dorfl

      Do you have a source for this claim?

      • ct

        Modern biological textbooks. Atheists can’t admit the existence of the soul. So ‘complexity’ becomes a synonym for soul. Just as ‘chance’ becomes synonym for miracle when atheists/evolutionists are explaining origins and life forms and so on.

        • Andrew

          “Just as ‘chance’ becomes synonym for miracle . . .”

          Why you should go preach in Vegas!! The mecca of miracles!

        • Dorfl

          I don’t see how the soul is relevant to this discussion. I mean, I’m pretty sure that most theologians would disagree with the statement that an individual slime mold cell has a soul. And I don’t think many of them believe that Henrietta Lack’s soul is still somehow stuck to the HeLa cell line. So I think biologists and theologians would agree that the question of whether the soul exists or not is pretty much irrelevant to the question of whether a particular cell is alive or not.

          • ct

            Dorfl, you’r making a conflation between soul and image of God, I believe. My point is, atheist biologists can’t recognize anything ‘metaphysical’, anything beyond physical or beyond material. So they import everything into their magical word ‘complexity.’ Everything but God. So when someone up there cites “98% of biologists believe so and so” I respond with 98% of biologists are deathly shallow materialists who carry they materialist beliefs to the point of refusing to recognize a difference between living cells/flesh and dead cells/flesh.

          • Dorfl

            “[...] atheist biologists can’t recognize anything ‘metaphysical’, anything beyond physical or beyond material. So they import everything into their magical word ‘complexity.’ Everything but God.”

            That may or may not be true. I still don’t see how you get from there to:

            “[...] 98% of biologists are deathly shallow materialists who carry they materialist beliefs to the point of refusing to recognize a difference between living cells/flesh and dead cells/flesh.”

            As far as I know, most biologists would not have any difficulty telling if the cells in a petri dish are alive or not, irrespective of what metaphysical beliefs they have otherwise.

  • Jordan

    I would just like to mention, as I have written similar notes before, that I am thankful for a pastoral leader such as Piper who is a man of character and conviction and, to my knowledge, carries these with grace toward those who see things differently. What I see here is an openness to consider another point of view. I would doubt that it is any outward pressure driving this consideration, but rather an honest look at the evidence. He certainly has the intelligence as well as the intellectual integrity to do so. To find all these in one person is a rare combination, and for this, I am thankful.

  • Juha Virtanen

    Piper and Enns didn’t notice, that a lot of theistic evolutionists think, that the human body is a product of evolution, but according to that theory, God would have afterwards given the developed body a living soul, which would make the developed body fully human, and therefore human would differ from monkeys. Also one could notice, that the word yom, which is translated as “day”, is also translatable as long period of time. With these points it could be possible to take the Creation narrative quite literally and still hold on to evolutionary views.

  • Juha Virtanen

    Peter Enns claims following:

    “I think it would have been much better had Piper simply said, “For theological and exegetical reasons, I reject evolution,” rather than offering evolution as a theoretical possibility only to remove that possibility moments later. In my opinion, what I sense here is Piper’s public expression of cognitive dissonance. He is smart enough to know that evolution cannot simply be brushed aside, but he is struggling with how to align that with a literalistic reading of the Bible, which is a non-negotiable requirement of his theology.”

    Personally I think, that often it is much more intelligent to leave things like this more open than trying to solve everything. In reality we all have cognitive dissonance (and so does Enns), because there is always more information and interpretations than our brains can handle.

  • ct

    Dorfl, they’d recognize rigor mortis, not that anything other than ‘complexity’ left the organism. This is silly. This is atheism. This is materialism. So don’t hold up the collective opinion of silly people to me to bolster your argument (or the argument of the person who originally did that).

    • Dorfl

      I really don’t know what rigor mortis would mean for something that has no muscle tissue. In any case, I’m pretty sure that most biologists would see that a dead cell is not necessarily much less complex than a living one. At least momentarily, before it had time to start degrading badly.

      Can you find any sources where biologists actually use the word complexity in the way you are doing?

  • ct

    All you have are questions. Do some study. Obviously you’re being gored.

  • Brent

    Dr. Enns,
    Perhaps we should all be more humble on this matter. There is so much that we do not yet know.
    In reality, Dr. Piper communicated very clearly where he is at.
    For all intents and purposes, he stands on the side of history in terms of theology and biblical interpretation.
    But as with many things, 100% assurance and arrogance should not be maintained. A wise person always leaves that possibility that the other side of the interpretation could be correct since God is God and can do anything He desires.
    Dr. Enns, would you come out and say that your position is absolutely true? I think not. You might also say that “theoretically, it could be true that God used another way of creating the world that is different from my current view, but ‘scientifically speaking’ I would have a hard time justifying it.” Would you then accuse yourself of the things you brought up about Dr. Piper? Again, I think not.
    I don’t think you opened minds through the content of this post.

    • peteenns

      I don’t agree, Brent. Humility is ont the issue. I will assume you “know” the earth is round and revolves around the sun. There are groups, however, that feel this is a conspiracy and the earth is flat and stationary. They would challenge you whether what you believe is “absolutely true.” I would you would say, “yes, I am.” There is no humility in saying “we just don’t know for sure about evolution, so lets stay open to all options.” Ironically, there is an arrogance in that very assertion, since it runs counter to the overwhelming scientific consensus, and is kept alive essentially my apologetics organizations.

  • Marthinus

    I think I agree with you, but did you contact you brother in Christ first before you wrote this article?