A few days ago I posted the main bullet points for the lecture I gave at the Evangelical Theological Society on April 6. Some of the responses perpetuate common yet unconvincing lines of defense.
For example, I began my talk by saying that I accept the scientific consensus as a staring point when discussing the question of human origins.
A response I have heard–more times than I care to recall, and that I knew would likely come again even though I think I was super clear in my lecture–is, “Aha. See! If you start with science, of course you’re going to end up with evolution. And that’s your problem. You put too much faith in science instead of in the Bible.”
“Faith in science” suggests that one’s view of scientific matters is on the same sort of playing field as “faith in the Bible,” which then gives a sort of rhetorical oomph to the posed choice. But I don’t have ”faith in science.” I have made a conscious, intellectual decision to accept the overwhelming consensus of demonstrably knowledgable and trained scientists across the world and for several generations.
I have done this not by ignoring my faith, but by working out my faith. I am not ignoring the Bible and its “plain teachings,” but interpreting the Bible as responsibly as I know how.
As I see it, the real question isn’t, “Why do you choose science over God?” but, “On what basis do you think you have the right to dismiss the scientific consensus?”
A ready response to this question is some variation on the following: “I reject evolution on the basis of Scripture.”
I’ve been around this block not a few times, and this response baffles me more and more each time I hear it. For one thing, it assumes as settled the very issue that is on the table, whether Genesis is prepared to speak to scientific matters. Also, havoc would result if this response were applied consistently to other well-established truths that lie outside of the Bible’s line of sight (outer space, galaxies, round earth, a temple in Turkey that predates the biblical Adam by 5,000 years, beer making that predates Adam, by 1000 years, etc., etc).
I understand the drive to “choose the Bible over science” to protect one’s faith, especially if that is the only way one knows how to pose the problem.
But that leaves another question, a very serious one, unaddressed: “What exactly do you think is the deal with all these biologists, bio-chemists, physicists, anthropologists, etc., across the world who make up this consensus?”
I see three options for answering that question (either in isolation or in combination):
1. They are all conspiring against us.
2. They are all grossly incompetent.
3. They are blinded by sin from seeing the truth.
Those who reject evolution need to say more than “I’d rather follow the BIble.” They also need to give some account for why they think the consensus exists.
I’m not prepared to accept any of those options. To do so would mean leaving a world where knowledge can be pursued and ideas vetted, for if this line of defense can be applied to one issue, it can be applied just as easily to any other one might find unacceptable.