Evolving Evangelicalism: Inviting Church Leaders to Refine their Approaches to Scripture and Origins

Copyright © 2012 by Kurt Willems. All rights reserved.

CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION
DISCERNING THE PROBLEM
Defining Biological Evolution
The Problem of Young Adults Avoiding or Leaving the Church
The Problem Pastors Perpetuate
The Problem of Scientific Naturalism
THESIS
BIBLICAL THEOLOGY
Genesis 1 and Creation
The Structure and Style of Genesis 1
Occasion for Writing Genesis 1
Polemical Nature of the Text
God’s Liberating Image
Chaos and Enuma Elish
Chaos, Creation, and the Beginning
Functional Ontology
The Cosmos as God’s Temple and the 7 Days of Creation
Theological Approaches to Adam and Eve
Option 1: Adam and Eve as Historical
Option 2: Adam and Eve as Parable
Option 3: Adam is Israel’s Loss of Wisdom and Exile
Analysis and Implications of Genesis 1 and Adam and Eve
EVOLVING EVANGELICALISM BEYOND THE CULTURE WAR
1. Cultivate Church Communities of Openness
2. Move Past the Culture War by Listening to Stories with Fresh Ears
3. Quit Reinforcing the False Dichotomy in Curriculums and Sermons
4. Bridge the Gap between Evangelical Leaders and the Pews
CONCLUSION
APPENDIX
For Further Reading
Stories from Evolution Blog Post
BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

 

INTRODUCTION

During my first year as a junior high director, I was close with the “skateboarder” kids in our youth ministry. Jeff, a really funny kid, enjoyed youth group, but maintained skepticism regarding Jesus. One random Monday night, Jeff arrived with some exciting news.

“Kurt, guess what? I’ve decided to become a Christian!”

“Awesome, bro! I’ve been praying for you! But why the sudden change of heart?” I was completely caught off guard.

“Well, in science class the other day, my teacher said that we’re related to monkeys. I’m not related to filthy old apes, right?” At this point, Jeff had all of us laughing.

“Nope, you’re not related to monkeys. That’s what the atheists believe. But as Christians we believe that God created the first humans as special – in God’s image.”

“Yeah. That’s exactly what I remember talking about the other day. You said that the first humans were Adam and Eve. They weren’t hunchbacked apes that sniff each other’s butts and scratch themselves!”

“No, they didn’t sniff each other’s butts or scratch themselves. That was probably reserved just for you and your cousin Richard!” (also in our group). The laughter nearly derailed the conversation. “Ok, ok… sorry. But yes, we believe God created the world in seven days; God spoke the universe into existence. Evolution leaves no room for God and depends on a bunch of assumptions that can’t be proven. Believing we came from monkeys takes more faith than believing God created us.”

That night Jeff accepted Jesus Christ as his Creator and Savior. And as much as I love when anyone chooses to follow Jesus, this story actually illustrates a problem in many expressions of evangelical culture.

DISCERNING THE PROBLEM

For me, at the time, Jeff’s experience illustrated the need for solid apologetics in the church. Now, I strongly disagree. Jeff became a Christian as a result of a false polarity. His story demonstrates why the evangelical church is often perceived as antagonistic towards science. This posture of hostility communicates that embracing biblical faith is antithetical to evolution. Essentially, evangelical culture, as I have experienced it as both a pastor and “layperson,” presents people with mutually exclusive options: A) believe in God as Creator to be a Christian or B) hold to biological evolution to be an atheist. In what follows, we will define what is meant by the term evolution, and then explore various problems that this issue raises in the church. After stating the problems and declaring a thesis, we will look at relevant biblical texts, and explore opportunities to move beyond this polarity.

Defining Biological Evolution

“[Evolution]…is a theory about how life has changed over time; it is not a theory about how life first appeared.”[1] Evolution does not answer the question of who caused the first form of life to appear, but rather explains how natural processes led to the universe’s formation. For our purposes, we will assume that biological evolution[2] includes the following: 1) the visible universe emerged approximately 13.7 billion years ago,[3] 2) the first forms of cellular life came to be on the earth about 4.5 billion years ago,[4] 3) all species descended from common ancestors and find their origin in a single-celled organism, 4) species change over time through mutations in DNA,[5] 5) the first humans evolved from a tribe of chimp-like apes in Africa 6-7 million years ago,[6] and 6) homo sapiens can be dated to about 200,000 years ago.[7] With this understanding of biological evolution, we move forward to problems confronting the church.

The Problem of Young Adults Avoiding or Leaving the Church

In a recent study conducted by the Barna Group called, “Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church,” the third reason claims, “Churches come across as antagonistic to science.”[8] Other reasons include: “Churches seem overprotective;” “The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt;” and “Teens’ and twenty-somethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.”

All of these reasons are pertinent to this discussion, but antagonism toward science specifically highlights our concern. The study continues: 29% (three in ten young adults) feel that “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in;” 25% dislike that “Christianity is anti-science;” and 23% are “turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.” The dispute between evangelicalism and evolution is pushing young adults out of the church.

The same perceptions prevail in my interactions with non-Christians. A close friend, a spiritual agnostic, has a brother intensely committed to convincing him of the error of his ways. Creationism consumes much of their dialogues. This brother embraces a seven-day creation, and has traveled to the Mecca of creation science: The Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY. This museum displays Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and children co-existing with dinosaurs by Eden’s Rivers.[9] After viewing the exhibits of the Earth’s supposed 6,000-year history, the brother confronted my friend with arguments for this literal approach to Genesis. My friend told me that a major turnoff to Christianity is this militant anti-science agenda. This instinct resonates with the majority (72%) of religiously-unaffiliated Americans, who believe that evolution provides the best explanation for human origins.[10]

Another friend, my next-door neighbor, married a woman from a traditional evangelical family. This neighbor is thoughtful and well-read. He worries that accepting evangelical faith would mean dismissing his intellectual integrity. Until he heard about the perspective explored in this paper, “traditional” creationism remained his one major stumbling block to Christ.

A similar scenario came up in a conversation with a single mom at my former church. She loves the church, and embraces the idea of being missional in the city and world; yet, she remains a “skeptic” regarding the full acceptance of Christ because of her beliefs about the Earth’s origins. The posture of evangelicalism toward the scientific community continues to be a stumbling block between people and a life of committed Christianity.

The Problem Pastors Perpetuate

In my experience, some evangelical pastors are open to the idea of “theistic evolution.” While holding this perspective as a viable option alongside young and old-earth creationism, they often choose to preach and teach as though Genesis 1 is to be read as a description of how creation took place. Such pastors may never mention other faithful methods for interpreting this passage in order to avoid congregational conflict; therefore, many people in the pews assume that the traditional reading is the only correct one. Unfortunately, most mainstream evangelical materials defend young or old-earth creationism over and against atheism. By equating evolution with atheism, members are presented with a false polarity. This environment fosters situations like the one above, where the single mom holds out as a “skeptic” because she cannot reconcile science with the Bible.

Other evangelical churches and pastors approach this issue in a more focused way. These churches are convinced that the Bible teaches a literal 7-day creation and that the world is only 6,000 years old. These same congregations may implement curriculum from organizations such as Answers in Genesis and The Institute for Creation Research. With an elevated view of modern apologetics, these churches perpetuate a false polarity as well.[11]

A recent survey is quite telling regarding general pastoral perspectives. According to a Lifeway poll, 64% of protestant pastors “strongly disagree” that “God used evolution to create people” [emphasis mine] compared to only 12% who “strongly agree.” Also telling, at least 30% “strongly agree” that the earth is 6,000 years old (16% “somewhat agree”).[12] A large number of pastors in the United States disagree with modern scientific understandings about human origins.

The Problem of Scientific Naturalism

Any evolutionary theories incorporating scientific naturalism (or evolution as worldview) absolutely conflict with Christian belief. Pastor Timothy Keller insists: “Belief in evolution as a biological process is not the same as belief in evolution as a worldview.”[13] Scientific naturalism, distinct from biological evolution, “holds that all that exists is physical and can be reduced to its elemental material composition.”[14] Therefore, god is myth; only matter is eternal.

In this view, various forms of matter, called essences, existed eternally prior to the point in evolutionary history that led to the observable universe.[15] As a result, naturalists believe that appealing to God (or any spiritual entity) distracts from human progress because problems in the world can only be solved through science.[16] Alvin Plantinga makes the distinction clear: “What is not consistent with Christian belief… is the claim that this process of evolution is unguided – that no personal agent, not even God, has guided, directed, orchestrated, or shaped it.”[17] Christians often fail to leave room for a God-directed evolution, and naturalists often assume atheism can be deduced because of science.  Both views wrongly assert a false polarization.

THESIS

St. Augustine[18] believed that humans ought to approach the quest for knowledge by holding together the two sacred forms of revelation given to humanity by God: the book of Scripture and the book of nature (or the natural world). He believed that these two books are God’s perfect and complementary modes of truth communication. Therefore, the interpretation of texts should not be held so tightly as to fail to leave room for the book of nature to reveal truth about reality.[19]

With this concern in view, Augustine wrote: “Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books.”[20] This applies today as well-meaning evangelical leaders teach that the biblical origins accounts conflict with evolution. This antagonistic stance is unnecessarily hindering some people from becoming or remaining part of the Christian faith, when in fact, the biblical witness of cosmic and human origins in no way conflicts with modern science.

BIBLICAL THEOLOGY

Scientific developments, particularly within the study of biological evolution, create an opportunity to dig deeper into the biblical text. In doing so, we will not seek to redefine Scripture to accommodate for science, but rather will be interested in the task of refining our interpretations with the utmost regard for biblical authority. We will begin by exploring one of the most beautiful, Holy Spirit-inspired passages in all of the biblical narrative: Genesis 1. We will then investigate Adam and Eve’s historicity. The following interpretation, while incomplete, provides a model for maintaining the biblical authority of the book of Scripture while also maintaining an open posture toward modern views about the book of nature.

Genesis 1 and Creation

In the beginning… there was conflict. The chaotic waters of the deep in verse 2 remind us of our cultural quarrels generating from interpretations of Genesis 1. The following approach attempts to demonstrate that this passage is not describing how the world was made, but instead declares who organized the world to function with purpose.

The Structure and Style of Genesis 1

Many interpreters of Genesis 1[21] appeal to the text as a work of poetry. The way poetry usually functions is to point to larger ideas, not to convey a literal lists of facts. In this case, some say that if the first chapter of Scripture is indeed poetic, then it demonstrates that: God created; humans bear the image of God; and God intimately loves what God made and declares all creation “very good.”

It is evident that the writer of Genesis 1 chose stylistic prose. However, the pericope uses a sequential future verb form throughout, which is the typical marker of an Old Testament narrative text.[22] Therefore, it uses a unique form that Walter Brueggemann calls “poetic narrative.”[23] This passage was probably utilized as a liturgy of Israel,[24] evidenced by its “doxological character,”[25] which may explain why the text is both poetic and narrative in form.

The following outline demonstrates the poetic stylizing of Genesis 1:[26]

          Form (versus tohu: “unformed”)           Fill (versus bohu: “unfilled”)

DAY

DAY

1

Light (1.3-5)

Lights [greater and lesser] (1.14-19)

4

2

Firmament (1.6-8)

Inhabitants (1.20-23)

5

 

Sky

Birds

 

 

Seas

Fish

 

3

Dry Land (1.9-10)

Land Animals (1.24-25)

6

 

Vegetation (1.11-13)

Human Beings (1.26-31)

 

 

 

 

 

 

It becomes obvious that the various days of creation parallel each other. Day 1 goes with day 4, 2 with 5, and 3 with 6. For this reason, many people who challenge the 7-day perspective ask how 24-hour days were marked when the sun was not created until day 4. That is one of many benefits to paying close attention to form.

The “poetic narrative” also demonstrates another pattern:

Time: “there was evening and morning…”

Command: “God said, ‘Let there be…’”

Execution: “And it was so.”

Assessment: “God saw that it was good.”

Time: “there was evening and morning…”

Both the framework of the days and the patterns of the command-execution sequences exhibit the passage’s literary intentionality.[27] Genesis 1 as “poetic narrative” (or liturgy) demonstrates that it was written with intent, not merely as a list of literal descriptions about how the world came into existence.

Yet, we must also recognize the temptation to dismiss this passage as only poetic. Many who claim a form of theistic evolution are content to stop there. Such an interpretive approach irresponsibly neglects the need for further theological inquiry, based on genre related issues. Knowing that Genesis 1 is both narrative and poetry invites careful interpreters to discover the various nuances of meaning beyond the broad truths that God created and humankind was made uniquely in God’s image. Integrity to the complex literary form (not to mention biblical authority) pushes us to think more deeply about the theological purposes and authorial intent of the first chapter of the Bible.

Occasion for Writing Genesis 1

In order to understand the author’s intent in Genesis 1, examining the original historical context will prove helpful. Although well-meaning evangelical apologists have written much to the contrary,[28] the entire book of Genesis did not come into its final form until the post-exilic age.[29] Genesis 1, the first creation narrative, is the relatively newer text (composed by the Priestly redactor [“P”]) addressing issues arising from the exilic / post-exilic period, and Genesis 2-3, the second creation narrative, finds its roots well before the exile (“J” source). For “P,” one purpose was to address the despair of God’s people who were divided, pillaged, and forced out of their land. The text provides a reflection on God as the creative organizer of the cosmos within a historically disorienting set of circumstances.

The two creation accounts ought to be read as two distinct stories.[30] These texts with “different origins and transmission histories” were intentionally “brought together in a coherent way by a redactor” to complementarily “provide the canonical picture of creation.”[31]

Polemical Nature of the Text

Genesis 1 functions as a polemic against the gods of Israel’s exilic conquerors. To accomplish this end, the liturgy utilizes older narratives about the creation of the cosmos from Israel’s neighbors. Elements of Egyptian and Mesopotamian stories find their way into the biblical text, but are deliberately subverted.[32] Genesis 1 provides a central interpretive concern, from which the creation theology finds its proper rooting. In order to make meaning out of their experiences with God in the midst of exile, Genesis 1 refutes the theology of 6th century Babylon by reminding Israel that God alone brings life and order to humanity and the earth.[33] Peter Enns states this well:

Placing Genesis in its ancient Near Eastern setting strongly suggests that it was written as a self-defining document, as a means of declaring the distinctiveness of Israel’s own beliefs from those of the surrounding nations. In other words, Genesis is an argument, a polemic, declaring how Israel’s God is different from all the other gods, and therefore how Israel is different from all the other nations.[34]

God’s Liberating Image

The climax of Genesis 1, seen here, concerns humanity: “So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them…” (Genesis 1.27). Many conflicts regarding biological evolution stem from this passage, because the common assumption is that humankind is unique. This is true, but our uniqueness is in our vocation, not in our biological origins.  To make this point, it will be helpful to consider this verse in the context of the ancient world.

In the context of the passage, Brueggemann states: “It is now generally agreed that the image of God reflected in the human persons is after the manner of a king who establishes statues of himself to assert his sovereign rule where the king himself cannot be present.”[35] Placing tangible physical images in regions where the ruler could not be present served to remind the subjects of the identity of their ruler. A key difference in Genesis is that the kingly language does not refer to iron-fisted dominance. Rather, this is a subversion of Mesopotamian ideology. J. Richard Middleton writes, “But whereas power in the Babylonian and Assyrian empires was concentrated in the hands of a few, power in Genesis 1 is diffused or shared.”[36] In God’s economy, humanity is “called to a fundamental mutuality in a shared task,”[37] involving the stewarding of God’s creation project. Therefore, the “image of God” ultimately describes the egalitarian role of imaging God to all the earth, and as such, endows all humankind with intrinsic value, thus liberating humanity from the oppressive values of empire.[38]

Chaos and Enuma Elish        

Of the texts that Genesis 1 appropriates and subverts, Enuma Elish stands out as a key to comparison (which dates back at least to the 7th century BCE [pre-exile], but may have traditions reaching back to the 3rd millennium BCE). Enuma Elish makes us acutely aware of the theology of Babylonian peoples during the exilic period, which Israel’s creation theology intentionally countered.[39] Enuma Elish tells the story of the victorious god Marduk, who during a cosmic battle kills his great-great-grandmother, the goddess Tiamot. Then, Marduk separates her dead body into two pieces; one half becomes the heavens and the other half forms the earth. There is a rhetorical connection between Genesis 1 and this Babylonian epic. Where Tiamot personifies chaos that must be tamed (through violence), Israelite theology deliberately depersonalizes chaos as “the deep” (Hebraic “tehom” with linguistic ties to the word Tiamot). God alone tames the dark chaos without the use of violence,[40] and is too powerful to consider a conflict with lesser deities from surrounding pagan nations.[41]

Chaos, Creation, and the Beginning

Verse two contains a counter-intuitive claim: God created by bringing order to pre-existing chaos. According to the NIV, the world was “formless and empty” at creation. This description should not be confused with physical nothingness, but “refers to the earth as ‘void/empty’ in the sense of something desolate and unproductive.”[42] The historical despair of Israel being expelled from their land parallels the chaos that must again be tamed by God. Only a fresh creative act enables the restoration of the people of God. For Israel in exile, they appealed to the ultimate beginning of the world, from chaos to order, as a way of speaking to the need for stability in the midst of disarray.

For many evangelicals, the phrase “In the beginning God created…” does not evoke the contextual reality of exile experienced by the ancient people of God. Instead this verse regularly leads to a disregard for evolution. Some might say: If God created “in the beginning,” what else is there to discuss? I say, there is much to discuss! To start, we must discern the beginning to which the writer is referring. For much of Christian history, the church assumed an original beginning and an ex nihilo (out of nothing) creation. One helpful perspective is that the opening phrase, specifically the word beginning (Re’shiyth), “does not refer to the absolute beginning of all things, but to the beginning of ordered creation.”[43] The chapter communicates “a relative beginning” after the pre-Genesis world of chaos.[44] This is radically different from the gap theory (the view that there is a significant time-lapse between Genesis 1.1 and 1.2). There is no gap in this text; rather pre-historic matter or chaos is assumed preexist at creation. More will be discussed on that point in a moment.

Evangelical scholar John Walton provides a related, but slightly nuanced, perspective. Walton persuasively demonstrates that the word “beginning” is used to introduce “a period in time, rather than a point in time.”[45] Therefore, it is evident that, “verse 1 serves as a literary introduction to the rest of the chapter.”[46] Throughout the rest of Genesis is a phrase: “this is the account of,” which introduces the eleven sections of the book that follow, beginning with verse 2.4. Therefore, verse 1.1 uses beginning to introduce the initial period outlined in the whole of the book of Genesis. The following eleven sections are also introduced by the above phrase. Consider Walton’s proposed translation of the first verse in the Bible: “In the initial period, God created by assigning functions throughout the heavens and the earth, and this is how he did it.”[47]

Functional Ontology

The above translation assumes God created by assigning functions. Bara’, the word English Bibles translate “created,” only refers to God’s own activity in the Old Testament. Up until the time just prior to Jesus (2 Maccabees 7.28), bara’ never implied a creation out of nothing. Rather, it was understood as the bringing of order to the world.[48] One source argues for the traditional meaning of the word arguing that its “primary emphasis… is on the newness of the created object.” However, Laird-Harris concedes that such a “concept is not necessarily inherent within the meaning of the word.”[49] We might avoid the tendency to hold onto the ex nihilo perspective if we scrutinize our presuppositions as moderns compared to that of the Ancient Near East. Bara’ occurs 50 times in the Hebrew Bible and never refers to “physical manufacturing” but rather to “assigning roles” or functions in various contexts.[50]

This assigning of functions out of pre-existing chaos, again, demonstrates God’s all-powerfulness in direct confrontation to the gods of Mesopotamia.[51] This should not be taken to say that God is not also the source of materiality; this particular text does not attempt to make the same point that moderns often do in interpretations. Exilic Jews certainly would have affirmed God as the source of material origins, but their questions focused on the functional realities of the cosmos. Eventually, the New Testament states that God created out of nothing (Rom. 4.17, Heb. 11.3), but that was a relatively new claim.[52]  The Old Testament never makes this claim.

Moderns hold to a view of existence called material ontology,[53] “the belief that something exists by virtue of its physical properties and its ability to be experienced by the senses.”[54] In contrast, ancients held to what is called functional ontology, “the ancient world believed that something existed… by virtue of its having function in an ordered system.”[55]

Imagine that a grocery store is going to be constructed down the street from your home. Perhaps you notice a foundation being laid or the walls going up. Later, you see a sign on the building that says “Whole Foods.” Is this now a grocery store or simply a building? It does not function as a grocery store, so perhaps at this point, it is merely an empty building with the potential to become something more useful. It will finally become a grocery store when the employees are in place to make the building function so that it is stocked with food and ready for customers. This sort of ordering is comparable to a functional view of reality. Walton explains:

In this sort of functional ontology, the sun does not exist by virtue of its material properties, or even by its function as a burning ball of gas. Rather it exists by virtue of the role that it has in its sphere of existence, particularly in the way that it functions for humankind and human society… In a functional ontology, to bring something into existence would require giving it a function or a role in an ordered system, rather than giving it material properties. Consequently, something could be manufactured physically but still not “exist” if it has not become functional.[56]

Genesis 1 is not concerned with material origins, but with functional origins. Genesis 1 is about God taking unorganized preexistent materials (which also originated in God) and organizing them into their various functions.[57]

The Cosmos as God’s Temple and the 7 Days of Creation

Having placed Genesis 1 within a functional ontology, we are now free to re-imagine its relation to science. This particular text is clearly not about the beginning of materiality (this does not mean that God is not the source of materiality – this was already implicit to Israel). We now look to the issue of the 7-days of creation in Genesis 1. Are these days that represent long epochs of time (as in the Day-Age Theory), or are they representative of 24-hour periods? For those frustrated with methods that attempt to make day denote a long time, I agree with you. A day in Genesis 1 is a day. What we often fail to notice, however, is the purpose of framing the functional creation around a 7-day liturgical pattern. Understanding the purpose of the 7-day pattern is now our focus.

To recognize the significance of the 7 days in Genesis 1, the “cosmic temple inauguration view” is imperative for interpretation.[58] Medieval rabbis recognized that Genesis one’s creation mirrors both the tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon. This connection to primordial time ultimately functioned to connect the Sabbath week to God’s designed purpose of the cosmos. Significant parallels ought to be noted between the creation week and the “creation” of a functioning temple/tabernacle. When Moses constructed the tabernacle, its inauguration took seven days, culminating with Moses having “finished the work” (Exodus 40.33). Genesis 2.2 has this same sort of finishing on the seventh day. Many other examples of theological mirroring exist between Genesis 1 and the inauguration of the tabernacle (and eventually the temple), because building a sanctuary “is a microcosm, the re-creation of the cosmos on a smaller scale.”[59]

In the ancient world, deities dwelt restfully in temples. Day 7 reflects that when God finished organizing the functional elements of the world to operate for the benefit of human image bearers, God rested. The difference here, in opposition to Solomon’s temple, is that this passage envisions the whole universe as God’s cosmic temple. After the “chaos” was arranged to function with “order,” God rested upon the cosmic temple as the ruler of all things.[60]

Theological Approaches to Adam and Eve

We now move to a second area of concern for many evangelicals: Adam and Eve. Two problems evolution cause for Christians are: 1) to have been made in the image of God, it seems right that Adam and Eve needed to result from a special creation; and 2) if Adam is dismissed as non-historical, this minimizes Paul’s view that Christ saves humanity as the “second Adam.”

First, as we discussed above and will investigate in-part below, to bear God’s image identifies humankind with a particular vocation and intrinsic worth. This role in God’s good world does not require that Adam and Eve were the first humans, specially created from the dust. In fact, the text demonstrates something entirely different is at work in Genesis 2.

Second, in the first of three options explained below, there is no conflict between traditional beliefs about “original sin” because Adam will be presented as historical. His sinful actions became a representative choice, and thus, the consequences were handed down to all of Adam’s contemporaries and their descendants. In the second and third options for understanding Genesis 2-3, Paul’s perspective on Adam will become apparent.

All three of the following approaches to Adam and Eve offer careful readers of the books of Scriptures and nature helpful interpretive grids, which are faithful to Christian orthodoxy in general, and evangelical faith in particular.

Option 1: Adam and Eve as Historical

According to John Stott, his “… acceptance of Adam and Eve as historical is not incompatible with my belief that several forms of pre-Adamic ‘hominid’ may have existed for thousands of years previously.”[61] Many human-like creatures existed prior to Adam. They developed cultures, made “cave drawings,” and “buried their dead.” Calling these creatures homo sapiens is not a threat to a historical reading of Genesis 2-3 as long as we recognize that “Adam was the first homo divinus;” the image-bearer of God.

If one accepts this view of Adam, it must be asked: How is it that Adam is part of the evolutionary process if we are told in Genesis 2.7 – “the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground…”? Although this sounds like a special creation, we do well to look at a similar passage in Job 10.8-9 where God creates Job out of dust by molding him together like a potter with clay. This is a metaphor, as Job was born through natural childbirth. The same could be true of Adam who was born through the natural evolutionary process, but then set apart to become the image-bearer with his wife Eve[62] (who could have literally been formed from his rib, or could represent a form of relationship).[63]

Elements of the Adam and Eve story are figurative because, in the ancient world, true stories increased in mythology over time, not vice-versa. Therefore, although the early chapters of Genesis have some myth-like characteristics, we need not conclude that they are merely myths presented as history; for in fact, the opposite is true.[64] In this view, there was an actual historical couple that chose to rebel against God whose sinful choice still affects us all. As a result, the possibility of immortality (mediated through the Tree of Life) was lost, and Adam and Eve were doomed to the natural consequences of evolutionary history: eventual death.[65]

Option 2: Adam and Eve as Parable

Timothy Keller believes that space exists for differing opinions on the historicity of Adam and Eve. He states: “One of my favorite Christian writers (that’s putting it mildly), C.S. Lewis, did not believe in a literal Adam and Eve, and I do not question the reality or soundness of his personal faith.”[66]

Another option, aside from the historical perspective, understands Adam’s story as a parable. Just as Jesus used parables to describe deeper truths about God’s kingdom, so also this perspective holds that Genesis 2-3 are essentially parabolic in character. If someone had a camcorder when the two creation accounts and the “fall” took place, they would not have been recorded exactly as we read them in Genesis. Rather, the reality that God created and humanity rebelled is what the parables illustrate. This is why it is possible to have two different creation stories presented complementarily in chapters 1 and 2. As John Goldingay states: “If you take them as would-be literal historical accounts, you have your work cut out to reconcile them, but this is unnecessary if they are historical parables.”[67]

In light of this, it is important to highlight an interpretive principle at work here: biblical accommodation. Denis Lamoureux states, “in order to reveal spiritual truths as effectively as possible to ancient people, the Holy Spirit employed their understanding of nature…God came down to their level and used the science-of-the-day.”[68] The science of the day taught that humans always gave birth to more humans; therefore, there must be an original human couple as the source of all. In this case, the Holy Spirit accommodated to this idea so the ancient Jews would understand God as their Creator. “Adam is simply an ancient vessel that delivers eternal truths about our spiritual condition.”[69] Adam and Eve are therefore not presented as historically real people, but as parabolic actors on an all too familiar stage of rebellious self-glorification.[70] Goldingay summarizes:

I am told there are readers of Genesis who argue like this. If evolution is true, there was no Adam and Eve. If there was no Adam and Eve, there was no fall. If there was no fall, we didn’t need Jesus to save us. But this argument is back to front. In reality, we know we needed Jesus to save us. We recognize the way Genesis describes our predicament as human beings. We know we have not realized our vocation to take the world to its destiny and serve the earth… We know there is something wrong with our relationship with God. We know we die… The question Genesis handles is, was all that a series of problems built into humanity when it came into existence? And its answer is that this is not so… There was a point when humanity had to choose whether it wanted to go God’s way, and it chose not to. The Adam and Eve story gives us a parabolic account of that… God brought the first human beings into existence with their vocation and they turned away from it.[71]

Paul seems to think that Adam and Eve were historical figures, so does it not follow that we should as well? The answer to this could be the simple reality that Paul reflects the common scientific worldview of his day.[72] Some might respond, if we are not descended from a literal Adam, then how do Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 fit, where Adam is compared to Christ? Jesus brought life to all and Adam brought death to all. To this question Goldingay points out: “But everyone is not physically descended from Christ, so the parallel would not require all humanity to be descended from one original pair.”[73]  In other words, if we are not all physically Christ’s descendants, but are still saved by his obedience, it does not follow that all humanity must come from Adam’s biological lineage.

Option 3: Adam is Israel’s Loss of Wisdom and Exile

Peter Enns puts forward a third option for understanding Adam and Eve. Although I see all three perspectives as viable, I gravitate toward Enns’ approach. The following idea is essential: “The early chapters of Genesis are not a literal or scientific description of historical events but a theological statement in an ancient idiom, a statement about Israel’s God and Israel’s place in the world as God’s people.”[74]

As discussed earlier, Genesis 2-3 comes from the “J” source, which is older than Genesis 1. In ancient Israel, possibly around the time of Solomon,[75] the theme of the Adam story was parabolic of Israel’s loss of wisdom. Adam is depicted in such a way as to be the “proto-Israelite.” In other words, Adam is Israel.[76] In its earliest forms, the story of Adam and Eve was “not really a story of the beginning of humanity but of one segment of humanity…” (66). The story is not lacking in universal overtones, but is primarily a self-defining document of origins for a singular people – Israel (Ibid.). The story might have circulated orally in various forms prior to its final form and “was probably rethought and retold along the way as Israel grew and developed in its self-understanding” (141).

Early on, Adam’s narrative functioned within the genre of Israel’s Wisdom literature. For instance, “When read in light of Proverbs, the Adam story is about failing to follow the path of wisdom and reach maturity and not about a fall from perfection” (142). Interestingly, the Hebrew Scriptures never speak of Adam as a universal source of sin and death; they hardly ever refer to him. For the Old Testament writers, Adam is a marginal character (82-84).

Adam is depicted as similar to the son whom the Proverbs attempt to train in wisdom. God desires for Adam and Eve to gain wisdom, but this must be done at a pace consistent with God’s path for them. The problem is not that they sought wisdom, but that they did so via their own methods rather than following God’s way forward. Just like Adam took the fruit from the tree, so also in Proverbs, wisdom is referenced as being “a tree of life to those who take hold of her” (Proverbs 3.18). Abundant life comes from wisdom and so the tree of life maintains this status.  Enns further explains:

Life can only be gained through wisdom, and wisdom is rooted in the fear of God – which in the garden story means obeying God’s command. When Adam and Eve depart from the true path, they lose life – they are barred from eating of the tree of life, to which they had been given free access previously (90).

Much more could be said about the connections to wisdom, but ultimately it suffices to note that the Adam and Eve story serves as a narrative account of the broad themes in the book of Proverbs. Ultimately, the striving for wisdom down a path of folly led to Israel’s suffering as a people, the very thing the Adam story both warns against and retells (90-91).

By the time the text came into its final form, during and after the exile, the Adam is Israel theme was fully focused. The editors of the Pentateuch (the priestly redactors) placed the specific story of Israel’s origins on the back of the cosmic origins story in Genesis 1. Genesis 2-3 does not reflect literal history, but a narrative that “mirrors Israel’s story from exodus to exile” (66). The logic follows this pattern: a) Israel is “created” as a nation in the exodus after a period of instability, and Adam is created in Genesis 2 after the chaos of Genesis 1 is put into order; b) Israel inherits a lush land to dwell in, Adam is placed in a lush garden; c) Law is given to Israel as a condition for remaining in the land, and “Law” (the tree of knowledge) is placed in the garden and Adam’s obedience is required in order to stay; and d) Israel continues in a pattern of rebellion leading to their exile into Babylon, and Adam and Eve are exiled from the garden because of their rebellion.[77]

Finally, we must examine the Apostle Paul’s approach to Adam. Peter Enns brings two issues to light. First, Paul appropriated the story of Adam and Eve to reflect his understanding of the resurrection of Jesus. New Testament writers often gave fresh readings to their Scriptures as they attempted to explain the significance of the saving work of Jesus. Paul used the Adam story “to highlight the work of Christ and the equality of Jew and gentile” (142). This idiom provided a clear means of communicating the “problem of sin and death and the solution that God provides in Christ” (143).

Secondly, Paul used this interpretive grid in a culture that already had several interpretive perspectives on the Adam story, specifically within the conventions of Second Temple Judaism. He does not do a plain exegetical study of Genesis 2-3, but under the influence of the Holy Spirit, uses it to point to the supremacy of Christ, for both Jew and Gentile. Paul’s ultimate point is that the problem of sin and death has been dealt with through the cross, and all humanity is “equally subject to the same universal dilemma, sin and death, and so both require the same Savior” (81). To summarize:

Jews and gentiles share the same plight, and Jesus came to solve it. And all of this stems from Paul’s rereading of his Scripture in light of the central and prior conviction that God raised Jesus from the dead… Explaining Paul’s Adam this way… shows… a high view of Christ – so high that even Israel’s story, specifically Adam, must be recast to account for Christ. Paul invests Adam with capital he does not have either in the Genesis story, the Old Testament as a whole, or the interpretations of his contemporary Jews. His reading of the Old Testament in general is creative, driven by hermeneutical conventions of the time and – most importantly – by his experience of the risen Christ. Hence, Christians who take Paul’s theology with utmost seriousness are not also bound to accept Paul’s view of Adam historically (135).

Analysis and Implications of Genesis 1 and Adam and Eve

Now that we have looked at three viable theological options for interpreting Genesis 2-3 (and Paul) in light of the book of nature, our task is to reflect on the implications of both Genesis 1 and Adam. Genesis 1 emerged in the midst of exilic realities, as Israel sought to reclaim their self-definition as the special people of God. One need not believe that it was written after the exile (one could still hold to Mosaic authorship) in order to accept the broad theological perspective presented.

Beyond the polemical makeup of this passage, it operates within a worldview that differs from our modern context. With functional ontology in place, Genesis 1 yields a viewpoint that God is the one who took the primordial chaos and arranged it all to function for the benefit of human image-bearers. Humankind bears the image of God in that we are given a unique identity and vocation in the world: to represent God’s care for God’s creation. After the pattern of an ancient 7-day temple inauguration (both in Israel and for her neighbors), God’s world is ultimately God’s own temple or dwelling place, which runs its course through evolutionary history under God’s sovereignty. Connecting the literary patterns, and the polemic and ontological perspective of the text, no conflict exists between biological evolution and this Holy Spirit inspired “poetic narrative.” As Brueggemann states: “Israel is concerned with God’s Lordly intent, not his technique.”[78]

After exegeting Genesis 1, we directed our attention to helpful theological options for understanding Adam and Eve. It is completely feasible to believe that they were literal historical people, and still be open to evolution. With this perspective, however, we may need to abandon that a “special creation” took place. The rhetoric demonstrates that a plain reading of the story utilizes creation from the dust as metaphorical. This language is comparative to the way Scripture describes Job being fashioned from dust, “molded… like clay” (Job 10.8-9). Adam and Eve were not the first homo sapiens, but each could be characterized as a homo divinus.

If Adam and Eve were not historical, but characters in a parable about the humanity’s rebellion or Israel’s loss of wisdom and exile, then humankind’s evolution is no longer a problem. Some rethinking about Paul’s theology is necessary, but this will not deny our need to be rescued from sin and death by the atoning work of Jesus Christ. No matter which option one may choose, all offer the possibility of refining our approaches to origins and Scripture. Holding to the interpretations offered for Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3, faithful readers of the book of Scriptures no longer need to wage war against what modern science tells us about the book of nature.

EVOLVING EVANGELICALISM BEYOND THE CULTURE WAR

The goal thus far has been to expose the problem created by the false polarity between biological evolution and segments of evangelicalism, and to refine our approach to interpreting the relevant biblical texts. The unfortunate tendency of many Christians to read the early chapters of Genesis through a scientific grid leaves many people without satisfying answers about our origins. Tragically, several young adults (and other age groups) struggle to either become or remain a Christian.

Now that a biblical solution to this problem has been proposed, we ask: How might churches begin to move beyond the problem and work towards becoming communities that no longer perpetuate an anti-evolutionary perspective? I suggest four areas for consideration.

1. Cultivate Church Communities of Openness

The first area is the general ethos of conservative evangelical church culture. In these settings, there is often an emphasis on truth, and rightfully so. However, the default mode is to assume that truth is simple and that common Christian beliefs are the only views worth affirming. As a result, we create exclusion in the Christian community, even if this is done subtly.

Within the evolution conversation, commonly held assumptions about the “right view” can inflict wounds on those who dare to ask questions about these presuppositions. On the other side, those who are part of the “in group” feel that a core marker of their common identity is being challenged when alternative perspectives are presented. Thus, the polarities of the issue (and other debatable theological matters) continue to be perpetuated.

The evangelical church is not exempt from sociological realties that permeate in any group (be it with any commonly held ideology). For most strands of fundamentalism and evangelicalism, the strong belief in sola scriptura has itself evolved to mean that external sources (such as archeological or non-canonical cultural texts) should not be trusted. The apologetics culture often guards this approach as an honest attempt to honor God. While I appreciate their zeal, I wish it were redirected in a way that led to mutually-beneficial conversation. Unfortunately, group dynamics often lead to the exclusion of those who are viewed as a threat to normative belief structures.[79] Miroslav Volf’s words on reconciliation apply here:

The will to give ourselves to others and “welcome” them, to readjust our identities to make space for them, is prior to any judgment about others, except that of identifying them in their humanity. The will to embrace precedes any “truth” about others and any construction of their “justice.”[80]

My prayer is that the church will begin creating cultures of openness to differing (and often competing) perspectives. This requires intentionality from pastors and lay leaders. The invitation is to be truly and genuinely welcoming, no matter the person’s theological perspective, as loved by the Creator and embraced by the community. This proposal is risky, which is why we must prayerfully discern these issues and seek a center (perhaps something like the Apostle’s Creed) from which to work. Nevertheless, if the people of God begin to find their commonalities as primary, perhaps open conversation will lead to God-honoring results.

2. Move Past the Culture War by Listening to Stories with Fresh Ears

If the evangelical church cultivates a culture of openness, the result will be a willingness to listen to others’ stories with fresh ears. On my personal blog,[81] I made a video inviting people to interact with the basic thesis of this paper. My goal was to begin to foster a space for people (both Christian and otherwise) to share their stories about how the polarity between evolution and faith created a blockade to Jesus. Here are some of the comments from the blog:

JR: I grew up in a religious home and the version of Christianity that was presented to me — both at home and at church — was very black and white. I’ve always been the type of person who asks a lot of questions. I don’t question things with the goal of being contrary. Rather, I want to learn more. Somewhere during my teenage years, I started to ask questions about my faith. I realized that creationism simply didn’t sit right with me. It just doesn’t make as much sense as does evolution. I felt like all of the Christians around me seemed to equate believing in evolution with not being a Christian… After my realization involving creationism, I started to realize that there were other things about Christianity (as it was presented to me) with which I couldn’t make peace.

Extremities: If I had started from liberal Christianity, then I might have stayed a Christian. But I didn’t: I started from a fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity, hit liberalism in a desperate attempt to salvage something of my faith, then crashed right on through…

Jacqui Norman: I have a 26-year-old daughter who is a brilliant scientist, a lovely, caring, ethical and beautiful young woman of whom I am endlessly proud. She is now studying for her Ph.D. with Cambridge University, and at the foremost research institution in Europe, maybe even the world. As a child she had a faith in and love for God, but now does not, and this is “one” of the key issues for her…

Jon Wilburn: I know many, many people that grew up in Christian faith and have walked away after high school – Science and creation being one of the areas.

Andrea: For me personally, being taught creationism did probably contribute to me becoming an atheist… I majored in biology in college. My freshman year I did spend some time trying to argue about creationism and evolution with professors and classmates, but by sophomore year I was definitely dealing with a lot of disconnect between what I had been taught at home and church and what the evidence was saying… I then spent a very emotionally difficult year trying to reconcile my understanding of evolution with Christianity. I didn’t want to stop believing in God, but I wasn’t able to reconcile the two… I am an atheist. I don’t know if that would be different had I grown up in a more liberal sect of Christianity.

Many common themes arise from these stories. Some admit that they might not have become atheists if their upbringing involved a more “liberal” version of Christian faith. Others speak of the environment their faith was nurtured in as reinforcing a false dichotomy between science and Scripture. All of these stories reveal a need in evangelical church culture – to move beyond the old ways of discussing evolution in the church. These stories speak of collateral damage from the old approach. May we listen to these stories, and in openness to the questions, create fresh opportunities for people to embrace Jesus without feeling the need to leave their intellectual sensibilities at the door.

3. Quit Reinforcing the False Dichotomy in Curriculums and Sermons

In two of the churches where I served as a pastor, it was common practice to implement curriculum that reinforced anti-evolutionary theology. In both churches, the senior pastors saw the benefit of diverse views, yet, rather than cause conflict in the community, they allowed the anti-evolution agenda to be taught, and chose to not create space for other approaches – such as the views I have advocated for in this paper. Curriculums, like Focus on the Family’s Truth Project, continue to cultivate the false dichotomy that leads to the spiritual results shared in the stories above.

I invite pastors and other evangelical church leaders to see the continuation of this kind of theology as damaging to the Gospel message. In most contexts, the application of such a realization will need to be handled with much sensitivity. Perhaps churches can take a step forward by eradicating curriculum like the Truth Project and Ben Stein’s Expelled from their programs. Whatever it takes, pastors and leaders ought to consider how reinforcement works against a church that desires to create an atmosphere of openness to varying perspectives. How a church deals with this issue has potentially eternal ramifications.

4. Bridge the Gap between Evangelical Leaders and the Pews

Finally, I suggest that the gap needs to be bridged between many evangelical scholars/pastors and the pew. Evangelical leaders like – C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, Tim Keller, Greg Boyd, John Walton, Bruce Waltke, Philip Yancey, John Stott, Francis Collins, Darrel Falk, Os Guinness, Peter Enns, Joel Hunter, Tremper Longman III, Alister McGrath, and Mark Noll – are examples of respected evangelical scholars or pastors who have openly affirmed evolution and hold a high view of biblical authority. Yet, the disconnect is vast between the beliefs of evangelical leaders and the average church attendee. Mark Noll writes:

The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind… [T]hey have nourished millions of believers in the simple verities of the gospel but have largely abandoned the universities, the arts, and the other realms of “high” culture.[82]

He later discusses the problem of evangelicals and those who demote the roll of modern-day science in order to sustain particular views of “creationism.” This is a key example of the anti-intellectual streak in much of evangelicalism. Noll writes:

Evangelicals make much of their ability to read the Bible in a “simple,” “literal,” or “natural” fashion… In actual fact, evangelical hermeneutics, as illustrated in creationism, is dictated by very specific assumptions that dominated Western intellectual life from roughly 1650 to 1850 (and in North America for a few decades more). Before and after that time, many Christians and other thinkers have recognized that no observations are “simple” and no texts yield to uncritically “literal” readings…. [T]o interpret the early chapters of Genesis adequately, it is necessary to make use of the thorough historical study of the ancient world, carefully nuanced exegesis, and wide familiarity with scientific procedures and results.[83]

Noll convincingly argues that evangelicals as a whole are ill-equipped to interact with intellectual evidence in the area of science. This problem can only be remedied by pastors and church leaders who choose to seriously consider the invitation to both grow in their own understanding of Scripture and to present perspectives congruent with biblical scholarship. Many Christian leaders were taught in seminaries that shied away from this topic or assumed that creationism is the only biblical option.

Although segments of the evangelical academy are evolving toward fresh exegetical approaches to these issues, many pastors’ educations predate that shift. Therefore, we who are leaders must be readers, self-motivated to grow in theological reflection and the communication of these insights. If need be, we can borrow the credibility of well-known evangelicals who expound an Augustinian two books approach to theology. In doing so, we equip Christians to recover the evangelical mind and offer a path out of this unnecessary culture war.

CONCLUSION

The goal of this paper was to demonstrate that the polarity between biological evolution and biblical theology unnecessarily creates a stumbling block for people to become or remain Christian. We examined the problems surrounding this issue, such as the church creating an unnecessary stumbling block to Christ. Through this, we noted the missional purposes for engaging the conversation in fresh ways. Through an approach to biblical theology that attempts to hold the book of nature and the book of Scripture together, we saw that a faithful exegesis of Genesis 1 says nothing in conflict with modern scientific understandings of evolution.

I then invited the church to move forward by: creating cultures of openness, listening to stories with new ears, avoiding problematic curriculums and sermon content, and bridging the gap between known evangelical scholars and pastors and the culture of the pews. One of these influential evangelicals is Billy Graham. He once said:

I don’t think that there’s any conflict at all between science today and the Scriptures. I think we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and we’ve tried to make the Scriptures say things that they weren’t meant to say, and I think we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course, I accept the Creation story. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man… whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man’s relationship to God.[84]

May we heed the wisdom of Billy Graham and choose to abstain from any unnecessary hindrances for the furtherance of the Gospel of Christ in the 21st century. May we help the evangelical church at-large to grapple with biological evolution in fresh ways. And may we partner in God’s mission to embody the realities of God’s kingdom in God’s incomprehensible universe, as it continues to evolve and expand until King Jesus’ return to earth.

 

APPENDIX

For Further Reading

For more on Genesis 1:

  • The Lost World of Genesis One by John Walton
  • The Evolution of Adam by Peter Enns
  • See also, the various commentaries used in this paper.

For more on Adam and Eve:

  • The Evolution of Adam by Peter Enns
  • Genesis for Everyone by John Goldingay
  • Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople by Tim Keller

For more on Noah and the Flood:

  • The Evolution of Adam by Peter Enns (pages 46-56, 68-70, and 86)
  • Evolutionary Creationism: A Christian Approach to Evolution by Denis O. Lamoureux (chapter 7)
  • See also, the various commentaries used in this paper.

For more on the harmony of faith and science:

  • I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution by Denis O. Lamoureux
  • Coming to Peace With Science by Darrel R. Faulk
  • The Language of Science and Faith by Karl W. Giberson and Francis S. Collins
  • The Language of God by Francis S. Collins
  • The Biologos Foundation, http://biologos.org/ (A great place to start is with the videos on this site)

 

Stories from Evolution Blog Post

Below, are several stories I collected from my blog-post titled “Preaching Against Evolution in Evangelical Churches Creates Atheists.” To give everyone a fair hearing, and to demonstrate the impulse of some to reinforce the false dichotomy between evolution and Christian faith, I included some comments from people I disagree with. Overall, they are stories about how this issue negatively affected people. They are unedited. The accompanying video can be found at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/2012/01/12/preaching-against-evolution-in-evangelical-churches-creates-atheists/. [85]

STEPHEN OLLER: I used to struggle against evolution and try my best to be a creationist, then I noticed a particular member of my church at the time who was a staunch creationist. What struck me as odd was that he was constantly portraying evolution as the enemy of Christianity. That seemed, and still seems, incorrect to me. It occurred to me then that evolution is not the enemy of all Christians. Maybe sin is that enemy, or maybe the devil is.  But putting such an emphasis on evolution is just theologically ridiculous. I think it was atheists that pushed evangelicals to adopts such a strong anti-evolutionary stance. They’re the ones who say we can’t believe in God because evolution is true. Perhaps for some people the theory of evolution really is enough to drive them to unbelief, but I don’t think it HAS to be that way.
Thanks for this post. I’ve silently struggled against/with evolution for a while and it’s good to finally have someone publicly announce this question.

JAMIE ARPIN-RICCI: As a teen, I became very interested in “Creation Science”, buying all the books and even attending a huge conference where I heard (in awe) such voices as Ken Hamm & John Morris. I was convinced it was true- and why not? These teachings & the men who put them forward were presented to me as not only trustworthy, but as singularly authoritative.
However, it was not until much later that I began to realize that “Creation Science” was not, strictly speaking, science at all. I began to see their methods & agendas and, while they held them with sincerity and conviction, they were not honest.
Interestingly, this became a blockade for my faith (though I never left the faith), NOT because science had upset my belief system, but rather because those I trusted would so blindly push something that was so unhelpful to my faith. Further, that it became a litmus test for faithfulness also turned me off.
I am grateful that, in all the voices that influenced me, my parents allowed me to explore
this without ever insisting that this was the only way to see things.
They allowed me to explore alternate views as well. Today I see the creation text as something much more powerful and beautiful than simply a verbatim record of God making stuff. Instead I see something incredible about the nature of God and His intention for us and all of creation.

JR: I grew up in a religious home and the version of Christianity that was presented to me — both at home and at church — was very black and white. I’ve always been they type of person who asks a lot of questions. I don’t questions things with the goal of being contrary. Rather, I want to learn more. Somewhere during my teenage years, I started to ask questions about my faith. I realized that creationism simply didn’t sit right with me. It just doesn’t make as much sense as does evolution. I felt like all of the Christians around me seemed to equate believing in evolution with not being a Christian.
After my realization involving creationism, I started to realize that there were other things about Christianity (as it was presented to me) with which I couldn’t make peace.  One example is the homophobia of many churchgoers. Also, I had friends who were not Christians. I could not accept the fact that my friends — who were all very nice, kind people — would burn for eternity, while I would be on eternal vacay, simply because I was lucky enough to be born into a family that believed the “right” way, while my friends were not so lucky. I am not able to believe in a version of religion that is so unjust.

EXTREMITITES: If I had started from liberal Christianity, then I might have stayed a Christian. But I didn’t: I started from a fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity, hit liberalism in a desperate attempt to salvage something of my faith, then crashed right on through. So in a way I’m almost grateful to the literalists and creationists–without them I might have lacked the emotional impetus necessary to truly follow my questions through to the end and face up to what the lack of answers meant.

JEN G: I recently received a prayer request email which said “if god made the world in just 6 days, imagine what he could do in this situation!!”. My heart broke. This is exactly why evolution is so hard for people – they think 6 day creation is a more spectacular display of creativity and power than billions of years of evolution. Too bad.

TEXAS POPS: The creation/evolution debate is NOT a distraction to the message of Christ because what one believes about creation (and the first eleven chapters of Genesis) determines what he believes about Christ and His finished work of the cross. If God did not create the world and everything in it in three 24-hour days as He says He did, how can we know that Christ only spent three 24-hour days in the tomb? How, for that matter, can we believe anything His Word says if the first verses of it cannot be taken at face value and believed?
I would encourage readers to visit: http://www.icr.org/ and click on the Evidence for Creation link. There is more factual evidence to support literal six-day creation than there is for any other theory of how it all came to be. Let the Truth speak for itself!

JORDAN BRADFORD: But another problem is that Christians are fighting the wrong battles. How we got here, and how we should teach in schools about how we got here, is nowhere as important as how we should live. I can certainly understand how a literal teaching of creation would cause a crisis of faith in a person, but what really drives people from the church and from God is when Christians aren’t being Christ-like. When they aren’t giving up everything for others, serving them, helping them, and even dying for them but are instead judging, condemning, and behaving like the Pharisees did.

R. HOLTSLANDER: My own story is that I grew up in a church that did this very thing but I was, by nature, very interested in science. This wasn’t too much of a problem if I didn’t think about the evolution part of science which I poohpoohed loud and long as a pre-teen due mostly to the itinerant evolution-deniers that would blow through town regularly. Our church would have special “services” for these guys to lecture us on the failings of evolution and how it was opposed to God.
Anyway, I grew up and I grew away from my faith. Evolution wasn’t directly related to my drifting away but it was a sticking point. I maintained a nominal faith and just tried to avoid thinking about evolution. It wasn’t until I decided to take a Science degree that it was forced into my face and thus unavoidable. Ironically, it was at this same time that my faith really started to have a meaning for me again.
But the trouble was the disconnect. I became a voracious reader of both popularized and academic books on evolution. Some favourites to this day are Dawkins and Theodosius Dobzhansky. In any case my faith grew and my knowledge of evolution did too. It was my girlfriend (now wife) who was getting her masters at a Bible College that finally convinced me that perhaps these two were not incompatible. She was right of course, as she is about many things.
I continue to grow in faith and accept that evolution is true (I detest the term “believe in evolution” because it sets up the foolish dichotomy between it and belief in the Christ). This isn’t really what you were looking for in the stories although it is an alternate outcome of the atheism due to my formative teaching.
My take on it is that just because my ancestors were an ape-like being doesn’t take away my need for salvation and doesn’t negate Christ’s work on the cross.

RICHARD D. PEACHEY: Christianity/the Bible and evolution-laden science are in fundamental conflict. It is not logically possible to believe both at the same time. Here is a brief rundown on why I say this:
1. IF EVOLUTION IS TRUE, THEN THE BIBLE SHOULD HAVE CLEARLY TAUGHT IT. Evolution, if true, is a wide-ranging, fundamentally important truth. Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, in his book Consilience, explained how he left his evangelical church because its theology “made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?” If evolution is really true, the Bible should have positively and definitively taught us about this foundational reality which is (allegedly) so important for our worldview. The Bible, however, does not promote anything like evolution. When read in a straightforward fashion, Scripture teaches many things contrary to evolutionary thinking, including dozens of differences between the standard evolutionary order of events and the narrative sequence in Genesis 1.Therefore, either evolution is not true, or the Bible is not genuinely a book from an all-knowing, truth-loving God. We simply can’t have it both ways.2. IF EVOLUTION IS TRUE, THEN OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST SHOULD HAVE TAUGHT IT. The Lord Jesus was a Biblical creationist, a Genesis literalist, and even a young-Earth creationist, as exhibited in Matthew 19:3-6 (see also the parallel passage, Mark 10:6-9).Jesus is the Christian’s master teacher “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). As well, Scripture teaches that Christ himself is the one who brought everything into existence (John 1:1-3,14; Colossians 1:15-16; Hebrews 1:2).It is imperative for us to hold fast to our Lord’s words “in this sinful and adulterous generation,” lest he be ashamed of us at his return (Mark 8:38).3. THE BIG PICTURE OF BIBLICAL HISTORY CONTRADICTS THE EVOLUTIONARY WORLDVIEW. Christians understand themselves to be in an existential valley (“this present evil age”) between two peaks named Paradise Created and Paradise Regained. But evolutionists see themselves as currently on an exalted mountaintop between two seas of pointlessness, the pre-Big-Bang emptiness and the final state of maximum entropy. These “big pictures” are diametrically opposed.4. ALL RECONCILIATION SCHEMES CONFLICT WITH THE BIBLE AND EACH OTHER. The various proposals by which Christians have tried to compatibilize evolution and Genesis end up saying, essentially, “God didn’t really mean what he said” and/or “God didn’t say what he really meant.” For example, the Gap theory, the Day-Age theory, the Revelation-Day theory, and the Framework Hypothesis. How damaging to the omnipotence and the integrity of God, and to the perspicuity of Scripture! (Also, how very reminiscent of the strategy used by the tempter in Genesis 3.)5. MOST TOP SCIENTISTS HAVE NO USE FOR GOD. The majority of leading scientists — i.e., those who are members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences — are either atheists or agnostics (Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham. 1998 [Jul 23]. “Leading scientists still reject God.” Nature 394:313). For biologists, the unbelieving proportion is 94.5%. Should Christians follow the teaching of such people regarding origins?

JOYCE BAKER: I know a church fellowship (the place I attend) where the Sunday school teacher for the college age class was asked to quit teaching because he, an educated medical doctor, invited discussion on this very topic. He believed that evolution and God can coexist. He was asked to stop teaching–and he soon thereafter left the fellowship. One of the students in his SS class was a relatively new Christian who was studying to be a doctor himself. He stopped attending also–quite possibly altogether–I’m not sure. I totally believe that if certain groups of Christians try to convince young people who are college students or otherwise, that if they believe in evolution then they must not believe in the bible—then those young people will more than likely reject the whole Christian thing–unless they have their own personal base that is stronger than “Christian peer pressure”. God is so much bigger than our interpretation of the bible. Bigger than evolution, creation, atheism, etc…And I do not believe at all that God is offended by our beliefs when it comes to this issue. Unless of course, those beliefs drive someone away from enjoying the love and acceptance of God. That is when, I believe, creationist views become a stumbling block.

HERMAN CUMMINGS: The evolution theory is an irrational falsehood, zealously embraced by atheists, that is a phony conclusion of the 600+ million year fossil record. There is no “valid supporting data” for evolution. In a court of law, or in a public forum, the same evidence that evolutionists would use to try to “prove” the validity of that theory, I would utilize to reveal the truth of Genesis.  In order to believe in evolution, you have to purposely ignore certain facts of reality. For example, when you see illustrations of primates being pictured as evolving into humans, it can be shown in a court of law that such a premise is impossible, because certain human and primate traits are different, and could not have ever been shared. The only “common ancestor” that humans and primates share is God Himself.
Current Creationism has refused to teach the truth of the Genesis text, and either teaches foolishness (young Earth), or false doctrines (non-literal reading of the text). Creationists thoughtlessly try to prove “Creationism”, rather than seeking and teaching the truth of Genesis. How can an untruth, ever prove another lie, to be in error?  You can’t do it. That is why Creationism fails. It essentially is also a lie, and should be discarded, even by Bible believers.
The correct opposing view to evolution is the “Observations of Moses”, which conveys the truth of Genesis chapter one.

MARIA KIRBY: Thanks for directly addressing this question of evolution and faith. I think your observations are spot on. I have long felt that evangelicals stance on evolution has undermined their aims towards bringing people to the gospel and has actually caused the reverse to happen. By allowing our fears to control us we actually bring on what we fear most.
I was raised with Creation Science. As a teenager I questioned my biology teacher tremendously. When I went to college I got a degree in Physics. Even though I didn’t have a career in science I continued to read popular science magazines. The first question I had to deal with in sorting out my faith with respect to evolution was that all truth is God’s truth and recognizing the scientific method is a good means to understanding material truth. The second was that God is not provable and science cannot prove or disprove God.  The third dealt with God’s sovereignty: God is able to create the world any way he likes, what do I learn of God by the way in which he created the world. Is the birth of child any less miraculous since we know the process of how babies grow? The forth was understanding how the scriptures were inspired by God. How does God talk to mankind; how does God talk to me? How can I hear God through the praise of creation? The fifth question has to do with God’s purpose for me, and the rest of life; what was the purpose of all life having similar DNA structure, etc. The sixth question has been understanding how God is saving me.
As I have plumbed these questions I have found that evolution has enriched my faith rather than detracted from it. It would have been nice to have others with whom I could process my thoughts. I have come to the conclusion that the idolization of the scripture has much to do with causing the creation/evolution debate. As much as we say God is constant, he is also a dynamic person. He does not live in any religious box. He is not controlled by the four spiritual laws. We must adjust our understandings of him based on what he teaches us.  Unfortunately, we have forgotten the first lesson of faith and that is to have grace and humility.
My husband has struggled a lot with his faith because of the whole evolution/creation debate. He recently read The Price of Altruism and has found that helped his faith a lot. It has given him an evolutionary understanding of the teachings of Jesus.

JACQUI NORMAN: Kurt, thank you so much for addressing this issue. I have a 26 year old daughter who is a brilliant scientist, a lovely, caring, ethical and beautiful young woman of whom I am endlessly proud. She is now studying for her Ph.D. with Cambridge University, and at the foremost research institution in Europe, maybe even the world. As a child she had a faith in and love for God, but now does not, and this is _one_ of the key issues for her. And it has also caused me difficulties as well.
Personally, I see very little conflict there! The Scientific order of events is so close to the Biblical order that the time-scale seems to me to be utterly irrelevant. I have never believed in the young earth, although for twenty years I tried to – given that I was in a community of people many of whom would have been sure that I was not Saved if I didn’t. So I tried to tow the party line and it created a certain level of inner conflict. That I believe that creation is wonderful, awesome, that every aspect of it reflects the magnificence of the God who made, sustains and loves it all means little to those who cannot see that Jesus said He teaches in parables, but have no concept that He did not just mean in His temporary, earthly state.
The Bible says a thousand years is like the twinkling of an eye for the Lord. AND we know that the length of a ‘day’ is changing every year, because, amongst other things, the moon is moving further away from earth.
( to quote one of my heroes (as a fellow dyslexic) Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock “On early Earth, when the Moon was newly formed, days were five hours long, but with the Moon’s braking effect operating on the Earth for the last 4.5bn years, days have slowed down to the 24 hours that we are familiar with now, and they will continue to slow down in the future.”)
The length of a ‘day’ is also altered by cataclysmic events, such as the earthquake in Japan on 11th March 2011
(CBS news Tech quote – ‘A new analysis of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan has found that the intense temblor has accelerated Earth’s spin, shortening the length of the 24-hour day by 1.8 microseconds, according to geophysicist Richard Gross at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. ‘)
HOW then is it intelligent to suppose that the creation story, written to record the word of mouth history stories, when writing started, is referring to a 60 second, 60 minute, 24 hour day as we understand it to be at this moment in time???
The primary problem I had with Evolution was the fact that I do believe that Humankind is uniquely created in God’s image and how then could we be the descendants of another creature? Looking in to this all again recently, I was very much helped by your ‘What about Adam?’ series. We know that ‘in the image’ does not mean that God has bodies like us. We know that the Bible is meaning a Spiritual image, that we – uniquely amongst the species – have the capacity for a relationship with God. We also know that the Bible uses anthropomorphic language to help our finite minds to understand the infinite God. Therefore, your point that He could have placed that spirit into humankind at any stage (as indeed He reawakens it at the point of Salvation in a person’s life “_I_am _a_new_creation_”)
Genesis 1 v 1 gives no time scale, and is followed by two creation stories. Surely the important thing is to know that God made everything, by His Son and through the power of His Spirit …. no matter how long it took Him to do it, and by what method!!!!
So many fundamental creationists use the platform of preaching to say that to accept scientific proof is to reject God and His whole Bible. A classic example of the divisive, damaging and intrinsically PROUD and self-magnifying spiritual one-up-man-ship that says, on any given issue, “I have the whole truth and if you disagree with me you are wrong”. [and yes, I have heard "if you disagree with me you are wrong" specifically used in a sermon :-( ]
I thank you again for reopening and facing this real problem with intelligence, integrity and honesty.

MIKE BOOS: It actually didn’t happen in university for me – when I was somewhere between grades 4 and 6, I learned about evolution, and somehow got it in my head that evolution and Christianity were incompatible. I don’t know if I should blame church, or anyone else, I just remember it happening. I kept it bottled up for months, and finally told my parents that I was having trouble believing the Bible stories they’d taught me. I remember crying “What’s the proof?” They were quite good about it, they didn’t force me, but my Dad and I read through some Josh McDowell books about how reliable the Bible was. Satisfied that Jesus was crucified and raised, my faith was restored.
I guess I assumed creationism was part of the Christian package (I even remember going to some kind of creationist VBS as a kid) and being young and shockingly obedient, I tended to accept what I was taught. I tended to hold a rather conservative perspective on things most of the way through undergrad. I studied (well, I’m still studying, 2 graduations later!) engineering, so I’ve never encountered the challenge of a biology class. I guess the shift occurred as I began to see more and more Christians with robust faith who accepted evolution and modern cosmology. There’s a physics prof at my school that gives presentations explaining how scientists understand there was a Big Bang, but also explains how the order of the universe points him to God. So the age of the Earth (and by extension, the universe) was the first thing to shift for me.
Evolution was a more difficult matter. Having memorized some of Paul’s letters as a youth, it was hard to see how to understand the relationship between sin and death could play out in the world, and how the ‘first Adam’ fit in. But I’ve slowly come to terms with the fact that I’m better off seeing the world for what it is and doing the hard work of untangling a theological challenge than to ignore God’s world so that I don’t have to think when I read the Bible.

VAL: As someone who is being affected by the new church doctrine – Evangelical Free’s new statement of faith insists on a literal Adam/Eve, in several ways (can’t volunteer at church, for example). I think the new GENETIC revelations that we are not all descended from a single human breeding pair, rather, a population that, at it’s lowest, was about 10,000 (a bottleneck), I feel that the genetic evidence will usher evolution into Christian acceptance – since it is much easier to believe evolution was the mechanism for creation of humans that ‘throwing out’ the Adam and Eve story.

I have friends who have walked from the faith when they attempted to prove evolution wrong to atheist friends, I have agnostic friends who won’t even consider the claims of Jesus because of the churches handling of creation (making it literal). In Canada, most kids are pretty versed in evolution, so trying to tell people who understand it , it didn’t happen with really silly pseudo science backfires. Saying we have to believe in evolution to be saved is very bad theology. Too bad we couldn’t spend more time on what Genesis really says.

MIRELE: To be blunt: I came to the conclusion that if the people pushing creationism were lying to me, then why should I believe them when they talked about salvation? What else might they be hiding. That turned out to be quite a bit. Yeah, I’m outside the church now.

ANDREA: For me personally, being taught creationism did probably contribute to me becoming an atheist. I was home schooled throughout grade and high school, and I was taught young earth creationism the whole time. I’ve always been really interested in science and medicine, so I majored in biology in college. My freshman year I did spend some time trying to argue about creationism and evolution with professors and classmates, but by sophomore year I was definitely dealing with a lot of disconnect between what I had been taught at home and church and what the evidence was saying. Eventually it came down to a decision of whether I would turn a blind eye to the evidence and follow my beliefs or follow the evidence to whatever conclusion that resulted in. I followed the evidence.
I then spent a very emotionally difficult year trying to reconcile my understanding of evolution with Christianity. I didn’t want to stop believing in God, but I wasn’t able to reconcile the two. It’s a bit odd to be agreeing with Peachey, but I agree that if there was no literal Adam, no original sin, then there was no reason for Jesus to die. I also spent some time studying various creation myths and came to the conclusion that if the Biblical creation story is just their idea about how the world came to be, and is heavily borrowed from the cultures of the time, then what’s to say that the Israelites were right about anything? What makes their ideas about their own personal god any different from the others?
I am an atheist. I don’t know if that would be different had I grown up in a more liberal sect of Christianity.

DOC: I grew up in Indiana in a conservative Baptist church, not too far from the Creation Museum in Kentucky. I was taught that the Genesis story was literal, that evolution was impossible and being very interested in science and math, I read many of the books that were popular at the time, like “From Goo to You by Way of the Zoo.” This was really before the Intelligent Design movement, although some of the same types of arguments were in the earlier work. I grew up with faith, was baptized and sang in the choir, etc. My studies paid off and I was accepted to MIT, where I studied physics, and in particular, astrophysics. After about two years of study at college, I just could not believe that the Genesis story could be taken as a literal account, stopped going to church and basically became an agnostic. It was not until I came back to faith by the grace of God many years later that I began to study the Scriptures with a more open mind. I also studied the symbolism and prophesies in greater detail, and because convinced that the Genesis story was symbolic and was not intended to be taken as an historical account. I believe that God’s fingerprints are all over Creation, and do not believe that science can explain many phenomena like the beginning of the Universe and the beginning of life using only random forces of nature. But I cannot believe the Universe is 5,000 years old and came about in only six “days” in the sense that most fundamentalists insist upon. I write on these topics from time to time and would be happy to share them with anyone who is interested. Please feel free to write to me at doctorpit at live dot com.

JON WILBURN: It certainly has created questions in my mind. I know many, many people that grew up in Christian faith and have walked away after high school – Science and creation being one of the areas.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

“About the Museum.” Creation Museum. http://creationmuseum.org/about/ (accessed February 9, 2012).

Answers in Genesis. http://www.answersingenesis.org/ (accessed February 9, 2012).

Brian Thomas Swimme, and Mary Evelyn Tucker. Journey of the Universe. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.

Giberson, Karl W., and Francis S. Collins. The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

“Six Reasons Young Christians Leave the Church.” Barna Group. http://www.barna.org/teens-next-gen-articles/528-six-reasons-young-christians-leave-church (accessed February 9, 2012).

“Poll – Pastors oppose evolution, split on earth’s age.” LifeWay Research (2012). http://www.lifeway.com/Article/Research-Poll-Pastors-oppose-evolution-split-on-earths-age (accessed February 11, 2012).

Arnold, Bill T. Genesis. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis. Interpretation: a Bible commentary for teaching and preaching. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982.

Dalrymple, G. Brent. The Age of the Earth. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991.

Enns, Peter. The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2012.

Enns, Peter, and Jeff Schloss. “How Does the Fall fit into Evolutionary History? Were Adam and Eve Historical Figures?” Biologos Foundation. http://biologos.org/questions/evolution-and-the-fall/ (accessed February 16, 2012).

Falk, Darrel R. Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Worlds between Faith and Biology. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Fretheim, Terrence E. The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes – Volume I. Genesis. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994.

Frost, David. Excerpt from Doubts and Certainties: David Frost Interview (BBC-2, 1964). In Billy Graham: Personal Thoughts of a Public Man – 30 Years of Conversations with David Frost. Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor, 1997.

Goldingay, John. Genesis for Everyone: Part 1. Old Testament for Everyone. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010.

Gray, Terry. Evolution and Original Sin: A Weblog Series Published on an Evangelical Dialogue on Evolution. ed. Steve Martin, in the . http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/ (accessed February 17, 2012).

Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer editor Jr., associate editor, Bruce K. Waltke, and associate, eds. Excerpt from 278. In Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Vol. 1. Chicago: Moody Press, 1980.

Hiebert, Theodore. “Create, To.” In The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: A-C, edited by Katharine Doob Sakenfeld. Vol. 1. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2006-2009.

Keller, Timothy. “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople.” BioLogos Foundation. http://biologos.org/resources/timothy-keller/ (accessed February 11, 2012).

Lamoureux, Denis O. I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2009.

McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Rev., updated, and expanded ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999.

Middleton, J. Richard. The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2005.

Noll, Mark A. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1994.

Plantinga, Alvin. Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Pond, Allison, Gregory Smith, and Scott Clement. “Religion Among the Millennials: Less Religiously Active Than Older Americans, but Fairly Traditional in Other Ways.” Pew Research Center: A Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Report (2010). http://www.pewforum.org/Age/Religion-Among-the-Millennials.aspx (accessed February 9, 2012).

Principe, Lawrence M. “Science and Religion.” The Teaching Company: Great Courses. http://www.teach12.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=4691 (accessed February 11, 2012).

Stott, John R.W. Understanding the Bible. Expanded ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1999.

Till, I. Howard J. Van. “God and Evolution: An Exchange.” First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion & Public Life, no. 34 (June 1993): 32-38. Humanities International Index, EBSCOhost (accessed January 4, 2011).

Van Leeuwen, Raymond. Excerpt from 1343. In New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, edited by Willem A. VanGemeren. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1997.

Volf, Miroslav. Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996.

Waltke, Bruce K. Genesis: A Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001.

Walton, John H. Excerpt from Creation. In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, edited by David Baker and T. Desmond Alexander. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003.

———. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009.

Wilkens, Steve, and Mark L. San. Hidden Worldviews: Eight Cultural Stories That Shape Our Lives. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2009.

Willems, Kurt. “Preaching Against Evolution in Evangelical Churches Creates Atheists.” the Pangea Blog. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/2012/01/12/preaching-against-evolution-in-evangelical-churches-creates-atheists/ (accessed February 20, 2012).

 

 


[1]. Karl W. Giberson and Francis S. Collins, The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 37.

[2]. Throughout this paper I will use “evolution” and “biological evolution” interchangeably. To add “biological” simply reinforces that I do not refer to philosophical naturalism.

[3]. Brian Thomas Swimme, and Mary Evelyn Tucker, Journey of the Universe (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011), 2.

[4]. G. Brent Dalrymple, The Age of the Earth (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991), 191.

[5]. Giberson and Collins, The Language of Science and Faith, 31.

[6]. Brian Thomas Swimme, and Mary Evelyn Tucker, Journey of the Universe, 82.

[7]. Ibid., 124.

[8]. “Six Reasons Young Christians Leave the Church,” Barna Group, http://www.barna.org/teens-next-gen-articles/528-six-reasons-young-christians-leave-church (accessed February 9, 2012).

[9]. “About,” Creation Museum, http://creationmuseum.org/about/ (accessed February 9, 2012).

[10]. Allison Pond, Gregory Smith, and Scott Clement, “Religion Among the Millennials: Less Religiously Active Than Older Americans, but Fairly Traditional in Other Ways,” Pew Research Center: A Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Report (2010): 21, http://www.pewforum.org/Age/Religion-Among-the-Millennials.aspx (accessed February 9, 2012).

[11]. Two mega-churches in Fresno exemplify this approach. The first, The Well Community Church, is a church with many young adults. Their discipleship program called, The Academy, teaches young earth creationism (http://thewellcommunity.org/equipping/academy/ot-historical-books). The second, Northside Christian Church, hosted an Answers in Genesis seminar called: Not Ashamed – Creation, Evolution, and the Biblical Worldview (Northside Christian University: Fall Course Catalogue, 2010).

[12]. “Poll – Pastors oppose evolution, split on earth’s age,” LifeWay Research (2012), http://www.lifeway.com/Article/Research-Poll-Pastors-oppose-evolution-split-on-earths-age (accessed February 11, 2012). Detailed research findings and images available at website.

[13]. Timothy Keller, “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople,” BioLogos Foundation, http://biologos.org/resources/timothy-keller/ (accessed February 11, 2012), 5.

[14]. Steve Wilkens and Mark L. San, Hidden Worldviews: Eight Cultural Stories That Shape Our Lives (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2009), 100.

[15]. Ibid., 101.

[16]. Ibid., 104.

[17]. Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 12.

[18]. The source of the following: Lawrence M. Principe, “Science and Religion,” The Teaching Company: Great Courses, http://www.teach12.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=4691 (accessed February 11, 2012).

[19]. Ibid., See: Course Book, 8.

[20]. As quoted by: I. Howard J. Van Till, “God and Evolution: An Exchange,” First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion & Public Life, no. 34 (June 1993). Humanities International Index, EBSCOhost (accessed January 4, 2011), 32-38.

[21]. Genesis 1 in this paper actually refers to the textual unit of Genesis 1.1-2.3.

[22]. Prior to taking Hebrew in seminary, I took for granted that this text was purely poetry.

[23]. Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, Interpretation: a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982), 22.

[24]. John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009), 91.

[25]. Terrence E. Fretheim, The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes – Volume I, Genesis (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994), 341.

[26]. Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001), 57.

[27]. Brueggemann, Genesis, 30.

[28]. See: Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, rev., updated, and expanded ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999), ch. 13-21. He argues for the Mosaic authorship of the whole Pentateuch.

[29]. Brueggemann, Genesis, 16.

[30]. Ibid., 14.

[31]. Fretheim, The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes – Volume I, 340.

[32]. Brueggemann, Genesis, 24.

[33]. Ibid., 25.

[34]. Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2012), 6.

[35]. Brueggemann, Genesis, 32.

[36]. J. Richard Middleton, The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1 (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2005), 204.

[37]. Ibid., 205.

[38]. Ibid., 204-5.

[39]. Conceptual similarities between the two stories include: darkness and chaos precede creation, light exists prior to the sun, depiction of a method for keeping the waters separated above the earth, a sequence of creation days followed by rest, and connections to temples (a point that will be explored below).

[40]. Enns, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, 38-41.

[41]. Raymond Van Leeuwen, “1343,” in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, ed. Willem A. VanGemeren (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1997), 729.

[42]. Fretheim, The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes – Volume I, 342.

[43]. Fretheim, The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes – Volume I, 342.

[44]. Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 58-59 and n. 12.

[45]. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, 45.

[46]. Ibid.

[47]. Ibid., 46.

[48]. Theodore Hiebert, “Create, To,” in The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: A-C, ed. Katharine Doob Sakenfeld (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2006-2009), 1:779-80.

[49]. R. Laird Harris et al., eds., “278,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 1:127.

[50]. John H. Walton, “Creation,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, ed. David Baker and T. Desmond Alexander (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 161.

[51]. Ibid., 163.

[52]. Brueggemann, Genesis, 29.

[53]. Ontology is a particular theory about the nature of being or the kinds of things that have existence. Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc.

[54]. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, 24.

[55]. Ibid., 26.

[56]. Ibid.

[57]. Ibid., 45.

[58]. Ibid., 162.

[59]. Enns, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, 70-71.

[60]. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, 75.

[61]. John R.W. Stott, Understanding the Bible, expanded ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1999), 55-56.

[62]. Keller, Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople, 10.

[63]. John Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone: Part 1, Old Testament for Everyone (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 41.

[64]. Keller, Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople, 8.

[65]. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, 100-1.

[66]. Keller, Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople, 7.

[67]. Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone: Part 1, 29.

[68]. Denis O. Lamoureux, I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2009), 44-45.

[69]. Ibid., 80.

[70]. Peter Enns and Jeff Schloss, “How Does the Fall fit into Evolutionary History? Were Adam and Eve Historical Figures?,” Biologos Foundation, http://biologos.org/questions/evolution-and-the-fall/ (accessed February 16, 2012).

[71]. Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone: Part 1, 62-63.

[72]. Lamoureux, I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution, 143-48.

[73]. Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone: Part 1, 58.

[74]. Enns, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, 56.

[75]. Brueggemann, Genesis, 14.

[76]. Enns, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, 88-89. Note: the following citations from this resource will be done within the text.

[77]. Ibid., 66-70. See Also: Peter Enns, “Adam is Israel,” BioLogos Foundation, http://biologos.org/blog/adam-is-israel/ (accessed February 20, 2012).

[78]. Brueggemann, Genesis, 26.

[79]. Enns, The Evolution of Adam, 145-46.

[80]. Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), 29.

[81]. Kurt Willems, “Preaching Against Evolution in Evangelical Churches Creates Atheists,” the Pangea Blog, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/2012/01/12/preaching-against-evolution-in-evangelical-churches-creates-atheists/ (accessed February 20, 2012).

[82]. Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1994), 3.

[83]. Ibid., 197.

[84]. David Frost, “Doubts and Certainties: David Frost Interview (BBC-2, 1964),” in Billy Graham: Personal Thoughts of a Public Man – 30 Years of Conversations with David Frost (Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor, 1997), 73-74.

[85] These names appear as they were chosen to by the commentors on my public blogsite. In the video, I clearly inform them that their stories are for the purposes of this paper, so by their choosing to comment, they have consented to appear in this paper by name.

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