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Are God And Evolution Compatible? Some Catholics, Jews and Protestants Say No

October 12th, 2010
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Can you be an orthodox Darwinist and an orthodox theist? The plain answer is “no,” according to God and Evolution, an important new book from Discovery Institute Press. The book provides a thorough examination of the conflict between belief in God and Darwin’s theory of unguided evolution.

In the century and a half since Charles Darwin first proposed his theory, Christians, Jews, and other religious believers have grappled with how to make sense of it. Most have understood that Darwin’s theory and materialistic theories of the origin of life have profound theological implications, but their responses have varied dramatically.

Some have rejected evolutionary ideas outright; others, often called “theistic evolutionists,” have sought to reconcile materialist theories including Darwinism with their religious beliefs, but often at the cost of clarity, orthodoxy, or both.

“Too few people have carefully teased out the various scientific, philosophical, and theological claims at stake,” says Jay Richards, director of research for discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, and editor of God and Evolution. “As a result, the whole subject of God and evolution has been an enigma wrapped in a shroud of fuzz and surrounded by a blanket of fog.”

God and Evolution includes chapters by William Dembski, author of The Design Revolution; Stephen Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design; Denyse O’Leary, co-author of The Spiritual Brain; David Klinghoffer, author of The Discovery of God: Abraham and the Birth of Monotheism; Jonathan Wells, author of Icons of Evolution; and John West, author of Darwin Day in America.

The book is a response to growing efforts by some Darwinists to enlist the support of the faith community by downplaying Darwinism’s core principles. Chapters of the book detail the failures of theistic evolution, address the problem of evil, and explain how intelligent design is consonant with orthodox belief.

Dr. Jay Richards and Dr. John West are both available for interviews. To schedule an interview, contact Anika Smith at (206) 292-0401 x155, or asmith@discovery.org

God and Evolution is ideal for use in small groups and adult Sunday School classes and each chapter comes with discussion questions to facilitate group use. Many additional resources, including video clips for educational use, are available at www.faithandevolution.org.

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  1. October 12th, 2010 at 20:13 | #1

    Can one believe in biological evolution and be an orthodox Christian? I would say yes; I know a number of people who hold to creedal Christianity and Scriptural inerrancy who accept most of biological evolution. I also know theistic evolutionists who unfortunately have gone down the path of theological liberalism or rejection of Christianity altogether.

    But the same things can be said of young-Earth creationists and other anti-evolutionists, such as the Discovery Institute authors of God and Evolution. Some of them are quite orthodox, and others are heretical. Jonathan Wells (mentioned above, author of Icons of Evolution) is a Moonie, and there has always been a strong Seventh Day Adventist component to the young-Earth creationist movement. Like theistic evolutionists, many others have gone the way of liberalism or skepticism in response to problems with young-Earth creationism.

  2. Matt Jamison
    October 13th, 2010 at 11:57 | #2

    Trying to compromise between the Biblical account of creation and evolutionism always leaves one in an untenable intellectual position. They are utterly incompatable.

    Kevin’s remark above is an example of the unfortunate ad hominem attacks made against those who believe Genesis. We cannot judge either the Genesis narrative or the evolutionist narrative by the people holding these views. You must examine the evidence and come to your own conclusion. You must be ready to be labelled an extremest or idiot if you hold to the biblical account in today’s culture.

    And no one who denies the clear teachings of scripture is an orthodox Christian.

  3. October 13th, 2010 at 13:16 | #3

    I know what an orthodox Jew, an orthodox Catholic, and an orthodox Lutheran, or Calvinist (etc.) might look like. I do not know what an “orthodox Theist” is, however. Sounds like a syncrentistic category to me.

    I also know John West, one of the contributors to the book, from personal interaction (although some years back). I always had the impression that he scorned orthodox believers. (Not that people can’t change.)

  4. Matt Jamison
    October 13th, 2010 at 14:18 | #4

    “Orthodox Theist” is a clumsy formulation, they are clearly trying to include Jews, Muslims and others that claim that the universe was created by an omnipotent power.

    Perhaps a better way to put it is that you can’t be an orthodox creationist and an orthodox Darwinist at the same time. Theistic evolution is “syncretistic” between theist and athiest worldviews. Theistic evolution (and it takes many forms) is considered heretical by both sides of the debate.

    If Darwinism (the naturalist worldview) is true, then it destroys not only Genesis but all of the scriptures where supernatural events are claimed. If scripture is true, then the scientific consensus is incorrect about some of its most basic principles, as has been the case many times before in history.

  5. Terry Maher (Past Elder)
    October 13th, 2010 at 19:08 | #5

    Bad science by theologians is as amusing as bad theology by scientists.

    There is no such thing as Darwinism, scientifically, nor is Darwin or On the Origin of the Species the sole source of modern evolutionary biology or definitive of it.

  6. October 13th, 2010 at 19:38 | #6

    Matt:

    What is your test for orthodoxy? Is it adherence to the core doctrines of the faith expressed in the creeds (e.g., Nicene) and justification by grace through faith, or do you add young-earth creationism/anti-evolutionism to these?

    As an old-Earth creationist, I believe that the universe was created by the triune God of the Bible, in a real Adam, in a real garden, in a real fall into sin, in real consequences for that sin (physical and spiritual), and in Jesus Christ as the only solution for sin.

    I also believe that the supposed Biblical foundation for rejecting evolution is rather weak. None of the passages cited about death before the fall (Gen 3, Rom 5, Rom 8, 1 Cor 15) say anything whatsoever about animal death, and to say that the use of “kind” in Genesis 1 reads a whole lot of meaning into one word. Because of this, I view biological evolution, at least for animals, to be primarily a scientific issue. There may be limits to biological change, but they are not laid out in Scripture.

    Does this make me a heretic? Certainly not, as I hold to and proclaim the core doctrines of the faith. Is my acceptance the possibility of animal and plant evolution syncretism? Only if the Bible teaches that animals cannot and did not evolve, but that is an issue the Bible does not address (unless one sees God using a process to create in Gen 1:11,24).

  7. October 13th, 2010 at 19:41 | #7

    I left out a couple words in the third paragraph:

    None of the passages cited about death before the fall (Gen 3, Rom 5, Rom 8, 1 Cor 15) say anything whatsoever about animal death, and to say that the use of “kind” in Genesis 1 prohibits evolution reads a whole lot of meaning into one word.

  8. Adam
    October 14th, 2010 at 13:33 | #8

    Another person not mentioned in this is an ELCA Lutheran theologian named Ted Peters. While not everyone agrees with him, he is an important voice in this particular conversation.

  9. Matt Jamison
    October 14th, 2010 at 18:16 | #9

    Terry: so what name do you want me to use for the theory of origins that predominates in the scientific community? “Darwinism” is shorthand for that. Is naturalism better? Evolution?

    Kevin: Good luck selling your theory in the scientific evolutionist community. To them, mankind is just one more animal, and not necessarily more evolved than others. So animals died and evolved before the fall for millions of years but then God made Adam in a special act of creation? That is a compromise that makes a mockery of both narratives.

    God’s miraculous creative power either exists or it does not. If it does, Genesis is not difficult to believe. If it does not than we can treat Genesis as myth as well as everything else in scripture, including the resurrection. You can’t have it both ways.

    I do not think “young-earth creationism” is an article of faith, but God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth is. I have no idea how old the Earth is.

  10. October 14th, 2010 at 21:22 | #10

    Matt:

    I agree, many in the “scientific evolutionist community” make no room at all for the supernatural. I am not out to “sell my theory” to them, and unfortunately they won’t be interested in the gospel no matter what we say. Like all of us, it will take a work of God’s spirit to open their eyes.

    But there are many others in the scientific community who are open to the gospel. Christians often put unnecessary obstacles in their way through “scientific apologetics” that is unsound. Let it be the foolishness of the cross and the gospel that they reject, not our own foolishness.

  11. Terry Maher (Past Elder)
    October 15th, 2010 at 02:43 | #11

    Theory of origins? Origins of what?

    The name of the book is “On the Origin of the Species”, not “On the Origin of Life”.

    Regardless, the book is not scripture to the scientific community, and evolutionary biology is no more “Darwinism” than astronomy is “Copernicanism”.

    It will be better for us when our book is not science to the faith community. Bereshit as a statement from God of his creative power and that the universe is a creation does not in the least depend upon its being a treatise from God on how he did it.

    Or, as I like to put it, the bad theology of some scientists is not countered by the bad science of some theologians.

    At one time, in this way a heliocentric rather than a geocentric universe was held to deconstruct Scripture and everything else about faith, comedic on both sides as it turns out the universe is neither helio- nor geocentric. So again do we make fools of ourselves when we either make theology out of science or science out of theology.

  12. Anirudh Kumar Satsangi
    October 17th, 2010 at 10:40 | #12

    May Merciful Radhasoami Show Mercy!

    According to Hindu Mythology the period of Lord Ram is believed to be 10 million years ago. Hanuman (Ape-man) also lived during this age. Period of Lord Ram and Hanuman signifies the separation of man and ape man from a common ancestor. Both used to communicate in same language.

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