Checking out the Menu
Peanut butter and jelly. Cookies and milk. Chocolate and just about anything. When you consider all the great food combinations of the world, perhaps the last grouping that comes to mind is chicken and waffles. But if you’ve tasted the two together, you understand why there’s always a wait outside of Roscoe’s.
Another combo that might seem peculiar is science and religion. The implication that the two go well together can be hard to swallow, especially because it’s served up in a variety of fashions.
Within the Christian faith alone, there are a number of different “biblical perspective” plates from which to choose. The view many believers (and skeptics) are familiar with is young-earth creationism. Often called simply “creationism,” this view asserts that the creation “days” were six consecutive 24-hour periods and took place between six and ten thousand years ago.
This week we’ll take a look at another option (though there are more, still) and see how it compares with old-earth creationism.
Often viewed as the ideal alternative between giving up science and giving up faith, theistic evolution (or evolutionary creation) has gained significant menu space in recent years. Big-name proponents include geneticist Francis Collins (founder of The BioLogos Foundation), theologian Alister McGrath, and paleobiologist Simon Conway Morris. Even Pope John Paul II gave evolution a thumbs-up, saying there is no opposition between Darwin’s theory and the doctrines of the faith.
According to the BioLogos website, evolutionary creation (or BioLogos, as they call it) “does not require that God miraculously intervened in the process of evolution in the sense of working outside the laws of nature, and because BioLogos also claims that biological evolution is the way by which God created the world, it is not a form of Old Earth Creationism.”
Advocates of evolutionary creation hold a nonliteral view of the Genesis 1–2 creation narrative, instead defining it as mythic text (that is, “it has cultural significance in explaining the hows andwhys of human existence, using metaphorical language to express ideas beyond the realm of our five senses”).
With respect to Adam, evolutionary creation maintains that he was not the first man. Some theories propose Adam was not an actual historical person. Concerning the image of God, it seems the jury is still out as to how and when humans developed moral consciousness. BioLogos writes, “We also cannot know whether God directly intervened in the evolutionary process at this point [Genesis 2:7], or whether the unfolding evolutionary process produced the human soul.”
On the other hand, old-earth creation (specifically day-age creation) affirms that the Hebrew word for “day” (yom) can be translated to mean long but finite periods of time. They also assert that the creation miracles ought to be rightly interpreted as God intervening in various ways throughout His creation and that Genesis 1 chronicles real historical events.
This view supports a historical Adam and Eve as the first human pair, endowed with the image of God and therefore distinct from hominids. Theologian and RTB’s dean of online learning Krista Bontrager addresses the concept of a nonhistorical Adam,
The New Testament makes a strong case for a historical Adam. For example, Adam is among those listed as part of Jesus’ genealogy (see Luke 3:23–28). If Adam were not a historical person, then one of the many listed in Jesus’ genealogy is fictitious.
Moreover, Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 contrasts Adam with Christ, emphasizing that Adam’s sin brought death to humanity and Christ’s death brought the gift of grace. Perhaps some questions to ask an evolutionary creationist are:
- Do Jesus and the New Testament authors believe in a historical Adam?
- If Adam weren’t a real person, why then does Paul compare him to Jesus in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15?
- Does the lack of a historical Adam alter the meaning of humanity’s sin nature and, thus, the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross?
Yet before we engage those who hold differing views, it’s always good to find common ground. As old-earth or evolutionary creationists look across the table, here are a few points on which both perspectives can agree:
- There is biblical and scientific evidence in support of a billions-of-years-old Earth.
- There is biblical and scientific evidence in support of a local Genesis flood.
- A strictly naturalistic worldview cannot account for fine-tuning evident in nature.
- Fine-tuning features are, instead, the result of an intelligent and personal causal Agent.
RTB philosopher/theologian Kenneth Samples adds,
Theistic evolutionists are deserving…of a place at the table in the marketplace of science-apologetics ideas and their…scientific model and theological interpretation are worthy of careful examination.
Chicken and waffles may not be for everyone, but we might all consider taking a seat at the science-and-faith table and perusing the menu. There’s plenty to chew on there.
For a presentation and defense of old-earth creationism, see Who Was Adam? by Fazale Rana and More than a Theory by Hugh Ross. Also see “Thinking about Theistic Evolution,” by Kenneth Samples.
For a presentation and defense of theistic evolution, see Francis S. Collins’ The Language of Godand the BioLogos website.
Francis Collins and Simon Conway Morris were featured on RTB’s former webcast Creation Update. Click on the links to hear the Francis Collins interview (October 17, 2006) and the Simon Conway Morris interview (February 24, 2005).
IT’S GIVEAWAY TIME! Be among the first 20 commenters to this entry on the WordPress blogand receive a free copy of “Christian Approaches to Interpreting Genesis 1” by Krista Bontrager. In this 40-minute audio message, Krista discusses theistic evolution, young-earth creationism, and four varieties of old-earth creationism. Ready, set, go!