Confronting Our Fears, Part 1

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November 12, 2012 Tags: Lives of Faith

Today's entry was written by Mike Beidler. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Confronting Our Fears, Part 1

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27, ESV)

In 2007, after a turbulent two-year process, I came to embrace evolutionary creationism as the best scientific and theological paradigm through which to view the natural world and God’s strategy to redeem humanity from the power of sin. As a layman who possessed neither a degree in the natural sciences nor a degree in theology, moving from my long-held young-earth creationist position was not an easy journey. My personal library was already full of literature arguing for a young-earth creationist position, and I was intimately familiar with all of the scientific and theological arguments against theistic evolution. Furthermore, my journey was relatively private and I knew few others who were traveling a similar path—others who could be fellow sojourners with me through the various spiritual and intellectual battles that lay ahead. But it was actually several personal fears that were the greatest enemies on my path toward the goal of integrating my long-held faith in Christ with a new understanding of physical world around me. In a step of faith, I dedicated myself to a robust self-study regimen in order to help wade through the diverse scientific and theological issues at hand.

In the end, my Christian faith not only remained intact, my journey resulted in a richer faith in the divine Logos-made-flesh (John 1:14); a profound love for the universe created for, by, and through the pre-existent Christ (Col 1:16; John 1:3); and an increased awe in a God who could accomplish so much “from so simple a beginning.”1 Over the last five years since I declared publicly my acceptance of the scientific evidence for evolution and humanity’s common ancestry with the rest of Earth’s flora and fauna,2 my family and I have been through two work-related moves, and have belonged to two conservative Christian congregations; both communities professed and lived out their faith in Jesus of Nazareth to an admirable degree, and both remain decidedly young-earth creationist in their theology. In both cases, I chose not to hide my evolutionary creationist views, but rather discuss them openly when people solicited my views. In return, I have been blessed by a noticeable extension of grace from family, friends, and fellow churchgoers—testimony to the fact that we can live and worship together in unity, even when we disagree over this issue.

Of course, being fully aware of how foreign a theistic evolutionary paradigm is to many an evangelical Christian audience, I’ve learned to have interactions about my views privately and with the utmost respect for the personal beliefs of my conversation partners—those beliefs are the ones I once held, after all. Furthermore, I’ve developed a heightened sensitivity to the issue of spiritual maturity; that is, how well-grounded one’s faith is in the person of Jesus Christ. As a result, I have had the pleasure of discussing my journey in an atmosphere of genuine mutual admiration with more than a few people in my worship community. Through these various dialogues, I have identified four fears about considering evolutionary creationism that, in most cases, mirrored those I experienced in my own journey. These fears are not petty, nor are they inconsequential. They are real and can have long-lasting effects if not dealt with in love, patience, honesty, and understanding. In the posts that follow this one over the next couple of weeks, I’d like to describe and explore those fears and how they might be overcome through Christ, and always with an eye on deeper faith in Him.

Although this series is written primarily for those who are honestly seeking an integration of scientific truth with their faith in Christ, yet are struggling mightily in the process, it can also serve as an aid to evolutionary creationists who seek to share how one’s Christian faith can remain intact, authentic, and vibrant, even during such a paradigm-shifting pilgrimage. It is my prayer that these reflections will assist the reader in identifying such personal fears, spur the genuine seeker to work through the sources of his or her anxieties, and direct him or her toward scholarly, pastoral resources that can assist the acceptance of evolution as God’s chosen method of creating. All of this is possible without sacrificing such core tenets of evangelical faith as belief in the role of Jesus in actual history (cf. Luke 1:1-4), the necessity of the Holy Spirit to transcend our fallen natures (Rom 14:17), and the experience of spiritual rebirth as adopted children of God (John 1:12-13; 3:3). Next time, I’ll begin with something foundational: the fear of the loss of the Bible as our source of Truth and Authority.

The heart of all anxiety is fear of loss.

Notes

1. Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species [1859] in Edward O. Wilson, ed., From So Simple a Beginning: The Four Great Books of Charles Darwin (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006), 760.

2. I launched my blog “The Creation of an Evolutionist” in December 2007 and have since renamed it “Rethinking the αlpha and Ωmega”.


A commander in the U.S. Navy, Mike holds an MS in Global Leadership from the University of San Diego, a BA in Political Science from the University of Michigan, and an AA in Persian-Farsi from the U.S. Army’s Defense Language Institute. Mike is a member of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). He currently resides in the Washington, D.C., metro area where he works as a Middle East politico-military adviser, runs the popular blog “Rethinking the αlpha and Ωmega,” and helps administer the Facebook group Celebrating Creation by Natural Selection.

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Dudley Chapman - #74330

November 12th 2012

Excellent testimony, Mike Biedler.   This must be a terrifying journey for those who have to abandon what seems to be the very foundation, or related to the very foundation of their faith.   It has implications on your theology, your family and friends, and your sense of certainty about your faith.


You offer a badly needed light at the end of what seems to be a tunnel of uncertainty by modeling for your family and friends a Christian faith that accepts science.   Publishing this series here furthers that ministry. 

I am looking forward to the next installments in this series.

Christ’s Peace


Mike Beidler - #74344

November 12th 2012

Greatly appreciate the compliments, Dudley.

When you speak of implications to one’s theology, certainty, and family/friends, you’ve hit the nail right on the head.  That’s exactly the direction this series is going—and in that very order.  Stay tuned!


Eddie - #74336

November 12th 2012

Thanks, Mike, for your heartfelt account.

I have a question.  How do you conceive of the evolutionary process now?  Presumably, at one point, you understood it as a mindless series of random mutations and ruthless choices by “natural selection” that had no foresight, purpose or goal, and therefore you rejected it as un-Christian.  But now that you accept evolution, do you see it differently?  And could you be as specific as possible how you now see it?

For example, do you now see God as guiding or steering evolution, in a hands-on way, overcoming chance or randomness to bring about certain results rather than others?  So that if he didn’t do any such guiding or steering, evolution wouldn’t have produced what he wanted it to produce?  Or do you have some other conception of how God manages the evolutionary process?

Understand that I am not asking you for a scientific proof of anything, just for your personal conception, at this point in your thinking, of how God works in the evolutionary process.


Mike Beidler - #74346

November 12th 2012

Eddie,

Thanks for your question, as it’s one I’m still struggling to answer.  Tackling the issues of randomnity and the directionality of evolution are not easy ones, and I don’t believe that science will ever answer the question of whether evolution is actively guided, front-loaded with intended directionality, or truly free to evolve within certain constraints.  I once believed—during my young-earth creationist days—that (1) evolutionary processes that could produce sophisticated biological machines such as us was statistically impossible, and (2) that evolution required absolute randomnity in order to conduct its work, and that the existence of randomness took away from the sovereignty of God. 

Now, however, I no longer believe cosmological and biological evolutionary processes to be, at its most basic level, random.  Although I don’t view evolution as processes actively guided by God, I do believe them to be the result of and constrained by natural laws that which God instituted at the beginning of creation.  As well, I believe Christ upholds and sustains these natural laws by the word of His power (Heb 1:3a).  That being said, I’m inclined to believe that, if we were to rewind the cosmic tape, the evolutionary outcome would be quite different; at the same time, certain things would remain intact as a “divine purposes”: (1) God’s creation will, in certain places, “come of age” and have the capacity to contemplate existential questions; (2) God desires to relate with His creation; and (3) God would choose to incarnate Himself as the utlimate method by which He reveals Himself to creation, wherever it should find itself, so as to guide it for the purposes of transcdending its inherited evolutionary baggage (i.e., “the flesh”).  (There is certainly a hint of C. S. Lewisian influence on my thinking on that last one.) 

Moreover, just as I believe human beings have a certain measure of “free will,” I believe nature, too, has a certain measure of the same, especially at the quantum level.  Thus, there is a certain measure of unpredictability (not true randomnity) in these processes.  I also believe this cosmic “free will”/unpredictability is unavoidable in a material creation, especially if God truly desires certain aspects of His creation to freely love Him in return.  Of course, all of this does not preclude God occasionally intervening in the natural order so as to produce a faith-affirming miracle in the lives of people.

Whatever the truth is, or if I should ever come down personally on one side or the other, I don’t believe it will affect my current stance that God’s method of creation is through natural evolutionary processes.  For what it’s worth, I’m looking to read up on my Simon Conway Morris, Stephen Jay Gould, and Tielhard de Chardin, all three of whom had much to say on these issues.

I hope that answered your questions! 


Eddie - #74357

November 13th 2012

Thanks, Mike, for your thoughtful answer.

It sounds as if you think, at the moment, that evolution occurs primarily if not exclusively through natural processes, with God doing little or no steering or guiding.  I am familiar with this view, as it is one that appears to be held by a large number—probably the majority—of TEs, though very few of them are as explicit as you have been in saying “no” to guidance or steering, and I thank you for your forthrightness.

I understand also that you think that God institutes and upholds the natural laws, and that it is through the natural laws that evolution is able to work.  A further question in that direction would be whether you think that God has in any way “set up” the natural laws so as to guarantee certain outcomes.  For example, is there anything about the nature of a primordial cell that would guarantee that eventually man would arise from it?  If so, then we could speak of a divine set-up or programming, without having to invoke guiding or steering.  Just a possibility for you to chew on.

In addition to Conway Morris, a very clear writer you might consider reading is Michael Denton, whose book, Nature’s Destiny, puts together the science of cosmic and biological evolution with the idea of a planning and creating God in a very compelling way.

I, too, like C. S. Lewis.  There is a new book out, specifically on his thoughts on evolution.  It sounds as if it would interest you.  Best wishes for your future explorations.


Mike Beidler - #74368

November 13th 2012

Eddie,

You summarize my positions quite well.

As for God “setting up” the natural laws so as to guaranteee a particular outcome, I would affirm this in a broad sense.  That is to say, I believe the cosmos’ natural laws were intended to produce organized physical objects such as stars and planets, and—in relatively rare cases—life on those various planets or their moons.  Intelligent life, even.  I do not, however, believe that homo sapiens were guaranteed to arise.  Perhaps, in a different iteration of cosmic history (to which I alluded earlier), creatures “made in God’s image” would look completely different than human beings do.

Of course, these are simply my philosophical musings and are not (nor do I believe they can be) scientifically based.  I have, in the past, vacillated between a pre-programmed cosmos and a relatively free cosmos, but I find myself drawn more to a free cosmos for reasons I’m not entirely sure, especially given my past Calvinistic tendencies.

Thank you very much for the Michael Denton recommendation.  I’ll be sure to give him a read down the road.  I’m also aware of the recently published book on C. S. Lewis’ thoughts on the subject of evolution.  I fully intend to purchase it.  Did you know The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society (John G. West, ed.) was written in response to an


Mike Beidler - #74370

November 13th 2012

Odd.  My comment was truncated.

... article (“C. S. Lewis on Evolution and Intelligent Design” by Michael L. Peterson) that first appeared in the American Scientific Affiliation’s December 2010 issue (Vol. 62, No. 4) of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith?  It’s readily available here on BioLogos.



Eddie - #74380

November 13th 2012

Thanks for you further reply, Mike.

It sounds as if people should first read the article by Peterson, and then go on to read The Magician’s Twin.  

As for your Calvinistic tendencies, they may not have been entirely wrong-headed.  One can depart from some aspects of a theologian, while sticking with others.  I disagree with Calvin (or at least, with the extreme interpreters of Calvin) on the subject of predestination, but I think that when we are talking about things that don’t have free will, Calvin’s understanding of nature and God’s sovereignty over it is fairly solid.  I would think that the convergent evolution of Conway Morris or the fine-tuned evolution of Denton could be harmonized with a Calvinist perspective.  I haven’t tried to do that myself, as I don’t feel I know Calvin well enough, but if you have background in the Calvinist tradition, maybe that would be a project you’d relish.  Just a thought.

Once again, best wishes. 


2cortenfour - #74347

November 12th 2012

Since evolutionary theory basically rules out the account given in Genesis - i.e., that Man was a special, separate creation of God who was placed in a Garden which was free from the Curse mentioned in Gen. 3:17-19 and Rom. 8:20 (evolution requires millions of years of survival of the fittest, death, mass extinctions), and that all the creatures and vegetation God created reproduced “according to their kinds” (evolution requires that one species produce a species of ANOTHER kind) - it is necessary to declare the early chapters of the Bible to be metaphorical or allegorical. Adam and Eve must be considered to be composite figures, inventions of the author of Genesis for use as representatives of Mankind.
So, a question I hope is addressed in the series: 
Why did God lead Jesus (Matt 19:4-5), Luke (3:38), Paul (Rom 5, 1 Cor 15:22,45, Acts 17:26), Jude (14), Moses and the Prophets to believe that Adam was a man, namely “the first man” (1 Cor 15:45), not a composite of the supposed 10,000 modern “humans” who made the evolutionary jump (as put forth by Francis Collins, etc.)?
Is it at all possible that Darwinists could be wrong after all?  Is dogmatism on the veracity of evolution advisable when the only eyewitness of Creation - God - has given us a testimony which is at odds with the theory?


Mike Beidler - #74371

November 13th 2012

Jeff,

Thanks for your comments.

In regard to your claim that “it is necessary to declare the early chapters of the Bible to be metaphorical or allegorical,” I don’t believe that to be the case.  It’s much more complex than relegating the stories to mere metaphor or allegory.  In fact, I don’t treat Genesis 1-11 in that way at all.  I believe there is a “third way,” which I summarize in Part 2 of this series.  In essence, a proper reading of Genesis 1-11 requires proper identification of the genre of literature, and this is done by literary comparison with other examples of ancient Near Eastern literature.  One the genre has been established, we must learn to read it from that perspective and respect that perspective.

That being said, I believe there is a case for viewing Adam and Eve as “archetypal,” but I certainly don’t view them as allegorical or metaphorical.

As for why Jesus, Luke, Paul, et al. used Adam in the way that they did, I would refer you to Part 3 of this series, which is forthcoming.  I would certainly welcome these very same questions in the comments section of that particular blog post.

Do I believe that so-called “Darwinists” (by which I assume you mean modern evolutionary biologists) could be wrong after all?  No, not unless God has intentionally deceived us by making our genetic history, which is embedded in our DNA, appear to have been the result of thousands of millennia of mutation and selection.  (Much the same argument can be made for whether the visible evidence of supernovas more than 10,000 light years away is a deception and that those particular phenomena never actually occured.)

I would encourage you to read Part 2 of this series and pick up a book or two from Professor John Walton so that you can better understand my position.  You need not be convinced of Walton’s conclusions (which are decidedly not new), but at least you might gain an appreciation for the particular hermeneutic I use to read Genesis 1.


Leigh Copeland - #74384

November 13th 2012

“No, not unless God has intentionally deceived us”  One of the common arguments for a literal reading of Genesis account is that God would not intentionally decieve us: “Why would God let all those generations of simple, non-scientific reader be deceived into thinking that the world is 6000 years old?”
How effective and appropriate should it be to highlite this similarity of concern in conversations with YEC’s?  “I agree that God has not deceived us, and I affirm and encourage you in your defense of God’s honor against that charge.  But can you see that I am motivated by the same concern?  Neither one of us wants to call God a liar, and when I read God’s book of natural revelation He clearly is telling us about the age of the universe and the unity of life.” 
Do you like that approach?  Would it have been useful in your journey?

 


Mike Beidler - #74414

November 14th 2012

Leigh,

To answer your first question, I don’t believe it’s deception when we accomodate truths to a person or people who are not yet cognitively ready for the “real answer.”  The principle of accommodation is even used in the precious act of the Logos’ incarnation.  That’s how I view Genesis 1.  The truth of Who created and why He created is couched in terms that actually meant something to the ancient Hebrews.  Who knows?  Millennia from now, Christians will see our present Big Bang theory, string theory, relativity, etc., as God’s accommodations to us in the 21st century.

As for your second question, I think you’ve got something there.  It really is about finding that common ground and building upon that foundation.  I’d say that some of the TE/EC individuals in whom I confided my struggles were instrumental because they took this approach.


jude - #74383

November 13th 2012

Jeff, you string together several assertions here without duly supporting your argument.  I’ll address your point that evolutionary theory “requires” that Adam and Even be composite figures.  While some believers who hold the theistic evolution viewpoint may think this way, it is certainly not required in order to accept biological evolution.  Certainly the NT makes reference to Adam being an individual, and we can understand that Adam was simply the first hominid that was placed by God in the garden of Eden, the first into whom God breathed a soul.  They were truly the first to bear the Imago Dei, the image of God.  Not the physical form, but God’s nature.  Adam and Eve were the first humans to enjoy a special relationship with their Creator.  There may have been tens of thousands of humans living at the time, none of which enjoyed this special disposition.  God chose Adam and Eve.  And yet, likely that very day, they sinned and forever distanced themselves from God.  Yes, this is descriptive of the plight of each and every one of us, so you can also see it as an allegory.  But that doesn’t mean it didn’t really happen!

And so, God’s creation had become corrupt.  And by creation, I mean ‘ktisis’ in the sense that it is used in Mark 16:15, Colossians 1:23, and 2 Corinthians 5:17.  Creation, here, refers to mankind!  Not to the entire universe, not animals, rocks and trees.  It would be wise to understand Romans 8:20 in this way as well.  Too many “creation science” proponents have hijacked Romans 8:20 to push their young, decaying universe doctrine (a doctrine which, by the way, paves the way to gnosticism).  Did the entire universe, or even the Earth, become corrupt due to Adam’s sin?  No.  Mankind became corrupt.  Now, God had a plan for the redemption of His creation.  By the acceptance of the sin payment through the person of Jesus, each and every one of us has the opportunity to enjoy the same communion with God that Adam did.


2cortenfour - #74416

November 14th 2012

Jude,
“There may have been tens of thousands of humans living at the time, none of which enjoyed this special disposition.  God chose Adam and Eve…..”
But those other creatures weren’t really humans, right? To be consistent with Scripture, you still have to come up with Adam and Eve as the first humans somehow. Only human beings bear the image of God, as you pointed out. So, at some point in evolutionary history, two non-human creatures mated, giving birth to the mutated Adam, the first man. And then God created Eve from Adam….? No, wait! Two OTHER non-human creatures mated and gave birth to the mutated-first-woman Eve. Then God miraculously transferred her also to the Garden, where there was no Curse, no suffering, until they both sinned and got kicked back out into the real world where I guess they might have had a chance to reunite with their non-human creature parents, who would one day become Cain and Abel’s non-human creature-grandparents…and

I give up


Roger A. Sawtelle - #74358

November 13th 2012

Mike,

I agree that your answer to Eddie is very good.  It shows that you have given much thought to the problem both scientifically and theologically.

I suggest that you might explore the concept of ecological natural selection as a scientific alternative to random Darwinian natural selection (which has not been scientifically verified.)   This provides an exciting connection between theology, evolution, and ecology, that we need in the aftermath of Sandy, Katrina, etc.

Thank you for pointing out that that the New Testament passages on the Creation hold much insight not found in Genesis.  

 


Mike Beidler - #74369

November 13th 2012

Roger,

Greatly appreciate your compliments!

Are there any particular works along the lines of “ecological natural selection” that you could recommend?  I must say that I’m unfamiliar with the concept.  Is it a true alternative to natural selection (the “random” characterization of which I believe to be severely misunderstood and misused), or is it a concept that works “in concert with” natural selection, genetic drift, etc.?

Also, great observation that the NT passages on Creation “hold much insight not found in Genesis.”  This is all too true, as there is considerable debate as to whether Genesis 1 actually teaches creation ex nihilo.  For me, it doesn’t matter, as the NT “settles the debate” so to speak.


bren - #74361

November 13th 2012

Hi Mike,

I appreciate both the clarity of your opinions and the restricted agnosticism (using the secondary meaning obviously!) of you response above (74346).  As you said, some of these issues are not likely to ever be resolved within science and I suspect they are probably best addressed as philosophical frameworks.  The dance between necessity and chance has been ongoing since Darwin (and arguably a lot earlier), and like any good dance, scientific opinion seems to keep swinging between the two without ever settling on a balanced opinion of which of the two has more say in the outcome of the evolutionary story.

I think Conway Morris is a good antidote to the strong emphasis on chance in some of the views of Gould, but at the end of the day, both of these elements are critical to the outcome, and it should maybe not be said that God’s will is done only through the front loaded necessities and constraints of the process as opposed to also being done through the creative exploration of design-space that occurs in the chance part of the equation.  Best to keep the options open when the facts aren’t in and to address the range of theological considerations that are sensitive to such issues.

I suspect that the unbalanced emphasis on randomness (that most interpret as being more favorable to atheism) was more of a fad than anything else and that the evolutionary outcomes are strongly constrained in ways that we are only beginning to understand as we start to approach the subject in terms of complexity theory and self-organization.  Certainly the results of George McGhee or Conway Morris give strong empirical grounds to suspect that there is strong canalization in evolutionary history towards convergent outcomes (not quite on par with Teilard’s view, but certainly pointing in a similar direction), but who knows where such studies will take us in the long run (does this mean that front-loading is the best view?).

That said, thanks for the series and I hope it turns a few heads!


Mike Beidler - #74372

November 13th 2012

Bren,

I think you’re dead-on right:  Some of these issues aren’t truly scientific, but rather philosophical in nature.

Thanks for your other comments on Conway Morris, Gould, and Teilard.  I’m certainly keeping my options open on these topics, and I suspect I’ll keep a loose grip on them the rest of my days. 

Great points, too, on how little we understand about complexity and self-organization; nevertheless, we are adding to the body of knowledge regarding these theories every day.  It’s an exciting time!


bren - #74438

November 15th 2012

Hi Mike, had some trouble clicking the reply links for a while!  Thanks for taking the time to respond to everyone’s questions, although I’m pretty sure that’s likely to get unmanagable after a bit!  I agree, given the pace of scientific advance and the surprises it tends to hold, a loose grip is probably the only grip available, especially when the questions have such an added philosophical dimension.  I don’t think we like leaving questions open as human beings, but it’s worth it; it allows us to see how some of the “new” sciences are filling in some of the gaps in our understanding and giving us a new perspective on the works of God.  If there is one major lesson I get from the history of science, it’s that even some of our most settled answers can hold big surprises when we scratch the surface, and this often can infuse theology with new life blood.  Exciting time indeed!


Ronnie - #74366

November 13th 2012

Cmdr. Beidler:

I’m curious. You did not mention what prompted you to question young-earth creationism. If your library was full of pro YEC literature and you were intimately familiar with all the arguments against theistic evolution, what specifically turned you around? What is it about the evolutionary worldview that convinced you that it is compatible with the creation account in Genesis? and what was it about the YEC position that made you reject it?

I am somewhat skeptical about articles such as yours that proclaim an abandonment of a YEC position in favor of theistic evolution (or evolutionary creation). The reasons given, if any, are vague or general in context, (i.e. “the evidence is overwhelming”) and usually state that it is a difficult process, or ‘turbulent’ to use your description, followed by a sense of relief and a strengthing of faith. In the comment section you are pressed to explain the evolutionary process now, yet your answer is you are struggling with it.

The creation account in Genesis is simple and straightforward, written in a historical and matter-of-fact manner. Biblical creation, or young-earth creationism gives God all the glory for creating the entire universe, and all life including human beings. He could have created all this in an instant, yet in His wisdom He took six days and rested one as a guide for us to follow, which we do to this day. To take away some of Gods creative ability by requiring some sort of evolution, is to rob Him of His glory, and give a “process” some credit when that process has yet to be observed to create anything.

Hebrews 11:3 supports the creation account and rejects evolution: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” Faith is what pleases God.

I pray that you would return to your former long-held YEC position, not only is it consistent with scripture, but it gives the glory to whom it belongs.


Mike Beidler - #74374

November 13th 2012

Ronnie,

Given the space limitations here at BioLogos and the theme of my series, I haven’t gone into great deal as to what prompted me to question young-earth creationism (YEC).  I have, however, gone into considerable detail at my blog (accessible via the link in the “about the author” section).  My blog is still undergoing redesign, but my posts throughout 2007-2008 should give you some insight into my journey.  Perhaps you won’t find me so “vague” or “general in context” in that forum as I am here.  Again, this particular series wasn’t intended to answer the questions which you are asking, but assumes the reader is already struggling with reconciling the scientific facts with a seemingly contradictory reading of Scripture.  The series wasn’t meant to convince you, although I do provide scholarly resources from both secular and evangelical authors in the footnotes for those who are seeking to make sense of what we observe in the world.

To make a long story short, I was challenged at a scientific level by old-earth creationist arguments presented by the likes of Hugh Ross, David Snoke, and Tim Martin & Jeff Vaughn.  In fact, things came to a head when I was editing the latter’s Beyond Creation Science.  When I compared and contrasted the scientific methodologies, examined the data and conclusions, I found YEC arguments to be “a mile wide and an inch deep” (i.e., superficial) and driven by a particular hermeneutic that I believed failed to respect certain ancient literary genres.

As for evolution’s compatibility or incompatibility with Genesis 1, I would refer you to Part 2 of this series. You will also find in that installment why I don’t believe the Genesis creation account to be “simple and straightforward, written in a historical and matter-of-fact manner.”  After reading that particular installment, perhaps you could pick up the works of John Walton, Gordon Wenham, or Gordon Glover.  Would love to hear your reaction to their approach(es) to the Genesis creation account.  Just be sure to move the conversation over to that particular post.

YOU: In the comment section you are pressed to explain the evolutionary process now, yet your answer is you are struggling with it.

I think you’ve misunderstood what I’ve written.  Bren (comment #74361) was quite right that my struggles are not with the scientific evidence for evolution or the material mechanisms by which evolution works.  My struggles are philosophical in nature and deal more with the divine framework in which evolutionary processes take place and how they fit into God’s grand plan for the cosmos.  They fall into the same category as attempting to understand the tensions between God’s will and man’s will.

YOU: To take away some of Gods creative ability by requiring some sort of evolution, is to rob Him of His glory, and give a “process” some credit when that process has yet to be observed to create anything.

I happen to have a different opinion on this.  Does your very existence rob God of His glory?  You weren’t created ex nihilo 10,000 years ago.  You were conceived and born in the 20th century by means of natural processes and, likely, as a result of your parents’ intentional actions (cf. John 1:12-13).  By your logic, your parents have robbed God of His glory.  By my logic, all that has existed is the result of God’s continued sustainance of an orderly cosmos by the word of His power, manifested in natural laws that are observable, repeatable, and able to be comprehended to greater and greater degrees with continued study.  In my eyes, a God who can create such a wonderful cosmos, full of beauty and variety, through natural laws that He instituted at the beginning of time ... I find that God so much more powerful and awesome.

But here’s the kicker, Ronnie:  Your claim that I rob God of His glory is simply that: a scientifically and theologically unsupportable claim.  My claim that God-ordained evolutionary processes give glory to God is simply that: a scientifically and theologically unsupportable claim.  Such philsophical conclusions are in the eye of the beholder.

And Hebrews 11:3 neither supports YEC, OEC, or TE.  God’s command can certainly go beyond the mere word and extend into His loving sustainance of the cosmos through the eons of time.

In closing, I am grateful for your prayers and that you consider me worthy of your attention.  I, too, will pray for you. 


Ronnie - #74402

November 14th 2012

Cmdr. Beidler:

Thank you for your response. I wish I had more time to reply but I will mention one sentence I find curious:

“In my eyes, a God who can create such a wonderful cosmos, full of beauty and variety, through natural laws that He instituted at the beginning of time ... I find that God so much more powerful and awesome.” (my emphasis)

You are stating here that God created through natural laws, which would be impossible given the 6 day time frame of creation. He created all things supernaturally, by His powerful Word, and natural laws were instituted to sustain creation.

Regretfully, time doesn’t permit a more detailed response right now. I will certainly read your next article, which I think is already posted.

 


Mike Beidler - #74403

November 14th 2012

Ronnie,

You misunderstand what I’ve written.  The way I see it, God supernaturally initiated the cosmos via what is commonly called the Big Bang and gave the cosmos natural laws by which it was to operate and self-organize.  His creative acts continue to this day by means of natural laws that He conceived, ordained, instituted, and sustains.


Laurie Ann - #74377

November 13th 2012

I disagree.  I know for myself, I experienced more of a sense of awe and wonder and deep gratitude when I realized how God created (the Big Bang and evolution).  It doesn’t rob God of any glory.  It’s so much more creative and brilliant to think that God rolled out the universe with the big bang and created the diversity of life we see today using the process of evolution rather than simply having animals popping out of the dirt fully formed.

Many, if not most, Old Testament scholars such as Dr Richard Hess and Dr Gordan Wenham will agree that Genesis 1-11 is not meant to be read in a literal manner and even St Augustine warned us against reading the creation account in a purely literal way but to wait to see what would be discovered so that we would not bring embarrassment to our faith.  And that was hundreds of years before Darwin.


Laurie Ann - #74381

November 13th 2012

I should have clarified—my comment above was addressed to Ronnie. 

I appreciate having these discussions because I think they’re crucial.  We need to work through scripture together and ask the hard questions of each other.  So thank you, Ronnie for expressing your concern.

Personally, I’m grateful for stories such as Mike’s.  I came to the place I could no longer believe that there was a tree that was able to grant immortality by the eating of its fruit or a tree that had knowledge of good and evil in its fruit.  It was so helpful to me to see there are people who have been able to reconcile current scientific theories with a faith in God that is vibrant and rich.


Ronnie - #74401

November 14th 2012

Laurie Ann:

Thank you for your comments, I too think these discussions are important. Please allow me to reply to you.

I wish you could see what you have written. By saying God created using the big bang and evolution you are putting the ideas and thoughts of man over the clear words of God. If the origin of the universe and life as we know it really took billions of years, wouldn’t God be able to simply state this in His word? or at least He could have left out the 6 day part so the concept of long ages might be plausible? But He didn’t, and for very good reason. He gives us a clear choice: believe Him and His Word (6 day recent creation) or believe the musings of man (big bang and evolution).

I will also disagree with you about a literal reading of Genesis being an embarrassment to our faith. What a terrible way to read scripture, thinking that mankind may someday prove Gods Word to be wrong and cause an embarrassment?? Old Testament scholars or anyone who thinks this way should give serious consideration to their treatment of Gods Word.

In your last paragraph, you mentioned the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil as though the trees had these powers in their fruit. It wasn’t the fruit of the trees that gave life or knowledge of good and evil, it was the command of God, and the obedience that He wanted from Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were created immortal, having lost their immortality by their disobedience of a simple command of God. Why did they disobey? When the serpent told Eve that God didn’t really mean what He said concerning the fruit of the tree.

Laurie, I hope this explains, in a small way, the difficulty I have with the attempt to integrate evolution with the Christian faith and the Genesis account of creation and why I feel a literal Genesis is so important. Thanks for reading.


Matthew Raymer - #74385

November 13th 2012

Mike,

Let me add that it was YOU and your blog that eventually led me to dimissing my long-held YEC beliefs.

I appreciate the articles and wish you the best in addressing this topic.

 


Mike Beidler - #74415

November 14th 2012

Glad to have you aboard, Matthew!  Now it’s your turn to blow the whistle and collect tickets to ride the TE train ... 


kels - #74420

November 15th 2012

Hi, Mike,

What a great post and very encouraging. I stepped away from my young earth stand last year. It’s a very lonely journey with very little fellowship to be had. However, it is very encouraging to come across people who hold my view! Looking Forward to the rest of your serious. Somehow this journey does not feel as lonely when reading blogs like this.


Mike Beidler - #74422

November 15th 2012

Kels,

I’m very happy to hear that you made that step!  When you get to the final installment (Part 5), remember that the very last line is directed to you and others like you. 


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