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Why Must the Church Come to Accept Evolution?: An Update

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April 2, 2010 Tags: Christian Unity
Why Must the Church Come to Accept Evolution?: An Update

Today's entry was written by the BioLogos Editorial Team. You can read more about what we believe here.

As many of our readers know, the videos in our Conversations collection were filmed during the 2009 Theology of Celebration workshop in New York City. A primary goal of the Conversations project has been to provide an accessible platform from which leading scholars can explain their views on current topics in the science-and-faith dialogue. One or more Conversations entries have appeared on Science and the Sacred each week since the first release of the collection in January 2010.

Dr. Bruce Waltke, professor emeritus of Old Testament Studies at Regent College, and Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS), attended the Theology of Celebration conference and presented a white paper, entitled Barriers to Accepting the Possibility of Creation by Means of an Evolutionary Process: I. Concerns of the Typical Evangelical Theologian. He was an active participant in the discussion periods, was deeply respected for his insights, and was highly loved for his spirit. Those of us who had not met him before were not surprised to see how he had come to gain so much respect in the evangelical community.

On Wednesday, March 24, Science and the Sacred featured the first of several video interviews with Dr. Waltke. In this video, Waltke discusses the danger that the Church will face if it does not engage with the world around it, in particular by acknowledging the overwhelming amount of data in support of biological evolution, which many evangelicals still reject. The original commentary for the video can be found here.

The video blog quickly became one of our most popular entries, and at the time of posting this update, it had received over 2,000 views and well over one hundred comments. On our YouTube channel, the video has been viewed an additional 2,900 times.

On Monday, March 29, Dr. Waltke informed us that the administration of RTS had asked him to request that the video be taken down. Dr. Waltke himself indicated that he still agreed with the content of the video. Indeed, Dr. Waltke has written previously on his support for theistic evolution (discussed here). However, given the brevity of the video, Dr. Waltke is concerned that his views might not be correctly understood.

For example, Dr. Waltke believes in a historical Adam and Eve, and was concerned that some might construe his appearance on our site as his own tacit approval for their non-historicity. In actuality, BioLogos does not take an official position on the historicity of Adam and Eve.

Dr. Waltke was also concerned that some might construe that he is not sufficiently supportive of those who think differently than he does on issues such as the age of the earth and evolution. He wanted to make it clear that this is not the case. As many of our readers know, we at BioLogos attest that the Young Earth position is not scientifically or theologically credible, and that the Intelligent Design movement has a reached a dead end. Nonetheless, we respect Dr. Waltke’s desire to make it clear that he thinks these views may be credible.

We had hoped that Dr. Waltke would support our proposal to keep the video posted, as long as a clear elaboration of his concerns was provided alongside it. After all, those who have seen the video will note that he is very articulate in presenting his thoughts, and he maintains that he still agrees with all that he said. But despite repeated attempts to find an alternative solution, it has become clear that Dr. Waltke feels that the only remedy to his predicament is to remove the video.

The BioLogos Foundation is aware of the inconvenience that this will cause for many viewers, especially at the peak of the video’s popularity. We are also aware that to make such a change is highly unusual by journalistic standards. Still, out of respect for Dr. Waltke, we are honoring his request to remove the video on at least a temporary basis.

The fact that Dr. Waltke felt he was unable to leave the video in place, despite the fact that he still agrees with its contents, is an extremely important statement about the culture of fear within evangelicalism in today’s world. Leading evangelicals who support evolution are rightly fearful of personal attacks on the integrity of their faith and character. Even when they believe that scientific data must be taken seriously, and that science has revealed the ways in which God created the world, they are more willing to be associated with those who are clearly wrong about God’s truth as revealed within His World, and who are thereby also wrong about how they understand His Word. How will the Church ever come to discern truth and falsehood if academic discourse is neutered for fears of public perception? This situation, before us, more than any that we are familiar with in the one year history of biologos.org, poignantly demonstrates the importance of the task we all have.

There are countless people, especially young people, who are discovering that the world of science is not out of touch with reality. Data emerge every day that make this even more clear. As Dr. Waltke himself says in the video, we cannot allow Christianity to become a cult––but this is what will happen if the Church continues to turn its head. When young people discover that neither the science they’ve been taught in their churches nor the theology that undergirds it are credible, many will feel they have to throw out their faith. For the sake of those countless young people, and for the sake of intellectual integrity, courage of conviction is required.

We Christians focus sometimes solely on protecting the past. We must also protect the future and prepare for it. We need to stand up to the forces that will harm our young people, even when others call on us to retreat. Dr. Waltke retains our respect in so many ways and we thank him for stating so clearly on his video what he believed then and still believes now.

We have now taken his excellent video down. Instead, we post here his statement of clarification, as delivered in email correspondence between the BioLogos Foundation and Dr. Waltke on Wednesday, March 31st. We understand that other versions of this list have already been circulated across the Internet. We also understand that RTS chose to distribute this list before an agreement had been reached with the BioLogos Foundation. We regret the confusion this action may have caused for our readers.

Dr. Bruce Waltke’s Statement of Clarification:

“I had not seen the video before it was distributed. Having seen it, I realize its deficiency and wish to put my comments in a fuller theological context:

  1. Adam and Eve are historical figures from whom all humans are descended; they are uniquely created in the image of God and as such are not in continuum with animals.

  2. Adam is the federal and historical head of the fallen human race just as Jesus Christ is the federal and historical head of the Church.

  3. I am not a scientist, but I have familiarized myself with attempts to harmonize Genesis 1-3 with science, and I believe that creation by the process of evolution is a tenable Biblical position, and, as represented by BioLogos, the best Christian apologetic to defend Genesis 1-3 against its critics.

  4. I apologize for giving the impression that others who seek to harmonize the two differently are not credible. I honor all who contend for the Christian faith.

  5. Evolution as a process must be clearly distinguished from evolutionism as a philosophy. The latter is incompatible with orthodox Christian theology.

  6. Science is fallible and subject to revision. As a human and social enterprise, science will always be in flux. My first commitment is to the infallibility (as to its authority) and inerrancy (as to its Source) of Scripture.

  7. God could have created the Garden of Eden with apparent age or miraculously, even as Christ instantly turned water into wine, but the statement that God “caused the trees to grow” argues against these notions.

  8. I believe that the Triune God is Maker and Sustainer of heaven and earth and that biblical Adam is the historical head of the human race.

  9. Theological comments made here are mostly a digest of my chapters on Genesis 1-3 in An Old Testament Theology (Zondervan, 2007).”

We sincerely hope these points of clarification will remove any confusion about Dr. Waltke’s position on biological evolution. We apologize to our readers for the inconvenience of removing this video.

As part of our email correspondence with Dr. Waltke and the administration of RTS, we have extended an invitation to engage in a dialogue with RTS regarding their concerns about the substance of this video, and any ways the video implies that Dr. Waltke’s beliefs differ from those of RTS. This page will be updated with further information as it becomes available.

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Trevor K. - #10276

April 19th 2010

Refer: Rich - #10268
Jesus was also the one who said to the pharisees: “You have a fine traditon of putting aside the word of God….” Jesus was radical in applying the spirit of the law - to the extreme - to wit - his comments about adultery. And please note where He got the quote from : The ten commandments! Whatever Jesus said was fully written in the Law of Moses, or Torah if you prefer. Literally. I stand by my assertion: Jesus also said: If they will not listen to MOSES and the prophets,.....they will not believe.
Here’s a thought - how to define a theist evolutionist:
    “Those who firmly believe in the Age of Rocks instead of in the Rock of Ages.”
Why? You don’t believe Him when he said: “.. created in SIX days..”
Brutal? Harse? Unfortunately so, because people’s eternal lives are at stake here. There is no place for pussy-footing around.

Rich - #10280

April 19th 2010


I’ll let you have the last word.  Too bad you wasted it on cliches.

Ken - #10283

April 19th 2010

Trevor K,

You can rant on, question our theology, and even impugn our credibility till you are blue in the face, but it doesn’t actually make the data disappear.

PRIMATE ANCESTORS: EVIDENCE FROM DNA COMPARISON: http://www.fileden.com/files/2009/4/9/2397423/van der Meer 2009 Primate Ancestors Evidence From DNA Comparison v3.pdf

Roger D. McKinney - #10294

April 19th 2010

Rich: “(1) There is no universally accepted set of hermeneutical principles in academic Biblical studies (or academic literary studies of any kind);

You seem to be hung up on “unversally accepted.” Why is that a criteria for anything? The majority has almost always opposed the important truths. Jesus said that the way is narrow and few people find it.

(2)  Even if there were a universally accepted principle that the meaning of a text is found in the author’s intended meaning, not all scholars agree on how to determine the author’s intended meaning;

Again, I couldn’t care less what the majority thinks. I care about what is true. Hermeneutics is nothing more or less than the principles of logic applied to textual interpretation. If the principles of logic are wrong, then we have no way of determining the truth about anything. Original intent is crucial to the meaning and interpretation of the text because it agrees with the principles of logic and honesty. To make an author say something he never intended to say is dishonest and “bearing false witness.”

Roger D. McKinney - #10295

April 19th 2010

(3) Not all scholars agree that the author of Genesis 1-11 intended the stories contained therein to be read as historical chronicles.”

So?! By including the geneologies, dates, numbers, events in chronological order, etc., the author of Genesis made it clear that he intended it to be history. You can argue that he was wrong, but not with his intent.

Roger D. McKinney - #10297

April 19th 2010

Truth does not consist in consensus. The fact that most people think is does shows how much progress post-modern philosophy has made into Christian thinking. Post-modernism says there is no such thing as truth, so all we can do is discuss things and hope to come to a consensus. I realize I’m a dinosaur in danger of extinction, but I still believe in objective truth discernable by logic and evidence.

But if you’re going to go all post-modernist on the Bible, then I suggest that you be consistent and do the same thing with science and admit there is not truth just consensus. But keep in mind Pauls’ warning that men suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

Rich - #10308

April 19th 2010


I did not say that you should care what the majority think.  But you should care what the educated think.  Evidently you do not, because your comments on how to read the Bible indicate a lack of familiarity with what the educated have written. 

Don’t impute positions to strangers.  I do not endorse post-modernism.  And you shouldn’t be throwing around academic jargon like “post-modernism” and “hermeneutics” until you have a better understanding of what they mean.

I have no problem with people of simple faith.  My problem is with people who pretend to scholarly knowledge that they don’t have.  You’re making statements in my professional field that I know to be either bluffs, errors, or undergraduate misunderstandings.  There is no virtue in a defense of Christian faith based on fake scholarship.  Leave the teaching role to those trained to fulfill it.  When you make bad arguments to try to save Christianity, you actually embarrass Christianity, and that’s not what you want to do.  I’ll sign off here.

Roger D. McKinney - #10323

April 19th 2010

Rich: “Evidently you do not, because your comments on how to read the Bible indicate a lack of familiarity with what the educated have written.”

I imagine I could name a few writers that you haven’t read, too. I do care what educated people have written and have read a lot, but few people say anything new. And It doesn’t matter how educated people are; they can still be wrong. Education does not instill wisdom.

Rich: ” do not endorse post-modernism.”

You clearly do, but won’t admit it. I hear the same thing from socialists all the time. “I’m not a socialist” they scream. But when I aske them which points of socialism they disagree with, they can’t. You’re attitude toward the concept of objective truth shows that you are very post-modern in thinking.

Roger D. McKinney - #10324

April 19th 2010

Rich: “My problem is with people who pretend to scholarly knowledge that they don’t have. “

Oh, so now you’re going to pull rank on me. Appeal to authority is the refuge of everyone who has lost an argument on evidence and logic.

If you have logical arguments or evidence to present, then do so. But don’t hide behind the appeal to authority fallacy.

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) - #10344

April 19th 2010

The Church does not have to “accept Evolution”.  All we can say is “Evolution is compatible with Faith & the Teachings of holy Scripture”.    That’s it!

Trevor K. - #10399

April 20th 2010

Refer:  Ken - #10283
You are quite right, Ken. All my bluster won’t change the data. There’s no problem with the data. The problem lies with the interpretation of the data. You have to make assumptions to interpret anything that deals with the past simply because you were not there. In fact no one human being was there. Your and every other evolutionist’s interpretation is, well, open to interpretation!
Take the case of the 18 million year old Salamander here: http://www.physorg.com/news176660912.html  Soft. tissue/blood cells etc. have been shown to deterioate even under the best lab conditions and last at most 100k years, max. So the logical conclusion would be that the fossil is at most 100k years old. But no, that cannot be since we MUST have it at 18Ma. So, the resolution is: fantastical preservation, as yet unknown to man to d ate. So off we go, looking at all previous fossils for soft tissue and investigate preservation methods.

Trevor K. - #10403

April 20th 2010

Refer:  BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) - #10344
Mmmmhhhh, very interesting statement you’re making here.

I can of course interpret it as follows:
“Evolution is compatible with Faith [in The Age of Rocks] and the teachings of holy scripture [ according to fathers Darwin and Lyle]”

Just a thought!

Rich - #10431

April 20th 2010

Roger (10324):

Lost what argument?  I never made any argument.  I never said how Genesis should be interpreted.  You were the one who claimed certainty about that.  The only “argument” I made was that it is unwise to be too certain about one’s Biblical interpretation, given that the most competent Biblical scholars in the world so frequently disagree with each other.

I told you I didn’t endorse post-modernism, and you said I did but wouldn’t admit it.  It’s generally considered bad manners, when someone tells you what he believes, to say or imply that he’s lying.  Also, you uttered some nonsense about my not believing in “objective truth”.  I neither said nor implied any such thing.  You perhaps mean that I don’t agree with your Genesis interpretation, which in your own mind is “objective truth”.  I would prefer to say that whatever Genesis teaches is indeed true, but that it’s far from clear that you know what Genesis teaches.

And by the way (your 10003), I’m not a TE.  Stop imputing views to people you don’t know.

nathan - #11864

April 30th 2010

Jerry - #8281:
Waltke is not a theistic evolutionist.  Read his statement.  Theistic evolutionists don
t believe in Adam & Eve.

Nicholas Christie-Blick - #14774

May 24th 2010

A second difficulty is that fossil and genetic data demonstrate a clear continuum between humans and animals. So the fudge in which humans are supposed to have been created after the Universe was permitted to set the stage through protracted natural development won’t fly. The simplest interpretation of available facts is that our existence as individuals and as a species is the result of a huge array of contingent events over billions of years. Were any detail to have been different, we wouldn’t be here. Biblical creation made sense when the Earth was the center of the Universe, when the timescale of ‘creation’ was short, and when it could be claimed that Man was unique. None of those propositions has survived scientific scrutiny. We must contemplate an alternative: There is no god, at least no entity remotely consistent with the god of contemporary religions. God was created in our likeness, by us, and not the other way around – a cultural holdover that while worthy of scholarship in a historical context has outlived its usefulness as an explanation for our place in nature or as a basis for the organization of society.

Nicholas Christie-Blick
Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Nicholas Christie-Blick - #14776

May 24th 2010

“I would have clarified in writing that by evolution I mean theistic evolution, not naturalistic evolution.” - Bruce Waltke, RTS-Orlando letter of resignation.

“Adam and Eve are historical figures from whom all humans are descended; they are uniquely created in the image of God and as such are not in continuum with animals.” - point one in the statement above.

The difficulty for Dr Waltke is two-fold. First, while it may be claimed that every physical, chemical and biological interaction at all timescales over the Universe’s 13.7 billion year history since the Big Bang was determined in advance by god, so as to arrive at the present, there is no basis for such a view other than to preserve the concept of god at all costs. Indeed, the essence of both genetic drift and Darwin’s concept of natural selection – the primary mechanisms by which evolution is thought to take place – not to mention the environmental context of evolution, is random change, not directed change. While superficially attractive, the concept of ‘theistic evolution’ therefore is fundamentally at odds with our understanding of natural phenomena. (continued)

Michelle M. - #15832

June 1st 2010

A fundamental truth of Christianity is not being addressed.  If man is evolved from apes, at what point, then, did our souls enter our bodies?  Did our souls just evolve?  Do apes have souls?  Are some apes still in the process of developing souls - or did the evolution process just cease at some point?

The theory of the evolution of man negates the concept that man was created with a soul and a conscience.  It negates Gods ultimate plan and man’s reliance and need for God.
1 Corinthians 1:20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (NASB ©1995)

Truth is truth.  It does not need to be edited to gain converts.

Nicholas Christie-Blick - #16512

June 5th 2010

Dear Michelle M.:

Humans did not ‘evolve from apes’ and it has not been asserted that we did. We share a common ancestor (an earlier species).

The soul is a human invention. There is no basis for it. Evolution has not ceased. It can be observed in action today.

The concept of evolution has survived more than 150 years of testing - a term that refers to a procedure or activity in science in which an idea might in fact have failed. The most compelling of these tests is the consistency between anatomical arguments and those based upon molecular biology, a field that emerged nearly a century after publication of Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’ and the one in which Francis Collins has expertise.

Explanations of our origin involving a god or gods are simply no longer needed. Nothing in what we now understand of the Universe and its history is consistent with planning. God was created in the likeness of Man, by us, and not the other way around.

The fact that people across cultures appear to need some version of god is a fascinating observation worthy of study, but it has no bearing on whether such an entity exists.

Nicholas Christie-Blick

Mike K. - #42004

November 29th 2010

cognitive dissonance hurts. The biggest irony for me in this debate has always been what I believe to be the main problem for theists when faced with science: Pride and vanity. It is pride that prevents a person who has always believed X, from accepting reasonable, humble, simple refutations of X; and it is vanity that makes a person refuse to accept they don’t know something. 

I’m not familiar with any stated opinion on pride and vanity in the Atheist/Agnostic world, but I know they’re cardinal sin for Christians.

What I would HUMBLY recommend to theists, is to examine some key underpinnings:
1. Were you raised in a theistic house? Why would your god have other children be raised in theistic households of a different faith than yours? Isn’t that preposterously unfair, considering how strong your faith is AS A RESULT OF YOUR UPBRINGING?

Mike K. - #42005

November 29th 2010

2. Are you able to see how arrogant it is to think that humanity is the be-all and end-all of creation?
ALL religions bear the trademarks of human creative, intellectual, and sexual poverty: heaven in the clouds, gods who look like us, round numbers of rulesets, whole creation myths robbed verbatim from OTHER faiths; gods with temperaments and value sets coincidentally IDENTICAL to the epochs they were thought up during; the bald-faced political degradation of women, womens sexuality, ANY sexual deviancy. It is SUCH a coincidence that your gods have the SAME hangups about sex as the most fundamental of your believers - not the fallen among you, but the fundies.

3. Are you able to see how the theistic idea of “soul” has allowed humans to treat all other life forms with unbelievable levels of disrespect as a result?

Seriously. Humility isn’t the secret pleasure of believing you won’t die (heaven). Try true humility on for size: you are nothing, and you will be nothing again. spend the time you have wisely - it’s an amazing universe we’re part of, and its just too bad we won’t live to fully understand it.

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