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