Why Must the Church Come to Accept Evolution?

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March 24, 2010 Tags: Christian Unity

Today's video features Bruce Waltke. 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.

Update on April 2, 2010: This video has been removed from our site on at least a temporary basis. For a full explanation, click here.

In this video conversation Bruce Waltke discusses the danger the Church will face if it does not engage with the world around it, in particular with the issue of evolution, which many evangelicals still reject.

Waltke cautions, “if the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult…some odd group that is not really interacting with the world. And rightly so, because we are not using our gifts and trusting God’s Providence that brought us to this point of our awareness.”

We are at a unique moment in history where “everything is coming together,” says Waltke, and conversations—like those initiated by BioLogos—are positive developments. “I see this as part of the growth of the church,” he says. “We are much more mature by this dialogue that we are having. This is how we come to the unity of the faith—by wrestling with these issues.”

Waltke points out that to deny scientific reality would be to deny the truth of God in the world. For us as Christians, this would serve as our spiritual death because we would not be loving God with all of our minds. It would also be our spiritual death in witness to the world because we would not be seen as credible.

While Christians may still disagree with one another on some issues, Waltke emphasizes that it is important that we are really interacting in a serious way—and trusting God as truth. Testing these things but holding fast to that which is good will bring greater understanding and unity among Christians.

If we don’t do that, Waltke cautions, we are going to die. If we refuse to engage with the greater cultural/scientific dialogue, we may end up marginalized and that would be a great tragedy for the Church.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

Bruce Waltke is a world-renowned Old Testament scholar, Biblical translator and expositor. He served on the translation committee of both the New American Standard Bible and New International Version -- two of the most popular modern translations of the Bible produced in the twentieth century. Waltke is a professor emeritus of Old Testament studies at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia and a former president of the Evangelical Theological Society.

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Rich - #8093

March 30th 2010

Dick Fischer:

Re your comment #8078, you are just putting off the problem.  According to the astrophysics that you accept, the universe is finite in time.  No matter how many times you use the “seeded by earlier life” explanation, eventually you are forced to explain the first life, which cannot be earlier than the Big Bang.  Do you think the first life could have arisen without either intelligent planning or intelligent guidance?  If so, what is your evidence?  (And don’t answer that until you have read *Signature in the Cell*, because most of your arguments are likely crushed there.)  And if not, what is your gripe against intelligent design?  Especially if it is formulated not as a “proof”, but as an “inference to the best explanation”?  Based on our best current information, design is a better explanation than chance for the complex order of the cell.  A rational person will therefore accept a role for design in the cell’s origin.  And scientists are supposed to be rational people.  They should therefore tentatively endorse design until they can show that chance offers a better explanation.  But you TEs won’t accept even a modest, tentative judgment in favor of design.  Why is that?

Gregory - #8096

March 30th 2010

“Do you think the first life could have arisen without either intelligent planning or intelligent guidance? ... And if not, what is your gripe against intelligent design?  Especially if it is formulated not as a “proof”, but as an “inference to the best explanation”?” - Rich

O.k. Rich, let me call your bluff with a question: ‘intelligent design theory’ - is it ‘scientific’ or isn’t it?

Saying ‘first life’ arose ‘with intelligence’ is not a difficult thing. What that ‘proves’ is nothing. Instead, it reflects the worldview position of whoever pronounces on it. These are the so-called ‘implications’ of ID. This does not make ID-OoL a ‘scientific hypothesis’.

One gripe many people have against ID is that it claims to make a considerable contribution, nay, even one that can upset the modern evolutionary synthesis in ‘biological sciences.’ What’s it done in 20+years that other biologists who include ‘information’ in their grammar haven’t? Just a negative anti-Darwinism?

Gregory - #8097

March 30th 2010

You haven’t read closely what TEs, ECs and B-Ls actually say if you suggest they “won’t accept even a modest, tentative judgment in favor of design.” *Most* TE/EC/B-Ls accept the universe is ‘designed’ in the sense that God’s created it (faith & apologetics). What they *don’t* say is “the bacterial flagellum was designed by God” (proto-science) because they believe *everything* is part of God’s creation.

Are you, too, looking for ‘scientific proof’ of God’s existence, Rich, in the name of ID?

The flip-side of your finger-waving question to ‘you TEs’ (note: I am not one), is a simple one that most IDists tend to avoid:

What aspects of evolutionary biology do you accept, Rich?

I.e. TEs/ECs/B-Ls accept limited features of Lamarck’s, Darwin’s, Huxley’s, Mendel’s, Fischer’s, Dobzhansky’s, Wright’s, Huxley’s, Haldane’s, Haekel’s, Michurin’s, Weismann’s, Smith’s, Gould’s, Kimura’s, Dawkins’, Margulis’, Miller’s, etc. views of evolutionary theory. They don’t swallow everything whole as ideology, as you seem to suggest. How much of an evolutionist are you, or do you *entirely* reject evolutionary biology?

Gregory - #8098

March 30th 2010

Correction: ‘proto’ should read ‘pseudo’

The Fischer mis-cited is R.A. Fisher; not the Dick Fischer participating in this thread, and of Historical Genesis and Genesis Proclaimed.


Rich - #8099

March 30th 2010

Gregory (#8096):

I wasn’t bluffing about anything.  I’ll answer you directly:

Whether or not something is “scientific” is a matter of definition.  If we use the definition of the NCSE, then ID is clearly not scientific.  But if “scientific” means “rational explanation of nature completely in accord with all known empirical facts” then ID can be scientific.  Stephen Meyer employs the latter definition, or something approximating to it.

It all depends on your goal.  Is your goal to find out how the first cell actually originated?  Then ID must be on the table as a possibility.  Is your goal to determine how the first cell might have originated, presuming that the origin was by chance?  Then ID is off the table.  So do you want to know what really happened, or only to play a courtroom game, where the most important considerations are ruled “inadmissible evidence”, so that the accused may escape conviction even though he did it?

If you miss out on the truth, getting to beat your breast about being “science” is a pretty poor consolation prize.  I’d rather know the truth about nature and be laughed at as unscientific, than deny my reason in order to gain the approval of sub-philosophical biologists.

Rich - #8100

March 30th 2010

Gregory (#8097):

I can assure you that I have read a considerable amount written by TEs—several entire books, many articles and book reviews, hundreds of blog posts, thousands of e-mails—and that I know their position pretty nearly as well as anyone.

My statement that TEs “won’t accept even a modest, tentative judgment in favor of design” was entirely correct, *in context*.  I wrote of a *judgment*—which implies a sifting of empirical evidence—not of a private “leap of faith” by someone who believes that nature can tell us nothing about its source.

I’m not “looking” to find a proof of God’s existence.  One doesn’t have to “look” when it’s so obvious from the order of nature, even if TEs (who, being pious Christians, feel entitled to brush off Psalm 19 and Romans 1, and anything else they don’t like in the Bible) deny it.

I accept “evolution” as a process, but regard most of “evolutionary biology” of *all* schools as undisciplined speculation, which would flunk its practitioners if they were in physics, chemistry, philosophy, history or any subject which does not reward guesswork and bluffing.

Am I being non-evasive enough, Gregory?

Richard Colling - #8102

March 30th 2010

You said: “When do you then dismiss or reject connections between evolution and other areas of knowledge?”

When conclusions are not justified by the science.

You said: It is responsible to be wary & cautious, as you say, but there are warnings already of over-using evolutionary theories in other realms. So, second, how do you decide when evolution might become a dangerous assumption in another field?

When the conclusions are not justified by the science.

You said: “I am not dismissing out of hand the entire field of evo psych. Yet, if one looks at key figures in that field, how commonly they blur science & pseudo-science, anti-religion & scientism, secularization motives with inevitable progress of humanity, one might choose even stronger words of caution than you just did above wrt socio-biology & evo psych.”

Stronger words might be useful - or not. The truth is it’s a two-way street.  Dawkins does it to promote his secular worldview.  But let’s be real: Pastors and religious leaders misrepresent and deny science facts from the pulpit too. BOTH are inappropriate.  So when I say I am wary, it is of anyone (religious leaders included) who inappropriately abuses the facts of science.


Paul - #8117

March 31st 2010

Richard, your website says that you offer a free DVD? I would be interested in hearing what you have to say, your input here seems well-reasoned and scientifically-informed. Could you tell me if your DVD offer is still available and whether it applies to those outside the US?

Many thanks,

Richard Colling - #8124

March 31st 2010


Yes, I can still get you a copy of the DVD.  Or you can view a similar presentation without having to look at me directly (smile) by linking to the following you-tube sites.  Also if you would like a free signed copy of my book, I still have some freebies to offer.  Just send me your snail mail address.

Calvin College Talk – You Tube links
Spring 2009
Richard Colling
Randomness, Purpose, God, and Evolution: Can they go Together?

Part One http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfHuCWFxWYI

Part Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVSDhTUQ6Uk&feature=response_watch

Part Three: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtFLjmhBzH4&feature=response_watch

Part Four: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJGpOtLF7ZA&feature=response_watch

Part Five: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgGRLVeszOw&feature=response_watch

Part Six: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnrZDA6aB9g&feature=response_watch

Part Seven: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Un0n-MNCOc&feature=response_watch

Part Eight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlQkbMqTtcg&feature=response_watch

Gregory Arago - #8142

March 31st 2010

Hi Richard,

You wrote: “So when I say I am wary, it is of anyone (religious leaders included) who inappropriately abuses the facts of science.”

Yes, I recall you saying you are wary of religious authorities, even if the vast majority are highly trustworthy in their vocational calling.

I sense an over-defensiveness of ‘science’ on your behalf, which demonstrates the ‘privileging’ point I was making above.

I asked: “When do you then dismiss or reject connections between evolution and other areas of knowledge?”

You responded: “When conclusions are not justified by the science.”

What about when conclusions are not justified by (the) philosophy or (the) theology? This is important to recognize because it appears you think evolution is *only* about science, *not* about anything else. But I could be reading you incorrectly here.

In fact, *reducing* the conversation to ‘science only’ contradicts your own ‘dots’ theory in your youtube video. So, I’m pretty confused by your language, to say the least. Sorry I can’t be more positive now.

p.s. Faux pas to diss sociologists as ‘afraid of science’!

Gregory - #8146

March 31st 2010

Hi Rich,

Yes, I appreciate your direct & non-evasive approach.

You wrote: “if “scientific” means “rational explanation of nature completely in accord with all known empirical facts” then ID can be scientific.”

What empirical evidence does Stephen Meyer give for OoL? Doesn’t his study of OoL involve non-natural, extra-natural &/or supra-natural elements? If Meyer offers no empirical evidence, going beyond ‘nature-only’, then your definition of ‘science’ breaks down.

Also: “Is your goal to find out how the first cell actually originated?”

No, that’s not my goal. And I’m not sure it’s within the reach of ‘science’ to discover, though I leave that possibility open, with healthy scepticism of all who try.

I’m not interested in courtroom games, but the IDM obviously is. It plays on rhetoric, fear and American Evangelical Protestant Christian networking channels. Why are so few Catholic Christians in the IDM? Not just because the Vatican science council says ‘evolution is more than a hypothesis,’ but because the Catholic philosophical tradition is much wiser wrt causes & effects, including scientific ones.

Gregory - #8148

March 31st 2010

Point taken fairly about not cowing to “sub-philosophical biologists,” although there are philosophers of/in biology these days. I guess it seems to me that you are interested in more than just “the truth about nature” because the IDM (it seems you are defending them) wants to include ‘intelligent agents’ that are ‘not-natural’ into what it means to ‘do science.’ Can science study the non-natural?

Let me commend and support your active reading in this field! Still, I’ve read and heard many TEs say they accept ‘design’ but not ‘Design as a scientific category.’ Again, I’m not a TEist, but I defend them on this point.

Your question if “nature can tell us nothing about its source” is provocative. I hope BioLogos will offer a thread on ‘natural theology’ &/or ‘natural philosophy’ sometime in the future.

The B-L team believes in God, not just ‘through nature’.

Re: calling evo biology ‘undisciplined speculation,’ I’m not impressed. Again, I asked specifically: What aspects of evolutionary biology do you accept? Just that it is a ‘process’?!

Rich - #8163

March 31st 2010

Hello, Gregory:

If you want Meyer’s empirical evidence, you will have to read his book, as I did.  I have no time to summarize it.

You say it’s not your goal to find out how the first cell originated.  Surprisingly uncurious, aren’t you?  It’s a rather important question from some points of view.  Anyhow, chemical evolutionary theorists *are* interested in that question, and they offer answers to it, answers which systematically exclude design.  The question is why a public school system should compel non-design origin stories to be taught, while banning design-oriented origin stories, when both are rationally possible, and when in fact the best inference at the moment (which admittedly could change) is that design must have been involved.  The systemic bias is obvious, as is the motivation.

Catholics don’t need to join ID because the Pope has made it clear that “chance” is out as an explanation for origins.  The Pope also has not rejected natural theology.  Protestants are in a different position.  Many TEs (almost all Protestant) affirm chance and reject natural theology, so Protestants who doubt chance and affirm natural theology find their natural home in ID.  Why would you object to that?

Rich - #8164

March 31st 2010

Gregory (cont.):

Nothing in ID requires intelligent agents to be non-natural.  True, the fine-tuned design of the entire universe likely implies a supernatural agent.  But ID doesn’t investigate the supernatural activities of the designer; it merely establishes the fact of design, and throws that back in the face of Dawkins, Hitchens, etc.  This is something TE cannot do.

TEs affirm design only because the Bible tells them, not because they think it is detectable by empirical or rational means.  Unlike Aquinas, who saw reason and revelation as distinct but overlapping at points, they see reason and revelation as completely unrelated, with only revelation being able to tell us anything about God.  Catholics and many traditional Protestants, on the other hand, don’t make this absolute cleavage.
I accept evolution as a process.  I think all the detailed explanations given so far are wildly speculative, based on very incomplete empirical knowledge of genetics and development, and will all be superseded over the next few decades.  Darwin and the old neo-Darwinist guard are going the way of the dinosaur as far as evolutionary theory is concerned.  The smart money is on “designed evolution”—Denton, Conway Morris, Sternberg.

Henry Morris - #8204

April 1st 2010

Very troubling.  As Christians, we have been called to proclaim the Truth, not to seek acceptance by the world, or worry about being marginalized.  Furthermore, Christ himself told us to expect persecution from the world—and to count it as a joy—when we proclaim Him before men.  If we do, He will proclaim us before His Father.  What a blessing to attain to.

Besides, evidence for evolutionary processes is NOT overwhelming—but the urge to interpret our origins without God is.  The question of origins cannot be answered by science—it fails the standard tests necessary (e.g. observable, repeatable, falsifiable, etc.).  As such, it comes down to your worldview and how data is interpreted through it (a.k.a. Faith).  See http://www.icr.org for a plethora of outstanding science articles espousing a better interpretation of the evidence.

Gregory - #8260

April 2nd 2010

Rich, you make some good points & display ample familiarity with the topic we are discussing. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to respond to each point.

One thing to note, as you say: “The smart money is on “designed evolution”—Denton, Conway Morris, Sternberg.” Conway Morris is listed on this site as a proponent of BioLogos.

“BioLogos takes both the Bible and science seriously, and seeks a harmony between them that respects the truth of each.”

I’ve met both Denton & Sternberg. Wasn’t impressed with Denton’s philosophy. Some say he left the DI simply because there were “too many Christians” there. Nevertheless, this ‘designed evolution’ concept is interesting. It doesn’t sound too far away from TE & EC beliefs that evolution is ‘guided’ or ‘directed’. They just can’t show *how* with any measure of scientific rigour.

I’m not sure that “TEs affirm chance”, as you write, just that they don’t exclude it entirely (e.g. R. Colling’s Random Designer). And I agree with you that ‘natural theology’ is a significant topic, which I’d like to see raised at B-L. Perhaps you’ll lend your wisdom on this topic if & when it does come up?

Thanks for provoking my thoughts! - G.

Webmaster - #8271

April 2nd 2010

Update on April 2, 2010: This video has been removed from our site on at least a temporary basis. For a full explanation, click here.

REX - #9481

April 11th 2010

Fight evolution by tracing mankind from the Tower of Babel to Abraham’s 75th year with no missing links. 120 yrs. Sargon/Nimrod’s empire falls to the Gutium 120th yr. after humanity leaves Babel. 91 yrs. Gutium reign over Sumer. 7 yrs. Utu-Khegal reigns. 108 yrs. = Ur III dynasty.
120 +91 +7 + 108 = 326 yrs. Peleg born 0 yr. mankind leaves Babel. Reu born 30th yr. in history of nations. Serug born 62nd yr. Nahor born 92nd year. Terah born 121st yr. Terah lives 121-326 yrs. in the history of nations. Genesis 12:4 & 11:32 Abraham 75;Terah is 205. Abraham is born 251st yr. in UR III in the history of nations.(Sargon’s reign = 56 yrs. Rimush reign = 9 yrs. Mamishtushu’s reign = 15 yrs. & Naramsin’s reign = 40 years = 120 years before the Gutium took over Sumer.)Abraham and Terah leave UR yr. 318 some 430 yrs. before the Exodus. Haran died at age 127 in 318th year. Biblical numbers match Sumer history from Sargon’s beginning to Ur III’s end at 326 years. Double check: Genesis 11:16-11:32 then 12:4 Peleg’s birth to Abraham’s 75th year = 326 years. A perfect match!

Skylark - #9484

April 11th 2010

Why not follow Egypt’s REAL history? It supports our Bible. Egyptian kings: (1) Djoser built “Step Pyramid” shortly after Egyptians left the Tower of Babel for Egypt. (2) Pepi II (Genesis 12:17) at age 96 met 65 yr. old Sarah and God plagues Egypt.  Amu (Amorites) give Pepi II a hard time. Amorites powerful for 400 years Genesis 15:13-16)7-10 and part of 11th dynasty are phony (3) Senusert I (Genesis 26:2) was pharoah/reason God told Isaac not to enter Egypt. Senusert I was called “Throat Sliter of Asiatics”. (4) Senusert III took land from Egyptian nomarch’s. All the land became the pharoah’s like Genesis 47:20 states. (5) Amenemhet III calls canal Barh Yousef (Joseph’s canal) (6) Amenemhet IV reign was prosperous. When Joseph died the Amenemhet/Senusert dynasty immediately fell.

Skylark - #9485

April 11th 2010

(7) Senusert III reign = 39 yrs. Amenemhet reign = 45 yrs. Amenemhet IV reign = 9 yrs. = 93 yrs. Joseph entered Egypt age 17 living there for 93 yrs. Joseph died at age 110. (8) Abydos,Egypt king’s list shows after Amenemhet IV dies Ahmose is the next king. Ahmose purged Joseph’s name from all Egyptian records. Therefore Exodus 1:8 a king would arise in Egypt who knew not Joseph. (9) Thutmose I was king who knew not Joseph; Thutmose I killed Hebrew babies. Queen Hatshepsut was the princess whom saved Moses life. She kept Thutmose II from gaining power. (10) 1 Kings 6:1 some 480 yrs. before Solomon’s 4th yr. the Exodus occured in Thutmose III’s reign. Thutmose III broke the Amorite 400 yrs. of power. For 300 yrs. the Amorites were kings in Babylon. For 100 more years the Amorites were powerful in Syria and Lebanon. Amenhotep II, Thutmose IV, Amenhotep III and Akenaton all receive tribute from the Amorites proving their power is broken. By mapping out mankind’s real history—-evolution is broken!

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