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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Mike Gene - #7577

March 24th 2010

Hi Terry,

You know what else Jerry Fodor isn’t? An evolutionary biologist.

How do you define an ‘evolutionary biologist?’


Mike Gene - #7578

March 24th 2010

The above summary of Waltke’s video is loaded with all sorts of assumptions that need to be fleshed out.  Here are some questions to think about.

1.  To what degree should Christians adapt their theology to garner credibility in the eyes of the secular world?

2.  Is there any evidence to support the contention that acceptance of evolution truly leads to Christians gaining more credibility in the eyes of the secular world?

3. Is there any evidence that Christians who embrace evolution are more effective witnesses among the secular world?

4. Does spiritual life/death really have any connection to acceptance of scientific findings?


Mike Gene - #7579

March 24th 2010

5. Why the tunnel vision with regard to evolution?  For example, many neuroscientists would insist that prayer is akin to belief in creationism.  Evolutionary biologists would liken Francis Collins to a creationist because of his views on morality. 

6. If all Christians are to accept evolution, are we talking about common descent or its mechanism?  If the latter is involved, whose version are we talking about?  Dawkins and his emphasis on natural selection?  Gould and his emphasis on contingency?  Margulis and her emphasis on symbiogenesis and cooperation?  Shapiro and his emphasis on cybernetics?  Conway Morris and his emphasis on convergence?  Lynch and his emphasis on genetic drift?  Carroll and his emphasis on development?  Denton and his emphasis on self-organization?  Some guy and his emphasis on front-loading? Etc.

7. If Christians accept evolution, must they also believe that God did not interfere with it?


Mike Gene - #7580

March 24th 2010

Let me also add one more thing to consider when it comes to the whole loving God with all of our mind issue as it relates to the issue of evolution.  Take two people – Paul Nelson and Bill Maher. Nelson is a YEC and Maher recently won a Dawkins award for his documentary and accepts evolution.  If you wanted to have a thoughtful discussion about evolution late into the night, which of these two would you choose?


Gregory Arago - #7581

March 24th 2010

Wrt the ‘mechanism’ of common descent “whose version are we talking about?  Dawkins and his emphasis on natural selection?  Gould and his emphasis on contingency?  Margulis and her emphasis on symbiogenesis and cooperation?  Shapiro and his emphasis on cybernetics?  Conway Morris and his emphasis on convergence?  Lynch and his emphasis on genetic drift?  Carroll and his emphasis on development?  Denton and his emphasis on self-organization?  Some guy and his emphasis on front-loading? Etc.”

Nice short summary of various views, Mike. Thanks!

I’d opt for a thoughtful discussion about evolution with ‘some guy who emphasizes front-loading’

Actually, Nelson is a witty guy too, with a fun sense of humour. One wonders what he is thinking to remain a YEC! Will his book “On Common Descent” ever be published?

Nelson’s delays


Rev. Travis M Finley - #7582

March 25th 2010

I love BW, BUT he is wrong and must relinquish his words here.  The only way we as Xns must engage the culture is by tearing down its ideological strongholds—and evolution is one of them.  Dr. Waltke, if the Church is not wrong about the resurrection (contra-preterism), then I doubt (for one thing) that the Holy Spirit would have misled her for 6000 years.  Evolution is farce and we all know it.


Karl A - #7585

March 25th 2010

Eddy and Bob R, wrt miracles, I haven’t looked for quotes, but I seem to remember Falk, Giberson and Enns all unequivocally affirming the resurrection of Christ from the dead.  Just because one rejects a miraculous explanation in one case does not mean he/she rejects all and any miraculous events.  As an illustration, my daughter thinks it’s a miracle she met someone with her same date of birth.  I happen to favor more natural explanations.  Does that make me an atheistic materialist?


John Ronning - #7590

March 25th 2010

Bruce Waltke has always struck me as erratic. I audited a course on comparative semitic languages from him, circa 1986 (WTS). In response to a question I asked concerning the naming of Eve, he literally sneered, “that’s a folk etymology.” This can only mean that it is a made up story (this is not to say he has not affirmed elsewhere it’s not a made up story, like I say, he’s erratic). If you don’t want to take my word for it, he says the same thing about the naming of the manna in Exodus 16 in his grammar, which can only mean he regards it (at the moment he wrote that at least, assuming he understood and meant what he wrote), that he considers it a made up story.


Charlie - #7624

March 25th 2010

Bob R,

You said : “For the true theistic evolutionist, God must be allowed to “toy” with nature, otherwise miracles in general go out the window. Maybe I have missed it, but I am waiting for BioLogos to address the concept of miracles in general and how theistic evolution impacts that arena.”

I asked them this question a couple of months ago and they rewrote their miracles section from their “the Questions” link.  It used to support the belief in miracles and now it’s really vague where Biologo’s actually doesn’t give their opinion on if they believe in miracles or not.  They e-mailed me later and said they do indeed believe in miracles so I guess I don’t really know Biologos’ stand.  Sometimes natural process and sometimes not?

Their mission used to be that science and faith both lead to truth about creation and I asked them what their definition of truth was.  Instead of giving me a definitive answer, they changed their mission statement.  So my big question to Biologos is how do you determine truth?


Gregory Arago - #7632

March 25th 2010

Does this mean you believe in miracles now Charlie?

You make it sound like BioLogos is shifty and that you are their advisor! : )

“Biologo’s actually doesn’t give their opinion on if they believe in miracles or not” - Charlie

Yet in the “Is there room in BioLogos to believe in miracles?” thread, they write:

“miraculous interaction is always an option for the creator and sustainer of the physical laws.”

and

“BioLogos is thus compatible with many faiths that have miraculous events at the center of their doctrine.”

Yet, they also write:

“a scientific explanation removes an event’s miraculous status.”

So, Charlie, would a scientific explanation for turning water into wine or walking on water or, heaven forbid, rising from the dead, lead you to believe that these things were not miracles? Or do you not entertain the possibility of miracles at the outset?

We wouldn’t want BioLogos to become ‘miracle detectives,’ would we?


Charlie - #7633

March 25th 2010

I believe in miracles just as much as I believe in the Yeti.  Both cannot be disproven, yet there is no scientific evidence to support them.

My main issue with Biologos is they will not say how they distinguish a miracle from a natural process that has yet to be discovered.

And yes if we get a scientific explanation for something it is no longer a miracle.

And you know that wine is made from water right?


Dale - #7639

March 25th 2010

Of course, but without God it takes awhile.


Richard Colling - #7669

March 25th 2010

elnwood - #7550

“I think the church has done quite well being rather indifferent to it.  I don’t know why the church needs to make statements regarding evolution when it is tangential to the gospel and the Biblical data isn’t particularly clear.”

Hi Elnwood,

I agree with you that belief in evolution need not be any sort of foundation or cornerstone to faith.
I once told my wife when writing my book Random Designer that if the readers truly read and understood what I was communicating, the most fruitful conclusion is that this science/religion stuff is really not worth talking about very much. It is majoring in minors - a distraction from the rich and essential messages of the Christian faith.  Love, forgiveness, redemption, and peace.
But many on the secular AND faith sides have intentionally MADE it an issue.  So it must be addressed so that it does not become a hindrance to faith.

It was once very easy to be indifferent to evolution, or to dismiss it out of hand as “just” a theory.  However, such is no longer the case.  I think what Dr Waltke is trying to say is simply a recognition of this reality. 

Best,
Rick


Bob R. - #7672

March 25th 2010

Karl A. - You wrote:

>“As an illustration, my daughter thinks it’s a miracle she met someone with her same >date of birth. I happen to favor more natural explanations. Does that make me an >atheistic materialist?”

No it doesn’t. The point is that there is no way of telling whether your daughter’s experience was a miracle or not. The problem with admitting God to “manipulate” nature under his sovereign will is that we never know when he is doing it and when he isn’t. This means that we can assign “miracle” to speciation and a whole host of other evolutionary occurrences. How do we ever get away from “you say po-tā-to and I say po-tah-to and find true integration of religious & scientific views?

Charlie - Your post illustrates that BioLogos has recognized the issue and is struggling with it. I doubt whether they are being deliberately obscurantist. 

Greg Arago -  My contention is that BioLogos couldn’t become “miracle detectives” even if they wanted to. Nevertheless, they and (we) need to creatively hammer out the issue. In my view, the question of miracles is a significant barrier to be surmounted if theistic evolution is to gain support on “both sides of the aisle.”


Richard Colling - #7673

March 25th 2010

Hi Mike,

All great questions.  I will attempt to address them in several concurrent posts as best I can.  With the caveat that these are simply my perspectives - not gospel. Okay?
Rick

Re: Mike Gene - #7578

March 24th 2010

The above summary of Waltke’s video is loaded with all sorts of assumptions that need to be fleshed out.  Here are some questions to think about.

1.  To what degree should Christians adapt their theology to garner credibility in the eyes of the secular world?

Colling - My own view is that we should do whatever is necessary to garner credibility in their eyes - that is if we truly care about them and believe that faith has something valuable to offer them.  Isn’t this what the Great Commission all about?  I think the kicker is that too many Christians equate “adapting theology” as watering down truth, starting down a slippery slope, or even sin.  All theologians know that theology changes over the ages, and as new insights and understandings into Gods creative genius in the world are obtained it will need to continue to change.  If it doesn’t change, this, I think is where Dr. Waltke’s “cult” mentality is derived.


Richard Colling - #7681

March 25th 2010

2.  Is there any evidence to support the contention that acceptance of evolution truly leads to Christians gaining more credibility in the eyes of the secular world?

Colling:  Perhaps this a situation seen from the scientist’s experience more than others, but I can speak to personal experience.  Secular professions (teachers and scientists) are often initially highly wary of me when they learn I am a Christian.  They have bought the “science incompatible with faith” line in toto.  Their wariness of someone who calls themselves a Christian AND scientist is palpable, and they sometimes even bring up the evolution issue. But when I tell them I have no problem with evolution, the resistance begins to melt away.  It’s like: “Really?!  I didn’t know there were such people in the Christian faith. 

It is abundantly clear to me that for these folks, evolution has become a barrier to faith. 
But how did they reach this conclusion? 
Secular scientists AND Christians have INACCURATELY sold them on the idea that sound science precludes the existence of God. 
My sense is that the goal of the Biologos folks is to try to remedy that inaccurate and unnecessary obstacle to faith.


Richard Colling - #7687

March 25th 2010

3. Is there any evidence that Christians who embrace evolution are more effective witnesses among the secular world?

Colling:  Once again, from personal experience.  If I am unwilling to acknowledge the physical/biological realities of God’s created order - those things which are easily demonstrable and which my secular companions know VERY VERY well - how could I ever expect that they would take me seriously regarding subjective matters of faith and personal religious belief?  (Things much more difficult to define and defend.) 

But aside from personal experience, and even if the evidence for evolution was not so thoroughly compelling, if I really care about these folks and believe that the Christian faith has something valuable to offer to them, the reality is that THIS IS WHERE THEY ARE AT!  For many, it is the starting point of of conversation and connection.  As an educator/witness, should we ignore the opportunity to establish such relationships? 

The apostle Paul, speaking to the Athenians, FIRST took time to familiarize himself with their Greek culture.  This familiarity provided him with the frame of reference and credibility to share his sermon about Christ. Seems like a good plan to me.

Rick


Richard Colling - #7689

March 25th 2010

4. Does spiritual life/death really have any connection to acceptance of scientific findings?

Colling:  I don’t think it is a life/death issue.  I took Dr. Waltke’s reference of this as referring to his belief that outside of faith, these secular folks have no hope of eternal and spiritual life. 

So if Christians believe this to be true, if we care about them, then perhaps we should also care about the possibility that he is right.  Do we care enough to learn what our unbelieving neighbors know, and to try to understand where they are coming from? 

Sadly, from their perspective, what they too often see are judgmental Christians instead of caring Christians.  What other conclusion could they draw when the overriding message they hear from the Christian community is that they must check their intellect at the door of the church (regarding science) before they would be accepted into the fellowship?  And what conclusion should they draw when they routinely hear the Christians denouncing evolution - and by extension, those who acknowledge evolution - as evil?  It seems like there is much work to be done.  Thanks to Biologos folks for trying to build credible bridges.


Dick Fischer - #7690

March 25th 2010

Hi Richard:

Good to see you paraphrasing Augustine.  BTW, we apparently have a new cousin in our burdgening human family.

USA Today Reports:

A 40,000-year-old child’s pinky bone found in a Siberian cave probably belonged to a previously unknown human species living near modern humans of the era, a gene study reports today.
In the Nature journal study, the pinky bone discovered in the Denisova cave archaeological site in southern Siberia yielded mitochondrial DNA — maternal genes inherited outside of the ones found in cell’s chromosomes — unrelated to either humans or their extinct Neanderthal cousins. The bone dates to a time when all three species apparently lived within 60 miles of each other in the Altai Mountain’s steppes.

And from ScienceDaily (Mar. 25, 2010) — An international team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig has sequenced ancient mitochondrial DNA from a finger bone of a female found in southern Siberia. She comes from a previously unknown human species, which lived about 48,000 to 30,000 years ago in the Altai Mountains in Central Asia.

It seems there is always something new for our Creationist friends to deny.


Richard Colling - #7693

March 25th 2010

5. Why the tunnel vision with regard to evolution?  For example, many neuroscientists would insist that prayer is akin to belief in creationism.  Evolutionary biologists would liken Francis Collins to a creationist because of his views on morality. 

Colling:  I am not sure what you mean here by “tunnel vision” with regard to evolution.  Sorry.

Regarding Francis Collins, I think he is an enigma - and a challenge - to most secular atheistic scientists.  It is easy for antagonists of faith like Dawkins and Watson and others to dismiss Christian scientists that have not followed the same professional academic career path as they (massive publications and public recognition).  They simply label the Christian scientists as not “real” scientists. For example, I would never make their cut as a “real” scientist because I spent only 9 years in their type of track: 28 in Christian higher education. (That probably would not count to them.) However, Collins is different:  He followed the same path as they.  For this reason, his professional scientific credibility is beyond reproach.  He cannot be easily dismissed.  People like him are important voices within the Christian community and equally importantly, to the secular crowd.


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