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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 BioLogos. 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 - #7763

March 26th 2010


I have not been so long out from under a cloud of fear - whenever the next article came out about fossil remains (like the pinkie in Siberia), or about ID’s shortcomings, or seeing my children exposed to the ape-to-man graphic.  How many Christians/churches live under that cloud of fear (not speaking to you directly, Mike)?  Do we have any idea how debilitating fear is to spiritual vitality?  How it twists us, keeps us from loving, makes us paranoid and with evil suspicions, puts us in a shell rather than reaching out?

Outstanding point.  I would just caution that to address this fear, the message of “There is no need to choose between Christianity and evolution” is much better than “Thou shalt embrace evolution.”

Mike Gene - #7764

March 26th 2010

Hi Rick,

So what is the issue to you?  If it is common descent, then, since that issue really is settled, what do you think is the problem? 
Is it fear?

Yes, fear is almost always the reason for tension between humans and your analysis is spot on. 

But what if the argument is reframed - as Biologos is attempting to do - in a way that allows evolution to be part of His creative genius?  Physical and spiritual truths are preserved and everyone gets what they claim to want: Science is free and God’s place in the culture is forever secure from perceived (not real) threats from science.

I understand.  I’ll just point out that for people like Dawkins, acceptance of evolution is supposed to lead to rejection of Christianity. When that doesn’t happen, the fear becomes even more intense.

Karl A - #7765

March 26th 2010

Mike G,
I agree - the main point is not to embrace a certain scientific position.  In fact requiring that can be counterproductive, especially if it’s a theory in flux and/or we’re not experts in that field.  How are we to evaluate the evidence? I love this quote, evidently from William R Inge, “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.”

The gospel is eternal, the science is often transitory, but the latter doesn’t mean we don’t have to deal with our current best understanding of physical reality.

BenYachov - #7769

March 26th 2010

>For the true theistic evolutionist, God must be allowed to “toy” with nature, otherwise miracles in general go out the window.

I reply: Only if we except Hume’s phony debunked philosophy & Newtonian Mechanism.  Anscombe destroyed Hume’s so called arguments.  See THE LAST SUPERSTITION by Feser for details. 

All Thomists know God can work providentially threw secondary causes.  Hume’s philosophy was based on the unproven self-made dogma of his that Newtonian Laws where absolute & involatible.  Well even within the framework of the natural world we know from Relativity & Quantum Mechanics Newtonian physics breaks down.  That is from within the mere natural world.  Logically it doesn’t excude the supernatural.

Martin Rizley - #7779

March 26th 2010

Dr. Waltke appears to be an engaging and gracious Christian gentleman, and while I agree with him that the church needs to be willing to embrace new insights, I disagree that belief in evolution is one of those insights.  Why?  When Paul tells us to “test all things” and “hold fast to what is good,” he means that we are to test all things by a reliable standard.  What standard?  The apostolic faith, which the apostle Jude says was given “once for all” in the first century, not the twenty-first.  Genuine insights will given us a better understanding of the ancient faith, rather than lead us away from it or require us to reject essential elements of it.  Now, it seems clear to me that among the “essential elements” are the following:  the special creation of man in the image of God; man’s infinitely qualitative difference from the animals and his dominion over them; the common descent of all human beings from one common ancestor, Adam, in whom all of humanity is fallen and condemned; the entrance of death into the world through sin; the representative headship of Adam and Christ.  These doctrines are “essential,” so any alleged ‘insight’ that lead us to reject them is no insight, but a lie, which we do well to reject.

pds - #7783

March 26th 2010

Richard #7751,

Are you aware of and understand the genetic evidence?  If so, and you still seem to deny evolution, how do you justify this denial of the data?

Which genetic evidence do you find persuasive, and what do you think it establishes?

I see the genetic evidence as mixed.  Much of it supports both common descent and common design, or some combination of both.

Do you think that the genetic evidence proves universal common descent from a single common ancestor by the mechanism of random mutation and natural selection?

Bob R. - #7786

March 26th 2010

Richard Colling said: “Many believe ... that natural law is somehow devoid of God’s hand.” Good point, Richard.

John Polkinghorne maintains that God not only created, but actively sustains and participates in nature – as opposed to “intervenes,”  and “suspends” - words he doesn’t like.

However, this is a faith position. It is my contention that theistic evolutionists must confront the miracles issue in both their theology and their science. Otherwise, they might just as well ignore the so-called “mountain of evolutionary evidence and admit that their theistic evolution is just a euphemism for creationism.

Why all the fuss if we are unwilling or unable to develop a theological framework for the “faithful” that includes the scientific data of evolution? After all, theistic evolution is for theists not for atheists, so we have a responsibility to strike a position somewhere between the two extremes in the creationism/evolution debate. The question of miracles is a “biggie” for theistic evolution since the Christian faith is built upon the “grand miracle.” We need to flesh out Polkinghorne’s philosophy/theology for the sake of the “faithful” who don’t want to deny the evidence.

Martin Rizley - #7788

March 26th 2010

By the way, in case Dr. Waltke didn’t notice, the surrounding culture already views Christians as weird and cultish for reasons that have nothing to do with evolution.  Christian moral standards concerning the sinfulness of premarital sexual relations, the exclusively heterosexual character of marriage, the need for modesty in dress, etc. are viewed as backward, old-fashioned, bigoted, homophobic, and hopelessly out of touch with the prevailing culture by most young people in our society. Christian teaching concerning original sin is unthinkable and abhorrent to Muslims, Mormons, and other religious groups in our culture.  Christian teaching concerning the virgin birth of Christ, his full deity and humanity, and the triune nature of God, is viewed as incredible and/or blasphemous by Jews, deists, Unitarians, and philosophical rationalists.  Christian teaching on final judgment and the eternal punishment of unbelievers in hell is viewed as downright hateful and pernicious by countless others.  So if we make what is ‘culturally acceptable’ the standard of our faith, we will have little to say to our society.  We will have become redundant and irrelevant in our culture—salt that has lost its flavor.

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) - #7790

March 26th 2010

>However, this is a faith position.

I reply:  That is incorrect.  It is not a “Faith position” it is a rational position deduced by rational & logical philosophical processes.  The basis of all knowledge is rational philosophy not empirical science.  Scientism is the view that all real knowledge is scientific knowledge—that there is no rational, objective form of inquiry that is not a branch of science.  The problem with this view is that it is either self-defeating or trivially true.

But don’t take my word for it

or this


Terry - #7794

March 26th 2010

pds, did you see the lecture that was mentioned somewhere else on here?


BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) - #7795

March 26th 2010

>John Polkinghorne maintains that God not only created, but actively sustains and participates in nature – as opposed to “intervenes,”  and “suspends” - words he doesn’t like.

I reply: In order to understand him here you need to know the difference between Cartesian Theism vs Classical Theism.  According to the Post Hume Enlightenment/Cartesian Theism (which gave rise to Deism) there are only efficient & material causes in Nature & we cannot know there are formal or final causes(which is bogus but that’s another post).  Thus God can be conceived of as having once & for imparted “existence” to the world & physical Laws and in theory He could end His own existence and the world would go merrily on.  In Classic Theism with it’s correct metaphysics regarding potency & actuality God who is Pure Actuality would be required as a First Cause (in a top down essential causality) that actualizes all potentials.  Thus the world fundamentally requires God to exist & function.  Once you realize these radically different Theistic concepts it all falls into place.

Mike Gene - #7798

March 26th 2010

Hi Karl,

It looks like we are in fundamental agreement.  I guess my problem was that this particular blog entry clearly comes across as threatening in a way where the end can be used to justify the means. 
I doubt this approach will cause a single creationist to give up his/her creationism and some of the comments here would seem to support my doubts.

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) - #7799

March 26th 2010

>The basis of all knowledge is rational philosophy not empirical science.

I reply: Should have qualified this as “natural knowledge”.

pds - #7804

March 26th 2010

Terry #7794,

Which genetic evidence do you find persuasive, and what do you think it establishes?

I see the genetic evidence as mixed.  Much of it supports both common descent and common design, or some combination of both.

Do you think that the genetic evidence proves universal common descent from a single common ancestor by the mechanism of random mutation and natural selection?

Did you read this?


Terry - #7809

March 26th 2010

That talk by Dr Venema addresses several aspects of modern genomic comparisons between humans and chimps - homology, redundancy, synteny, and pseudogeny. These all come together in a pattern that very strongly indicates common descent. Since it is the common ancestry of humans and other organisms that appears to cause most people the most problems that is the only issue discussed. The data for universal common descent is not so easy to discuss in such a short time. Likewise, the mechanisms involved can be quite technical in their details and discussions among non-specialists (of which I am undoubtedly one) can be rather unproductive.

With regard to your referencing that article, all I can say is “oh dear.”

John VanZwieten - #7828

March 26th 2010

Interesting article, PDS!  Someone commented there that the cover of that magazine will probably make the display case at the Creation Museum—even though pretty much all the material contained within the article would be denied by YECs.

What do you think, will it make it?

Dick Fischer - #7832

March 26th 2010

In reference to the article in New Scientist, “Why Darwin was wrong about the tree of life,” - there are some qualifiers in the article itself.  Baptiste and Doolittle stressed that “downgrading the tree of life doesn’t mean that the theory of evolution is wrong - just that evolution is not as tidy as we would like to believe. Some evolutionary relationships are tree-like; many others are not. “We should relax a bit on this,” says Doolittle. “We understand evolution pretty well - it’s just that it is more complex than Darwin imagined. The tree isn’t the only pattern.”

Evolutionary theory is alive and dynamic.  Enter now “X-Woman,” possibly a new human species recently discovered .  Set another place at the table.  And Richard Leakey pointed out years ago that the human evolutionary tree is more like a bush than a tree.  So let’s not throw Darwin under a bus just yet.

Bilbo - #7833

March 26th 2010

I’ve been thinking about that “fear” thing.  Certainly YECs fear evolution.  But I picking up fear among TEs and ECs of ID .  What if Stephen Meyer’s argument is good, and the best explanation of the cell is ID?  What if Behe’s argument is good, and the best explanation of IC is ID?  Are TEs and ECs open to the all the evidence?  Or only open to evidence that fits their particular view? 

From Gregory’s strong hostile reaction to me and from Prof. Beckwith’s obviously bad philosophy,  I suspect that TEs and ECs have their own fears that they are afraid to confront.

As I have stated a number of times, I have no theological axe to grind.  If the evidence points to YEC or OEC, fine.  If the evidence points to TE, fine. 

Can TEs and ECs honestly say the same thing?

pds - #7837

March 26th 2010


“Baptiste and Doolittle stressed that downgrading the tree of life doesn’t mean that the theory of evolution is wrong - just that evolution is not as tidy as we would like to believe.”

Or that evolutionary theory is not the best explanation for every event in the history of life.  It explains some things well, but not others.

Design is the best explanation for some things.

Dick Fischer - #7841

March 26th 2010

It would be difficult, I think, to explain genetic defects in terms of design.  Could you tell someone with Downs Syndrome, for example, they were simply the result of a bad design?  Or maybe you could say that God is just too busy to pay attention all the time or he often makes mistakes?

The main defect I see in the design argument is that it posits a God (or a disembodied spirit being) who pushes the throttle but sleeps at the switch.  Not a productive argument in my estimation.

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