John MacArthur on the "Lie of Evolution"

John MacArthur on the “lie” of Evolution:

“The evolutionary lie is so pointedly antithetical to Christian truth that it would seem unthinkable for evangelical Christians to compromise with evolutionary science in any degree. But during the past century and a half of evolutionary propaganda, evolutionists have had remarkable success in getting evangelicals to meet them halfway. Remarkably, many modern evangelicals . . . have already been convinced that the Genesis account of creation is not a true historical record. Thus they have not only capitulated to evolutionary doctrine at its starting point, but they have also embraced a view that undermines the authority of Scripture at its starting point.” (from “The Battle for the Beginning“).

There was a time, ten or twenty years ago, when I would have taken the bait and swallowed this hook, line, and sinker. Today I won’t. Not because I am now convinced about a God-guided theory of evolution, but because I just don’t know. I am not confused or disturbed about the issue, nor does it put any of my faith in jeopardy in any way. I just don’t know whether or not God used evolution as a means to create humanity. Neither do I know how long it took to create the earth. I don’t know if Genesis 1 is meant to be taken literally, metaphorically, symbolically, ideologically, mythologically, or accommodatingly. I simply believe that when it is interpreted rightly, it is true.

But I don’t think that it is here we find the central battle for our faith. I believe that there are more important issues. Much more important issues.

What I do find is that if Christians get sidetracked on these type of things, believing that if this city goes undefended then the Christian empire crumbles, we are in trouble. The “Battle for the Beginning” is not the battle, at least in my book.

But John MacArthur is a man I respect very much. While he is not a scientist, he does seem to be a very wise leader in many respects and he knows the Bible well. This is why I have to pause at what would otherwise seem to me to be an over-the-top statement. He is right that the last two decades have seen many (if not most) evangelical leaders concede to the real possibility of a God-guided use of evolution. It would seem that there is quite a bit of pressure out there to do so. Evolution is quickly becoming the if-you-don’t-accept-it-then-you-are-committing-the-same-mistake-that-the-church-did-in-the-Galileo-incident type of issue. You remember: back when we insisted that the Bible said the earth was the center of the universe and then ended up with egg on our face.

I don’t really see evolution in the same light. There is quite a bit of observable data that shows us the earth is not the center; it is not quite as cut-and-dry with evolution (I think).

Either way, the gauntlet is going to continue to fall and Christians who believe in evolution are going to continually be accused of compromise. Maybe they have compromised; I don’t know. But to me, it only makes a difference when people push for it to make a difference.

What do you think? Has Christianity been compromised?

668 Responses to “John MacArthur on the "Lie of Evolution"”

  1. Michael,

    Thanks for your honesty here.

    I, for one, never felt “under pressure” to (as you put it) “compromise” my beliefs. I was, however, intellectually torn between a YEC interpretation of Genesis 1 and the overwhelming scientific evidence for an old earth. I felt somewhat cognitively dissonant. And that’s where the works of John Walton, Conrad Hyers, and Denis Lamoureux released that pressure. Now, I feel that I understand Genesis 1 “more authentically” and in a way that I believe does justice to the text. I really want to encourage you to seek out the works of Walton and Hyers. Mind-blowing stuff.

    As I continued studying Genesis 1-11 in its ANE context, it wasn’t too long beore I completed the journey toward theistic evolution. It certainly required “reconsidering” the level of historicity of those chapters, but it never required me to reject the theological truths that those chapters taught. (Keep in mind, of course, that there are many theistic evolutionists who hold to the historicity of Genesis 2-11, such as Dick Fischer.)

    Thus, I no longer feel the same “intellectual schizophrenia” that I’d experienced all those years. It’s quite freeing and I’m enjoying science once again. It’s no longer (nor can it be) a threat to my faith. As well, it’s made the Bible a much richer document than I ever thought possible. In fact, because of my “evolutionary creationist” perspective, I now perceive God as much more awesome and creative than I ever did during my YEC days.

  2. I once would have gone along with Mac on this one as well, especially well I was in High School, but no longer. When in Undergrad (I went to Bethel University btw) I met a number of committed Christians who were also scientists. From everything I was able to gather from them and other research the methods for determining the age of the Earth are quite accurate though not always precise (For instance if someone tells you a rock is 200 million years old they are not being fully truthful. Scientifically speaking there would be a 95% probability that the rock was between 180 million and 220 million years old with 200 million being the midpoint.).

    Suffice to say in my mind the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of an Old Earth and most of the complaints repeated over and over again by New Earth advocates have been addressed long ago (I always like the one about the newly killed animal being measured as being 2000 years old using a method which has a error margin of 10000 years and would never be used for measuring newly killed creatures.). At this point the question is does God lie?? Would he create a universe with the appearance of great age to trick us or for some other purpose?? I must admit the possibility, but I find it highly unlikely. I find the probability that we have misinterpreted the purposes of Genesis far more likely. Now of course Old Earth doesn’t get us quite to theistic evolution, but I think it gets us close enough that the leap required is a very small one because once you get to Old Earth your already not interpreting Genesis literally. Honestly I think Mac is way off on this one.

  3. Most definitions of evolution usually say something like a random or undirected process. That leaves no room for God or any intelligent design. So we can’t compromise on that point. How He did it isn’t as important as that He did it and thus we have a creator to whom we are to answer to.

  4. MacArthur is as dangerous as he is helpful. The overstatements and rhetoric in his quote are a case in point. For that reason, I’m not sure “wise” is the best way to describe him. I received basically the same line of reasoning from a YEC ringer: “unless you buy our interpretation, you’re losing a spiritual battle or succumbing to peer pressure.” Come on! There are many, many scientists who feel that a YE is on par with a flat earth, therefore, the church, at the very least, needs to read Genesis 1-11, Rom 5, etc. as though this is a real option. That being said, scientists and theologians need to be humble enough to admit the provisional nature our understandings of these issues. Trouble is, I don’t see much humility in MacArthur’s statement on this (or other matters.) If Jesus wants to say it’s “my way or the highway,” I’m down with that. But Jesus is the Master, not MacArthur. I agree, Hyers et al are must reads!

  5. Right after I posted my last comment a thought came to me about how we read the Bible and how that might affect this.

    A lot of individuals constantly shout that we can’t use outside knowledge to interpret the Bible. They basically argue that the Bible should be read in a vacuum as if we had no other knowledge other than what we were reading. This is ridiculous, it is humanly impossible to read the Bible as if all of our other knowledge about the universe doesn’t exist. Furthermore the Bible often assumes requisite levels of knowledge for its readers. For instance if we didn’t understand that virgins can’t have babies the story of the virgin birth of Christ wouldn’t make sense. We’d also still believe in a Earth centered universe. In both cases we have outside knowledge that makes these things make sense and we know that a virgin birth would have to be a miracle, and now read statements such as “the sun stood still” as hyperbole because we know that the universe doesn’t work this way .

    I would propose that discoveries in science and other areas of knowledge should, to a degree, affect how we interpret the Bible. When there is overwhelming evidence for something that seems to contradict the Bible we should go back to the Bible and look very closely at whether or not there is a way of interpreting or understanding the Bible passage in question differently such that it does not conflict. If there is indeed a unresolvable conflict then fine, go with the Bible, but I think too often we have become so attached to certain interpretations of the Bible that when someone or some discovery questions those interpretations we see them as attacking the Bible and the Christian Faith, rather than trying to use all the knowledge available to them to gain a better and more accurate understanding of the Bible.

    I also thing some of this has to do with theology too. Often it seems we construct these elaborate theologies that are like a house of cards and if even one card is pulled out the house falls down and is ruined. This leads to statements like those of MacArthur because they feel the need to (almost) violently defend every aspect of what they believe lest their house of cards fall apart. Instead I think we should build a strong center around the essentials such that if we’re wrong about a peripheral issue like evolution it doesn’t cause major damage to our faith.

  6. I agree with MacArthur. I don’t see how you can square science’s evolution of man with the Genesis creation of man. Were Adam and Eve real people? The breath of life that God breathed into Adam, yes ? No? maybe?. I’m not talking about an old earth or a young earth and I doubt MacArthur is either. I think this is refering primarily to the evolution of man. I agree with him, it is undermining the scriptures from the beginning.
    It is one thing to say science contributes to our understanding of scripture and another to say science dictates our understanding of scripture. Again I don’t think this is YE vs OE that is being addressed here.

  7. It is disturbing to me that an issue such as this should become such a litmus test for being counted among “the faithful.”

    Considering evolutionary theory has very little, if anything at all, to do with someone’s faith. Science looks at the evidence and makes conclusions. It is true that history provides numerous examples of where science got it wrong, but it’s also an amazingly self-correcting system. Make a scientific pronouncement and other scientists will test it. When new evidence comes to light, they will test it again. And again. Rigor is built into the system; so is skepticism. Try to fudge the data and you will be found out…maybe not now, but eventually.

    It is true that some see evolution as an opportunity to discount the involvement of God in creation, and therefore as ammunition for the argument that God doesn’t exist. But those are secondary conclusions that go beyond the science involved.

    Is it so hard for us to accept the science as science, without making it be something it’s not? Evolution is no more heretical in it’s substance than any other conclusion in science. We don’t get all red in the face when meteorologists describe the formation of hurricanes. Or when botanists describe the process by which insects participate in the fertilization of flowers. Both are amazing acts of God’s creation, yet it’s pretty rare to hear God’s part in them discussed. Does that discount His work? Absolutely not.

    Science, by itself, doesn’t make a theological statement. It merely tries to figure out how the observable processes work.

  8. Cadis,

    I suspect your #2 chromosome suggests otherwise. Within the human DNA is irrefutable proof of our common descent from earlier non-Homo sapiens life forms.

    Here’s a link to a video, featuring Kenneth R. Miller, who is a Christian, that touches on our #2 chromosome.

  9. Michael, I think you make an excellent point in comment #5. We absolutely need to be open to using outside data to interpret Scripture. Scripture came to us across a swath of times and cultures, all of which are not our own. We need to seek to understand them within their original cultural and intellectual framework.

    I am curious to read the wider context of MacArthur’s quote. Why is it so dangerous? If John Walton is right (in the Lost World of Genesis One) then the Bible doesn’t have an account of material creation, thus it’s left open to us. The biggest issue I see is related to whether or not we must believe in a historical Adam. If that’s MacArthur’s contention, I get where he’s coming from (even though I still wouldn’t agree with him – I covered this issue recently on my own blog (I hope I’m not violating blog rule #1 here) –

    The Bible doesn’t stand outside culture (neither do we!). As Protestants we’re committed to sola scriptura not nuda scriptura.

  10. Special creation of Homo sapiens sapiens would not leave evidence of a fusion of two previously separate chromosomes, the act of which left us with 23 pairs of chromosomes instead of the 24 pairs possessed by the great apes. Special creation of humans would also fail to explain why, on a number of occasions, humans are born with tails, which we do possess for a brief time as an embryo (WHY?). Of course, the genes which control tail development (yes, we all have the genes to create tails!) switch off almost as quickly as they turned on. Special creation of humans also fail to explain why we, along with the rest of the great apes, have the genes to synthesize vitamin C but can’t. That’s because the same gene of the three necessary for the body to synthesize vitamin C is switched off due to mutation—strong evidence of common descent, as the mutation likely occurred in an environment in which there were plenty of vitamin C-rich food sources, making the mutation “neutral” for the environment in which our common ancestor lived and allowing for the mutation to become nearly universal (which it eventually did). If God meant for humans not to synthesize vitamin C within our own bodies, why on earth would he have given us the genes to do so?

  11. No, I don’t think there is compromise to say that evolution could be compatible with the Bible.

  12. Very good approach, Michael. This is very much in line with my “Dangers of Misplaced Dogmatism” you posted a while back. This is simply not a salvation issue. It is not a slippery slope. It is not a compromise.

  13. Re Beidler’s comments

    MacArthur’s comments are naive, over the top, dangerous and unbiblical.

    However, evolution is by no means a slam dunk, but is rather the more unlikely of the possible explanations (well, it is better than “turtles all the way down”).

    Chromosome #2 does not, logically, prove anything of the sort. The fusion could have happened solely in a human past. That is, fully modern humans could have had the unfused gene, a mutation occurred and spread, and now all living modern humans have the fused gene. No need for a monkey explanation.

    Next, one can raise the problem that the same gene in different organisms can do different things, depending on the proteins, etc. that are present to interpret the instructions and carry them out.

    Very problematic is the fact that the use of different aspects of the cell produces very different “trees” — depending on whether RNA is used, mitochondrial DNA, nuclear DNA, etc. The problem is so bad that the concept was declared dead earlier this year. For example, Eric Bapteste, an evolutionary biologist at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, told New Scientist magazine that, “We have no evidence at all that the tree of life is a reality.”

    Finally, even evolutionist scientists can sometimes be honest about the shortfalls of their theory. Günter Theißen of the Department of Genetics at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany wrote:

    “It is dangerous to raise attention to the fact that there is no satisfying explanation for macroevolution. One easily becomes a target of orthodox evolutionary biology and a false friend of proponents of non-scientific concepts.”

    (Günter Theißen, “The proper place of hopeful monsters in evolutionary biology,” Theory in Biosciences, Vol. 124:349–369 (2006).)

    The likelihood that evolution is wrong does not, however, justify MacArthur’s overreaching and incorrect claim. In fact, that sort of all or nothing approach is what leads many people to give up their Christianity in the face of what they believe to be entirely sensible science (though from a Calvinist view, that is no loss to the number of the redeemed since a person who appears to give up the faith was never elect in the first place). Still, in so far as God has ordained humans as a means of spreading the gospel, it is not good for men such as MacArthur to lay out unnecessary stumbling blocks.


  14. One should also note that Beidler uses two fallacies to ground his support for evolution, the false dilemma and identity or psychological fallacy.

    He talks about the genes for tails example as if there are only two possible explanations for it (false dilemma), when he has not proved that there are only two explanations (and there potentially more than two).

    Even more problematic is that he assumes that the designer, if there were one, would design things the way he (Beidler) would. Thus he makes an unwarranted assumption that there is identity between how he would do things and how the designer would, and the unwarranted assumption that he can know the mind or psychology of the designer.

    The designer could be doing things for entirely different reasons than Beidler assumes, and, moreover, Beidler has no grounds for assuming that he knows anything about the designers motivations or mind in creating and using genes.

    But I really think we should spend more time attacking MacArthur’s use of reductionist fallacy and false dilemma, and the fact that he does not appear to know what he is talking about.


  15. I just watched the program on Ardi, the latest in evolutionary discoveries on the Discovery Channel. Scientist are now convinced that we did not evolve from monkeys, but from bipedal humanoids.

    I don’t let my faith be shaken up by scientific discoveries, what I learn from Genesis is that God is our creator. But there are no exact details on this process.

  16. We have absolutely no reason to read into the creation account. MacArthur’s point highlights the problem of people trying to stuff “science” into history. Neither the scientists nor the historians have an eyewitness account as to what took place and neither is Genesis an eyewitness account. So what are we left with? A God-breathed account from the One who actually was there. We don’t need any more than that from a faith perspective. Nor do we need to excuse/deny/obfuscate to anyone. It’s the truth and it doesn’t need to be molded to fit the world’s pattern.

  17. As a theistic evolutionist, I’ve never run into an issue where my faith was threatened enough for me to be overly concerned. Ironically, like MacArthur, when I was a YEC my faith was constantly under threat from the evil evolutionists ad nauseum. So I understand his paranoia.

    My faith has never been stronger. I may not have all the answers, and don’t know if I ever will, but at least I don’t have to wake up every morning and convince myself that God’s creation lies.

    I don’t have to base my opposition to current science off of a surface level understanding of a book that wasn’t even written in a language I can understand millennia before my birth.

    I’ve got a deeper understanding of scripture, a deeper understanding of scripture’s view on creation, a deeper understanding of creation itself, and a deeper understanding of scripture’s inspiration and inerrancy.

    All in all i think I made out pretty well.

  18. Greg, I agree with you 100%!

    I have been around this debate a very long time (as some here can attest). I have seen MANY young earth creationists say things like “well, if you don’t believe Genesis 1 is true, you might as well throw out the entire Bible!” and other nonsense. And I have seen more than one Christian LOSE their faith because they accepted this either/or dogma and then came to realize that the evidence for evolution was overwhelming which meant, to them, that the Bible must be false.

    There are only two groups insisting that if the Bible is right, evolution is wrong, and vice-versa: atheists and young earth creationists.

    Without this false dichotomy, there is no challenge to faith, to Scripture, to any important doctrine of Christian belief. I have never met a theistic evolutionist that slid into non-belief, but I have met a number of folks who were so convinced of this rigid dichotomy that they were forced to choose between the scientific evidence and the interpretation of Scripture that they were convinced was inviolable.

  19. The main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things.

    I think we (man) tends to complicate the simple (?).

    We are created in the image of God (how can that possibly fit into the evolutionary view of man?)

    Why would a day not be a day, when the bible says, “2nd day, 3rd day, etc.” (Admittedly, I don’t know the Hebrew on this one, I know in the Scopes Monkey Trial the Hebrew translation was used to defend the possibility of evolution).

    In college I did believe in the possibility of evolution (I became a Christian in college). I took an evolution class and spend hours discussing with the professor. It didn’t add up to me, but I still stayed on the fence. Now, not so much. I don’t get all bothered about it, but I absolutely do not believe that man has evolved from apes (*that* would contradict scripture).


  20. The Bible seems to indicate that Adam was created as a Man and not a child, hence Adam was created with the apearence of age. With evolution you would have to have Adam being born as a baby and his parents must not of been human since Adam was the first human. Humans would not have really been created in the image of God but in the image of some type of hominoid.

    Why could God of not created the universe as a mature one as He did Adam?

    Assuming that Adam was really created as a Man from the dust of the ground and if a doctor were to examine him the day after he was created would that doctor come the the conclusion that Adam was only a day old?

  21. Charles Williams October 22, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Michael, I think there are some great dangers here in taking a theistic evolutionary position. The Bible is not a scientific book. That does not suggest that it is unreliable, just that it did not intend to give us some answers. In my view the best way to approach this is to accept what it says and recognize that the rest is, by definition, going to be little more than speculation. So why go there? Not knowing all the answers does not necessitate accepting whatever pet theories are tossed around by those who seem to believe that there absolutely must be a scientific explanation for everything. Science cannot explain everything; it never will. That does not mean that we should refrain from scientific efforts, rather it means that we should avoid accepting as scientific those things that are not. There are some clear truths in the Genesis account that should not be open for debate among Christians. First we are created in a deliberate act by a holy God who set us apart for a purpose as creatures who are intrinsically different from all of the rest of creation. We are the only ones who were given the breath of life, and I think the point of the Genesis account to say just that. Man was given the task of subduing the earth and participating with God in the business of caring for a wonderful creation. It was all deliberate, personal and rational, not random. Second, the Genesis account makes it clear that we were created from nothing by the force of the divine word. That tells me that we also were spoken into existence from nothing. Any explanation about how that occurred physiologically is pure speculation and frankly is not worth the effort to try to figure it out. We’ll know soon enough.
    I am really a bit weary of all the pontifications about evolution, as if it were some prized axiom of life worthy of the intellectual effort necessary to prop it up. It is a theory and a religion, not a science and it contradicts a good deal of what is actually good science, that is what is experimentally or computationally verifiable. Evolution presumes that order evolved as the result of random occurrences. Order doesn’t develop that way; order devolves to chaos not the other way around and that can be proven both experimentally and computationally. No experiment and no mathematical model has ever replicated the kind of backward universe that would be necessary for evolution to work the way Darwin predicted and others have since inflated it. Second, there is not one particle of evidence of one species transforming into another as the result of natural selection. Species may have disappeared, but they didn’t become something else. Evolving toward order and adaptation to form new species are absolute requirements for Darwin’s theory to work. Neither occurs in nature and neither can be modeled.

  22. Charles Williams October 22, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    But never mind, this theory has been trumpeted as science for so long it has become a global religion that is now beyond the need for proof. It is a ready-made solution for the inherent problem the world has with the idea of a transcendent God who has the right to tell us how to order our lives because he created us. At its very core, evolutionary theory is nothing more than a mechanism to avoid the authority of a sovereign God. Instead, in our culture, everything must now be submitted to the faith of evolution as a first principle that exercises authority, rather than God, in virtually every other area of intellectual endeavor. It is now the basis of social theory, moral development theory, psychology, economic development, education, public policy and the list goes not. So, “no” I do not accept the idea of theistic evolution because it contradicts the nature, character, and purpose of God as revealed in Scripture.

  23. I think all Christians believe the physical evidence shown by the evolutionists. Beyond the physical evidence, when their worldview begins to connect the dots, that is where we tend to back away. This is the problem in a philosophical nutshell. Evolutionists have been very successful in shifting the debate to the physical evidence and the physical implications from same. For example, evolutionists have tried to present the transitional fossils as being a point against the Christian’s creation model, and a point for their side. Then, the debate shifted almost entirely over to the physical evidence, which will generally give points to the evolutionists. First century mindset did not have this physical evidence as part of the debate, since nobody knew how God chose to bring the earth to its current, fallen condition. If the debate can be brought back to the philosophical underpinnings, then the theory of evolution remains just that. Perhaps I would go so far as to say that the physical evidence is unrelated to the Christian model. This needs to be re-introduced into the discussion. Without a creator, there are no physical substances to show changes in form (evolve). Even with Gorgias, Epicurus (especially his later years), perhaps Pyrrho but definitely Euclid, their philosophical starting points precluded today’s evolutionary strong holds. How a form changes in shape and function should not be introduced into the discussion; it has no relationship to the philosophical (metaphysical) pre-necessities. Until the issue of a transcendent creator is resolved, the evolutionists are sitting rather pretty. If a position could not answer the fundamental questions of life (known in the BC eras as “religious issues”), they certainly were not allowed to enter into ‘subsequent’ rational discourse. And what I find unbearably boring is the fact that the issues have NOT changed even the slightest bit in the last 3 thousand years! Name one!

    How have Evolutionists tried to show “scientific” progress? Simply by introducing some ‘physical’ evolutionary evidence! But what has that to do with the philosophical starting points of the position itself! Physical evidence can be brought forward to support any physical model of evolution, but what can be brought forward for public consumption to resolve the philosophical issues that evolution has not overcome in 3,000+ years. Evolution, by focusing on the physical evidence, has “admitted” that there are no avenues to take with the more serious philosophical issues that are periodically and uncomfortably raised by an informed Christian Apologist. In my guess – and I have no advanced degrees in this area, which means I will have to remain content on the outside, looking in – until Christians collectively stop debating the scientists and begin debating the Philosophers, we will make insignificant gains in this aimless discussion.

  24. Charles Williams October 22, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Cornell I have no idea what you just said. Now I have a headache. lol.

  25. Charles Williams in your posts # 21 & 22..exactly!

  26. Typical MacArthur. I’m so glad we got him to let us know what’s really important and what isn’t. Whew!

  27. You know, even if one could somehow become convinced that the whole Genesis account of the creation of Adam and Eve was simply a symbol for God’s act of bringing man into being through evolution, it seems to me that there would still be a huge problem in trying to make that coincide with what the New Testament teaches. There we are given a lineage of man all the way back to Adam, are told that in the first Adam all men died, that Adam was created first and then Eve, etc. It seems to me that the New Testament writers very definitely spoke of Adman and Eve as literal people and the start of the human race. How do we get around all of that if we are to accept any form of evolution?

  28. The poll indicates that most people don’t believe in theistic evolution, even if Evangelical scholarship may be headed in such a direction.

  29. And the reason why the guntlet will continue to fall is that it is so easy and natural to read the book of Genesis at face value. That is not going to change.

    People, whatever position you take, you had better have thought it through wisely.

  30. Two questions are in play:

    Does the Bible contradiction evolution beyond reasonable doubt?
    Does science show evolution to be true beyond reasonable doubt?

    Obviously, yes/yes implies Christianity is false. So to be a Christian, you must consider yes/yes to be a false pair of answers: so why is it false?

    Creationists (usually) say yes/no, while theistic evolutionists say no/yes. The third position is no/no. This is not more ecumenical, or being more focused on core doctrine, this is a third position, which must be held as tightly as the others.

    To be a creationist who is open minded about what the evidence says, you must hold that the Bible does not contradict evolution. To be open minded about the possibility that the Bible contradicts evolution, you must hold the position that the scientific evidence is unclear.

    All doctrines rest on this claim: Christianity is true. Disagreeing with all lines of reasoning that lead to the conclusion Christianity is false is therefore a core doctrine. So your creation/evolution stance is a core doctrine.

    The answer no/no resolves nothing. If no/no tries to be accepting of both no/yes and yes/no, this leaves Christianity’s cognitive gene pool as a cauldron producing apostasy whenever the wrong two ideas meet in the same person. I guess you could just have faith that God wouldn’t let this happen, except that he so obviously doesn’t stop this from happening.

  31. There are enormous problems in a Christian world view for evolution. How could we interpret being born with Adam’s sin, if Adam evolved from an amoeba? How would Adam have betrayed his being created good by sinning, if his entire existence is owed to survival of the fittest? To Mike who claims to escaped from scientific “intellectual schizophrenia” by embracing it, I don’t know how he hasn’t embraced theological intellectual schizophrenia. What can be left of the Christian religion without the concept of sin in Adam?

  32. CMP,
    Given the result of the current poll and a similar poll you did awhile back which showed drastically different results I think it is highly likely someone is messing with the results. While I can’t speak for other age groups, of the 100’s of college students I have come into contact with from the Evangelical schools in my area (Bethel University, Northwestern College, and Crown College) VERY VERY few are Young Earth types. The vast majority are old earth creation and more hold to gap theory or theistic evolution then YEC. Crown and Northwestern are quite conservative institutions btw with Bethel being more accepting of divergent views.

  33. To Mike who claims to escaped from scientific “intellectual schizophrenia” by embracing it, I don’t know how he hasn’t embraced theological intellectual schizophrenia. What can be left of the Christian religion without the concept of sin in Adam?

    I don’t have theological intellectual schizophrenia because I’ve learned to separate the theological truths that the Bible intends to proclaim (e.g., all possess a sinful nature) from the incidental vessels in which those truths were originally proclaimed (e.g., the etiological story of Adam and Eve). I’ve learned not to conflate inerrant, theological truth with incidental, ancient science. Nothing is lost theologically, especially when you learn to respect the text for what it is, not what you think it is.

    Here’s a link to a discussion about scientific concordism vs. accommodationism that should benefit the discussion. As well, here’s a fine paper from Denis Lamoureux that discusses the point I made above.

  34. That actually was the old poll Michael. I just set everything back to 0 to go again.

    If it does not work for you, you need to clear your cookies, I think.

  35. “And the reason why the guntlet will continue to fall is that it is so easy and natural to read the book of Genesis at face value. That is not going to change.”

    I agree. This is one of the main reasons why it will be slow. But, I’m happy to see Evangelical scholarship moving in the direction that it is. Hopefully things will begin to trickle down as time goes on. It may take a while for the laity to get on board, but hopefully it’ll happen and the church will stop making another Galilean Gaff.

    And to be frankly honest, I’d rather be on the side of men like Bruce Waltke, John Walton, Victor Hamilton, and Tremper Longman than John MacArthur, ICR, AIG, and the average reader of Genesis.

    I respect the former because of their knowledge of the world of the Old Testament, Genesis, and the Ancient Near East and how it’s unparalleled by those in the YEC camp. Their careful scholarly attitude and manner as opposed to the shrill “for us or against us” battle cry of young earth creationists.

    The foundations of YEC are corrupt. It just isn’t a sturdy set of beliefs that can face honest criticism head on. It likely doesn’t read Genesis 1 correctly, and this is problematic when that interpretation is the basis for all the claims YEC makes. It ignores or overlooks too many game-changing details when it interprets Genesis, and that’s not a good strategy to take when your building a vast infrastructure on your conclusions.

    I’m of the opinion that the sooner the better. The last thing we need is more useless stumbling blocks and ridicule.

    And with that all said, if anyone wants to they can read up on the discussion that took place here over the summer on this same topic:

    P.S. – Mike Beidler said “I’ve learned not to conflate inerrant, theological truth with incidental, ancient science. Nothing is lost theologically, especially when you learn to respect the text for what it is, not what you think it is.”

    I’d just like to give a big two thumbs up to that!

  36. It amazes me how much ink (real and virtual) this issue continues to attract. WHO created life on earth is a question of faith not science. The MOST science will ever be able to say on the subject is that they see no observable proof of divine intervention — period. Does that mean there is no God? Of course not, deciding if there is a diety is a theological question not a scientific one.

    Most of the more rabid Darwinists cling to evolutionary theory because it eliminates the problem of how life got here — if it can’t be explained in some “rational” (rational in quotes because I’m not entirely sure modern evolutionary theory is all that rational), then they have to struggle with the “where did we come from” issue. I

    Too many evangelicals choose accomodation because they want to distance themselves from the “young-earth-creationists”. The real problem with accomodation is where you draw the line — remember that the mechanistic view of the universe gave rise to the “god is dead” conclusion — a god that makes no difference is really not much of a god at all.

    So, I have a breakthrough thought — let’s have the scientists get back to doing science and the theologians get back to doing theology AND quit trying to stake out positions in the other group’s domain of discourse.

    I heartily agree with you that it makes not one iota of difference whether God chose to use what we think we understand as “evolution” to produce life or whether he used another process — he did it. Similarly, whether those are literal days or figurative epochs is also pretty irrelevant (he did it in his own good time). For those people who get hung up on things like that, shouldn’t you really be worrying about having a parapet around your roof and tassels on the hem of your robes?

    — Ishmael

  37. I love this article Micheal. My only point of contention is the characterization of MacArthur as “wise”. MacArthur on most issues = over the top, inflammatory, and arrogant. I know, not a lot of love for a brother in Christ, but the man drives me nuts! His constant “scolding” of those Christians who don’t agree with his view on everything is wearisome.


  38. Re: #31 – John,

    “What can be left of the Christian religion without the concept of sin in Adam?”

    That’s an excellent point. If man evolved from apes, then Adam was a descendant of those animals and thus death came before sin. If death comes before sin, then death cannot be a consequence of sin. More than that, the reason behind the whole sacrificial system as a covering for sins becomes little more than feeble man striking out at less intelligent creatures in order to placate his own guilt. It also nullifies Christ’s sacrifice on the cross – why did Jesus have to die in our place? If death is just a natural part of life and it existed long before God stepped into the picture with Adam, then I’d have to side with Steve Chalke that God the Father is a tyrant who is guilty before man of cosmic child abuse against His Son.

    Shifting one’s trust away from the God “who created the heavens and stretched them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
    who gives breath to the people on it
    and spirit to those who walk in it (Isa 42:5)” and placing it in the wisdom of man is aggressively undermining your own faith. What happens if CNN reports that scientists have found absolute proof that the big bang actually could have created heavier elements and that, given enough time and distance, that particles in a vacuum gain mass and begin to spin and create gravity, that the second law of thermodynamics has no place in the creation of stars, that our sun really has all of the components necessary to make all of the planets and moons in our solar system (as would be necessary for the planets to be created through the accretion (protoplanetry) disk), that they’ve figured a way around creating life in a reducing atmosphere that would then immediately require oxygen to exist, and… I’m getting way ahead of myself here. Let’s just say that, “if” CNN reports that scientists have revealed that there is a “scientific consensus” that God is irrelevant to our place in the universe – what would keep you believing that God exists and that He has any power over our lives?

    God, as we know Him today, only makes sense as He is revealed to us through scripture. Rejecting portions of scripture (Noah’s flood, the Creation narrative, the Red Sea crossing, etc) is not “revealing the true God behind the words”, but is instead removing pieces of the character and nature of God as He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. Why stop at those parts? Why not remove most of Leviticus to make Him more inclusive, then add some to the New Testament to make Him more approachable? Either way, you’re building a god in your own image – something that you feel more comfortable worshipping. The god of theistic evolution is either too weak, stupid, or cruel to make it right in the first place. He has no power of this world or the next and is not to be trusted.

    I prefer to stick by God as revealed through scripture.

  39. Believing in an old earth has nothing to do with rejecting a portion of scripture, but with properly understanding it.

    Furthermore, believing in animal death before Adam’s sin is an entirely possible interpretation that does not impact the nature of sin or salvation.

    It is not possible to understand the Bible apart from using our minds and language, which God gave us, nor is it possible apart from knowledge of the physical universe, which God also gave us. Otherwise, to be consistent, one would have to believe in a flat earth and that the earth is the centre of the universe and that God has actual arms and hands.

    Those who interpret the Bible as requiring a young earth are interpreting the Bible in their own image, the image of a rich (compared to the world) western American Christian who reads only an English Bible and has no knowledge of Hebrew culture or literature. The only appropriate way to understand the Bible is to use all of the knowledge and abilities that God has given us.


  40. “I don’t have theological intellectual schizophrenia because I’ve learned to separate the theological truths that the Bible intends to proclaim (e.g., all possess a sinful nature) from the incidental vessels in which those truths were originally proclaimed”

    I would second Ian’s observation about death being caused by sin, if you believe death came prior to sin. Do you accept this theological truth?

    But also, where do you draw the line between theological truths and incidentals? Is the claim that man started off in a sinless state before a fall, a theological truth? Is the fall itself a theological truth? If so, what might the fall be in a world of ape-men? If not, how is the whole Christian world view not undermined? If there was no fall, then we need no redemption of the kind the bible describes.

    And if you can somehow sort through that problem, why should we believe any of it? If the bible is wrong in its foundation, but only true in the most general sense that we are sinners in need of salvation, why would we believe Jesus Christ saves us? All you’re left with is the notion that some folks thought that Jesus saves, but maybe that was a mistake too, the superstitious notions of some primitive people.

  41. Hi John (and anyone else who doubts human evolution),

    If you’d like to see the multiple lines of genetics evidence for God creating us through an evolutionary process, you can view this talk I gave at the meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation (an organization of Christians in the sciences) this summer.

    This evidence is obvious to anyone with biological expertise. That Christians continue to deny it only raises unnecessary barriers to faith for those who know about it.


  42. As a kid, it was a puzzle why Adam and Eve didn’t die on the very day they ate, as God said. It was explained that they did die in a spiritual sense but physical death is different and came later in life.

    If the old earth perspective is correct, it seems to almost demand physical life and death prior to Adam. So how could sin bring death, when sin didn’t begin until Adam?

    It seems to me that God could have breathed spiritual life into an existing being, making it human – Adam. And only a being with spiritual life, i.e., the Image of God, is capable of sin. So sin enters the world with Adam and so does spiritual death. The life they lost after their fruit snack was spiritual, not physical. Physical death eventually came along in the normal course of things.

    This seems to address the problems of sin and death coming into the world.

    Just a thought. Probably too early in the morning to make much sense.

  43. Michael, right now the poll seems to show that around 35% of your readers accept Theistic Evolution and 41% accept Young Earth Creationism. I think that shows significant progress and definitely points to which way the trend is heading. It took a VERY long time before the Church (both Catholic and Protestant) was willing to accept that they had gotten Scripture wrong about geocentrism, and it will take a while with this as well.

    At some point, the Church will look back on this whole debate with a combination of chagrin and frustration that it took SO long for folks to accept that they had simply been reading it wrong.

    But you are right, folks in a modern world tend to read texts the way THEY would write them today, not the way someone in the Ancient Near East would write them or understand them. In modern times, we prefer our stories about the past to be written as literal narrative accounts, fact by fact. In the ANE, they never considered writing about their past that way. How boring they would have considered it, and entirely unworthy of the glory and majesty of the events and concepts being conveyed! :0)

  44. Can someone that believes in theistic evolution please tell me what facts and concepts were being portrayed when Genesis tells us that God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground and that Eve was taken from a rib in his side? I simply do not see how you understand that.

    And as someone mentioned in a comment this a.m., how do you know where to draw the line? How do you know where the Bible stops speaking of things as if they were fact but that were really simply accomodations to the way people thought at the time?

    And very frankly, how can you be so certain that you understand the theological truths being taught? If the statements of the “how” of things–referring specifically to Adam and Eve now–are not to be taken literally at all, how can you be sure that the theological “facts” that you are believing are taught are to be taken literally?

  45. Cheryl, let me ask you this. What do you think the writer is describing when he says that God “breathed” into Adam? If read literally, that means that God somehow used human breath, which would have to mean he took human form for this act. I don’t think any Christian believes that had to be what happened? We accept that when using the phrase “God breathed”, the author is using a literary device used to describe some historical event, but using non-literal language. Something big and important happened, and it was likely something we, as humans, could never really understand, but this was a wonderfully evocative way of retelling the event. Even hardcore creationists don’t seem to have a problem with this. But then they balk at reading anything else figuratively, which is not consistent.

    As for where you draw the line, this is a problem we will always have. When Christians were insisting that Scripture, when read plainly, make it clear that the sun, moon and stars revolved around a fixed earth, and that to argue differently challenged the validity of Scripture, I am sure they said the same thing: if you read this “un-plainly”, where do you draw the line?

    Well, we don’t have to have hard lines about what is written using strict literal historical narrative, what is using epic symbolism and powerful poetry, and what is some mixture of the two. We, as Christians, KNOW that it is TRUE no matter what style of literature is being used. Not that certain historical events are literally accurate, since that is not really important, but that Scripture properly and accurately conveys the message God wants for us.

    Is it more important to know that God created, with a plan and with power, or that we know the minute details of the process?

  46. There are several ways of understanding how Adam, and the doctrine of original sin, can be understood in light of the paleontological record of billions of years of death, and the overwhelming evidence for evolution. I suggest a few of these in an article entitled, ”Evolution, What about Adam?”

    When Ian contends that “God, as we know Him today, only makes sense as He is revealed to us through scripture” I have to wonder if he ever read Romans 1:20. Here, Paul makes it clear: we can know and understand much about God, including “invisible qualities” (NIV) without ever cracking open a holy book, but merely by examining the work of his creative hand. Science, good science, is nothing more nor less than the close examination of the handiwork of the Creator! Christians, of all people, should embrace science with heart and mind! and when then do, they will discover that evolution is most certainly true.

  47. vance,

    I understand what you are saying and agree to a point. However, the breath of God metaphor is used elsewhere in Scripture too so is more easily understood as a metaphor and not that God became a literal man in this case.

    However, assuming you believe in a literal Adam and Eve that somehow came about as a result of evolution, it frankly sounds to me like God was telling some kind of a fairy tale to people to explain what He did in the creation of man when He said He made Adam out of the dust of the earth, and then of all things, that Eve was created from a rib in his side. Neither one of them bare any resemblance to truth at all if they both came from evolution from another form of life. It sounds like an even better story than the 3 and 4 year old children in my world make up in their great imaginations! Do you really believe that this is the way ANE people understood things? And maybe most importantly in my mind is the question of why the Holy Spirit, who says He is the Spirit of truth, would use a completely false story that would give a totally false idea of what happened, to convey His truth to either the ancients or to us??

  48. This debate while interesting should not devide Christians or be a litmus test for faith. In my late teens I began to question a literal interpretation of Genesis, which along with some other issues led me to go on what I’ll call a 12 year hiatus from Christianity.

    While I never stopped believing that God existed I could’nt reconcile a literal 6 day creation with what I learned about in school about the earth. In college I took two semesters of Geology and 1 semester of Oceanography and learned about the age of the earth and the length of time it took for geological processes to happen and how old rocks are ect. This did’nt and doesn’t square with a 6000 year old earth.

    Two years ago I started to critically examine my religious beliefs and I was extatic to find out that not all Christians are young earthers and that there are ways to reconcile the Bible to reason and science and you don’t have to ignore reason and science to be a good Christian. Some how I got that notion growing up and the Youth Paster at the Church I grew up in never told us that there are other views out there. Perhaps had there been a Theology Program in place at my Church ( A plug for the course CMP which I’m taking by the way) 25 years ago I would’nt have gone on my hiatus.

    How sad it is that people like MacArthur have this kind of all or nothing attitude toward this issue. Our salvation has nothing to do with believing this one way or the other. While I haven’t adopted a particular view ie. Theistic Evolutionist. It seems to me the crucial point is that God created us and this planet and the Universe. Man continues to study, learn and if need be revise his understanding of us and the earth. I think thats what God intended so we should’nt get all caught up in the details.

    If the majority of scientists someday all come to the conclusion through scientific study that we have gotten the carbon dating assumptions wrong (as I read on a Creationist website) I’d be ok with that, but until that day comes I’m going with the 13.5 billion date for the Universe and 4.5 billion date for the earth.

    Either way God did it.

  49. Cheryl, the fact that the breath metaphor is used elsewhere in Scripture is the point I am making. We accept that it is being used metaphorically here, even though there are NO clues in the text that it meant to be read that way. Why? Because we bring in evidence from elsewhere. Otherwise if we use a “modern” take on it, it should be read as God using a literal physical body.

    Similarly, we need to take into consideration how those in the ancient near east preferred to write and think about their past. What is most telling in your post is when you use the terms “false story” and “false idea”. Do you feel that it was “false” for the God to allow the writer to use the phrase “breathed” when that is not what happened? No, you accept that it is simply a literary device, not false or “untrue” at all, even though it is making a seemingly factual statement and that “fact” never occurred. God did SOMETHING, and the writer chose to use the phrase “God breathed” to describe that “thing”. But God did not literally breathe.

    So, why would it be any more “false” if the entire passage was written that way?

    Folks in the ancient near east simply preferred to recount past events, especially huge, epic, even cosmic events in a poetic, symbolic, figurative manner. Let’s face it, think of that writer, in that time, with that audience trying to write something worthy to describe the creation of the entire universe and every living thing on it. Would a straightforward narrative account do it justice?

  50. Cornell Machiavelli October 23, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Charles Williams

    Sorry for my post. I find that all my thinking, when reduced to print, never seems to correspond to my thoughts.

    In the proverbial ‘nutshell’ here is the two main points:

    1. Never discuss the physical evidence in a Creation-Evolution debate, such as fossils, galaxy formations, or the Big Bang.

    2. ONLY discuss the critical philosophical/metaphysical issue – What’s the metaphysical cause of the effect known as the physical Universe – that must be resolved and agreed to before there is physical matter to evolve.

    An Evolutionist stops at the Big Bang, as if he’s answered some deep scientific conundrum. The Big Bang is philosophically self-stultifying. The Big Bang does not arrive at the metaphysical cause – a necessary condition to have obtained BEFORE evolution can be rationally discussed.

    Hope this is a little better, but as you can see communicating in writing is not my forte.


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