Creation and Evolution: Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

(Paul Copan)

The former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca once said: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  This simple advice has wide-ranging application—whether we’re settling personal disagreements, planning our schedules, or trying to build bridges with non-Christians.

One area of bridge-building has to do with the creation-evolution “debate.”  In my book “That’s Just Your Interpretation” (Baker, 2001), I deal with a variety of philosophical and apologetical questions such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, Eastern monism and reincarnation, foreknowledge and free will, predestination, and the like. One question I address has to do with the Genesis-science issue.  I note that the fundamental question is not how old the earth is (although I do believe it is billions of years old); nor is the issue how long God took to create the universe (if we insist that God’s creating in six 24-hour days as more miraculous than a process of billions of years, this still wouldn’t be as miraculous as God’s creating in six nanoseconds…or just one!).  I also mention in the book that the fundamental issue to discuss with scientifically-minded non-Christians—the main thing—is not “creation vs. evolution”; rather, it is the question of “God vs. no God.”  There are, after all, evangelical theistic evolutionists such as theologian Henri Blocher and the late Christian statesman John Stott, and the theologian J.I. Packer seems quite open to theistic evolution (consider his endorsement of theistic evolutionist Denis Alexander’s book Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?).

Now I have my questions about evolution, but then again, a number of naturalists do too!  For example, the biochemist Franklin Harold writes: “We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity….but we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of wishful speculations.”[1] Hmmm…interesting.  At any rate, if evolution turns out to be true, then the Christian should embrace it as one dedicated to following the truth wherever it leads. This might mean reworking his interpretation of Genesis on the subject—much like Christians have had to rework their interpretation of biblical passages referring to the sun rising and setting, the earth not moving, or the earth resting on foundations.[2]

As I speak to secular audiences on university campuses and elsewhere, I don’t raise the creation vs. evolution issue.  Rather, for the sake of argument, I grant evolution and begin the discussion there. I don’t want people turned off to the gospel because I’ve lost sight of the main thing—the centrality of Jesus; unfortunately, a lot of well-meaning Christians do just that and end up running down this or that rabbit trail and never getting back to the main thing. Evolution is a secondary concern; we Christians should remember this when engaging with unbelievers rather than getting side-tracked.  Keep the main thing the main thing.

I typically highlight the following two points when speaking with naturalists.

1. If humans evolved from a single-celled organism over hundreds of millions of years, this is a remarkable argument from design!  Indeed, a lot of naturalists themselves utilize design language when referring to biological organisms—“machines,” “computer-like,” “appears designed” (a point I’ll address in a future blog posting). As believers, we shouldn’t be surprised to see God’s sustaining and providential hand operating through natural processes—though unfortunately even some believing scientists are reluctant to acknowledge this.  Alvin Plantinga’s recent book on God and science, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (Oxford), points out that the conflict is between naturalism and science, not God and science, even if this involves guided (not unguided) evolution. 

Now, the atheist Richard Dawkins has claimed that Darwin made it possible to be a fulfilled atheist.  Well, that’s not quite right. For one thing, Darwin himself didn’t see God and evolution in conflict with each other.  Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species (1859), “To my mind, it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes . . . .” And again: “There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one . . . from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”[3] But there’s more for the atheist to consider.


2. Several significant steps or hurdles must be overcome before evolution can get going:  Many naturalists claim that “evolution can explain it all.” For example, Daniel Dennett asserts that Darwinistic evolution is a “universal acid” that eats through everything it comes into contact with.  The problem, however, is that a number of massive hurdles must be overcome before self-replicating life can even get a running start.  Here are the key hurdles:

  • The origin of the universe from nothing: evolution’s no good without a universe in which it can unfold, and the universe began a finite time ago; it hasn’t always been around.
  • The delicately-balanced, knife-edge universe requires many very specific conditions for life;
  • The emergence of first life (and eventually consciousness): how life could emerge from non-life (or consciousness from non-conscious matter) continues to stump scientists; moreover, if humans could somehow produce life from non-life, this would simply show that this takes a lot of intelligent planning! Just because we have a life-permitting universe, this is no guarantee that it will be a life-producing universe.
  • The continuation of life in harsh early conditions: even if life could come have into existence on its own from non-living matter, there would have been immense obstacles to initial life’s continuation, development, and flourishing.

When we’re looking at the odds in terms of probabilities, this is what we have:



1. A UNIVERSE (OR, PRODUCING SOMETHING FROM NOTHING IN THE BIG BANG): Exactly 0. (Something cannot come into existence from literally nothing; there isn’t even the potentiality to produce anything.)
2. A LIFE-PERMITTING UNIVERSE Roger Penrose (non-theistic physicist/mathematician) notes that the odds of a life-permitting universe: “the ‘Creator’s aim must have been [precise] to an accuracy of one part in 1010(123).”[4] What number are we talking about? It “would be 1 followed by 10/123 successive ‘0’s! Even if we were to write a ‘0’ on each separate proton and on each separate neutron in the entire universe—and we could throw in all the other particles as well for good measure—we should fall far short of writing down the figure needed. [This is] the precision needed to set the universe on its course.”[5] Astronomer Donald Page (a theist) calculates the odds of the formation of our universe at 1 in 10,000,000,000124.[6]
3. A LIFE-PRODUCING UNIVERSE (LIFE FROM NON-LIFE) Stephen Meyer (a theistic philosopher of science) calculates the odds for the necessary 250 proteins to sustain life coming about by change as being 1 in 1041,000.[7]
4. A LIFE-SUSTAINING UNIVERSE (MOVING FROM THE BACTERIUM TO HOMO SAPIENS Frank Tipler and John Barrow (astrophysicists, the latter accepting the Gaia hypothesis) calculated that the chances of moving from a bacterium to homo sapiens in 10 billion years or less is 10-24,000,000 (a decimal with 24 million zeroes).[8]  Francisco Ayala (naturalistic evolutionary biologist) independently calculated the odds of humans arising just once in the universe to be 10-1,000,000.[9]

Many naturalists will simply deny design at every stage (and for all of them).  It seems that no matter how much the odds are ramped up, design would never be acknowledged—an indication that the issue isn’t scientific after all.  This is a theological and philosophical issue.  At any rate, from the literal outset (the beginning of the universe) the falsity and folly of an “evolution did it all” explanation is apparent.

So the main thing is to keep the main thing: God vs. no God—not creation vs. evolution.  And if evolution turns out to be true, why couldn’t this be one of the means by which God brings about his purposes on earth? Indeed, God has revealed himself and his nature through two “books”—God’s Word and God’s world—and Christians should view them as ultimately in concord with one another.

[1] Franklin Harold, The Way of the Cell (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 205.

[2] See Gen 19:23; Deut 16:6; Ps 19:6; 93:1; Ps. 104:5.

[3] Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, orig. pub. 1859 (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, n.d., corr. ed.). Quotations from pp. 459 and 460.

[4] Roger Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind (New York: Bantam., 1991), 344.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Noted in L. Stafford Betty and Bruce Coredell, “The Anthropic Teleological Argument,” Michael Peterson, et al. (eds.), Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, 3rd edn.(New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 239.

[7] Mentioned in Stephen Meyer, Signature in the Cell (New York: HarperOne, 2009). For documentation of other biologists’ calculations, see Meyer’s peer-reviewed essay, “Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories,” in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (2004) 117/2: 213-239.

For a brief video on the intricacies of the cell, see “Journey Inside the Cell”:

[8]John Barrow and Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 557-66.

[9] Noted in Frank J. Tipler, “Intelligent Life in Cosmology,” International Journal of Astrobiology 2 (2003): 142.

328 Responses to “Creation and Evolution: Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing”

  1. Thanks for this Paul. As an orthodox Christian who also did his doctoral dissertation in biology on population genetics, I find I’m often explaining these same points with my well-meaning fellow brothers in Christ. The mechanisms are ultimately secondary and could be any of a number of ways without denying the faith, inerrancy, or any of the main doctrines. The real question is whether God is the author of it all or conversely everything has a purely naturalistic explanation, and that is a metaphysical question not a scientific one at its root. I highly recommend Goetz and Teliaferro’s book Naturalism to anyone interested in understanding the weaknesses of naturalism/scientism.

  2. The “Two Books” or Dual Revelation model is a late Middle Ages innovation, it is not Apostolic in the sense that the visible works of creation that demonstrate the Divine Power and Eternity, cannot, are not and should not be equated to lending support to pagan suppositions about origins. There is nothing in the supposed processes of evolution consistent with the character and holiness of Almighty God.

    This is very disappointing.

    The “Two Books” model has been taken to absurd lengths by Evolutionary Creationists”, equating certain scientific interpretations with the Word of God.

  3. You gentlemen are both disappointing in arrogating to yourselves the epistemological high ground here, referring to your “well meaning” brothers. Are you not making your claims as to the central issue (science vs. scientism) and the “God could have done it that way…” as absolute as those of any convinced and fully materialist Darwinist?

  4. Good thoughts, Paul. I was hit with this “main thing” idea myself as I was studying Gen. 1&2. God is mentioned or referenced something like 60 times. Kinda puts the focus on HIM and not how long the 6 days were. In another 40-50 places He is naming things and stating their purpose or limitations or functions. Yet I can’t find a verse that gives a date or a single explanation of HOW God created it all. Yet we spend all our time focusing on these minor things or things the text is silent on.
    One argument I shy away from though is cosmology used as an argument against evolution. Evolution is a biological argument of genetics and change AFTER the planet came to be and life existed. Pre-evolution arguments are great against the N0-GOD arguments, but don’t really address evolution itself – especially since even YEC’s like Ken Ham accept evolution of different species from a common ancestor “kind” as long as you are talking about post-ark activity and don’t CALL it that. :)

  5. Of course keeping the main thing the main thing is essential.

    Taking care with other important things is also well worth our time and attention however.

    The Bible tells a story, a true story, and it involves a beginning and an end. We should tell that same story. But if we begin with a different beginning than the Bible does, we’re telling a different story. No matter how much we tell ourselves “it doesn’t matter,” I’m concerned that it will matter.

    Our faith is to a large degree a text-based faith. How we deal with texts is going to make a big difference. Your suggestion that we can just tailor our understanding of the text based on what we decide otherwise to be true is… disturbing. Trying to knead evolution into Genesis one would be serious eisegesis. It isn’t what the text says and it is unlikely in the extreme that the author intended his readers to understand such a thing from the text. Better simply to disbelieve it, imho–if one can’t believe it–than to adulterate ones interpretation so one can make fit what one wants to in it. There is a pernicious trend afoot in this regard. And frankly, I don’t thing evangelicals are on their guard here as they should.

    As far as the “sunrise” and especially “foundation” argument you use goes… Forgive me, but that is really a fatuous argument. No one had to “rework their interpretation of biblical passages” along these lines except to the degree that they may have taken manifestly figurative language as intended to express physical reality.

    Some may have done that in their own attempt to concord the science of their day (e.g. the Ptolemaic system) with statements of Scripture. But they were only then making the same mistake that those today who try to find a place for evolution in the text make.

  6. Marv, EVERYONE tailors their understanding of the text based on what they decide/know otherwise to be true. It is key to our understanding of the text. If we know certain things about what is natural versus supernatural or how the universe works, that worldview shapes how we read and understand something. To suggest that one SHOULDN’T use any knowledge outside the text to help understand the text is to suggest that the text alone is the only source of truth. You really want to go there?

  7. Great article. I don’t know anyone who is suggesting that the six-day creation model, as spelled out in Genesis, is more “miraculous” than theistic evolution. I would contend it is more biblical.

  8. Eric, I’ve grown up hearing a LOT of teaching on this topic and it was done with a focus on just how miraculous and short and recent could it be interpreted. For example, many teach that everything was just spoken into existence each day. But that isn’t what the text says. We have a lot of references to God separating and forming and planting and such. Yet if you dare suggest that the *earth* :brought forth living things”, you are accused of doubting God or taking things away from Him or something.

  9. Spot on Paul.

    The issue isn’t Science vs Religion but rather, Philosophy A vs Philosophy B.

  10. We’ve seen this before. No one is saying that the gospel and therefore the existance of God is not the main thing. Indeed it is. But to ignore or deny the truth as revealed in the Bible if it were to come out is to make it more palletable to people who will deny the very existance of God and even Jesus Christ.

    The bible says in Ecclesiastics 3 vs 16 (I think) says that God has set eternity in the hearts of men and Rom 1 addresses the naysayers where creation is God’s fingerprint that they are without excuse. The heavens declare the glory of God

    The key question is, do you believe that the Bible is God’s word? If yes, then why are you encouraging believers in adjusting God’s word to suit a secular teaching that cannot even be evidenced through testablr criteria…. one that requires drawings as its best form of justification. The Bible tells us to preach the gospel. We are not result based but truth and dedication based. It doesn’t matter if 1000 people believe or 1 person believing. We are entrusted to preach the gospel. Conviction is of the Holy Spirit.

    What will you deny or sugar coat next? The devil because Richard dawkins, hitchens and every other public figure athiest riducules to laughter such belief?

  11. I’m wondering why Charles cares so much about the positions being put forth. Are we making the “main thing the main thing” as the editorial suggests?

    I firmly believe that as flawed human beings we overestimate our ability to explain that which is unexplainable. The probability that we’ll be more than a few percent “right” about anything having to do with the details around origins, end times and controversial theology is probably pretty low. When we finally know the truth we’ll probably be ashamed about how much we claimed to know as fact that we got completely wrong.

    The debate is interesting as long as we don’t hold others in contempt for their interpretations of events that are essentially unknowable at a level beyond a summary statement. Let’s engage by asking good questions, the answers to which will reveal the depth of thought and reason the individual has brought to the conversation.

    The beautiful reality of “truth” is that it’s absolute regardless of what we believe it to be. Let’s not get wrapped around the axle in our desire to be right about it.

    How is it again that they’ll know we’re Christians?

  12. I think it’s possible to maintain an Augustinian / Reformed view of Scripture and affirm the scientific viability of macro / micro evolution. This is exactly what I’ve done in my monograph dealing with this subject:

  13. c Michael Patton December 23, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Great article Paul. I am no theistic evolutionists, but we need to fight the battles that are the most meaningful and strategic.

    @Carrie: nice. I like.

    @Kevin: beautifully put. Can you start blogging with us? That is exactly where I stand on the origins issue. We wax elequent so often and I think we are going to have some red faces in glory.

  14. Thanks for the comments—especially the affirmative ones! :)

    Mike L, the *Naturalism* book by Goetz/Taliaferro is top flight. I strongly recommend it as well. The conflict is typically philosophical rather than scientific (thanks, Carrie!).

    Charles, the “Two Books” model is simply reflecting what Psalm 19 and other biblical texts say. Psalm 19 begins with general revelation and then moves to special revelation—both reveal God’s nature and existence. If you believe that science and Scripture don’t ultimately conflict, then you are (hitherto unbeknownst to you!) part of the “Two Books Club” as I am! Moreover, I hope you think I’M a “well-meaning brother” though you strongly disagree with me, which is okay. Mine isn’t a statement of condescension but acknowledgment of sincerity despite disagreement. (Remember you yourself are speaking in rather absolutist terms and seem to be taking your own epistemological high ground.)

    Marv, I would agree with Daniel. Why do you think Galileo got into trouble with church authorities? Luther (in his “Tabletalk” comments) denounced Copernicus’ (who advocated heliocentrism) as a fool (“der Narr”). Why? Because it seemed to go against the apparent teaching of Scripture.

    Eric, I concur with Daniel here too: I’ve heard the “shorter-is-more-miraculous” claims many many times.

    To sum up, I think part of the problem is that we begin with Scripture (or a certain *interpretation* of Scripture) and assume that if scientists ever disagree with that interpretation, then it’s bad science. Yet this is a two-way street (the two-books view!). Science may actually shed light on how we have been misreading Scripture. As Galileo himself said in a letter to the Duchess Kristina (1615), when the Scriptures are properly understood, there will be no conflict between science and the Bible. Francis Schaeffer in his commentary on Joshua reminds us that we must be careful of assuming our *interpretations* of Scripture are infallible rather than Scripture itself.

    Thanks for the helpful comments, Kevin and Michael P.

    Advent blessings to you all!

  15. J. P. Moreland, in his book The Kingdom Triangle (Zondervan, 2007) makes the following observation regarding theistic evolution that may be of some interest in this thread:

    “Theistic evolution is intellectual pacifism that lulls people to sleep while the barbarians are at the gates. In my experience, theistic evolutionists are usually trying to create a safe truce with science so Christians can be left alone to practice their privatized religion while retaining the respect of the dominant intellectual culture….While there are exceptions, many theistic evolutionists simply fail to provide a convincing response to the question of why one should adopt a theological layer of explanation for the origin and development of life in the first place. Given scientism, theistic evolution greases the skids toward placing nonscientific claims in a privatized, make-believe realm in which their factual, cognitive status is undermined.” (p. 46)

  16. Kevin, you say “Let’s engage by asking good questions, the answers to which will reveal the depth of thought and reason the individual has brought to the conversation.” I *love* that. I’ve often said that how one interprets Genesis 1 often says as much or more about THEM and how they think and what sources they see as true as anything else. It’s almost more of a reflection of beliefs as opposed to a source of beliefs.

  17. Richard, thanks for pointing this out. I would agree with JP to a significant extent.

    Some theistic evolutionists can get rather sloppy in their theology and may even turn out to be rather anti- or non-supernatural or “non-interventionist” (I think of former Calvin physics professor Howard Van Till’s descent into deism). Others are simply misguided and even unfair in how they respond to “intelligent design” arguments, no matter how articulate the ID proponents are. (Remember: we’re not talking about unguided evolution but rather guided evolution, as Plantinga notes. So what’s inherently problematic with design?)

    I appreciate the care taken by Blocher, Stott, and Packer here. I too am opposed to the watering down of theology/the gospel in an attempt to be “scientifically relevant.”

  18. It is all this extra stuff that we all bring to the text that does things like let us skip over all the references that reflect the ancient cosmologies of the day as being figurative or phenomenological language and not being the(literal) focus of the account and therefore not being what is actually being taught. If you are not familiar with all of that, check out But when we recognize that the Genesis text is about the CREATOR, and that HE is the main thing, HE is being taught, and these other details which provide a backdrop or context for that just fade away as not being what is in focus.

  19. note that the fundamental question is not how old the earth is (although I do believe it is billions of years old); nor is the issue how long God took to create the universe (if we insist that God’s creating in six 24-hour days as more miraculous than a process of billions of years, this still wouldn’t be as miraculous as God’s creating in six nanoseconds…or just one!).

    I have made this point many times – the question becomes then why does Genesis talk about seven days?

    I mean, if your going to put time in, what is the point of doing so? What eternal truth did God communicate through that part of the story?

    This will drive someone into apoplexy, but I think John Walton’s explanation of Gen 1 through to it’s type of literature is convincing.

  20. Where does the fall fit into this guided evolution concept? Evolution depends upon death for its functionality. The systems that don’t work die, and teh ones that do continue. That’s the essence of natural selection. Death has always existd in the evolutionary scheme, while it was a post creation change according to Genesis and Romans.

  21. Applying science to the creation ‘story, always make me chuckle. Can you imagine God telling Moses:
    “Now Mo, I want you to pass on the following information to the uneducated, polytheistic slaves ok? Then they will understand that I am the Lord their God ok?
    Ahem, so. In the beginning, about six billion years ago, was an infinite singularity. In it was all the matter in the universe see?”
    Moses: “Whats a universe?”
    God: “Ok, right now Moses, I’m trying to work with you here. Even if you don’t understand, just write this down. Thousands of years from now some people who call themselves ‘scientists’ will ask this question and the answer will have been written down by you ok? I can’t go into that now though it’s too complicated.
    Where were we? Now, this infinite singularity sort of well exploded and..”
    Moses: “Whats a singularity?”
    God: “Moses, son of Amram! Please listen! Please don’t interrupt and try not to ask endless questions, just write! Ok?”
    Moses: “Yeah sorry. Errm ok.”
    God: “So this infinite singularity exploded, and withing a few billionths of a second, the groundwork for the laws of physics started to be laid down as all this matter expanded at a speed near that of light see? As the matter cooled down, subatomic elementary particles started to form such as quarks and gauge bosons.”
    Moses: “God?”
    God: “Yesss what is it now?”
    Moses: “Is there a simpler version?”
    God: “Sigh. Yes. In the beginning I created the heavens and the earth…”

  22. Did I say six? I meant twelve. lol,
    even God doesn’t know how old the universe is ;) haha

  23. Delwyn, Romans said that MAN sins and death comes to MAN because of it. And the only death that came in the day they sinned was a spiritual one. If the death was a physical one, then why doesn’t accepting Christ give us physical immortality?

  24. To Kevin (post 11); The first two writers used the phrase “well-meaning brothers” to describe other Christians who present Christianity erroneously vs. the first two who do it right; and like so many who would prefer Christians be “open” to God “doing it” in different ways and time frames than the straightforward reading of Genesis suggest; that includes the possibility of theistic evolution if necessary to accommodate the data of science.

    It’s fair enough to declare your selectivity and your biases; it is not fair to make these condescending remarks about the errors of “well-meaning brothers” who don’t share your views as ones who are inevitably wrong and turn people from the gospel because they don’t hold to your approach. This is a widely used accusation with precious little case-based evidence presented.

  25. Paul Copan (13)

    the “Two Books” model is simply reflecting what Psalm 19 and other biblical texts say. Psalm 19 begins with general revelation and then moves to special revelation—both reveal God’s nature and existence. If you believe that science and Scripture don’t ultimately conflict,…”

    This strikes me as the widely used “bait and switch”, in which the first section of Ps. 19 is alleged to be referring to the findings of science. Is this the case? It strikes me that this passage is referring to the creation as brought into being aby the Word of his power; he spoke and it was so. Where is the warrant for assuming that the interpretations of scientists based on their observations of this creation, comprise a “second” book equivalent in power and authority to the Word of God as expounded in the second portion of Ps. 19? Really, are you intending to equate “science” with the second book of Dual Revelation?

  26. Paul Copan (13)

    You may declare that the “Two Books model simply explains whatever you want it to say. That does not change the fact that it is a very late innovation into theological thinking about creation. Nor does it give warrant to the notion that the activities and conclusions of science represent the revelation of God in creation.

    It strikes me that the witness of creation clearly proceeds UNMEDIATED to each observer. I think Paul confirms this fact in Romans chapter one; God has revealed knowledge of his eternal power and divine nature, directly to and within each man. And accordingly each man his held guilty for suppressing the knowledge of God. This clearly can only only remedied by the power of the Gospel. There is no “book of God’s works”, the facts of scientific observation as mediated to men and equal in power and authority to the actual word of God. There is one mediator of the Word of God, that is the Holy Spirit. Observation of the heavens and the works of god
    cannot save nor change the human heart, it actually brings guilt upon unregenerate man because of his suppression of the knowledge of God.

  27. I know my comment might sound terribly comical, but some time ago I realized that the classic evolution drawing that everyone saw in school, years ago, seems to be a deliberate removal of God’s existence…like a propaganda drawing. Think about it. From a monkey to a man, step by step the evolution from this ape looking creature to an ape man to a human that we see today. Where does a picture like that leave God…that God is or was a monkey? If we are in His Image? Thereby, God is removed from the evolution theory, and this new religion of evolution takes shape, without God and the big bang theory emerges. Propaganda? Darwinism? Wasn’t there a huge falling away in the 1800’s world wide because of all of this?
    It makes me wonder.
    The irony is that when I look at archeological discoveries -they simply ever prove the Bible.
    I don’t think that evolution theories fit in the Bible.
    But I do think that evolution is religion…not a science. But this religion gets heavily edited when it does not fit the theory. A good example is the carbon dating of the rocks from the moon. Only the ones that fit the evolution dates were chosen, but what about the others that varied by huge date differences? They were ignored.

  28. (13) What, really, does “sincerity” have to do with this argument? You Mr. Copan and the first respondent both used the phrase “well meaning” to refer to those (no names, no times, places, words, facts, actual responses, cases) who “turn people off the gospel”. Why? Because they are categorically wrong in their approach. You Mr. Copan are on other hand doing it right. You will set the “well-meaning” but erroneous brother straight. I do not care whether you are either well-meaning or sincere. I would rather that instead of saying I am “epistemologically absolute”, you respond to my questions about the validity of the “Two Books Model”. The premises that “science and scripture do not” (can not?) disagree; that science is equivalent to general revelation and therefore speaks for God. That therefore scientific speculations about evolutionary process in the unseen past, may in all seriousness be accommodated to be Christians who must also then accommodate responsible exegesis to these so-called facts.

  29. Paul Copan refers to the book, “That’s Just Your Interpretation”

    ” I also mention in the book that the fundamental issue to discuss with scientifically-minded non-Christians—the main thing—is not “creation vs. evolution”; rather, it is the question of “God vs. no God.” There are, after all, evangelical theistic evolutionists such as theologian Henri Blocher and the late Christian statesman John Stott, and the theologian J.I. Packer seems quite open to theistic evolution (consider his endorsement of theistic evolutionist Denis Alexander’s book Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?).

    That is your scholarly opinion Mr. Copan (nature of the fundamental issue) but you know of many well-qualified scholars who do not share your view that the issue is “God or No God”. And you mention Blocher, Stott and Packer’s (and Denis Alexander’s) openness to theistic evolution as a positive reason to not make it an issue; an argument to authority that is beneath you to make. Christian compromise with evolution is winning no converts, only contempt.

  30. @ Karen,
    I do agree that many evolutionists (actually probably most!) will use evolution to try to cut out God.

    I want to point out that using archaeology to provide an argument for the accuracy of the bible is useless unless you also accept scientific endeavour as valid. Archaeologists use many of the same dating procedures as scientists do. I know that the dating mechanisms scientists use to date old rocks go further back in time, but nevertheless, many procedures are the same.

    Science too can provide arguments that the bible is correct – for example, modern day astronomy, as I read in a science magazine a few weeks back, has found astronomical events that coincide with Jesus’ birth, thus giving pretty good evidence that there was an unusually bright “star” at this time.

    The moon rock thing you mention is interesting and doesn’t surprise me – they are trying to bolster their own view of the universe.

    To be honest, the evolution thing doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. Whether it’s true or not, Jesus still rose from the grave, there is still a God, and however He did it, it was definitely Him. Pretty cool.

  31. I thought Christ’s death was also about physical immortality. I mean, sure he died, but the same body that went into the grave got up immortal. Weird.

  32. I think the fact that so many folks are focusing on the meaning or intent of “well meaning brothers” just shows the need for more posts that discuss what is the main thing and what is NOT. LOL Seriously, this could not BE more ironic.

  33. This issue seems like a much bigger problem than it is in America. Opposition to evolution is confined to ‘energetic’ protestant circles, the type mainly found in America. We have been told (in America anyway) so many times that there is some kind of conflict that the shear repetition has turned this lie into a truth. There is no conflict, as the creation accounts aren’t written as history. Past generations had no trouble seeing things less literally when scientific discoveries showed that traditional view couldn’t be true (see Augustine and his point on the ‘four cornered earth’). This is a non-issue, and it is sad that in America it has become the issue it has.

  34. I think you make one good point in particular: that all of our views derive from unprovable philosophical assumptions. Intelligent deigns is nothing more than a fairly typical teleological argument. In it un-Christianized form it is purely philosophical. But any view on design is philosophical, even the view that there is no design. One thing that is unfortunate is that certain secular people think their views are only based on facts, without unprovable assumptions involved. The simple fact is that the way all people understand reality is by using many unprovable assumptions, and secular people are no more immune from this than religious people.

  35. But what about sin?
    What about death entering the world through one man?
    Do some xians feel “death” only applies to humans?
    Or, in fact, is death, death; and before the fall there was no death?

  36. Yes, Jack, most old-earth Christians believe that since man alone can sin, it is man alone that suffers the separation from God caused by that. This spiritual separation, or death as it is sometimes called, is not passed on to animals. Physical death is not one of the things listed in the punishments that God placed on Adam, Eve, and the Serpent after the fall. Kind of a large oversight. :) You see Adam being given a parade of animals to name so that he will see that he has no mate of his own, but you don’t see anyone having to explain to him with death is. If physical immortality existed for all life prior to the fall, what was the purpose of a tree of life in the garden? Why have a tree whose purpose was to give life that was unneeded before the fall and made unavailable after the fall? Makes no sense. And, if there was no physical death as part of the original plan, why the heavy emphasis on being fruitful and multiplying? Can you imagine a world where all living things multiplied like rabbits and nothing ever died? Makes no sense. And just what was supposed to happen when a dinosaur with a footprint the size of my sofa stepped on a grasshopper? Are we going to make everything defy physics as well? That too makes no sense. But because Romans says death came to all men, we try to say that is PHYSICAL death for the ants as well – even though the “life” we are promised in contrast to that ISN’T physical immortality. Makes no sense.
    I think the idea that there was no physical death of any kind prior to the fall comes, in part, with this folk theology idea that prior to the fall everything was some paradise and if WE think it is bad, it couldn’t have happened. We picture this garden with no weeds – even though Adam was told to tend to it. But I don’t think God sees death as something that is evil. I think He sees that step that brings us from this sinful and painful world to Him and an eternity with Him just as joyous as we see that “birth” step that brings a newborn to us.

  37. Not much time here. Thanks for your comments.

    Charles, I don’t have much more to add to the “well-meaning” comments. Sincerity isn’t the issue; I am offering arguments for my position, and my mention of Blocher and others is simply by way of example. We’ll all utilize authorities in certain ways, but I mention these only tangentially.

    As for the two books view being a “medieval” model, this is irrelevant. The question is: does it articulate biblical truth? Absolultely! Various creeds and theological views (like various “solas” from the Reformation) are post-biblical but they express biblical truths—as does the two-books view. (The word “Trinity” isn’t mentioned in the Bible either!)

    Saskia, nice to have your comments. (I like your classic Dutch name–the name of Rembrandt van Rijn’ss wife!—also the name of my niece.)

    As for animal death, let me mention a few things. While Genesis 1 exclusively mentions the beauty of creation, other passages describe its bloodiness—a “Nature red in tooth and claw,” as Alfred Lord Tennyson put it. For example, in Psalm 104, a creation psalm, we read that the “lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God” (21). These animals also die: “When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust” (29). In the book of Job, God talks about His creation, which involves predatory activity. We read of the hawk spying out prey from the rocky crags (Job 39:28-29); its nestlings suck the blood of it, and “where the slain are, there is he.” God also created the “fierce” Leviathan (crocodile) with “fearsome teeth” (41:1,10,14). Note that there is not even a hint this being post-fall situation. It seems built in to creation from the outset. Also, Job 38:39-40 speaks of the prey of the lion and of lions crouching in wait in a thicket.

    Animal death and the food chain are presupposed as part of God’s creation—without apology or qualification. The fall introduces human death (Rom. 5:12), not animal death. Carnivorosity existed before the fall in the animal kingdom. Just check out the teeth of the Tyrannosaurus Rex—not your average herbivore!

    Okay, merry Christmas to you all. I won’t be checking in till after Christmas.

  38. Thanks for your comments too, Daniel. Nicely done.

  39. YPaul (35);

    I did not mean to say that the “Two Books” idea is a ‘medieval’ idea; only to show the very late date of its origin.

    You say this is irrelevant, on the basis that other Christian theological syntheses also developed well after the apostolic period.

    Agreed as to the timing question. However each creed still is subject to the Scriptures.

    You maintain that “Two Books” ‘absolutely’ expresses Biblical truth, but you do not show how or why other than the allusion to Ps. 19. Still unanswered: Are you maintaining that the findings of science equate to the general revelation of the first part of Ps. 19? Are you saying ‘absolutely’ that the ‘general revelation’ of science has equal authority to the written word of God, in the second section of Ps. You need to clarify this:

    “Two Books” model is simply reflecting what Psalm 19 and other biblical texts say. Psalm 19 begins with general revelation and then moves to special revelation—both reveal God’s nature and existence. If you believe that science and Scripture don’t ultimately conflict, then you are (hitherto unbeknownst to you!) part of the “Two Books Club” as I am! ”

    Are you saying here that science in the second sentence is replacing the antecedent term “general revelation”?

    More, also unanswered is the proposition that general, per Romans, is not equivalent to science as the evolutionary creationists maintain (and as does Hugh Ross in ‘Fingerprint of God); but that it proceeds unmediated by human interpretation, directly to man, so that God reveals both TO and IN man the knowledge of his eternal power and divine nature.

  40. Paul (35)

    It was you (and post # 1) who tabled “well meaning brothers” and “sincerity”. Clearly the context was that of erroneous brothers. If you are going to state as much, all I request is that you deal with the case. Which to me is; What are you claiming to be the relationship between science and general revelation? And, given that “Two Books” is absolutely Biblical and of course must be adopted by any right-thinking individual; in WHAT WAY is it ‘absolutely Biblical” other than by analogy to various theological syntheses?

    You have a way to go if the Shorter Westminster Catechism is on that list. You have yet to show that even one scripture, Ps. 19, supports the “Two Books” model, other than restating your opinion.

  41. Paul (35) wrote:

    “Animal death and the food chain are presupposed as part of God’s creation—without apology or qualification. The fall introduces human death (Rom. 5:12), not animal death. Carnivorosity existed before the fall in the animal kingdom. Just check out the teeth of the Tyrannosaurus Rex—not your average herbivore!”

    The T-Rex teeth and their pre-fall provenance as proof of your animal death thesis; this is a “scientific fact”, no? Based on the scientific notions of deep time and the “proof” of deep time provided by the fossil “record”. The teeth, to you, provide unconditional proof, equal in truth and authority to any scriptural teachings on animal death and the fall; and so this scientific finding is equivalent to general revelation and is equal in authority to the written word of God.

    Is this the case? Or not?

  42. Lest anyone take Paul’s silence at Charles’ challenges as a lack of a response, he DID say he was taking a break from this until after Christmas. :) I, on the other hand, probably won’t. So if you’d like *me* to response to things like “is this the case or not”, I’d be glad to. :) It will have to wait until after the Christmas Eve service though. Headed out now.

  43. Mike (1) wrote:

    ” As an orthodox Christian who also did his doctoral dissertation in biology on population genetics, I find I’m often explaining these same points with my well-meaning fellow brothers in Christ. The mechanisms are ultimately secondary and could be any of a number of ways without denying the faith, inerrancy, or any of the main doctrines. ”

    Mike, how do you know for certain that “the mechanisms are ultimately secondary?” Who told you that; and on what authority?

    How do you know the mechanism could be “any number of ways”? Is there no “mechanism” that by its nature as conjectured by science, is contrary to the character of God?

    What are these “any number of ways”; and why are they warranted? Because Darrel Falk or Francis Collins et. al., advance them?

    When you say “the real point is whether God is the author of it all, it is nor purely naturalistic”. Are you advocating the acceptance of some form of theistic evolution/evolutionary creation based on interpreting Genesis according the the “general revelation” given by science; Ie., evolutionary speculation about data?

  44. Paul (35) wrote:

    “Animal death and the food chain are presupposed as part of God’s creation—without apology or qualification. The fall introduces human death (Rom. 5:12), not animal death. Carnivorosity existed before the fall in the animal kingdom. Just check out the teeth of the Tyrannosaurus Rex—not your average herbivore!”

    Presupposed: on what basis? without … qualification. Really? How do you know this for certain? How do you know that the T-Rex lived as a carnivore before the fall in the animal kingdom? How do you absolutely know that the animal food chain was part of the complete and “very good” creation in place at the end of Genesis Chapter one?

  45. Just wondering how comfortable everyone (not you Charles, I know where you stand) feels about Population Genetics?

    I better clarify – this is a separate branch of Biology than evolutionary biology.

    What it does is show that all the humans on earth today are NOT descended from one couple, but a population most likely around 10,000?

    That, apart from evolution, is a huge stumbling block for Christians. (No Adam or Eve, or Adam and Eve and the others)

  46. Loo (45) wrote:

    “Just wondering how comfortable everyone (not you Charles, I know where you stand) feels about Population Genetics?”

    Now that is interesting. How did you acquire your data? , (Where I stand on PG)

    Seriously, where does PG show that ‘all humans on earth..”? I.e. w hat is/are your sources for this statement? What studies? What authors? When?

    And that population of 10,000: from whom were they descended? Did that population spontaneously appear

    Who is one Christian for whom this is a stumbling block, and why? How does it prove that there were no Adam and Eve and “The others”? Even if there were no Adam and Eve, is it implausible for a population of 10,000 to be descended from one couple?

  47. I guess I still remain skeptical of many aspects of evolution. Also, it seems to me that Jay Richards gives some excellent advice in his book God and Evolution in that we must define what we mean by evolution.

    I would certainly say that say that natural selection occurs, but it would be directed, not undirected. Also, natural selection as a mechanism can’t account for all of life’s complexity. Just because natural selection occurs, that does not mean the entire naturalistic evolutionary account is correct. It is not an originator of the genetic info needed nor does it account for new genetic info.

    It also does not allow for organisms to evolve from molecules to man nor support the evolutionary tree of life. It should be noted that the website Dissent From Darwin has 900 Ph.D scientists that don’t think random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Also, In his recent book, Christian Apologetics, Douglas Groothuis says that in relation to the origins debate, these are the non-negotiables theologically.

    1. God created the universe ex nihlo
    2. God created each “kind” specially, not through a long naturalistic process of macroevolution. However, we cannot say with certainty that a biblical “kind” corresponds to what biologists call a “species.”
    3. Species may change and adapt to their environment in various limited ways, given the natures God has given them (microevolution).
    4. A considerable amount of time elapsed between the creation of their species and the creation of humans.
    5. God created beings specially, not through a long process of naturalistic evolution.
    6. The first couple was specially created by God and experienced the Fall- space time history

    What bothers me is naïve college students who think evolution eliminates the need for a Creator.

  48. I have kind of a unique take on this that I have not heard anyone else promote. Of course that may very well be for a good reason. LOL Population Genetics lines up with how I’ve read Genesis for some time now. I think we conflate the ideas of “two by two” mentioned in the flood account and inferred by what was brought to Adam for naming with the QUANTITY of kind created in chapter one. But I don’t think God created just two of everything. Day 6 has God creating mankind and other animals following the statement of letting the earth produce them. I believe the creation of Adam in chapter two to be a separate event in the same way that CS Lewis refers to them being the first “Homo Divinus” . If you look at the timing specified in the early verses of the chapter, Adam may have very well been made PRIOR to day six. We are told it was before any bushes or plants or rain, so it could be as early as day three.

    And having Adam and Eve as a special creation in a special place/garden that is separate from general mankind spoken of in chapter one can also help in understanding the whole “sons of God” versus “daughters of men” thing we get to in chapter six. It could explain how Cain could leave the garden area and be afraid of a population of people found elsewhere, as well as where he found his wife. It also allows for the evidence hominids and even other “men”, and now the evidence of Population Genetics as well, while still maintaining a believe in a literal, historical Adam and Eve. It can even impact our understanding of covenant people versus other people. And it all struck me when I read chapter two without the “aid” of already “knowing” that it took place on day six.

    I get more into how I currently read all of this on Theologica ( It’s amazing though of how I read the text lining up with Population Genetics, John Walton’s work on “functional” creation, CS Lewis’ “Homo Divinus”, and other things that I don’t come across until later. In other words, I didn’t change how I read the text based on these other influences, but read the text that way *first*, often being accused of capitulating to some book I’d never heard of, and *then* had those ideas validated by some really smart folks. Makes me think I *may* be on the right tract.

  49. BTW, if anyone is interested in exploring the idea of population genetics or other areas of science as it relates to understanding Genesis and not denying the creative acts of God, there is a good Facebook group for these kinds of discussions that is full of some really smart Christian folks with backgrounds in the sciences. You can check it out at

  50. I have a question for you, Charles. You throw out a lot of questions. Are they rhetorical? Do *you* have the answers for them? Or are they intended to be a challenge in lieu of any evidence *contrary* to things like population genetics? I just don’t understand the intention of the long list of questions. If they are legit, I’ll be glad to answer some of them. But if anything said is just going to be challenged in an endless game of “Who Said?”, I’m not interested.


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