Archive | Creation/Evolution

The Creation Debate in a Nutshell

Here is a summary of what we taught at the Credo House for “Coffee and Theology” this past Tuesday night. I hope you enjoy.

1. Young Earth Creationism (YEC)

The Skinny:

Belief that the universe was created miraculously by God approximately ten thousand years ago (or less).

Explanation:

YECs often insist that their view is the only way to understand and remain faithful to the integrity of the Scriptures. For them, options which integrate evolution or an old earth paradigm compromise the clear teachings of Scripture and even the essence of the Gospel message.

They will often argue (especially since the publication of  The Genesis Flood in 1960) that science is on their side using “catastropheism” or “Flood Geology.” They believe that world-wide biblical catastrophes sufficiently explain the fossil records and other geographic phenomena that might otherwise suggest evolution or an old earth.

They believe in a literal Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, snake talking, and global flood.

Relationship Between science and Scripture:

Scientific discovery always submits to Scripture in all matters. Science is interpreted in light of Scripture. YECs see the early chapters of Genesis, taken at face value, as an accurate and authoritative (even scientific) guide to the basic details of the origin of the universe. Science is of great value so long as it starts with the Bible.

Notable Adherents:

John Calvin, Martin Luther, Henry Morris, Ken Ham, John MacArthur, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Four in ten Americans believe in YEC.

2. Gap Theory Creationism

The Skinny:

Belief that the earth was created by God an indefinite number of years ago, while the creation of humanity happed ten thousand years ago or less.

Explanation:

The explanation for the old age of the universe can be found in a theoretical time gap that exists between the lines of Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. God created the earth and the earth became formless and void. Therefore God instituted the new creation which begins in Genesis 1:2b.

Here is how it looks:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

—-Indefinite Time Gap—-

Genesis 1:2a And the earth was (i.e. became) formless and void.

This theory allows for an indefinite period of time for the earth to exist before the events laid out in the creation narrative. Gap theorists will differ as to what could have happened on the earth to make it become formless and void. Some will argue for the possibility of a creation which died out prior to humans. This could include dinosaurs and many other extinct species. While this was popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible in the early 20th century, it was eventually replaced with Young Earth Creationism with the rise of “flood geology.”

They normally believe in a literal Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, snake talking, and global flood.

Relationship between science and Scripture:

Typically sees nature as a complementary guide from God which speaks authoritatively to issues about which the Scriptures are unclear or silent. Whatever source (Scripture or nature) is more clear is the authority in matters of origins. If both seem equally clear, yet seemingly conflicting, Scripture is the final source.

Notable Adherents:

Cyrus I. Scofield, Harry Rimmer, A. W. Pink, Donald Grey Barnhouse, Clarence Larkin

3. Time-Relative Creationism Continue Reading →

From the Dust: Conversations on Creation – a Review

Last night Kay and I attended the world premiere of a new film. I could wax eloquent and say this was the first time I’ve ever attended a movie premiere, and it was, but when we use that language it conjures up the idea of limousines, red carpets, stars in formal attire, paparazzi and other media hype. This world premiere was in a small old theater just off University Avenue in Palo Alto. The film, From the Dust: conversations in creation, is a documentary looking at the state of the conversation concerning science and evolution in the fundamentalist and evangelical communities.

The film asks questions such as, “Does the Bible provide a narrative of mankind’s material origins?” “What is the real source of the controversy surrounding evolution vs. creation?” And how do we reconcile scientific discovery with a loving, universal, creator-God?”

The importance of opening a true discussion as opposed to and name-calling those who do not agree with us cannot be overstated. The construction of the film allows representatives of the two sides of the discussion, i.e. those evangelicals and fundamentalists who insist on a recent six-day creation and those evangelicals who see the physical evidence in the world as pointing to the reality of evolution, to present their positions in their own words. This format is effective in avoiding such caricaturization.

The list of those appearing in the film is impressive. Among those interviewed are: Dr. Alister McGrath (Ph.D. in molecular biophysics & D.D. both from Oxford University), Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne (mathematician, theoretical physics,  Anglican priest); Dr. John Walton (Old Testament scholar, Wheaton University, author of The Lost World of Genesis One), Bishop Dr. N.T. Wright (New Testament Scholar, Anglican Bishop of Durham); Dr. Peter Enns (Old Testament scholar and author of The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins), Dr. Richard Colling (Olivet Nazarene University, author Random Designer), Dr. April Masckiewicz (Assoc. Professor of Biology, Point Loma Nazarene University).  Dr. Clay Brinson (D.V.M. University Georgia, Canopy Ministries) Dr. James Denton (M.D.  University of Virginia), Dr. Daryl Falk (Ph.D., President of Biologos Foundation and Professor of Biology, Point Loma Nazarene University), Dr. Jason Lisle (Ph.D.  Astrophysicist), Dr. Jeff Schloss (Ph.D. Professor of Biology, Westmont College) to name just some of the interviewees. Continue Reading →

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.  Continue Reading →

Reason, Personal Responsibility, and Naturalism’s Counterintuitive Claims: Response to Dawkins, Part IV

Naturalism takes for granted the following tenets:

  • Nature is all there is.
  • All reality is comprised of or rooted in matter.
  • There is no supernatural—no Creator, no miracles, no souls,
    no angels, no life after death.
  • Science becomes the only (or best) means of knowledge. 

Richard Dawkins is a four-point naturalist.  Such a position, however, defies our most basic intuitions and assumptions about human experience. Naturalism’s logically leads to:

  • the impossibility of knowledge;
  • the unreliability of reason;
  • the denial of free will and personal responsibility;
  • the undermining of human rights and dignity

I’ve already touched on the first two points (on the impossibility of knowledge and reliable reason) in a previous post, but let me review before addressing the matter of free will/personal responsibility.

Knowledge is warranted true belief.  It’s not enough to have true belief, since you can believe something that’s true but in a totally fluky way.  And Dawkins is right—that we just dance to the music of our DNA—then he himself is dancing to his own DNA.  Dawkins has accidental true belief, but that’s not knowledge. If our beliefs are determined and we believe that determinism is true, then this is just a lucky coincidence—again, not knowledge.  Those who reject determinism are still determined to believe what they do.  Yet Dawkins claims to know his view is true and that he is more rational than the theist.

Naturalistic evolution is interested in survival, not truth. As naturalistic philosopher of mind Patricia Churchland puts it:  Continue Reading →

The Creation-Evolution Debate in a Nutshell

1. Young Earth Creationism (YEC)

The Skinny:

Belief that the universe was created miraculously by God around ten thousand years ago (or less).

Explanation:

YECs often insist that their view is the only way to understand and remain faithful to the integrity of the Scriptures. For them, options which integrate evolution or an old earth paradigm compromise the clear teachings of Scripture and even the essence of the Gospel message.

They will often argue (especially since the publication of  The Genesis Flood in 1960) that science is on their side using “catastropheism” or “Flood Geology.” They believe that world-wide biblical catastrophes sufficiently explain the fossil records and other geographic phenomena that might otherwise suggest evolution or an old earth.

They believe in a literal Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, snake talking, and global flood.

Relationship Between science and Scripture:

Scientific discovery always submits to Scripture in all matters. Science is interpreted in light of Scripture. YECs see the early chapters of Genesis, taken at face value, as an accurate and authoritative (even scientific) guide to the basic details of the origin of the universe. Science is of great value so long as it starts with the Bible.

Notable Adherents:

John Calvin, Martin Luther, Henry Morris, Ken Ham, John MacArthur, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Four in ten Americans believe in YEC.

2. Gap Theory Creationism

The Skinny:

Belief that the earth was created by God an indefinite number of years ago, while the creation of humanity happed ten thousand years ago or less.

Explanation:

The explanation for the old age of the universe can be found in a theoretical time gap that exists between the lines of Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. God created the earth and the earth became formless and void. Therefore God instituted the new creation which begins in Genesis 1:2b.

Here is how it looks:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

—-Indefinite Time Gap—-

Genesis 1:2a And the earth was (i.e. became) formless and void.

This theory allows for an indefinite period of time for the earth to exist before the events laid out in the creation narrative. Gap theorists will differ as to what could have happened on the earth to make it become formless and void. Some will argue for the possibility of a creation which died out prior to humans. This could include dinosaurs and many other extinct species. While this was popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible in the early 20th century, it was eventually replaced with Young Earth Creationism with the rise of “flood geology.”

They normally believe in a literal Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, snake talking, and global flood.

Relationship between science and Scripture:

Typically sees nature as a complementary guide from God which speaks authoritatively to issues about which the Scriptures are unclear or silent. Whatever source (Scripture or nature) is more clear is the authority in matters of origins. If both seem equally clear, yet seemingly conflicting, Scripture is the final source.

Notable Adherents:

Cyrus I. Scofield, Harry Rimmer, A. W. Pink, Donald Grey Barnhouse, Clarence Larkin Continue Reading →

Snake Talk and Evolution Comic: Some Clarifications

There was quite a bit of reaction to my comic the other day. I suppose that I should just get out of the comic business, but that darn iPad is just too inviting to draw out some fun stuff here and there.

Here is the first one I posted two days ago:

It is funny, but when I first created this and showed it to some people at the Credo House they had the same initial thoughts as I did: “Creationists are going to get mad!” Why? because I put a caption at the bottom which said “Are the really THAT different.” 

My point was to demonstrate how evolutionists and special creationists both believe some very bizarre stuff. It was not to legitimize snakes talking or random mutation from a single-celled organism into a multi-celled organism with a voice box.

Continue Reading →

Richard Dawkins: A Philosophical and Theological Lightweight? Responding to Dawkins, Part II

by Paul Copan

In my last post, I mentioned my brief interaction with Richard Dawkins when he came to Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale last month.

A week later, I responded to Dawkins at Nova in an open forum. (Here is one of the video clips from the Q&A time that followed—on “If God Made the Universe, Who Made God?” Look for more postings in the future.) I mentioned that I would post (in serial form) my modified notes from my open forum at Parchment and Pen. So here is Part II of my “Dawkins Series.”

*****

When scholars step outside of their discipline, their authority doesn’t automatically carry over to other fields of study. In the case of Dawkins at Nova Southeastern, one wouldn’t know this from the rousing applause he received following his cheapshot slams on “religion.” (I gave one such audio sample in my last blog posting.) Yes, Dawkins has done some creative work when it comes to evolutionary theory, and I’m not really concerned about this. Evolution is a secondary consideration in the big scheme of things; it doesn’t at all disprove God’s existence. The bottom-line issue is not evolution but naturalism—God vs. no God. The assumption that “evolution did it all; so we don’t need God” is false. Evolution, first of all, needs a universe (think “Big Bang”)—not only this, but a life-permitting universe; and not only that, but a life-producing universe; beyond all of these, a life-sustaining universe. All of these stages would be necessary before evolution has a chance of advancing from a bacterium to homo sapiens. A being like God is capable of bringing this off without a problem, however. And what’s so far-fetched about design in the universe and even organisms? Dawkins himself acknowledges the strong appearance—indeed, the “illusion”—of design. Biology, he claims, is the study of complicated things that appear to be designed but are not! If God exists and could use the evolutionary process to bring about his purposes, then we don’t have to talk about mere appearance of design, but actual design. But let that pass.

When Dawkins steps outside of his field—into theology or philosophy—he’s a lightweight, and even fellow atheists acknowledge this. The atheist philosopher of science Michael Ruse at FIU has said, “Richard Dawkins makes me embarrassed to be an atheist.” [1] Terry Eagleton, an English literature and cultural theory professor (not a theist, so far as I know), severely criticizes “Ditchkins”—his composite name for Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. He considers them to be both out of their depth and misrepresenters of the Christian faith: “they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be.” [2] Sociologist Rodney Stark (at that time writing as an agnostic-moving-toward-Christianity) [3] put it this way: “To expect to learn anything about important theological problems from Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett is like expecting to learn about medieval history from someone who had only read Robin Hood.” [4]  Continue Reading →