Thursday, August 12, 2010

Must we choose?

Christopher Benson is engaged in an exchange at Evangel about what Christians must or needn't believe about evolution. Yesterday he provided links to a number of "Resources on Science and Religion." One of them is a paper by Tim Keller, "Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople [pdf]," from which I excerpt the following as he lays out the problem:
Many secular and many evangelical voices agree on one ‘truism’—that if you are an orthodox Christian with a high view of the authority of the Bible, you cannot believe in evolution in any form at all. New Atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins and creationist writers such as Ken Ham seem to have arrived at consensus on this, and so more and more in the general population are treating it as given. If you believe in God, you can’t believe in evolution. If you believe in evolution, you can’t believe in God.

This creates a problem for both doubters and believers. ....

In my estimation what current science tells us about evolution presents four main difficulties for orthodox Protestants. The first is in the area of Biblical authority. To account for evolution we must see at least Genesis 1 as non-literal. The questions come along these lines: what does that mean for the idea that the Bible has final authority? If we refuse to take one part of the Bible literally, why take any parts of it literally? Aren’t we really allowing science to sit in judgment on our understanding of the Bible rather than vice versa.

The second difficulty is the confusion of biology and philosophy. Many of the strongest proponents for evolution as a biological process (such as Dawkins) also see it as a ‘Grand Theory of Everything.’ They look to natural selection to explain not only all human behavior but even to give the only answers to the great philosophical questions, such as why we exist, what life is about, and why human nature is what it is. Doesn’t belief in the one idea—that life is the product of evolution—entail the adoption of this whole 'worldview'?

The third difficulty is the historicity of Adam and Eve. One way to reconcile what current science says about evolution is to propose that the account of Adam and Eve is symbolic, not literal, but what does this do to the New Testament teaching of Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 that our sinfulness comes from our relationship with Adam? If we don’t believe in an historical fall, how did we become what the Bible says we are—sinful and condemned?

The fourth difficulty is the problem of violence and evil. One of the greatest barriers to belief in God is the problem of suffering and evil in the world. Why, people ask, did God create a world in which violence, pain, and death are endemic? The answer of traditional theology is—he didn’t. He created a good world but also gave human beings free will, and through their disobedience and ‘Fall’, death and suffering came into the world. The process of evolution, however, understands violence, predation, and death to be the very engine of how life develops. If God brings about life through evolution, how do we reconcile that with the idea of a good God? The problem of evil seems to be worse for the believer in theistic evolution. ....

...[B]elow I will lay out three basic problems that Christian laypeople have with the scientific account of biological evolution. Nothing here should be seen as meeting the need for rigorous, scholarly arguments in answer to these questions. These are popular-level pastoral answers and guidance. As a pastor I have had to draw heavily on the work of experts. The first question, about Biblical authority, requires that I draw on the best work of exegetes and Biblical scholars. To answer the second question, about evolution as a ‘Grand Theory of Everything,’ I need to draw on the work of philosophers. When we come to the third question regarding Adam and Eve, I must look to theologians.

In short, if I as a pastor want to help both believers and inquirers to relate science and faith coherently, I must read the works of scientists, exegetes, philosophers, and theologians and then interpret them for my people. .... (and he does, here in his paper)
Timothy Keller, "Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople"

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