I have been asked about my beliefs. I have been asked how as a Christian I can accept evolution as a basis premise. First, I can accept no assertion that makes God a lair. God is truth, and the scriptures state clearly that God cannot lie. It is simply a logical impossibility that nature could tell us something different than God tells us. (Reference Hugh Ross and Reasons.org for more information close to my own views regarding this premise.)
To make the story personal, my church is concerned about me. Okay. No problem. I am plenty open about this. I have nothing to hide, and I’ll be 100% honest to the best of my ability.
The members and leaders with the responsibility in such matters gave me some materials to review. We will meet and discuss soon. Interestingly, I was given a statement of my denomination’s official position on creation, and a full book explaining our 16 foundational doctrines. Okay, but I was raised in this denomination. I know our doctrines. I have no problem with them. I have no problem with our recently adopted position on creation. I agree with them. The doctrines are mostly orthodox, but modified by Pentecostalism of the 20th century. I don’t think any Christian who takes his faith seriously will have problems with these, though I expect members of most other denominations will not accept them all at the personal level. Anyway, the fact that I was given these particular documents is baffling, given that I knew of no concerns about my doctrinal beliefs. After all, I am a voting member of our local congregation, and that requires I sign a statement affirming my convictions and beliefs consistent with the doctrines of the denomination. I take my signature seriously. I always accept putting my name on something means I stand behind it. (As with what I write here.)
My own bewilderment was compounded by the consternation of my wife. She tends to take such things rather personally. Not that I don’t take this situation personally; I do. However, I do keep some distance to it and try to keep things in perspective. I take seriously our scriptural mandate to think the best of every person and to live at peace with all with as much as is in us. I also believe that the Holy Spirit lives in me, so I figure there should be few exceptions were I cannot live peaceably.
Leaving that point of confusion, I’ll move to the third bit of information given me for review. It is a DVD video of Lee Strobel’s The Case for a Creator. Well, I wasn’t excited about that. The title alone is a bit off-putting for a person who has spent a full lifetime openly expressing belief and confidence in The Creator. Further, I have nearly forty years of experience regularly fighting young-earth-creationists (yes, I consider it a fight—if my opponent will lie, it can be characterized no other way), and Lee Strobel is a name that rings familiar. Of course, it turns out he is a big ID proponent.
To deal directly with the video presentation, I will say that the arguments in the video were lacking. While much of what he says I agree with, I find very little of it compelling for anyone but the already-convinced. It is a presentation that preaches to the choir. Further, there are significant statements in the presentation that are just wrong. Some are simply indefensible, other are provably wrong.
My biggest point of contention with any statement in the presentation, and I assume it is the reason I was asked to watch the video, is that he says that Darwinian style evolution, or evolution that assumes no deliberate and regular divine intervention, is TOTALLY INCOMPATIBLE WITH CHRISTIAN BELIEFS. Hmm. I ain’t buying it. I wonder if he realizes that his statement amounts to damning me to hell?
I’ll digress a few lines into something near to my heart, one of my most fundamental and core beliefs. To me, it is useful, informative, and emotionally satisfying to speak of God in the possessive and from personal perspective. That is, I like to say, and I appreciate it when others say, “My God is thus and so.” Or, “That is not the God I know!” However, I have noticed that the terminology can be off-putting and offensive to some. I’m not sure why. I assume it is because it is an emotional argument, and as such is hard to argue with. Well, yes, but we are emotional beings, and logic is not the only factor with which we must deal when we are stating our case.
Indulge me to add that persuasion is an illusion. Everyman will believe whatever he wants for whatever reasons he deems significant and appropriate. (And keep in mind, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair)
That sets a high standard for anyone honestly intending to persuade. It also implies that beliefs are illusory. These are my intentions in making the assertion. I have found that only pain persuades. (Not torture. That isn’t persuasion. Yielding to torture is a survival response.) Breaking your nose does tend to convince you that you cannot really walk through walls. Most individuals eventually learn the hard way no matter what the subject.
Now, back to this core belief of mine: God is omnipotent and omniscient. J.B. Phillips wrote Your God is Too Small, and I agree with him. My God is too small, and my God is unimaginably bigger than yours if you don’t understand how He can grant me true freewill while He still upholds all in all and works all things together for His will and good. To be specific, I am referring to Calvinism. I am Arminian, and if God is actually as the Calvinists have explained to me, then I am not elect, and I will burn in hell for all eternity. So be it. I believe hell will be preferable to living with the Calvinists’ god. I hope I don’t sound sacrilegious. I’m simply being honest. My God is not like that. My God truly grants me choice and free will. I can accept or reject Him, and it is not because he, in his infinite wisdom, determined the best outcome for me. If I choose to live like the devil, I will go to hell. If I choose to live for God, He will welcome me into His kingdom. The scriptures on predestination are universal. Accordingly, they cannot be interpreted to be be absolute. The point of the author (St. Paul) in referring to God’s predetermined will, is that it is universal, it is for all to be saved, it is for none to parish. Yet simple universalism has always been considered full heresy, and rightly so. My point is that I do not discount the scriptures regarding divine will and predestination, I simply see them in context as leaving the final say up to me (and everyman).
Now, regarding evolution, I run into the same thing. The scriptures that some people, Strobel for example, like to tell me mean that I cannot accept evolution, seem to me to mean nothing of the sort given any context from the scriptures and church history. Frankly, a large majority of Christians accept most everything they learn from science, with little or no consternation due to their faith and understanding of scripture. Those who adamantly reject evolution are a small minority. As a climate science skeptic, I reject the notion that majority rules, but one must look at motives for a first approximation of why the majority or minority might exist as it is. In climate science, the majority seems to actually be a minority that is well funded and backed by the highest political ranks. It seems the claims of climate alarmism fit the agenda of leftist, progressives, and environmentalists (who worship mother-earth rather than the Creator), and these type of people dominate the mainstream media, thus giving the appearance of majority and consensus where neither is actually obtained. Further, as Upton Sinclair points out, their salary depends on it. They need to keep the alarm bell sounding to keep the grant coffers open and the news stories catchy. It is a complex, self-feeding system that will collapse eventually, but in the meantime, they manage to maintain the facade of majority and consensus while the rest of us foot the bill.
Looking to the reject-evolution crowd, the only reasonable explanation for why they reject evolution is fear. They fear God is not big enough to defend Himself from “godless science”. To that I simply answer that He better be. He isn’t omnipotent if he cannot defend himself.
To me it simply boils down to the details of how, rather than the real and important question of if.
In beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.
I think that is clear. There are, in fact, no people who believe otherwise, the evangelical atheists like Richard Dawkins not withstanding. (And any argument related will have to await another time.)
God created. He has a purpose, and he applied complete reason. The reason is why we can reason and know about it at all.
Is how God created important?
Perhaps, and I expect the answer is yes, but it is not of life-and-death importance.
Strobel and others of the ID persuasion, and those who fall into the category that Hugh Ross heads, like to point out all the things that to us seem remarkable and seem to indicate that there must have been a creator, an intentional designer, who proceeded with forethought and reason. Yes, it is amazing, but it is not compelling. Just as St. Paul and others before and after have admonished us, the heavens declare His glory and we are without excuse. However, the key is that he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them who diligently seek Him.
Given this blatant statement of scripture, and remembering that not only will the just live by faith, but without faith it is impossible to please God, one cannot assert that simply studying creation (science) can lead one to understanding of the creator that will lead to acceptance of Him as fact, as obvious, as proven. It is impossible. God cannot be proven; God must be believed in by faith! The Bible says so! Besides, without faith, we loose free will. I have already pointed out how important that is to me. I’ll debate that if challenged, but without free will, there is no point. We humans are not even comparable to angels if we have no mastery over our own destiny. Without freewill, we are diminished to less than dust. We are sad creatures simply following the path of least resistance, no more than a river flowing through its channel, no more than a stone falling to earth. I refuse to accept the notion that the creator wanted no more of me than that. As well as I can tell, there is no practical difference between a freewill-less Calvinism and a simplistic atheism. Both leave human existence as meaningless. Both obviate the need for reason at all.
So, again, the facts that we live on a water planet particularly suited to life as we know it, with a moon of the right mass and orbital characteristics to ensure ions of stability, where we orbit a felicitous star in a particularly quiescent region of our galaxy, cannot be used to conclude that God had to have done it. Such a conclusion assumes facts not in evidence, and the fact is that some of those facts are at least somewhat far fetched given all we know of the properties of our universe so far.
To illustrate my point, let us consider the converse. Specifically, the universe is remarkably hostile to life. Is it not reasonable to suppose that God is malicious, especially considering the extreme violence we see all around us from the microscopic level, to the eat-or-be-eaten animal level, and all the way up to the smashing galaxies astronomical level? Is it really “only natural” to assume from the majesty of the creation that the creator must be magnanimous? If you wish to make such an argument, I would like to see it.
The anticreationist type person need only point out that earth is a planet covered mostly in water, and this planet is supposed to have been created for man—who has no gills! Given that the water on the planet is so important to life on this planet, why did God withhold gills from us, his crown of creation?
See, that is why I cannot hold to these naturalistic arguments as evidence of God. For every positive argument one can make that points to God, there is a converse negative argument that points to no-god.
Howard J. Van Till expresses views that match my own well. A god-of-the-gaps proved unsatisfactory in my preteens. Even a God who took a week out of his busy schedule to reset everything and make our first parents especially, specifically, and without precedent just would not do for me either.
All of these hybrids of faith and science explaining the details of how such and such may have happened keep coming up wanting. As soon as someone says a bombardier beetle is impossible to explain through intermediate steps, some bright and determined bug-scientist shows how it can happen, and shows the reasonably close species with the approximately correct intermediate systems and configuration. Likewise the bacterial flagella. As remarkable as these examples are, they are not hard to suppose as simply natural. They are easy to explain without asserting that God intervened and did a miracle to make them so unique and remarkable. Neither can be well tested, and we must know that we cannot test God, not now, not ever! I am aware of no examples of Stonehenge analogized in nature where one simply cannot make reasonable explanations. The stones of Stonehenge are natural, but they cannot be formed as they are by nature. The flagella can have been formed by unguided nature.
To me, the bottom line is faith. I believe in God, or I do not. There is a creator God, or there is not. There is a purpose and plan, or there is not. There is a reason, or there is not! And by definition, if there is no reason, then there is no reason! Is that clear? If there is no reason, there is no reason to worry about it. If there is no reason, there is no reason for anything!
Finally, isn’t the purpose and plan of the Creator more important than how? Isn’t how a moot point when we know the who? Why? That is the important question. Why are we here? Why did God make us? I cannot say that I have ever heard a fully satisfactory answer. I suspect that is because it is bigger than we can comprehend. Still, I am sure that, “for this purpose was the Son of God manifest, to destroy the works of the devil!” (I John 3:8b)
I am far from putting in text all that is within me regarding this matter. Still, it is finished for now. I will perhaps write more soon.
Some statements from Howard J. Van Till:
Authored by Van Till:
ID v Evolutionary Creation:
A view I like, but he disagrees (somewhat) with Van Till:
Views of Creation:
A book I intend to read: