Some of America’s best-known evolutionists (and vocal anti-creationists) assembled recently at “Evolution and God—150 years of love and war between science and religion,” the title of a major conference held at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, October 15–17, 2004.
The speakers, from fields of natural science, philosophy, history and theology, included: Dr. James Moore, Dr. Kenneth Miller, Dr. Ronald Numbers, Dr. Keith Miller, Dr. Edward Larson (a Pulitzer prize winning author), Dr. Barbara Forrest, Dr. Patricia Princehouse, Dr. Sander Gliboff, Dr. Martin Fichman, Rev. George Murphy and CWRU graduate student, Eric Kennedy. Also included in the symposium was a panel discussion with members of the Cleveland area Ohio Board of Education on the topic of “Quality science education in Ohio’s public schools,” hosted by Dr. Lawrence Krauss.
Although the topics covered were varied, most were interrelated and many of the presentations were almost exact duplications of material, but presented from the perspective of the particular discipline of the speaker. I’ll focus on only a few representative presentations made at the symposium.
The main theme of the “Evolution and God” program was clearly laid out in the opening session by Dr. Kenneth Miller, “Finding Darwin’s God.” It set the direction of the symposium and was representative of the belief system of nearly all the speakers: theistic evolution, the belief that evolution and a belief in God (including the Christian God) are compatible. Dr. Miller, who claims to be a practicing Roman Catholic, asserts that this is the only way to reconcile the Bible and what is observed and verified empirically in the everyday world. He states, “In reality, science shows clearly that creation is not a finished product. Existence is still evolving and brimming with potential fruitful outcomes; for example, stars expanding and imploding.”
Dr. Miller gave six reasons to conclude that God uses evolution as his means of creation:
“Evolution is unpredictable not random. Chance leads to contingencies that leave the future open and undetermined; therefore, evolution does not rule out a divine plan.”
“The mechanisms of evolution leave no role for God’s miraculous actions. The world of the present works according to natural laws; therefore, God works his will through natural processes.”
Despite being a time-consuming method from a human perspective, Miller stated that “Time is meaningless to God, and God even delayed the incarnation for several thousand years of Israel’s history, because he had a specific time in mind.”
Although the method seems a cruel “struggle for existence,” Psalm 104:29 shows that “God is not always merciful. All organisms are born to die. Life comes only at the cost of death.”
“The alternative to a nonevolutionary world is a fixed, static world where every event is predetermined.”
Scripture never says that “God created anything out of nothing, but that the water and the earth brought forth life. God used natural processes to create life, not creation ex-nihilo. In addition, the two creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 are mutually exclusive and cannot be taken literally.” (For a refutation, see Q&A: Do Genesis 1 and 2 Contradict Each Other?)
Logically, however, if the mechanisms of evolution leave no role for the miraculous actions of God, and God is therefore confined or limited to only natural processes, then He is no God, or is at best a frustrated God, hoping that the “molecules align” in order for His will to come to pass. This is not the infinite/personal, miracle-working Creator God of the Bible, who raised the dead, calmed the storm and transformed water into wine. Isaiah 46:10 states “…
My council shall stand and I shall do all My pleasure.”
The statement that “life comes only at the cost of death” is really the result of sin entering the world through Adam’s disobedience to God’s commandment (Genesis 2:17: “
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”).
In a session titled “God’s Evolving Creation,” Dr. Keith Miller attempted to clarify the tenets of theistic evolution. He stated, “There is a popular perception that evolution denies a Creator, but science is silent on the existence or nonexistence of God. A simple conflict view of science and faith is historically invalid. There is a long Christian tradition of God acting through natural processes. [But this is not the same as God working exclusively through natural processes, and in any case tradition is not the issue, revelation is.] Divine creation does not imply any necessary breaks in the continuity of cause and effect processes. An internally complete scientific description of a natural event or process is not in conflict with the action of God. God is the Creator. Nothing would exist without God sustaining it. God is actively involved in ongoing creation using natural processes by His divine governance.”
After that acknowledgement, however, he went on to say “Science is a search for claims of natural cause and effect processes; science is not a statement of philosophy. Methodological science is incapable of investigating supernatural action. Science is theologically neutral.”
Theistic evolution, also called “continuous creation” by some, is based upon the belief that Genesis 1–11 cannot be taken literally, but must be explained figuratively. Drs. Kenneth and Keith Miller and the others who spoke on the topic argue that these accounts are empirically nonprovable and therefore not in the realm of science; that God currently uses natural processes and therefore must always have and always will use such processes; and that the theory of evolution and the advancement of scientific knowledge in other areas has rendered the literalist interpretation of the passage to be primitive and untenable.
Of course, it is no surprise that Genesis 1–11 is denigrated by the secular scientific community. But these chapters are the foundational truths of the revealed Word of God, and if the foundation can be destroyed, then the rest of the Bible can also be discarded as a collection of nice stories with no practical value or moral authority.
God has declared in His word in 2 Timothy 3:16, “
All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” As for God always being constrained to use natural processes in the governance of the earth, 2 Peter 3:5–7 clearly states otherwise “
For this they are willingly ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished; but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” Even the scoffers acknowledge that a global Flood as described in Scripture would have had to involve massive supernatural intervention—for example, the animals coming to Noah.
A secondary theme of the Ohio symposium was to set up the Intelligent Design movement (IDM) of the Discovery Institute as a “straw man” and then destroy it. Most of the speakers touched on this subject. The IDM holds that life is too complex to have arisen by chance, and so advocates a Creator. This Creator took millions of years to create the earth, and created it in stages that are reflected in the fossil record.
Some speakers, though evolutionists, all rightly concluded that this form of creation belief is unbiblical, and introduced several arguments to support their claim. The most compelling arguments were that if God progressively created life-forms, then why did they die off? Is God incompetent? And if God created pathogens and parasites, was He cruel and sadistic?
Oddly enough, some speakers quoted young-earth creationists to bolster their claims of the IDM, promoting unbiblical creationism. Dr. Kenneth Miller quoted Mark Looy of AiG saying, “Intelligent Design undermines the gospel message” and Dr. Henry Morris of ICR stating, “The Intelligent Design movement is unbiblical in its interpretation of the Word of God.” Note that these theistic evolutionists all believe that there have been millions of years of death, cruelty, disease and parasites. What they are conceding here is that one can’t have it both ways—a powerful intervening Creator in the biblical sense would indeed be responsible for death and suffering before man. But this is not an issue for a theistic evolutionary notion of “god” (which is really no different from the eastern-Hindu pantheistic view that has no ultimate distinction between God and nature). If “god” is incapable of intervening in nature, then it is meaningless to talk of responsibility for suffering and parasites. Also, such extreme theistic evolutionism no longer pretends to be “biblical” in its understanding of things like suffering and God’s merciful nature, as this conference made clear.
I concur with AiG’s often-stated declaration that if you yield the literal interpretation of Genesis 1–11, then all manner of errors creep in to your theology. Either God literally created the world as He said He did, or you are left with a callous, sadistic or feeble god of your own making. In attempting to compromise the literal truth of the word of God with scientific theories, Intelligent Design has not created a more understandable view of God, nor has it gained the acceptance it has sought in the scientific community, but actually mostly receives ridicule from them.
The symposium’s panel discussion featuring members of the Ohio Board of Education (led by vocal anti-creationist Dr. Lawrence Krauss) focused on the new 10th grade biology lesson in Ohio’s public schools, and the academic standards of the 2002 state science curriculum, that include a “Critical Analysis of Evolution.” The panel mostly confined itself to repeating the same old mantra that Intelligent Design or creation are not science because they are not empirically verifiable (as if their historical geology was); that teaching anything other than evolution as the origin of life is not good science; that Ohio would be ridiculed by other states for its weak stance on science; and that critical examination of all scientific hypotheses and theories is essential and relevant, but only in academic debates, not in the classroom.
Dr. Krauss lamented that “63% of Ohio adults are unaware that the last dinosaur died millions of years before the first human arose” and that “30% of Ohioans believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old.” Instead of analyzing these findings and displaying any tolerance toward those of differing beliefs, he stated that “they are probably too late to be reached with the truth.” He went on to say that “only when we are willing to accept the universe for what it is, without fear, will we be able to build a just society.”
Of particular interest during a question-and-answer session following the panel discussion was a question from a member of the audience. The man introduced himself as a molecular geneticist from a Washington, D.C. area college, and he wanted to know what the scientific community intends to do to stop this onslaught of religious infiltration of the science classes in schools. He asked why the educational institutions are not fighting this issue as hard as the creationists are fighting to (allegedly) supplant science. The panel answered that the scientific community does not have the money or the political support that the creationists have, but that the National Science Education Association was involved in fighting these kinds of initiatives.
Ironically, not one panel member even hinted that American citizens have a right to academic and expressive freedom, that evolutionary theory as the mechanism for the origin of life is predominantly or exclusively taught in every secular, and many religious, educational institutions, and that the language in the state curriculum and the 10th grade lesson does nothing to prohibit or inhibit the teaching of evolution. Sadly, there was an arrogant presumption that evolution is the only allowable teaching on the origin of life, and that anyone who speaks of critically examining the theory is either attempting to undermine the separation of church and state, or is so naïve and ignorant, that he is “too late to be reached with the truth.”
By far, the most provocative and controversial session was the last one. Rev. George Murphy, the pastor at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Akron, Ohio, spoke on “Evolution and the Centrality of the Cross” to conclude the symposium. Rev. Murphy started out with a “big bang” by saying unequivocally, “Evolution is God’s way of creating. This is true.” He quoted Martin Luther who wrote, “The cross is central to an understanding of who God is,” and Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote, “We are to find God in what we do know, not what we don’t know.” Rev. Murphy then said, “The cross must go with the resurrection. This looks less like God than what we normally think. God’s activity is hidden and salvation is accomplished through Christ’s death. God does voluntarily restrict what he does; therefore, we do not see God’s action directly, but see His effects through natural processes. That is why God doesn’t use His power to kill cancer cells or to restrict tornados.” Rev. Murphy then quoted Isaiah 45:15, “
Verily thou art a God who hides thyself …”
Rev. Murphy teaches that the Genesis creation account is simply “God accommodating himself to the people of Israel by speaking to them in language they could understand, as if to children. We don’t need to find concord between the language of Genesis and modern science.” But his most startling conclusion was this, “Natural selection is the main force of evolution, and if this is God’s way of creating, then it is full of suffering and death. God became human in order to undergo the same evolutionary process as the rest of humanity. God became a loser in this process when He was crucified and this shows God is with us in suffering and death. We can now better understand Paul’s statement of ‘the liberation of the whole creation,’ because God takes on Himself all the evolution of the whole world through Christ. The pattern of death and resurrection are illustrated by Christ’s suffering.”
This is what happens when we discard the literal interpretation of Genesis 1–11 … an impotent, handcuffed and inefficient god who must sacrifice his son in order to atone for the “tooth, fang and claw” of the survival of the fittest that he inflicted on his creation when he set this in motion millions or billions of years ago. What a sad and sorry god the theistic evolutionists have created!
One may wonder what exactly Christ’s death, burial and resurrection actually accomplished if one were to accept this type of theology, other than to share in humanity’s sufferings. Surely the Apostle Paul had something far greater in mind when he stated in Romans 3:24–25, “
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past through the forbearance of God.” Again he states in Romans 5:8–10, “
But God commends His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” The writer of Hebrews states in Hebrews 10:10, “
By His will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once for all.”
The God of Christianity is not a God who created a world of suffering and death, but created all that is over six literal days and pronounced it “very good.” He is not a God who needed to die in order to share in our evolutionary suffering, but is a God who according to Hebrews 12:2, “
For the joy that was set before him endured the cross” and according to Isaiah 53:11, “
He shall see the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied … .” This is not an incompetent, uncaring God, but a God who sent His Son to redeem mankind from their sin and through His death on the cross is able to “save to the uttermost them that come unto God through Him.”
For a more detailed refutation of theistic evolution, see Q&A: Theistic Evolution.
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