Science, the Sciences, and the Queen of the Sciences

I have been thinking recently about science and its relationship to theology. In the Middle Ages, theology was the queen of the sciences. This held true even through the time of the Reformation, when theology was taught at universities. With the rise of the Enlightenment, specifically the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, all that changed. Kant’s philosophy was that there are two realms, if you will: the noumenal realm and the phenomenal realm. The former had to do with the nous, the mind. It was the realm of what is unseen. The phenomenal world is that of our senses. Kant argued that we cannot know anything about the noumenal world. That is, nothing from the noumenal world can reveal itself to us. At one stroke, therefore, he ruled out of court any such thing as revelation from God. Because of this philosophy, theology was no longer taught at universities. Departments of religion replaced departments of theology. All other fields became more and more fragmented, since theology is the only science that can hold the others together in any kind of unity, since theology is the only science that bridges natural and special revelation.

But this raises a problem when it comes to our understanding of science today. Science today looks at the data of what is in the universe, and seeks to understand it by positing theories that might explain how things came to be the way that they are. Science, therefore, can only exist in the theoretical world. Science cannot arrive at truth, since the data could theoretically be explained in another way. People thought the earth was flat until Pythagoras came along. People thought that the sun revolved around the earth until Galileo and Copernicus. People thought that the sun was the fixed center of the universe until Einstein came along. Theories come and go. But if this is so, what is to prevent us from seeing theology in the same way, if we posit that theology is a science? Why isn’t theology mere theory?

The answer to this question lies in the nature of the data. Although natural revelation and special revelation are both from God, the latter is like a pair of spectacles (so says Calvin) that helps us to understand everything else. Natural revelation was sufficient before the Fall. And if Adam and Eve had not fallen into sin, it still would be sufficient. The Bible only came about because of the Fall. We can’t see properly unless we put on the spectacles. We will ultimately come to wrong conclusions about natural science unless we first put on the spectacles! Modern science is starting to see, in one sense, that our conclusions are not merely determined by the data. Our presuppositions play a large part in how we read the data. Unfortunately, when it comes to a theory like evolution, the role of presuppositions is typically ignored by modern man, such that he holds evolution to be fact and not theory. But does a theory about origins have more or less authority than the spectacles of God’s Word? Which is the pair of spectacles? Natural science or theology? I just started reading Peter Enns’s newest book, and he definitely believes that evolution is part of the frame of reference for reading the Bible, and not the other way around. He speaks of evolution as fact, and not theory. Whatever else we can say, then, we can certainly say that Enns does not understand the nature of science as theory, not fact.

Theology needs to reign once more as the queen of the sciences. Only then can we halt the progressive fragmentation of knowledge and seek to reunify knowledge again. Kant was wrong. God can and has revealed himself to man. Only by that revelation can our nous (“mind”) be renewed. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Scripture does that by the power of the Holy Spirit. This has far more authority than science ever could.

The case of Galileo is usually misunderstood as the church persecuting Galileo for his views on heliocentrism. However, if you read Owen Barfield’s book Saving the Appearances, you will see a different facet at play. The church was actually more concerned about the relationship of science to Scripture and theology. They were far more concerned about the fact that Galileo posited science as fact, and that he was putting science over the Bible as more authoritative. The issue of heliocentrism was involved, certainly, but the case was more complicated than simply “the church persecuting the misunderstood-but-correct scientist (bad church, bad church!).”

Fifth Plenary Address: The Bible and Evolution (Rick Phillips)

Did science correct the Bible in the case of Galileo? Or was the interpretation of Joshua incorrect? Does evolution correct our interpretation of Genesis 1-2? Even advocates of evolution will admit that if Genesis is teaching literal history, then it rules out evolution. The species in Genesis were created by God according to their kind. People who advocate evolution posit a non-literal reading of Genesis 1. Are we saying that Genesis 1 teaches science? No, but it DOES teach history. Objections from the Biologos crowd will be that Genesis 1 is poetic. Genre analysis tells us that Genesis 1 is a classic example of historic Hebrew narrative, NOT poetry. It does not have parallelism, but vav-consecutive. Does the supernaturalism of Genesis 1 rules out the possibility of historical narrative, as Keller says? No. Even the presence of more highly exalted language does not rule out historical narrative, as Hebrew poetry itself shows us, since Hebrew poetry can still legitimately refer to historical events. The same objections made against the historical narrative of Genesis 1 could be made against John.

Do Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 conflict? No. Genesis 1 is a wide-angle lens, whereas Genesis 2 is a telephoto lens on day 6. The hermeneutics of the Biologos crowd subordinates the authority of the Bible to the higher authority of secularist science. On the one hand, we have fallible scientists, who have mixed motives, and mixed intellectual capacities, working with limited data. On the other hand, we have God, who has no fallibility, completely holy motives, absolute intellectual capacity, and working with ALL the data. Which authority is higher? Surely it is God.

Another casualty of this Biologos perspective is the doctrine of man. Man is no longer unique, but is on the same level as the animals. But when God made the animals, He created them by fiat. When He created man, He used His own “hands,” forming Adam personally from the dust of the earth. Psalm 8 does not say, “You made him a little higher than the animals,” but rather associates us with the higher beings, “You made him a little lower than the angels.” Modern secularism directs humanity (already having problems with self-loathing!) to their association with the animals. This is not calculated to solve the problems of despair so rampant in today’s society. Evolution is compatible with racism. Evolutionists are not necessarily racist, but evolution is compatible with racism, because a logical conclusion of evolution is that there are inferior strands of DNA that need to be weeded out. Can anyone say Final Solution? Furthermore, sin will need to be redefined as a form of imperfection, rather than transgression of God’s law.

The Bible says that death is the result of the Fall. Evolution says that death is the mechanism of improving the gene pool. According to evolution, then, death is good, and part of the world which cannot be eliminated. Death is no longer the intruder that the Bible says it is. Leviticus law says that death is bad. Life is part of the camp, and death is to be outside the camp. If Jesus conquered death, how can evolution be true, when evolution says that death is how progress comes to the world? Revelation 21:4 tells us explicitly: death shall be no more. One possible answer is that the Fall is only resulting in spiritual death, not physical death. This is inconsistent with Genesis 3 compared with Genesis 5. The refrain “and he died” is a reflection on the curse of the Fall. Revelation tells us that the first death and the second death are related, but for the grace of God. Christianity says that physical death is wrong! When will you get over the death of your loved one? Ultimately, the RESURRECTION! Christianity is never reconciled to death. If evolution is true, then God pronounced death good. This is absolutely blasphemous!

The problem with wanting to be respectable in society by believing in evolution is that the resurrection of Christ, the miraculous nature of the virgin birth, the miracles of Christ are all equally distasteful to the secularists as creation.

A Great Listen

I know that this podcast has been around for a while now (since July), but I do not often get to listen to podcasts on a regular basis. There were many important things there to which I want to draw our attention.

First up, and most importantly: theistic evolution. Our denomination already has an in thesi statement against theistic evolution (in the creation days study committee report). We also have judicially disciplined someone in the SJC for teaching theistic evolution. And yet, there are still officers in our denomination teaching theistic evolution. This is a complete travesty of vows to submit to the brothers. This is thumbing their nose at the PCA and saying, “come and get me.” This is also dishonesty, and as Rich Phillips pointed out, extremely divisive.

Second point: why is the PCA so divided? Phillips’s answer is that our Reformed heritage is not controlling our methodology. The PCA prides itself on doxological diversity, and almost brags about it as if it were a strength. It is rather a great weakness. Phillips points out that only a disfunctional family talks about unity all the time. A functional family talks about what they’re going to do next (the mission). Our GA talked about unity all the time. Why? Because we are incredibly disunified. And talking about it is not going to solve the problem. Neither is hand-wringing. Bringing our worship into line with the regulative principle would go a long way, however.

Third point: Why would we not want to try to make our worship as biblical as possible? This has great relevance to the intinction issue. People usually bring up red herring issues in this regard like wine versus grape juice, and leavened versus unleavened bread as something you would have to regulate if you were going to regulate intinction. However, are those not separate, distinct issues? The arguments for wine and grape juice are distinct from the arguments for intinction. Some thing for leavened and unleavened bread. The real issue is the regulative principle underlying everything else.

Fourth point: the PCA is a gospel denomination. If the GA can be persuaded that an issue has to do with the central issues of the gospel, then the denomination will vote in a landslide in favor of the gospel. Take the Insider Movement study committee report. Once the issues were clearly on the table, the PCA voted clearly for the gospel and for the Word of God. Same thing with the Federal Vision study committee report. This is both encouraging and discouraging. The encouraging thing is that we stand for the gospel. The discouraging thing is that if we don’t perceive that something is important to the gospel, then it doesn’t matter. This is not Reformed, but general evangelicalism.

Contending for Creation

by Reed DePace

I’ve both enjoyed and been frustrated at the various origins discussions we’ve had here at GB. I’ve enjoyed them because I’ve found my own understanding and confidence in a straightforward reading of Genesis 1-2 strengthened and deepened. I’ve been frustrated because I’ve not seen that result shared across the board by all those commenting on these origins posts.

I want to ask those of us who do find our confidence in the straightforward reading of Gn 1-2 (from 6/24 YEC to those who essentially buy this is what the Bible requires but don’t want to make any positive scientific affirmations) to think about the nature of this debate. I agree we get how serious it is. I may be saying something that you already get, yet just in case not, I’m asking you to take a moment to consider again what is going on in this debate for the “other side”.

Begin by focusing on this question: what does it mean to assert the authority of special revelation (Bible) over general revelation (Science)? I’d argue that those posting here from the (supposed) other side do not disagree with this way of answering this question: the Bible RULES Science. In other words, I don’t see anything in what they’re saying which leads me to conclude that they are not sincerely affirming this necessary truth.

This being said, then how do we explain those areas, those comments from the other side where we believe they’re concluding things that require exactly the opposite belief? What do we do with those areas in which we’re convinced that they’ve just said something that is based on the Science RULES Bible perspective?

I’m not admonishing us, as if I think we’re doing something wrong. Instead I hope you hear me encouraging, even exhorting us to take our own explanations and make them better. Sympathetic with their concerns and patient in our explanation, yes, but we owe them even more!! We must pursue active, even graciously aggressive efforts to winsomely demonstrate how the Bible RULES Science.

I suspect that those commenting on blogs like this one who are pushing for an expanded understanding of Gn 1-2 (and then 3-11) are the brave ones, the confident-in-their-faith ones. While I do find some sympathy for them, even such as the “high priest” of the effort, Dr. Pete Enns (a former professor of mine), I am GREATLY more concerned for the potential legion of young professing believers for whom this debate is critical.

We tend not to recognize how true one of Ken Ham’s insights really is – every issue in some manner or form does come back to an origins question. Consequently, while not saying it is the only issue, I am saying that we must keep before us this point: the argument over origins is vital to all the other THREATS to the Church in our land.

Take for example the issue of the normalization of sexual fornication in the American Church. Let’s not be wheenies with our words here. Not believing in 6/24 creation might not mean you’re a heretic going to hell, but believing you’re a born-again, Holy-Spirit baptized, justified-adopted-sanctified, persevering-to-glory child of God who rejoices in the freedom of his sexual fornication IS a damning conviction. (Read 1Co 6:9-10, deal with what “no one who is a fornicator of any type” (vs. 9) and “such were some of you” must mean.)

What we believe about origins directly applies to this subject. If we agree that “being born this way” is true this means in the end that a propensity for what the Bible calls sexual perversion is actually a part of God’s original perfect creation. From this perspective perversion is a wicked label for these various fornication practices (i.e., those things we euphemistically label “lifestyles” to make them appear innocent and holy). I.O.W., a failure in our origins apologetic will support a state of atrocity, one that will do more than anything else to remove the Church in America’s lampstand from before the Spirit whose holiness will not allow Him to gaze with love on any wickedness.

All this to urge those of us for whom this all seems so much clearer: let’s double down on our patience, our love, AND our zeal. There is a Church to see restored and a Nation to see saved. The “other side” may exasperate us at times (as I’m sure we do them). Yet they are actually a gift from God in that they can help us proclaim the glory of our God clearer.

by Reed DePace

Apparently…

The PCA is going to invite Biologos contributors to speak at our GA. I am at a total loss to understand why we would allow this. Biologos is not just about the age of the earth. They want to evangelize the PCA with the “good news” of biological evolution. Why are the powers that be allowing this? We have to go stretch the tent even further? Are we to believe that young earth creationists are complete, blithering idiots, now? Many, many scientists (bona fide scientists, the kind with strings of letters after their names) believe in YEC. Biologos offers a view of evolution that is completely incompatible with Christianity. Justification and imputation will go completely down the tubes, if we allow their view into our midst, thus contradicting the first Adam-last Adam Christology of Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. “Welcome, wolves, to the flock. We’re so glad you’re here. Is there anything we can do to make your stay more comfortable? Can we serve you any mutton?”

Great Article on Biologos

Oh, what a shame that we Christians are not prepared to endure even the smallest ridicule for the cause of Christ! As Kruger points out, however, it’s too late. Attempts to align ourselves with the so-called “assured results of science” are foundations built on sand. Read Kruger’s article. It is outstanding. He says everything I would want to say, only he says it in a much better way.

An Argument Against the Framework Hypothesis

During one of the panel discussions at the recent Ligonier Conference, R.C. Sproul, Jr. remarked that he believed the literal 6-day 24 hour view of the creation days based on sound exegetical principles. He emphasized the word “sound” in what I took to be a friendly jab at Michael Horton (who holds the Framework view), who was sitting right next to him. Horton laughed just as much as the audience did. Now, I agree with Sproul, Jr. on this one over against Horton. I believe that the exegetical evidence adduced by the Framework guys for their position admits of other explanations. I have explained this before, but I think it won’t hurt to rehearse this evidence again.

Just to remind us, the Framework view holds that the 7 days of the creation week are a non-literal but literary framework that has nothing to do with how long God actually took to create the world. So, in fact, a FH advocate could still be a young earth advocate. They tend to argue that Genesis 1 and 2 have nothing to say about the length of time God took to create the world. There are several arguments they use to support this position. Two of the most prominent are the following: 1. the statements in Genesis 2:5 concerning the lack of rain and the lack of a human being indicate that natural, not supernatural, preservation was initiated in the creation “days” of chapter 1. If there was light without the sun (as would be indicated by comparing day 1 and day 4, that would be supernatural preservation. Therefore, the FH argues, the only explanation that accounts for the natural preservation instituted by God is the non-literal interpretation. Secondly, the similarity of function of days 1 and 4 (they seem to do the same thing) are indicators that we are not to interpret the days literally.

The answer to the first argument is relatively simple: the natural preservation spoken of in verse 5 is limited to plants that are tied to human cultivation. See Keil and Delitzsch’s commentary on 2:5, where the commentary argues against the Documentary Hypothesis’ assumption of a contradiction with chapter 1, because the plants in question were not ALL plants, but only those that would not thrive without rain and human cultivation. Thus, natural preservation is certainly present in the creation week of chapter 1, but the only thing that 2:5 proves is that preservation was present in things related to human agency. It does not prove that natural preservation was present relating to all things in the created week.

The answer to the second argument concerning days 1 and 4 requires a bit of background explanation. In order to be a convincing argument for the Framework Hypothesis, the similarity of days 1 and 4 could have no other possible explanation than a non-literal interpretation of the days. If there is another possible explanation, then the similarity of days 1 and 4 ceases to be a convincing argument for the FH. I would argue that an apologetic intent explains the similarity of the days. Note, for instance, in Genesis 1:16, that Moses does not say “the sun and the moon,” but rather “the greater light and the lesser light.” The Hebrew word for “sun” is “shemesh,” which is also the name of the sun-god that ancient Near Eastern peoples worshiped. They believed that all things came from the sun, and that the sun was the source of all light. Moses, therefore, has an apologetic against the sun-worship by showing us that light originated outside of the sun. This explains not only the similarity of days 1 and 4, but also why Moses pictures light as existing independently of the sun. Only the one true God is the true source of light. Other authors have noted the apologetic intent of Genesis 1. However, no one of whom I am aware has tied the apologetic intent of chapter 1 and the order of days 1 and 4 to a rebuttal of the FH as I have done.

As a further argument against the FH, we can note the biblical-theological way in which the Bible ends: there will once again be a time when light exists apart from the light-givers. This is a hint that the order of light before lights is reversed at the end of all things. Revelation is explicit in saying that the light of the city is the Lamb. There will be no more need of sun and moon (Revelation 21:23). This is more than a hint that the book of Revelation interprets the days of Genesis as, at the very least, chronological in order, and not a mere literary framework.

Frankly, then, there is no need for the FH. It does not explain Genesis 1 and 2 any better than the literal interpretation does. Indeed, I would argue that it falls under the strictures of Occam’s razor: it is too complicated an explanation, when a simpler explanation works better. The FH has plausible arguments for it. However, as I have attempted to show, it is not forced from the text. The features of the text that the FH uses to prove its validity have equally plausible, simpler explanations.

Question and Answer Session 2

The panelists are Del Tackett, Michael Horton, Stephen Meyer, Sproul, Jr., and Sproul Sr.

Question 1: does teaching a variety of scientific theories injure students? Meyer says that it is extremely instructive and helpful to teach the variety of theories that are out there. The idea that there is a consensus among scientists is a myth. The fact is that many scientists are calling for a new Darwinian theory.

Question 2: what are the differences among the various methods of apologetics? Sproul, Sr. argues that the circular method of presuppositional gives too much to the unbeliever. He argues that the presuppositional method commits two fallacies: circularity and equivocation. The former because presuppositionalists assume what they need to prove. Equivocation in that the very definition of circularity changes in the midst of the argument. I would say (LK here) that presuppositionalism does not commit the fallacy of circularity. Rather, we argue from the impossibility of the contrary. But we are not trying to argue the existence of God per se. We are trying to say that Christian theism is the only worldview that is not inherently self-contradictory. Everyone has presuppositions. The question is whether one’s life based on those presuppositions is consistent with those presuppositions.

Question 3: what suggestions would you have to avoid secularist indoctrination for Christian students going to a secular university? Tackett says that the university is the most hostile environment for the Christian worldview. We must equip our young people for the battle. Doubt in the classroom feeds on the sexual impulses that make students want to get rid of guilt by getting rid of the Lawgiver.

Question 4: Where do we go from here in terms of education? Sproul, Jr. says that the power of the Word is paramount.

Question 5: What can the local church do to equip our young people? Horton says the home, the church, and the schools are a three-legged stool. But our churches are dumbing down Christians at an alarming rate. Were our children ever in the church? He is attacking an overly stratified approach to church, where our kids are actually never in church. We are not teaching our children the gospel or the Bible. Churches need to teach apologetics to the teens.

Question 6: does the expression “doctrine divides” come out of anti-intellectualism? Sproul, Sr. says “yes.” Truth divides. We don’t need to create hostilities, and yet truth still divides. This is a thinly veiled justification for tolerating the intolerable. We need to contend for the truth without being contentious.

Question 7: Is the difference between young earth and old earth a primary issue or a secondary issue? Sproul, Sr. says that the Bible doesn’t give us a date, though it strongly hints that the earth is young. We can learn from scientists. But something definitively taught in the Bible cannot be challenged by science. Meyer says that ID does not focus on the age of the earth. The age of the earth has become a strangely toxic issue in the church. He views it as a secondary issue. Tackett, however, believes that having lots of time diminishes the glory of God. Tackett believes that the second law of thermodynamics came into being at the Fall, not at creation. If that is true, then trying to determine what happened before the veil of the Fall can be distorted by the wall that separates the unfallen and the fallen world. Our observations must take the Fall into account. This is because if there is no Fall, there is no need for Jesus. Horton believes the Bible doesn’t speak to the issue. Sproul, Jr. believes in young earth creation.

Stephen Meyer’s Address

The title of this address is “Rock of Ages and the Ages of Rocks.”

His purpose is to put his work on intelligent design into the larger perspective of theistic design.

The new atheists have been keen to put science at odds with Christianity. The biblical view is that the scientific study of nature directs us back to the Creator. The new atheists are opposed to the early modern scientists (Boyle, Kepler, Newton, and Galileo). Their position was that nature was intelligible because of the Designer. He quotes from the General Scholia to the Principium (the introduction to what Meyer says is quite probably the greatest work on physics ever written). The quotation is quite firmly intelligent design.

So how did we get from Newton to Dawkins? Pierre LaPlace said, defending his Nebula Hypothesis (to Napoleon) “Sire, I have no need of that hypothesis,” referring to LaPlace’s rejection of the idea of God.

Douglas Futuyma, in his book Evolutionary Biology, writes “by coupling the undirected purposeless variations to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made the theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous.”

Materialism has God in its system only as an illusion. What is fundamentally real is matter and energy. This worldview became very popular in the 19th century, and became the way in which people tried to explain the origin of the world without God. In materialism, there is no objective standard of morality. And there is no freedom of choice. Many things have happened in recent science that undermine the materialistic worldview.

Hubble, in addition to discovering how many more galaxies there are in the universe, also discovered red shift, an indication that galaxies are moving away from us. An expanding universe therefore implies a beginning, finite universe. Einstein believed that a force (which he called the cosmological constant) existed to counteract the expansion, such that the universe could be eternal. But this is “dry-lab,” a scientific term meaning “fudge.” Einstein later admitted (after Hubble gets him to look at the universe through his telescope) that this was the greatest mistake of his career. The expansion was thus later explained in a materialistic way by the big bang theory (Hawking and Penrose believed that not only did time have a beginning, but so did space). But how much stuff can you put into zero space? This puts the cosmological argument for the existence of God back on the table.

If the universe was expanding much slower, then gravity would collapse everything into nothing, and if it was anything faster, we would have universal heat death. This rate is extremely fine-tuned. There are many such finely tuned numbers.

In biology, with a new function in the cell, new code has to be inputted. Information is part of the cell. But where did this information originate? Explaining the origin of life means also that we must explain the origin of information in the cell. But the creation of new information is something that we associate with conscious activity. Even Darwin believed that we should use an explanation that involves processes that we currently know about. If we use Darwin’s own argument on the origin of information, we come to the conclusion that the most likely origin of information in the cell is conscious activity.

A Critique of “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Lay People,” by Tim Keller

Guest post from Dr. Adrian Keister (Ph.D. in mathematical physics from Virginia Tech). The article from Tim Keller is found here.

What’s the Problem?

The first paragraph sets up the tone for the entire piece: the supposed antithesis between orthodox Christianity with a high view of the authority of the Bible, and evolution. Keller challenges that antithesis in the third paragraph. However, in that third paragraph, Keller evidently equates “evolution” with “science” when he writes, “However, there are many who question the premise that science and faith are irreconcilable.” So Keller has shifted the debate now, and this is a point I would not grant him. It is my firm belief that evolution is not science, any more than the theory of mature creation is science. They are both faiths, because the very method of science, being inductive and absolutely dependent on experiment, excludes questions of origin. Let us suppose, via Karl Popper, that scientific statements are statements that can, in theory, be falsifiable by observation. If that is the case, then questions about origins simply do not fall into that category, as there are no repeatable experiments available to settle such questions. The fact that evolution is considered science by mainstream scientists is neither here nor there. 10,000 Frenchmen can still be wrong. If the mainstream scientists have a vested interest in writing God out of their equations, as it says the natural man wants to do in Romans 1, then we should not be surprised when they come up with theories that exclude God! People do science, not machines, and people are always biased. People can always have a vested interest in achieving certain outcomes, even if they are scientists and the desired outcomes are supposed scientific statements.

Keller writes:


However, there are many who question the premise that science and faith are irreconcilable. Many believe that a high view of the Bible does not demand belief in just one account of origins. They argue that we do not have to choose between an anti-science religion or an anti-religious science.

I could certainly agree with the last sentence, but I would agree for different reasons than Keller appears to hold. I would agree because the very nature of science and the scientific method means that the questions science can attempt to answer have nothing to do with the supernatural. Here, I mean that the supernatural is God working through extraordinary means, and the natural is God working through ordinary means. Science excludes itself from questions about the supernatural, precisely because such events are not repeatable and thus there are no experiments. However, for scientists to make the additional leap of logic and claim that the supernatural does not exist, or that supernatural occurrences never happen, is a non sequitur of the first order. Just because the naked eye cannot see past a certain point does not mean there is nothing beyond that point. Keller, on the other hand, appears to hold to this non-antithesis because he believes evolution and orthodox Christianity are compatible. Again, he is placing evolution within science.

Keller’s fourth paragraph, including the van Inwagen quote, seems to me to be irrelevant to the main discussion. Keller’s claim at the end of the paragraph that “This is just one of many places where the supposed incompatibility of orthodox faith with evolution begins to fade away under more sustained reflection” seems to me a bit of a straw man. God is, of course, free to use any means He pleases that do not contradict His nature. However, the main topic of discussion here is whether macro-evolution is compatible with orthodox Christianity. Orthodox Christianity does not need evolution to explain its own existence; it depends for its existence on the Bible and God working to help men understand the Bible.

Keller’s fifth paragraph excludes the possibility that there really is an antithesis, and that those who claim there is an antithesis might be louder and more prominent because they are correct. Yet again, in the second sentence of this paragraph, Keller has equated evolution with science.

Pastors and the People

In this section, Keller lays out four difficulties that he sees laypeople having with evolution. The first is the literalness of Genesis 1, and biblical authority in general. The second is evolution as a Grand Theory of Everything, as per Richard Dawkins. The third is the historicity of Adam and Eve. The fourth is the problem of violence and evil. Keller proposes to “lay out” the first three of these difficulties. To Keller’s credit, he takes on himself and other pastors the hard work of interpreting the Bible, scientists, and philosophers in order to make things real to their parishioners.

Three Questions of Christian Laypeople


Question 1: If God used evolution to create, then we can’t take Genesis 1 literally, and if we can’t do that, why take any other part of the Bible literally?


Answer: The way to respect the authority of the Biblical writers is to take them as they want to be taken. Sometimes they want to be taken literally, sometimes they don’t. We must listen to them, not impose our thinking and agenda on them.

The above question and answer are quoted verbatim from Keller. At first blush, I would react by saying that while I think the answer is a true statement, I do not think it answers the question.

Keller then launches into an examination of whether Genesis 1 is prose or poetry or something else. Keller does not appear to want to take Genesis 1 literally. His first argument is that “…Genesis 1′s prose is extremely unusual. It has refrains, repeated statements that continually return as they do in a hymn or song.” (emphasis original) So far as I can see, this argument is inconclusive. No one, I think, would argue that Numbers 7 is narrative, and yet it definitely has a refrain. His second argument is that “the terms for the sun (‘greater light’) and moon (‘lesser light’) are highly unusual and poetic, never being used anywhere else in the Bible, and ‘beast of the field’ is a term for animal that is ordinarily confined to poetic discourse.” This could be true. However, even if we grant the term “exalted prose narrative” as being descriptive of Genesis 1 (which I do not necessarily grant), this does not imply automatically that “we must not impose a ‘literalistic’ hermeneutic on the text.” (Keller is quoting Francis Collins here.) How is exalted prose narrative supposed to be interpreted? What clear examples do we have of interpreting such narrative?

Keller then claims that Genesis 1 and 2 cannot both be taken literally because there would be incompatibilities. The examples Keller brings up seem quite weak to me. Keller’s first example is that there is light before any natural sources of light. My brother Lane thinks that this may be a polemic against the Egyptian sun god Ra. Of course there can be light without the sun, moon, or stars: see Revelation 22:5. Then Keller claims that vegetation before atmosphere or rain is impossible. I would divide that question into two. Vegetation before atmosphere might or might not be possible, but at the very least, Keller appears to claim that the atmosphere was created on Day 4, whereas in my reading, Day 1 seems a better candidate. As for vegetation before rain, Keller either does not know about canopy theory (Genesis 2:6 is relevant to that discussion), or dismisses it. However, canopy theory is quite plausible, although I would claim it is not science. As for Genesis 2:5, it by no means necessarily teaches that God followed a natural order, precisely because of Genesis 2:6. The entire creation was supernatural! God made the rules in creation, and He acted by following His own good pleasure. Finally, Keller claims that “evenings and mornings” are not natural, given that the sun is created on Day 4. However, this is a strange way to argue: that something is not natural means we can’t interpret a passage literally. Or even, giving Keller the benefit of the doubt, that if all the characteristics of one passage are not natural, and all the characteristics of another passage are natural, that we must then interpret them differently. Would he make the same claim about passages in Exodus, that alternate between supernatural and natural? I simply do not see any clash between Genesis 1 taken as literal history, and Genesis 2 taken as literal history.

Keller writes, in summary, that “Genesis 1 does not teach that God made the world in six twenty-four hour days.” In this paper, he appears to come to this conclusion because he thinks Genesis 1 is not meant to be taken literally. However, even if we grant that Genesis 1 is not to be taken literally (which I do not grant), that does not mean that a day is not a 24 hour day. Nonliteral passages can still have literal elements to them. Keller seems to point to non-literalness in every element of Genesis 1.


Question 2: If biological evolution is true – does that mean that we are just animals driven by our genes, and everything about us can be explained by natural selection?


Answer: No. Belief in evolution as a biological process is not the same as belief in evolution as a worldview.

Keller makes a distinction between evolution proper (the biological process) and “perennial naturalism”, which is Alvin Plantinga’s term. Perennial naturalism is clearly antithetical to orthodox Christianity, and I think Keller thinks that, too. However, it is not clear to me how this helps Keller’s overall case. Let us recall that Keller’s thesis is that biological evolution (not perennial naturalism) and orthodox Christianity are compatible. So, let EBP be the statement that macro-evolutionary biological processes occur. Let PN be perennial naturalism, and let OC be orthodox Christianity. Keller would agree that PN AND OC is false. Ah, but EBP does not imply PN, like the new atheists claim. Therefore EBP AND OC? The conclusion is not warranted. By that reasoning, we could say that anything that does not imply PN is compatible with OC, which is clearly false. Gnosticism does not imply PN, but it is antithetical to OC. As to whether EBP does or does not imply PN, I will defer to others, since I have not studied the matter.

Keller writes:


Many Christian laypeople resist all this and seek to hold on to some sense of human dignity by subscribing to ‘fiat-creationism.’ This is not a sophisticated theological and philosophical move; it is intuitive.

I am not sure whether Keller means to demean “fiat-creationists” by calling them unsophisticated (I would tend to think so, given the nature of Keller’s ministry, but I do not impute motives) or whether he is merely making an impersonal remark about the nature of “fiat-creationists”. Moreover, Keller does not define the term “fiat-creationist”. If by “fiat-creationist” he means simply someone who believes in a literal Genesis creation story, where God creates by divine fiat, then I would certainly place myself in that camp. I do not see either that such “fiat-creationism” is unsophisticated merely because it rejects all forms of macro-evolution, nor do I see that even if it is unsophisticated, that that is a bad thing. It is a rather puzzling comment, so I will refrain from further critique.


Question 3: If biological evolution is true and there was no historical Adam and Eve how can we know where sin and suffering came from?


Answer: Belief in evolution can be compatible with a belief in an historical fall and a literal Adam and Eve. There are many unanswered questions around this issue and so Christians who believe God used evolution must be open to one another’s views.

Since Keller takes a literal view of Genesis 2, and believes in a literal Adam and Eve, there is less in this section with which I would quibble. I probably would not have quoted N. T. Wright favorably, as his theology is highly problematic, although the statement in question seems unobjectionable. Keller certainly does argue for some of the more orthodox positions in this section.

However, in getting to the subsubsection entitled “A model”, Keller runs into some difficulties. It is not entirely clear to me whether Keller holds to Kidner’s views of a pre-Adamic race or not, but that is clearly what is in view here. And if there is a pre-Adamic race, then there was death before the Fall of Man. The difficulties of having death (really, of any animal, whether in the pre-Adamic race, or other animals) before the Fall of Man are several. One is that the wages of sin is death. That is, sin implies death. Can we say that not-sin implies not-death? That would be the converse. Equivalently, can we say that death implies sin? If we can, then death before the Fall flies in the face of God’s goodness. It is not that man inherently deserves life, and that God must, in justice, give it to him if he obeys. Instead, it is a matter of God’s Word. God said to Adam, “Do this and live, do that and die.” The antithesis seems to me to indicate that we can conclude the converse. Furthermore, in Isaiah 11:6-9, we see the picture of a restored earth. No animal seems to be hurting any other animal. If the restored earth is to be a return to the Garden of Eden, how can there be animal death before the Fall?

This “model” seems to give away much too much to the scientists. In fact, this is a general trend I noticed in Keller’s writing. As Gordon Clark once said, “Science is a collection of useful falsehoods.” Useful, but not “true”. That is, since science is based on the inductive method, which is technically a fallacy, science can really only ever make probabilistic statements. Science can never arrive at the truth, since its method is inherently flawed. That does not make science worthless, as it does have immense predictive value in its domain. But that’s precisely the point: questions about origins of the universe are not within the domain of science. You can hypothesize all day about origins, and scientists have, but the bottom line is there are no repeatable experiments to reproduce what actually happened. Therefore, science simply cannot contradict the Bible, at least in questions of origin. The Bible says something about origins, and science cannot. This is, in general, why I have not seen any tension between true science and Christianity. Science, while competent in its areas to say some things (subject to the limitations I mentioned before), cannot rise even to the level of addressing anything supernatural. And since what the Bible says about natural processes is perfectly accurate, and science corroborates it, there are no conflicts whatsoever.

Keller’s view is not technically one of the four accepted views that the PCA allows for TE’s. The Metro NY Presbytery has probably ruled that Keller’s views do not strike at the fundamentals of the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards. That is a question I have not studied, but I believe there is cause for concern, and it warrants investigation.

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