John Cleese asked Michael Palin in their highly amusing argument sketch “Is this just the five minute argument or the full half hour?” Lucky for us when Mick, Adrian and Andrew modeled healthy critical discourse at the Brighton leadership seminar, we were treated to an hour and a half of stimulating discussion. After looking at passive and active judgment they moved onto consider Tim Keller’s take on the first chapter of Genesis. Exciting stuff!
Keller’s experience is that people don’t believe Christians on the resurrection because they seem unintelligent and uninformed when it comes to generally recognized and accepted scientific findings. I think this is true.
Andrew pointed out that sound biblical inerrantists B. B. Warfield and J I Packer are both open to evolution or at least don’t dismiss it, and think it’s more likely than the alternative. (In fact J I Packer says “the young earth view is naive“). These aren’t the kind of guys to sell out. The Catholic church’s official line is in line with evolution too but again, as no one, not even the pope, is infallible we need to engage with the subject matter.
Andrew’s view is that Genesis is Poetic narrative, semi-poetic or Hymnic although not Hebrew poetry.
Andrew agrees with Keller that if Genesis 1 isn’t a journalistic record to be read chronologically then it doesn’t conflict with evolution. Keller does however go for a literal garden and a literal fall.
Andrew gave 6 points on why he used to think that evolution was barmy for those who believe the bible. He has changed his mind on most of them.
1) Its incompatible with Gen 1. He no longer holds this view because of the poetic nature of Gen 1.
2) It is driven by randomness. Again, he no longer holds this view because God works through apparently random stuff, i.e. valleys, cliff erosion, casting of lot, “the lot is cast into the lap but every decision comes from the Lord” Prov 16:33, and 1 Kings 22:28, 34 where someone prophesies that the King of Israel is going to be killed, …and someone draws his bow “at random” and kills him.
3) The problem of the final step in which hominids become humans. He still thinks this is problematic. Genesis 2 is not Poetic in style. Man was made from the dust of the earth, and the woman from the rib of man. It was not two farmers that God choose and made in his image. Keller agrees but Andrew asks where and how is the line drawn? I have this problem too.
I recall Stott argues that Genesis 2 and 3 do in fact have very symbolic truths in them. It’s increasingly easy to rub out more and more of the bible because of apparent challenges with scientific opinion but the answer is not to shut our eyes and hold onto our own particular interpretation. As Keller notes, this does not help in the presentation of the gospel. Of course a third error would be to become wishy washy, open to anything and lacking conviction and faith. Being aware, to a degree based on your time and ability, of the various interpretations and scientific evidence is a good start and shows you are not blinkered in your approach even if you have arrived at strong conviction on the subject. (For clarity that last paragraph was my thoughts).
4) Evolution is only ever held by unbiblical fluffy people. He now realizes this isn’t true.
5) There are Scientific objections to evolution as a whole. Adrian points to Jon Lenox’ book. I have a few but I’m not sure which one.
6) Death and wastefulness before the fall. Andrew points out that if you believe in an old earth you tend to go for the death of animals. So this argument needs to go with a young earth.
Andrew reminds us that many Christians historically believed in evolution. Darwin’s theory was in fact promoted by many of the clergy at the time. He also says something can be poetic and literal.
Adrian says he is for a literal 6 day creation. Andrew says Kellar says its poetry and then goes with the possible interpretation that is in line with science.
Interestingly enough, apparently Augustine and Origin said it was literal but didn’t go with a 6 day account.
Adrian points out that we need to look at the rest of the bible. Ex 20 argues the Sabbath from Genesis 1 based on a literal interpretation of Genesis. Andrew counters that Moses was the same author of Genesis 1 and Ex 20 and had Ex odus in mind when we wrote Genesis. I didn’t really follow the argument though but agree with him that for Moses it may not have been the length of the days that was the issue but the 6 and 1 structure.
Andrew says that there is a change of style in Chapter 2 when it says “These are the generation of the heavens and the earth” and gives geographical locations so it seems the style changes to historical narrative.
(I will paraphrase what was said as best I can and interject myself when I feel like it!)
Q : Talk a bit more about death. Is it still a valid argument against evolution?
Andrew : Romans 5 says death came into the world through sin. Death for plants, animals and humans means three different things. Grass doesn’t die in the same sense that animals die. The grass continues to grow. Same with trees and fruit. An animal’s just go into the ground while a human has a soul that lives on after death. In Romans 5 surely Paul is talking about the death of humans. But do we want to say God created a world in which animals didn’t die? Ie where immortal. The young earth view would seem to say yes they were eternal.
Q : We must not undermine the first chapters of the bible or we loose everything.
Andrew : Yes. Undermine anything God says and you loose everything. Including Genesis 1. I am saying there is a chapter in the bible that has possibly been misinterpreted, not that there is a chapter in the bible that is wrong. People used to think that the earth went round the sun because of a metaphorical statement in the bible. We later came to the conclusion that the bible didn’t mean what we thought it meant due mainly to overwhelming scientific evidence.
Me : The issue is about interpretation not inerrancy.
Me. Keller and Andrew do not think that God put his image in a creature coming out of evolution. I can’t see why that is such a big issue. Did he fashion literal dust in a few moments or did he use dust that had been fashioned over millions of years into a humanoid? Eve could still have been taken from Adam in some way.
Me : The questions all seemed hostile to evolution. Interestingly someone said in a question that there was “no evidence for evolution”. They seemed really certain of that. But surly that is not true is it? Everything I have read seems to support the very opposite. Someone makes the point that we must distinguish between macro and micro evolution but perhaps a more relevant distinction should be highlighted between the so called “fact of evolution” and the process of evolution. Scientists believe they have a massive, overwhelming amount of evidence for all living organisms having a common ancestor. The discussion and theorizing tends to come more in the actually process of how evolution, speciation, adaption etc took place.
Mick finished by repeating Keller’s point that in our discussions and debate we should get to a stage of being able to state the other persons argument in a way that the other person agrees with it. Then we will be able to engage fruitfully with them.