About the Gospel and Evolution

The absolute need for an “About” section didn’t hit-me-upside-the-head until  I tweeted something about the incarnation and got the reply, “Which incarnation?” Only aware of one incarnation: the incarnation of Jesus Christ, I asked the Twitter follower what she meant. She didn’t know any other incarnations either – she just wanted to make sure I “wasn’t a ‘crazy'”!

Now, if this blog were about Jeeps, I could say, “I love Jeep Wranglers!”, and you’d basically know what I was talking about. But, to millions of Americans, there is no greater non-sequitur than putting “the gospel” and “evolution” in the same phrase together. For these millions, that is enough to separate their head from their shoulders or wonder if I am a crazy or really a wolf instead of a deeply concerned sheep.  Accordingly, this blog’s posts will be longer than most.

They’ve heard, just as I used to think even while being educated to the PhD level in a biological science, that evolution atheism. Or, they’ve been indoctrinated in the destructive and divisive false dichotomy that it’s either “Creation or evolution”. There aren’t just two possibilities. Evolution is often conflated with the evil of social-Darwinism. Or, at the very least, people tend to think that evolution as God’s creative tool means stripping God of power. “Doesn’t evolution mean that we’d be just products of random chance?” That’s the question I hear most often. Spoiler alert: Not so! This blog’s posts will get into all that.  For starters, see What if Evolution Meant High Intelligence and an Advanced Civilization Were Inevitable?

Note: It isn’t about what God can do, but what God did do.

It’s About My Story and Our Story

This blog is largely about my journey as a typical creationist (initially young-earth creationist (YEC), then old-earth creationist (OEC) and intelligent design (ID) theory) for 35 years and then coming to terms with the evidence for evolution while remaining an ardent evangelical. In a nutshell, it was ONLY out of great concern for the credibility of our witness for the gospel and intellectual integrity (9th Commandment) that I FULLY engaged with the evidence for evolution, i.e., other than to merely to argue against it. That was on January 10, 2010 and it was the new molecular genetic evidence that was right down my alley. When I fully engaged with it, to my sudden and great surprise, I found that evidence overwhelmingly convincing and I painfully had to admit that I had been wrong about evolution for 35 years.  What’s an ardent evangelical to do with that?  This blog is about that.

Our family in 2012. The kids faces have been blurred to protect their privacy.

Our family in 2012. The kids faces have been blurred to protect their privacy.

It’s also about “our story” as an evangelical family of 7 coming to terms with evolution after my wife, Lisa, and I (married over 30 years) homeschooled all five of our kids mostly through high school to be good little anti-evolution scientific creationists. It’s about why and how we remained ardent evangelicals.

Credibility Crisis of Biblical Proportions

Nothing is more precious than the Gospel! The Gospel is the power of God for salvation. Yet, what if unbelievers can’t even listen to the Gospel because we lack credibility due to denials of scientifically determine realities by many Christians?  It’s about the credibility crisis in our witness for the Gospel.

Are we so used to hearing it that we have become immune and unaware just how absurd and incredulous it sounds to even a 5th grader when they hear many Christians dogmatically saying that the earth is only 6,000-10,000 years ago, for example? After hearing that, who can even hear a single word any Christian to say about the gospel? Increasingly, educated people don’t and won’t.

Today, it is same with the evidence for evolution, especially with the new molecular genetic evidence since the Human Genome Project.

Changing U.S. Religious Landscape

The Numbers Speak for Themselves

Atheism is similarly on the rise according to 2015 PEW (depicted below) and  Barna Group studies.  Evangelical protestants are declining while the unaffiliated and non-Christian faiths are rising fast, according to 2015 PEW research shown left.  Also, “In just two years, the percentage of Americans who qualify as “post-Christian” rose by 7 percentage points, from 37% in 2013 to 44% in 2015.”, according to another recent Barna Group study.

Sadly, about 70% of youth leave protestant churches between ages 18-22. But, about 35% of those eventually come back. Yet, if you do the math, 45% of youth between ages 18-22 leave protestant churches never to return. That’s according to a LifeWay Research, Biblical Solutions for Life study in 2007.  Almost every evangelical family with kids old enough knows the heartbreak of having a child who left the faith in college, or knows someone who has. This blog’s for you!

The #3 Reason youth leave the church is because “Churches come across as antagonistic to science“. That’s from a 2011 Barna Group study called, “6 Reasons Young Christians Leave Church“, that included those who felt the following:

  • 35% said, “Christians are too confident they know all the answers“.
  • 29% feel, “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in“.
  • 25% say, “Christianity is anti-science“.
  • 23% said they have, “been turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.”

These days, we can’t be anti-evolution without being anti-science.

 

 Composition of the Religious “Nones”Now 20/20 Hindsight

Having once held typical YEC and OEC anti-evolution views, I can’t throw stones.  Now able to look back with 20/20 hindsight, I can see the dozens of hurdles that made evolution UNTHINKABLE to me and kept me from FULLY engaging with the evidence for it other than to argue against it. In my moral dilemma, ultimately, my conscience prevailed.  Overriding concern for the credibility of our witness for the gospel and intellectual integrity (9th Commandment) in the face of new definitive evidence that I could see with my own eyes won-out over the competing concerns of feeling unfaithful in doing so and calling God a liar.  What were those hurdles and how can they be overcome?  This blog is about that.

This blog is also about whole new perspectives out there in evangelical theology that square with science that made sense of it all to me. Most evangelicals have probably never heard most of these perspectives. I know I hadn’t. Even though I was into the topic as a believer in the sciences, I never knew that there were far better hermeneutical approaches than the default literal scientific concordist approach, i.e., the popular belief that the Bible corresponds with modern science, as if the Bible was a modern science textbook. It wasn’t until confronted with overwhelmingly convincing molecular genetic evidence for evolution that I was forced look beyond popular YEC and OEC theology.

Two Bottom Lines

Today, I’m rather absolutely convinced about these two bottom lines:

(1) I have to agree with the axiom coined by scientist and fellow Christian, Theodosius Dobzhansky, that, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution“, AND

(2) NOTHING IN LIFE makes sense except in the light of the gospel!!!

Yes, BOTH can be true! Both must be true. At the highest level, this blog is about that and all that it touches.

Cutting-to-the-Chase and Through the Confusion

There is also a whole lot of confusion out there on the topic, especially with Ken Ham’s young-earth creationist’s (YEC) org, Answers-in-Genesis (AIG), doing a 180 on evolution, now saying millions of species “evolved” from just a few in 4,000 or so years since the Genesis flood. What’s up with that? That’s hyper-evolution or evolution-on-steroids. See for yourself in those links. That was also my “Big Surprise in Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye Debate“. Can YEC believers be MORE pro-evolution when it comes to the formation of new species than old-earth creationist believers! Really?!?

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hours of personal study since 2010 showed me just how much I was putting great hope in weak arguments. I had done that just to maintain a belief in the popular default interpretation of the Genesis, scientific concordism…an interpretation that I know understand to be a hermeneutical error on many levels.

All can agree that our interpretation of scripture is NOT inerrant.

 

Graphic showing an inheritance trail of endogenous retroviruses in the genomes of humans and various other primates that shows an inheritance trail in our genes.

Used with the permission of Dr. Finlay from Part 2 of The Story in Our Genes.

The Most Persuasive Evidence

One example of other evidence for common descent that I found overwhelmingly convincing was the inheritance trail of hundreds of specific endogenous retroviral infections (ERVs) that made it into the genomes of humans, gorillas, orangutans, chimps, bonobos, new world monkeys, old world monkeys and more distantly related animals. These were fossils in the genes that I could see with my own eyes and that were passed down through all subsequent generations following viral infection. The pattern of inheritance of those viral infections formed a trial of inheritance through primate species that couldn’t reasonably have come about any other way than through common descent from a common ancestor. It would make absolutely no sense for God to insert virus DNA into our genes and the genes of all those species to deceive us into thinking there was an inheritance trail. Did you know that your DNA is 8% virus? See Part 1 and, especially Part 2 of The Story in Our Genes, by Christian cancer researcher, Graham Finlay.

Taking It to the Streets

This blog takes to the streets the best of great resources on evangelical evolution creation (EC) views, such as at BioLogos, and from a wider range of views that aim to be consistent with modern science and the Christian faith from the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA at www.ASA3.org) – an organization of Christians who are also scientists, engineers and/or theologians.

In doing so, this blog mainly focuses on what has made the great sense to me and what has been the most helpful to me and my family from those sites and other resources both during and after my paradigm shift.

I’m only an armchair theologian, at best. But, I know and strive to rely on theologians educated in BOTH evangelical theology and the sciences who have similarly landed upon an evolutionary creation (EC) view.

Ending False Dichotomies

The all-pervasive either/or thinking, i.e., that it has to be “either Creation OR evolution“, is a destructive FALSE dichotomy! It’s not that simple.  There are far better perspectives that provide real answers.

What Does Billy Graham Say About Evolution?

It doesn’t have to be extremely complicated. Take what Billy Graham says, for example. Christians love and respect Billy Graham who has shared the gospel with literally hundreds of millions of people. Here are Billy Graham’s exact words:

“…I don’t think that there’s any conflict at all between science today and the scriptures. I think that we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and we’ve tried to make the Scriptures say things they weren’t meant to say, I think that we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course I accept the Creation story. I believe that God did create the universe. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create manwhichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man’s relationship to God….” (from the book, Personal Thoughts of a Public Man, 1997. p. 72-74, [emphasis added]).

Yes, there really should be NO conflict between modern science, including evolution, and the Christian faith, properly understood! For those who can accept what Billy Graham says and move on, it isn’t complicated.

Other readers will feel they have to know what Billy Graham means when he says, “I think that we have misinterpreted the Scriptures“, and, “we’ve tried to make the Scriptures say things they weren’t meant to say“, and, “the Bible is not a book of science“.

Is This Blog For You?

Everyone is welcome here. Yet, this blog isn’t for everyone–not everyone needs to be involved science & faith issues that can potentially be a distraction from faith itself.

So, if you’re content just knowing that someone can be an ardent Christian AND an ardent evolutionist, then you probably don’t need to know all the gory details, i.e., if you think, “Oh, if you’re a Christian AND a scientist and you don’t have a problem with evolution – then neither should I“, then you probably don’t want or need to dive deep into this highly nuanced topic that never seems to end. Advice to that effect is what noted pastor/author Tim Keller gives and says works well for his large church of fairly well educated New Yorkers in his 2001 “Evolution And Science” talk.

But, if you answer, “Yes!” to any of these questions, then you just might be in the right place.

  1. Are you a Christian who insists that your faith squares with reality and is consistent with modern scientific consensus while still honoring scripture as revelation from God? Do you wonder if that is even possible?
  2. Do you need to how God can still be Creator and NOT “redundant” in an evolutionary paradigm?
  3. Or, are you scientist, agnostic or atheist wondering if science alone can answer the really big “Why” questions:
    • Why (not how) is there something rather than absolutely nothing?
      • Why are there 11+ dimensions rather than 0?
    • Why is there consciousness?
      • “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.” Albert Einstein
    • Is there any Purpose to existence and consciousness? Or is ALL THIS just a really reeeeeeally freak accident?
    • Or do you realize:
      • That there are other kinds of evidence, e.g., legal evidence, historical evidence (see Evidence for the Historical Jesus, by Gary Habermas, for example), etc., and not EVERY key question in life can be settled at a >95% statistical probability level;
      • That the otherwise very powerful scientific method cannot speak to questions of purpose or non-material aspects of existence that are outside of domain of scientific investigation. What about eternally transcendent concepts, like justice or the laws of logic, that would inevitably be key in any universe in which high-intelligence and an advanced civilization was inevitable; and
      • What if God is NOT SUPPOSED to be proved? If God were proved, then our faith would be sight and not please God. We’d HAVE to obey.
  4. Do you suffer in silence wrestling with science & faith issues? Many shrink back from raising questions that they agonize-over. They fear being a stumbling block for others by asking hard questions or showing doubt. I sure did, at times.
  5. Is intellectual integrity critically important to you and/or do you think it is important to God when dealing with science/faith issues?
  6. Are you a believer who feels like your heart is being ripped-out each time you hear of yet another college student in your church falling away when confronted with the evidence for evolution? Do you know someone like that who needs answers?
  7. Are you a Christian in the sciences who cringes & grieves over what has happened to the credibility of our witness for the gospel?
  8. Do you want to know why many highly-qualified evangelical theologians say that evolution is not a show-stopper for the gospel?
  9. Are you curious whether the gospel and evolution can be in harmony and, if so, how?
  10. Are you a leader or pastor trying to figure out how to better lead and care for those struggling over these issues or how to guide your church in this potentially divisive topic? Do you want success stories from other churches that have dealt with this wisely?
  11. Do you want to know the dozens of hurdles evangelicals face when attempting to come to terms with evolution and hear that from someone who can look back with 20/20 hindsight—someone who’s been there and can’t throw stones and is still an ardent evangelical?
  12. Do have your own questions  to discuss?

You might also be interested in this blog if you are:

  • Wanting to dialogue with others about issues that impact the gospel and the Christian faith, in general, as it relates to science, and evolution, in particular.
  • Interested to learn more about the relatively new evolutionary creation (EC) view.
  • Looking for good resources to help you formulate your own science/faith view.

Evangelical Theologians Supporting Evolution Creation

This blog is about making total sense of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a modern scientific age with reliance on key qualified theologians.

Many scientists who are also Christians ASSUME that being a scientist qualifies them as a theologian and they promote their new theological views in the market place with little or no academic qualifications in theology. This blog is about NOT doing that. You know what you get when you assume… If you see me slip into doing that, don’t hesitate to call-me-out on it.

I’m an armchair theologian, at best. But I echo and rely on well qualified theologians, like my favorite, author and Professor Denis O. Lamoureux, DDS, PhD, PhD, most recently known for his March 19, 2016 debate/discussion with the world-renowned theoretical physicist, atheist and author Dr. Lawrence M. Krauss and author & intelligent design (ID) theory proponent Dr. Stephen C. Meyer. No, that’s NOT a typo. Professor Lamoureux has two PhDs, having been educated to the PhD level in BOTH theology and biology, focusing on tooth evolution after becoming a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). He has a Master of Christian Studies from Regent College with a specialty in Genesis 1-11, educated there during its heyday with J.I. Packer & Bruce Waltke. Denis then went on for a PhD in theology and literally wrote the book on evolutionary creation (though not the only EC view). How many other theologians do you know with credentials like that?

In addition to evangelist Billy Graham and Dr. Lamoureux, below are just some of the more notable evangelical theologians/apologists who support a theistic evolution (TE) or an evolutionary creation (EC) view at some level.

1)  J. I. Packer (famed author of Knowing Godand a framer of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, see Packer’s glowing endorsement right on the cover of “Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?“, as well as Unpacking J. I Packer on Genesis 1 & 2, as well as here.

2) Tim Keller (inclusive on theistic evolution – see Keller’s numerous posts on the BioLogos site).

3) C.S. Lewis (see, for example, the last chapter of Mere Christianity);

4) Alister McGrath (author of a C.S. Lewis biography and A Fine-Tuned Universe and many other books and talks on the topic);

5) John Stott (author of The Cross of Christ quoted here about evolution);

6) Tremper Longman III & 7) Bruce Waltke (revered OT professors who were dismissed or excluded after accepting evolution or questioning a historical Adam);

8) Peter Enns was essentially forced to resign for reasons that included support for evolution; and my favorite

9) Denis O. Lamoureux (already mentioned above as my favorite, his polished Science and Religion course (FREE to view online) has been taught over 63 times as of 2015 and made sense of it all for me and has helped a great many evangelical and other students on this topic.

10) Many more.

“Why Even Bring It Up?”

I’m sometimes asked this question because the topic is so troubling to many Christians. Why even bring it up?

In a word, it is for the sake of the gospel—the credibility of our witness for the gospel.  While we need to be careful not to bring up these issues with those who do not wrestle with them or when it wouldn’t otherwise be love, we ignore it to the peril of the faith and those who need to hear the gospel.

“…we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.” (1Co 9:12b ESV)

Left unaddressed, these festering issues become stumbling blocks or obstacles for those who know and understand the scientific evidence for evolution that most now know by High School.

A Secondary Issue?

In one sense, I agree wholeheartedly with what I’ve heard some pastors say, i.e., that accepting evolution is a secondary issue and not a salvation issue, theologically-speaking that is. However, functionally-speaking, it IS a salvation issue–it’s functionally a salvation issue because the veracity of evidence today plus the FALSE either/or dichotomy of “its either evolution or creation” causes many to fall-away and prevents others from even hearing the gospel, as the LifeWay Research and Barna Group studies above support. A key part of the problem is that the average evangelical Christian doesn’t know that it really is a 2ndary issue, theologically-speaking. That’s partly because many outspoken fundamentalists will disagree on that point and partly because evangelicals who know it to be a 2ndary issue don’t bring it up and talk about it much because they think of it as a 2ndary issue.

By ignoring the claims of science, including evolution, we are also not allowing the book of God’s works to properly inform our hermeneutical approaches and our interpretation of God’s Word.

Coming to Terms with Evolution

My Story at BioLogo.org get you started and a forthcoming more detailed version in separate posts will get you up-close and personal and answer many questions most readers will likely have.  Let me know your questions!

  • Why couldn’t I see it, even as a scientist, for over 35 years?
  • What idols in my heart did I clung-to that kept me seeing it?
  • What intellectual sins do I confess?
  • Why was it unthinkable to even entertain the thought that evolution might be true?
  • Why didn’t I have greater concern for the credibility of our witness for the gospel before 2010?
  • What made it such a paradigm shift?
  • Why did it feel so lonely during those first years?
  • What were the dozens of hurdles I encountered and which hurdles were the highest?
  • What answers did I find so satisfying for each?
  • What scientific evidence did I finally find overwhelmingly convincing? BTW, it seems odd to me that virtually no evangelical Christian asks me that question.
  • Why did I think it was OK to stick mainly to creationist (YEC, OEC and ID-theory) resources for 35 years?
  • Why do I still believe in God as an ardent evangelical Christian?

If Nothing Else…

Intrigued but don’t have time for a blog? Or do you want your theology straight from the theologian’s mouth? Then, if nothing else, I recommend the Web Lectures of theologian and scientist, Denis O. Lamoureux. Those web lectures are an abbreviation of his Science and Religion course. Or, do what I did and go through the whole course (FREE to view online – see Intriguing Science and Religion Course Opportunities! for more description) in order to be well grounded in sound hermeneutical principles for interpreting scripture so that you can formulate your own science/religion view.

Sadly, many Christians don’t know that there are theologically acceptable, and far better, alternatives to young-earth creationism or old-earth creationism. I know I didn’t for over 35 years. Pastors may or may not know this from seminary. But, even those who are seminary-trained (not all are) may not mention other views in congregations to avoid raising questions that people don’t have and/or to avoid a potentially divisive topic. And so, our ignorance on the topic tends to perpetuate. This course surveys the alternative out there and gives you the tools to formulate your own science faith view. It made all the pieces of the theological puzzle fit for me in a manner fully consistent with modern science.

About a Community of Science-faith Seekers.

Too often we settle our differences by NOT talking about them. Not here. This is a community of interested folks (some believers, some not) free to ask question, express their own views and share their own stories and favorite resources in a way that is respectful to others.

Ground Rules

To my YEC friends, you are certainly welcome here for good healthy dialogue. Calling others or me “apostate” and the like will likely see you blocked – wouldn’t be the first time.

To my atheist and agnostic friends, and I know there are a very wide range of views out there, you are certainly welcome. I respect your position even while coming to different conclusions. I’m convinced that there are far better perspectives that I hope will at least keep you intrigued and coming back.

To all, ranting and disrespecting other’s views won’t be tolerated for anyone. But, let’s not be like those who solve their differences by not talking about them!

Policy About Updating Posts and Comments

This site is a little unusual in that posts may be updated from time to time with new information to make them the best resources they can be. That’s because this is a highly nuanced topic and because comments are not always read with the posts. I also frequently become aware of new evidence or additional resources that make a post on a topic better. I’ll try to reference the changes in a new comment and by the date added in the post update and seek to give appropriate credit where credit is due.

I look forward to engaging with you in the comments section of posts!

Keith Furman, PhD

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/keith-c-furman-phd/44/b99/684

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