According to a famous Gallup poll, 42-47% of Americans believe in young-earth creationism (YEC), which the poll describes as the belief that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so". The results of this annual poll has remained relatively unchanged for over three decades. According to an analysis of this poll by Biologos, the bad news is that Americans are as strongly opposed to animal evolution as they are to human evolution, but the good news is that "nearly half of Evangelicals see science as working in collaboration with religion." The prognosis is that roughly half of American Evangelicals reject the scientific consensus on evolution and exhibit science denialism.
Why are American Evangelicals so opposed to evolution in particular and science in general? The question is difficult to answer. It's possible that people are misinformed and do not understand how evolution works. Evolution denial may be due to the prevalence of Christian Fundamentalism with its firm Biblical Literalism and Biblical Inerrancy that has mislead many Evangelicals into believing a false dilemma between religious faith and science. I don't wish to rehearse the immorality of science denialism here and now, but the benefits of science are everywhere in modern society. (Many excellent books have been published on the phenomena of American Fundamentalism and I defer to George Marsden's Fundamentalism and American Culture and Mark A. Noll's Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind.)
The reasons for American Evangelical's disdain for evolution is manifold, however, for those who wrongly believe that Scripture prohibits its acceptance, I've assembled the following reasons why scripture is not opposed to evolution.
The Gallup poll were difficult to believe, so I ran a twitter poll, and the results are consistent with it:
— PostBarthian (@postbarthian) January 25, 2016
Fifteen Reasons Why Evangelicals
May Embrace Evolution
1. Biblical Cosmology is Ancient Near East cosmology and cannot be translated into modern cosmology
The oldest parts of the Biblical Creation Narratives (such as Genesis ch. 2) originate from the Bronze Age in the Ancient Near East (ANE). The signposts of ANE Cosmology such as the "firmament" (and yes, it is a solid barrier) and the "deep" or "depths", appear not only in the pre-history of Genesis (ch. 1-11), but also throughout the Psalms, Job and the rest of the bible (c.f. Exo 20:4; Psa 19:1; Psa 42:7).
The Bible's ANE cosmology demonstrates that it is an ancient document that originated from antiquity, but this ancient cosmology is in complete opposition to how we know the universe is constructed today. It may come as a surprise that Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said that Genesis contains the scientific naivete of the ancient world in his commentary on Genesis 1:6-10:
"Here we have before us the ancient world picture in all its scientific naïveté. While it would not be advisable to be too mocking and self-assured, in view of the rapid changes in our own knowledge of nature, undoubtedly in this passage the biblical author stands exposed with all the limitations caused by the age in which he lived. The heavens and the seas were not formed in the way he says: we would not escape a very bad conscience if we committed ourselves to any such statement."
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Creation and Temptation. London: S. C. M., 1966. 30. Print.
The Ancient Near East (ANE) cosmological model has been deciphered from archaeological discoveries such as the Babylonian Map of the World (depicted in the margin), and the creation and flood myths found inscribed on cuneiform tablets and steles. The most famous examples from the ANE creation myths is the Babylonian Enûma Eliš (Enuma Elish).
Peter Enns' Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament has a very helpful chapter, "The Old Testament and Ancient Near East Literature" that contains an excellent summary of the OT's dependency on ANE literature and how this doesn't set aside the OT's inspiration. Peter Enns explains the problem as follows:
". . . what standards can we reasonably expect of the Bible, seeing that it is an ancient Near East document and not a modern one. Are teh early stories in the Old Testament to be judged on the basis of standards of modern historical inquiry and scientific percision, things that ancient peoples were not at all aware? Is it not likely that GOd would have allowed his word to come to the ancient Israelites according to the standards they understood, or are modern standards of truth and error so universal that we should expect premodern cultures to have understood them? The former position is, I feel, better suited for solving the problem. The latter is often an implicit assumption of modern thinkingers, both conservative and liberal Christians, but it is somewhat myopic and should be called into question. What the Bible is must be understood in light of the culture context in which it was given."
Enns, Peter. Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005. 41. Print.
To demonstrate that Genesis is an ANE document, consider how the two Creation narratives in Genesis exhibits striking similarities to the Babylonian Creation Myth (Enuma Elish). The author Genesis utilized this or very similar ANE Creation Myths, and critiqued them and repurposed them in order to reveal what that author wished to communicate through the received text of Genesis as we know it today. Even though the author of Genesis was critical of his sources, his revelation was still in the vehicle of ANE cosmology and his audience were ancient people who only knew ANE cosmology, and none of this revelation contained scientific knowledge. Karl Barth makes the following statement to explain the relationship between these two Creation tales:
"What we read in Gen 1 and 2 are genuine histories of creation. If there is a connexion with the Babylonian myth or its older sources, it is a critical connexion. Everything is so different that the only choice is either to see in the Jewish rendering a complete caricature of the Babylonian, or in the Babylonian a complete caricature of the Jewish, according to the standpoint adopted."
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, Vol. 3.1, Sections 40-42: The Doctrine of Creation, Study Edition 13. London: T & T Clark, 2010. . Print.
2. The three-decker cosmology of the Ancient Near East has vanished from the world
The three-tiered universe has vanished from the world. No American Evangelical believes that we could take a space ship to heaven. No one believes that God is literally 'up there' or 'out there' in the sky like was once believed in ANE cosmology. As if God was hiding on the dark side of the moon! Space is an infinite abyss, taking decades for the fastest satellites to reach the Solar Systems's known bounds. American Evangelicals cheered when New Horizons flew by the heart-faced dwarf-planet Pluto, and when the Martian rovers photographed the surface of Mars, and when the collision of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet collided with Jupiter.
In the ANE, people imagined a three-decker cosmos: the Earth was a flat disc encased between a subterranean ocean and a celestial ocean. The subterranean ocean was a chaotic abyss below the surface of the Earth (c.f. "depths" or "deep") from which the fountains of the Earth sprang. The celestial ocean along with the sun, moon and stars were suspended in the sky above the Earth by a solid barrier (c.f. "firmament"). Heaven was identified with the tier above, and Hell with the tier below the disc of the Earth.
Bishop J.A.T. Robinson explains this problem this way:
". . . the whole conception of a God 'out there', which has served us so well since the collapse of the three-decker universe, is itself becoming more of a hindrance than a help. In a previous age there came a moment when the three-decker likewise proved an embarrassment, even as a piece of mental furniture. But in this case there was a considerable interval between the time when it ceased to be taken literally as a model of the universe and the time when it ceased to perform a useful function as a metaphor. "
Bishop John Robinson
Robinson, John A. T. Honest to God. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963. 16. Print.
3. Those who reject evolution today may prove to be modern versions of the people who condemned Galileo.
I've met many American Evangelicals who affirm the Ascension as a literal bodily ascent, but none who believe that Jesus ascended like superman and flew to a particular part of the universe where Heaven is located. These Evangelicals are willing to reject evolution, but none have condemned Galileo. How can this be? Maybe there is cognitive dissonance at play, where Jesus is imagined to travel into the sky until he's out of site, and then something magical happens once he is beyond view in the sky above such that Jesus goes to the Father in a puff of smoke but not to a specific location in the Solar System or somewhere far off in the uncharted Universe? What was the destination of Jesus' ascension? Jesus ascended as the creed says, but not like superhero comic books. Karl Barth provides us with this answer to the Ascension destination dilemma:
"There is no sense in trying to visualize the ascension as a literal event, like going up in a balloon. The achievements of Christian art in this field are amongst its worst perpetrations. But of course this is no reason why they should be used to make the whole things ridiculous. The point of the story is not that when Jesus left His disciples He visibly embarked upon a wonderful journey into space, but that when He left them He entered the side of the created world which was provisionally inaccessible and incomprehensible, that before their eyes He ceased to be[sic] before their eyes. This does not mean, however, that He ceased to be a creature, man."
Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics Study Edition 16. Ed. T. F. Torrance and G.W. Bromiley. III.2 The Doctrine of Creation. Trans. G. W. Bromiley. London: T & T Clark, 2010. 17-8. Print. [p453-4]
The problem may be due to unwillingness to admit that the Biblical Cosmology is ANE Cosmology, as if the location of heaven had coordinates in the sky that one could fly to. Or it may be due to those who imagine that Biblical Cosmology is revealing a cosmology that is more advanced that modern cosmology, despite all the textual and archaeological evidence to the contrary. Are we to read Genesis in the same way as SEIT scours the sky for higher intelligence? Those who wish to assert the bible's cosmology against modern cosmology should be reminded that the Church has a track record of getting cosmology dreadfully wrong. And, when we are on the wrong side of cosmology, like in the Galileo affair, it is a huge setback for the Christian Christ. Those who reject evolution today may prove to be modern versions of the people who condemned Galileo.
4. The New Testament also affirms ANE cosmology
The New Testament shares the ANE cosmology of the Old Testament. Rudolf Bultmann summarizes the NT understanding of the world well in his famous introduction of his essay New Testament and Mythology:
"The cosmology of the New Testament is essentially mythical in character. The world is viewed as a three-storied structure, with the earth in the center, the heaven above, and the underworld beneath. Heaven is the abode of God and of celestial beings--the angels. The underworld is hell, the place of torment. Even the earth is more than the scene of natural, everyday events, of the trivial and common task. It is the scene of the supernatural activity of God and his angels on the one hand, and of Satan and his demons on the other. These supernatural forces intervene in the course of nature, and in all men think and will and do. Miracles are by no means rare."
Bultmann, Rudolf, Hans Werner Bartsch, and Reginald H. Fuller. Kerygma and Myth; a Theological Debate. "New Testament and Myth." New York: Harper & Row, 1961. 1. Print.
Bultmann is right about NT cosmology. The hallmarks of ANE cosmology are everywhere in the NT. The NT authors speaks often of the "four corners of the earth", or "the ends of the earth", that's consistent with the ANE model of the earth being a flat disk (cf. Mark 13:27; Romans 10:18; and Acts 1:8). They also describes a three storied world (cf. Phil 2:10; Rev 5:3,13). God is located in heaven above, where believers were be "caught up" (cf. 1 thess 4:17; 2 Cor 12:4; Rev 12:5). Hell is in the abyss below the earth. It also speaks of "ascending" or "descending" (cf. 1 Thess 4:16) between the tiers (John 3:13; 6:61f; Eph 4:9f.). Paul speaks of being caught up into heaven (cf. 2 Cor 12:2). Jesus' ascension is described as ascending like superman, and flying through space to heaven above (Acts 1:2,9-11). The NT, like the OT, does not present a competing cosmology to modern science, and it was right for the NT authors to use it to communicate to their audiences, but it is wrong for people today to use it to oppose modern science.
5. Martin Luther and John Calvin used the Bible to condemn Copernicus and Heliocentricism.
The greatest Protestant Reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin, both condemned Copernicus for teaching that the earth orbits the sun (heliocentricism), and wrongly used the bible to defend the Sun, Moon, and stars orbit the Earth (geocentricism). (Later Protestant Reformers, including Melanchthon, repeated this error too). Eventually, their Protestant successors quietly replaced their Geocentricism with Heliocentricism, and then continued to use the Bible to confront science.
The greated argument for Young-Earth Creationism is Calvin's Doctrine of Creation in his Institutes of the Christian Religion I.xiv. This is the bedrock of Young-Earth Creationism, and contains the most famous and best arguments for six calendar-day Creationism. No matter how convincing Calvin's Doctrine of Creation appears to be, it must not be forgotten that the same John Calvin and Martin Luther also were dreadfully wrong on the structure of the cosmos. Here follows are example quotations from Luther and Calvin to demonstrates this point.
Luther called Copernicus a "fool" and condemned Heliocentricism in his Table Talk. Unfortunately, all the popular English translations of Table Talk admit to deleting Luther's geocentric statements. However, this famous quotation is frequently cited to prove Luther had cosmology wrong, and wrongly used the bible to do so.
"There is talk of a new astrologer who wants to prove that the earth moves and goes around instead of the sky, the sun, the moon, just as if somebody were moving in a carriage or ship might hold that he was sitting still and at rest while the earth and the trees walked and moved. But that is how things are nowadays: when a man wishes to be clever he must needs invent something special, and the way he does it must needs be the best! The fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down. However, as Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still and not the earth."
Luther, Martin. Table Talk. Ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, Theodore G. Tappert, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Vol. 54. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1967. Print. Luther's Works.
Some have said this statement from Table Talk is not reliable because it was recorded by his students over dinner conversations. It's the most famous statement, but not the only example of his believe that the sun, moon, stars, orbited the earth in the dense of fog of the firmament. Here's a quote form his Commentary on Genesis:
"This is indeed is a miraculous work of the divine Majesty that the sun runs its course so accurately and definitively and yet nowhere in the sky departs from the line along which it runs, not even by the breadth of a finger. The wonderful expanse of heavy fog Moses calls the firmament. In this subtle matter the sun and other planets have their course and movement. But who is the Master who can make this soft and tenuous substance so firm and permanent? It is certainly not nature, which cannot do this even in much smaller matters. So it must be the work of Him who spoke to the heavens and this tenuous substance, 'Let there be a firmament!' By this command He renders all things firm, and omnipotently upholds them."
Luther, Martin. Luther's Commentary on Genesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1958. 16. Print.
Also John Calvin repeats the same error as Luther. (See here or more on John Calvin's rejection of Copernicus and Heliocentricism):
"those dreamers who have a spirit of bitterness and contradiction, who reprove everything and prevent the order of nature. We will see some who are so deranged, not only in religion but who in all things reveal their monstrous nature, that they will say that the sun does not move, and that it is the earth which shifts and turns."
John Calvin, "Sermon on 1 Corinthians 10:19-24", Calvini Opera Selecta, Corpus Refomatorum, Vol 49, 677, trans. by Robert White in "Calvin and Copernicus: the Problem Reconsidered", Calvin Theological Journal 15 (1980), p233-243, at 236-237
6. The bible accommodates revelation to the understanding of the primitive man to which it was original revealed in ancient times
And John Calvin agrees as well, that Genesis is astronomically incorrect and that it presupposes ANE cosmology because its intent was to accomodate the Doctrine of Creation to what the common man understood about the ancient world:
"Moses makes two great luminaries; but astronomers prove, by conclusive reasons that the star of Saturn, which on account of its great distance, appears the least of all, is greater than the moon. Here lies the difference; Moses wrote in a popular style things which without instruction, all ordinary persons, endued with common sense, are able to understand; but astronomers investigate with great labor whatever the sagacity of the human mind can comprehend."
Calvin, John. Trans. John King. Calvin's Commentaries. Genesis Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003. 86. Print. [Gen 1:16]
Many today would be benefited by following Calvin's doctrine of accommodation. Sadly, there are times where Calvin regresses to concordant interpretations of Genesis, such as when he attempts to recast the celestrial oceans of ANE cosmology as the clouds of storm systems (and I believe this is more respectible than the vapor canopy myths of Morris and Whitcomb). Genesis assumes the ANE cosmological module, and reveals the Doctrine of Creation through it in a way that ancient people would understand. It does not reveal scientific knowledge of the cosmos. This is reaffirmed by how the three-decker cosmos is related to the three levels of Noah's ark and other temple imagery such as the courts of the temple in Jerusalem.
7. The Bible does not reveal Scientific Knowledge.
The Scientific Method is a recent development of the modern era in comparison to the Bible that originated two millennia ago. It's an anachronism to expect to receive a competing scientific system from the bible that could be used to oppose any current scientific consensus. This means that the bible was written to people who couldn't understand them in paradigms that wouldnt be understood for many millennia. I've mentioned "concordant" interpretations, and by this, I am referring to anyone who wishes to harmonize the cosmology of Genesis 1 and 2 with modern cosmology. Reading the bible as such demonstrates a misunderstanding of the Bible's intention to speak to its intended audience in a way that that audience would understands. It also presents an anti-science propoganda that is maybe pathological detrimental when consistently applied to a modern societies dependent on science and technology for the necessities of life.
"Some Christians approach the text of Genesis as if it has modern science embedded in it or it dictates what modern science should look like. This approach to the text of Genesis 1 is called "concordism," as it seeks to give a modern scientific explanation for the details of the text. This represents one attempt to "translate" the culture and text for the modern reader. The problem is, we cannot translate their cosmology to our cosmology, nor should we. If we accept Genesis 1 as ancient cosmology, then we need to interpret it as ancient cosmology rather than translate it into modern cosmology. If we try to turn it into modern cosmology, we are making the text say something it never said. It is not just a case of adding meaning (as more information has become available) it is a case of changing meaning. Since we view the text as authoritative, it is dangerous thing to change the meaning of the text into something it never intended to say."
John H. Walton
Walton, John H. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009. 16-17. Print.
p.s. John H. Walton affirms "Biblical Inerrancy" too! And, this same sentiment is expressed in plain terms in Karl Barth's letter to his niece:
"one can as little compare the biblical creation story with a scientific theory like that of evolution as one can compare, shall we say, an organ and a vacuum-cleaner — that there can be as little question of harmony between them as of contradiction? The creation story is a witness to the beginning or becoming of all reality distinct from God in the light of God’s later acts and words relating to his people Israel — naturally in the form of a saga or poem. The theory of evolution is an attempt to explain the same reality in its inner nexus — naturally in the form of a scientific hypothesis. The creation story deals only with the becoming of all things, and therefore with the revelation of God, which is inaccessible to science as such. The theory of evolution deals with that which has become, as it appear to human observation and research and as it invites human interpretation. Thus one’s attitude to the creation story and the theory of evolution can take the form of an either/or only if one shuts oneself off completely either from faith in God’s revelation or from the mind (or opportunity) for scientific understanding."
Barth, Karl., Geoffrey Bromily (trans.), Karl Barth Letters: 1961-1968, #181 (p. 184)
8. All the early church fathers interpreted Genesis 1-2 allegorically
Has the Church always opposed science? No! Did the great early Church fathers use biblical literalism to oppose the science of their day? No! Basil the Great, Jerome, Irenaeus, and Origen interpreted Genesis allegorically. Augustine wrote a book called "The Literal Meaning of Genesis" that was anything but literal! Here's one example:
Now who is there, pray, possessed of understanding, that will regard the statement as appropriate . . . that the first day, and the second, and the third, in which also both evening and morning are mentioned, existed without sun, and moon, and stars—the first day even without a sky? And who is found so ignorant as to suppose that God, as if He had been a husbandman, planted trees in paradise, in Eden towards the east, and a tree of life in it, i.e., a visible and palpable tree of wood, so that anyone eating of it with bodily teeth should obtain life, and, eating again of another tree, should come to the knowledge of good and evil? No one, I think, can doubt that the statement that God walked in the afternoon in paradise, and that Adam lay hid under a tree, is related figuratively in Scripture, that some mystical meaning may be indicated by it. . . . The same style of Scriptural narrative occurs abundantly in the Gospels, as when the devil is said to have placed Jesus on a lofty mountain, that he might show Him from thence all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. How could it literally come to pass, either that Jesus should be led up by the devil into a high mountain, or that the latter should show him all the kingdoms of the world (as if they were lyiing beneath his bodily eyes, and adjacent to one mountain), i.e., the kingdoms of the Persians, and Scythians, and Indians?)
Origen, First Principles, Book IV. 16 (Greek)
Origen's quote is not uniquely his own, but is consistent with all the early Church's allegorical and christological method to interpreting the scriptures.
9. Genesis is not eye-witness reporting
This may be a sub-point, but an important one, that Genesis is not an eye-witness report like a police report that contains nothing but brute facts. Scholars say that Genesis 1-11 is in the genre of pre-history, and it is entirely anachronistic to read it as if it were reporting modern scientific data. It's a gross error to read the pre-history of Genesis 1-11 as if it could be reproduced in a science lab. Genesis is heavily laden with symbolic phrases, such as how "Methuselah" means "man of the dart" and how Noah's flood occurred the same year that Methuselah died. To read the pre-history of Genesis 1-11 like an eye-witness report, is to set aside all the symbolic meaning that has been revealed in these Scriptures!
Karl Rahner expresses this very well, especially in the following quote from Homisation:
"Negatively it can probably be said quite simply that the account of creation in all its parts is not an 'eye-witness report' of what happened, by someone who was there, whether it be God or Adam who is thought of as the reporter. Or, to express it in more learned fashion, the account of creation does not depict the event which it reports with the actual observable features of its occurrence. Consequently it is not the report of someone who is describing and is in a position to describe a visible event of an historical kind because he was present and saw how it happened. If that were the case, then the figurative trappings and modes of expression which are present would be meaningless there. Nor would a reader expect them, if the occurrence to be reported had its own actual observable historical and therefore at all times intelligible and communicable features and provided the reporter were present at the event. Nor are the figurative modes of expression simply to explained as didactic devices designed to assist a primitive hearer's comprehension, for even to him much could have been differently said without prejudice to his understanding."
10. A literal reading of Genesis 1-2 makes it impossible to understand
Genesis contains two Creation narratives, and a strictly literal reading of these two accounts makes them impossible to harmonize. The first narrative is Genesis 1:1-2:3 and contains the famous six days of Creation, and the second narrative is considered to be the older account by scholars for the cruder vocabulary and use of the divine name "Yahweh" is Genesis 2:4-25.
The first narrative is more poetic in its presentation and has symbolic redundancies (such as triads), and the second narrative follows are more natural botanical order. The conservative Reformed theologian, Meredith Kline, in his essay, Because It Has Not Rained, explains that a strictly natural read of these accounts according to twenty-four-hour days results in a "ludicrous" interpretation of these two Genesis accounts, and asserts that anyone who entertains such a reading exhibits a "strange blindness".
The results, indeed, approach the ludicrous when it is attempted to synchronize Gen. 2:5 with Genesis 1 interpreted in terms of a week of twenty-four-hour days. On that interpretation, vegetation was created on what we may call "Tuesday". Therefore, the vegetationless situation described in Gen. 2:5 cannot be located later than "Tuesday" morning. Neither can it be located earlier than that for Gen. 2:5 assumes the existence of dry land which does not appear until the "third day". Besides, would it not have been droll to attribute the lack of vegetation to the lack of water either on "Sunday" when the earth itself was quite unfashioned or on "Monday" when there was nothing but water to be seen? Hence the twenty-four-hour day theorist must think of the Almighty as hesitant to put in the plants on "Tuesday" morning because it would not rain until later in the day! (It must of course be supposed that it did rain, or at least that some supply of water was provided, before "Tuesday" was over, for by the end of the day the earth was abounding with that vegetation which according to Gen. 2:5 had hitherto been lacking for want of water.)
How can a serious exegete fail to see that such a reconstruction of a "Tuesday morning" in a literal creation week is completely foreign to the historical perspectives of Gen. 2:5? It is a strange blindness that questions the orthodoxy of all who reject the traditional twenty-four-hour day theory when the truth is that endorsement of that theory is incompatible with belief in the self-consistency of the Scriptures.
Meredith Kline, Because It Has Not Rained
11. What genre is Genesis 1-2? The answer is Saga!
What genre of literature is Genesis 1 & 2? Is it Myth? Legend? Eye-witness report? Objective history? Karl Barth says that the best answer is "saga", because saga makes Genesis make sense in its historical milieu. Saga roots the narrative in historical events, but doesnt not restrict the Scriptures and prevent them from communication more than purely brute facts like a police report. These pre-history Scriptures present history and an interpreation of history, that is commonly described by the two German words for history: historiche and gistechte
Karl Barth defines "saga" as follows:
"I am using saga in the sense of an intuitive and poetic picture of a pre-historical reality of history which is enacted once and for all within the confines of time and space. Legend and anecdote are to be regarded as a degenerate form of saga: legend as the depiction in saga form of a concrete individual personality; and anecdote as the sudden illumination in saga form either of a personality of this kind or of a concretely historical situation. If the concept of myth proves inadequate—as is still to be shown—it is obvious that the only concept to describe the biblical history of creation is that of saga."
Barth, Karl. "Church Dogmatics Study Edition 21" Ed. T. F. Torrance and G.W. Bromiley. III.1 The Doctrine of Creation. Trans. G. W. Bromiley. London: T & T Clark, 2010. 81. Print.
12. A century ago, America's greatest theologians embraced evolution including B. B. Warfield and Charles Hodge
The late 18th century and early 19th century was a time when science was embraced by the Church and a time when people believed that everything that could be known would be known (another belief that is abandoned today!) This is exemplified by the embracing of evolution by America's greatest late 19th and early 20th century theologians including "the lion of Princeton" B.B. Warfield and "the Guardian of Orthodoxy" Charles Hodge. The foundation of American Evangelicalism today was build on the foundation of these two men's works, which affirmed evolution! So American Evangelicals disdain for evolution and science has only arisen due to controversies in the last hundred or so years after the sunset of these great American Evangelical luminaries!
B.B. Warfield is the father of Biblical Inerrancy: the very doctrine that prohibits many American Evangelicals today from embracing evolution! If Warfield had not written The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, then there may not have been any controversy over Biblical Inerrancy today, because there would be no such thing as "inerrancy." If inerrancy is a road block for any American Evangelical today, then they must be reminded that the founder of this American made pseudo-dilemma, B.B. Warfield, was also the most famous advocate of evolution, over a hundred years before the scientific consensus of evolution was established! Read this quotation by Warfield on Evolution:
"It should scarcely be passed without remark that Calvin's doctrine of creation is, if we have understood it aright, for all except the souls of men, an evolutionary one. The 'indigested mass', including the 'promise and potency' of all that was yet to be, was called into being by the simple fiat of God. But all that has come into being since - except the souls of men alone - has arisen as a modification of this original world-stuff by means of the interaction of its intrinsic forces. Not these forces apart from God, of course: Calvin is a high theist, that is, supernaturalist, in his ontology of the universe and in his conception of the whole movement of the universe. To him God is the prima causa omnium and that not merely in the sense that all things ultimately - in the world-stuff - owe their existence to God; but in the sense that all the modifications of the world-stuff have taken place under the directly upholding and governing hand of God, and find their account ultimately in His will. But they find their account proximately in 'second causes'; and this is not only evolutionism but pure evolutionism."
B.B. Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of Creation"
Mark A. Noll and David Livingstone has compiled all of Warfield's writings on evolution into an indispensable volume: B.B. Warfield: Evolution, Science and Scripture: Selected Writings, which also contains Warfield's essay on Calvin's Doctrine of Creation. And if you think that Warfield is an anomaly, remember that Charles Hodge affirmed evolution as well! Why is this important? It demonstrates that the Reformed Church has been on the right track with its doctrine of providence, and how providence is a foundational basis for the patience process of God by which his "mediate Creation" (as Warfield described it) came into being.
If Warfield is not sufficient proof, then know that the same is true for Charles Hodge, "The Guardian of American Orthodoxy". Hodge said this:
"This of course does not imply that the sacred writers were infallible except for the special purpose for which they were employed. They were not imbued with plenary knowledge. As to matters of science, philosophy, and history, they stood on the same level with their contemporaries. They were infallible only as teachers, and when acting as spokesmen of God. Their inspiration no more made them astronomers than it made them agriculturists. Isaiah was infallible in his predictions, although he shared with his countrymen the views then prevalent as to the mechanism of the universe."
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, p165.
13. The Church is not against Evolution: Protestants and Catholics agree!
The Reformed Church is not the only one to embrace the science of evolution. The Catholic Church is famous for condemning Galileo, but she is not against evolution today! The famous provost for the new Atheists and evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins in an unusual charming moment, has explained this situation well in a very good book on Evolution, The Greatest Show on Earth (despite some occasional and annoying jibjabs at Christians):
"The Archbishop of Canterbury has no problem with evolution nor does the Pope (give or take the odd wobble over the precise paleontological junction when the human soul was injected), nor do educated priests and professors of theology. . . . Bishops and theologians who have attended to evidence for evolution have given up the struggle against it. . . . But, grudgingly in some case, happily in others, thoughtful and rational churchmen and women accept the evidence for evolution. What we must not do is complacently assume that, because bishops and educated clergy accept evolution, so do theri congregations. More than 40 per cent of Americans deny that humans evolved from other animals, and think that we . . . were created within the last 10,000 years."
Dawkins, Richard. The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. United Kingdom: Free,, Transworld, 2009. 6. Print.
The Catholic position on evolution is the most intriguing to me, because they are the historical church in the West, and all Protestants have descended from Catholics, so we share the same family tree. The Catholic Church is open to a moderate theory of evolution, according to Karl Rahner, and as defined by Humani Generis. The point of controversy for Catholics is whether the body may have developed according to an evolutionary process and the soul was a uniquely created. In Hominisation, Karl Rahner explores the evolutionary questions, and he also has an amazing essay on Monogenism vs Polygenism in his Theological Investigations, Vol. 1. In this quotation, Rahner answers whehther Catholics may affirm evolutionary science:
"Although a moderate theory of evolution is not objected to by the teaching Church at the present time, it does not follow that the theological question is thereby settled and that the whole matter henceforward is a purely scientific one. The immediate creation of the spiritual soul and the substantial unity of man's nature in body and spirit are, of course, Catholic dogmas. Consequently the Christian can only hold a moderate theory of evolution quatenus nempe de humani corporis origine inquirit (in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body), as Humani Generis says (Denzinger 2327). The term moderate evolution might therefore be applied to a theory which simply inquires into the biological reality of man in accordance with the formal object of the biological sciences as defined by their methods and which affirms a real genetic connection between that human biological reality and the animal kingdom, but which also in accordance with the fundamental methodological principles of those sciences, cannot and does not attempt to assert that it has made a statement adequate to the whole reality of man and to the origin of this whole reality."
Karl Rahner, Homanisation
14. Historical Adam is an Evangelical Controversy, not a Scriptural Fact
The so-called Historical Adam is a controversy of similar proportions to evolution for American Evangelicals. This controversy could be entirely dismantled if we were to admit that "we all are Adam". Whomever Adam was is obscured by the light of the second Adam, Jesus Christ. Adam refers to all people, and specifically to Jesus who is the redeemer of all. So all the controversies surrounding the so-called historical Adam may be safely set aside and treated in a similar manner to the question of how many angels may dance on the head of a pin. (Maybe if the theologians of ancient past had avoided such secondary debates when the raiders were coming, then the Hagia Sophia might have never become a mosque or museum.) Karl Barth has provided us great relief to this controversy in his scriptural explanation of the Historical Adam:
The Bible gives to this history and to all men in this sense the general title of Adam. Adam is mentioned relatively seldom both in the Old Testament and the New. There are only two passages which treat of him explicitly: Gen 2-3 and Rom 5:12-21 (to which we might add 1 Cor 15:22,45). The meaning of Adam is simply man, and as the bearer of this name which denotes the being and essence of all other men, Adam appears in the Genesis story as the man who owes his existence directly to the creative will and Word and act of God without any human intervention, the man who is to that extent the first man. . . . It is the name of Adam the transgressor which God gives to world-history as a whole. The name of Adam sums up this history as the history of the mankind which God has given up, given up to its pride on account of its pride. . . . It is continually like it. With innumerable variations it constantly repeats it. It constantly re-enacts the little scene in the garden of Eden. There never was a golden age. There is no point in looking back to one. The first man was immediately the first sinner.
Barth, Karl. Trans. G. W. Bromiley. Church Dogmatics: IV.1 The Doctrine of Reconciliation. Ed. G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance. Vol. 22. London: T & T Clark, 2009. [507-08]. Print. Study Edition.
For those concerned with whether the scriptures allow for mankind to have originated with a single pair (monogenism) or from a group of hominids (polygenism), I highly recommend as a starting point Karl Rahner's essay on "Theological Reflections on Monogenism" in his Theological Investigations, Vol. 1. (Rahner sided with monogenism in this essay, but it is commonly believed that he embraced polygenism later in life). Peter Enns also has an excellent book, The Evolution of Adam, that is equally helpful (and a bit more accessible than Rahner's essay).
15. Evolution ends the human being's godlike position on the Earth
One last helpful point from Moltmann's Ethics of Hope is how evolution de-god's man. Man is no longer a demiurge over the Earth, he has originated from the earth and his life depends on the earth. This is very similar to the opening of the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, when he is debating which comes first, the Knowledge of God or Man, and Calvin makes the excellent observation that after man is blinded by looking up for God, he then looks down at the earth, and this allows him to see himself in relationship to God. So our knowledge of God is incomplete without our realization that he has made us from the dust of the ground. Moltmann makes this point in his recent book, The Ethics of Hope:
“If Darwin is right and human beings and apes have a common ancestry, this means the end of the human being’s godlike position. As the Bible says, he is formed of the earth and can fulfil his specific human tasks only within the community of creation. Since we have come to realize that it is the religious-scientific anthropocentricism of modern times which has brought us to the present ecological crisis of nature and human civilization, we no longer see Darwin’s evolutionary theory as an attack on Christian anthropology, but begin to understand that the human being belongs to the same family as other living things on this fruitful earth. That is ultimately also the substance of the covenant with Noah, with which creation begins afresh after the Flood. It is a covenant ‘with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature’ (Gen. 9.9–10). So all living creatures are God’s covenant partners and our covenant partners too.”
Moltmann, Jürgen. Ethics of Hope. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012. 324. Print
Oh, how many controversies might have been avoided, if the bible had been printed with the New Testament before the Old Testament, and if then the Gospel of John might have been the first book of the New Testament. This would have caused Christians everywhere to read John 1 instead of Genesis 1, and I wonder if this alone would have made the world a different place for American Evangelicals who are opposed to evolution specifically and science in general. On the contrary to those who say that Genesis 1 and 2 is the hinge by which the entire bible swings, I respond that such an attitude makes Genesis 1 and 2 a hingeless door that prevents anyone from proceeding through it and further into the bible!
As a final ecumenical word, if the argument that has been presented here is convincing to you, I encourage you to love our American Evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ who do not agree. Raymond E. Brown once gave some excellent advice on how to counteract Christian Fundamentalism, and here is one last quote I leave you with as you go in grace and peace:
"Do not attack fundamentalists as if they were fools or ignorant. Often, biblical literalism is an attitude of self-defensiveness for even extremely intelligent people who have been trapped. They want to preserve their faith in God, and this seems to them the only way. They will understand your attacks on them as an attack on their faith. There can be fundamentalists very well-informed in biblical archaeology and languages. They will have developed apologetic arguments against any nonliteral positions. For example, if one is against evolution, one can argue that God created the world with fossils already in it and, therefore, that the fossil proof for evolution can be dismissed!"
Raymond E. Brown
Brown, Raymond E. 101 Questions and Answers on the Bible. New York: Paulist, 1990. 46-48. Print.
(Note: All images in this post are either from Wikipedia, or from my personal collection.)
Related: Evangelicals, Evolution