Deluded? Biological evolution and religious faith
- Introduction: Andrew Bollen, Associate Pastor KBC
- Speaker: Dr Dennis Gordon, evolutionary biologist, NIWA
- “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” Albert Einstein
It concerns me that:
- The speaker immediately identifies himself as Christian and evolutionist.
- It is my understanding that “evolutionary” has nothing useful to add to the study of biology; it is a mindset which blinds certain areas of investigation.
- “The word ‘evolution’ has a strange effect on people. It can create panic in some Christian minds who believe that it must necessarily mean a denial of God’s work of creation.” David Atkinson: the Message of Genesis 1-11 BST, 1990
- “Genesis 1 has become a minefield for evangelical Christian in recent years. If you do not take a particular understanding of Genesis, then some will say you give up on the authority of the Bible itself. In this there are three important dangers…”
- “To insist that [Genesis 1] is scientific truth falls into the misleading view that all truth is scientific truth.” David Wilkinson: the Message of Creation. BST, 2002
(Here, the good Dr. sells the lie that the chronology of Creation is not as important as the why. The implication that dogmatic adherence to strict Creationism misses the point. He shows some cartoons which accurately lampoons both creationists and evolutionists.)
Some first principles concerning Scripture
Recommended book “How to read the Bible for all its worth – A guide to understanding the Bible”
- by Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart
- Zondervan, 1982 (and later editions)
“The first task of the interpreter is called exegesis. Exegesis is the careful, systematic study of the Scripture to discover the original, intended meaning. This is basically a historical task…”
- When was it written?
- Why was it written?
- Who was the audience?
- What would the original readers/hearers have understood the text to mean?
Not only is there a historical cultural context, there may also be a literary context. It helps to understand if a passage is intended to be narrative (story), poetry, a figure of speech, a Hebraism, or apocalyptic or whatever. A good translation normally helps us in that regard.
Exegesis precedes hermeneutics (application of the text to today).
Exegeting Genesis 1
- “This is a word from God addressed to a group of people who are surrounded by nations whose cosmology is informed by polytheism and the mythology that flows out of the polytheism. Much in Genesis 1 is patently anti-pagen. The writer’s concerns were theological.”
- Victor Hamilton – Genesis Cater 1-17, NI Commentary on the Old Testament 1990
Genesis 1:1 – a summary verse
Genesis 1:2 – of critical importance to exegesis
- Day 1 – separation light from darkness
- Day 2 – separation of waters above
- Day 3 – separation of dry land
- Tohu is formed
- Day 4 – Creation of sun (day) and moon & stars (night)
- Day 5 – Creation of birds (above) and fish (below)
- Day 6 – Creation of land animals
- Bohu is filled
Several things to note:
- The impressive orderliness…
- The deliberate symmetry…
- Implication that the structural framework negates the literal rendering
- The 6+1 pattern is common in contemporaneous Near Eastern texts
- The seventh day does not end… therefore cannot argue that the preceding 6 were literal.
Enuma Elish – based on early Sumerian myth
- this famous Babylonian creation epic (a myth of the cycle of seasons) describes a struggle between cosmic forces of order and chaos…
- The fifth tablet:
- He (Marduk) made the stations for the great gods…
- The Moon-god he caused to shine forth…
- When the Sun-god on the foundation of heaven…
- Compare Genesis 1:16
- Implication: The Genesis account was written later as a deliberate insult to this pagen rendering
- (My thought: prove it – which came first? If Genesis is supreme, then this is the rip-off, not the other way around).
Rikk Watts (Regent College, Vancouver)
- Sees the deliberate use of architectural language in Genesis.
Darkness and Chaos
- I Light
- II Expanse of Heaven (Sky)
- III Earth
- IV Lights
Symbolic numbers in the creation accounts
- Chapters 1 and 2 are based on a heptad (7) structure; the framework of the seven days is obvious in Genesis 1, and Genesis 2 is itself made up of seven symmetrical paragraphs.
- All these heptads are independent of the seven days.
- H Blocher: In the Beginning: the Opening Chapters of Genesis 1984
- Why did the various creative acts of the six days take the same amount of time?
- Rikk Watts, Stimulus 12, 2004
- Genesis 1 is a literary account…
Evidence of Evolution
- Gene sequencing and genetic relatedness
- My point: yes, either common ancestor or common designer!
- Tree of life? Why should there only be 1 tree?
- How old? It’s made up! Forensic science, not empirical.
- Transitional forms? You’re being disingenuous. Merely shows extinct species.
- No-one argues loss of genetic information
- No-one has ever proven gain in genetic information
- Organisms similar to each other live close to each other: proves migrations from Noah’s ark to me!
- E.g. wings on flightless birds; non-functioning eyes.
- To me, merely proves loss of genetic information.
ID and the limits of both science and theology
- A God who created the universe is always bigger than our minds can comprehend…
- John 4:24 “God is Spirit”
- The good Dr. says the flaw of ID is that we try to put God in a box?!
- The flaw of evolution is it tries to put God out of the universe He created!
- We need an adequate theology of evolution
- To me, this means find another church: Christian thinking (logical, consistent, orderly) is not for you.
- To me, this means you have an inadequate theology of Christ
- What do you believe?
- Howard Van Till: The fully gifted creation: both thoughtfully conceptualised and optimally equipped.
- Barry Richardson: The universe and the creatures it developed are expected to be independent, to explore and to choose.
- Graeme Finlay: God sustains the universe in its lawful operation at every instant…
- Sir John Polkinghorne: The picture I am proposing is that God interacts with the world but is not in the total control of all its process…
- Conrad Hyers: A god who decides, determines, and controls all things is a god who has the properties that belonged unto Ceasar…
- He did not want to equate his belief in evolution as “faith”. He called it “confidence” in the work of his colleagues.
- The precise meaning isn’t important to me; I’m not a bibliophile; I don’t elevate the Bible to an idol. I’m interested in the meaning.
- Don’t know.
- Distinction between mind and brain. Polkinghorn: material vs. mental phases. Quantum physics allows for both to occur simultaneously.
- His view: Adam had an encounter with God which “evolved” him from ape to First Man.
- I (Dr Dennis Gordon) don’t know
- So, because it’s too orderly (structured, patterned) you negate that God would have literally done it that way? But if it was random, you would have said Chance did it?
- At this point, the good Dr. waxed lyrical about how many of the OT stories don’t “match up” with his “modern man” interpretation of reality.
- I believe his reluctance to accept Genesis 1 as literal is based on his acclimatisation to the atheistic materialistic scientific environment here in NZ. It isn’t Biblical; it’s situational.
- His belief in Christ is stuntified by his lack of belief in Genesis.
- His testimony is limited because he limits the Scriptures.
- Nice fellow; pity about his testimony. Wouldn’t want to be his Judge.
Nice fellow, but the implications of his beliefs are:
- eugenics – kill the weak
- millions of years of death before Adam – a wasteful god