Must Christians Accept Evolution?

by Chris Harris

The simple answer to the title question is “Yes”… or “No”… or “Sometimes”.

If you talk to (or read) many devotees of Darwinian evolutionary theory, either professional or layman, you will often find them perplexed as to how any “rational” person can deny the “fact” of evolution. For them, it is so clearly the only valid explanation for life’s history that, for one to not accept this obvious truth, you have to be either a) ignorant of the evidence or just misunderstand it; or, b) blinded by religious dogma. (Maybe both). Or, possibly, c) you believe the evidence points to evolution but are deceitfully using ID/creationism for personal gain. (Fame? Limited. Fortune? Very limited. Thrill of being an iconoclast? I suppose, maybe. Actually, being a science professional who is a “Darwin denier” is more likely to earn you scorn in your profession and cost you friends and tenure, maybe even your job.)

So, there is enormous pressure, particularly among scientists and philosophers, to go with the flow. Outspoken, serious questioning of the creative abilities of the Darwinian process is not to be countenanced. But, what about “religious” people? Isn’t there a conflict between “science” and “faith”? How can someone believe in both?

Over the past few years, it has become more acceptable within religious circles to be a “theistic evolutionist” — or, more fashionably, “evolutionary creationist”. The Christian association known as the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) has been dominated by theistic evolutionists for years, now. More recently, scientific luminaries like Dr. Francis Collins and Biblical scholars like Peter Enns have “come out” as theistic evolutionists, thereby lending both theological and scientific credence to the position. Collins’ BioLogos Foundation has become the premiere Christian science/faith advocacy group — particularly among evangelicals — with a decidedly theistic evolutionary bent.

But, there are still a lot of people who don’t buy into it. Not surprisingly, the non-theists typically think “theistic evolution” is just another faulty (and perhaps deceptive) attempt to reconcile scientific fact with religious myth. And many Christians of different stripes think such an approach cedes too much to the scientific establishment and comes dangerously close to — if not succeeds in — compromising Scriptural teaching.

In an article over at the Huffington Post, author Jonathan Dudley claims that,

“[A]nti-evolutionists believe they are defending the Christian tradition,… [but] in reality, they’ve abandoned it.”

If I understand Dudley correctly, Christians must accept “evolution”, because evolutionary theory is the “best science” of the day and orthodox Christians have historically accepted the idea that the “book” of Nature is a reliable witness. So, if certain influential scientists tell us evolution is true because of X and Y, we Christians must believe it. And, since many Christians reject many tenets of “evolution”, they have therefore “abandoned a central commitment of orthodox Christianity.”

“Christians must accept sound science, not because they don’t believe God created the world, but precisely because they do.”

Well, yes and no. What’s your definition of “sound science”?

I think scientists these days are doing amazing work, conducting very clever experiments, and making wonderful discoveries. The problem is that, sometimes, a combination of worldview and self-imposed limitation will cause them to bias their interpretations of evidence and shape their conclusions. This filter is often unconscious (subconscious?), but it’s there.

Dudley seems to equate “science” with scientific inquiry that assumes at least a hard methodological naturalism and probably metaphysical naturalism, as well. But, such an a priori commitment to naturalism has already ruled out the possibility of evidence suggesting non-natural causes. If only certain types of answers are allowed, then on the chance that your presuppositions are wrong, you may never find the actual answers you need. How can this possibly be acceptable when following the evidence in science’s search for truth — i.e., that which corresponds with reality? I find that an Intelligent Design approach, which includes a limited methodological naturalism and a softened or eliminated metaphysical naturalism, works at least as well to explain the world — often better…

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