Can we Love Jesus and Accept Evolution?

James Anderson, assistant professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, reviews “I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution”, the latest book by Denis Lamoureux:

“A full critique of Lamoureux’s evolutionary creationism cannot be given here. I will, however, indicate some of the major reasons why I don’t find his arguments compelling. In the first place, his approach to interpreting Scripture is highly problematic. He professes to acknowledge both the “Book of God’s Works” (revelation in nature) and the “Book of God’s Words” (revelation in Scripture) but it’s clear that he gives the former unqualified priority over the latter; if there is any apparent conflict between nature (for which read: modern science) and the Bible, Lamoureux concludes that the Bible is mistaken due to its accommodation to ancient science. On this way of thinking, the Bible must always be judged in the light of modern science. Yet this prioritization is the very opposite of the view that Christians have historically taken on the issue. As Calvin famously put it, the Bible functions like a pair of spectacles given to correct the distortion of natural revelation by our fallen intellects. Scripture has authority over science, whether ancient or modern.

Furthermore, Lamoureux’s separation of theological statements and scientific statements in the Bible is impossible to apply in practice. Take, for instance, the claim that God judged the world by sending a great flood (cf. 2 Peter 3:6). Is that a theological statement or a scientific statement? On the face of it, it’s both—at the very least, it has theological elements and scientific elements that cannot be teased apart.

A further concern is raised by Lamoureux’s central claim that the Bible is accommodated to ancient science and therefore makes scientific statements that are false. Why think that the accommodation only pertains to science? Why not suppose, for much the same reasons, that the Bible is accommodated to ancient morality too? Indeed, that’s precisely the argument used by many liberal theologians today who argue that Christianity is compatible with monogamous homosexual relationships. If Lamoureux wouldn’t accept their position, why should we accept his? What do modern scientists have that modern ethicists don’t?

The point can be pushed further still. If the Bible is accommodated to the fallible scientific outlook of its original audience, perhaps it is also accommodated to their fallible religious outlook. Perhaps all those claims in the New Testament regarding Christ’s substitutionary atonement are merely a concession to the religious outlook of ancient people who were used to thinking in terms of animal sacrifices, propitiatory atonement, and so forth. Presumably those claims would be no more immune to error than the Bible’s scientific claims. But then how much confidence could we place in the gospel message preached by the apostles?

The point is this: accommodationist theories of biblical inspiration such as Lamoureux’s are like a universal acid that burns its way through everything. Once we argue that the Bible is unreliable in one area (science) due to its accommodation to ancient ignorance, we can have no principled basis for insisting that it is still reliable—never mind inerrant—in other areas such as ethics and theology.

So much for Lamoureux’s doctrine of Scripture. What about his scientific arguments? I’ve noted already some of the weaknesses in his case: circular reasoning, selective evidence, and conclusions that go far beyond what the empirical data support. Equally problematic is the fact that he doesn’t even mention, let alone address, some of the many significant scientific difficulties faced by the theory that all living organisms have gradually evolved from rudimentary life forms by purely natural processes (e.g., the lack of a plausible mechanism for large-scale evolutionary development, the so-called “Cambrian explosion” in the fossil record, the origin of sexual differentiation, and the existence of irreducibly complex biological structures). The uninformed reader will almost certainly be misled into thinking that the scientific case for evolution is beyond question. Still, perhaps we should cut Lamoureux some slack on this point. After all, if the biblical authors can be excused their misleading or false statements on the basis that they were captive to the science-of-the-day, presumably so can he!

Finally, I suspect many evangelical readers will be unconvinced by Lamoureux’s plea that his position preserves all the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. He speaks several times of “non-negotiable” Christian beliefs, but never explains what criteria he uses for treating some traditional Christian beliefs as non-negotiable and others as dispensable. One can’t help but suspect that his list of essential doctrines is rigged so that his own views fall safely within the bounds of orthodoxy.

Lamoureux’s rejection of the doctrine of original sin, which follows of necessity from his rejection of the historical Adam and Eve, is particularly problematic. If Adam never existed then obviously no human being could have inherited a sinful nature from him. Lamoureux suggests that this traditional doctrine originated with Augustine (who was, of course, misled by the science-of-the-day) but he fails to acknowledge that Augustine argued his position from Scripture. What Lamoureux recommends in place of the traditional doctrine might be dubbed “Original Sin Lite” (or perhaps “Original Sin Zero”): every human being is a sinner and that’s all we need to affirm. Yet surely this falls far short of the doctrine taught in Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, which offers both a coherent theological explanation for universal human sinfulness and a profound parallel (and contrast) between Adam and Jesus. It’s remarkable that Lamoureux makes no reference to these passages in his discussion of original sin, and his treatments elsewhere in the book require him to hold these texts at arm’s length. One has to wonder whether he would have so quickly concluded that Adam is a dispensable mythical figure had he been more exposed to the Reformed tradition in his theological studies. There is far more at stake here than whether Paul was mistaken in certain incidental historical facts.

I have to conclude that despite its irenic approach and the undoubted expertise of its author, this book fails in its goal of reconciling biblical Christianity with modern evolutionary science. Nevertheless, it is very useful in this respect: it makes clear what price has to be paid in order to make peace with evolution, even if one takes a relatively conservative approach. The first casualties are the doctrines of biblical authority, clarity, and inerrancy, closely followed by the doctrine of original sin; and once those are sacrificed it’s inevitable that more will follow, for no doctrine is an island. The doctrines of salvation by grace alone and justification by faith alone, to cite two examples, are intimately connected to the nature of the fall and its consequences.”

Read the whole thing here (or an abridged version at Discerning Reader here).

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19 replies
  1. John Pickering
    John Pickering says:

    Interesting read Jason. I was attracted by the question you headed it with. Whilst not answering it, you give the impression "No." I think you are treading a very fine line here and, whilst I doubt this is your intention, the suggestion is that "not believing in evolution" is necessary for salvation is a conclusion some may take.

    I'm also intrigued by the "science-of-the-day" phrase and your comment wrt 2 Peter 3:6. Is this phrase yours or Lamoreaux's? As a scientist I tend not to think of there being science at all in the Bible (ie no empiricism, merely statements of belief in "how" the world is).

    I think your arguments about accommodation need tightening up. If there is a spelling error in the Bible would this negate the theology?

  2. elcapitan
    elcapitan says:

    [quote]Yet this prioritization is the very opposite of the view that Christians have historically taken on the issue[/quote]

    The Galileo trial would seem to be a case in point. His prosecutors held that the bible clearly stated that the earth was the centre of the universe, and since they believed that the bible beats science, their conclusion was that Galileo was wrong. An error in their reasoning was to neglect the possibility that their interpretation of the bible was incorrect, and that the bible doesn't put earth at the centre of the universe.

    Doesn't James Anderson make the same mistake? How can he be sure that his (YEC) interpretation of the bible is correct?

    [quote]As Calvin famously put it, the Bible functions like a pair of spectacles given to correct the distortion of natural revelation by our fallen intellects[/quote]

    But couldn't our "fallen intellects" cause us to misinterpret the bible? Where there is a contradiction between a certain biblical viewpoint (eg young earth creationism or geocentrism) and modern science, the christian is faced with a problem. Either the biblical interpretation or science is incorrect, but which is it? What method does the christian have for determining which view is mistaken, other than using his "fallen intellect"?

  3. Andre
    Andre says:

    I too was attracted by the header question. I was a bit disappointed with the way the quote starts – and where it goes. I skipped through the longer version of the article, but as is common with those who argue against "evolution", it was not clear what exactly is being advocated. It is not clear that any "accomodation" at all to modern science (or acknowledgement of the validity of historical science) will be allowed, given some of the points in this article. If that is the case, it is a serious claim indeed that is being made. I personally am not a great fan of naturalistic evolution and have found much Theistic Evolution literature lacking, but also suspect that modern science presents both an opportunity to reconsider what the Genesis narrative is about and a challenge in teaching and presenting this important strand of "the faith once received" clearly. I hope to write an article on the subject of YEC/ID/TE for TM soon-ish.

  4. jason
    jason says:

    Thanks for the comments guys.

    John:

    Just to clarify (if it isn't already clear), this is James Anderson's review. However, the "science-of-the-day" phrase, I believe, is Lamoureux’s.

    I would agree with you that the Bible does not directly teach specific details about chemistry, mineralogy, etc, but I would want to put forward some caveats as well. The Biblical writers and modern scientists may operate with different methods, purposes, and languages but they are both making references to the same physical world existing beyond the subjectivity of the speakers. If we say that science is the pursuit of explanations of the underlying mechanisms or causal structures behind natural phenomena, the Bible surely does make many claims that both overlap with the program of science and are scientific in nature (e.g. the claim that virgins or postmenopausal women can have children, that the dead sometimes come to life, the flood of 2 Peter 3:3-6, etc). There is much in the Bible that is accessible to the investigation and corroboration of science.

    I don't think spelling errors are quite the same as scientific errors. As the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy states: the claim that the Bible does not affirm falsehoods is not undermined by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, etc. Scripture should evaluated according to the standards of truth and error that are appropriate to its original usage and purpose. The truthfulness of the Bible has more to do with the content that is communicated, and less to do with the spelling of the content, wouldn't you agree?

  5. jason
    jason says:

    Elcapitan:

    I wouldn't say that the Galileo incident was a straightforward example of the Bible trumping science. It was as much about the world systems associated with Greek science (Aristotle and Ptolemy) conflicting with the new conception of the cosmos and nature put forward by Galileo. His opponents were quite concerned for preserving Aristotelian philosophy, and this as much as anything needed critical re-examination.

    Even so, you're right that our finiteness and falleness can operate both in the interpretation of the Bible and in the interpretation of the world. Our understanding of Scripture will always be partial and incomplete, and sometimes even wrong. The reason, however, that Christians have historically prioritized Scripture over science is because the Bible gives us a verbal revelation, while science explores God's nonverbal revelation. In science, our human descriptions and explanations will always be human. But the Bible is not a human approximation or description of God. It is God's own revelation in word, not just a revelation of "the Word". Furthermore, only the Bible is able to aid us in overcoming the sin which corrupts human knowledge. The Bible is given to rescue our cognitive and moral rebellion – instructing, guiding, challenging and rebuking us so that we can know and serve God more fully.

    This is not to deny that an understanding of nature can correct our understanding of Scripture – both sources of understanding must be taken together and capable of informing and illuminating the other. But where there are discrepancies between Scripture and science, if we have arrived at some confidence at the meaning of Scripture (because of the clarity, uniformity, and coherence of the teaching) our Scriptural understanding of the matter should prevail over ideas from other sources.

  6. elcapitan
    elcapitan says:

    <q>I wouldn’t say that the Galileo incident was a straightforward example of the Bible trumping science.</q>

    Galileo had come up with a new theory based on observations of the stars which some people thought contradicted the bible. They claimed that the since the bible is true, Galileo's theory must be false. In other words, the reason that a certain scientific theory was false (according to them) was that it conflicted with clear teachings of the bible.

    This is exactly the same as the argument used by modern-day YECs who ignore the mountains of evidence and say that evolution must be wrong because it contradicts the bible.

    <q>Even so, you’re right that our finiteness and falleness can operate both in the interpretation of the Bible and in the interpretation of the world. Our understanding of Scripture will always be partial and incomplete, and sometimes even wrong.</q>

    Is it possible that your interpretation of Genesis is wrong, and science is right about evolution?

    <q>The reason, however, that Christians have historically prioritized Scripture over science</q>

    This is an interesting claim but I'm not sure what it really means or how I might test it. Some Christians claim the opposite, in an effort to demonstrate that Christianity is not against science and that the two fields don't overlap. In order to support their claim that historically Christians accept science, they present examples where Christians have accepted new theories even though those theories went against the thinking of the day. One example put forward is Darwin's theory of evolution which was largely accepted (so they say) within a decade or so of his book being published.

    <q>In science, our human descriptions and explanations will always be human. But the Bible is not a human approximation or description of God.</q>

    So the bible is infallible but your interpretation isn't? What good is that?!

    <q>But where there are discrepancies between Scripture and science, if we have arrived at some confidence at the meaning of Scripture (because of the clarity, uniformity, and coherence of the teaching) our Scriptural understanding of the matter should prevail over ideas from other sources.</q>

    Those who opposed Galileo presumably thought scripture clearly teaches that the sun orbits the earth? Just like many Christians today think that scripture clearly teaches that evolution is true. If someone else has "some confidence" that their interpretation is correct and yours isn't, what then? Is your "some confidence" better than theirs?

  7. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Hello elcapitan,

    Welcome to the blog where Thinking Matters.

    Galileo had come up with a new theory based on observations of the stars which some people thought contradicted the bible. They claimed that the since the bible is true, Galileo’s theory must be false. In other words, the reason that a certain scientific theory was false (according to them) was that it conflicted with clear teachings of the bible.

    This is exactly the same as the argument used by modern-day YECs who ignore the mountains of evidence and say that evolution must be wrong because it contradicts the bible.

    That is a over-simplification of YEC argumentation. Which is exactly the same thing your Galileo analogy suffers from.

    Is it possible that your interpretation of Genesis is wrong, and science is right about evolution?

    I'm pretty sure Jason hasn't given an interpretation of Genesis, nor has he made a claim about evolution (whatever you take that to mean precisely).

    Jason: The reason, however, that Christians have historically prioritized Scripture over science…

    elcapitan: This is an interesting claim but I’m not sure what it really means or how I might test it.

    It means in the past Christians have generally believed that of the two books God has given us; the book of nature and the book of scripture, the clearer and more specific revelation was the book of scripture, and so have trusted their interpretations of the Bible over their interpretations of nature.

    Test it like any other historical claim or hypothesis.

  8. elcapitan
    elcapitan says:

    <cite>I’m pretty sure Jason hasn’t given an interpretation of Genesis, nor has he made a claim about evolution (whatever you take that to mean precisely).</cite>

    No he hasn't explicitly, but I get the impression from his comment that he agrees with the quote from Anderson.

    <cite>Test it like any other historical claim or hypothesis.</cite>

    So … Do I look for examples in the past where Christians have rejected the science of the day? And examples where Christians have embraced new scientific theories and adjusted their interpretations of the bible to match? I've already presented examples of each (Galileo and Darwin's TOE) but I don't think I'm any closer to proving/disproving your claim. It's quite difficult to quantify whether or not 2000 years worth of Christians have "generally" accepted/rejected 2000 years worth of scientific advances. And if you find my examples inconvenient you just say that they don't count.

    Or do I simply look for examples of Christians claiming that they believe the bible over science or vice versa? This doesn't work either – because a Christian can make either claim if there is no conflict between his/her understanding of science and his/her religious beliefs. For example a Christian could say "The Bible beats science, but the Bible says that man is descended from animals so there is no issue". Or he could say "Science beats the Bible, science says that the universe is 6000 years old, therefore it probably is that old". Jason + Stuart it's your claim that Christians historically prioritise the Bible over science, I don't think it's unreasonable for me to ask you to explain how I can test the claim.

  9. Denis O. Lamoureux
    Denis O. Lamoureux says:

    Dear Jason,

    A breath-taking review. May I suggest a remedial reading course at some 2-year community college?

    Blessings,

    Denis

  10. Alan
    Alan says:

    Kind and Gracious words Denis?!
    An excellent article guys. I particularly liked the final paragraph. Its true that by accepting evolution into our interpretation of scripture, we must discard the idea of original sin. By doing that we must discard the idea that suffering and death came to be because of sin. We then have to question if these will be removed when His kingdom comes and sin is no more. evolutionary creationists are opening up a pandora's box.

  11. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Elcapitan,

    Why you are willing to contest for/against such an inconsequential claim as, Christians have generally historically prioritized Scripture over science, that is, when we have arrived with some confidence of the teaching of scripture (due its clarity, repetition, etc), and when there is a supposed conflict between the two, is beyond me.

    You got to remember about 90-95% of scientific discovery is irrelevant to what scripture has to say. So surveying and comparing 2000 years of scientific history and the church's response will only be 5-10% instructive. What you might do to test the claim is cast a wider net and survey a little more than your meager two examples. You also should go back to see if the popular rendering of the Galileo controversy you espouse is actually such a cut-and-dry case of the Bible against the science of the day as you make it out to be.

    You also might pick up a book by Alister McGrath who is excellent on the topic, being both historian, scientist and theologian.

  12. elcapitan
    elcapitan says:

    Why you are willing to contest for/against such an inconsequential claim as, Christians have generally historically prioritized Scripture over science, that is, when we have arrived with some confidence of the teaching of scripture (due its clarity, repetition, etc), and when there is a supposed conflict between the two, is beyond me.

    I've made several objections, the stance that Christians have taken in the past is a side-issue to a degree but I think it's still relevant to this discussion. Your central claim is that the bible is more reliable than science (where the two overlap). But if it could be shown that Christians keep getting it wrong (historically I mean), would this not demonstrate the opposite? Or if it could be shown that Christians adjust their interpretations of the bible when a new advance conflicts with previously held beliefs, would that not also disprove your claim?

    It seems also that your argument might rely on Christians' historical beliefs – do you argue that it makes sense to prioritise scripture over science because that's what Christians have always done? If that's not your argument, then can you explain a bit better why you think the bible is more reliable than science? Just saying that it's due to its "clarity, repetition etc." isn't really enough because a scientist can make the same claim. I would suggest that scientific evidence regarding the TOE is extremely clear and the relevant observations have been repeated a squillion times. Do you agree with Jason that "our finiteness and falleness can operate both in the interpretation of the Bible and in the interpretation of the world"? If so, does it follow that we must use our "fallen intellect" to determine whether or not the teaching of scripture is clear and repetitive?

    You also might pick up a book by Alister McGrath who is excellent on the topic, being both historian, scientist and theologian.

    I've had quick flick through "Dawkins' God, genes, memes and the meaning of life". The book argues that there is no conflict between science and Christianity, that Christianity is compatible with modern scientific beliefs, and that Christians usually been been quick to adapt their religious beliefs when science advances. It would be fair to say that the book is 100% opposed to the quote from Lamoureux above.

    All this of course has left me a bit confused. Why have you recommended to me an author who disagrees with you?

  13. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Elcapitan,

    [on the claim that the Bible is more reliable than science] if it could be shown that Christians keep getting it wrong (historically I mean), would this not demonstrate the opposite? . . .

    No, It would demonstrate that the interpreters of the scriptures were human.

    . . . Or if it could be shown that Christians adjust their interpretations of the bible when a new advance conflicts with previously held beliefs, would that not also disprove your claim?

    (The claim was not "the Bible is more reliable than science." The claim was actually "Christians have generally historically prioritized Scripture over science.")

    No, it would not. Because the claim came packaged with two caveats (provided in my last comment). Remember the first: …when we have arrived with some confidence of the teaching of scripture (due its clarity, repetition, etc). Thus, you would also have to show that the teaching of scripture contravened by the new scientific discovery was arrived at with some confidence.

    do you argue that it makes sense to prioritise scripture over science because that’s what Christians have always done? If that’s not your argument, then can you explain a bit better why you think the bible is more reliable than science?

    You'll find that Jason already addressed this in his comment to you, giving two reasons in his second paragraph.

    I would suggest that scientific evidence regarding the TOE is extremely clear

    You really shouldn't use the acronym TOE for the Theory of Evolution. "TOE" is already used for the "Theory of Everything," the name given for the project seeking to unify electromagnitism, gravity, the weak force and the strong force to one fundamental principle. Using the acronym for other Evolution is just confusing.

    On your suggestion, you would have to clarify what you mean by Evolution before any serious conversation about it and the evidence for it can begin. Until you do so, I won't be a party to the confusion that would undoubtably be generated without that precision of speech.

    . . . It would be fair to say that the book is 100% opposed to the quote from Lamoureux above.

    All this of course has left me a bit confused. Why have you recommended to me an author who disagrees with you?

    What quote by Lamoureux? The quote in the article above was by James Anderson in critique of the book by Lamoureux.

    I recommended McGrath for his work on science and the history of Christian theology with respect to your research on the claim Christians have generally historically prioritized scripture over science. It will also help on clearing up your oversimplified rendering (popular-slop-scholarship rendering, that is) of the Copernican controversy.

  14. elcapitan
    elcapitan says:

    My understanding of Anderson's central argument is something like this:1. The Bible is infallible2. The Bible makes various clear claims about the natural world; eg it claims that man is descended from Adam and Eve, there was a global flood, living organisms did not gradually evolve from rudimentary forms.3. Therefore claims the bible makes (above in 2.) are true4. Lamoureux (who believes in evolution) is wrong.He goes to strongly imply that people who believe in evolution are not saved but I'll leave that aside for the moment. Do you think the argument as I've set it out is sound? I'm getting increasingly confused about what your position is. If you concede that any human interpretation of the bible is fallible, then premise 2 must be rejected – we don't know for sure what the bible claims because we're human. If it's possible for a person to misinterpret the bible (because he's human) as claiming that the sun orbits the earth, then it must be possible for a creationist (also human) to be mistaken as well.

    when we have arrived with some confidence of the teaching of scripture (due its clarity, repetition, etc). Thus, you would also have to show that the teaching of scripture contravened by the new scientific discovery was arrived at with some confidence

    What are you saying – that Christians back in Darwin's time were not confident that Genesis should be interpreted literally, therefore the fact that when Darwin published and they embraced his theory doesn't show that the bible is unreliable? Fair enough but that just gets you into another pickle. Why weren't Christians in Darwin's time confident about the Genesis account, given that they had the same bible? Is the bible clear about the creation story or isn't it?

    What quote by Lamoureux? The quote in the article above was by James Anderson in critique of the book by Lamoureux.

    I made a mistake, I meant the quote by Anderson.

    I recommended McGrath for his work on science and the history of Christian theology with respect to your research on the claim Christians have generally historically prioritized scripture over science

    The McGrath book I have is very clear on this – he says that Christians have not historically prioritised the bible over science, instead they embrace new scientific advances and adapt their religious beliefs accordingly. The following quote is typical :"As any serious historian of Christian thought knows, Christianity is committed to a constant review of its ideas in the light of their moorings in scripture and tradition, always asking whether any contemporary interpretation of a doctrine is adequate or acceptable. As we shall see, Dawkins offers a powerful, and in my view credible, challenge to one way of thinking about the doctrine of creation, which gained influence in England during the eighteenth century, and lingers on in somke quarters today." (page 13)You say that Christians historically favour bible over science and McGrath says that Christians adapt their religious beliefs in the light of science. I still find it unusual that you would recommend him. Do you have anything at all to back up your claim?

  15. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    elcapitan,I think its great that you provided a syllogism of what you think Anderson's central argument was. Unfortunately, I think you pulled it out of thin air, rather than his writing. For convenience, here it is again;

    1. The Bible is infallible2. The Bible makes various clear claims about the natural world; eg it claims that man is descended from Adam and Eve, there was a global flood, living organisms did not gradually evolve from rudimentary forms.3. Therefore claims the bible makes (above in 2.) are true4. Lamoureux (who believes in evolution) is wrong.

    The argument itself is close to sound (it has true premises and commits no formal or informal fallacy that I can see) but it is faulty. Premise 3 is superfluous. "close to" because Premise 1 should say "inerrant" rather than "infallible." Infallible has a specific meaning in Christian theology which erodes the strength of your rendering of what is supposedly Anderson's argument. "Faulty" because though premise 2 is true, it is false with respect to two of the three examples you use. The last two are not examples of clear teachings. (This highlights the difficulty with doing theology with someone who is not a participant within the community of believers as an established believer or as a genuine and active seeker. For who on the inside would think that a global flood or that "living organisms did not gradually evolve from rudimentary forms" was a clear teaching of scripture?)

    If you concede that any human interpretation of the bible is fallible, then premise 2 must be rejected – we don't know for sure what the bible claims because we're human.

    I do concede that human interpretation of the bible is fallible, but it does not follow from this that we must reject 2 outright – as you claim. There are biblical claims about the natural world that are sufficiently clear which we can with confidence claim to be inerrant.

    If it's possible for a person to misinterpret the bible (because he's human) as claiming that the sun orbits the earth, then it must be possible for a creationist (also human) to be mistaken as well.

    You're imprecision with theological terms really is annoying! I need to interpret the above, because I believe I know what your trying to say, but you're actually saying something different. (A "Creationist," from a christian perspective, is someone who believes the biblical doctrine of creation, which is that God created and sustains the universe in existence. It is unimaginable that one could believe the bible and not be a creationist. The teaching of creationism is extraordinarily clear.) When you say it is possible, for a creationist to be mistaken [in their interpretation], I think what you mean to say is a young-earth-creationist. This is a person who adds to the doctrine of creation a particular method of God's creative action, generally repudiating in the meantime the neo-darwinian synthesis and negating the thesis of common decent. This is something that from biblical evidence alone is not clear. So yes it is possible for a young-earth-creationist to be mistaken in their biblical interpretation.

    What are you saying – that Christians back in Darwin's time were not confident that Genesis should be interpreted literally,

    That's true. Some were confident (that Genesis should be interpreted literally) no doubt, but mistakenly so. There were apparently many prior to the eighteenth century who seriously considered non-literal interpretations of Genesis. And perhaps the strength of the scientific evidence for common decent or an old-earth has caused some to go back to (or at least loose their confidence in) a non-literal interpretation of Genesis.

    I still find it unusual that you would recommend him [McGrath].

    The claim is consistent with what McGrath is saying. To prioritize scripture over science (on scriptural teachings which are clear) does not mean that Christian's interpretations of scripture cannot be re-evaluated and re-formulated if need be in light of new scientific discoveries. But on clear teachings there is a strong injunction within Christian theology, particularly since Calvin, to prioritize the scriptures over any science of the day that directly contradicts them. Such as, for example, any scientific view which would say the neo-darwinian synthesis is sufficient for the diversity of life on earth – this would directly contradict the Christian doctrine of creation as I have stated it above, which is quite clear.

  16. Bird
    Bird says:

    (Cont)So, here’s the point. Okay two points. First, I like trisnlataons that stick with ‘God Breathed’ because we read back in our definition of “inspired” when we look at that verse. The word ‘inspired’ makes people think that the Bible authors were inspired the same way musicians are inspired. Conversely, it makes people think that when they “feel inspired” by God, or when “God speaks through me” that it has the same level authority of that of the Scripture, and it just doesn’t. Second, when Paul uses that word he is acknowledging that God did something special and unique to bring about what we call the Old Testament. Not just the prophetic works, or the Theological works, or the poetic works but all of it. He is claiming that, knowing or not, what was written down was what the Holy Spirit intended to be written down. The prophets heard from God directly so it’s easy to say “inspired.” But the guy who recorded all the boring lineage stuff inspired too- or rather, God-breathed. So, back to the original question did Paul know that what he was writing was inspired? Based on the above, can I change the question to, “Did Paul know that what he was writing was God-Breathed?” I think saying it that way differentiates it from when we say things like, “I was prompted by the Holy Spirit”, or “God was speaking through me.” My opinion, is No, but I don’t really have a problem with Yes either. In the same way the lineage guy was merely writing “so-and-so begat so-and-so” I think Paul was merely (!!) writing letters of encouragement and instruction and explanation to people who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. In both cases the words in those letters also happened to be the words that the Holy Spirit “super-intended” to be written down.

  17. Keith Furman
    Keith Furman says:

    Whatever a Christian may hold about the authority and inerrancy of scripture, ALL Christians can agree that our interpretation of scripture is NOT inerrant—all the competing books and Christian organization out there can’t all be right!

    I see a lot of evangelicals doing a lot of hand-waiving and saying that Christians can’t accept evolution because it contradicts God’s Word. No, it contradicts certain interpretations of God’s Word, albeit cherished interpretation(s) held for a very long time and upon which certain doctrinal fortresses have been built. But, let’s not stand upon the authority of God’s Word when it could be our own fallible interpretation or hermeneutical approaches that needs to be informed by the book of God’s works in a two-book model of revelation from God.

    Sound scientific evidence may simply inform our understanding to either affirm interpretations or, in some instances, reveal certain interpretations of God’s Word to be in error and shifting sand. Then we are that much closer to the truth. We may not like to have our interpretations challenged in that way by the book of God’s works. But, when true, it is what it is. Don’t shoot the messenger. Take it up with God if you have a problem with that.
    We need to deal with that. Its pain. Its work. And I expect God is looking for a few good (by the grace of God) men and women to have courage and faithfully do the hard work.

    So, I tend to agree with elcapitan

  18. Tony Hollis
    Tony Hollis says:

    I saw Hugh Ross on Shine yesterday. Brilliant. He’s sure the universe is 14 billion years old, and I’m with him!

  19. DarrenG
    DarrenG says:

    I like what William Lane Craig had to say: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-evolution-a-threat-to-christianity

    “Progressive creationists would say that God intervenes periodically to bring about new life forms through his supernatural intervention that would not have in all probability arrived by simple chance alone and the Darwinian mechanisms. Theistic creationists would say that God has so set up the process that by chance alone these organisms will have evolved. Now in either case these folks would see the evolutionary process as under the superintendence of God and therefore is a guided process in that God allows it to function so as to arrive at his predetermined ends. Now, why can’t evolution be guided in that sense, in the sense that the progressive creationist or the theistic evolutionist thinks of it? There the chance mutations and natural selection are within the broader purposes of God.”

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