Tauranga Event: 12th May – Dr Graeme Finlay: Evolution and Faith

On the 12th May, Thinking Matters Tauranga had Dr Graeme Finlay present on Evolution and Faith.  This was a presentation on Theistic Evolution which certainly got people thinking, and challenged many of us with some evidence for evolution from the field of Gene Science (Graeme holds a PhD in Cell Biology, and a Bachelor of Theology).

The feedback thus-far has been wide and varied.  There have been so many emails back and forth on this that I thought I would take advantage of the “Thinking Matters Talk” site to give you an opportunity to discuss your feedback online.

So what did you think of his presentation?

I will invite Graeme to keep an eye on this post, so you can ask him any questions you have directly in the comments below – although naturally he is busy, so please don’t be disappointed if he is unable to respond right away.

11 replies
  1. Shem Banbury
    Shem Banbury says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the talk and found what Dr Finaly had to say as interesting and thoughtful.

    I found his arguments convincing, although most of it was well over my head and therfore very hard for me to comment directly on. I would liek to se someone with equal information and time challenge some of his views.

    What did other people think???

  2. Rob
    Rob says:

    This comprehensive new website may throw light on the subject at hand:


    The blurb about the website…

    New Website Explores the Intersection of Evolution and Religion

    At the launch of FaithandEvolution.org, CSC associate director John West explains that since its inception in 1996, the Center for Science and Culture has devoted most of its resources to supporting research, publication, and education about the scientific aspects of the debate over Darwinian evolution and intelligent design.

    “Nothing is going to change that,” he says, adding that much of FaithandEvolution.Org is focused on presenting scientific information in a clear and understandable manner.

    “But we’ve always been clear that science has larger worldview implications, and so we want to encourage open and informed discussion of the implications of Darwin’s theory as well. This has become especially important in recent years as both the ‘new atheists’ and the ‘new theistic evolutionists’ have tried to monopolize the faith and evolution conversation. FaithandEvolution.Org is an effort to inject some balance back into the discussion.”

    Read more about the new website faithandevolution.org here.

  3. Robin Boom
    Robin Boom says:

    I really enjoyed Graeme’s talk. It was thought provoking and challenged some of my long held views to the extent that I have had to revise my view on Adam and Eve as being two unique beings God created. As John Maynard Keynes once said ‘When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?’

    To challenge the Adam and Eve story, takes away the foundation in the book of Genesis regarding mans separation from God through sin. This strikes right at the heart of Christianity, and our understanding of salvation from sin through Christs death on the cross. Dr Finlay’s information about the cancer causing retro-viruses that make up a significant portion of our DNA and which we share with other apes, makes a convincing argument, that we do share a common ancestry with apes. If Adam and Eve were unique creations, why would God place within their DNA these wretched viruses? One possible solution could be that Adam and Eve were special creations, but it was their children who partnered evolved humans, and it is through their DNA that we all have inherited these retro-viruses.

    Another explanation Graeme suggested is that the whole Adam and Eve story is just metaphorical and not literal, and it is a story which ancient Hebrews used to explain their heritage, situation and their religion. I’m also comfortable with this.

  4. Graeme Finlay
    Graeme Finlay says:

    I am grateful for the interest that has been generated by my talk in Tauranga. But I would like to respond to some of the comments posted above.

    Shem: you might find it difficult to find professional biologists to challenge the science I presented. I work with many Christian biologists, and all would agree with the material I described.

    Rob: I checked out your website but was not impressed. It is sad to see a lightweight like Jonathan Wells criticising Francis Collins, a really eminent, top-rank scientist. I suspect that Wells has not even read Collins’ book because he frankly misrepresents what Collins says. Collins does present evidence for macroevolution. And why cite Wells, a Moonie, when Collins is a devout and orthodox Christian, who came to faith in Christ as an adult, and who has been abused in the media for his Christian faith?

    Many evangelicals have taught God’s sovereignty over biology history (evolution) since the nineteenth century. BB Warfield is a prime example. He accepted evolution gladly together with the concept of the inerrancey of Scripture, which he stongly promoted.

    Robin: I would NEVER say that the Adam and Even story is “just” metaphorical. It is the very Word of God for all Christians. It was part of the Word of God to the Lord Jesus, and it must be so for us. Its theological message is binding on all of us who are followers of Christ. It tells us that we have been created by the one true God. We are responsible to Him. We have sinned by rebelling against God. We are in our natural state spiritually dead (Eph 2). And this story holds out the promise of a Redeemer.

    It thus ESTABLISHES the foundation in the book of Genesis regarding man’s separation from God though sin. When we understand the early Chapters of Genesis (as our best OT scholars say we should) it bings us personally to the place of encounter with God as our Creator, Judge and Saviour. Christ is the fulfilment of the Adam and Eve story.

    The whole OT is an account of God’s efforts to call His people from idols and false gods. This appeal starts in Genesis chapter 1. And it speaks to us in an age when the church is often tragically compromised in its pursuit of that which is not God.

  5. Robin Boom
    Robin Boom says:

    Sorry Graeme, I misunderstood you. Are you saying that we should believe as the Bible states that Adam and Eve were two actual human adults that God fashioned from the dust of the Earth?

    Your talk suggested otherwise, ie that we share a common ancestry with apes and monkeys. If we do share a common ancestry with apes and monkeys, who were Adam and Eve?

    If Adam and Eve were unique creations, then the story in Genesis of the Garden of Eden and humanity’s separation from God through sin has some kind of cohesion to it. If we are essentially the progeny of evolved apes, then the concept of sin has as much relevance to us as a chimpanzee or baboon. Furthermore if there is no sin, then Christ’s death on the cross is meaningless.

    I know the whole doctrine of original sin and our inherited sinful natures has perplexed Christians and caused church divisions and scurmishes for 1900 years, but I would be interested to know your thoughts on this.

  6. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    If we are essentially the progeny of evolved apes, then the concept of sin has as much relevance to us as a chimpanzee or baboon.

    I’m not one to completely allegorise the Genesis account of creation, or the Adam and Eve narrative, but this above, does not follow. Original sin and/or a literal Adam as fiduciary head of humanity can be dispensed with without dispensing with the concept and objective reality of personal sin.

  7. Graeme Finlay
    Graeme Finlay says:

    Robin: thank you for coming back for clarification. It seems that we are talking at cross-purposes, and it is vital to get the record straight.

    To make things clear, let’s start with what we can be sure about.
    (1) From the genetic data I showed, it is clear that we are an evolved species. Obedience to the truth leads us to this conclusion. It is an ineluctable conclusion from genome science. Christian resistance to biological evolution can only harm the credibility of the Gospel.

    (2) If we are followers of Christ, then the early chapters of Genesis are the inspired Word of God, and are ‘authoritative in all matters of faith and conduct’ (as the Reformers said). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the focus of my world-view. The early church would never have declared Him Lord and Saviour had he not risen bodily from the dead. And becaue He is Lord, the Scriptures that He cited are the Word of God.

    So when the teachers of ancient Israel set out to write their stories in the early chapters of Genesis, they presented spritual insights that are foundational for our faith. They wrote of God as our Creator (and compared Him to the gods of the pagan empires). They wrote of human responsibilty before God (our status as ‘image of God’) ,and of the relationship between husband and wife. They wrote of human sin, and its effects. And they anticipated that God would send a Saviour (the ‘proto-evangelium’). These inspired spiritual truths are the basis of all the follows in Scripture. And they are not dependent on whether God created humanity by an evolutionary process.

    So I agree with Stuart: the reality of sin, of spiritual death, and of our need of salvation is taught here in a way that demands the asolute obedience of all Christians.

    The more difficult issue is how to interpret these authoritative chapters. The best OT scholars (Wenham, Hamilton, Waltke, Lucas) describe how they are theology-in-narrative form (stories, parables) designed to provide a radically different world-view. They subvert all the religions of man. But they do not provide a scientific account of the origins of humanity. [The tower of Babel story does not describe the origins of human language. English, Dutch and German have evolved in the last 2000 years from a common progenitor. Latin has given rise in the same time frame to Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and Romanian.)

    So here I disagree with Stuart: we do not allegorise these parts of Scripture. Rather we read them as stories, originally written with polemical intent. And that intent is to introduce the greatness of God in story form.

    I believe that many problems in relating science and Scripture are based on two desperately wrong assumptions. These are that
    (a) once a process is shown to have a natural (scientifically describable) explanation, God is thereby excluded.
    (b) if a passage of Scripture is metaphorical rather than literally true it is somehow less than fully the Word of God.

    The truth is that
    (a) natural processes (such as evolution) reflect God’s wise and faithful creative action. They are ‘natural’ because that is how God sustains His creation. To hold natural process as an alternative to the action of God is pure atheism.
    (b) if a passage of Scripture should be taken as metaphor or parable (apparent from the tools of exegesis), it remains fully the Word of God. It is incumbent upon us to eschew our own twenty-first-century presuppositions, and to embrace the theological truth thereby disclosed. It is a sad irony that many people seem determined to adopt an approach to the early chapters of Genesis that makes the physical creation their theme, and thereby marginalise the vastly more important consideration of the nature of God.

  8. Roy Tallon
    Roy Tallon says:

    The “Faith and Evolution” website referred to by Rob is produced by the Discovery Institute, so carries the Intelligent Design message and its opposition to evolution. It is interesting, though, that Michael Behe, the doyen of the ID movement, accepts “common descent”. He states on p5 of ‘Darwin’s Black Box’ that “I find the idea that all organisms share a common ancestor fairly convincing, and have no reason to doubt it.”
    An alternative website is http://www.biologos.org produced by Frances Collins, Darryl Falk and Karl Giberson (the latter two professors at evangelical orthodox Christian universities). That site provides brief answers to many Evolution/Faith questions and Robin Boom may find there a more comprehensive response to his questions about Adam and Eve.

  9. Darjo
    Darjo says:

    “…it is clear that we are an evolved species. Obedience to the truth leads us to this conclusion. It is an ineluctable conclusion from genome science. Christian resistance to biological evolution can only harm the credibility of the Gospel.”

    Four claims.
    With all my due respect to Dr. Finlay, and depending on the meaning of “evolved species”, am I the only one who doesn’t see any truth in them?

    Although I couldn’t atend to Dr. Finlay’s presentation, maybe I’d add to Robin’s question “who were Adam and Eve?” who was Abel?

    There’s no reason for one to refuse Jesus’ words about them. And based on his word, wich is true, the truth is that they were as real as people who comment here, and so were the implications of their actions and their lifes.

    “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?
    Matthew 19:4-5

    “And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of righteous Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.”
    Matthew 23:35

  10. James
    James says:

    I have a question from the link at Bio Logos, concerning the flood they said:

    “However, the story does not end with the destruction of the flood. Following the recession of the waters, God promised never to flood the Earth again.”

    If the flood was local, like the writers suggest ,then God’s promise never to flood the earth/land again was false. We have had many large, widespread floods since.

  11. Jason Tannery
    Jason Tannery says:

    Genesis 2:21-22, “And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.”

    Genesis 2:7 , ” And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. “

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