Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dr. Francis Collins, Evolution, and the Continued Debate

The last time I brought up the topic of evolution, Northwoods Seelsorger set a record in the comments section. The debate that ensued, however, was more a reaction of committed evolutionists against Intelligent Design, and unfortunately did not deal as much with the real dilemma evolution poses to the Christian committed to high view of Scripture.

Dr. Francis Collins, an acknowledged evangelical Christian and highly celebrated scientist in the area of genetics, has recently entered the evolution debate within the conservative Christian sector, and is aiming to get the Christian community to finally accept evolution. He has launched a new website called "The BioLogos Foundation," which endeavors to show that science and faith are not in conflict, and that it is possible to harmonize evolution with God as creator.

The sticking point that Dr. Collins is going to ultimately experience when trying to get the evangelical church to be open to evolution, is the issue of biblical interpretation. The point of contention centers on whether Genesis will be read and interpreted in a straightforward, historical way, or whether it will be reduced to an allegory and the end relegated to mere symbolic language. He writes:

"The two different creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 set the precedent for readers to be openminded to truths that run deeper than historical accounts and to be wary of interpreting every word in a scientifically literal way. In Genesis 1, God creates the plants, marine animals, birds, land animals and then man and woman together (Genesis 1:1-2:3). In Genesis 2, however, God creates man first and then plants, land animals and birds and finally woman from Adam’s rib (Genesis 2:4-2:25). Clearly, the order of the creation differs in these two accounts. Discrepancies like this suggest that these passages are not to be interpreted historically or scientifically, but rather through a figurative, allegorical, and/or theological lens.

By reading Genesis 1 and 2 from an allegorical perspective, one can see that these passages lay the foundation of biblical understanding which tells us who God is, what the world is and what it means to be human. They ultimately reveal God’s desire to be in relationship with his creation. Through these passages we know that God is outside of the world and has total control; the universe was not created through a cosmic battle as other creation myths of the day claim. God is not an abstract concept but a personal being; his spirit hovers over the waters. He is also the consummate artist that brings beauty from ugliness and order from disorder. The world, therefore, is a place of order that gives us the possibility of scientific discovery and exploration. It is also a place of diversity and beauty, and it is good in God’s eyes (Genesis 1:31). The pinnacle of that goodness is mankind, made in God’s image both to resemble and represent God as caretaker of his world."

Dr. Collins uses the old technique of the liberal community to take supposed discrepancies in the harmonization of the textual details, and use it to discredit the approach that would take the text seriously. Since an approach that concludes allegory is possible, and since that explanation allows for the inroad of evolution, he embraces it to the exclusion of a fair hearing for a more literal approach. Then, believing he has allowed for an effective discussion of key theological concepts by this process, he unknowingly undermines the foundational doctrines upon which the Christian faith stands or falls. For by reducing the text to allegory, how can one truly take sin and salvation through the incarnation of Christ seriously? If these texts are only symbolic, when do we begin to take sin and salvation literally? And how do we explain our own Lord's approach to Genesis? Was he merely "pre-scientific" and therefore limited in his understanding? So much for omniscience.

Collins wants very much to harmonize science and faith. What I do not understand is why belief in evolution is the key for Christians to be able to use and enjoy science. Many committed Christian scientists with a high view of Scripture and a belief in divine creation are successful contributing members of the scientific community. Much of the scientific discoveries and advances in the last century or more do not require a firm belief in evolution to work. Christians understand that science is about observing what is before us in nature and determining the laws that govern it. While science can and does help us in determining some aspects of the past, its limitations increase the further back in time we venture. For the further back we go, the less we can know with certainty using the tools of science, which are based upon the criteria of what we see and examine in the here and now.

I wish Dr. Collins all the best, for he is unquestionably a brilliant scientist. When it comes to questions of faith and divinity he becomes involved in that which cannot be answered by his vocation. I also do not believe that embracing evolution is necessary for the Christian to use and explore the scientific realm. It would be best if we simply encourage our young people do be discerning scholars, recognizing that science, as great as it is, is not infallible.

19 comments:

Becky Nelson said...

Keeping praying for my sister-in-law, Dr. Tasha Fingerlin, to make a difference. Dr. Collins is her boss! She is a biometrics researcher at the University of Colorado-Denver.

He only recently became a Christian and from what I understand of the story, he was resisting God, yet the Spirit convicted him as he was out walking in the cornfield and he fell to his knees and repented. I think the medical research community risks their work not being taken seriously if they denounce evolution; it's the evil they have to contend with and stand up to.

Don Engebretson said...

Thank you for your comments, Becky. Your sister-in-law will be in our prayers. I understand that they live and work in an environment that is often hostile to spiritual matters. Dr. Collins and your sister-in-law certainly are on the frontlines of this culture war. May the Lord sustain them and grant them a faithful witness!

TheVoiceOfReason said...

I don't understand why acknowledging the facts of evolution as the demise of Christianity. Christianity can be so much more than what people have interpreted the Bible to say abut science. The Bible does not say anything about science. Francis Collins knows this and knows that you cannot begin to understand biology without evolution. There is strong evidence for evolution. Collins has some of it in his book. I don't see you giving any evidence for why evolution is not possible, other than it would threaten the foundation of Christianity and that it seems to contradict the Bible. How does that stack up against the mounds of evidence for evolution? Very poorly indeed. Collins even admits in his book that BioLogos is not science but a belief that harmonized God with evolution and other scientific theories. A belief in God can coincide with scientific fact. But one must keep in mind that evolution theory is genuine and that belief is just that belief. The danger is to attempt to ignore scientific theories in favor of belief. This does not mean that one must give up their belief in God, but puts things in the proper perspective as Collins has done.

Don Engebretson said...

Thank you for your comments. After reading the original post, I fail to see anything I should change. As a pastor and theologian my goal was to address the issue of biblical interpretation more than attempt to offer a complete scientific defense for a creationist approach to the question of origins. I did point out that there are many competent and contributing scientists today who do not embrace evolution as a valid theory of the origin of life. While I did not make an effort to document their names and work, this information is certainly easy to find on the internet with a little searching. I am content to allow these scientists to defend this area on the basis of their own knowledge.

My original point, to clarify further, was not necessarily to insist that holding to evolution means abandoning faith, but to show how Collins, in trying to reconcile the Bible's message and his evolutionary views, ended up sacrificing on the side of the Bible. The issue would not be so great for me except the fact that he is directly appealing to the evangelical community which holds to a conservative and more literal view of biblical interpretation. His approach, as I demonstrated, is more in line with the liberal mainline denominations that utilize the higher critical approach. Thus, he is asking his evangelical audience to abandon an article of faith just to adopt the evolutionary view.

In the end the debate, as I have long shown, will continue without resolution for many people. I do fear, however, that holding to an evolutionary belief consistently will only end up in abandoning a faithful view of biblical interpretation.

TheVoiceOfReason said...

First off "with a little searching" and reading one would find that those who do not embrace evolution have no valid claims. Collins has stated that one cannot begin to understand biology without taking into consideration evolution. Even believing scientists like Collins and Kenneth Miller have written about such claims. They have discredited creationism and intelligent design. Behe's claims of irreducible complexity has been shown to, at best, be very weak. His claims were even put to the test in the court of law and were found to be lacking. Should believers cover their eyes and pretend that there is not evidence for evolution? You ask in your post why Christians need to embrace evolution. The whole point that Collins and even Miller is making is that there is a lot of evidence for evolution and as with everything else we must look at what the evidence tells us. If Christians keep playing the God of the Gaps then their faith might fall out when the gaps are filled by science. The whole point is that Christianity must modernize and recognize what science has to say or else Christianity may suffer because of it. By ignoring evidence because it is asking one to give up a tenet of belief is irrational. And sticking to irrational beliefs is what is causing people to leave Christianity, missing out on all the other things that Christianity has to offer. By ignoring theories that have a sound basis makes Christians look unintelligent and because of this many will not look any farther than that. So my point is that Collins should continue to push for harmony between Christianity and science, with evolution included. And chastising him for it is a mistake. You are only hurting Christianity in the long run by doing so.

Don Engebretson said...

Thank you again for your reply.
With all due respect I have done "a little searching," and beg to differ with whether those who do not embrace evolution do not have "valid claims." To name one source among many, UNCOMMON DISSENT: INTELLECTUALS WHO FIND DARWINISM UNCONVINCING alone shows that there are competent scientists and intellectuals who have examined the evidence and found evolution wanting. I could mention other sources written by committed Evangelical Christians, but I fear you would only dismiss them out of hand. At any rate, "a little searching" does not reveal that all the evidence out there points exclusively in one direction, and I do not believe that one is intellectually uninformed for doubting the claims made by evolution. Many with doctoral and post-doctoral credentials much more informed than I certainly have.

As to ones claims being "put to test in a court of law," I can only say that the outcome here is not convincing. Not that I doubt the overall effectiveness of our judicial system, but that I recognize its place. We do not determine the veracity of scientific claims by looking to a settlement in a court of law.

When you claim that Christianity must "modernize" or lose further its ability to attract and retain followers, I also must challenge. Mainstream denominations have been attempting to do just that and have been losing members for decades. On the other hand, conservative evangelical church groups that have held to traditional teachings and a high view of Holy Scripture have continued in many cases to grow. I fear that when you say "modernize" you are also including a jettisoning of other beliefs such as that of the supernatural, since it cannot be sufficiently substantiated by scientific observation. Here is where faith suffers at the hand of a blind science that has no reverence for the divine and dismisses that which its eyes cannot see. I hope you were not implying we go this far.

Belief in theories other than evolution is not irrational, just as belief in the supernatural is not irrational. However, a firm belief in evolution will eventually lead one down this path. Faith will not be the handmaiden of science believing only that which science tells it it can.

TheVoiceOfReason said...

With all due respect, you did not afford me the same respect, so I just echoed your words of advice back to you. I am very well read on this subject and having been studying the topic since I was a young boy. The document that you refer to is written by intellectuals with degrees, many of which do not have degrees in the sciences. I did not see a biologist among the contributors, which makes them somewhat less than authorities on the subject. I am well read on the subject but I am not an authority on biology either. Both Miller and Collins are biologists and they both know that evolution is key to understanding biology and see nothing that would eliminate the existence of God. You base your rejection purely on a literal interpretation of a book, which would mean that the creation took seven 24 hour days and the earth would have to be less than 10,000 years old. My point is that it does not help Christianity to hold to tenets that do not have the science to back them up. Collins sees this also and the stubbornness to not except science, through blind faith, might be the downfall of Christianity. You say that you would cite other sources, but I would dismiss them out of hand. I would not. I study both sides and see who has the better argument. You assume a lot about me, who you know very little about. First you insinuate that I am not well read in the subject, now you insult me again accusing me of being biased. I have read Behe's arguments and I have heard Miller's rebuttals. As an example of irreducible complexity Behe uses the bacterial flagellum and claims that if any of the proteins are removed it would no longer have function. This has been proven false by Miller and other biologists. True we don't settle scientific claims in courts of law, but it was a forum for authorities on both sides to state their claims and have them cross-examined. Both Behe and Miller testified in the case, which was decided by a judge appointed by George W. Bush, not a liberal sympathizer. In that courtroom the fallacies of irreducible complexity and intelligent design were exposed. Behe even said under oath that his definition of theory that included intelligent design as a scientific theory would also include astrology as a scientific theory. I have cited biologists by name and have given examples. You have only cited a document by name, without any specifics. If you have not done so already, I would invite you to read Kenneth Miller's book "Finding Darwin's God."
"Faith will not be the handmaiden of science believing only that which science tells it it can." But we cannot ignore what science does tell us. Faith is just that faith, a belief in something unproven that may or may not be true. A theory, in the scientific sense, is not just an idea or belief. Science is based on evidence and what can be tested. Do not confuse the two. Evolution is not a something to be believed in or not. Science does not work that way. There is a lot of evidence that supports evolution. For example there are transitional fossils and these fossils are discovered in strata layers where they would be expected to be found. I have not seen you cite one bit of evidence other than your faith in a literal interpretation of the Bible (which is a whole other academic discussion entirely). I still applaud Collins, Miller and others in trying to educate the believing community as to the consequences of rejecting scientific theories.

Don Engebretson said...

I do not mean to question your knowledge of the question at hand. You demonstrate a great passion for the subject and obviously have devoted a fair amount of time to reading about the issue. For myself I do not claim to have a commanding grasp of all that is written on the subject, and again note that I am simply depending on the knowledge and explanations of others more informed than I am. As I originally noted in one of my first replies: "As a pastor and theologian my goal was to address the issue of biblical interpretation more than attempt to offer a complete scientific defense for a creationist approach to the question of origins." I willingly admit that my personal expertise is not in science.

Not that I want to delve into any defense of the source I cited (again, I do not claim to be the one best equipped to do this), but I would like to respond briefly to your claim that: "The document that you refer to is written by intellectuals with degrees, many of which do not have degrees in the sciences. I did not see a biologist among the contributors, which makes them somewhat less than authorities on the subject."

A look at the contributors to UNCOMMON DISSENT I note that it includes: one who did graduate work in biochemistry, an associate research professor in the conceptional foundations of science, one who did postgraduate work in developmental biology, one who manages research in structural molecular biology, analytical chemistry, and genome sequencing instrumentation, another with a Ph.D in biophysics, and a member of the French Academy of Sciences. In all fairness I think that these men give credibility to the need for scientists and especially those with some background in biology as contributors to such a work.

But again, my point is not to argue all the fine points of the scientific argument here. I concede that you are undoubtedly more well-versed in this academic area. I have freely admitted that my area is theology. If I have assumed too much about you or made unfair assumptions about what you may or may not accept or review, I apologize. it is all too easy to make rash assumptions about those who you meet only in brief responses.

I will continue to read in this area and at this point still believe that the presence of credible scientists who question evolution as a completely viable theory for explaining the origins of life and the universe provides me with enough intellectual rationale for questioning it as well.

One final point - I would think it an interesting discussion about what the impact belief in evolution has on one's concept and view of God, which does address some of my original issues in the blog article. For Collins writes supposedly as an Evangelical Christian, one with a traditional belief in God.

Jeff said...

I am not learned in theology or biology but I do have a question.

There is a joke about three scientists that come to God to break the news that He is no longer needed as they now can create life. God challenges them to a life creating contest to which they readily agree. God picks up a handful of dirt and the scientists pick up a handful of dirt. God says, No, get your own dirt!

Evolutionary thoery seems to be very sketchy on how life began and very heavy on what happened after it began.So go back to the very, very, very beginning when there were just some molecules floating around or whatever prexistance you subscfibe to.

The question is, where did these molecules come from? In order for life to evolve, it had to start somewhere.

Don Engebretson said...

Thank you, Jeff, for your comments.

I agree with you that the greatest dilemma for science with regard to the question of origins is the very beginning - the "ex nihilo" moment of Genesis 1, if you will. With regard to life itself the area of abiogenesis is the attempt to explain the origin of life as arising from inanimate matter. Such has never been conclusively demonstrated scientifically and thus is only speculation Some would say that the Miller-Urey experiment of 1953 did demonstrate such a thing. However, according to information on the Duke Univ. website:

"These discoveries created a stir within the science community. Scientists became very optimistic that the questions about the origin of life would be solved within a few decades. This has not been the case, however. Instead, the investigation into life's origins seems only to have just begun.

There has been a recent wave of skepticism concerning Miller's experiment because it is now believed that the early earth's atmosphere did not contain predominantly reductant molecules. Another objection is that this experiment required a tremendous amount of energy. While it is believed lightning storms were extremely common on the primitive Earth, they were not continuous as the Miller/Urey experiment portrayed. Thus it has been argued that while amino acids and other organic compounds may have been formed, they would not have been formed in the amounts which this experiment produced." (http://www.chem.duke.edu/~jds/cruise_chem/Exobiology/miller.html)

Evolution technically only attempts to explain the development of life from the simplest conceivable forms leaving the ultimate moment of abiogenesis ultimately still unanswered.

As to what even predated matter itself, science is again forced into silence. Science is about observation and measurement of existing matter, and again can only speculate, at best, of what historically has not been observed.

elh269 said...

If I need to decide the validity between the perspective of an LCMS theologian and a few bloggers compared to the perspective of a highly respected and authoritative biologist like Francis Collins regarding the theory of evolution, I'm taking Collins in a landslide. I have become extremely disgruntled with those who make a literal interpretation of Genesis the only foundation by which genuine faith can be built upon. St. Augustine of Hippo, who was one of the great figures of the early church, wrote five books which study the book of Genesis and if you read his work you will find he was far from literal in his interpretation of scripture.
I grew up in the LCMS and went to a school which shielded me from any significant study of evolution. When I came of age and was actually exposed to the theory, my previous notions of incompatibility with faith, combined with the overwhelming evidence and support among scientists for the theory, my faith suffered significantly. If it weren't for the perspectives of my professors at the Free Methodist College I'm attending, as well as men like Collins, my faith would be dead.
Recently, I was in a class which we were taken to the Creation Museum in Kentucky. We spend the day attempting to understand the literal perspective. However, our entire class pretty much discredited the perspective in unison the next day in class, and I would challenge anyone who would question the faith of the students in that class. Lastly I would just argue that if we want to be considered the light of truth and hope in this world, we cannot insist upon literal understandings of the Bible. That doesn't mean the Bible is invalid because I still consider Genesis important of our understanding of God even if I don't take it literally. I accept evolution, and my faith is still as strong as its ever been. When only one tenth of one percent of scientists consider creation science valid at all, I think its time that denominations like the LCMS broaden their perspectives a little bit.

Don Engebretson said...

Dear elh269,

Thank you for your comments. I'm sorry that you have become so upset with those who take a more literal view of the scriptures. I can see now how your faith suffered so much, as you note, when you came to learn of the wide discrepancies between what you once believed and what you then read in some of the scientific literature. However, in dealing with this faith crisis you actually chose the prevailing scientific view as ultimately authoritative over anything in the Bible. You state that you still believe in the Bible, even though you no longer take it literally. Yet to what degree do you actually believe in the Bible? Why would someone like Richard Dawkins, another well-respected scientist who happens to completely discredit any validity in the Bible, not cause you to abandon the truthfulness of any of the contents of the Bible? You have chosen to allow science, or selected theories within the realm of science, to dictate how you will accept the Bible and how you will understand it. Yet in taking that approach many have found it quite acceptable to leave the Bible behind altogether as another world myth not unlike all other religious claims throughout the ages.

I do not disregard science or consider it without great value. However, I do not place reason above faith and allow what science says today to dictate what I'll believe tomorrow. I believe that science, for all its worth, is not infallible and without error. Reason and faith can coexist, but reason must also respect what it cannot know.

A good example I saw lately concerns the dating of the Shroud of Turin. Back in the 1990's several reputable scientists independently dated a small portion of the shroud and all concluded that the cloth, once believed to be the actual burial cloth of Christ, was no more than 700 years old, dated somewhere in the 13th or 14th century. About a decade later this was challenged by a non-scientist who introduced a variable the scientists had not considered which would influence the Carbon 14 dating. The dating, it was found, was corrupted by the discovery that the cloth fragment they used was actually a mixture of threads, some cotton, some linen, due to a very skillful repair back in the 13th or 14th century. The presence of the newer threads caused the ultimate dating to be questioned, even though the dating process was carried out under the most careful conditions. The lead scientist, who initially insisted that this new challenge was without merit, eventually had to concede they were right, and that additional tests would be necessary to confirm what they once felt so certain about.

I respect your choice to take Genesis figuratively. However, you should think through this choice fully, knowing exactly where this leads. Do you take the entire Bible figuratively to be consistent? If not, why? What criteria gives validity to the historicity of the Bible for you? Would you still believe it if several scientists told you it was no longer relevant?

elh269 said...

If I want a question answered regarding evolutionary theory, I'll ask Richard Dawkins. However, I will not allow Dr. Dawkins to try to make assertions regarding faith and religion, which transcend the physical realm. I believe that science helps us understand the physical world around us and how we adapt to it. However, science is ill-equipped to explain the deeper questions to our existence regarding its purpose and meaning. For this, I believe we need the Bible. An analogy I like regarding this relationship involves a pot of water boiling above a flame. Science can explain for us how molecules are reacting with one another to cause the water to boil, however, science cannot explain WHY and for what purpose the pot of water is boiling above a flame.
I believe the Bible to be foundational to our understanding of God. However, I also believe in reason and this is how I approach the Bible as well. I know that the Bible was cannonized by human beings who decided amongst themselves what literature should and should not be considered authoritative. What about the apocryphal books? Why is it that a council of men a few thousand years ago could decide that these books weren't important enough to be placed in the Bible? I also know that the books of the Bible were written by people within a certain historical context who had specific motives and audiences that influenced their writing. I don't see many Christians adhering to the Levitical laws of the Torah. I would assume this because many would acknowledge that these rules were written within a specific context for a specific people and not meant to be applicable to us. Another example of motives can be found in the Gospels. One example specifically is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all write that Jesus cleansed the temple toward the end of His ministry and that He only entered Jerusalem just prior to being crucified. John however, writes that Jesus cleansed the temple at the beginning of His ministry and that he entered Jerusalem many times prior to being crucified. Why and for what reasons is John so much different in this and many other regards?
I apply this same reason when I read Genesis. The writer of Genesis wrote the book thousands of years before the advent of scientific understanding. I believe that Genesis was written within an ancient context to help us understand who God is and who we are in relation to Him.
What I do not take literally mostly comes from the OT. I believe the OT provides many important truths even if I don't take it all literally. A pastor once explained it to me through use of a political cartoon. He showed me a picture from WWII of a snake head with a German war helmet that was engulfing the entire world. All of us obviously know that a snake never actually engulfed the entire world, but no one would deny the truth of the depiction to historical reality. If Jesus was so willing to use parables to help teach us moral truths, why can't the same be said for aspects of the OT? Am I suppose to use reason to question science yet suspend that reason when understanding the Bible?
Despite this, I still believe in the importance and God-breathed truths to the Bible. I believe that the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ is far more unique and powerful than other religious legends and myths that have existed throughout history. I believe that the mere fact that it is considered so valid today gives validity to its divine inspiration. No scientific theory can ever challenge or explain the moral truths that the Bible provides for me and therefore, can never take my faith from me. The fact that I was raised to deny evolution and accept word for word every aspect of Genesis or else not be considered a true Christian, nearly cost me my faith. It didn't make sense to me that a God who gave me the ability to reason would force me to ignore it entirely when approaching evolution and creation.

elh269 said...

I'm obviously not a scientist but I do believe Carbon 14 dating is considered quite accurate throughout the scientific community. Even Michael Behe, who is a six day creationist, cites that Carbon 14 dating creates serious challenges to a 6,000 year old earth. Even if Carbon 14 was inaccurately applied to the Shroud, I seriously doubt that its application could create a margin of error so extreme as would be the case between a 4.5 billion year old earth with the 6,000 year old earth asserted by creationists. I also find it hard to discredit the agreement regarding the age of the universe that is pointed out through principles like the Hubble constant.
I apologize if I ever come off hostile regarding my opinions. I've come across a few LCMS ministers who have openly challenged the faith of those who don't approach Genesis literally. But I've also known many a genuine and compassionate Christian in my time in the LCMS and I certainly respect the faith and opinions of those who differ from my own perspective. I just wish sometimes that more time could be spend on more important aspects of our faith which all of us as Christians can agree upon.

doc said...

I don't believe I saw an answer to Collins questions of the differences in the two creation stories. If you are supposed to believe that it took six days based upon those few verses then the corollary is that you must also believe everything else those few verses say, and since those verses contradict in order (order is a form of chronology, chronology is what this whole argument is based on anyway, right?), then you must address those contradictions in a logical way. Collins provides a logical explanation.

I believe that 700 scientists have signed on to the ID doctrine (I'm not 100% sure of these numbers, and I use doctrine for a lack of a better word), while there are a total of 450000 scientists who disagree with ID.

I don't believe that there is proof either way (ID vs theistic evolution), and I believe that saying one must be choose only alienates people and drives them away from Christianity.

Don Engebretson said...

Dear elh269 and doc,

I know that sincere Christians desperately desire a way to reconcile faith and reason, Bible and science. The means to that end for many appears to allow science - and here I mean the philosophical enterprise underlying some science (naturalism) - to take the lead in the dance and ultimately dictate the direction of the discussion. It seems an easy solution to simply say that science informs questions of science and the Bible informs questions of faith. However, when this is worked out in the context of Genesis certain compromises are immediately allowed, especially in terms of how the scriptures will be interpreted, science/reason/naturalism here dictating the upper hand instead of the scriptures themselves.

The reformation/biblical approach to hermeneutics has always been "scripture interprets scripture." In difficult passages and sections we seek direction from other locations in Holy Writ. In the case of Genesis one might look, for example, to the New Testament,and see how the doctrine of creation is handled there, especially with regard to Jesus Himself. Without taking the space in a comments section to fully develop such a study, it can be safety concluded that Jesus and Paul alike believed in a real Adam and Eve (personal figures of history) and in a divine creation. There is no hint in the NT that Adam and Eve are figurative or symbolic in any way, or that the creation was understood as an event encompassing the large expanse of time claimed by Evolution.

Now I make this point for this simple reason: You cannot choose to develop a hermeneutic (system of interpretation) that allows for a symbolic/figurative approach to Genesis 1 & 2, and then suddenly revert back to a different one once you reach Genesis 3. Genesis 3, as you know, involves the foundational accounts of Satan's temptation and the Fall of Man into Sin. To take a figurative approach in chapter 3 would render Satan as generic evil and Adam and Eve as merely representational of humanity, at best. The Fall, as such, also becomes symbolic, and in turn the soteriology of Holy Scripture falls in on itself. For if Adam was not a literal being, then why Jesus? And if Jesus is not literal, what of his death and resurrection? (continued in the next comment, as I am limited to 4,096 per comment!).....

Don Engebretson said...

Comment continued.....

We need to be consistent in our approach to Scripture and also to interpret it in a way that is fair to the text itself (e.g. recognizing the type of literature involved - poetry, narrative, etc.). If in the process we conclude that the Bible is in error and not fully trustworthy in all ways, we then need to accept that point and the consequences that come with it. Many long ago accepted a view of scripture that placed it on par with other religious literature and accepted its message as judged by other outside sources. In the process all kinds of theological changes ensued, such as universalism which contends that all are ultimately saved (which is a logical result of the elimination of the doctrine of sin and death and need for a mean of being saved from these).

As much as we might like to reconcile the current theory of evolution with Genesis, we can do so only by taking liberties with the text itself, developing an inconsistent hermeneutic. In order to take Genesis in a figurative/symbolic manner, we need to show conclusively what in the text warrants this, and why we stop at chapter 2, if we do. We also need to explain why Jesus and Paul do not seem to adopt this view, or why it does not show up in their own statements. While I do not agree with the liberal hermeneutic involved in the higher-critical method, I appreciate the ultimately consistency of its claims.

As to Carbon 14 dating, I was not trying to indicate that this dating is unreliable, although I think the theory of uniformitarianism has made this dating methodology speak historically in a way it is incapable of doing do (i.e. it fails to account for the possibility that the degradation of elements may vary under different circumstances; something we cannot conclusively answer this far removed from unobserved events.) My point in the Shroud of Turin story is simply that even with the best scientific minds and the most advanced technology, it was possible to arrive at a false conclusion, or one that was not entirely complete. Science is not infallible. History here is the best witness. Majorities do not determine truth. Majorities have erred.

Again, I do not reject science, and recognize its great contributions. However, I also believe that no enterprise is philosophically neutral, and science is not exempt here. Naturalism, as a philosophical approach, is the 'filler' necessary to ultimately answer the unanswerable and unobservable - namely the beginning of life and existence itself. Naturalism is not opposed to the concept of deity, it simply doesn't want an absolute one, and so atheists and theists are alike comfortable with Naturalism's answers to the origins of time and matter, for they do not require the presence at all of a deity. Naturalism, thus, rules out the necessity and reality of the supernatural, and thus the involvement of any deity in the creative process.

As to reconciling the two accounts of creation in Genesis, I hold to the understanding that they are two different perspectives, not two different accounts. Again, this could be fleshed out in more detail if we were not doing this in a comments section.

I appreciate all the comments and enjoy the dialogue. Thank you!

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