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.