Sometimes we may be inclined to think that everything that could be said about the creation-evolution debate has been said, but in this article, Tim Keller re-visits the discussion and makes some interesting points. It was a paper entitled “Creation, Evolution and Christian Laypeople” which he gave last year at a conference sponsored by his church, Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. Other papers are available through the Biologos Forum website.
He addresses the perception that many people hold, namely, that if you believe in God, you can’t believe in evolution, and if you believe in evolution, you can’t believe in God. Are science and faith irreconciliable and mutually contradictory?
However, he does recognise the real difficulties that evolutionary theory presents for Christians. Keller writes, “In my estimation what current science tells us about evolution presents four main difficulties for orthodox Protestants”. The four main areas that he identifies are these:
Biblical authority: accepting evolution means we must take Genesis 1 as non-literal. What is the relationship between faithfulness to the Scriptures and literalism?
Confusion of biology and philosophy: The strongest proponents of evolution (including Dawkins) take it as a “Grand Theory of Everything,” which essential is a worldview that attempts to explain all deep philosophical and existential questions through evolutionary biology. Does accepting evolution necessarily mean that we must accept this “Grand Theory”?
The historicity of Adam and Eve: If they are only symbolic in Genesis 1-3, how do we handle Romans 5 & 1 Corinthians 15, which tells us that our sinfulness comes from Adam? If we don’t believe in a historical fall, how do we explain our “fallenness”?
The problem of violence and evil: In Keller’s words, “The process of evolution, however, understands violence, predation, and death to be the very engine of how life develops. If God brings about life through evolution, how do we reconcile that with the idea of a good God? The problem of evil seems to be worse for the believer in theistic evolution” .
In pastoral ministry, Keller has found the first three areas as the most pressing concerns from parishioners. Before getting into his answers to these questions, there is a really remarkable statement that Keller delivers in regards to the role of the pastor:
In short, if I as a pastor want to help both believers and inquirers to relate science and faith coherently, I must read the works of scientists, exegetes, philosophers, and theologians and then interpret them for my people. Someone might counter that this is too great a burden to put on pastors, that instead they should simply refer their laypeople to the works of scholars. But if pastors are not ‘up to the job’ of distilling and understanding the writings of scholars in various disciplines, how will our laypeople do it?
It really is a big challenge for pastors and preachers, and another reason why churches need not only good and godly men as ministers, but men who can think clearly and assess arguments in order to communicate effectively to their flock.
This is an interesting and challenging article that people on every side of the debate may find stimulating. His conclusion is that “Christians who are seeking to correlate Scripture and science must be a ‘bigger tent’ than either the anti-scientific religionists or the anti-religious scientists.” The text of the paper is below the fold. Continue reading “The Creation-Evolution debate”