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Faith and the thinking Christian: Part 6: Evolution and the thoughtful Christian

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

The last five articles have considered how Christians appreciate science while also demolishing the assertions of scientism, the philosophy that takes the remarkable tool of science and elevates it to the place of God.

Now let’s consider our mindset when it comes to discussing molecules-to-man evolution. How do we “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”?

Listening, not labeling

Do you welcome the label “creationist”? It feels odd to me. It’s not that it’s incorrect. It’s incomplete. It misses the central truth of my convictions.

I have a greater concern. If someone knows me first as a creationist, they may assume too much. It’s not a negative term, but it may unnecessarily trigger negative assumptions.

People label one another because it’s convenient. It saves time that we’d have to spend to get to know people by actually listening to them.

Jesus is the one person who knew others perfectly before they spoke (John 1:47,48). Yet he listened anyway. Once, he inconvenienced his entire traveling party to allow a woman to tell her entire story (Mark 5:33).

So, when we engage others, we imitate Christ by listening, not labeling. After all, “Love your neighbor as yourself” accompanies “Love the Lord your God with all your . . . mind” (Matthew 22:37-39).

Common ground, not compromise

When it’s our chance to speak, we look for common ground. We may share a common concern for the environment; an awe of nature; an appreciation for scientific advancement; an admission of getting it wrong sometimes; a wariness of creation science; and even an understanding that some parts of evolutionary theory are true, such as natural selection—new species evolving within biblical kinds through adaptation.

Widening the scope to cosmology, we might jointly acknowledge that each belief system must answer a challenging reality of the universe: apparent design or apparent age.

The universe appears intelligently designed. Many physical constants must fit precisely into an incredibly narrow range that must exist for human life even to be possible. To make this near impossibility more reasonable for a godless universe, many evolution believers fall back to the untestable theory of multiple universes (multiverse).

The universe also appears billions of years old, which would contradict the biblical record. Many Christians—even well-respected apologists—make an unnecessary compromise here. To make the Bible more reasonable, they claim that Genesis doesn’t mean what it seems to say about a six-day creation.

But no such compromise is necessary. We share Jesus’ view of creation (Matthew 19:4) that undergirds all scriptural teaching. God clearly created a young earth with an appearance of age.

That doesn’t make the Bible’s account perfectly reasonable to everyone, but that’s okay. When the consensus of many seems to conflict with Genesis, we have a choice: Scripture over consensus.

“Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Siegbert Becker paraphrased it well: “It is not Christianity that needs to be made reasonable. It is reason that needs to be made Christian.”

For further study

1. When discussing evolution, how can we turn the conversation to the issue of salvation in Jesus?

Jesus’ Commission to the Church is to make disciples, not creationists. So I’d rather guide a discussion toward Holy Week instead of Creation Week. Evangelism by creationism is a hard road. I prefer finding an offramp to Calvary sooner than later. Bring people to the cross of Jesus, then let Jesus turn them around to view reality from his perspective, including creation.

So how do we do that? We ultimately believe in Creation because Jesus did, right? His resurrection proves that everything that he said is true. Jesus referenced Genesis many times as true history, as he did the rest of the Old Testament. (Similarly, I primarily believe in a worldwide Flood and Jonah’s survival in the belly of a fish because Jesus did.) The one time Jesus quoted Genesis directly is in Matthew 19 (and parallel accounts) in his comments on marriage and divorce. “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’?”

Ultimately, everyone has to trust someone else on this. Some very smart people believe some different things on creation/evolution. We trust Jesus because he claims he was there. He claimed many other amazing things, too. He claimed to have all authority (Matthew 28:18), to be the Truth (John 14:6), and that everyone on the side of Truth listens to him (John 18:37). His resurrection proved all his claims to truth and authority were true.

It’s a better use of time to invite someone to evaluate Jesus’ claims about himself and his authority on all matters, than to get lost in the details of any subtopic of evolution—especially if we don’t understand the complexity of the issues as well as others do.

One more thought, this author is a proponent of pointing to Jesus as our authority rather than the Bible. They’re one and the same, of course. It’s simply a choice of emphasis. When you think about it, the Bible came from Jesus, rather than Jesus coming from the Bible. That is, the New Testament writers received their authority from Jesus. More importantly, referring to Jesus won’t raise as much of a barrier to some people as referring to the Bible would. Plenty will dismiss whatever you say as soon as you refer to Scripture. But there are some who may not be as dismissive if you refer to Jesus instead.

Consider it this way: First Century Christians wouldn’t have sung, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Their version would have been, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Apostles told me so.” The completed New Testament didn’t yet exist for those first two generations of Christians. So they referred to what Jesus said, not what the Bible said, even though it’s ultimately the same thing. Witnessing like a first century Christian may invite less initial pushback, and therefore help your witness.

2. Why do Lutherans take a cautious approach to creation science?

Simply put, Creation Scientists view the topic a little differently than confessional Lutherans do. They mostly come from the Reformed branch of Christianity, which elevates the use of reason too high for our comfort. You can see this in some Creation Science materials where reason is used to validate what Scriptures say. This is dangerous territory for many reasons. For one, it trains a Christian that Scripture isn’t sufficient to tell us what’s true. Secondly, in using science or reason to support scriptural assertions, if that scientific evidence is later shown to be wrong (and science is undergoing constant refinement and change), it puts that biblical truth in doubt. Finally, some creation science arguments are poor and/or dated. By using them, we may display our ignorance of science and make our witness of Jesus look foolish. If people are going to reject our words, let them reject the gospel of Jesus, not our poor choice of arguments from reason.

Here’s one example: Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis has contributed greatly to oppose the scientific consensus of molecules-to-man evolution. He is to be commended for much of his work. However, some of his strategies are poorly chosen. In his debate with Bill Nye in 2014, he commonly referred to the two main branches of science being historical science and observational science. Even if there is a point to made in the variance in reliability between different types of scientific research, he uses terms that those who work in science don’t use. While we may understand his point, those who hold evolutionary views ridiculed his distinction which looked inaccurate and unfair. We cannot use definitions that are not used in the scientific community. We must let the scientific consensus define the terms. We gain their respect if we first display a respect for their understanding and use of terms. In fact, as referenced in the article, they may appreciate that we share at least a cautious approach toward Creation Science. This is the main reason why I don’t readily embrace the label of Creationist, even though I am a Young-Earth Creationist.

Another example: I had to remove a book in our church library because its title stated, “Why Evolution is not Science.” Again, not helpful. We can never engage properly with evolutionists with such a losing and unnecessary argument. On the flip side, we still do have books in our library from Answers in Genesis and other Creation Science organizations, but they come with a caveat on the inside cover that outlines the need to read with discernment, never letting reason rule over Scripture.

This is the final article of a six-part series on faith and science.

Author: James Borgwardt
Volume 108, Number 06
Issue: June 2021

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