Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design – Review

Creation EvolutionOne of the most controversial theological topics is that of human origins and the age of the earth. Christians often hold very tightly to their position and are suspicious of different views. What was the means of creation? How do we understand evolution?

What is most important to know is that there is not one official Christian position on creation and evolution and this is reflected in Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design. Each of the authors are devout Christians who are attempting to find the proper interpretations of both the Bible and scientific evidence.

The viewpoints represented are young earth creationism, old earth creationism, evolutionary creationism (theistic evolution) and intelligent design. In many ways, intelligent design is the odd man out as it overlaps with many of the other views. Intelligent design does not attempt to interpret Genesis 1-2 but looks for evidence of design within science. However, Stephen Meyer, who writes for ID, does share his views, without attempting to speak for all who hold to an ID position.

One of the greatest needs is for there to be healthy conversation across differing view points. That is part of the aim of the four/five views books and of this volume in particular. It is important to read outside of one’s belief system and to encounter different ideas.

I found this book to be very enjoyable. The one disappointment was Ken Ham’s chapter on young earth creationism and his responses to the other chapters. It was not his views or his evidence that was the problem but his tone. Ham stood out as being the most aggressive toward the other views. Unfortunately I have seen this numerous times among young earth creationists. Other views are seen not as different perspectives but as rejection of biblical truth and treated with contempt. I’m sure that there are young earth creationists that can discuss other views with respect but Ham is not one of them.

I strongly encourage people to read Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design no matter what position you currently hold.


Thoughts on Theistic Evolution

Theistic EvolutionOne of the most controversial topics among Christians is the role of evolution, if any, in the creation of humanity. I’m not referring to debates between Christians and non-Christians, but disagreements among people in the church. One of the issues is the concept of theistic evolution (also called evolutionary creationism).

I have read a lot in the area of evolution, theistic evolution, intelligent design and related topics. I must confess that I get frustrated with the conversation. Not only is there a lack of respect in the conversation, there is also a lack of clarity. What do we mean by evolution? What role did God have in it?

For example, those who hold to theistic evolution are strongly against intelligent design. Interestingly, they are more open to the argument from design on the cosmological level. This confuses me because if God used evolution to create humanity, why must that exclude any evidence of design?

This comes down to how we define evolution. For example, Michael Behe is a strong advocate for intelligent design. Behe believes in common ancestry, meaning that humans and other animals developed from other animals and animals that are much different now can trace their ancestors back to a common life form. That would seem to be a form of evolution since animals are, in Behe’s view, evolving from less developed animals.

But theistic evolutionists and intelligent design advocates would reject that as evolution. That is because evolution is much more than a belief in a tree of life that traces different species to a common ancestor. Evolution also includes the concept of random mutation. Behe, while holding to common ancestry, doesn’t believe the changes came about by random mutations. Behe believes that the changes are the results of God’s design.

What I would want to know from theistic evolutionists is what they see as God’s role. Is evolution something that can work all by itself, without any involvement from God? Is God necessary for human life to develop? In what way are we his creation? In what way is evolution theistic? Could it be possible for God to be active in the entire process of evolution, making sure things went the way he wanted?

This is not meant to be an attack on theistic evolution. I’m open to the idea that God could have used some form of evolution to create humanity. But so far, I’m not satisfied with the current form of the conversation.


Views on Human Origins

I recently did a Twitter poll on people’s beliefs on human origins. Here are the results.

Obviously the numbers are not large enough to prove anything scientific. But the results are interesting nonetheless.

What do these results tell us? They tell us that there is diversity in views among sincere Christians. There are many instances when Christians have attacked each other over these issues. This should not be.

It is good for us to hold our views strongly that doesn’t mean that we should be intolerant of other opinions.

If you are interested in this, I would recommend this sermon that I preached on my church.


Christian Concerns About Earth Day

My observation is that many evangelical Christians are skeptical about earth day. It is not just that they don’t want to participate in earth day, for some there are some real concerns. I would like to tackle some of those concerns.

Ecology Leads to Nature Worship

There are definitely some people involved in the ecological movement that have slipped into nature worship. There has been a renewal in worship of Gaea and some types of neo-pagan worship lead toward this as well.

But there is no reason that caring for nature must lead to nature worship. Anything that people care about can lead to idolatry, but it doesn’t have to. Even the Bible can be an idol if we put it before God. It is possible to take care of the planet with the motivation being that of the Creator and not worship of the creation.

Eschatological Concerns

For others, anticipation of the end-times is the reason to avoid earth day. Since Jesus will return soon and destroy the planet, taking care of the planet seems to go against what Jesus is going to do.

First, we do not know when Jesus is going to come back so abusing the planet based on this assumption is not very wise. Another problem is the idea that earth is valueless and our true home is in heaven. The biblical picture is more of a resurrected earth than an eternal heaven. See my post Don’t Plan on Spending Eternity in Heaven. We take care of our human bodies now despite the resurrection, we should do the same with the planet.

Ecology is Part of the Liberal Agenda

As I have mentioned many times before, I have no interest in the culture wars and the fight between conservatives and liberals. Determining whether something is right or wrong does not depend on which camp is promoting it. The question is, what does the Bible say?

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28)

I have heard Christians say that Genesis 1:28 gives us the right to abuse the planet all we want. I don’t understand that interpretation at all. If someone of great power gave me responsibility over something of value, I would assume that my role would be to take care of it and not abuse it.

The truth is that the world sees how we act and what we say. The lack of creation-care by some Christians is a bad witness. We should be working together, Christians and non-Christians, to take care of the amazing planet we have been given as a home.


Options in Creation

CreationWhen I first came to personal faith, I was fully confident that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead in order to provide forgiveness of sins and eternal life. But there were other things that I was not so sure about. I particularly hated reading the first chapters of Genesis. I was a university student at the time and everything I was taught pointed to an Earth that was millions of years old. Yet I was being told to read Genesis 1 literally and accept that the Earth was only 6000 years old (plus a few thousand if people were generous). How was I to fit this, not just with the geological record but the archaeological record of civilizations far older than the supposed 6000 year-old planet?

To be honest, I just read the chapter and prayed to God, admitting the confusion that I felt. I did not know what else to do. My church at the time taught me that Christians had to believe in the young Earth. There were no other options.

I later discovered that there are options. Despite what some people say, you can still be a Christian and have different views of the age of the Earth and the means of creation. Here are some of the options:

Young Earth Creationism

This is where I began and I have many friend who believe this. It basically claims that Genesis 1 and the biblical genealogies give us what we need. Adding up the genealogies gives Earth (and the universe) an age of about 6000-10000 years. Creation took place just as Genesis 1 describes, with each day being a literal twenty-four hour period. Many of the geological features that seem to point to an older Earth were actually formed by a worldwide flood. Answers in Genesis is a good place to find out more about this option.

Old Earth Creationism

This option accepts the findings of geologists and astronomers when it comes to the age of the Earth and the universe. They see Genesis 1 as explaining creation in a rather poetic way. The purpose of the creation story is not to explain how and when things were created but to focus on God as the Creator and to see the design in what God made. Some see the days of Genesis 1 as being six periods of time, far longer than a literal day. In this view, God created Adam and Eve long after the Earth with all its plants and animals had been created. Reasons to Believe is a good place to find out more about Old Earth Creationism.

Theistic Evolution

This option has much in common with OEC when it comes to the age of the universe and the Earth. The difference is that OEC sees God creating animals, including humans, in a form that only allows for micro evolution. Cats have always been cats, dogs have always been dogs and humans have always been humans. Theistic Evolution accepts Darwin’s basic theory of evolution. Life would have began with simple one celled lifeforms. By the process of evolution, these developed into all the life forms that we see today, including humans. The difference from naturalistic evolution is that Theistic Evolutionists see God as guiding the process of evolution for his own purposes. BioLogos is a good place to find out more about Theistic Evolution.

Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design is not really an alternative to the previous three. It really overlaps with all three. Intelligent Design starts with the scientific evidence that there seems to be design in all lifeforms. It does not seek to promote a theological agenda. One could see evidence for design without believing in God. Some educators see ID as a thinly disguised YEC and do not want it taught in schools. Many believers in ID fall into the OEC camp. While there is potential for agreement between ID and TE, there is often tension as ID is usually critical of evolution. You can find out more about Intelligent Design at the Discovery Institute.

I share these things, not just for information sake, but as a plea for understanding. There have been heated arguments between the groups. Consider focusing on what we have in common rather than what divides.


Reflections on Reading Darwin

I recently read Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species. Although I wish that I could do a book review, I am definitely not qualified. Science is not my background and it probably was my worst subject in high school. The most I can do is to share some thoughts I had while reading it.

Charles DarwinI did not go into this book with a firm conviction that all forms of evolution are false. While I would most likely label myself as an old earth creationist, I am open to some form of theistic evolution. I say this to explain that I did not read the book with a firm philosophical stand against evolution.

While much of the book was dreadfully boring (it is a science book after all), there were other parts that were extremely interesting. Darwin’s descriptions of various animals and the parts of their bodies that enable them to survive their specific habitat were fascinating. I must confess that I struggled to write that sentence without using the word ‘design.’

That was in fact my main reaction to this book. As Darwin spoke about the complexity of life and the slight but vital differences between species, I felt more assured that this was the result of some sort of intelligent design. Darwin seemed to have noticed this as well. He would acknowledge that it looked like it was designed but then would assert that with enough time these things would happen on their own.

I guess my thoughts on Darwin would be that he had some excellent observations but some strained explanations. The things that he reported on are very helpful. However it seems that his theory as to how these things took place seems like more of an assertion than anything else.

I would suggest that if life has evolved in any way such as Darwin suggests, that evolution would need the guidance of an Intelligent Designer such as God.


A Poorly Designed Chapter

In his chapter “Arguments From Design” Christopher Hitchens attacks the concept of intelligent design.  This was a frustrating chapter in a number of ways.  One reason is that Hitchens got off topic quite often.  He would be talking about evolution or intelligent design and then would be reminded about something else that ticked him off about religion.  Apparently no opportunity for a potshot should be overlooked, even if it breaks the flow of an argument.

Hitchens’ basic argument is that Darwinian evolution has basically removed any need for God, if there ever was one.  He seems to think that Darwinism has explained pretty much everything.  He sees Darwinism as more than a theory and intelligent design (ID) as less than a theory.  It should be remembered that Darwinism has official sanction to be researched, studied and published, allowing it to develop (evolve) as a theory.  At the same time, ID is banished from the conversation resulting in much more limited opportunities to be studied.  Still, ID has provided some impressive results despite what Hitchens claims.

There are definitely some limitations to Darwinism.  For example, Hitchens cites (sights?) Michael Shermer on the evolution of the eye.  Shermer argues that the current form of the eye was a gradual development from a simple eyespot with light sensitive cells.  Let us use our imagination.  We would have to assume that at one point, no organisms had any eyespots.  Then there was one that happened to have mutated with such eyespots.  We are not talking about an adjustment to size or colour.  Even a simple eyespot would be fairly complex, being able to measure the light and then transmit the information to the brain.  And that just appeared?  And then kept appearing?  And Ockham’s razor really makes that more likely than a Designer?  Then there is the thorniest problem, which is the origin of life.  How did such life first begin?  Hitchens (or Darwinism) has no really answers here.

One of Hitchens arguments is that if there was a Designer, he did a very bad job.  After all, there is sickness and age and death and eventually an end to our solar system.  Hitchens problem is that he takes one aspect of the Christian worldview, intelligent design, and dismisses it as not answering all the questions.  The Christian world view has many other aspects including God’s plan for the human life with an afterlife and a transformation of this world.  All of these things must be taken together.


Tim Keller on Creation and Evolution

Tim KellerWhat is a Christian to do with the whole creation/evolution debate?  Do we clutch our Bibles with one hand and try to protect our ears from the claims of science with the other hand?  This is not just a theoretical problem, it is a pastoral problem.

People in our churches are really struggling with this.  Tim Keller has written a paper for the BioLogos Foundation on Creation, Evolution and Christian Lay People.  It is worth checking out.  You may not agree with his conclusions but he provides a good model of how to approach these issues both apologetically and pastorally.