Evangelicals and Evolution

Christianity Today  has an article about the inroads of evolution into evangelicalism. InterVarsity press is among the leaders, it seems, in pushing evolutionary thought. The question the article focuses on is whether humans are really descended from a single pair. It’s “paradigm-shifting,” say some.

Well, yes. The entire Biblical record of sin and salvation assumes that we are descended from Adam, whose sin brought about death, and that Christ, the second Adam, paid the price, and brought salvation.

Foundational confessions of faith from the Protestant Reformation assume a historical Adam, and official Roman Catholicism defined this teaching at the 1546 Council of Trent, in the 1950 encyclical Humani Generis of Pope Pius XII (who cautiously allowed leeway for humanity’s bodily evolution), and in the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church.

So those who would advance evolution (accepting scientific claims of random mutation, natural selection, over billions of years, “put in place by God, of course”) undermine the Christian story. But some evangelicals are buying into it.

[Francis] Collins and his colleagues dismiss those three views [what the writer calls “young earth creationism,” “old earth creationism,” and “intelligent design”] in favor of “theistic evolution,” which affirms that the biblical God was the creator of all earthly organisms, humanity included, and used as his method the standard evolutionary scenario of gradual natural selection among genetic mutations across eons. A non-random Internet survey of teachers at evangelical seminaries in 2009 showed that 46 percent accept that concept. Giberson estimates that “the overwhelming number in biology departments at Christian colleges would be fine with this,” though a 2005 survey found that only 27 percent identified as evolutionary creationists. In a mail survey of ASA scientists last year, 66 percent of respondents affirmed that “Homo sapiens evolved through natural processes from ancestral forms in common with primates,” while 90 percent agreed that the Earth is some 4.6 billion years old.

In late 2007, Collins launched the San Diego-based BioLogos Foundation to promote theistic evolution, especially among evangelicals. He sought not only to embrace what he considers to be the best evidence, but also to bolster Christian credibility among people who are knowledgeable about mainstream scientific thinking. This initiative has won endorsements from both scientists and such evangelical figures as authors Os Guinness and Philip Yancey, Books & Cultureeditor John Wilson, and retiring Gordon College President R. Judson Carlberg. (Collins, who resigned as BioLogos president upon his NIH appointment and was succeeded by Point Loma Nazarene University biologist Darrel Falk, is declining interviews about his new book. Giberson, his co-author, is vice president of BioLogos.)

Christianity Today’s editorial states the issue: “No Adam, No Eve, No Gospel.” But the editors aren’t clearly taking sides. They seem to suggest sympathy with those who are willing to see individuals as representing groups. That’s a slippery slope.

About the author’s labels. “Intelligent design” is hardly a position distinct from the others. It simply says we can see evidence of design. Creationists and evolutionists (like Michael Behe) both use it.

As to the name “young earth creationist,” I like what Answers in Genesis says: call us “Biblical creationists.”

One thought on “Evangelicals and Evolution

  1. I like the term “biblical creationists,” but I thought AiG was going to make the point that the the age of the earth and when life first appeared on it are two separate questions. Apparently not, since elsewhere they use “young earth creationist” approvingly.

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