Any swimmer who has taken-on the beach knows that the visible waves aren’t the most dangerous obstacles to his efforts. The greater danger lies in the undercurrents that can sweep the most avid swimmer to his death.
So it is with the underlying belief system behind some Christian’s teachings on origins. I realize that most evangelicals dismiss the strict atheism of naturalistic evolutionists, but their attempts to appear scientifically credible at the expense of a sound and certain theology is troubling. The following scriptural issues, however, will help mark the dangers, the undercurrents if you will, of accommodating atheistic interpretations of reality.
Theistic evolutionists and progressive creationists (any old earth variety) are those who have married two very incompatible views of the world. One is atheistic evolution and the other is a biblical creationism that is foundational to everything we believe as Christians.
In this unholy matrimony, many Christians have adopted concepts that aren’t only consistent with a purely atheistic view of the world but absolutely contrary to a biblical one. These guys and/or gals, as the case may be, believe that God used evolution as the means of creating the universe. Sounds harmless enough at first, doesn’t it?
First, In accordance with popular thinking, many Christians have sacrificed the 24-hour days of Genesis 1 in favor of the millions of years required by the evolutionary model. Evolution requires great amounts of time, they tell us; so to accommodate the “science” of the day, Christians jumped on the bandwagon without understanding the philosophical and theological pitfalls connected to that one compromise. Even fundamentalist “gap theorists” of the early twentieth century found a biblical place to add an inordinate amount of time, hence the “gap” said to be between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.
The argument goes something like this, “Oh, God created the material universe, but he used evolution, millions of years of it, to accomplish the task.” G.K. Chesterton addressed this idea; noting that from an evolutionary perspective, the atheistic or the “Christian” type, a concept is not more intelligible simply because more time is involved. “… Slowness,” he said, “has really nothing to do with the question. An event is not more intrinsically intelligible or unintelligible because of the pace at which it moves.”
Second, consider the other compromises that logically follow the first concession. Since you’ve sacrificed the “time” element, you may be hard-pressed, for consistencies sake, to sacrifice the order of events in the Creation account as well.
Note the reference to light on the first day for example (Genesis 1:11-19) and reconcile that fact with the creation of the sun and moon on day four. According to the text, there were no heavenly bodies of light on day one, so what was the light source? You can say God was the light, like a good Christian might, but that is as unacceptable to the passionate evolutionist as a six-literal-day creation.
Then consider another little problem associated with your first concession. According to the text, the earth’s vegetation was also created (day 3) before the sun, (Day 4) How did that happen? Is there a natural explanation or did God create and then sustain the vegetation for millions of years until the sun was made. Such a miracle would be no problem for the God of the Bible; but my point is that such a miracle is just as preposterous to the evolutionist as a six-literal-day creation. “For a man who does not believe in a miracle,” says Chesterton again, “a slow miracle would be just as incredible as a swift one.” Why not just accept the miraculous up front; because eventually, you’re going to have to insert it in the equation somewhere.
I’m no betting man, but I bet the moment you introduce any miracle of any length or size to the discussion, you will lose the intellectual acceptance by those whom you’ve tried so hard to impress in the first place. The miraculous is unacceptable in any form to the pure naturalist but central to the Christian system of thought. How then can they marry?
Can you see the problem? When you concede the supernatural in one area, before long you concede another. Compromise, like the unseen undercurrent, drags you down and threatens your entire worldview. You begin to think more like the atheist who excludes the supernatural entirely. I like what Norman Geisler said. “Belief in miracles, do not destroy the integrity of the scientific methodology, only its sovereignty.”
Tony Watts can be reached at Tony@link2eternity.com