Saturday, January 14, 2017

Trusting the Bible Over Evolution

"One of the main reasons unbelievers give for not believing the Bible is that modern science—specifically, evolutionary science—has shown that the Bible’s account of human origins is mistaken. Indeed, evolutionary science is not merely an obstacle to unbelievers; it can also be a stumbling block for professing Christians.
There are many believers desperately trying to reconcile a high view of Scripture with mainstream scientific claims about our evolutionary origins, and those who cannot do so invariably end up downgrading their doctrine of Scripture. In some cases this is just the first step in a near-complete abandonment of Christian orthodoxy. For both believers and unbelievers, the claims of evolutionary science pose a serious challenge to the trustworthiness of the Bible."
This is the introduction of an excellent article by Dr. James Anderson, associate professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, entitled Can We Trust the Bible Over Evolutionary Science? I encourage you to read the entire article. Here is a brief summary. 

Dr. Anderson argues that we should not be unduly swayed by an alleged consensus among scientists. For one thing, scientific consensus is notoriously fallible and open to revision.
Furthermore, I suggest we ought to be suspicious of any scientific consensus which has significant religious, moral, political, or economic implications. There is another prevalent modern myth to the effect that scientists are disinterested observers of the natural world, entirely objective pursuers of the truth. In reality, scientists are flawed human beings like the rest of us, with all the familiar prejudices, biases, and agendas. 
Moreover, it’s as clear as day that evolutionary science isn’t religiously neutral. Richard Dawkins, arguably the world’s leading promoter of Darwinism, famously quipped that Darwin “made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist,” while Cornell biology professor William Provine once remarked that evolution is “the greatest engine of atheism ever invented.” Combine such comments with what Paul declares in Romans 1:18-32 and it’s evident that Christians need to approach the consensus of evolutionary scientists with a healthy dose of skepticism. For those who want to flee from God, the Darwinian theory of evolution is the getaway car of choice. 
What about the scientific evidence? Dr. Anderson notes that the fossil evidence of human evolutionary history is fragmentary, and open to various interpretations. Hypothetical reconstructions of human evolution are highly speculative, based on physical evidence that is sparse and ambiguous.
Evolutionary scientists agree that human evolution happened: they just don’t agree on where it happened, when it happened, and how it happened. Consequently it’s very hard to see how the fossil record gives us solid evidence of human evolution.
DNA analysis is claimed to support our close genetic relationship with apes. However, Anderson argues that genetic arguments generally assume common ancestry, rather than proving it. Since our anatomy is similar to apes, we can expect a similar DNA. Such similarity can be equally well explained by common design. The genetic evidence can be interpreted in very different ways, depending on the assumptions one brings to it.
Scientists choose their theories based on their prior background assumptions. For Christians, one of those assumptions is that the Bible is the Word of God.
So it’s quite legitimate for Christians, when presented with empirical evidence that can be explained by different scientific theories, to favor those scientific theories that are consistent with the Bible and to reject those scientific theories that are inconsistent with the Bible.
And this is especially true with regard to the theory of evolution. The observational evidence that many scientists take to be explained by evolutionary theory (or better: evolutionary theories) can also be explained by alternate theories, such as a theory of special creation that allows for widespread speciation within natural kinds. What’s more, there’s a raft of other evidence (such as the fundamental differences between humans and other animals) that is better explained by those alternate theories. What all this means is that the evidential arguments of evolutionary scientists need not be—and should not be—a defeater for our trust in the Bible.
Dr. Anderson concludes:
Can we trust the Bible over evolutionary science? I answer with a resounding “Yes!” We know that the Bible is the Word of God because there are many objective evidences of its divine authorship, and through the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit we have eyes to see those evidences and ears to hear the voice of God speaking to us in Scripture.
Furthermore, for the reasons I’ve laid out, I’m persuaded that evolutionary science has delivered nothing that comes close to defeating our trust in the Bible.
I would like to close with one final thought, more pastoral than philosophical in nature, which I suggest gives us another important perspective on this issue. When we ask the question “Can we trust the Bible over evolutionary science?” we’re implicitly asking this question: “Can we trust Jesus over evolutionary science?” Why do I say that? Simply because Jesus consistently and unambiguously affirmed that the Old Testament scriptures were the very Word of God. He specifically appealed to Genesis as a reliable historical account of human origins. And he insisted that “the Scripture cannot be broken.”
So whom will you trust? Has Jesus ever given you reason not to trust him unreservedly and wholeheartedly? To put the matter bluntly: if you can trust your spouse over Agent Smith, you can certainly trust your Savior over evolutionary science.


JohnV said...

Dr. Byl:

Thank you for posting this, Dr. Byl.

I also recommend William VanDoodewaard's presentation, Challenges to the Word: A Case Study on Adam. It gives us a brief historical view of evolution theories dating back from the time of Philo of Alexandria, 25 BC – 50AD, to the present day.(It can be found in the book, The Beauty and Glory of God's Word, edited by Joel Beeke, published by Reformation Heritage Books.)

His point is that, historically, these theories have, and predictably still do, become “corrosive” to Biblical doctrine: they never support it. Have we ever seen an apologetic for an evolutionary re-interpretation of Genesis that supports and strengthens the unchangeable doctrines of the Word of God? Recent findings in the Timnah valley support what the Bible says about David's and Solomon's kingships; do we ever find evolutionary science supporting what the Bible says? On the contrary, it always has a corrosive effect on the Bible.


john byl said...

Hi John

Thanks for your recommendation. That sounds like a worthwhile book to get. I would recommend also William VanDoodewaard's book "The Quest for the Historical Adam".