Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Reformed Academic Endorses Evolution

Recently, Reformed Academic has finally responded to an article “Ten Reasons Why Evolution is Dangerous and Evil” (Clarion, Jan.1, 2010), signed by five Canadian Reformed ministers.

The bottom line is that Reformed Academic considers theistic evolution (including human evolution) to be harmless, God-given, and Reformed.

1. Note, first, that Reformed Academic never speaks against evolution as such--only against atheistic versions of it, which it terms evolutionism. Although Reformed Academic claims not to be agreed on the validity of theistic evolution, Reformed Academic nevertheless always presents it in a positive light:

"1. Theistic evolution is accepted, however, among an increasing number of Bible-believing, orthodox Christians"
22. It is not Darwinian evolution which is “the enemy,” opposed to Christianity, but evolutionism."

Also, in response to the objection that Adam was a direct creation of God and therefore had no animal ancestors, Reformed Academic states:

"12. The assumption in this “Reason” is that, in the case of humans, animal ancestry and direct creation by God are mutually exclusive. No reasons are given why God could not have created Adam from animal ancestors."
"38. This argument assumes that God-directed evolution excludes the direct creation of Adam by God. But God-directed evolution does not exclude the direct creation of Adam, because everything that happens is under God’s direct control. Therefore, theistic evolution is not outside the boundaries of the TFU (i.e., Three Forms of Unity)".

Thus Reformed Academic affirms that theistic evolution, including the animal ancestry of man, is within the Reformed boundaries of the Three Forms of Unity.

In sum, Reformed Academic presents theistic evolution as a valid option for Reformed, orthodox, Bible-believing Christians.

2. To soften resistance to human evolution, Reformed Academic asserts:

7. Christians who lend credence to the theory of common ancestry fully affirm that the creation of man is a special creative act of God; they also affirm the clear Biblical teaching of the soul, and that the human person is made uniquely and specially in the image of God. (Among others, these include Denis Alexander, Denis Lamoureux, Francis Collins, Jitse van der Meer.)” 

"28. Christians who support the theory generally acknowledge that human death is a consequence of human sin."

Here Reformed Academic lists four evolutionists, presumably representing orthodox, Bible-believing Christians, who seem to be promoting good things.

Consider, however, what they are really saying:

a. Denis Alexander. Author of Creation or evolution: Do we have to choose? (2008). Frequent lecturer at Regent College. He believes in full theistic evolution, including human evolution. Alexander argues that Adam lived about 8000 years ago and had animal ancestors. God chose him--from among other humans--and offered him spiritual life. Adam's Fall was a purely spiritual event, since humans already suffered physical death before Adam's Fall. Many other humans lived at the time of Adam, and many humans today are not descended from Adam. (Very similar positions have been suggested by Derek Kidner Genesis (1967, p.29), Tim Keller (PCA minister) and Jitse van der Meer).

b. Denis Lamoureux. Author of Evolutionary Creation (2008). Frequent lecturer at Regent College. He doesn’t believe in an historical Adam or original sin. Here is a sampling of what he says:
Most of the events in Genesis 1-11 never literally happened, but that this is not a problem whatsoever to the Christian faith if believers recognize that the attribution of divine and human action is accommodated through ancient categories in order to reveal, as effectively as possible, Holy Spirit messages of faith" (p. 312). 

In a later article he states,
Therefore, if Adam never existed, then he never sinned. And if he never sinned, then his sin was never passed down to us from him...Paul definitely believed in the historicity of Adam. But that was the science-of-the-day."

c. Francis Collins. Author of The Language of God (2007). Founder of Biologos blog, which promotes theistic evolution. Collins' version of evolution is really deistic evolution. He allows God a role only at the very beginning, setting up the machine at the time of the big bang. After that, everything evolves according to purely natural causes. He writes,

"Genesis 1 and 2 are figurative. Adam and Eve were not the only humans, because of Cain's wife. Therefore they are probably just a representative story of how people don't obey God. C.S. Lewis and the Pope agree that the passages should not be taken literally or historically. The lyrical character puts them in the same category as Job and Jonah, which do not carry a "historical ring."(p.209)

When questioned later about the existence of Adam and Eve, Collins suggested they were probably more representative of something that happened across species, since our genetic gene pool suggests that we are actually descended, not from 2 original people, but from a group of 10,000 people in Africa.

In another interview, Collins explains,
"We cannot say that Adam and Eve were formed as acts of special creation...That is a troubling conclusion for many people....Science can't be put together with a literalist interpretation of Genesis. For one thing, there are two different versions of the creation story" — in Genesis 1 and 2 — "so right from the start, you're already in trouble. Christians should think of Genesis not as a book about science but about the nature of God and the nature of humans. Evolution gives us the 'how,' but we need the Bible to understand the 'why' of our creation."

In sum, all of these evolutionists, endorsed by ReformedAcademic, believe man has animal ancestry. None believe that all humans descended from Adam. None believe that the Fall caused human physical death. Two deny there was an historical Adam. All the above positions undermine the doctrine of original sin and the notion that man was originally created upright and holy. They deny also the concept of an inerrant, fully authoritative Bible.

That, dear reader, is the trajectory ReformedAcademic urges us to embrace.

3. To be sure, Reformed Academic professes agreement with Scripture and the Reformed confessions, including the "historicity of Genesis". Such affirmation is worthless, however, since RA qualifies this with:

"9. Christians who take the Bible seriously can take Gen. 1 & 2 as history while not taking it as a “photographic report”" and

"10. considering the cultural, literary, and textual, historical context, especially seeking to recognize how modernist and enlightenment thinking has in recent centuries clouded our interpretation of what the original author(s) and readers and hearers meant and received."

With such hermeneutical flexibility, Scripture can readily be re-interpreted in the light of God's other "revelation"--evolutionary science.

4. In a recent letter in Christian Renewal (March 24, 2010, p.5) Reformed Academic writes:

"We have heard from many people, including university students, elementary and high-school teachers, and even Canadian Reformed ministers, that our contributions are valuable to them."

Given what Reformed Academic is teaching, such influence can only be detrimental to the Canadian Reformed Church.

The URC, OPC, and even the CRC, all have official positions against an evolutionary origin of Adam.

Perhaps the time has come for also the Canadian Reformed Church to take a clear official stance on what the Bible teaches about origins.


George van Popta said...

Thank you, John, for the clarity.

Reformed Academic said...

You say Reformed Academic endorses evolution. This is simply not the case; we instead simply insist upon space for the discussion of evolution, and point out that such space exists within the bounds of the Reformed confessions.

Neither “Ten Reasons” nor our response to it is a critique of evolution. Our response is largely a clarification of the distinctions between the biological theory of evolution and the philosophical worldview of evolutionism.

There are no atheistic or theistic versions of evolution, any more than there are atheistic or theistic versions of the theory of gravity. There are instead different perspectives upon, or ways to see, or grand worldview packages into which one places, the biological theory of evolution. For example, some consider that the theory provides evidence against Christianity, or against theism in general, or against anything beyond what is accessible to the senses, or in favour of blind chance or meaninglessness or nihilism or fate, or against the uniqueness of humanity, or in favour of ontological materialism, or in favour of philosophical naturalism, etc. Each of these has moved beyond the theory into the realms of philosophy or theology or ethics.

Finally, we do not endorse the views of Alexander, Lamoureux, or Collins. We simply suggested that these are examples of Christians who “fully affirm that the creation of man is a special creative act of God; they also affirm the clear Biblical teaching of the soul, and that the human person is made uniquely and specially in the image of God.” There will certainly be other points upon which we disagree with these men (e.g. the historicity of Adam & Eve, see also Tony Jelsma’s review of Collins, The Language of God in our Collected Papers), and there are also different views within the larger field of discussion on what “special” means. The context of our remark here is in JvP’s attempt to draw a line between evolution and Scripture by pointing out that the Genesis 2 “account of the creation of man resounds with the special character of this creative act of God.” The authors we cited do not deny Biblical anthropology (i.e. soul, image of God).

Arnold Sikkema, Langley, BC
Tony Jelsma, Sioux Center, IA
Freda Oosterhoff, Hamilton, ON
Jitse van der Meer, Hamilton, ON

Henrietta said...

And media hype around archeological findings (as now in South Africa, described here : ) does not make things easier, does it? Henrietta Klaasing, South Africa.