Friday, January 20, 2017

Is Evolution Compatible With Christianity?

Is evolution compatible with Christianity? This question is addressed in a post by Dr. Wayne Rossiter entitled Christian Academia and Darwin's twelve gifts for Christians. It is well worth reading. Dr. Rossiter has a Ph.D. in ecology and evolution, and is assistant professor of biology at Waynesburg University.

In his post, Dr. Rossiter gives twelve reasons why human evolution clashes with Christianity. Here is a brief summary of Darwin's twelve gifts for Christmas:

1. Upside-down theology. In Christianity God creates a world that was "very good" but then fell into decay. Evolution, on the other hand, begins with chaos from which perfection slowly emerges. Indeed, evolution is still unfinished. Evolution has no place for a fall, and thus no need for Christ's redemption.

2. An Uninvolved God. God does not intervene in the evolutionary process. Either God sets the initial state of the universe so that the entire evolutionary process is pre-determined, or God lets it evolve randomly, is that not even he knows its future outcome.

3. A world of pain and suffering that God intended. If God creates through evolution, then He is morally responsible for the evil and suffering entailed by evolution. Pain and suffering is no longer due to Adam's fall. The real challenge for theistic evolution is to find meaning, purpose and divine goodness in the evolutionary mechanism in which Darwin himself could find none. 

4. We are happy accidents. Darwinian evolution has no purpose and no goals. The emergence of humans is just a lucky turn of events.

5. Fallenness by the mechanism God used to make us. Selfishness drives evolution. Thus, if sinfulness is mainly selfishness, this is due to the evolutionary process God used. Thus God made us sinful.

6. Morally culpable apes? If Christianity is true, we are uniquely culpable for our sins.  The theistic evolutionist sees our species emerging as one little tip on the massive tree of life, having descended from primate ancestors. So how does a morally culpable being emerge from this long line of morally innocent species? How does the notion of objective morality arise in biological systems that are driven by natural selection (in the absence of free will) to be selfish? 

7. An incoherent origin of the soul. Evolution has no place for an immaterial soul. Did God implant a soul in the first "humans", whose parents were soul-less primates? How did God intervene? When did that happen? and what discernible difference did it make?

8. More fairy dust in your naturalism soup. The theistic evolutionist tries to minimize the special interaction of God in pre-human history. But belief in Jesus Christ--God incarnate, born of a virgin, working miracles, arising from the dead--flies in the face of the naturalism inherent in evolution

9. No formulation of “made in God’s image”. If we are the product of an evolutionary mechanism that cannot guarantee outcomes, and we are just another primate, cursed with sinful nature and selfish genes, then how do we make sense of God’s statement that we are made in His image? 

10. Circular reasoning. The theistic evolutionist is completely closed to refutation. That is, their minds are closed. They begin with the assumption that God exists and then conclude that, no matter what science discloses, God did it.

11. No end in sight. Evolution is ongoing. We are merely the current winners of the game of evolution.  It would be the height of hubris do suggest that evolution has somehow stopped its tireless march, or that we are somehow its pinnacle.

12. Academic respectability at a price. Theistic evolutionist treat evolution as an established scientific fact. However, we cannot accept the Darwinian rendering of human origins and still keep our Christian conceptions of the God-man relationship.

I encourage you to read the full article.

For more in this vein, I refer you to Dr. Rossiter's recent (2015) book Shadow of Oz: Theistic Evolution and the Absent GodRossiter is particularly concerned with the heavy promotion of theistic evolution at (most) Christian universities:
As a Christian professor at a Christian university, I can attest to the countless students who find the central tenets of their Christian faith difficult to retain in light of the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution, or more precisely, its implications. (p. 5) 
Dr. Rossiter's book was favourably reviewed by Casey Luskin, who concludes:
More importantly, Rossiter is keenly aware of the theological and scientific arguments that theistic evolutionists make, and he's got ready rebuttals to nearly all of them. If you are a college student hearing professors tell you (a) that Darwinian evolution is perfectly compatible with faith, and (b) that Darwinian evolution is unquestionably scientifically correct -- but you sense that your professor isn't telling the whole story -- then you need to put Shadow of Oz on your Christmas wish list.
Finally, for my assessment of how well established human evolution really is, see my post Is Evolution Unfalsified?

1 comment:

JohnV said...

Dr. Byl:
I've been thinking about this a while. Here's my thoughts:

One might also ask whether Christianity is compatible with evolution. Now if we ask it that way, then all debate ceases. We do not need to ask the evolutionist, because they have written God off altogether in their speculations about how all things came to be. We need not ask Christians, because they believe that God created all things, not that all things evolved from lower beings, or that life sprang from non-life.

The ones to ask are theistic evolutionists. They are the ones offering us a mixture of evolution and Christianity. But they, one and all, always argue that Christianity is not what we think it is. Our forebears in the faith believed based on myths, not miracles. The flood did not happen; the sun did not stand still for Joshua. People believed the stories for the theology it taught, not because they had seen other wondrous and mighty acts of God.

When they're done reconciling Christianity with evolution it no longer is the Christianity which our forebears would recognize. Every time. The Christianity that they have when they're done reconciling is no longer the Christianity that has been maintained by the Holy Spirit, but rather is one that is being foisted on this generation by "wooden literalists".

Nor is the history of Christianity something that our history books can recognize: they have to change that too in order to make it fit.

And so they too agree: Christianity proper cannot be reconciled to evolution.

It's unanimous!