Tomorrow’s Theology

May 3, 2013 — I suspect that a thousand years from now Christians will look back at the 21st century and say, “How could Christians have let themselves think that?” They’d have in mind our theology—some of the doctrines that are so precious to us and that we consider to be the backbone of Christianity.

And we do the same thing, don’t we? Of the people who lived 500 years ago we say, “How could they really have believed those things to be so important in their Christian faith?” We have in mind such doctrines as purgatory, indulgences, relics, the authority of the pope, apostolic succession, transubstantiation, the Inquisition, the sacramental system, Mariolatry, and so much more.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if a thousand years from now, or even in 500 years, people look back at our cherished doctrines and exclaim, “How could they believe all that?”

Why do I say this?

Because something is happening in our world that is likely to shake our systematic theology to its foundations when we better understand its implications. It won’t change the Bible or the theism that shapes our way of thinking. But as future theologians work at uncovering the implications of this discovery, they may find that some of the doctrines that form the essential structure of our creeds and confessions miss the mark. New insights and new doctrinal formulations will replace those we now treasure. People in the future will study the same Bible but understand it differently. Something is happening in our world right now that will bring vigorous theological revision for generations to come.

What is that “something”?

It’s an insight that began as a hypothesis in 1859, gradually developed into a scientific theory, and is fast becoming recognized as established fact. I refer to what we have been calling “the theory of evolution.”

Scientists recognize generally that the universe began with an enormous explosion—the “big bang.” They provide various scientific avenues to demonstrate the great age of the universe, perhaps as old as 15 billion years. The varied scientific disciplines provide convincing demonstrations of the continuous development of the universe since its beginning, such as producing over billions of years the vast reaches of space and the seemingly infinite number of stars and planets and galaxies that dot the heavens.

Our planet, Earth, has been part of this development. The scientists who study these things demonstrate how life appeared and how it has matured and diversified over millennia. They see this process of development producing a form of life called homo sapiens, and they trace this development from its common ancestry with other forms of life.

There may, of course, be areas of disagreement among scientists about certain items. But very few competent scientists will challenge the underlying process of development. These scientific discoveries can all be subsumed under the rubric of evolution—or, if one cannot get past the negative connotations of that term, we can use the alternative term development.

Implications for Theology
The question facing Christian thinkers is this: What effect does this process of evolution have on Christian theology? Do modern scientific discoveries have any implications for the way we understand the purpose of Christianity? If so, what are they? I am not going to argue whether or not evolution is true; I accept that the findings of modern science are reliable and must be taken as established fact. I also accept that the Bible’s basic teachings are just as definitive as those of science. So what might the implications for our theology be? If evolution is the catalyst for change, in what areas might we need to reconsider our traditional theological understanding?

Creation: We have traditionally accepted the words of Genesis 1—that God created the world as we know it today in seven literal 24-hour days—at face value. Bishop Ussher’s chronology even suggests the exact year when that that happened: 4004 bc. But there is no way we can possibly continue to hold that doctrine any more than we can hold the doctrines of a flat earth and a geocentric universe. One week for God to create the vast universe as we know it? That just doesn’t comport at all with the reality of a universe billions of years old. So we have to find a better way of understanding Genesis 1, a way that embraces scientific insights honestly and a way that also embraces the reality of God’s creative activity.

Adam and Eve: Traditionally we’ve been taught that Adam and Eve were the first human pair, Adam made out of dust and Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. But sustaining this doctrine is extremely difficult when we take seriously the human race as we know it today sharing ancestry with other primates such as chimpanzees. Where in the slow evolution of homo erectus and homo habilis and homo sapiens do Adam and Eve fit? We will have to find a better way of understanding what Genesis tells us about Adam and Eve, one that does justice to Genesis and also to what the Bible teaches about their connection to Jesus.

Fall into sin: We have traditionally understood Genesis to show the first human beings, in a state of innocence, living sinlessly in the Garden of Eden. They are then tempted. They yield to temptation and God sends them out of Eden. But if we take the discoveries of historical science seriously, where could we fit that story in? It would be extremely difficult to locate any such Garden of Eden, and even if were able to do so in modern Iraq, where is the scientific and historical evidence of a pristine origin and expulsion from that Garden? Furthermore, at which stage in human development would we place this event? We will have to find a much better way of understanding what sin is, where it comes from, and what its consequences are. Theologians will have to find a new way of articulating a truly biblical doctrine of sin and what effect it has on us.

Original sin: According to this doctrine, the fall of Adam and Eve is an actual historical event that plunged the entire human race into sin. Ever since, both the guilt of sin and the pollution of sin, theologically speaking, have been passed on from parent to child in such a way that we all come into the world tainted by them. We say that our children are conceived and born in sin. But if Adam and Eve are not understood as real historical people, then there can hardly be an inheritance of sinfulness from parent to child all the way back to Adam—in which case the entire doctrine of original sin falls by the wayside. We will have to find a better way of understanding not only what sin is but its effect on the population in general—a way that does justice both to the Bible and to science and that helps us understand how sin works in our own lives under God.

Salvation: We have traditionally understood the work of Jesus as dealing with the two aspects of original sin: guilt and pollution. Jesus removes our guilt by dying for our sins on the cross; he removes our pollution by sending us his Holy Spirit. This makes good sense, but if the doctrine of original sin needs to be revisited, theologians need to consider whether our understanding of Jesus also needs to be revised. Does the theory of evolution have any implications for how we understand Jesus’ ministry, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension? How does Jesus fit into the ongoing process of evolution in the fullness of time? How does his ministry impact people in later generations? We’ll want our theologians to tackle this issue in a truly biblical way, preserving everything essential to the biblical story while fitting it into a new paradigm that defines meaningfully what Jesus Christ has done and what it means for us to be Christians.

God’s purpose in history: Evolution is a way of understanding history that describes a process of development taking place from the beginning of time. We, then, need to be asking questions like these: What is God’s purpose in all of this? If there is a meaningful process taking place in time and history, where is it going? What does God want the human race to become? What is our future over the long reach of time? Traditionally we have talked about an end of the world. But if we take evolution seriously—that is, the 15 billion years that already have passed—what are we to think about what the world will look like a billion years from now, or even a mere million? Can we see anything of God’s purpose for time and history, and can we get a glimpse from science of what that future might be—one that preserves what the Bible teaches but also is true to science? Our philosophical theologians will need to take a serious look at these questions. Major changes may well be in store for our eschatological doctrines.

I could go on and give my own insights about these doctrines, but this is sufficient to make the point that we need to take seriously in our theology the theory of evolution, now developed into established fact. Huge changes may well be taking place in tomorrow’s theological world, but we ought not be afraid of facing them. On the contrary! We should be excited and challenged by God’s grace to move onward and upward into more realistic insights into his Word and will. Who knows but that God has brought us into the world for such a time as this, to listen to what he has been saying and doing for billions of years and to take the lead in improving our understanding of biblical theology accordingly?

There are various ways we could respond. One option is denial—saying evolution can’t be true because it contradicts the Bible. Another option is inattention: who cares? Still another option is carelessness, or jumping to immature conclusions. The best option is prayerful attention, listening carefully to everything God is saying both in his original creation and in his redemptive gospel. If we can find the grace to do this humbly and obediently, surely we may trust the Lord to guide us into all the truth he wishes us to understand.

Committee on Creation and Science Report

E. The present apparent conflict between Christian faith and science over questions of origins cannot be easily resolved. Not only are there various interpretations of the evidence confronting natural science; there are also various plausible interpretations of Genesis 1. Thus all sides in the debates about origins should acknowledge that that they do not have a completely satisfactory solution to the problem and that therefore certain criticisms made by some of their opponents are at least partially justified. In the midst of such disputes, the church must firmly confess that which is the clear teaching of Scripture and central to the Christian faith; but cognizant of the legitimate freedom of science to examine the evidence and of the legitimate freedom of exegesis to interpret Scripture, the church must not bind consciences beyond that confession.

F. The Scripture clearly teaches that God is the Creator of all that is, that he created all things good, [and] that man and woman were made in his image to serve on God’s behalf as stewards of the world that he made. This biblical teaching of Creation stands in judgment over all naturalistic, evolutionistic worldviews.

J. . . . Some hold that this clear biblical teaching necessarily requires an explicit rejection of any theory which posits the existence of evolutionary forebears of the human race, that there is a clear clash of paradigms between prevailing evolutionary theories and the biblical account of origins. They argue that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to see how a responsible exegesis of Genesis 1-3 does not rule out the evolutionary account of human origins. Others are not fully convinced that this clear biblical teaching requires such a rejection, for various reasons. . . . Some take Scripture (Job 38:4; 1 Cor. 13:8) to teach that God has no intention that we know all the answers in this area. Some believe that we are called to somehow take account of both of God’s revelations whether we currently know how to do that or not and that traditional conclusions would be compelling on scriptural grounds were it not that nature seems to be authoritatively telling us something else. That is not to say that the scientific theories are right, but only that neither we nor the church is presently in a position to state authoritatively that Scripture speaks definitively on this issue.

—from Report 28, Committee on Creation and Science, Section VIII: A Summary of Conclusions, Agenda for Synod 1991, pp. 408-9

 

 

Tomorrow’s Theology

  1. What is your gut reaction to Walhout’s statement “Something is happening in our world that is likely to shake our systematic theology to its foundations”?
  2. Is it possible to “not fear but face” these changes, as Walhout suggests? What is God’s purpose in all of this?
  3. How does Jesus fit into the ongoing process of evolution in the fullness of time? What does this mean for Christians?
  4. Walhout encourages theologians to take evolution seriously and also to tackle this issue in a truly biblical way. Describe the kind of faith needed to bridge the (seemingly dualistic) divide between these two realities.
  5. What is your prayer for theologians and scientists? What is your prayer for the church? What is your prayer for yourself as you meet new challenges to your understanding?


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So...the questioning of the authority of God's Word again. "Did God really say...?" (Genesis 3:1) 

"The devil's alternative credo often has a few carefully chosen elements of truth in the mix-but always diluted and thoroughly blended with falsehoods, contradictions, misrepsentations, distortions, and every other imaginable perversion of reality. Add it all up and the bottom line is a big lie."-John MacArthur

"Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away diciples after them." Acts 20:28-30

"Every word of God proves true..." Proverbs 30:5

 

 

 

Kevin Hoekman raised some good responses to this article.   I would merely add that the theory of evolution is not new, but old.  While previously many theologians argued against it, today we find more scientists, including Phds who formerly believed in evolution, now also arguing against it.  The evidence for it often does not agree with the scientific method in terms of how deductions are made from empirical evidence.  Often circular reasoning plays a role in supporting the theory.  It is likely in the future that evolution will be found wanting as a theory.  The latest episode of Genesis Week, easily found at Wazooloo.com or youtube provides more explanation again about why even radiometric dating is not as clear cut as paleontological geologists or evolutionists purport it to be.  And again, even an old earth is still not evidence of evolution.  There is still not evidence of transitions between humans and any other mammals.   I would advise not to jump off the bridge too quickly. 

Hi, Edwin,

I am a professor of apologetics at a seminary in America.  I am assuming that you are trying to help the church and its theology, and that you are convinced that Darwinian evolution (macro-evolution) is true, and thus should be incorporated into the church's theology.

I respectfully but stongly disagree with this position: (1) The best and most recent research into this theory clearly shows that Darwinian macro-evolution is false (see the recent books, such as Science & Human Origins, Signature in the Cell, and others, by scientists with the Discovery Institute, Seattle, such as Stephen Meyer; see also the recent article in issue #2, 2013, of the Christian Research Journal, which features a list of atheist scientists who know and show that the Darwinian macro-evolution of their comrades is false and that the Intelligent Design movement is much more scientific; see also the related sections in Douglas Groothuis' recent book on apologetics); (2) If Darwinian macro-evolutionism is false, then Christian theology is in no need of "updating" in this direction.  In fact, if Darwinian macro-evolution is true, Christian theology--in any biblical sense, without severely twisting and/or ignoring important chunks of Scripture--would be gutted and look radically different (changing the view of who humans are, who Christ is, what sin is, what is the proper view of history past/present/future, etc.); (3) Scripture, as God's inspired, infallible, inerrant Word (the way Jesus, our Lord and Savior, viewed it), does not need such major reinterpretations.  Scripture is a reliable guide, along with factual-but-not-theoretical science. Scripture, with much evidence to show that it is completely trustworthy, can be trusted in areas even without current extra-biblical support, and certainly must not be distrusted or reinterpreted by what are, in fact, unscientific theories; (3) Many Christians, such as myself, see strong evidence for the earth and universe being very old, while remaining open to it being relatively young, and yet also see how this old earth view can be very compatible with creationism, including factual micro-evolutionism (e.g., viewing each of the 6 "days" of creation as initiating days, with each day initiating somethiing different, with periods of time between each initiating day in order to allow for the numerical multiplying and spreading out of each created element over possibly long periods of time).  This view comports well with Scripture, without being radically interpreted, and with potentially factual science.

The following statements are not about "science."

 

"It’s an insight that began as a hypothesis in 1859, gradually developed into a scientific theory, and is fast becoming recognized as established fact. I refer to what we have been calling “the theory of evolution.”

A scientific theory is best defined as "a well supported hypothesis." Suitable subjects for "science" must be falsifyable. If there is no way to demonstrate that an idea is wrong then how can we say it is right?

The hypothesis was about the evolution of (existing) species. It made no reference to abiogenesis - life from not life.  Darwin made no reference to astronomy. His term, "evolution," has been stolen by other fields of study, some not very scientific. For example, 

"Our planet, Earth, has been part of this development. The scientists who study these things demonstrate how life appeared . . ."

NOT CORRECT!

"and how it has matured and diversified over millennia. They see this process of development producing a form of life called homo sapiens, and they trace this development from its common ancestry with other forms of life."

Isn't saying "the evolution of the earth" an expensive way of saying "The pre-history of the earth?" "Expensive" because scientists are generally paid more than historians.  History, not a science, becomes "scientific" when the study is extended into pre-history? Lay people think that any investigation which uses expensive technical equipment must be "scientific."

Is statistical analysis math or science? Statistical DNA analysis is the closest that the study of prehistoric becomes a science and not an art. 


 

Say a photo of me had been taken every year for the last 72 years. Could you point out the year of my transition from infant to child, from child to adult . . . ? Does this illustration not demonstrate the error of your objection about transitions? The finding of one transition critter produces two new gaps. To much evidence is as probmatical as to little. 

> "Did God really say...?" (Genesis 3:1)

Did God really say that the first time Isaac met Rebecca Isaac took Rebecca into a vacant tent and they "married" each other? (Gen 23:62-67)

 

I hope these responses are not representative of CR members.  If they are, I guess I made the right decision to leave the CR Church after 79 years. 

 

Bill W. I get a kick out of your trick questions:  It was Genesis 24, not Genesis 23.  Isaac took Rebekah into his mother Sarah's tent, not just a vacant tent, and she became his wife.  But you knew that. 

I appreciate your comments in your first comment... but your second comment, well, I think you stretched a bit.   Yes, every annual photo in 72 years leaves gaps, but the small size of the gaps gives evidence to the similarity and thus is evidence of the same person.  With larger gaps, say comparing a two year old to a sixty year old, the photos alone might allow for the two being brothers, or son and father, or even unrelated entirely, etc., since there is not enough evidence of transition of one person without accompanying documentation.   Now of course, the DNA for the child would be the same as for the adult.  But this doesn't work for evolutionary proof, since obviously the DNA is different between species.  The gaps in the supposed evolutionary lines are huge.  There is simply a lack of reasonable evidence. 

I'm disappointed with the editorial choices of The Banner.  I respect Rev. Walhout's questions and his effort to challenge Christians how to deal with contemporary issues concerning the intersection between science and theology.  However, I believe that this article simply "stirs the pot," and fails to add anything to this incredibly complicated issue.  Therefore, with all respect to Rev. Walhout, I don't think that this article should have been published in The Banner.  I believe The Banner would better serve its readership by enlisting the assistance of those who study and have been recognized as having some insights in these fields.  Their input, while still open to disagreement and discussion, would be able to show some nuance and provide some historical context as wells as current discussions that would help inform The Banner's readers.  All I received from this article is: "Scientific theory is true.  The way we interpret the Bible conflicts with science.  Therefore, we must change the way read the Bible so it can fit within scientific theory."  I think we can do better than that.

Christian doctrine never included belief in a flat earth: http://creation.com/flat-earth-myth.

 

Question 3 is as ridiculous as asking Mr. Walhout: "Have you stopped beating your wife?".  If he replied yes then he would be admitting that he has beaten his wife, albeit in the past.  If he replied 'No' then that implies that he is still beating his wife.

"Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?" Isaiah 29:16

"Evolutionism is a fairy tale for grown-ups. This theory has helped nothing in the progress of science. It is useless."
(Professor Louis Bounoure, past president of the Biological Society of Strassbourg, Director of the Strassbourg Zoological Museum, Director of Research at the French National Center of Scientific Research. (Quoted in The Advocate, March 8, 1984.)

What about claim: 95% to 98% homology between DNA of humans & chimpanzees?

 

Reality is that there is already a 11.5% difference between number of DNA base pairs of humans versus chimpanzees ((Nature 2005 437(7055) 69-87):

Humans: 3100 million base pairs (6.2 billion bases);

Chimps: 3500 million base pairs (7 billion bases). 

Latest alignment: 4.8 billion bases

 

Maximum demonstrated identity 68% - 77%; Rearrangement not included 10% - 20%

 

Human / Chimpanzee differences:

  • Based on only 80% of genome
  • Not including all non-aligning DNA
  • Heterochromatin not considered
  • Chromosome scrambling ignored

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

Almighty God wrote the Ten Commandments which includes: " For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it." Exodus 20:11

Surely no one believes the six days to work are anything but literal days and the Sabbath day is a literal day therefore logically the six days of creation referred to are also literal days.

There seems to a lack of faith in the churches nowadays.  Lack of faith that our LORD always tells us the truth; perhaps even lack of faith that our LORD is definitely able to create everything in six days.

If the big bang was even remotely true the planets and their moons would all be spinning in the same direction, but they are not.  Several planets and moons spin 'backwards'.

Job 38: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,

Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?

Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;”

 

My seminary professors told me that I could never suggest God made the world to look old or properly aged to human perception (a young earth looked to be old and matured) because that comment would suggest that God intended to fool human beings since scientific observations do not follow suit--scientific observations prove the world to be millions upon millions of years old.

If I can't suggest the world was made to look old. Then how can science suggest the doctrines of the fall of humans, the origins of sin, and others are false or in need of tweeking because of scientific observations? If Sin really didn't come into the world the way God communicated in his Word it did, wouldn't that be the ultimate fooling of human beings?

Aaron, brilliant!  Thankyou.  In all of the discussions I have seen or been involved in, on this issue, I have never seen this counter-argument.   It is a valid argument and again, I thankyou. 

"It is not true because it is in scripture;  it is in scripture because it is true."   When you think about this, you will find this an enlightening way to think about how we discuss scriptural stories and events. 

"Almost all the early and medieval church scholars who commented on the earth’s shape explicitly said it was round.

Medieval European rulers used a golden sphere or orb called the globus cruciger to represent the earth under Christ’s rule.

Columbus’s opponents never disputed the shape of the earth, but only its size—and they were right!

The flat earth myth began with a fictional account of Columbus in the 19th century by Washington Irving. Then it was aggressively pushed in influential anti-Christian polemics by Draper and White.

A final irony: the leading flat-earther today is an evolutionist."   ...creation.com/flat-earth-myth

We once thought the world was flat and the sun rose in the east and set in the west. I continue to grapple with the creation issue and sometimes when I think about how much bigger God is than what I can wrap my mind around I do feel fear. What if everything I thought I knew is wrong? Yet, I want to be open to God's continued unfolding revelation to us of who he is. Thank you for this wonderful forum. We have given up the skill of dialogue in favor of debate in the evangelical world. 

I suspect that if Christ does not return first, that in much less than 1000 years, Christians will look back at the 21st Century and ask how anyone could be foolish enough to even suggest the “theory” of evolution could be taken seriously.  I am growing so tired of “Christian” publications such as The Banner pushing their pet agenda of evolution and printing articles from those who share their passion.  Evolution did not start out as a hypothesis around 1859.  Even a casual researcher would know that the idea, or more clearly the hope, began much earlier.  Evolution makes zero logical, theological or scientific sense.  It has never been observed, nor can it be observed, makes no logical sense and directly conflicts with what we know from real science.

All that aside if what Walhout says were true then why would anything matter anyway?  If there were no first parents of all living as the Bible teaches, if sin and death did not enter the world through one man as the Bible teaches, if the doctrine of original sin needs to be discarded and if Jesus as the second Adam didn’t die on the cross to save us from our inherited sin as the Bible teaches, what difference would anything make? In this scenario, God Himself is the creator of sin, and we are not responsible.  If the Bible cannot be trusted with the very core of the gospel message, which parts are true?  We may as well keep it on the bookshelf with other classics.

Walhout tries to suggest that there is a general consensus among scientists in this topic when no such consensus exists.  There is as much disagreement in the scientific world with regards to human origins, age of the earth, evolution, etc.  He also uses the same tired old tactic to try to buffalo his readers into believing that all “competent” scientists have only minor disagreements on certain areas but that they all agree on the vehicle of evolution.  This is only meant to try to insult the thousands of Biblical creationist scientists and an even greater number of non Christian scientists who do not hold to the popular evolutionary worldview.

That purpose of the evolutionary worldview, or more specifically the religion of evolutionary thinking, was to remove the need for a God who made us, thereby removing the need to be accountable.  That would allow us the freedom to live as we please.  This was already the view of some in era of the early church.  What some men which included not only Charles Darwin but his grandfather Erasmus and many others did later was to attempt to give some scientific credibility to this concoction.  When this didn’t work they just got louder.  Throw enough mud and some of it will stick as the saying goes.  I’m certain however that they never in their wildest dreams ever thought that even some of those within the church would embrace their ideas.  Shame on you!

I wanted to share an insight from the Belgic Confession, Article 2.

Article 2 speaks of two books that God has written.  The first is creation.  The second is scripture.  Both are God's word, the means by which God reveals himself. (n.b. only special revelation reveals salvific knowledge, but I don't think that is all that relevant to this particular conversation)

The study of creation is called science.  The study of scripture is called theology.  Both science and theology are tools used to understand the books that God has written.  But, neither science nor theology is infallible.  It is perfectly fine to question the methodologies and conclusions of each.  But those critiques need to be informed.  I'm appauled when scientists like Richard Dawkins dismiss theology and philosophy with ridiculous straw-man arguments.  I'm similarly appauled when theologians and pastors do the same to scientists in general and evolutionary scientists in particular.  I tremble when I try to guess the number of Christian young people who have been frightened away from studying science by religious authorities who seem to think that the Bible is the only source of truth about the fundamental nature of reality.  Its the only source of salvific truth.  But not the only source of truth.  Christians who dismiss science are thoroughly un-Reformed.

In that light, we need to wrestle with the truths that God has revealed through scripture and through his creation to try to arrive at a degree of harmony between them.  An interpretation of Genesis 2 involving a literal Adam and Eve as the sole ancestors of the human race is indeed at odds with an interpretation of creation that concludes that humans evolved from apes.  Clearly we need to tweak either science or our interpretation of Genesis 2 (and other passages mentioning Adam and Eve).  Christians have spent the last century and a half insisting that science needs to change, not our interpretation of Gensis 2.  There isn't really a principled reason for that.  Neither science nor theology are infalible... only scripture and creation.  Nevertheless, Christians have resisted tweaking the interpretation of Genesis 2 precisely because of the observations made by Rev. Walhout.  If we do read it as allegorical or as a parable or as some other genre, we would have to make major changes to some of our doctrines.  I applaud Rev. Walhout for stepping up and being willing ask the tough questions about the effects of tweaking our interpretation of Genesis 2... especially given the fact that he likely knew that he would be the target of much derision.

In conclusion, I wanted to offer a bit of hope at this impasse.

Lets imagine this scenario:

God creates a perfect world, but doesn't yet make plants and animals.  Satan and his followers rebel and are cast down into creation.  God begins to create plants and animals through evolution while Satan and his followers create chaos (this accounts for the particularly brutal nature of evolution... how many slow gazelles had to die in order to filter out the slow gazelle genes such that a fast gazelle could be born?)  Anyhow, as this happens, God creates apes and early homonids without souls through the process of evolution.  God then looks down and decides that he wants to redeem his creation that is under the influence of Satan.  He creates a garden that he intends to function as a Normandy beach on D-Day... the point from which order and goodness spread.  He then places a literal Adam and Eve there (no belly-buttons).  God then tells them to fill the earth and subdue it (make sense of that line if creation doesn't need to be subdued).  But, before Adam and Eve can go out and subdue creation as God's stewards, they themselves are decieved and fall into sin.  They are banished and God sets out to redeem creation through his people, Israel and finally through Jesus.  But, now that Adam and Eve are banished, they begin to live.  They have children.  Cain goes off, kills Abel and then flees, going to Nod where he builds a city(?) and marries(?).  Later on, just before the flood, the sons of Adam and the sons of the gods intermarry (Genesis 6:1-4... I have yet to see anyone make any sense of that passage... especially people who insist on taking Genesis 2 literally).  In this scenario, we humans would be decended from apes AND from a literal Adam and Eve in a literal garden with a literal snake and a literal piece of fruit complete with all that that implies for original sin, atonement, Christ, etc.

What I have laid out above is one possible reading of an extremely complex series of passages.  It is not the only reading nor is it necessarily the best one.  In fact, I would be shocked... shocked... if it turned out to be correct.  The scenario is the creation of an imaginative mind looking closely at verses that often get skimmed over.  Imagine what sorts of readings would arise if we devoted some real time to re-examining our interpretation of Genesis!  It would be a piece of cake to come up with something better than what I suggested!  If we devote ourselves to asking serious questions about our interpretation of Genesis, I'm certain that we can come up with interpretations that not only fit better with what science says about creation but also do a better job of explaining those verses that are so easy to ignore.  But, these sorts of in-depth studies won't happen if we don't take a deep breath and stop disregarding science.  We've been telling Darwinists that their interpretation of creation must be wrong for the past 150 years.  I think that its high time that we asked ourselves whether our interpretation of Genesis 2 might be in need of some tweaking.  Scripture is infallible.  Our interpretation isn't.

I appreciate Walhout's candor.  We as pastors and Biblical students now need to do our work well.  We need to listen again to Scripture as we have always done.  That is, with respect for the genre, the original audience, context and so forth.  How many of us who have opinions about Genesis can answer those questions?  There will be themes (covenant theology, the 'problem of suffering', 'hope for the future', to name a few), that may come into their own in a fresh way.  We are also a bit late to the conversation Walhout calls us to.  People like John Haught and John Polkinghorne in particular have some helpful contributions to make.  Wherever we find ourselves though, let's do two things:  one, read the best representatives of the 'other' side, and resist labeling each other as 'creationists' or 'evolutionists'.  The Lord of all creation, the ancient of days will lead us.

I forgot one more detail.  Compare Genesis 1:28 with Genesis 9:1.  One gives the command to subdue the creation.  The other (post-flood) doesn't.  Why?  Could it be that creation in Genesis 1:28 was in need of subduing and that creation after the flood wasn't... at least not in the same way?  Again, this makes more sense if one assumes that there already was chaos of some sort on earth before Adam and Eve fell.

This comment thing isn't working very well. It seems to be dominated by one or two people who throw out remarks that misrepresent science and scientists. Whether scientists know it or not, they are discovering how God has operated in the creation and continues to sustain it. Christians should understand that. When Christians disparage scientists, they are also disparaging their brothers and sisters in Christ who endeavor to fulfil the cultural mandate.

Christian scientists are active members of the body of Christ who are not in any way attempting to disprove the Bible. However, some of the things God reveals to us as we explore the creation have made us realize that there may be things in the Bible that we don't understand quite as well as we once thought. Why not have a friendly chat with that scientist in your church, and get acquainted with how he or she thinks?

I frequently have college geology students contact me on Ask a Geologist with questions along the line of, "We've been learning in class about so many things that have happened in Earth's history. How do I fit all of this into 10,000 years?" Most people have no idea of the geologic processes we can easily see when we look at the rocks, and these students are shocked when it finally hits them in the face. God has been working on this planet and in this universe a lot longer than many imagine, doing some very amazing and spectacular things, but many of us think we have to fence Him in.

Rather than continuing to deny reality, we need to discuss areas where we see problems and conflicts. Our young people are going to encounter atheists (or materialists or agnostics), who, like some Christians, will say they have to choose between science and the Bible. Many Christian scientists know that one can accept the findings of science and be a follower of Christ. Please stop defining "Christian" as one who believes in a young Earth.

Thank you Rev. Walhout for stimulating discussion on origins, although the way you introduced this is like a bucket of icewater on the back. I hope and pray that the discussion turns toward a more positive orientation. There's a bit too much of the medieval approach of dealing with the heretics, rather than trying to understand one another.

John,

To the point, I have no issue with Walhout's candor.  I do have an issue that with such an important topic, The Banner didn't seek out any of those who might be considered some of the "best representatives" in the areas of science and theology who have done the necessary scholarship to provide The Banner's audience with some foundational premises and ideas that could fuel a healthy discussion.  I don't want to be disrespectful to Rev. Walhout, but I think that the article, while helpful for raising the questions, did little to educate its readers and should have been written by someone with more expertise.

 

My prayer is we take what Walhout calls, the best option:  "The best option is prayerful attention, listening carefully to everything God is saying both in his original creation and in his redemptive gospel. If we can find the grace to do this humbly and obediently, surely we may trust the Lord to guide us into all the truth he wishes us to understand."

Micah, you missed Genesis 1:31:

"And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day."

The 'chaos' you refer to and/or death and suffering for millions of years is not compatible with 'very good'

 


 


With empirical observable evidence we can prove that God's holy book matches God's world book. 

1. God separated light from darkness, and called the light day and the darkness night. And there was evening and morning the first day. and each day that follows. We witness light and darkness and this to be true. Just as God said. A perfect match between God's holy book and his world book.

2. God seperated the waters under and above the expanse, and the dry land. We witness the water on the earth and in the heavens (clouds) and the dry earth, just as God said. A perfect match between God's holy book and God's world book.

3.God made the trees and plants that were to produce after their own kind. We witness the plants producing after their kind. Just as God said. A perfect match between God's holy book and God's world book.

4. God made the sun, moon and stars to rule over the day and night. We can witness this happening. Just as God said. A perfect match between God's holy book and God's world book.

5. God made the waters to swarm with living creatures, and birds to fly above the earth. And they are to produce after their kind. We can witness this happening. Just as God said. A perfect match between God's holy book and God's world book.

6. God made beast, livestock, and everything that creeps on the ground, according to their kind. We can witness this to be true. A perfect match between God's holy book and God's world book.

7. Then after all the creatures were made, God made man in His image to have dominion over the sea and the earth. We can witness this happening today. A perfect match between God's holy book and God's world book.

8. God made the whale to grow legs, turn into an ape, and then transistion into a human. No reproduction after its kind. We cannot witness this happening, the evidence is not emperical and obeservable, and is therefore false. Not a perfect match between God's holy book and God's world book. We can't even tweak it.

It has been said, "Evolution is war on God"

"Every word of God proves true." Proverbs 30:5

Micah, your scenario is something a Hollywood film might be made of but has no basis in reality or logic but is purely fictional.  The study of creation is science but it is historical science, which cannot be tested or repeated.  Although the Belgic Confession speaks of 2 "books" those being general & special revelation, we are always to read what we see through the lens of scripture - ALWAYS!  But you are getting away from the thrust of the article.  Walhout rejects virtually every doctrine taught in scripture.  The entire history of why we are sinful and in need of a Saviour is discarded.  He starts by rejecting a perfect creation. He throws out original sin; he negates the possibility of an inherited sinful nature; he has no idea why Jesus came to live, die & rise again and he doesn’t believe Jesus when He clearly states in scripture that He will come again as judge and will make all things new.  The entire article is pure nonsense.  It has no basis in science or theology, so why are we even considering whether the article has anything that could be useful?  There is nothing redeeming here, the article is pure heresy, nothing less. It is good to know that this sort of thing is being discussed at taught even within Christian colleges, universities and seminaries, so in that sense it hopefully will open the eyes of many Christians to the dangers that lurk under the guise of “Christian.” And just to be clear, I am not saying Walhout cannot be a Christian, but his article is inconsistent with a Christian worldview.

To reply to Ken Van Dellen’s post, are you suggesting that just because a person is a Christian and a scientist we are to sit back and accept what they say?  Again, what about the thousands of Christian scientists who are Biblical creationists who believe in a timeline as told in scripture?  And what of the ever increasing number of non Christian scientists who scoff at the ridiculous concept of evolution?  No one is saying you have to be a young earth creationist to be a Christian, but you are being inconsistent if you subscribe to concept of millions/billions of years and an evolutionary worldview, which in itself is nothing more than a faith based worldview.  You go on to suggest that when someone does not believe that the world is less than 10,000 years old they would be denying reality and the findings of science.  Again this is simply elephant hurling. Many geologists have no problem with the Biblical timeframe and actually realize that it makes a more plausible understanding of what we see. However when we deny what God has clearly said, and blindly swallow what is being taught in the secular arena we will get so far off track that no other explanation is even considered anymore.  This is why we have witnessed such a steady degradation in articles and discussions within the church. If the world was billions of years old, if death disease and bloodshed existed long before Adam and Eve came on the scene, then Walhout’s conclusions become the logical response.  Sin in this scenario would always have been and therefore mankind would not be the originator. Therefore there would be no such thing as an inherited sinful nature and Christ would not have to come to die for our redemption. We would have to rethink most if not all of our doctrines and confessions. At least Walhout is being consistent.

Todd, I appreciate your point about how this could have been presented by the Banner.  As Ken Van Dellen says, it was a bit of an 'ice bucket between the shoulder blades'.  So, who do we know who is doing good, hard, faithful biblical work that takes the findings of science into account?  As I've mentioned, I've been reading Polkinghorne and finding him very helpful.  And, we as Reformed folks really do have some tools for working with Scripture that this dialogue needs.

A very disappointing article at best and heretical at worst.  I haven't seen anybody comment on the second paragraph concerning our looking back 500 years and not believing what Christians “believed back then.”

 Ummmm... there are still Christians who believe all those things! There is a reason why there was a Reformation that didn’t change its theology to become more “modern” because of more insight and reflection, but to go backwards to the church fathers and to remove the corruption of the church over almost 1,500 years. It seems as if Rev. Walhout completely misses the point of the Reformation and how Reformational theology was largely rooted in the past, not the present as he needs to be the case to make his point for the rest of the article.

The CRCNA seems to be the only denomination that dares to take seriously the Word of God in Scripture and the Word of God in nature.  Within that healthy tension lies somewhere our interpretation of the truth for which we are striving. We need not fear questioning what it means to be a reformed church in today's world.  With that being said, however, the irrelevance and demise of the church, its preaching and historic doctrine (as summarized in our confessions) has frequently been predicted down through the ages. So be of good cheer.

I think much of this is wishful thinking. It appears that several posting here just throw out terms such as "many," "thousands," and the like, with nothing on which to base their statements. Let me give you something concrete. You can find a survey of members of the American Scientific Affiliation, a very large organizations of Christians in science, at http://www.asa3online.org/Voices/2010/07/16/asa-origins-survey-with-correction/. Please check it out. You can also find our statement of faith on that website. These are men and women who are relatively conservative and evangelical in their Christian beliefs.

You don't have to "sit back and accept what they say," you are free to believe whatever you wish. However, please understand that they have searched both God's Word and God's work, to reach a better understanding of both. As Louis Agassiz, prominent Christian 19th century geologist, said, "Go to nature; take the facts in your hands; look, and see for yourself." 

Elephant hurling? I'm sorry, but geologists use the fundamental principles discovered mostly in the last couple of centuries, to find the resources that you use and possibly take for granted. Look up Steno, William Smith, James Hutton, Louis Agassiz, and others, most of whom were churchmen and many were clergy. They invented, one might say, or discovered stratigraphy, fossil succession, geologic mapping, and other things that help us to know where we are geologically as we move about on Earth's surface, as well as underground. This helps us to find the oil and natural gas that we are so dependent on.

I am currently reading "The Map that Changed the World," which is the story of William Smith's discoveries. Unfortunately, the author constantly jabs at Christianity, commenting on how these discoveries show Christian faith to be ridiculous, a position my Christian geologist friends and I find ridiculous. If you can ignore that, I would recommend it to you. I am also reading Davis Young's new book, "Good News for Science," recommend that, as well as Young and Stearley's "The Bible, Rocks and Time."

I know of only a few practiciing geologists who try to fit all of Earth history into what young-Earth folks consider to be the Biblical timeframe. Nearly all practicing Christian geologists that I am acquainted with do not consider the BIblical timeframe to require an Earth younger than 10,000 years. With all due respect, I seriously doubt that you know more practicing Christian geologists than I do, and must question the accuracy of your statement.

It would be good to consider that it is possible that the Church Fathers might not have had as much information about God's world as we do today, and thus it would have been easier to take some of the positions they did, in the absence of evidence to the contrary. We all remember what happened to Galileo. At least a statement about a geocentric universe wasn't included in the creeds and doctrinal statements.

Today, we can choose between 1)God individually creating the multitudes of life forms that we find in the successive strata and 2)God establishing the principles of biologic change and guiding the process by which the human body was formed. God is still the Creator.

There's one more person you might look into. Hugh Miller, prominent Presbyterian leader and amateur geologist in Scotland, wrote several books on geology. One of my favorites, on the book shelf above me, is Testimony of the Rocks. He wrote it just a bit before Darwin published Origin of Species, so it's a little quaint, but very instructive.

Shalom!

I am not sure what you mean, Mr. Van Rees. Are you surprised that a pastor would stray from the confessions or that so many CRC folk still hold to them? If you mean the former, I am sorry you made this decision; if the latter, I question how serious you ever were about Reformed theology in the first place. 79 years ago, there certainly were no Ministers of the Word questioning original sin, the confessions and classical exams were taken seriously.

Most denominations believe in General as well as Special revelation. Denominations that seek to minimize authority of Special Revelation in matters of faith and doctrine constitute the declining mainline. If you are the David Schuringa who used to teach at CTS, this strikes me as an incredibly naive statement.

Rev. Walhout presents his perspective on the impact that evolution might have on theology as if this issue is something new.  Hardly!  As far as I can see, everything he has written could have been written a century ago.  Many theologians and scientists of Christian conviction have been writing on this topic for many years.  Thankfully many of them have not chosen to accept religion only within the bounds of science, as currently understood.  Instead, they have struggled with the issues recognizing that both science and theology can be mistaken.  The Creation and Science report briefly mentioned by Rev. Walhout is worth careful reading.  You can access it here

Much of the problem with the essay can be found in this quote:

Does the theory of evolution have any implications for how we understand Jesus’ ministry, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension?

Framed in this way, it makes the Resurrection become something that is explainable by evolution, i.e. that it lies within creation/Nature. Religion and revelation are then reduced to human constructions. The fundamental truth of the Gospel is that the Resurrection breaks the causal chain of creation; it is eschatalogical. Evolution cannot explain the Resurrection, rather it is the opposite: the Resurrection informs, critiques, challenges our understanding of Nature. 

Secondly, as to God's Purpose in history: isn't that settled in Christ? See Heb. 1:1.

I take the concerns of the Rev. Walhout seriously: the cultural narratives that we construct (this "established fact of evolution") will indeed impact our theology and other parts of our life. However we should be on guard here. For instance, such a narrative is no friend of social ethics, and certainly a dubious ally when it comes to protecting the weak. What the dominant narrative needs is not more religious allies, per Rev. Walhout, but prophets.

And here it is the pratice of the church's worship that is our best guard: only the lived life of the Gospel, the life that actually knows Jesus the Christ, Resurrected, can offer a community to challenge the idolatrous narratives of our age.

 

 

 

I totally agree with the comments of Todd Zuidema. The Banner shouldn't print the article.

My concern is partially selfish. As a pastor I guarantee I'll need to "put out some fires" with folks who are upset that our denomination is scrapping traditional views on creation, sin, and even salvation. After the Calvin College debt fiasco, it would be great if our denominational leaders (which includes Bob DeMoor) could allow us some time before whacking the bee hive again.

I agree with Todd amd Mark.  Fortunately this article doesn't appear in the printed version of the May issue of the Banner.  The article is devoid of scholarship.  Walhout never defines his scope of Evolution.  There is a vast difference between atheistic evolution and genetic drift/natural selection. 

"They invented, one might say, or discovered stratigraphy, fossil succession, geologic mapping, and other things that help us to know where we are geologically as we move about on Earth's surface, as well as underground. This helps us to find the oil and natural gas that we are so dependent on."  said Ken Van Dellan.  And I agree that geologists do this.  This often is used as a proof of evolutionary validity.  However, this is where logic is not being correctly used.  Stratigraphy (layering of earth materials and fossils), fossil succession (different fossils in different layers), and geologic mapping (where various layers are found, both in depth and long/latitude) are merely the facts.  They are not the interpretation of the facts.   Absence of evidence, is not proof of absence.  In other words, the lack of coelecanth fossils in many layers of rock, did not prove that it did not exist at that time.  In fact it was thought to be an ancient fossil of an extinct species (under evolutionary beliefs).  Later it was discovered to still exist, and was being regularly caught by fishermen in Asia.  For millions of years, it did not exist (under evolutionary assumptions);  but!  it did exist!  

This is only one example of how a uniformitarian philosophy that dictates how creation history is to be seen in nature, falls flat on its face.   It is the kind of thinking that says that because we have not seen a volcano erupt for four hundred years, that therefore it will never erupt in the future.  It is the kind of thinking that whatever happened in the past must be similar to what we see happening today, in the same fashion, to the same degree, and at the same rate.  But this kind of thinking would have prevented people from flying, from going to the moon, from building steamships or trains or cars or computers.   It keeps people from moving away from volcanoes that are likely to erupt, and keeps people from understanding tidal waves unless they have actually seen one. 

The irony is that people  are willing to believe in macro-evolution even though they have not seen evidence of it.   And yet are unwilling to believe in human footprints mixed in with dinosaur footprints even though it has been documented.  And are not willing to accept dinosaur tissue which has not been fossilized, nor understand how layered rocks in mountains can bend and fold without cracking, nor explain satisfactorily why millions of years of earth layers can be maintained for so long without significant erosion events taking place to create breaks in the layers.   The Grand Canyon reveals horizontal layers throughout, but why does it not reveal numerous previous canyons scattered throughout, for example?   Why are fossils of living organisms stretched through soil layers representing millions of years of supposed pre-historic history?  Is this realistic? 

There are many more problems with evolutionary theories.  There are numerous books and websites you can check to discover this, but one place is Genesis Week at wazoolo.com or youtube.  This site also often gives links to all kinds of secular and faith-based creation research, which can help you to find a more balanced approach to examining evolution-based claims on the evidence of actual fossils, geology, genetics and planet behaviour. 

Ken, I find it ironic that you would suggest that my postings are for the most part “wishful thinking,” since I would counter that the evolutionary worldview is rife with wishful thinking.  You also say “that several postings are guilty of throwing out terms such as “many,” “thousands,” and the like, with nothing on which to base their statements.”  Again I find this ironic coming from someone who throws out numbers like millions and billions.  You state in your latest blog that you are offering something “concrete” when you refer to a survey of Christians involved in science from the American Scientific Affiliation.  Concrete seems a bit of an arbitrary word when the survey is simply compiling opinions of those polled.  It may be that these men & women truly believe what they are saying but that doesn’t make them correct.  Majority does not constitute truth, God does.  The majority of people were not on the ark and the majority of people today scoff at the need of a Saviour.  I would counter with another web link, and I would ask that you pay special attention to the paragraph 4th from last where Jerry Coyne makes remarks about theistic evolution and the claims of the National Academy of Sciences. http://creation.com/sleeping-with-the-enemy

When I asked if we were to “sit back and accept what they say,” referring to Christian scientists, I was obviously asking tongue in cheek.  I prefer to think for myself and when I need to know more I choose to listen to the Christian scientists who begin with the Word of God as their starting point.  With all due respect, I’m not impressed with the considerations of “nearly all practicing Christian geologists,” or the fact that you know more Christian geologists than I do.  I have read from some of the authors you referenced and also much from Christian geologists who hold to a Biblical worldview.  Have you read books and articles from either Dr. Andrew Snelling http://www.answersingenesis.org/outreach/speakers/andrew-snelling/bio/  or Dr. Emil Silvestru? http://creation.com/emil-silvestru

Although it is used a lot I’m surprised that you would use the Galileo affair to try to bolster your argument.  A history refresher of what actually happened would be helpful, since the story could just as well be used against your argument.   See http://creation.com/the-galileo-twist     or    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/tj/v14/n1/galileo    You may want to read more of the articles on each of these sites.

We don’t have to choose between science and faith, or turn a blind eye to the “facts” if we hold to a Biblical timeline.  A person starting assumptions will dictate their worldview.  The facts are the same both to creationists and evolutionists.  Here is a good article by Dr. Jason Lisle explaining how different starting assumptions lead to very different interpretations of the same evidence. http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab2/can-creationists-be-real-scientists

However, this discussion is getting away from the real danger of giving any credibility to the article in by Edwin Walhout.  The entire gospel message from creation to consummation makes absolutely no sense in his scenario.  This should make anyone rethink their presuppositions.

 

If one denies an historical Adam, then one denies an historical Jesus, as he is the second Adam. Jesus specifically refers to Adam and the implications of redemption as it relates to Adam and Original Sin. In the absence of an historical Jesus, there is necessarily an absence of his death and resurrection. One then must say with the Apostle Paul, "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. (I Cor 15.14)" We now stand beyond the limits of Christianity.

Edwin Walhout... you raise some good questions, but your article is so full of incorrect or skewed viewpoints that it either cannot be taken seriously or is as damaging as not asking the questions in the first place.

I believe evolution, the big bang, and that the universe really is billions of years old.   But I don't agree with most of what you've said here.

First, you start with the premise that since past theology has been incorrect, so some of ours today must be wrong also.  That's a similar stance to people who practice Christianity for tradition's sake... "It worked for my dad, so it works for me."  In your case "They were wrong, so we must be too."  I'm sorry, that is a poor premise to start a discussion with.

Second, you start implying things are fact that just aren't.  The theory of evolution isn't "fast becoming recognized as scientific fact," it has been so recognized for as long as I've been aware of it in my 38 years of life.  Yet, even though I believe it's a valid theory, any scientists who is open enough to apply the scientific method to evolution has to admit that we cannot call it a "fact."  It is still a theory due to lack of empirical data.  That doesn't make it wrong, but it's not a fact.

Then you make the assumption that scientists have proved that we have a common ancestry with other life forms.  Again, the theories abound, but I have yet to read about any proof.

You say scientific you accept the fact that the findings of modern science are true and must be taken as established fact.  Oh, we do.  Try to find a Christian who denies Newton's laws of physics, that blood carries oxygen, or that I'm typing on a computer made up of 1000s of scientific discoveries.  Do they deny we can put a rover on Mars using all of our discoveries?  No, but why.  Because the empirical data is overwhelming... it's repeatable, it's been proven over and over again.  All the things you proceed to mention in this article are things which, as of today, are still quite vague.  There are millions of other scientific theories you could have chosen from (like the speed of light coming from stars), but you chose the one topic that doesn't hold up well to the scientific method.

So basically, you start with the bad assumption that we must be wrong because others have been, and try to prove that assumption with a bunch of other assumptions based on theories that have yet to be fully vetted even in the scientific community. This is JUST as destructive a viewpoint as the viewpoint that feels that all the scientific evidence must be wrong because it doesn't follow the literal translation of Genesis.

Then you conclude by implying that we aren't facing these issues and that our current insights are not realistic insights.  That's seriously offensive.  You said yourself "Still another option is carelessness, or jumping to immature conclusions."  I believe this is EXACTLY what this article is doing.  It starts with an immature conclusion about our being wrong, tries to support this thesis by quoting facts from a scientific field that is still widely considered to be a theory even among those who study it, gets even crazier by desperately trying to find something wrong with all of our doctrines that aren't even related to the original topic, and concludes by insulting our understanding of biblical history and science... but it will be ok if we're humble about it.

I do not agree that scientific facts demands that we reject a literal Adam and Eve.  There surely are other ways of viewing the relevant facts that fit better within Christian orthodoxy, as the book Origins: a Reformed Look at Creation, Design, and Evolution, by Deborah and Loren Haarsma clearly indicates.  At present I know of no Classis within our denomination who would pass a candidate for ordination who denies the doctrines that Walhout is questioning.  And if one did, it is very doubtful that 3 synodical deputies would concur.   Any office bearer who openly denies such teaching would (or, at least, should) have a difficult time signing in good conscience the Covenant for Officebearers. In most areas of our church one who had signed such this Covenant would be deposed or removed from their position for advocating such beliefs. That was most recently demonstrated by what happened at Calvin College a couple of years ago.  Hence, at the present time, unless Synod radically reinterprets our Reformed Confessions or allows such a radical reinterpretation as a possibility, the position that Walhout seems to be endorsing is not an option within the CRC, at least not for our leaders.  To deny or radically reinterpret original sin and the atonement certainly represents just as serious of a denial of our Reformed Confession as would a denial of infant baptism or divine election.

I appreciate this article for this reason: it shows possible conclusions to trying to fuse evolution with Christianity. It illutrates what a little "leaven" can do. So I appreciate the honest exploration here.

At the same time I feel my heart crushed. I wept over this article or at least what this article implies.. If original sin and salvation is redefined I don't really need Jesus.

Under the section "God's purose in history" what is implied is that perhaps the return of Christ and the new heaven and new earth is no longer our hope. Jesus' second coming becomes just another step of evolution. Hope is taken away from us. The pastor ends up having nothing to say to the sick and suffering.

Gresham Machen argued a long time ago that when you redefine key doctrines  what you get is no longer Christianity. As we move "onward and upward into more realistic insignts into his Word and will" (Edwin, page 21) is the end product a whole new religion?

This Author claims to "accept that the findings of modern science are reliable and must be taken as established fact", then proceeds to discredit the entire Word of God. How the Banner allows this heresy to be published is heartbreaking, and the fact that it comes from a minister in the Christian Reformed Church is mind-boggeling.

I would like to make a few comments about David Bothof’s post of May 24, 2013.

You start right out and state; “I believe evolution, the big bang, and that the universe really is billions of years old.   But I don't agree with most of what you've said here.

 

Then you spend the rest of your post showing how illogical and unscientific it is to simply accept an idea such as evolution without scientific data to support the idea.  In an honest conversation with scientists, both those who tout the evolutionary worldview and those who do not, there is admittance that evolution is not technically even a theory, in a scientific sense, due a complete lack of supporting data or observation. It’s time we rethink why we would even say such a thing as “I believe in evolution” and consider the implications to the integrity of God’s word and His plan of salvation when we simply accept when we are told that the universe is billions of years old and that it began with a “big bang.” That said you do raise some very valid objections to Walhout’s article.  Thank you for that.

I would also like to comment about the post by David Dykstra on May 29, 2013

I would hope that much of what you said was true, in that for the most part no pastor, candidate or office bearer who would support a worldview such as what was presented in this article would be allowed to serve in the CRC.

However the Calvin College example may not be the best example. Bear in mind that not only the professors you spoke of, but also some in the past and present would present a similar scenario as did Walhout in this article.  This disturbs me very much, since Calvin is supposed to be a CRC college.  Parents who send their kids to Calvin would be unaware that a worldview at odds with a Biblical worldview is condoned and even taught in some course studies. Unfortunately Calvin College is not unique in this among Christian colleges and universities.

 

I’m not sure of your take on the book you referenced written by Loren & Deb Haarsma’s, but knowing what they have written and proposed elsewhere, I found it hard to read with an open mind.  Bear in mind that Deb Haarsma is now president of the BioLogos organization.  The worldview of BioLogos is pretty much on par with what Edwin Walhout wrote in his article. If you explore their website be sure to dig in a little to understand what they truly believe.  A casual skim over won’t give you the complete picture.

I fully realize that my earlier comment was not strictly speaking a response to the points which Walhout made.  Since question one asked for a "gut reaction," that was it.  And I would like to continue in that vein. Frankly, I am very surprised that an article like this found its way into The Banner.  For the reasons I mentioned earlier, it is irrelevant to our situation today.  If sometime in the future we need to change our theology, that will be for that generation to prayerfully consider.  I am very concerned that by keeping this conversation alive Rev. Walhout and others are doing a disservice to our church.  I am not even convinced that evolution is the only way to explain the data that scientists have found.  Yes, this could be due to my ignorance of the relevant sciences.  Yet, from what I have read not all biologists are agreed that evolution is the only answer.  Given the difficulty with putting this theory together with our theology, I have my doubts that it is the only or best answer that fits the data.  Yet, as I pointed out, even if I am wrong, there are other ways in which theologians have tried to accomodate evolution theory, ways that do fit within Reformed and orthodox theology.  (Another example of this is the "white paper" recently written by Tim Keller.)   If Walhout and others accept the Reformed faith as expressed in our creeds, maybe they are in the wrong denomination.  Some of the more liberal churches allow for this kind of speculation.  Ours does not.

Also a response to Steve Van Noort’s post on May 29, 2013.  I concur with your analysis of the article where you wrote: “I wept over this article or at least what this article implies. If original sin and salvation is redefined I don't really need Jesus.

 

That is exactly the point.  If what Walhout article were true then no one would need a Saviour.  Even Walhout himself seemed to suggest the same in his article.  His worldview removes the guilt of sin from our shoulders. God Himself would be the originator of sin.  If we were to accept this then how long would we still believe that there is a god at all let alone the God who created all things?  This would be the obvious conclusion.  So the question is why would we try to “fuse” evolution with Christianity at all? These two worldviews are diametrically opposed. Presuppositions are at the heart of each.  Christianity teaches that God created all things good, mankind sinned to change all that but God stepped in to provide a means of redemption.  It also teaches an eternity either with Him or without Him. Evolution teaches that we and everything came from nothing, life means nothing and when we die there is nothing.  The argument that evolution is science is just smoke & mirrors.

Clarification:  My last lines should have "If Walhout and others cannot accept the Reformed faith as expressed in our creeds, maybe they are in the wrong denomination.  Some of the more liberal churches allow for this kind of speculation.  Our does not.

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