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?


About the Author

Edwin Walhout is a retired minister of the Christian Reformed Church living in Grand Rapids, Mich. To read more by this author, visit Smashwords.com, where over two dozen of his e-books may be downloaded.

See comments (50)

Comments

There's a doctor in the house! Well said William on all acounts.

I am not a scientist, although my mind tends to work towards that bent, so my views do not hold as much sway but I do have a few comments in response to William:

"The scientific method cannot be used to understand spiritual things or the origins of the universe or life, because they cannot be observed or studied scientifically."

I disagree with his statement above. The scientific method actually crystalized out of the Reformation* when people took the principles of Biblical exegesis and reading the Bible and applied them to Science ("test everything, hold onto the good" 1thes. 5:21).

And while I agree with William that we humans are doing a very poor job currently of applying the scientific method to spiritual things or the creation of the world, it's certainly possible to do.

Assuming we believe the Belgic Confession, which says we know God by two books: Bible and Nature.** God has revealed himself via nature (Rom. 1, etc). It is not in God's nature to deceive (pun!) so after careful study we must believe what we see in nature; it is our hypotheses not our observations that are generally mistaken.

We're doing a poor job, but there are multiple avenues into revealing truth via the scientific method in spirituality and creation.

Spirituality: Research in NDEs (near-death experiences) is gaining significant speed and causing EVEN scientists to say life exists after brain death.Paranormal phenomena, albeit still a rogue study, is the attempt to bring the scientific method into the spiritual dimension of demons, ghosts, mediums, etc. I'm not sure when the last exorcism happened in the CRC but the catholic church has a specific method they go through...just check out wikipedia for more info. 

Creation: Again, assuming God is not deceiving us in nature, scientific method is used all the time to reveal the truth about our past. Archaeology has confirmed all kinds of minute facts of the Bible. The fossil record DOES give us much information about God's creation and history (although often egregiously bad in its interpretation). Through telescopes, radio telescopes and now gravity wave telescopes cosmologists are actually viewing history! We see the sun as it was 8 minutes ago (due to the time it takes light to travel from the sun to us); cosmologists are viewing quasars and galaxies that are billions of years old and can actually observe phenomena that occured mere minutes after the creation event.

The scientific method is sound and useful in all areas of life, there are laws that govern the spiritual dimension--the Bible is clear on that, and we just have to test them. Hypothesize, test, observe, change hypothesis. Luckily we have the cheater's manual in the word of God! 

*Thomas F. Torrance, Reality and Scientific Theology (he in particular says Reformed theology is to blame for the scientific method, lol)

** Belgic Confession, Article 2

Touché John. Perhaps I was too eager to jump on a soapbox of mine, lol.

Re Lubbert: It is certainly a slippery slope. The question is not, "should we judge other Christians?" Because the Bible answers that clearly: "Yes." The question is WHO should be judging (just leaders or all of us) and at what point do we transition from adiaphora (unessential things) to matters of salvation. Do we excommunicate anyone who isn't a 5 point calvinist? 'Cause then I gotta go... Do we just stop at the Apostle's Creed and say as long as you believe that you can stay? Heidelberg Catechism?

Perhaps it would be better for us to use the term excommunicate and not anathema? It's not really in our authority to say someone is damned to hell, but we can certainly say "you don't belong here". And we bear the burden of making wrong judgments as well. 

Slippery slope, or not. Anathema is perhaps to much, however I sometimes feel I am back in the religious wars of the 16th century reading some of these posts on this topic.

For the last two hundred years some sections of the church have painted themselves into a corner over what in the end is nothing more than a theory. They, like their opponents have bought into a form of postivism, fighting over the factualism of evolution. It's no different than individuals in the field of science treating empirical data as metaphysical statements.

It's unhealthy for the body of Christ. We've lost a sense of the mystery in God's creation that He will reveal in His good time, or not.

Andy, the mantra "God would not deceive us in nature", is often used as a faith statement.   Perhaps it is true, but would God then deceive us in scripture?  Would God allow us to be deceived for so long, because of the way scripture is written?  

Lubbert, charity for a retired preacher is evident in not asking for him to be excommunicated.   Charity is evident in allowing Walhout to explain or apologize or clarify how his statements do not contradict the confessions or his profession of faith.  Charity for the helpless innocent homes to which his article was sent, would require an explanation for why someone who is a teacher/preacher would be permitted to ignore his profession of faith and his form of subscription for officebearers.  And if all of that is no longer relevant, then it would be good to know, so that we don't have to waste time with crc forms for ordination and profession of faith.   Please help me out here. 

John, you've explained God's justice and mercy as I was taught it many years ago, and as I still teach in Catechism classes. My struggle is with other Biblical teachings on justice (eg Exodus 23:6, Amos 5:24, Micah 6:8) that would lead me to conclude that one of God's purposes is to bring justice to the earth, and for us to be a part of that. Of course, we are not perfect. But are we repentant, and are we trying, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to do better?

On the theory of evolution proposing a curse on creation before Adam and Eve, that's news to me. That may be one theological interpretation of the theory of evolution. And I acknowledge, as you said, that there is no unified 'theory of evolution', and that it is (they are?) constantly being corrected and refined. Such is the nature of scientific (and theological) pursuits. 

I also wonder if you've characterized Islam correctly. Some might say Christianity is about rules and rewards.

Andy, I like your (God's) reminder to 'test everything, hold onto the good'. I am hoping we as church can continue to do test everything, holding onto the good as this dialogue, in the wider context, will continue for some time.

And Lubbert, I agree that we need to keep in mind that God cannot be pinned down. There is much mystery surrounding Him and His work.

Not certain that is an appropriate diachotomy. Why would God deceive us either through his creation or through his scripture. It is more likely that we approach both creation and scripture with limited understanding, and in our sinful nature at times deceive ourselves into thinking our theory is the correct one, when all it is is another hypothesis/theory. Perhaps God has something else in mind, and initiates a Kuhnan revolution through his creatures. 

I reiterate "For the last two hundred years sections of the church have painted themselves into a corner over what in the end is nothing more than a theory. Some christians in the 20th century, like their opponents have bought into a form of postivism, fighting over the factualism of evolution. It's no different than individuals in the field of science treating empirical data as metaphysical statements."

It's time to back out of the corner of Christian scientific postivism, and ask if there are other options to understanding God's creation other than the way this battle is being conducted. Our hubris will be our downfall. 

Dr. Walhout suggests that our doctrines of creation, Adam and Eve, the fall, original sin, and salvation will someday seem as foolish as "such doctrines as purgatory, indulgences, relics, the authority of the pope, apostolic succession, transubstantiation, the Inquisition, the sacramental system, Mariolatry, and so much more." The latter doctrines are without biblical warrant; the former doctrines are taught in Scripture. Scripture is to be our final authority.

For Dr. Walhout, Darwinism is "an established fact." The doctrines of the faith are not established fact. Since Darwinism clashes with doctrine, the doctrine must change. Darwinism is the sure canonical authority by which all else must be evaluated and revised.

I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry at his evolutionary summons to "move onward and upward into more realistic insights into his Word and will." Evolutionary liberalism has a history of cheering "onward and upward" while plunging downward on an ever more slippery slope.

John, EXCELLENT points towards Lubbert. 

In terms of deceiving, that is why I'm choosing a view that says neither "God created the world with the appearance of age" NOR "God made up stuff in the Bible to be misinterpreted." Would God allow us to be deceived for so long? We haven't been deceived. God has revealed his truth at every point along history right alongside the discoveries of science. You question presumes we have the complete revelation of EVERYTHING in the Bible, but we don't. Only the complete revelation regarding salvation. Why weren't the Israelites told about hell in the OT? It wasn't deception, just revealing further revelation at the proper time.

For example, Al Wolters recently (meaning in 1991) published a peer-reviewed journal article diciphering the writing on the wall (Daniel 5).* This was the first time in recorded history that ANYONE had deciphered what the writing on the wall was (at least anyone in public)! Even the current Bible notes only have various parts of it, and even then they are inaccurate. (Quite a remarkable read!! I'm shocked he hasn't become famous for it.) This is a mystery that God allowed to stay hidden for over 2500 years! God has all sorts of mysteries still hidden in his Word including his creative ways, I wouldn't call it deceiving us, only joyfully forcing us to search out the matters he has concealed within his word. "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter...."

*1991. “Untying the King's Knots: Physiology and Wordplay in Daniel 5,” Journal of Biblical Literature 110 (1991) 117-122.

*1992. “The Riddle of the Scales in Daniel 5,” Hebrew Union College Annual 62 (1991) 155-177 [published in 1992].*


We are preparing for a move, and I came across an article in the March 2001 issue of 'Discover' about a man, Philip Bland, who is studying meteorites. Without going into the details of the article, I'd like to quote some passages that struck me in relation to this discussion. These passages show an attitude taken by a scientist at the cutting edge of his (scientific) field. And I think we could use more of this attitude in our pursuit and discussion of theology.

"It was a neat idea, crowned with the theoretical elegance that scientists love and which prior theories had lacked. Its implications challenged fundamental beliefs in the field. ... However, neat ideas aren't the same as accepted theories. Evidence was needed. Bland had to go back to the meteorites...."

"The data provided strong evidence... Time - and a good deal more hard work - will tell. Others must replicate the findings."

"Bland himself regards his own investigations from the healthy perspective of a geologist who thinks in eons. "Its dangerous to assume that there's some end to this process," he says, "that any current scientific understandings holds some special place. The folks that come after us will use some of our stuff, dustbin some of it, and get a bit closer to the way things are.""

June 2013

 Rebutal to Tomorrow’s Theology

 Edwin Walhout’s “Tomorrow’s Theology” in the June issue of the Banner clearly describes how our understanding of the Bible and Theology must change IF the proclamations of scientists is the ultimate source of truth, and IF evolution is a factual description of how everything came into existence. If these presuppositions are true; then, as he says, the major Christian theological doctrines must change to be consistent with science. But neither of his starting assumptions is true. Scientists study nature, both living and non-living in great detail, describe how they operate, and learn how to control some aspects of nature for the benefit of humans. The scientific method cannot be used to understand spiritual things or the origins of the universe or life, because they cannot be observed or studied scientifically. Scientists can only speculate about origins. Knowledge about origins comes from special revelation from the Creator via the Bible. Science cannot tell us how to interpret Scripture.

 

Walhout accepts the widely taught claim that evolution is a fact because all scientists believe it. All life science professors in public institutions may believe it, since if they deviate from evolution dogma they are fired; but there are many scientists who reject evolution, especially those who have taken the time to compare the theory with the scientific data. Theories are validated by much irrefutable evidence and data, NOT by what scientist believe. For centuries all scientists believed the sun moved around the earth, but that did not make it true.

 

I am a scientist with a long career doing research and know how to evaluate theories with data. Also, I have studied the claimed evidences for evolution for over 50 years. I have found no creditable evidence that any natural process can convert inorganic matter into living cells. As scientists learn more about nature, particularly about living cells, it is becoming increasingly obvious that it is impossible for a living cells to have formed from non-living matter. And there is no fossil evidence that any kind of life ever evolved into a different kind of more complex life. I had a discussion with an ardent evolutionist for about a year via letters to our local newspaper. The only support for evolution that he could offer was the claim that all competent scientists believed evolution. He ridiculed Christians for naively believing creation which cannot be proved scientifically. My conclusion is that evolution is not a validated scientific theory, but is a belief developed by those who want to believe nature is the creator rather than God.

 

Walhout concludes that, 500 years from now, theology will have changed to be consistent with current evolution beliefs. Nothing could be further from the truth. God’s Word does not change. It will still be true that God created everything. The first humans, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God. Their descendants inherit a sinful human nature that separates them from God. Jesus Christ, God incarnate, provided the Way to restore a right relationship with God for all who put their faith in Him. As for evolution, it will be long gone due to lack of supporting evidence, just like the earth going around the sun; however, those who deny God will have concocted other stories in their attempts to explain origins without God. Walhout and many others have been led astray into believing the claim that evolution is a proven fact that supersedes God’s word and can be used as the standard for interpreting the Bible. His position may be understandable since he is not qualified to evaluate a scientific theory, and the entire public school system teaches evolution as a fact and that science provides the ultimate source of truth. That simply is not true. God is the ultimate source of truth. Evolution fails the scientific test of validity, and the Bible repeatedly tell us that God created everything, and sinful human beings need Jesus Christ as their Savior.

 Dr. William Vanderkooi, scientist

 

About the author:

 William Vanderkooi, PhD scientist

503 Crescent Dr.

Midland,Michigan48640

billvdkooi@sbcglobal.net

 William Vanderkooi was educated in ChristianSchools in NJ and Calvin College. He has a PhD in Physical Chemistry from Purdue University. He is retired after doing research for 40 years at the Dow Chemical Company in Midland, Michigan, which makes him well qualified for evaluating scientific theories based on data. He has been interested in and studied the claimed evidences for evolution for over 50 years. He has concluded the data do not support the evolution theory, and that it is a belief rather than scientific fact. He is thoroughly convinced from both the clear teachings of the Bible and from all the scientific data (not interpretations) that God created everything.

 

It is instructive to observe that there is another issue in Tomorrow’s Theology Today.  The method of presentation in this article is dialectic. It is the way we approach how we know things (epistemology).  The author uses a method that is more insidious than the assumed truth of evolution itself.  The method of Dialectic is a process that synthesizes a thesis and an antithesis, which in turn becomes of new thesis.  This process goes on ad infinitum.  Let’s see if you can detect the dialectic;  thesis:  Evolution is a scientific fact vs.  the antithesis being the religious belief of special creation, synthesis, religious beliefs needs to incorporate scientific fact.  Thesis:  Evolution’s beginning Big Bang 15 billion years ago, antithesis, special creation approximately 6000 years ago (and sadly associated with flat earth, geocentric universe, and the tooth fairy), synthesis is  “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.”  Thesis: evolutionary emergence of man from chimps or some primate, antithesis the special creation of a literal Adam and Eve, synthesis “We will have to find a better way of understanding what Genesis tells us about Adam and Eve.”  Thesis:  lack of scientific or historical evidence of Eden and thus its existence is in doubt, antithesis Adam & Eve placed in a place prepared by God called Eden, synthesis degrading the biblical account to merely a story which would be better introduced as “Once upon a time . . .”   and where Adam and Eve are not real. Thesis:  no inheritance of original sin from parent to child, antithesis, through Adam all men have sinned, synthesis “We will have to find a better way of understanding not only what sin is but its effect on the population in general . . . “  Thesis:  since there is no original sin, salvation and the meaning of Jesus’ work, life, death, ascension, and resurrection needs to be revisited, antithesis  summed by Galatians 4:4&5  But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Synthesis, preserving the biblical story while incorporating the evolutionary paradigm and all its implications with a new search for the meaningful Jesus and the meaningful Christian.  Thesis:  Billions of years have passed and much more time lies ahead, making the preeminence of the world’s end silly, and mans evolutionary future bright, antithesis, a time of judgment of sin with the closing of History with Jesus Christ the victorious King over Satan and his followers,  synthesis, major changes in our theological eschaton.

 

The problem with using the dialectic method is that it intrinsically denies truth.  It also cannot identify sin.  The process supersedes the content. The dialectic method to knowledge ultimately ceases true communication. It is certainly not a redeemable method of communication for Biblical truth.  I have enjoyed C. S. Lewis preface to “The Great Divorce” that I think would be instructive in how we should approach something like the dialectic method.

 

                “I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in                  being putback on the right road.  A sum can be put right;  but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on  Evil can be undone, but it cannot  ‘develop’ into good.  Time does not heal it.”

 

In his context Lewis was speaking of the choices of men and their propensity to cling to their sin.  My point is that the dialect cannot be made good.

Just a final thought:  I’m really baffled at what evidence do evolutionists find so convincingly compelling to its veracity.  Maybe someone could give me a concrete example.  I know that if you say something to be true repeated long enough, young enough, loud enough, and incorporate in  your school readers , science displays, entertainment, and then continue the anthem with properly attired professors and clergymen conducting;  you only succeeded in mass self deception if the saying was not true in the first place.

I'm sorry for the small font on the previous post.  I find it difficult to pass this quote "Darwin is liked by evolutionists because he liberated science from the straightjacket of observation and open the door to storytellers.  This gave professional evolutionists job security so that they can wander through biology labs as if they belong there."  David Coppedge

hey all . . haven't posted in a week or so, though i've been watching the general drift . .

i just want to offer that, from my perspective, we're still over-focused on the question of the truth of evolution . . Mr. Vanderkooi (twice) for example capitalizes "IF" to emphasize that there's no need to take evolution into consideration when doing theology unless it can be established that evolution is, in fact, true . . sorry, all, but i disagree . . 

as i've said here (emphatically) before, regardless of whether evolution is true, many people and our culture at large think it is true . . and if the message that you cannot be a believer in Christ and accept evolution at the same time is allowed to persist -- or worse, if we perpetuate it ourselves . . as many on this thread are doing -- then we're leaving a large part of current culture out of the theological discussion and making their way into the church that much more difficult . . 

please, brothers and sisters, don't get hung up on nit-picking . . you can still argue against evolution . . you can choose to believe there's nothing to it at all . . that's fine . . but as soon as you come across one person for whom evolution is a no-brainer -- a given that they will never stop believing in, regardless of how often you cite Ken Ham -- you'd better have something to say to that one when it comes to how they can also be a Christian . .

and consider: while we sit in this forum (read: church), smugly demanding evidence for evolution (as if there's not any) and resting assured that there are Ph.Ds who agree with us, people who think there is evidence, who have their own Ph.Ds on their "side," look in from the outside and assume (or, worse, are blatantly told) that they just don't belong in here with us . . perhaps an even bigger problem: the longer this goes on, the more they'll just react with shrugs . . until they won't even look this way at all anymore . . 

Thanks for your post, Ken. I echo your call to stop stereotyping those people disagree with. Unfortunately, I believe this article only supports such polarization the way it neglects to mention any helpful categories and glosses the way theologians have already been wrestling with some of these issues in the past 150 years.

Matt, I think you are asking an honest and sincere question, "how do we communicate with people who believe in evolution, while they are still seeking to know who Christ is..."   Tough question and no easy answers.   Maybe not much different than communicating with muslims, or polygamists, or bahai people, or communists, or capitalists, or alcoholics.   In other words, discussions can be honestly held, and great differences do not always need to be the first point of issue.  But it will not help either in the long run to ignore significant and serious problems with the differences in belief.  We might not make the first point of contact with an adulterer, the issue of adultery.   But we cannot deny or ignore the fact that a christian desires to live in obedience to Christ, and that includes changing from a life of sin to a life of obedience to God. 

 In the same way, we cannot say that people are respponsible for sin, if God created them to be sinners, rather than saints.   We cannot accept the resurrection, if we do not believe that God is superior to natural laws.  We cannot make sense of loving your neighbor, charity, forgiveness, sacrifice, if we believe that survival of the fittest is the supreme law.   So the question then becomes what can we accept, without denying the basic faith in christ?   Perhaps we don't really understand what our core doctrines really are? 

Hi John . . your inclusion of "people who believe in evolution" in a list with polygamists, muslims and alcoholics is exactly the problem, isn't it? . . you're begging the question here (hilariously so, might i add) . .

since your assumptions about evolution (and how it might relate to faith) don't allow you to see any possible way for it to be reconciled to faith so that it does no damage to "core beliefs," you proceed as if the faith/evolution question cannot or need not therefore be answered . . 

however, since the faith/evolution question must be answered because of the evangelistic mandate i keep bringing up, i proceed in that direction . . . along with others . . and offer possible resources -

you can disagree with how to answer the question, John, but please stop trying to preclude the project . . think of it this way: it has to be able to be done, because it has to be done . . the point is to get on with it . . 

Also, John . . "what can we accept, without denying the basic faith in Christ" is exactly the beginning question, imho .. but you're obviously not really asking the question when you precede it with a three-fold misrepresentation of what must be believed by those who accept some kind of theistic evolution . . in other words: don't have the answer already settled before you ask the question . . 

Matt I think you are imposing things on me, that you ought not to.  The reason I put it in a list with adultery or islam, is to illustrate the point that if we need to communicate with everyone, regardless of background or belief, then we ought to do the same here.  That doesn't mean they are synonymous or similarly mistaken.  However, it is my opinion that you want to have a dialogue without actually dialoguing....   which is quite difficult, and perhaps meaningless.  Further, you believe that I have misrepresented a three-fold problem, but you have not demonstrated why it is not a three-fold problem, and thus you have demonstrated that you are willing to judge, but not willing to dialogue.  This will get you into serious trouble when you attempt to dialogue with real evolutionists from a christian perspective and viewpoint. 

Matt, good question: What can we accept, without denying the basic faith in Christ?

John, if I accept that the broad strokes of evolution, or at least some parts of it, could be true, does that mean I can't be a Christian? Evolution, as a scientific theory, is neutral. It is what  people have done with it that gives it a bad name (somewhat like dynamite). It is true that many have used evolution to 'prove' that faith is unfounded or silly. But I don't see that faith in Christ and accepting evolution are mutually exclusive. God is definitely superior to natural laws, yet mostly our earth daily runs according to natural laws.

One aspect to this discussion that I would like to reiterate (it has been mentioned before) is that God is mysterious, and beyond our understanding. We have several doctrines that hold in tension two seemingly irreconcilable ideas. For example, the Trinity. And it seems to me we may be up against something similar here. So the challenge for theology (theologists?) is to explain things clearly, affirming the truth of both positions/ideas.

And, as I alluded to in my last post, I think this will/should be an ongoing process. Are we not to be "always reforming"?

 

Matt, good question: What can we accept, without denying the basic faith in Christ?

John, if I accept that the broad strokes of evolution, or at least some parts of it, could be true, does that mean I can't be a Christian? Evolution, as a scientific theory, is neutral. It is what people have done with it that gives it a bad name (somewhat like dynamite). It is true that many have used evolution to 'prove' that faith is unfounded or silly. But I don't see that faith in Christ and accepting evolution are mutually exclusive. God is definitely superior to natural laws, yet mostly our earth daily runs according to natural laws.

One aspect to this discussion that I would like to reiterate (it has been mentioned before) is that God is mysterious, and beyond our understanding. We have several doctrines that hold in tension two seemingly irreconcilable ideas. For example, the Trinity. And it seems to me we may be up against something similar here. So the challenge for theology (theologists?) is to explain things clearly, affirming the truth of both positions/ideas.

And, as I alluded to in my second last post, I think this will/should be an ongoing process. Are we not to be "always reforming"?

When I read this article in the Banner sitting in church I was quite shocked.  Having experienced thts discussion in the CRC a couple of decades ago, I thought; "wow! the CRC has come a long way to be able to have this talk".  But when I read the comments online here, I was quite saddened.  I don't think were mature enough to talk about this even now - which is sad because there are many of our young adults who need to talk about this but there seems to be no room for this discussion in the CRC.  Where else can they have this discussion?

When I read this article in the Banner sitting in church I was quite shocked.  Having experienced thts discussion in the CRC a couple of decades ago, I thought; "wow! the CRC has come a long way to be able to have this talk".  But when I read the comments online here, I was quite saddened.  I don't think were mature enough to talk about this even now - which is sad because there are many of our young adults who need to talk about this but there seems to be no room for this discussion in the CRC.  Where else can they have this discussion?

When I read this article in the Banner sitting in church I was quite shocked.  Having experienced thts discussion in the CRC a couple of decades ago, I thought; "wow! the CRC has come a long way to be able to have this talk".  But when I read the comments online here, I was quite saddened.  I don't think were mature enough to talk about this even now - which is sad because there are many of our young adults who need to talk about this but there seems to be no room for this discussion in the CRC.  Where else can they have this discussion?

sorry for the repeated posts - I kept getting a message that the page was unavailable

I did not read all the posts but concur whole heartedly with the one posted yesterday by John Oudyk.  For the first time in quite a while, the Banner published an article which asks the same questions which many thinking people have been asking for many years.  What amazes me is that after reading "Saint John Calvin's" commentary on the first few chapters of Genesis, I suspect he would not have been nearly as docrinaire as most of the comments appear to be.   For example, Saint John clearly writes that Moses wrote Genesis in terms of how people understood the world at that time, not necessarily as they understood it in the 1500's.  He cites the fact that Saturn is much larger than the moon even though Genesis suggests otherwise.  I personally thinkthis will be a debate that goes on across Christianity for the next few hundred years.  In our age of instant solutions, we often forget that, for example, the doctrine of the Trinity was a major debate in the Christian Church for hundreds of years.  I commend and thank Rev Walhout and the Banner for his article although I fear the cost may be great for the author.  Sadly, many of the comments remind me about the anger and nasty comments directed to my late father-in-law, Dr. Remkes Kooistra, when he wrote several articles in Christian Courier in favour of stable homosexual relationships. 

 

 

After reading many but not all the comments (many are repetitions of other comments), I'm surprised how many folks really don't understand evolutionary science and simply make pronouncements based on theological assumptions that have nothing to do with science, yet they believe they do.  I'm also surprised by the fear expressed by many commentators: when Galileo changed our view of the universe the church took a very foolish position by assuming that theological church doctrine trumped any and all scientific assertions, and gave them the rightful power to do so.   We must remember that ALL our theological doctrines were thought of and written down not by God but by human beings who are situated in particular place and time, and do not share our contemporary knowledge or world view.  If we wish to remain within the Reformed tradition then we must always be attentive to the continuing need to reform again and again.  The gospel is a living power that each person and generation needs to take up as good news, as truth, and not simply reference everything back to what someone else said 500, or 1500 years ago; why would our contemporary understanding be any less of value than that of Augustine or Calvin?  How can we hold out the good news to this world at the same time deny the truth of the world.  When I think about the 13.7 billion years that it took for God to make and shape our world, I think about a God fussing over every little detail carefully crafting our place to live, and that fills me with awe and wonder.  God is not a magician; he had to work just like his image bearers have to work.  It diminishes my understanding of God to think he just pulled the rabbit out of the hat, and now we have a 6000 year old universe.  When we are instructed to disregard the Word of creation in order to fit into our nice theological logic, that does a disservice to every scientist, both professional and amateur.  If as the Psalmist says that day and night the earth and the heavens pour forth speech, then we need to learn to listen to that Word in hope and joy for the marvels that we are discovering every day.   Often I think this whole “issue” is not about truth, but about the power to control who gets to tell the “truth”.  Theology is not the Queen of the sciences, let’s not enthrone her again, we need interdisciplinary discussion with open minds willing to let God’s universe speak and not simple tell the universe what it is has to be according to our all too human “unshakeable” convictions.  Is this really about God's authority or ours?

 

After reading many but not all the comments (many are repetitions of other comments), I'm surprised how many folks really don't understand evolutionary science and simply make pronouncements based on theological assumptions that have nothing to do with science, yet they believe they do.  I'm also surprised by the fear expressed by many commentators: when Galileo changed our view of the universe the church took a very foolish position by assuming that theological church doctrine trumped any and all scientific assertions, and gave them the rightful power to do so.   We must remember that ALL our theological doctrines were thought of and written down not by God but by human beings who are situated in particular place and time, and do not share our contemporary knowledge or world view.  If we wish to remain within the Reformed tradition then we must always be attentive to the continuing need to reform again and again.  The gospel is a living power that each person and generation needs to take up as good news, as truth, and not simply reference everything back to what someone else said 500, or 1500 years ago; why would our contemporary understanding be any less of value than that of Augustine or Calvin?  How can we hold out the good news to this world at the same time deny the truth of the world.  When I think about the 13.7 billion years that it took for God to make and shape our world, I think about a God fussing over every little detail carefully crafting our place to live, and that fills me with awe and wonder.  God is not a magician; he had to work just like his image bearers have to work.  It diminishes my understanding of God to think he just pulled the rabbit out of the hat, and now we have a 6000 year old universe.  When we are instructed to disregard the Word of creation in order to fit into our nice theological logic, that does a disservice to every scientist, both professional and amateur.  If as the Psalmist says that day and night the earth and the heavens pour forth speech, then we need to learn to listen to that Word in hope and joy for the marvels that we are discovering every day.   Often I think this whole “issue” is not about truth, but about the power to control who gets to tell the “truth”.  Theology is not the Queen of the sciences, let’s not enthrone her again, we need interdisciplinary discussion with open minds willing to let God’s universe speak and not simple tell the universe what it is has to be according to our all too human “unshakeable” convictions.  Is this really about God's authority or ours?

 

Henry, thanks for your comments, well stated except that I think Calvin himself would not have been as rigid in his views as his followers 500 years later. 

Perhaps The Banner did a service with the Walhout article by informing us that this heresy was not only present in our church, but that some of these ideas were even held by those who in past years were considered leaders among us.  Since we have been so informed, I am hopeful that congregations and Classes will now bring it to the attention of Synod.  This is no longer simply a matter of responding to evolution, but also to a theology that has been tailored to support evolution, a theology that contradicts what he have historically believed.  This creates huge problems for our church.  What is a Classis to do if a candidate for ordination says that he believes what Walhout is teaching here?  Even though this teaching seems to be a clear denial of all three Reformed Confessions, do we just ordain that person anyway?  What if a church council seeks to depose its pastor for teaching what Rev. Walhout is teaching?  If the boundaries are so fluid on original sin and the atonement, why should uphold them with regard to the sacraments?  Why can't a church call a Baptist pastor who refuses to baptize infants of believers?  And what about all of those decisions of Synod that were based on the ramifications of these doctrines?  Can homosexuality be the result of the disorder that came with the fall?  We need a clear response from Synod.  And, as I see it now, in order to be consistent with our Reformed Confessions and many of it's previous decisions Synod will have to declare views like those of Rev. Walhout to be heresy.    And we will have to be willing to depose those who will not listen to Synod.  Maybe I'm misunderstanding something here, but I really do not see how in a denomination as small and theologically focused as ours such views can co-exist with the historic Reformed faith that many of us still hold.

not that i wouldn't quibble with it a bit, but this post from Peter Enns today is a good one and very relevant to the discussion here as it has evolved: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2013/06/does-jesus-care-more-about-what-we-do-or-what-we-believe-im-going-with-a-yes/

John.  Thanks for reminding us that Calvin was a creative and flexible thinker and probably not a Calvinist :)

@Henry Venema. Although in a much different way, I too am “surprised how many folks really don't understand evolutionary science and simply make pronouncements based on theological assumptions that have nothing to do with science, yet they believe they do.”  Equally I’m surprised by people who would make this comment attempting to reinforce a particular belief, but in the process make clear that either you also don’t understand evolutionary science or you are knowingly pushing a belief that does not hold up to scientific scrutiny. I don’t know what your line of work is and I doesn’t particularly matter either. You have a right to your beliefs, but just as the author of the original article along with the editor of the banner, this is not the vehicle for sharing stories that conflict with what we know to be true, (God’s Word) and the doctrinal statements of our denomination.

You state “How can we hold out the good news to this world at the same time deny the truth of the world. When I think about the 13.7 billion years that it took for God to make and shape our world, I think about a God fussing over every little detail carefully crafting our place to live, and that fills me with awe and wonder.  God is not a magician; he had to work just like his image bearers have to work.  It diminishes my understanding of God to think he just pulled the rabbit out of the hat, and now we have a 6000 year old universe.” What “truth” might that be? Are you referring to your particular view of origins? Please don’t suggest that evolution has scientific merit, I’m so tired of that angle. The theory of evolution has zero impact on operational science.

 I’m simply at a loss for words as to how you refer to God’s creative power in speaking the universe into existence and equating that with a magician, pulling a rabbit out of his hat. What you think means really very little. What God said means everything. The evolutionary  worldview which requires the idea that the world and the universe is millions or billions of years is really just a faith based worldview, nothing more, nothing less. God’s ability is limitless.  He could have created in an instant, but He told us that He did it in 6 days.

I’m sure that some will find my remarks harsh but so be it.  I’m a father of 4 who has enough on my plate dealing with the “wolves” of this world without needing to spend so much time with the wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Of course our children need to learn science along with the various worldviews pertaining to historical science, but when dealing with historical science they need to learn to think critically and more important Biblically.

A brush up on what really happened with regards to Galileo and the “church” would be helpful.  It’s not quite the solid argument people like to use it as. http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/tj/v14/n1/galileo

 

http://creation.com/the-galileo-twist

Another recent post that's relevant to this discussion . . as it describes, there's a shift away from faith among a significant number of scientists . . as a church, we should be upset and have solutions . . including ones that are still gaining traction . . http://musingsonscience.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/faith-and-vocation-as-a-scientist/#more-3074

Venema, there are many people who avidly support evolution, without actually understanding very much about the required proofs of scientific evolution.  To some extent, this is even true for many scientists, since most do not spend time in the details of paleontology, fossils, genetics, to the level required to understand what the theory of evolution is proposing. 

Then we have the problem with people like Matt Hill, who want to assume evolution and absolutely stifle actual dialogue about the possibility of error in the raw theory of evolution.   This changes evolution from a theory to a religion which cannot be challenged?    In all of this discussion, we barely skim the scientific principles involved, and do not distinguish between observable facts and unobservable theory.  We do not distinguish between assumptions and demonstrated proofs, nor examine the normal statistical significance levels required for normal science.  Arnold Bosman seems to have a better grasp of this than many of the posters here.  Edwin Walhout has no understanding of this whatsoever, at least as we can detect from his article. 

I recently heard a story about a pastor talking with a nuclear physicist about nuclear theory, and eventually after many questions and repartee, the pastor expressed admiration for the physicist's knowledge.  "Is there anything you don't know about nuclear physics?" the pastor asked.   The physicist replied, "I've already told you more than I know..."   We should be careful in our assumptions that evolutionistic scientists know as much as they seem to suggest they do. 

In reference to God making the earth aged, His first miracle was turning water into the finest Aged wine.  Cheers.

"But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God."  2 Corinthians 4:2

 

Ed, yes that was a spectacular miracle, but that doesn't make Jesus a magician, rather he is a fantastic master wine maker, a vintner extraordinaire!

John, I agree that the theory of evolution can be challenged, and as I understand it, is being challenged and modified by scientists. However, as you say, this needs to be done by those who have a scientific background in paleontology, fossils, and genetics - not many of us, I assume. Scientific thought and theory is always open to revisions as new knowledge comes along. There is nothing to fear from 'pure science', since it is (or should be) philosophically neutral.

There is also the philosopy of evolutionism, which is "the belief that a natural process, evolution, has been entirely responsible for the development of all of life as we now know it" (Richard T. Wright). As Christians, we deny evolutionism. And it seems to me that many of the comments here are directed more to evolutionism than evolution.

How does entertaining the possibility that God may have used evolutionary processes as part of his creative method undermine our faith?

Dianne, you have made some pertinent points, and some good questions.  Yes, evolutionism is a belief system that all of life is governed solely by evolutionary processes, and by nothing else.  In that,  evolution is foundational for all social relationships and ethical behaviour.   So yes, evolutionism would be a problem for Christians, and to some extent, that is part of what we are talking about.  However, evolution itself as a presumed scientific theory, also postulates physical processes and physical history which denies and contradicts the apparent reality of the creation event as described in Genesis.  So, if we assume some of Genesis to be allegorical or symbolic, and thus try to maintain its authority, some would try to amalgamate evolutionary theory with scripture. 

Your question whether God could have used, or did use, evolutionary processes as part of the creative process is quite open ended.  Without defining what processes you are thinking of, and without defining limits or context for these processes, it would be difficult to answer your question.  Some processes are claimed by evolutionists to be evolutionary, but creationists might say that they are simply adaptive, and are limited to within certain types and kinds of organisms.  Creationists generally agree that mutations, selection, extinctions, adaptations take place.  They agree that fossils are found where they are in different layers.  But they also demonstrate that ammonites have evolved into ammonites, and that coelecanth has evolved into coelecanth.   They maintain that there are no reasonable transitional fossils between non-human and human primates.   So where is the evolution? 

The question begs the question.  Did God really use evolutionary processes, or are the processes that God used, simply called "evolutionary" by those who promote the theory?  Some creationists believe that micro-evolution is possible (adaptation within "kinds"), while macro-evolution has not been demonstrated (microbes to microbiologists, mud to man, etc.).    Other creationists don't like to even use the term micro-evolution, since they believe it is a misleading term, really merely referring to adaptation.  They believe that the evidence demonstrates that mutations are always deleterious, and that even presumably advantageous mutations also are accompanied by harmful side effects. 

So asking the question is one thing.   But not realizing the limitations of concordance between evolution and God's creation description is another thing.  If animals and man spent eons destroying and killing each other and fighting disease and thistles, then how do you interpret the garden of Eden?  How do you interpret "God said it was good"?   How do interpret the change from walking with God, to hiding from God?  How do you determine who was the first Adam?   Was there a curse placed on creation?  or is it still good and not requiring redemption?   Does man really disobey God, or is it merely his natural instinct to lie and cheat and steal just like God created him?   The answers to these questions will get you closer to answering your own question about undermining faith.  How God created this world, reveals part of the nature and character of God, wouldn't you agree? 

Science is supposedly philosophically neutral;  generally that is true.  But it is not absolutely true, as a study of the history of human thought on superiority of races, or the human consideration of genocide and sterilization of "defectives" will reveal to you.  The use of supposedly neutral nuclear fission for peaceful or warlike purposes, the degree of safety of various pesticides, or insulation material, all reveal various philosophical perspectives on the pursuit and analysis of scientific results.  The history of our world and the universe is also not as straightforward as creating battery acid, since we only poke holes here and there into the earth's crust, and we only make assumptions about initial conditions which we were not there to see, when we try to radiometrically date various rocks and earth layers.  We are mostly limited by what we can see today, even though the presumption is that things were vastly different in the past.  For that reason, the philosophical assumptions and presuppositions play a huge role in how we interpret the neutral scientific evidence.  Our interpretations are certainly not neutral.  Thanks much for your reasonable questions. 

I think that rigourous scientists realize they constantly have to be aware that bias may creep into their thinking - either conscious or unconscious bias.  There is no absolute "neutral".  Karl Popper, a philosopher of science said it nicely and we could probably learn a bit of humility from him:

 

“What we should do, I suggest, is to give up the idea of ultimate sources of knowledge, and admit that all knowledge is human; that it is mixed with our errors, our prejudices, our dreams, and our hopes; that all we can do is to grope for truth even though it be beyond our reach. We may admit that our groping is often inspired, but we must be on our guard against the belief, however deeply felt, that our inspiration carries any authority, divine or otherwise. If we thus admit that there is no authority beyond the reach of criticism to be found within the whole province of our knowledge, however far it may have penetrated into the unknown, then we can retain, without danger, the idea that truth is beyond human authority. And we must retain it. For without this idea there can be no objective standards of inquiry; no criticism of our conjectures; no groping for the unknown; no quest for knowledge.” (p.39)

 

Karl Popper Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (1963)

RE: ed and wine-

It never says the wine was aged, it said it tasted great. If the Japanese can make Johnny Walker Black label whiskey in 2 months and make it taste 5 years old (which they can) why can't Jesus. The appearance of age would indicate deception on God's part in creation. But your argument shows a lack of research. If light HADN'T travelled billions of years from far galaxies to reach us here it would show up in the numbers. Astronomers would see the anomally.  But please don't think I believe in evolution whatsoever. That's just rediculous. Watch Youtube- almost anything by HUGH ROSS to get a view of old earth that matches Genesis 1 and 2 and doesn't include evolution.

RE: what's necessary to be included in the Reformed fold (and what is anathema)

Here's the problem with deciding what's okay to belief in the essential things. People's beliefs aren't always logical. Therefore, IF someone can believe in evolution and yet hold that man was made in God's image uniquely...it may not be logical to me, but that personal illogical belief keeps them in the fold of Christianity. Because, although they're being inconsistent, they ARE still believing orthodoxy.

There's a lot of people out there who haven't thought about this extensively and will just say "Evolution? That's fine with me as long as God did it.." and never think about it again. Should those people be chastened because they believe in faith instead of through logic? I don't think so.

But what I really disagree with are people who say things like "Well you can believe that stuff and still be a Christian, you just can't be in our reformed denomination and believe those things." Um...not a very Biblical stance here. If you believe enough to go to heaven, why can't you be part of the CRC? Is there a "higher" form of Christianity that we hold to? Did Calvin add more requirements for Christianity than the Bible had? (NO)

There should be no distinction between the Universal church and the local denomination in terms of who is allowed in...as long your beliefs are orthodox and you admit your beliefs are not all that reformed- and most people are very ready to admit that.

It's the living relationship with God that defines a Christian, not his logical or illogical beliefs. And to differential between Christians and Reformed Christians is an argument for academic exercise, not for deciding who we let in the doors. This is what caused so many denominations in the first place. Unlike the Apostles and the early church, we protestants thought that we should only meet with people that thought like us. Thank GOD that isn't the case, or all gentiles like me never would have made it to Christ- the Jews would have kept us out. Divisions like "us and them" inside the Christian belief just create spiritual incest because we keep the doors closed on other Biblically faithful views. 

Andy, What I think I hear you saying is that people within the church can hold to inconsistant and pluralistic teachings, and yet hold on to truth. Timothy was told to "do your best to present yourselves to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, and who correctly handles the word of truth." (2 Timoty 2:15) I believe the church has a responsiblity to handle the word with precision. (It would be shameful to do anything less.) The Bible also warns us by saying, "see to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." (Colossians 2:8) 

I agree with you completely and I would distinguish between people who believe inconsistent views in private (fine by me) and those who aggressively teach inconsistent views in public (detrimental to faith community). It may not be wise to not have your ducks in a row, but hardly a precursor to excommunication. 

After 9 years of marriage I have learned that while I am meticulous in categorizing my beliefs and their theological implications, my wife's strength lies in her sensitivity and desire to please God without going into the details. She couldn't care less about entering into a discussion about evolution or predestination--and good for her. As long as she believes the basic orthodoxy and acts accordingly, she's in good position in God's family-- and often her wisdom in life far outweighs mine! 

Our love of academia in the west seems to maximize the importance of head knowledge and minimize personal relationship. That's why many of my generation know what's in the Bible, and walk away from the church anyway. Truth is obviously of utmost importance, but there's plenty of wiggle room in the non-essentials. As Paul says lets not "go beyond what is written" in making our rules for indoctrination.

My elders asked me to provide our congregation with a written response to this article, as well as a sermon addressing it. To put all my cards on the table here, both of my responses are entitled Tomorrow's Heresy.

You can find my written response here: http://www.newtoncrc.com/PastorAaronsBlog.cfm

The sermon is available here: http://www.newtoncrc.com/Sermons.cfm

Feel free to share (or to fire) at will.

Great response on your blog, Aaron G.!!   Well said! 

John, thank you for your extensive response. I will be pondering your questions as I (eventually) do more reading on this subject. I am interested, but won't have time for the next few months.

Thank you Aaron Gunsaulus!  'nuff said.

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