Evolution and the Bible: A Blog Interaction

Introduced by Richard Peachey

In early 2012 I participated in an exchange on the topic of Christian views on evolution. The interaction was kick-started by a short video titled "Preaching Against Evolution in Evangelical Churches Creates Atheists." From the full conversation, which was quite lengthy (but is worth reading), I have excerpted the paragraphs shown here.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci
  As a teen, I became very interested in "Creation Science", buying all the books and even attending a huge conference where I heard (in awe) such voices as Ken Hamm & John Morris. I was convinced it was true- and why not? These teachings & the men who put them forward were presented to me as not only trustworthy, but as singularly authoritative.
  However, it was not until much later that I began to realize that "Creation Science" was not, strictly speaking, science at all. I began to see their methods & agendas and, while they held them with sincerity and conviction, they were not honest.
  Interestingly, this became a blockade for my faith (though I never left the faith), NOT because science had upset my belief system, but rather because those I trusted would so blindly push something that was so unhelpful to my faith. Further, that it became a litmus test for faithfulness also turned me off. I am grateful that, in all the voices that influenced me, my parents allowed me to explore this without ever insisting that this was the only way to see things.
  They allowed me to explore alternate views as well. Today I see the creation text as something much more powerful and beautiful than simply a verbatim record of God making stuff. Instead I see something incredible about the nature of God and His intention for us and all of creation.

Stephen Oller to Jamie Arpin-Ricci
  "Interestingly, this became a blockade for my faith (though I never left the faith), NOT because science had upset my belief system, but rather because those I trusted would so blindly push something that was so unhelpful to my faith. Further, that it became a litmus test for faithfulness also turned me off." I second the above quoted text because it applies to myself as well. You worded that better than I could.

Richard D. Peachey to Stephen Oller
  Stephen, this is for both you and Jamie: Your mistake was to have "trusted" in man. Creationists cannot be "trusted," nor can evolutionists be "trusted." See Jesus' approach in John 2:24. Only God is worthy of our trust. (And he tells us very clearly how he created, in Genesis 1 and 2. See Exodus 20:11 as well.)

LethalAmbiances to Richard D. Peachey
  I know, from my reading of the bible, that God uses parables and symbolism to more effectively convey fundamental theological truths. I have looked at some the evidence and arguments, and from what I have seen, the evidence supports the idea that this world is old, and the species living on it have changed with time. I trust, from my experience with God, that He is neither a liar, nor a bratty child with a vicious sense of humour, and therefor I doubt that He would create a world filled with deliberately misleading evidence just to screw with people. This is why I lean towards theistic evolution. The creation narrative and the story of Jesus found in the Gospels have different context and framing, and different styles. I can see them as different kinds of stories within a set of collected writings about God and His people, without invalidating either one. I could be wrong, but there is a process of reasoning based on xperience with God and His creation that led me to that conclusion. I also know, from my reading of the bible, that God has much bigger problems with my life than my opinion on how the world was created. I know that petty anger, lack of empathy, failure to act for justice, causing discord withing the church, lying (or speaking the strict truth with dishonest intent), and arrogance are all likely to come between me and God than the Theory of Evolution. If I trust that Jesus can bridge that gap, I must also trust that he can get over my opinion on evolution should I happen to be wrong.
  It is clear that you feel very strongly about this. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the reason is that you believe that to deny the literal inerrancy of the creation passages in Genesis is to deny the validity of the entire Bible. If that is the case, then I am satisfied if you continue to believe that the creation story happened factually and literally as described in Genesis. It is more important that your faith in Christ and in the Gospel remain strong than that you change your mind about evolution. But I do want you to realise that two people just said that being pushed into the literal creation narrative and treated as lesser Christians for questioning it, had threatened or damaged their relationship with God. You responded by pushing the literal creation narrative and (it seemed to me) implying those who question it are less Christian. Why?

Richard D. Peachey to LethalAmbiances
  I certainly do appreciate your attempt to be sensitive to where I'm coming from, and your concern for others, and your desire to keep things in balance as we debate issues.
  I do, however, think it appropriate and even necessary to question what sort of "faith" a person has that will be imperiled by a serious, forthright discussion of what the Bible appears to be plainly saying. Faith in Christ is key, indeed. But who is Christ? He is the Master Teacher who strongly affirmed Genesis and the rest of Scripture during his ministry on Earth. He is the Saviour from sin and the curse which trace back to the Garden of Eden. He is the Creator himself who knows how he created. The early chapters of Genesis provide the historical and theological foundation for the rest of Scripture. Furthermore, anyone who enters their views on a blog is asking to interact with others, including others who take a different view and wish to challenge them to take the Bible more seriously.
  For sure, all of us stand in need of more grace in our speaking. Your prayers for me will be welcome.
  Sincerely.

Sandy to Richard D. Peachey
  "I do, however, think it appropriate and even necessary to question what sort of "faith" a person has that will be imperiled by a serious, forthright discussion of what the Bible appears to be plainly saying." I have thought myself to be a person with pretty strong faith in the past. This past year I felt led to delve more into the topic of homosexuality (due to realizing I have an extra dose of love for them as a group in general, and feeling like there was a reason for that). And just unpacking that one subject shook up my whole world, and definitely shook my faith. It was one of the hardest years of my life. It caused me to question everything, and you might think that means I had weak faith-maybe I did. Maybe weak faith is what happens when you grow up hearing certain things, and just take them as truth without question, even when questions make sense. And maybe strong faith is what happens when we ask those questions, and wrestle with God a little. The Bible is not easy. If it were, we would not have devoted, faithful scholars who have studied it for years camping at either extreme (and every place in the middle) on every subject you can think of. I agree with the person above who said that it's frustrating and hurtful when things like this become a "litmus test" for true Christianity. Opposing evolution, believing that gay people are damned, being a republican....(or supporting evolution, not thinking the term "gay Christian" is an oxymoron, being a democrat, independent, or even not voting!) do not make me a Christian. What makes me a Christian is that I believe God sent Jesus to make a way for me and everyone else, and I follow Him.

Richard D. Peachey to Sandy
  It's interesting how often the issue of homosexuality has come up on this blog on evolution/creation. Homosexual behaviour is not explicitly forbidden until Leviticus 18:22, but the prohibition clearly connects with the creation account in Genesis. It was God who invented sex and marriage, and his intention was that the union be heterosexual and life-long.
  Scholars can produce lots of reasons for the views they want to market, but the Bible is clear from beginning to end: homosexual sex opposes God's plan, and God is going to punish sin. Of course, those who repent of homosexual behaviour (and of other sins too) are welcomed into the family of God and will share with the rest of us sinners in the eternal kingdom. But woe to those who call evil good, and good evil (Isaiah 5:20).
  Richard Dawkins, by the way, would likely agree with the above: he described God as "homophobic" (among many other pejoratives) in The God Delusion.

Danny Bermudez
  I feel like debating creation vs evolution is a big distraction to the message of Christ on the cross. It's like trying to get people to believe in God by having them buy into your understanding of the gift of tongues. There are things our human, finite minds will never understand about God and God's ways during this lifetime. Whether creation all happened in one day, one week, or seven years, I really don't think it's worth losing people along the way because they won't buy into our interpretation. "In the beginning, God...", that's good enough for me.

Richard D. Peachey to Danny Bermudez
  "In the beginning, God..." is "good enough" for you, Danny? So you jettison the rest of Genesis? Or the rest of the first eleven chapters? Or the rest of the first two chapters? In any case, God had a lot more to say about how things began than just Genesis 1:1. The first verse may be where you want to stop, but that's not where God stopped. Surely you don't think you're wiser than God?
  And why do you refer to the obvious, plain, straightforward reading (including the repeated word "day" along with "morning and evening" and ordinal numeration) as an "interpretation"?

jeff taylor to Richard D. Peachey
  Because it's plain foolish to read 4000 year old texts as a literal, factual blow-by-blow account of events. For starters, that is a modernist, western way of reading. Not saying that's right or wrong, just wholly inapplicable to ancient middle eastern way of thinking. It is allegory. Period. Genesis is no more literal that the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Richard D. Peachey to jeff taylor
  Well, Jeff, there are certainly some parts of the Old Testament that purport to be historical in the sense of being sequences of events. Are none of them to be read as an actual account of events? Is the whole Bible completely non-historical? (New Testament too?) Did ancient near Eastern peoples really have no interest whatsoever in actual history?
  If any part of the Bible is legitimately read as historical, then you have to provide a specific reason or reasons why Genesis (which certainly seems to be offering an account of sequentially occurring events) must be read as some type of literature other than straightforward historical narrative.
  You can't just label it "allegory" because you don't prefer what it teaches. What is your contextual justification for deciding on that particular genre? ("Period" is not an argument. And your adjectives "foolish," "modernist," and "western" constitute nothing more than a vacuous ad hominem attack.)

Jeremypitcock to Richard D. Peachey
  Well, Richard, I suggest you look at the rest of those verses a bit more carefully. Since the Sun is not created until the 4th day of Genesis, and most people accept that a literal "morning" and "evening" are caused by the rotation of the earth relative to the Sun, perhaps a symbolic interpretation is the only possible one. There is also a talking snake in Chapter 2 (which nearly every evangelical I know thinks is a symbol for Satan, despite no literal reason to believe so from the text itself) and some other common literary devices such as trees with fruit that, when you eat it, cause you to have knowledge of good and evil/eternal life that would indicate allegory and/or symbolism. And, of course, length of time is probably the most common symbolic device in the Bible. Nobody thinks that the "weeks" in Daniel are literal weeks, and the numbers 40 and 7 appear over and over again throughout the Bible. Consider the blatant numeric symbolism found in Mark 8:16-21, and Jesus' direct command in those verses to understand the symbolism. Given all the other symbolic interpretations found and accepted in the Bible, is it really so beyond belief that God would use symbolism and allegory to explain the unfathomable act of creation to desert nomads who would have been lucky to understand multiplication?

Richard D. Peachey to Jeremypitcock
  Hi, Jeremy. Genesis is certainly worth looking at carefully, and I have done that. In fact, I have memorized chapters 1 and 2 in the original Hebrew.
  Regarding the creation of the Sun on the fourth day: In order to have a day/night cycle (with morning and evening), you need a rotating planet and a directional light source. God created light on Day One (Genesis 1:3), and the "separation" of light from darkness indicates that the light was directional. That God is able to produce light on Earth apart from the Sun is shown in such texts as Exodus 10:23; 40:34; Acts 9:3; Revelation 21:23. (Conversely, God can also make it dark despite the Sun's presence, as in Exodus 10:22; Matthew 27:45.) The Bible disagrees with current secular cosmology, but there is no internal consistency in the Genesis cosmology. The creation of the Sun on Day Four is indeed a serious problem for day/age compromisers like Hugh Ross (because he wants the Sun in place prior to formation of the Earth), but not for straight-up creationists.
  John Calvin's comment on Genesis 1:3 is noteworthy: "It did not, however, happen from inconsideration or by accident, that the light preceded the sun and the moon. To nothing are we more prone than to tie down the power of God to those instruments the agency of which he employs. The sun and moon supply us with light: And, according to our notions we so include this power to give light in them, that if they were taken away from the world, it would seem impossible for any light to remain. Therefore the Lord, by the very order of the creation, bears witness that he holds in his hand the light, which he is able to impart to us without the sun and moon."
  Regarding the talking snake, Bible-believing evangelicals do not see this as "symbolic" of Satan. They see Genesis 3:1-5 as a historical occurrence of Satan either appearing in reptilian form or using a created animal to accomplish his evil purpose. This understanding is in line with such passages as John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:3 (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:5); 1 John 3:8; Revelation 12:9; 20:2. That spiritual beings can invade the bodies of animals is shown in Mark 5:13. Talking animals may or may not have been typical in the Garden of Eden (C. S. Lewis's Narnia series seems to suppose that they were), but there is a Scriptural incident of an animal being empowered by God to talk (Numbers 22:28), and Satan does possess great supernatural abilities (Revelation 13:2-4,11-15).
  Regarding the concept that the tree of life and the numbered days are "symbolic," you appear to be assuming (for worldview reasons?) what actually needs to be demonstrated. If you are interested, I have developed in some detail an argument why the "days" must be understood as normal (24-hour) days. The two additional articles referenced at the end of the linked page are worth considering as well. <http://www.creationbc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=82>