Friday, September 2, 2011

Theistic Evolution

Theistic evolution is the idea that the theory of evolution does not contradict scripture. The account of creation in Genesis coincides with secular scientific theories on evolution. I am puzzled by the concept of the theistic evolutionist. In my mind this is the most difficult position to defend. My issue isn't with their desire to embrace evolutionist thinking, nor their desire to embrace their faith. My issue is that they try to do both at the same time when they are mutually exclusive to each other. The theistic evolutionist has the daunting task of not only reconciling evolutionary theory with scientific data, but then reconciling that theory with scripture. The former issue of defending the theory (or theories) of evolution are not the subject of the post so I will not go into that area here.

The most difficult area of reconciliation between these two concepts is in the age of the Earth. Standard evolution theory puts the Earth at 4.5 billion(ish) years old. The dating of the Bible puts the age of the Earth at roughly 6500 years. That leaves a lot of reconciling for the theistic evolutionist. Neither the creationist nor the evolutionist have to wrestle with this as they both understand that it can not be reconciled.

Genesis 1 and 2 give the account of creation which is boiled down to this:

Day 1: The heavens, the earth, light and darkness.
Day 2: Heaven
Day 3: Dry land, the seas, and vegetation.
Day 4: The sun, the moon and the stars.
Day 5: Living creatures in the water, birds in the air.
Day 6: Land animals and people.
Day 7: God "rested".

In each account the day is marked with a number and highlighted with a definition of the evening and morning. The Hebrew word "yom" is what we translate to the word "day". Yom is used 1109 times in the Bible to describe a 24 hour period. Only 9 times is it used to describe an era or long passage of time. Every time yom is used with a number such as 40 days, or day 7, etc., it refers to a 24 hour period. Every time yom is used with the descriptor of evening (ereb) and morning (boquer) it refers to a 24 hour period. In Genesis we have the daily account of creation highlighted with both a numerical reference and a description of morning and evening. It seems that the author was especially careful to point out this usage of yom as being literal.

The most common attempt to get around this issue is with 2 Peter 3:8 "But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." This passage references Psalm 90:4 "For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night." The first thing to note here is that 2 Peter is not referencing creation in any way. The context tells the reader to not lose hope in God's promise just because He seems slow in fulfilling it. God is patient and will fulfill His promise in His timing. God is not bound by the anxiety of time as we are. We are encouraged to be patient as well. We should also note that 2 Peter says a day is like a thousand years, Peter is using a simile. The correct understanding of a day as a 24 hour period is what makes this simile so powerful in its contrast to the thousand years. This is that same kind of simile we find in Psalm 90.

The psalmist uses a synonymous parallelism to contrast the thousand years period by two short periods. The usage of this passage to defend theistic evolution is especially difficult. If one accepts the contrast of a thousand years with the day as literal here they must also see the contrast of the thousand years with a watch of the night as literal. I hardly think a watchman could keep his eyes open for that long.

The contextual understanding of these passages is to highlight how different our perception of time is from God's. We only have 70 or so years to fulfill our promises. God has all of eternity to fulfill His. We can have faith in His promises because of this.

Another problem with the day of Genesis being 1000 years is that vegetation was created on day 3 and sunlight on day 4. I have trouble imagining vegetation surviving for a thousand years waiting for sunlight.

That is not the only problem with theistic evolution though. The TE also has to contend with the lack of scriptures defining a day as a million years. There is a lot of years to reconcile between 6000 creation "days" and the 4.5 billion years tauted by the evolutionists. There is also the problem of the fossil record. Evolutionists claim millions of years of animal life before man appeared on the scene based on the fossil record, but there was no death before the fall in the garden. Animal and human fossils should be found very close to each other according to the biblical account.

I know there is a difference between the theory(ies) of evolution and the origins of the Earth but in the case of reconciling Genesis to secular scientific thought they are so closely related that it makes no sense to approach the topic from two separate paths. The theistic evolutionist has a lot of hurdles to overcome in their understanding of creation, more so than the pure evolutionist. In my opinion there is no way to marry the two. They directly contradict each other. I would advise the theistic evolutionist to consider the large, and growing, volume of science behind creation. There is no need to wrestle with seeming contradictions in scripture and science. The scientific evidence supporting the biblical account is great.

Ultimately, the Christian must understand that our walk is one of faith. We must believe in order to be saved. Truth will not contradict itself. We may not understand it with our human perception but that does not change truth. God is gracious in that we do have the witness of science to help our belief but "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:29b

Get off the fence my TE friend.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The trial of Casey Anthony

I admit that I have not been following the Casey Anthony trial at all but of the little I know of it, it is sad that another young life was lost at the whim of her mother. I do have to wonder though, if it were just two years earlier, and the mother facilitated for someone to help birth the baby somewhat, then take a pair of scissors to the back of the baby's skull, then have the baby's brains sucked out before crushing the skull, Casey might have been heralded as a heroine activist for feminine rights.

Why should two years make a difference? why should 2 months or 7 months inside the womb make a difference?

I am confused by the Facebook posts of friends, whom I know to be pro-choice, who beguile Casey. They are dismayed at the brutality with which the baby was killed and the callousness of the mother who went dancing within a week of doing it. Somehow the irony is lost on them when considering how much more brutal an abortion is. 

Maybe it took Casey a little longer to decide she didn't want the baby.  Maybe she didn't feel the need to hire a doctor at that point since she could do it herself. How can one really decide if they are ready to start a family within 3 or 6 months of getting pregnant? It really takes a few years to make that decision after one has lived through all of the adjustments that are needed with a newborn. How about the terrible twos? Even if the mother survives the newborn phase, surely the government can't force her to go through the terrible twos if that is not her wish, and lets not even talk about the teenage years!

When you make life and death a personal decision, you have to validate all reasons that someone would have for doing it. It is their right to decide after all. You can't say that your desire to not want to risk birthing a child at your old age is any more valid than someone else not wanting to look "fat" for the prom. You can't say that waiting until 6 months is more or less responsible than deciding at 1 month to kill the child. How can we then cast judgement on a young woman who took 2 years (and 9 months) to decide whether or not she wanted to keep the baby alive? If we condemn her actions, then on what grounds do we not also condemn the actions of those who legally kill their children at a much younger age?

I have compassion for Casey. She lives in a world where the lives of our young are valued only on the basis of the mother's consideration of them. How can that philosophy not come to the next logical conclusion? I feel for all of the mother's out there who are, or have, faced this same dilemma. It has been drilled into us for decades that life and death are ours to decide. When there is no absolute basis or policy to regulate the action of that decision then the standard shifts from person to person. Life is meaningless but in the eye of the beholder.

We scoff at Casey's callousness but proclaim the value of abortion based on the mother's callousness and apparent lack of emotional harm. We marvel at the brutality of this child's death but find live dissection and burning of the unborn child to be "harmless".

God grant us the grace to submit the decisions of life and death to Your hands except where You have delegated that decision to us. May we have wisdom to bear that decision with the weight that it deserves. May we learn to value human life as You do. You value us so highly that You would send Your very Son to pay the penalty for our sin in order to reconcile our sin with Your holiness. If You died for this unborn child, how can we then devalue its life based on the whims of a wicked and foolish heart?