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.

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