Is theistic evolution a disease of learning?

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Francis Bacon, the founder of the modern scientific method, believed that if we were to truly advance learning, Christians should study what God said in His word, and study what God made in Creation. But,  he also cautioned that we should avoid unwisely mingling or confounding these learnings together. Confusion exists regarding Francis Bacon and his beliefs, but everything I have read by him leads me to conclude that he believed God’s word was the ultimate authority. According to Bacon, humans err when their pride inclines them to “leave the oracle of God’s word and to vanish in the mixture of their own inventions.”

Bacon called problems like this “diseases of learning”. In Bacon’s time, a major disease of learning was that at institutions of higher learning, students’ minds were open to the ideas of only a handful of authors who were treated more like dictators whose words must stand, rather than counselors to give advice. Four centuries later, Christians are still making the same mistakes about learning. Instead of setting God and His word as the immovable foundation that directs our learning, we constantly feel like the foundation will be stronger if we add some of man’s ideas to it or if we try to change the Bible’s story to fit the latest, greatest, goofiest idea we can come up with.

Instead of making the creativity of God the foundation and focus of a Christian education, the creativity of man is often overemphasized. Currently, I think one of the biggest hurdles to advancing learning is the idea of “theistic evolution.” Proponents of theistic evolution believe this is the proper answer to reconciling “science” and the Bible. I see two problems with this view. First, the theory of evolution is not real science. Second, science is man’s interpretation of God’s works, and we should never set man’s interpretations as equal or superior to His Word. A hierarchy exists, and Francis Bacon nails it again when he says to study “first the Scriptures, revealing the will of God, and then the creatures expressing His power.” Bacon believed in a hierarchy because he believed God’s word, and His word says in John 1:1 that “In the beginning was the Word.” His word should direct our study of His works. There is nowhere in His word that suggests we should equate the study of His word and His works, or let the study of His works direct our study of His word.

The theory of evolution is not real science. It is an idea used to explain unverifiable events from natural history. Real science follows the scientific method, where questions are asked, hypotheses made and tested, data collected and analyzed, and conclusions drawn. Then, the hypothesis may be  tested by another scientist in order to verify the claims made by the original researcher. It is unreasonable to call bacteria-to-biology teacher evolution a purely scientific endeavor. We cannot observe this process occurring, so we cannot verify any claims made about it, and that is not real science.

Another part of real science is that data is collected and models are made, which are then used to make future predictions. Of course, the accuracy of those predictions can be verified. This is impossible with claims made about past events, and this is why evolution is about researching natural history, instead of being a real scientific endeavor.

An honest evolutionist will tell you that evolution theory cannot predict how things will evolve in the future, only that they will evolve. What they may not tell you is that this would be like a weather forecaster saying “I can’t predict how the weather is going to change tomorrow. All I can tell you is that it will be different than it was today.” Or it might be like NASA saying to some astronauts “We cannot predict how you will land on the moon. All we can tell you is that you will land on the moon.” I hope you are starting to see what I mean when I say evolution is not real science, but instead is an unnecessary idea used by some Christians and others to explain natural history. Evolution is not needed to explain gravity, understand chemistry, find better cures for diseases, or manage wild salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest. If anything, it interferes with the advancement of learning about God’s creation.

There is evidence for evolution though, and you can be a Christian and believe in evolution. If all life evolved from a common ancestor, we would expect all life to have some things in common, and it does. All life needs water, and all life has DNA.  However, if all life were created by the same Designer, we would also expect all life to have some things in common. In fact, we would expect more than just life to have some things in common. Take visible light for example. All visible light can be classified as electromagnetic radiation. All visible light has a magnetic field perpendicular to an electric field. Our best understanding of light tells us that all light behaves as both a wave and a particle. But red light is not blue light, yellow light is not green light, etc. All colors of light share similar physical characteristics, but there are definite differences. This does not mean that red light evolved from blue light, etc. All forms of electromagnetic radiation do seem to be designed using the same pattern. In Genesis 1:3, God said “Let there be light, and there was light.” I don’t know anyone, theistic evolutionist or otherwise, who argues against this verse. There is no “millions of years theory for the evolution of light”. So, when God says He created in 6 days, and He created different kinds of living organisms, why not just believe that, too? Everybody has the same set of evidence, the differences come in the interpretations, and some interpretations are better than others.

Theistic evolution is a compromise

We should never set man’s interpretation of God’s works on an equal footing with His word. However, this is the goal of theistic evolution. In the movie The Genesis Code, theistic evolution was promoted as the “answer” to the supposed battle between science and religion. A good critique of the movie can be found here.

Biologos, an organization whose sole purpose is to promote theistic evolution, provides many opportunities to see how this idea results in setting aside the oracle of God’s word, replacing it with “a mixture of their own inventions.” In a lecture at Westmont College, Biologos Senior Fellow of Biblical Studies, Dr. Peter Enns, presented the following slide:

This graph is wrong. God's word and man's word (science) are not on the same plane, nor do they share a common origin. "In the beginning was the Word (John 1:1)," then came man, then came man's flawed interpretation of God's works (science).

I have some real concerns about the “Biologos version” of Scripture. And I’m not the only one. Theologian John Frame said a recent book by Dr. Enns “says nothing to promote confidence in the truth of the biblical text.” Others, like Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham, believe Enns is compromising Biblical truth. Creation Ministries International says Biologos has a “low, really low view of Scripture.” The Institute for Creation Research warns parents to “beware” of Biologos and Enns’ teachings. The Westminster Theological Seminary “parted ways” with Dr. Enns back in 2008 over concerns about his writings.

I also think Dr. Enns’ (and Biologos’) understanding of Paul, Adam, and many other things has a lot to be desired. There is no man and no church that has a perfect interpretation of Scripture, but some interpretations are definitely better than others. Atheists have the worst interpretations of Scripture. I think the best way to interpret Scripture is to apply Sola Scriptura, that is, to let Scripture interpret Scripture. If we really believe II Timothy 3:16, that God inspired men to write His word, then we should believe that the words of men like Paul, Peter, John, Moses, etc., have more authority than the words of other men, even (and especially) deep thinkers like St. Augustine, St. Basil, or C.S. Lewis. Men like these should be thought of like “counselors to give advice”.

The concerns I have about the teachings of Biologos are too numerous to go into here, but I will give one example. In Dr. Enns’ lecture mentioned earlier, he showed how Paul described Adam as the first man, and if you read Romans 5:12-21, it is easy to come to the same conclusion. Paul thought Adam, like Jesus, was a historical figure. Paul even calls Adam a “type” of Christ, a head over all humanity. Dr. Enns has a different view though, and he thinks Adam was a symbolic figure who represented Israel. He also stresses that Paul was an “ancient man”, and in this Biologos video, states that he doesn’t expect Paul to have conversed with Francis Collins about the Human Genome Project and how “common descent is essentially assured scientifically.” Dr. Enns goes on to explain that in “Paul’s mind”, there may be a connection between the real man, Adam, and the real Christ, but that we don’t have to make the same connection in our minds.  He also says Paul does not determine modern scientific discoveries of humanity for us.

Truth doesn’t change

Certainly, Paul was writing to first century Christians, and no, he didn’t have a conversation with Francis Collins. However, here is the big mistake I think Dr. Enns and other theistic evolutionists make. Paul’s words in Romans were not his alone, they were inspired by God. When Paul writes about the man, Adam, he is writing God’s words, not his own. He is writing Truth, and Truth doesn’t change. When we read books penned by Paul’s hand, we should be more concerned about “why did God have him write that?” than “what was Paul thinking?” The story of Adam and Paul promoted by Dr. Enns is twisted because God’s authority and inspiration is at the very least, minimized, and at worst, removed from the conversation. Instead, it is replaced by a mixture of Dr. Enns’ own invention.

So why would theistic evolutionists be so interested in tearing down what God says about Adam in the book of Romans? The main reason is because evolution is supposed to work on populations, not individuals, and evolution is a philosophy of death. Through the deaths of billions of animals over long periods of time, a population of humans finally came into being. If Adam wasn’t a real man, but instead a symbolic population of people known as Israel, then evolution is compatible with Scripture. But that’s not what God’s word said happened, and it’s not what His works say happened, either.

Theistic evolution is a disease of learning

So is theistic evolution a disease of learning? I would say yes. I would also say anyone who believes it is deceived. Colossians 2:8 says “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ (NKJV).” In Genesis, God said He made everything in 6 days and rested on the 7th. This is confirmed in Exodus 20:11. In Genesis, God said he created different kinds of living organisms. Charles Darwin thought God was lying about this, and set out to develop a theory that claimed all life descended from a common ancestor. Darwin knew this would take a really long time, so he used Charles Lyell’s idea of uniformitarianism to justify the long ages. Charles Lyell also thought God was lying about Noah’s flood, and that there was no such thing as a global cataclysm.

Without putting much thought to it, many scientists jumped on the bandwagon of evolutionism and its crutch, uniformitarianism. These speculative beliefs about the past reached their peaks in the 2oth century. However, we are in a new century now, and some of this century’s scientists are showing us how these two ideas, based on the premise that God was lying, are becoming less accepted. 21st century science is showing us time and again how genetic mutations, the supposed “engines that drive evolution,” mostly result in death or cancer! It is obvious that animals adapt to their environment and change some with time, otherwise we would all be clones. But this is not evolution. For evolution to be true, new information must be created, and this has never been observed in the wild or in the laboratory. And there are no longer any real uniformitarians, because the obviousness of catastrophism is accepted by virtually all scientists. Most still reject the historical account of a worldwide global cataclysm that killed all the land animals, even though dead animals are buried under tens, hundreds, and thousands of feet of sedimentary rock all over the world, and the Earth is still mostly covered with water. I think it is very interesting that evolutionism and its crutch, uniformitarianism, both ideas based on the premise that God’s word is wrong, have caused so many setbacks in the advancement of learning.

If you are a Christian and you want to believe in theistic evolution, you are certainly free to do so, but I think you are being deceived and you are letting manmade speculations direct your reading of some Scriptures instead of letting Scripture help you interpret the scientific and historic claims made by fallible men. And because evolution is not real science, there is no reason to believe any sort of “tension” exists between science and Christianity. Science and Christianity are not at odds, but evolutionism and Christianity are. If you are ready to get on a road that will lead you to rejecting the damaging theology of theistic evolution, get out your Bible, click here and start researching. Feel free to leave a comment if you want to continue the conversation.

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6 Comments on “Is theistic evolution a disease of learning?”

  1. Elisa M Says:

    Excellent & englightening post, Dr. Shormann! I just happened to listen to your Creation/Evolution lecture from the 2010 CHEO convention this afternoon on my MP3 player, and came to your blog as a result. Yesterday I watched Dr. Enns lecture that you reference above and was so disturbed by the twisting of scripture being taught. Your post (and lecture) really helped the thoughts that had been swirling around in my brain to gel. Thank you!

    • gensci Says:

      Hi Elisa,
      I am glad you found the post helpful, and especially glad it helped you think things through. That is an answer to my prayers!

  2. Jacqueline B Says:

    Well said!

  3. gemstone Says:

    You have warped the basis on which Bacon formed his theory of human understanding, and have in fact done what Bacon cautioned against. First, Bacon understood that he, too, was a product of the times, and, as he acknowledged in private writings, his references to God and faith were written because of the times in which he found himself (in the mid-16th century, it was expedient to do so, and heresy to claim anything else), and he, like almost everyone else, believed in a deity. At that time there was NO formal study of science, and EVERYTHING people learned came from the Church. Education of the masses was virtually non-existent, most people didn’t know how to read or write, and formal critical thinking wasn’t even a theory.

    Bacon was aware that Man sees the world in his own image, that the human image of the world derives its features from “Four Idols”:
    1) from the nature of the mind (Idols of the Tribe): human perceptions of the world bear reference to man and not the universe, the human mind acting like a mirror, distorting and disfiguring the real world to fit into the world humans imagine it to be [I.41] for man always believes more readily that which he prefers [I. 49];
    2) from the idiosyncrasies of the individual (Idols of the Den) which derive their origin from the peculiar nature of each individual’s mind and body, from their education, habit, and accident [I. 53];
    3) from the individual’s interactions with others (Idols of the Market) which are formed during interaction of man with society and other humans (I. 43); and
    4) from the philosophical dogmas current at the time (Idols of the Theater) which are symbols that have crept into men’s minds from the various dogmas of whatever systems of philosophy in which he finds himself, that have been received or imagined during his life, thereby creating fictitious theatrical worlds that conform nicely into that philosophy [I.44].

    Your ‘reality’ is based on the limitations of what you’ve chosen to accept as fact, and that’s limited to “the Bible”, itself a set of books written over hundreds of years by hundreds of different people who were trying to make sense of the world. People living 2,000 years ago were even more superstitious than people are today, so their attributing everything to a supernatural force was to be expected. But for people today to unquestioningly accept as fact what the Bible teaches in parables and lessons is a sad step backward into Bacon’s 16th century or earlier. If you suggest that people accept teachings in the Bible as a basis for a good moral code, I agree. But to rely on the Bible as a scholastic resource that proves Creationist theory is illogical. Using one’s own limited vision of the world, and combining it with opinions, faiths and beliefs fails to constitute proof of anything, and certainly not the formation of life on Earth.

    • gensci Says:

      Hi gemstone,
      You are the only one warping Bacon’s ideas. Have you read New Atlantis? What about The Religious Foundations of Francis Bacon’s Thoughts? I would encourage you to do so if you haven’t already. You wrote “Using one’s own limited vision of the world, and combining it with opinions, faiths and beliefs fails to constitute proof of anything, and certainly not the formation of life on Earth.” I couldn’t agree more. We are all in the same boat, and we all have the same set of data to look at. If you think even for a second that I am trying to “prove Creationist theory,” you are incredibly wrong. NOBODY CAN PROVE SUCH THINGS, unless you have a time machine or a crystal ball to go back and verify the claims. I believe God created everything in 6 days and rested on the 7th, and I believe there was a worldwide flood that buried massive amounts of organisms all over the world and is the reason the Earth’s surface is still mostly covered with water. There is evidence for my beliefs, but I cannot prove them and neither can anyone else.

      One point of this post is to show that no idea is perfect, but some are definitely better than others. Would you agree? What problems do you have with theistic evolutionism?

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