Professor Douglas F. Kelly
The inspired Word of God begins with the doctrine of creation; that is the foundation of the whole book of redemption. A straight-forward reading of the Holy Bible clearly teaches that God created all things in the space of six days, and all ‘very good’.
The prologue to John’s Gospel teaches that our Lord Jesus Christ was the very agent of creation (cf. John 1:3). Revelation 4:11 shows the saints and angels in heaven praising Christ for his work of creation: ‘Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 5:9 goes on to praise this same glorious Christ for having redeemed with His own blood the fallen creation.
It does strike me as strange that the praises of heaven are so full of the honors Christ deserves as agent of creation, while much of the modern evangelical church seems hesitant to make any serious reference to his divine creation. If heaven so glorifies Christ for the wonders of creation, why do so many Christian scholars today seem embarrassed by it?
In Evolution and the Authority of the Bible, Dr. Nigel Cameron commented on this strange situation:
“In other areas, evangelical Christians have taken their stand on the teaching of the Bible and refused to allow consensus opinions of the secular and liberal Christian world to determine their own. Yet here [when challenged by evolutionists] there has been a remarkable readiness to fall in line, irrespective of the teaching of Scripture.”
It has made me sad to see otherwise fine Christian scholars, some in the Evangelical and Reformed camp, refuse to hold to a plain reading of Scripture, in order to join in with the evolutionary ‘consensus.’ I may be misreading them, but it seems to me that it is a way to avoid unpleasant conflict with the modern culture, whose most basic premise is evolutionary theory. While I do not doubt the good intentions of these people, I must raise the serious question: do we really want to follow them down the pro-evolutionary path?
Dr. Michael Denton, though not a professing Christian, has written a massive critique of evolution from an empirical scientific basis: Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. He shows how crucial evolution is to secular humanism:
“The entire scientific ethos and philosophy of modern western man is based to a large extent upon the central claim of Darwinian theory that humanity was not born by the creative intentions of a deity, but by a completely mindless trial and error selection of random molecular patterns. The cultural importance of evolution theory is therefore immeasurable, forming as it does the centerpiece, the crowning achievement, of the naturalistic view of the world, the final triumphant of the secular thesis which since the end of the middle ages has displaced the old naïve cosmology of Genesis from the western mind.”
We probably need not be overly worried about aggressive atheistic evolutionists, such as Richard Dawkins of Oxford, but one is rather more concerned to see Christian scholars, who claim allegiance to the Scriptures, make peace with a doctrine so opposed to the very foundations of Christianity (and Judaism before it). It would appear that some of them feel that evolution is such a universally proven fact, that to accept Biblical creational teaching would render the Gospel itself incredible in the view of most educated people today. It would ‘paint believers into a corner’, and keep needy souls from receiving the good news at their hands.
Let us look at two good reasons why this is simply not the case: (1) empirical science does not prove evolution, nor finally require it, for its progress to continue, and (2) one cannot split the foundational Scriptural teaching on creation from Gospel redemption, without the danger of losing them both!
(1) Empirical (or operational) science has never actually proven evolution. Let us take only a few examples.
Studies in the first and second laws of thermodynamics have indicated that these most basic of physical laws actually run counter to the necessary assumptions of evolution. That is, the first law (conservation of energy: ‘nothing is now being created or destroyed’) surely suggests that there was a time when creative forces were in operation that have long since ceased. The second law (entropy: there is a tendency in all closed systems for a certain amount of energy to pass into non-reversible heat energy, thereby causing the system – whether a tree, a star or a human body – to break down) suggests that the original creation was not at a time infinitely distant, because if it had been, everything would already have passed into a non-reversible heat death.
In the realm of biology, a supplement for high school biology textbooks, Of Pandas and People: the Central Question of Biological Origins states that: “The only known means of introducing genuinely new genetic material into the gene pool is by mutation, a change in the DNA structure…The fruit fly has been the subject of many experiments because its short life-span allows scientists to observe many generations. In addition, the flies have been bombarded with radiation to increase the rate of mutations… Mutations do not create new structures. They merely alter existing ones… they have not transformed the fruit fly into a new kind of insect. Experiments have simply produced variations within the fruit fly species.”
Operational (as contrasted with evolutionary dogmatic or theoretical) science has in no sense confirmed the assumptions of evolution as to the ability of random mutation to produce (or evolve) new species. The French zoologist, P. P. Grasse, has studied mutations in generations of bacteria, which reproduce much more rapidly than fruit flies. One bacterial generation lasts approximately thirty minutes. Hence, they multiply 400,000 times faster than human generations. Researchers, therefore, can trace mutational change in bacteria equivalent to 3,500,000 years of change within the human species. But Grasse has found that these bacteria have not essentially changed during all these generations (Traite de Zoologie, vol. VIII, Masson, 1976). If that be true, on what empirical basis can one assert that humans must have changed during an equivalent time frame? Is it not a matter of evolutionary assumption, rather than hard science?
The fossil record is far from having proven evolutionary development. That is, ‘missing links’ are still missing, so that the gaps between ‘kinds’ or ‘species’ are still as wide as ever. David B. Kitts of the School of Geology and Geophysics of University of Oklahoma, commented: “Despite the bright promise that paleontology provides a means of ‘seeing’ evolution, it has provided some nasty difficulties for evolutionists, the most notorious of which is the presence of ‘gaps’ in the fossil record. Evolution requires intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them” (“Paleontology and Evolutionary Theory”, Evolution vol. 28, 1974, 467). It is the dogma, or unproven theory of evolution, not actual science, that runs contrary to the clear teachings of Genesis.
(2) One cannot split the foundational teaching on creation from the Good News of Redemption, without the danger of losing them both.
Scottish theologian, James Denney, made this point in the late 1890s: “The separation of the religious and the scientific means in the end the separation of the religious and the true; and this means that religion dies among true men.” But if we base our understanding of life and nature on the Word of God with its foundational teaching of divine creation, we show people that God and His written Word deal with the real world; with their world! One of John Calvin’s close friends in Strasbourg, Wolfgang Capito, rightly stated that an understanding of creation by God is “the head of divine philosophy” (Hexameron, Sive Opus Sex Dierum).
For instance, how can we possibly understand why we are like we are (including being prey to old age and death), without grasping the primal truth that all human kind was involved somehow in the original sin of Adam, and that ‘the wages of sin is death’? There was no death and decay in the original perfect creation, until man sinned. The theory of evolution runs contrary to this consistent Biblical teaching, for it requires struggle, decay and death to make possible its mythical scenario of one species clawing its way to a higher form of life. And moreover, if we make the first Adam a sort of myth, then do we not at the same time lose the saving significance of Christ, the Last Adam (cf. Romans 5 and I Cor. 15)?
Does not compromise with evolution run the danger of causing the Church to lose too much – not least the Gospel of forgiveness of sins, resurrection and eternal life? Why risk paying such a price with a theory that is against Scripture, and that violates much of operational science? Is temporary peace with our secular culture really worth it?
Douglas F. Kelly, Ph.D., is one of the leading Presbyterian scholars today. He is professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. He has spent many years of research in Edinburgh.
This article has been reproduced with the permission of Douglas Kelly.