Science in Christian Perspective



Biological Evolution 


From: JASA 20 (December 1968): 119.
The present attitude in the ASA towards the idea of biological evolution seems to he one of live and-let-live. It is quite frequently suggested that ASA members can and should work towards the solution of many other
science-faith questions, in spite of any disagreement concerning evolution.

There are two difficulties with this idea. The first concerns our use of the Bible. Many in the ASA have used the Bible in an attempt to prove that biological evolution did not occur. Those accepting evolution have responded that the Bible cannot be used in this way. Each group has thus established for itself a precedent concerning the use of the Bible. If evolutionists and anti-evolutionists cannot agree on the relevancy of the Bible for this question, neither will they be able to agree on its relevancy for other science-faith questions.

For example, the current discussion of the relation between our modern ideas of mental diseases and demon possession recorded in the Bible requires that we understand the nature of the Bible. Similarly, modern psychological conclusions may or may not be related to the Biblical concept of "soul", depending upon the nature of the Bible.

The other difficulty with putting aside the question of evolution arises because evolution is an ordering principle. It is in man's nature to seek out ordering principles, laws which are universally valid. Evolutionary theory is the result of one attempt to formulate a universal law. It is therefore natural that the idea of biological evolution has been extrapolated in two directions: into the past, before life existed, with the idea that life evolved from non-life and that nonliving matter has always been evolving, without beginning; and into the future, with the idea that man and his institutions will continue to develop, producing eventually a human society entirely different from the present one.

In opposing this ordering principle, the anti-evolutionist in the ASA has attempted, using the Bible, to present another ordering principle, one which emphasizes the relation of God to his creation. For both the evolutionist and the anti-evolutionist, his ordering principle depends ultimately upon his conception of the nature of the Bible.

Because ordering principles are involved, the debate over evolution is inevitably a debate concerning a world-and-life view. But one's world-and-life view will determine the approach he uses in solving problems, including the science-faith problems discussed in the ASA. For example, the anti-evolutionist holds that all men are qualitatively different from animals. The evolutionist allows for differences between groups of men, depending upon how far along the evolutionary path each group has traveled. The anti-evolutionist opposes racism partly because he believes evolution did not occur, while the belief of the evolutionist leaves the door open for the racist. Therefore, when both the evolutionist and the anti-evolutionist oppose racism, at least some of their reasons for doing so will be different.

The question of whether or not the ASA should publish both evolutionary and anti-evolutionary literature has been raised. It is impossible that both the evolutionary and the anti-evolutionary positions are true. To the extent that we proceed using the wrung position-related as it is to our world-and-life viewwe will obtain more wrung answers. If half of what we publish assumes evolution to be true and half assumes the opposite, then (to oversimplify, of course) our wrong answers will cancel out our right ones.

What about dialogue with our nun-Christian colleagues? Both the evolutionists and the antievolutionists in the ASA should realize that we are certain to make many serious mistakes in our witness if we are divided on the evolution question. Somebody will he not only ineffective as a witness, but he will do positive harm. The work of the Roman Catholic Church provides an analogy. We Protestants believe that the Catholic Church teaches both error and Christian truth. We do 'not share in the work of this church because we do not wish to take part in a witness which contains much which we do not approve. Will the ASA present a witness which partially contradicts itself?

The ASA needs to return to the basic question about the use of the Bible in scientific problems. If we together arrive at the correct answer to this question, we will be well on our way towards providing a unified, powerful witness. Naturally, achieving unity will not be easy. Perhaps JASA articles and convention papers on the role of the Bible in scientific investigation should be encouraged. If we have the will to attack this question, we will very likely find suitable ways to attack it.

It seems to me that the ASA experience teaches us what it is we must be agreed upon to enable us to work and witness together. Over the years we have discussed at length what our statement of belief ought to be. Even though it may be desirable for such a statement to be short, it should be precise and it should speak to the problems which have arisen in our experience. I believe that one question our statement should answer is, "What is the relation between the Bible and science?" We should answer this question so clearly that in every science-faith discussion among us in the future the same basic assumption about the relation between the Bible and science can be made.