Arthur R. Hill, CSCA Member
Department of Food Science
University of Guelph,
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
From: PSCF 53 (March 2001): 5-6
What is it about theistic evolution (TE) that justifies hundreds of journal pages, scores of person- years and millions of research dollars? Does anyone outside of Christian colleges care? Is there anything unique to TE that helps refute scientific materialism? Does TE edify Christians?
First, my personal intellectual journey has left me skeptical of both the theological and scientific merits of TE. As a student and then as a professor, I tried to convince myself that it was logical to assume an old earth and that Darwin hit upon the mechanism that God used to create living organisms. Passing of time and continued reading of modernist theologians have made TE seem less plausible to me. TE, relative to Darwinism, does provide one essential element, namely, a source of information. The concept that biology developed by a Darwinian mechanism of "natural law plus chance" with or without injections of information by God is clearly a faith proposition and in that respect is not unlike accepting a literal interpretation of Genesis.
Second, the extremely provincial nature of TE scholarship was brought home to me during several occasions when Christian groups on my campus invited well-known TE scholars to present public lectures. The intent of such lectures should be to challenge unbelievers to consider the truth claims of Christ, and to edify believers. In my experience, neither of these effects has occurred. While these talks did not stimulate unbelievers to participate in the question period, there were always questions from believers who predictably were of two camps, those who wanted to advance their own versions of TE and the young earth creationists. The chief goal of the two camps seemed to be to "evangelize" each other. Indeed, several TE advocates in a discussion after one TE lecture made it known that they wished to organize a program to promote TE in Canadian churches on the presumption that the literal interpretation of Genesis was an error as demonstrated by the "scientific" evidence for evolution. Even if the theory of evolution directed by God was true, the literal interpretation of Genesis could hardly undermine the foundations of Christian faith and practice. On the contrary, for many young Christians, acceptance of TE is the first step toward rejecting Scripture as the inspired Word of God. That result says nothing about the truth of TE but it certainly underlines the importance of proper handling of Scripture (2 Tim. 2:15). In fact, some modernist theologians appear to hold the unscientific and unbiblical belief that evolution is both a "scientific fact" and an essential Christian doctrine. Thatís my third point.
I have met theological modernists who appear to consider evolution (with a theological twist) as an essential doctrine of Christianity. Phillip Johnson in his latest book, The Wedge of Truth, makes a stronger statement: "I have observed that in some Christian
academic circles it is considered far more offensive to deny the theory of evolution than it is to deny the divinity of Jesus or even the existence of God." Certainly most TE advocates are not so careless with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but I am skeptical that TE scholarship has much value in the battle against scientific materialism. The goal of Christian academics everywhere ought to be to advance the Truth claims of Jesus Christ. While scholars working in the area of philosophy of science and religion are uniquely placed to honor God in this endeavor, every discipline offers opportunities to glorify God.
One way to glorify God is to honor him as creator regardless of your views on TE or special creation. A good test of Christian integrity in this regard is the way Christian scholars use terms such as evolution and natural selection when they publish in non- Christian journals. The term "evolution" in secular writing is always understood as Darwinian evolution, which by definition excludes the creator God of the Bible. My encouragement to my colleagues and to all Christian scholars is to insist on clear terminology that acknowledges and glorifies the God of creation (Rom. 1:20, 21). Reference to creation rather than evolution gives "praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation."