When Faith and Reason Clash:
Evolution and the Bible

A discussion of the issues which emerged from Notre Dame philosopher Alvin Plantinga's "When Faith and Reason Clash: Evolution and the Bible." The dialogue began in The Christian Scholar's Reviewand moved to Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith.

This conversation touches on many of the issues that have concerned the more than 140 year discussion by Christians on Evolution. Students and other readers are asked to carefully read all the discussion before reaching a conclusion.

Plantinga's original: "When Faith and Reason Clash: Evolution and the Bible"

Among the many forms taken by the issue of "faith and reason," the question of biological evolution has at present considerable prominence. In this article Alvin Plantinga urges that Christian scholars, who are free from the naturalistic assumption that nature unaided must have produced everything which exists, need to make an independent assessment of the evidence for evolution. He then goes on to make such an assessment, and concludes that, even apart from direct evidence derived from the Genesis story of creation, the probability is that God did not produce all forms of life through an evolutionary process. Mr. Plantinga teaches philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.


Van Till Responds to Plantinga: "When Faith and Reason Cooperate"

Our first comment on Plantinga's article comes from Howard J. Van Till. Though sharing Plantinga's "Reformed Christian heritage," Van Till disagrees with many of the contentions in his article. He objects to the overuse of the "conflict" metaphor for the relationship of faith and reason, and notes Plantinga's reliance on "folk exegesis" to tell us what the Bible says about creation. Perhaps most importantly, he argues that the use of the theory of evolution in "naturalistic apologetics" is an unfortunate feature of the contemporary scene that must be dealt with "not as science, but as the misemployment of science in a religious agenda." Mr. Van Till teaches physics at Calvin College.

Ankylosaurus Skull

Pun Responds to Plantinga: "Response to Professor Plantinga"

Our next commentator, Pattle Pun, finds himself in enthusiastic agreement with Plantinga's position. He spells out arguments in favor of such a view from theology, philosophy, and biblical hermeneutics, and also contributes some scientific arguments showing difficulties for evolutionary theory. Mr. Pun teaches biology at Wheaton College.

Herrerasaurus Skull

McMullin responds to Plantinga: "Plantinga's Defense of Special Creation"

Ernan McMullin agrees with Plantinga about the importance of integrating science into a comprehensive Christian worldview, but differs considerably with regard to how this is to be done. He finds Plantinga's proposal for a "Theistic Science" quite problematic, and he urges that Plantinga's discussion fails to do justice to the formidable body of evidence supporting evolution. Fr. McMullin teaches history and philosophy of science at Notre Dame.

Fossil Mammal Diorama

Plantinga replies to Van Till and McMullen: "Evolution, Neutrality, and Antecedent Probability: a Reply to Van Till and McMullin"

"There is a deep level of agreement among all four of us; as is customary with replies and replies to replies, however, I shall concentrate on our areas of disagreement. In the cases of Van Till and McMullin, this may give an impression of deeper disagreement than actually exists. In the case of Pun it leaves me with little to say except Yea and Amen; I find no serious disagreement between us."

Hasker Responds to Plantinga: "Evolution and Alvin Plantinga"

"When a contribution to the creation-evolution debate comes from one of the world's leading Christian philosophers, attention must be paid. Such a contribution is Alvin Plantinga's "When Faith and Reason Clash: Evolution and the Bible," which appeared in the September 1991 issue of the Christian Scholar's Review. Some valuable initial responses to Plantinga's argument have come in the form of comments by Howard Van Till and Ernan McMullin, which were published along with Plantinga's article. Plantinga's reply to McMullin and Van Till, however, changes the situation by opening up aspects of his position which were not clear from the initial paper, so it is necessary for the discussion to continue." Mr. Hasker teaches Philosophy at Huntington College.

Model of Darwin in his study

Plantinga's Response: "On Rejecting the Theory of Common Ancestry: A Reply to Hasker"

"Hasker takes issue with several things I said; I am tempted to engage in lengthy point-by-point self-exculpation, but I shall resist, confining myself to a couple of points of general interest. Some of the issues involved seem to me to be extremely important with respect to the health and welfare of the Christian intellectual community."

Hasker's last word: "Should Natural Science Include Revealed Truth? A Response To Plantinga"

"I shall be discussing two main topics: the need for Plantinga to provide an alternative to the theory of common ancestry (TCA), and his proposal for 'theistic science.'"