Papers in Physical Science
Originally Written in November 1994
Slightly revised May 1999
God as Creator
The Starting Point for the Christian Scientist
John Calvin opens the Institutes of the Christian Religion with an excellent discussion on whether the knowledge of God is prior to knowledge of self or vice versa. At the risk of vastly oversimplifying and perhaps even missing Calvin's point, I will say at the outset of this essay that recognition of God as our Creator and ourselves as His creatures is the fundamental starting point for a right understanding of God, ourselves, and the world that we study. The Scriptures themselves speak of a General Revelation which points even unregenerate men and women to this truth. "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech. And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world." (Ps. 19:1-4) "Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." (Rom. 1:19,20)
However, sinful humans suppress this truth deny God and worship idols. "They did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations...Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures...For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." (Rom. 1:21-25) Thus, the knowledge of God as Creator comes to us by God's special grace whereby he convinces us that what the Scriptures teach is true.
Belief that the world was created by God is a faith confession. "It is by faith that we know that the universe was created by the Word of God, so that what can be seen was made out of what cannot be seen." (Heb. 11:3) See also Gen.1:1; Neh.9:6; Job 9:7-10; Ps.33:6-9; 148:3-6; Is.40:26; 45:12,18,19; Jn.1:3; Col.1:15-17. We confess this doctrine in our creeds and confessions: "I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth." See also Belgic Confession, Article XII, Heidelberg Catechism, Question 26, and Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter IV.
A primary meaning of Creator is Originator. All that we see around us has been called into being by His Word and is structured by His Word. All things are "created by the Word of the Lord" (Heb. 11:3). "And God said, let there be..." (Gen. 1). "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made" (Ps.33:6). "For he commanded and they were created" (Ps. 148:5). "He (Christ) is before all things, and in Him all things hold together" (Col. 1:17). The scriptures sometimes speak of God as calling things into existence together with the rules or laws by which they operate: ordinance; dominion (Job 38:33; Jer. 33:35), fixed order (Jer. 31), command (Job 37:15; Ps. 148:5; Ps. 147:15), decree (Job 28:26), mete, measure (Job 28:25), set bounds (Ps. 104:9; Ps. 148:6), appointment (Ps. 119:91).
In its origination, creation is ultimately ex nihilo (Heb. 11:3). That is to say, before God's original act of creation there was nothing. However, an ex nihilo creation does not rule out the notion of God's creating some things using pre-existing material (e.g. Gen. 1:11,12,24).
An implication of the Creator/creature distinction is that Creation cannot be exhaustively fathomed by us who are part of that creation. Arie Leegwater in an unpublished outline entitled "Christian Perspectives in Physics and Chemistry" writes: "For the Christian scientist no creaturely event or thing can be reduced to its scientific explanation. No scientific account can grasp or encompass the radical character of the creature's dependence on the Creator. There is always a sense in which the very structures themselves defy analysis and explanation. Their individuality and uniqueness harbor the mystery of creation: the divine origin and continued sustenance of all things."
The Creator/creature distinction also points us to the human dimension of the scientific enterprise. Even the best of our theories are tentative; new data or new insights into old data may upset the most established of the scientific status quo. We would be naive historically to think that our theories and models are the last word. It might be helpful to think of the Creator/creature distinction in terms of law. From God's perspective His law is prescriptive; from our perspective scientific laws are descriptive. It may be the case that our descriptions begin to approximate the divine prescription in the course of the history of science, but due to the incomprehensibility of the Creator, His Creation also bears that same ultimate mystery. This is the message of Job 38 and 39.
It is the doctrine of Creation that is most abused by unbelieving science. Philosophical Materialism, Evolutionary Naturalism, and Pantheism, as worldviews, deny the existence of a transcendent Creator God. There is nothing beyond the universe and its inherent properties. Such perspectives are exactly what Paul spoke of in Romans 1:25. "For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen."
The Role of the Bible in the Scientist's Work
The Bible is authoritative in the life and work of the scientist as it is in all of life. The authority of the Bible depends not on the testimony of any man, or church, but wholly upon God, its author (Westminster Confession of Faith, I, 4). The Bible reveals all things necessary for God's own glory, our salvation, faith and life (WCF, I, 6 and Belgic Confession, Article 2). Because it is the Word of God, and God can neither err nor lie, the Bible is infallible and inerrant in all that it teaches. Christian doctrine and the key elements of the Christian worldview are derived from the Bible. Scripture is our fundamental starting point as we think about God, humanity, the material world, sin, and how all these things interrelate. This view of reality derived from Scripture is the interpretative framework in which Christian scientists and other Christian scholars do their work.
The "all things necessary" (WCF) or "as much as we need in this life" (Belgic Confession) clearly is somewhat limited in scope. To say this is not to limit the authority of Scripture in any way, but simply to recognize that the purpose of God's special revelation to us in the Bible is not to provide a textbook for biology, geology, history, or any technical discipline. All knowledge is not revealed to us in Scripture; our calling to subdue the earth includes the mandate to discover truth about God's world that is not revealed to us in Scripture (see Chapter 4); however, we do not need such knowledge for our salvation, faith and life. Without necessarily denying that the Bible may speak in other areas of life, it must be emphasized that the essential nature of Scripture is to reveal in a historically progressive manner God's work of redemption. Because God's redemptive work recorded for us in the Scripture takes place in space and time, it will intersect with the world as studied by scientists, historians, and other scholars. Where the Bible speaks in these areas, either in general principle or in a specific text, the Christian scholar must receive its teaching as coming from God himself and allow it to govern his or her thinking. This is not to follow some blind Biblical literalism, because proper rules of interpretation must be followed, rules that recognize differences in literary form, redemptive-historical context, and revelatory purpose.
Because of sin it is impossible for fallen humanity to rightly perceive the world except by the work of God's Spirit in our lives. Even reason is affected by the Fall. Hence, God's special revelation in redemptive history and in the Bible gives us glasses through which we can now see the world aright. This implies that we must submit our fallen reasoning to the Scripture and doing so enables us to interpret the world aright. This does not guarantee error-free scholarship nor does it imply that our reasoning or the reasoning of unbelievers is automatically erroneous (see Chapter 5). Rather it means that we must constantly examine our thinking to see that it accords with Scripture. In our modern context where there is great animosity toward the Christian faith among scientists and other scholars, Christian scientists must be on their guard to prevent non-Christian modes of thinking about the world from entering their own thinking.
Even with the above outlined principles it is still possible to have a conflict between science and the Christian faith. At the outset the Christian scholar must maintain that such a conflict is due to the human interpretation of the revelatory Word and works of God. There can be no ultimate conflict between Creation and Scripture. God is the author of both. Conflict comes as a result of our interpretation of Creation (the human endeavor called science) or in our interpretation of Scripture (the human endeavor called hermeneutics, exegesis and theology) or both. We ought to strive to eliminate such conflicts whenever they appear, however, we should recognize that in our limitations and fallibility we may not succeed. (See "Creationism, Evangelism, and Apologetics" in Christianity and the Age of the Earth by Davis A. Young.) In dealing with such conflicts the authority of the Biblical text must be preserved, however, I think that it is perfectly acceptable to allow the findings of science that are in conflict with a received interpretation of a particular passage of scripture to occasion the revisiting of the text to look for another possible interpretation that eliminates the conflict. This is simply to say that our interpretation of Scripture may be in error. Such a re-examination of the text must be done with great caution since the temptation is always present to twist scripture to make it conform to the latest scientific theory.
God's Interaction with the World
"We believe that the same good God, after He had created all things, did not forsake them or give them up to fortune or chance, but that He rules and governs them according to His holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without His appointment" (Belgic Confession, Article XIII). Although origination is usually the first thing we think of when we speak of God as Creator, the Scriptures have a much richer notion of "creator" that includes the notions of sustenance, governance, and providence. In Reformed systematic theologies, these concepts are often treated under the heading of Divine Providence.
To call God Creator is to call Him the Sustainer. God not only
originated the world, but he sustains it moment by moment. The existence of the
world continues to be radically dependent on Him. Scripture verses in
support of this relationship between God and his Creation are the following:
"for in Him we live and move and exist" (Acts 17:28); "He
(Christ)...sustains all things by his power" (Heb. 1:3); "in Him all
things hold together" (Col. 1:17). Were God to remove this sustenance, the
creation would cease to exist. This is no pantheistic doctrine that makes the
creation out to be God. Nor is it a doctrine of continuous creation whereby God
re creates the universe moment by moment.
To call God Creator is to call Him the Governor. God not only governs by law and ordinances as described earlier, but He is intimately involved in its moment by moment workings. "He sends forth springs...He causes the grass to grow...Thou dost give them (animals) their food...Thou dost open Thy hand" (Ps. 104 passim.). "He causes the vapors to ascend...makes lightnings for the rain...brings forth the wind" (Ps. 135:5-7). "He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes. He casts forth His ice as fragments" (Ps. 147:16,17).
"Who gives the sun for light by day...who stirs up the sea" (Jer. 31:35). See also Job 38, 39 passim. God's rule in the Creation is attested to by all the Reformed creeds. The Belgic Confession (Article XIII) says that he "did not forsake them or give them up to fortune or chance, but that He rules and governs them according to His holy will." The Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter V, Section 1) says that he "doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least". This governance extends to chance events (Prov. 16:33). The Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter V, Section 2) while acknowledging God as the "first Cause" affirms that "he ordereth them (all things) to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently. It also recognizes that "God, in his ordinary providence, maketh use of means" (Chapter V, Section 3).
To call God Creator is to call Him the Provider. Often in Scripture and in the Confessions, this Divine Governance is set in the context of God Providence. "They all wait for Thee, to give them their food in due season. Thou dost give to them, they gather it up; Thou dost open Thy hand, they are satisfied with good" (Ps. 104:27, 28). "Who covers the heavens with clouds, who provides rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow on the mountains. He gives to the beast its food, and to the young ravens which cry" (Ps. 147:8, 9). "But if God so arrays the grass of the field...will he not much more do so for you?" (Matt. 6:30). The Heidelberg Catechism Question and Answer 27 says: "What do you understand by the providence of God? Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty-- all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.
These doctrines of sustenance, governance, and providence are foundational for understanding the relationship between God's role in creation and providence and the fruit of an investigation of the world using the tools of science. Order and regularity in the operation of the world, features of the world presupposed by practioners of science, result from God's lawful creation and his regular governance. The Scriptures go one step further and recognize that regularity in the functioning of the universe is a manifestation of the faithfulness of God. God has made a covenant and governs in a manner consistent with that covenant (Jer. 31:35,36; 33:20-26).
God's governance structures the created world, and God is free to govern how He pleases. This provides the underpinning for the empirical nature of modern science. We may not presuppose how the world is or how God has chosen to govern it. We have to investigate the world to discern patterns and regularities that exist as a result of God's governance. It may be the case that there are certain boundaries that we simply accept as givens. These boundaries, however, are conditions that we run into as we explore the creation and are empirically derived not imposed on our study of creation by some philosophical system. Examples of such boundaries may be life/non-life, sensory/non-sensory, human/non-human, etc. Of course, if scripture reveals such a boundary, then we must accept it. In my reading scripture emphasizes only one such distinction, human/non-human, i.e. only human beings were created in the image of God.
An additional consequence of these doctrines is that there is no natural/supernatural distinction. In one sense all of creation is "supernatural", i.e. God is always actively involved. At times I think that we ought to dispense with this natural/supernatural language because it gives the impression that normally things occur according to their "natures" apart from the Divine governance. The distinction ought to be between ordinary/extraordinary or regular/irregular. Ordinary events are no less acts of God than miracles. In the miracle God does not act contrary to natural laws (for there are no such things), but contrary to his normal manner of governance. "Miracles" everyday would conflict with God's covenant faithfulness described above. It seems that the miraculous is to shock us into listening to God and His spokesman at key events in redemptive history. This is due in part to the fact that in our sinful state we no longer see God at work in the ordinary events of life.
The Scientist's Mandate
When God created Adam and Eve he gave them mandates to subdue and rule the earth (Gen. 1:26) and to cultivate and keep it (Gen. 2:15). This mandate is reiterated to Noah in Genesis 9. These are mandates to know God's creation, to preserve God's creation, and to use God's creation for the service of others and for His glory. The natural sciences, including chemistry and biochemistry, are a means of fulfilling these mandates and thus are legitimate and even desirable vocations for Christians.
The work of the Christian scientist also comes under the broader kingdom efforts of bringing all aspects of creational reality under the dominion of Christ who is already their rightful Lord. With the apostle we are to take "every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). This work has a positive dimension in that we attempt to understand all that we learn about the world in relationship to God and his sovereign rule. It also has a negative dimension in that we are called to expose systems of thought and interpretative frameworks that are contrary to the kingdom of God that have been established by unbelievers. Prominent false systems of thought found in the sciences at the present moment are: materialistic reductionism, a view claiming that all things can be reduced to the physical-chemical nature and that denies the reality of any spiritual realm; evolutionary naturalism, a view that sees the entire development of the cosmos as the result of natural forces and which denies any involvement of God as Creator, Governor, or Designer.
Finally, as with all believers, scientists are called to do whatever they do to the glory of God and in the name of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17). Our work as scientists is to be an act of worship to the Lord. Especially as we study the marvelous wonders that He has made we bow in adoration of the One who made them.
Practically speaking, it is probably the case that this approach to science/faith issues works most of the time, however, it seems to me that this strikes at the heart of a Biblical and Reformed view of knowledge. In the work of Cornelius Van Til there is a sustained critique of this way of thinking about science. Van Til argues that the fundamental starting point for all knowledge is the knowledge of God and the proper creaturely response to that knowledge. Every fact of science is either interpreted rightly, acknowledging God as creator, or wrongly, denying God as creator. In other words, "there are no brute facts". Consequently, when the unbelieving scientist (or any unbeliever, for that matter) claims some knowledge, because it denies the most fundamental aspect of that creaturely knowledge, the knowledge of God, Van Til would say that it is not true knowledge. He writes in A Survey of Christian Epistemology:
The argument in favor of Christian theism must therefore seek to prove that if one is not a Christian theist he knows nothing at all as he ought to know anything. The difference is not that all men alike know certain things about the finite universe and that some claim some additional knowledge, while the others do not. On the contrary, the Christian theist must claim that he alone has true knowledge about cows and chickens as well as about God. He does this in no spirit of conceit, because it is a gift of God's grace. Nor does he deny that there is knowledge after a fashion that enables the non-theist to get along after a fashion in the world. This is the gift of God's common grace, and therefore does not change the absoluteness of the distinction made about the knowledge and ignorance of the theist and the non-theist respectively.
There are three things to notice in this passage. First, the Christian theist alone has true knowledge about science. (Van Til talks about cows and chickens, but we could substitute chemistry, biology, astronomy, engineering, etc. for cows and chickens.) This is an extraordinary claim and one for which Van Til has received much criticism. The idea is that apart from the knowledge of God as Creator and Sustainer that any knowledge falls short of true knowledge. Thus, only believers, who by the grace of God confess the true God, can have true knowledge. Another aspect of this claim is a moral one; the unbeliever "knows nothing at all as he ought to know anything". Van Til is not saying that the unbeliever knows nothing. But, since all knowledge carries with it a religious and moral imperative to worship and serve the Creator, and since unbelievers disobey that imperative, their knowledge falls short of true knowledge.
The second thing to notice is that while Van Til denies that unbelievers have true knowledge, he does admit that they have "knowledge after a fashion". Unbelievers can know chemistry, biology, astronomy, engineering, etc "after a fashion". Van Til's critics want to call this "knowledge after a fashion" true knowledge, Van Til wants to reserve the term "true knowledge" to knowledge that recognizes the knowledge of God and includes the proper religious/moral response. Thus, the unbeliever's knowledge of "brute facts" is only "knowledge after a fashion" that allows the unbeliever to get along in the world. For example, the unbelieving chemist can mix salicylic acid and acetic anhydride to synthesize aspirin that can be used to treat a headache. The chemistry and the pharmacology works just as it does for the believing chemist. But, for the unbeliever, this is merely "knowledge after a fashion" and not "true knowledge".
The final thing to notice is that Van Til appeals to common grace as the basis for this "knowledge after a fashion" that the unbeliever has. Despite their rebellion and as part of the free offer of the gospel, God allows unbelievers to live in this world that he has created, He has made them in his image with the capacity to "dominion over the creatures", and he has endowed them with gifts to learn about the world "after a fashion". Such a gracious posture on the part of God will not endure forever. If they persist in their unbelief and refuse to worship and serve the Creator, the judgment day will come and the very things that were manifestations of God's grace toward them will be used as evidence against them and they will receive their eternal punishment.
Can a Christian Be an Evolutionist?
The theory of biological evolution is widely acknowledged in the scientific community as the great unifying theory in biology. Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr writes:
The theory of evolution is quite rightly called the greatest unifying theory in biology. The diversity of organisms, similarities and differences between kinds of organisms, patterns of distribution and behavior, adaptation and interaction, all this was merely a bewildering chaos of facts until given meaning by the evolutionary theory. There is no area of biology in which that theory has not served as an ordering principle (Animal Species and Evolution).
The neo-Darwinian synthesis, the version of evolutionary theory that arose in the 1940's, brought together taxonomists, ecologists, and geneticists with the recognition of the importance of geography and population biology in evolutionary change. Consequently, among all branches of biology evolutionary theory commands nearly universal acceptance. Not only does evolutionary theory organize the various branches of biology, but each of them contribute somewhat independently to a unified coherent theory. Paleontology, classical and molecular genetics, population biology, sociobiology, taxonomy, developmental biology and biochemistry have joined together to contribute to the grand universally accepted synthesis. This is not to say that these contributors do not argue among themselves concerning the relative weight and interpretation of their respective contributions, but these are in-house discussions. Among professional biologists evolutionary theory is considered not only the best explanation of the available data, but a very good explanation of that data.
Of course, universal acceptance of a theory does not necessarily mean that it is correct or even that those who accept it accept it on the basis of the empirical evidence. Critics of evolutionary theory often claim that a deeply rooted religious commitment to atheistic naturalism drives most of the scientific community to accept evolution. In other words, evolution (together with big bang theory, chemical evolution, plate tectonics and other geological theories) is part of a "religious" origins account for the atheistic naturalist. Recent criticisms along these lines include those by Phillip Johnson (Darwin on Trial) and Alvin Plantinga (Christian Scholar's Review, Special Issue: Creation/Evolution and Faith, "When Faith and Reason Clash: Evolution and the Bible" and responses). There is no doubt that some evolutionists, especially those who write for a more general audience, have used evolutionary theory to support their atheistic views. Perhaps the most celebrated example of this is the widely quoted statement of Richard Dawkins (author of The Blind Watchmaker) "Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." Plantinga claims that given atheism, evolution is a warranted theory, but that given theism (which all Christian would admit), the empirical evidence for evolution is not compelling and that some sort of special creationism seems more likely. Plantinga seems ready to admit to some of the evolutionary claims, but believes that at key junctures in the theory (e.g. origin of life, the pre-Cambrian explosion, origin of human beings, and perhaps other sudden appearances of new forms) that a more warranted explanation, given theism, is to call upon some act of special creation.
In principle, I sympathize with the claims of Plantinga and Johnson.
Certainly, some evolutionists use this biological theory to buttress their
atheistic worldview and Christian scholars are called upon to point out this use
of evolutionary theory. Also, the atheist, who has no origins alternative, has
much at stake, morally and existentially, in denying God a role in creation.
Christian scientists must be cognizant of these non-scientific factors at work
in the theorizing that occurs in the professional community. However, having
said this, I do not agree with Plantinga in his claim that, given theism, the
warrant for evolution is weak. It is my judgment, as a biologist and as a
theist, that the evidence for evolution is strong and that it something that the
Christian community needs to wrestle with. It is interesting to note, without
getting into all the historical nuances, that Darwin left England on the Beagle
as a theist with special creationist leanings (like most of his
contemporaries) and that it was his observations of the natural world,
especially in the tropics, that led him to his evolutionary views.
The theory of biological evolution does not necessarily imply the atheistic worldview described above. In fact at several key junctures I must disagree with many of the advocates of evolution. In doing so they may even claim that I am not an evolutionist at all, but that is a conclusion that they and not one that I make. The heart of this disavowal has to do with the claim that although I accept evolution as a biological theory, I am still a Creationist. The biological theory is our human formulation (subject to on-going refinement) of God-governed "natural" processes whereby God created the vast array of living things. The word "natural" is used not in the sense of "autonomous" but in the sense of "regular" or "ordinary". The notion of secondary cause captures the idea. God is the ultimate governor, yet He choose to govern process via regular cause and effect relations that can be understood as we observe the world. This can and should be said of every natural occurring process that can be described by science.
There are several implications of this theistic view of evolution. Since the term "theistic evolution" seems to be suspect for some reason, perhaps we should call it an "evolutionary creation". This semantic shift makes creation the noun rather than evolution, perhaps for the better. The evolution that I hold to is not random in any ultimate sense, nor is it purposeless, nor is it without design. These are all claims that some evolutionists make. But these are metaphysical and theological claims, not scientific claims. There is a certain sense in which I believe that chance or random processes are involved in mutation or chromosome rearrangements or in recombination or chromosome pairing during meiosis or gamete fusion. These processes are empirically known to follow the laws of statistics, just as coin flipping, card drawing, or sex determination does. But this is not to say that these processes are chance or random in any ultimate sense. Since God is the ultimate governor of whatsoever comes to pass, each coin flip, card draw, or mutation is determined by his all-wise and all-holy counsel. There is even a Proverb (16:33) that says "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." Design and purpose can be discussed in the same way. Just because adaptations (the excellent fit between an organism's structure and function or environment) can be accounted for by natural selection, does not mean that there is not a divine design or purpose. That claim is fundamentally religious and atheistic. There is no necessary incompatibility between evolution by natural selection and divine design and purpose.
I can think of no better way to support my point here than by quoting from A. A. Hodge, the Old Princeton theologian whose commitment to the inerrancy and authority of Scripture and to the Reformed faith is beyond question. Hodge wrote the following in the Introduction to Theism and Evolution by Joseph S. Van Dyke and reprinted in The Princeton Theology 1812-1921 edited and compiled by Mark Noll (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1983): Evolution considered as the plan of an infinitely wise Person and executed under the control of His everywhere present energies can never be irreligious; can never exclude design, providence, grace, or miracles. Hence we repeat that what Christians have cause to consider with apprehension is not evolution as a working hypothesis of science dealing with facts, but evolution as a philosophical speculation professing to account for the origin, causes, and end of all things.
Hodge's colleague and contemporary at Princeton, B. B. Warfield, wrote the following in his unpublished "Lectures on Anthropology" (Dec. 1888) (cited in Darwin's Forgotten Defenders, p. 119):
The upshot of the whole matter is that there is no necessary antagonism of Christianity to evolution, provided that we do not hold to too extreme a form of evolution. To adopt any form that does not permit God freely to work apart from law and which does not allow miraculous intervention (in the giving of the soul, in creating Eve, etc.) will entail a great reconstruction of Christian doctrine, and a very great lowering of the detailed authority of the Bible. But if we condition the theory by allowing the constant oversight of God in the whole process, and his occasional supernatural interference for the production of new beginnings by an actual output of creative force, producing something new i.e., something not included even in posse in the preceding conditions, ‹we may hold to the modified theory of evolution and be Christians in the ordinary orthodox sense.
The lengthy citation of Abraham Kuyper (cited in Creation and Evolution by Jan Lever) is worth repeating here to express the notion that evolutionary theory is not necessarily antagonistic to the Christian faith if design and purpose are not excluded.
An entirely different problem is that so often discussed in England whether religion permits, as such, the spontaneous evolvement of the species in the organic world from one single primary cell. That question, of course, without reservation, must be answered in the affirmative. We should not impose our style upon the Chief Architect of the universe. (emphasis mine) Provided he remains, not in appearance, but in essence, the Architect, he is also in the choice of his style of architecture the Omnipotent. If it thus had pleased the Lord not to create the species as such, but to have one species arise from the other, by designing the preceding species in such a way that it could produce the next higher, the creation would have been just as wonderful. But this never would have been the evolution of Darwinism because the predetermined plan would not then have been excluded, but would have been all predominating, and not the world had then built itself up mechanically, but God by means of elements which He himself prepared for that purpose. The contrast shows itself most clearly from an illustration selected by Haeckel. In order to remove the objection that is inherent in the mechanical explanation of a complex organism, he asks whether a Zulu Negro, who at Lorenzo Marquez sees an English armored battleship enter, would not certainly view this colossus as an organic monster, while we, of course, know very well that it has been riveted together mechanically. Everyone naturally agrees with this. But Haeckel overlooked the fact that in the shipyard the steel plates did not place themselves in the proper position, but that they have been put together by a skillful architect according to a previously prepared plan. And that same difference would differentiate such a divine evolutionistic creation from the system of the Darwinists. Evolutionistic creation presupposes a God who has first made the plan and then executes it omnipotently. Darwinism teaches the mechanical origin of things that excludes all plan or purpose or draft. The acceptance of evolutionary theory by Christians must be seen as mediate Creation, whereby God called some things into existence using pre-existing materials and ordinary means. As indicated by the above citations, these orthodox Presbyterian and Reformed theologians, found no reason to disagree with evolutionary theory as long as the certain essential characteristics were not disregarded: the dependence of the Creation on God, His design and purpose, the Creation of human beings in God's image, and God's freedom to act miraculously in his Creation.
An additional issue is whether or not evolutionary theory comports with specific teachings of scripture concerning the creation of all things. The days of Genesis 1 and the specific account of the creation of Adam and Eve have been particular sources of difficulty. In the orthodox Reformed tradition dating from at least the middle of the 19th century, the days of Genesis 1 have been regarded as long periods of time or as a literary framework for the execution of God's creative decrees. My own view is the latter. Reconciling evolutionary theory with the specifics of the Genesis 2 account of the creation of Adam and Eve is much more difficult. The text of Genesis 2:7 does not appear to allow for the view that the body of Adam derived from animal ancestors. How this squares away with evidence from the created world suggesting others is still an unanswered question in my mind. Clearly, the creation of Adam as a whole human being, body and soul, in the image of God, was the result of a special miraculous act. Also, the creation of Eve as derivative from Adam was the result of a special miraculous act. This conclusion about the origin of man derives primarily from the text itself. If the text were silent on this matter, I would have no problems with a Divinely guided evolutionary origin of the first human beings.