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The BioLogos Forum has posted these articles by Dr. Timothy Keller, discussing the relationship between science and faith. You can find links to the original article at the top of each section. In writing this post, I want to highlight for myself, in particular, the order in which he addresses each topic. With so much to ask and say about this debate, how does one go about it systematically? What is most important? What should be a priority in the dialogue?

All of the ideas listed below are my paraphrases of Keller’s thoughts, summing up his ideas. My own ideas are in green.

Part 1 – Overview of the tension – Click here for Dr. Keller’s article

What’s the Problem?

In this debate, so many voices say evolution and Scripture are irreconcilable. Richard Dawkins (atheist) says evolution means God is not in charge of creation. Ken Ham (Christian, Young-Earth Creationist) says evolution goes directly against a clear reading of Scripture.

Some aren’t so sure that they are irreconcilable. Peter van Inwagen (Christian philosopher) says that even if belief in God was a product of evolution, it still would not take away the reality of God Himself. In fact, it would be an ingenious way for God to install a universal search for Him in all of humanity. Science cannot prove or disprove Him.

Pastors and People

There are four main difficulties presented by evolution for orthodox Protestants.

1. Biblical authority – By accepting evolution, aren’t we letting science affect our understanding of Scripture instead of vice versa?

2. Confusion of biology and philosophy – Doesn’t believing evolution lead to a “Grand Theory of Everything” that answers life’s great “why” questions?

3. Historicity of Adam and Eve – As Christians believing evolution, don’t we have to believe Adam and Eve and the fall are merely symbolic? What about Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15?

4. Problem of evil – If death and suffering were in the world before the fall, as evolution has it, how do we reconcile this with Scripture (Genesis 3) and the idea of a good God who created a good world that human beings messed up?

Part 2 – Difficulty #1 – Biblical authority – Click here for Dr. Keller’s article

Question: If God used evolution, then we can’t take Genesis 1 literally, and if we can’t, then how can we take any of the Bible literally? It undermines the Bible’s authority.

Answer: To respect the authority of the Bible writers, take them as they want to be taken. Sometimes they want to be taken literally; sometimes they don’t. Listen to them; don’t impose our thinking and agenda on them.

Genre and authorial intent

Just because one part of the Bible is taken literally doesn’t mean all parts are. Ask whether the author wants to be taken literally or not. Judges 5 is Hebrew poetry of Judges 4’s historical prose narrative. Luke 1.1 makes it clear that Luke wants his account to be taken literally. Accounts like Genesis 1 and Ecclesiastes aren’t clear – there will always be debate about them.

Genre and Genesis 1

What genre is Genesis 1? Edward Young (Hebrew expert, six literal days interpretation) admits Genesis 1 has “exalted semi-poetical language” but it’s not straight poetry. There is no parallelism, like Exodus 15.

C. John Collins (analogous days interpretation) says the genre of Genesis 1 is “exalted prose narrative.” By calling it prose narrative, we acknowledge it’s making truth claims about the world in which we live. By calling it exalted, we recognize not to impose a literalistic hermeneutic on it.

In Keller’s view, the strongest argument that the author doesn’t intend a literalistic interpretation is the lack of natural order in the creative acts of Genesis 1 and 2. There is light before the sources of light are created. There is vegetation before there is atmosphere and before rain. Genesis 2.5 implies that God followed a natural order. There were no plants because God had not caused it to rain…. Genesis 1.11 also implies that God used a natural order in His creation. “Let the earth sprout vegetation…”

Keller thinks Genesis 2 can be read literally, but not Genesis 1. Thus, Genesis 1 does not teach a six 24-hour day creation. Maybe Genesis 1 is to Genesis 2 as Judges 5 is to Judges 4.

Part 3 – Difficulty #2 – Confusion of biology and philosophy – Click here for Dr. Keller’s article

Question: If biological evolution is true, does that mean we are just animals driven by our genes, and everything about us can be explained by natural selection?

Answer: No, belief in evolution as a biological process is not the same as belief in evolution as a worldview.

The New Atheists insist that naturalism automatically flows from belief in biological evolution. Because of this, many Christians don’t know how to differentiate between evolutionary biological processes (EBP) and the Grand Theory of Everything (GTE). They likely hold on tightly to Young-Earth Creationism because of this.

Christians who believe in EBP as an account of origins ought to teach or explain how this differs from GTE and come together with other Christians to fight it. If you argue for EBP, you must bring up and put great emphasis on arguing against GTE. See David Atkinson’s quote in the original article.

Part 4 – Difficulty #3 & 4 – Historicity of Adam and Eve and the Fall – Click here for Dr. Keller’s article

Many say we should read Genesis 2 – 11 in light of other creation myths of the ancient Near East, that the biblical authors were “men of their time,” sharing ideas with other cultures. If we did this, we would read these chapters as holding general truth principles, but not as describing actual historical events.

Many ancient writers used symbolic/figurative language. Psalm 139.13: God “knit me together in my mother’s womb” – definitely figurative. Genesis 2.7: God “formed Adam from the dust of the ground” – likely figurative (compare Job 10.8-9).

Kenneth Kitchen (Christian Egyptologist) says Near Eastern societies didn’t “historicize” myths, but rather “mythologized” history. “They celebrated actual historical events and people in mythological terms.” We can conclude that Genesis 2 – 11 are “high” accounts of actual events.

Paul the apostle thought Adam and Eve and the Fall were historical. When you refuse to take him literally when he clearly wants you to, you have “moved away from the traditional understanding of Biblical authority.”

Part 5 – Difficulty #3 & 4 – Historicity of Adam and Eve and the Fall – Click here for Dr. Keller’s article

Some think you can believe that Adam and Eve were symbolic, along with the Fall, of some original group of human beings. Keller thinks this is too simplistic. (I agree. Consider the above points.)

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul makes the point that, as Christians, we are in a covenant relationship with Christ. We get credit for what He did. This is what Paul means when he says we are “in Christ.” In the same sentence, (v. 22) he says we are similarly “in Adam.” Adam was a “covenantal” representative for the whole human race; what he did (in history) is laid to our account.

If you don’t believe what Paul believes about Adam, that he and his actions were historical, then you deny the core of Paul’s teaching. Paul’s whole argument, that both sin and grace work “covenantally,” falls apart.

This traditional view of the historicity of Adam, Eve, and the Fall, is foundational to the doctrine of original sin (including, I would say, total depravity) and equal sinfulness of the entire human race.

Part 6 – Difficulty # 3 & 4 – Historicity of Adam and Eve and the Fall – Click here for Dr. Keller’s article

This is Derek Kidner’s model of how Adam and Even can fit into an evolutionary origins account of humanity.

Job 10.8-9 makes Genesis 2.7 likely that Adam is also a product of EBP. God breathed into him the spirit of life, endowing him with the image of God. Eve was created special from Adam, followed by God breathing life into all of Adam’s collaterals (the other human beings on the planet at the time.)

Adam would still be seen as the “head” of all of these other people, and they would inherit original sin along with the rest of us (through solidarity, the “oneness” of the covenant relationship, not heredity). These people would answer the questions of Cain’s wife and the city he builds in Genesis 4, along with Genesis 2.20 and Adam’s search for a wife.

There are several factors that imply the world was not perfectly good before the Fall. The darkness and chaos of Genesis 1.2, Satan’s presence in the garden, the need for humans to work (Gen 1.28) and eat (Gen 2.9) meant that the original creation was not perfect. When Romans 8 says that nature groans under the weight of corruption, it would mean that it is disintegrating as a result of humans not being good stewards (because of their hate for God.) The Fall primarily brought spiritual death to human beings.

Still, perhaps Adam and Eve were given conditional immortality as a foretaste of heaven.

There are many other models of how Adam and Eve could fit into the evolutionary account of origins. Keller’s main argument is that he wants us to be “bigger tents” than the anti-scientific religious community and the anti-religious scientific community. He argues that belief in a historical Adam and Eve is extremely important, but that there are several ways to hold this view while also holding a belief in evolutionary biological processes.

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The Cosmic Temple Inauguration view:

Genesis is ancient cosmology, inspired by God, written by human beings to Israel, who had an ancient understanding of the world and the universe. It does not update this understanding, but speaks its message with their terminology and science.

In the ancient Near East culture, the fact that God created the material world was such an unquestioned idea that it did not concern them. It was not a priority. They were, however, concerned with what function and purpose He gave to the material world and how. This, to them, was existence. This was creation. Therefore, the Genesis account is not one of material origin. It is one of functional origin.

The cosmos are God’s temple, created for Him to rest in: to dwell in and carry out His authority. The creation of a temple involves the setting up of its functions and the entrance of God’s presence. The seven days of Genesis 1 refer to this inauguration.</div>

  • The Hebrew word translated “create” (bara) concerns assigning functions.
  • The account begins in verse 2 with no functions, rather than no material.
  • The first three days pertain to the three major functions of life: time, weather, food.
  • Days four to six pertain to functionaries in the cosmos being assigned their roles and spheres.
  • The recurring comment that “it is good” refers to functionality (relative to people.)
  • The temple aspect is evident in the climax of day seven when God rests – an activity in a temple.

<div style=”text-indent: 20px;”>Even though Genesis is not an account of material origin, it is still biblical and theologically correct to believe Him the originator of all material. Genesis is simply not this account. (See Colossians 1.16-17, Hebrews 1.2, 11.3 for material origin.)

As the Bible does not give a scientific account of material origin, the Christian is free to follow the evidence where it leads. They should be leaders in their fields of biology, cosmology, anthropology, paleontology, etc. to give sound and biblical interpretation of it.

Science cannot prove or disprove God. Although as Christians, we believe that God is in and behind every natural law, creating and sustaining our world, we would be bad scientists and bad Christians to say that the evidence proved this. Likewise, although atheists believe that there is nothing behind the natural laws, they would be bad scientists to say that the evidence proved it.

References

The Lost World of Genesis One by John Walton

The Language of God by Francis Collins

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