Sunday, February 6, 2011

Caution at the Gate to a Perilous Path

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
– Genesis 1:1

Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind... – Genesis 1:24

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground,
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and man became a living being. -- Genesis 2:7

Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden
to cultivate it and keep it – Genesis 2:15
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" – Genesis 3:1

Over the centuries, readers of Genesis have been introduced to the awesome Creator God through an account of His acts of creation ex nihilo. In a brief, concise fashion, the first three chapters of Genesis reveal the creative acts of God, the special creation of man in God’s image, the basis for human sexuality and marriage, the human responsibility to exercise dominion over the Earth, the first mention of Sabbath as a regular time of rest, and the temptation and fall of mankind. The account has been accepted as a divine, authoritative revelation by scholars and followers of the major monotheistic religions of the world--Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Later passages in the canon of Scripture, including Exodus 20, Job 38-41, Psalm 8, Matthew 19, and Hebrews 4 support a literal interpretation of Genesis.

Missing from Genesis is any suggestion that God used genetic variation and natural selection over millions of years to gradually create, through deaths of unfit individuals, the plants, fish, birds, cattle, etc. from the “formless and void (Gen. 1:2)” on planet Earth. However, theistic evolution claims that God used the genetic variation from random mutations as the “raw material” and He used natural selection as the means of screening out less fit phenotypes. Consequently, the fit phenotypes survived and reproduced their traits, forming the biodiversity of life on Earth.

The BioLogos Forum encourages the evangelical church to recognize that agreement between science and faith is possible and, in fact, necessary for the spread of the Gospel in the modern era of science. The Forum website states:

We cannot know the exact time that humans attained God’s image. In fact, it may be that the image of God emerged gradually over a period of time. Estimates of the historical time of Adam and Eve are varied. While some literalist interpreters of Genesis argue that God created Adam and Eve in their present form, the evidence of DNA and the fossil record establishes that humans were also participants in the long evolutionary continuum, and God used this process as his means of creation.

But if natural genetic processes now explainable by science account for the evolution of life, then what particular role does theistic evolution attribute to God over the course of millions of years of evolution? And what is there about a landscape littered with reminders of decay and death brought about by natural selection over millions of years that would cause our Creator to rejoice seven times as recorded in Genesis 1? On the contrary, wouldn’t such a pre-Adamic and pre-fall world resemble the current Earth under sin’s curse in which, as Romans 8 declares, “the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God....[when it]...will be set free from its slavery to corruption”?

The BioLogos Forum lists two scientific observations, “the evidence of DNA and the fossil record....” in support of its claim that humans are a product of “a long evolutionary continuum.” How does BioLogos interpret each of these “evidences” for an old Earth and an evolutionary origin of mankind?

First, BioLogos apparently sees in the “evidence of DNA” the evidence of gradual evolution based upon two unprovable presuppositions which are also held by evolutionary biologists. First, given the complexity of DNA with its molecular sequences of nucleotide bases that form the “genetic code,” long ages of time would have to be allowed for its formation and replication out of inorganic constituents. On the other hand, if BioLogos would interpret Genesis as a literal account of the creation of distinct genetic “kinds” by supernatural means, they would have to sacrifice the forum’s goal of harmonizing Scripture with naturalistic science. However, the price of this harmony is very high. Not only does their interpretation of the Genesis account raise serious questions as noted above, but modern science has failed to produce any evidence to explain either the origin of DNA or the complex molecular apparatus of transcription and translation necessary for gene expression.

Second, BioLogos presupposes that close similarity of genomes of different species means close evolutionary relationship. This presupposition, if true, would appear to explain apparent genetic similarities between humans and other primates. However, science is not capable of verifying this presupposition of origins any more that it can verify the presupposition that genetic similarity owes to One Creator Who created genetic kinds with varying degrees of similarity.

The second line of “evidence” for human origin by evolution, according to BioLogos, arises from the fossil record. Here, the forum agrees with evolutionary biologists as stated by Dr. Darrell Falk, President of BioLogos, “The earth is old and macro-evolution has occurred..” This conclusion arises from observations of massive layers of rocks formed from sediments believed to have been deposited over millions of years, as seen in places like the Grand Canyon. Here again, good science demands that we recognize that one who offers a uniformitarian explanation can legitimately be challenged by one who postulates that a catastrophic event such as the eruption at Mt. St. Helens could have caused major sedimentation and rock strata within a much shorter period.

Young-Earth creation researchers working at Mt. St. Helens, Yellowstone Petrified Forests, and in the Grand Canyon are raising strong evidence for a more rapid, recent, catastrophc cause of rock formations and the fossils they contain. In addition Mary Schweitzer’s laboratory at North Carolina State has presented evidence that organic molecules such as DNA and proteins have been found intact within fossils assumed to be tens of millions of years old. Either these molecules are much more stable than heretofore thought, or the fossils were formed relatively recently as suggested by other creation science research.

In conclusion, BioLogos claims that the evidence of DNA and the fossil record establishes that humans were also participants in the long evolutionary continuum, and God used this process as his means of creation. This claim is grounded in naturalistic presuppositions and is not based on any claim of Scripture that the Earth is millions of years old. Nor is the claim supported by a robust scientific explanation for the origin of complex genomes or an unequivocal understanding of the fossil record. Rather, it appears that the claim of an “old Earth” is required simply because BioLogos has sought to be in harmony with evolutionary biologists who invoke undirected natural causation for the formation of DNA, living organisms, and the fossil bearing rock layers.

A departure from the literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 raises serious theological problems and inconsistencies, particularly when these accounts are compared with other portions of inspired Scripture including the words of Jesus Christ or the writings of the apostles. To do so is to embark on a perilous path that leads to questioning the inerrancy of Scripture as pointed out by Dr. Albert Mohler, and to questioning the sinless perfection of the incarnate Son of God Whose words affirm the historicity of Adam.

The mission of the BioLogos Forum to emphasize “the compatibility of Christian faith with scientific discoveries about the origins of the universe and life” is commendable. In this spirit, Dr. Falk has stated in the forum blog,

Scientific knowledge is specialized. it takes a long time to acquire and those who don't have that time because they are doing other important things have to decide whether they can trust those who do take the time. Trust us, please, for the sake of the Church.

Perhaps it should also be said, for the sake of both the Church and origins science, that those well educated in theology or natural science should be careful to recognize the limits of their expertise, and be willing to listen with hearts submitted and attuned to the Holy Spirit. What is at stake is God’s truth, accurate representation of His actions as revealed in Scripture; honor, respect, and praise for His Son through Whom God created the universe, and a proper understanding of the sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage, and the responsibility of humans as stewards of the Earth.

1 comment:

tammy said...

Dr. Mohler's blog entries continue revealing big problems among many in the "emergent" movement who are denying not only creation, but other key doctrines of our faith--very troubling indeed, and sad.