Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Theistic Evolution

When we read some of the letters from the anti-evolutionists here and elsewhere we see them use words like Darwinian Evolution. So here is a quote from Darwin’s concluding chapter in Origin of the Species.

Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual.

To be clear evolutionary theory is not the same as what Darwin posited. To be even clearer Theistic evolution is not the same as atheistic evolution. But when the anti-evolution people talk they rarely address the ideas of Theistic evolution. Theistic evolution holds that there is indeed a Creator. So all that stuff about not believing in creation is not true, the idea is that God did create, the question is how does it appear that God created? The anti-evolutionists ignore the Theistic component so they often talk about the second law of thermodynamics or how can mutations ever be beneficial. (though that second one is poorly informed just ask modern medical people about drug resistant bacteria.)

So with our 6 day literalist creationists Theistic Evolutionists believe that there is a God, the Creator, the uncaused first cause. Which we acknowledge is a position taken on faith a presupposition which is not testable and unexplainable as to how God came about to be God. Granted it is just as much faith based as the atheist evolutionists singularity which caused the Big Bang. When we go back far enough we all seem to arrive at an unexplainable beginning. As Christian evolutionists we see theistic evolution as the best option to explain what we see. Like the 6 day literal creationists we acknowledge that life in the form of a cell is made up of two critical things as my old Bioenergetics class said; “energy and information”. Neither of which spontaneously happen. So our differences are not about the Creator but about how creation occurred. They are not differences about thermodynamics or even mutations. I would assume that even 6 day literal creationists acknowledge that mutations must have occurred to arrive at the blood sucking insects or carnivore teeth.

Darwin certainly documented that special creation could not explain the animals he saw on the Galapagos Islands as well as providing convincing evidence of natural selection. Natural selection is Darwinian evolution and it stands on very firm ground, as the Wikipedia article linked above states it is the cornerstone of modern biology. I would be amazed if it was not taught in Adventist schools from High School to College. To think that we have people in our church today saying not to teach it is astounding. To think anyone is listening to them is frightening.

This leaves two areas still to be examined. One is the biological and geological evidence found in the world around us. The same science that gives us radiometric dating and Oil production is the same science that gives us cell phones, television nuclear power and space travel. To say that the dating is wrong after as much success as science has had is difficult to accept. The second area is Biblical interpretation. We have traditionally believed in the literal 6 day creation because our knowledge of the natural world was so limited; just as our ancestors limited knowledge of our solar system allowed for the geocentric universe that Galileo (defending Copernicus’ discovery) disproved. As knowledge increases some traditions have to fall, some Bible interpretations have to fall as well. We have found that the Bible contains human ideas, poetry and mythology and not everything appears to be meant to be taken as literal. The Bible had to impact people from thousands of years ago to today. Of necessity the interpretations will change with the knowledge of people. Something that Adventists should be particularly aware of since they feel that they were called out to be special representatives giving new and different Biblical interpretations. We have a special term for this progressive understanding called “Present Truth”. What we see today is the pendulum swinging away from progressive knowledge to traditional knowledge. Summed up by some as this is what our church believes so love it or leave it. But our church also teaches progressive revelation, it teaches a growth toward present truth. We even have leaders such as Jan Paulsen who acknowledge diversity in the SDA church and even encourage critical thinking as well as acceptance of the fact that we don’t know everything. As this quote from Adventist Today notes:

Some might ask: Where is God in all of this? I can do no better to answer this than to quote a comment make by Dr. Jan Paulsen, the president of the General Conference at the Denver conference: "Knowing and understanding may not always be comfortable on this walk, but this is faith's world; it is a world of mysteries, it is the world of God's moving and doing".

With the 6 day creationists we agree that God is moving and doing but we may not fully understand the how He is moving and doing. Some of us think we can accept science and God. Science can certainly not insert God into their investigations, they can only study the natural world and that leaves some presuppositions up in the air, but it does not mean that only one possible presupposition is possible.


You Are Israel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
You Are Israel said...

I suppose that's code for God couldn't get it right the first time?

Tell me Ron, if there is -zero- evidence for Darwinian evolution and -zero- evidence for atheistic evolution then what pray tell would be the evidence for "theistic" evolution?

I mean seriously, if God Himself could literally "speak" light, time, space and matter into existence then why would He need ceaseless ages and billions of years to "mutate" something from a fish to a feline?

Furthermore, no one from what I have seen no one is arguing against teaching the apparent "flavor-of-the-day" evolution as you suggested - quite disingenuous as well as expected Ron - quite the contrary. I think we would all love to see evolution and creation taught side by side. But you seem to forget Ron that this is a church with certain beliefs and a certain creed regarding those beliefs. And they have a right to support those beliefs in any manner they deem reasonable. The door is right there and you are welcome to vote with your feet.

Lastly, radiometric dating has been proven to have massive flaws and errors associated with it and oil has been shown to reproduce in wells that were though to be depleted in extraordinary ways this leaves little room for an argument.

Bulworth said...

Of course, for the believer in the legalisms involved with the penal substitution theory of the atonement, and in particular, those of last generation theology, a traditional reading of scripture (as they understand it) is pretty essential to supporting it.


Ron Corson said...

To Israel who wrote:

"Tell me Ron, if there is -zero- evidence for Darwinian evolution and -zero- evidence for atheistic evolution then what pray tell would be the evidence for "theistic" evolution?"

As I pointed out in the article Natural Selection is Darwinian Evolution. It is the cornerstone of modern Biology. For you to say there is no evidence for Darwinian evolution is merely a gratuitous assertion. Worse than that it is foolish.

Why is it so hard to perceive that God acts through laws and information that He put inside His creation? It seems entirely logical. Only people seem to be so concerned with time, even reading the Bible we see that time is not the same for God.

God could have done anything. He could have made it all at once and He could have deleted sin in an instant. But He did not, because you say He could do something does not mean that He did do something. They are completely different issues.

You Are Israel said...

Ron, be serious. Darwinian Evolution isn't the cornerstone of modern Biology. That's a passion plea. Whether "evolution" is considered a part of the modern foundation (note: modern) of biology is irrelevant frankly. Biology can be studied without natural selection and genetic drift. Just because a dog in a colder climate may develop a thicker coat over time doesn't mean the animal changes into another species.

Hence, there is no "evidence" that natural selection and genetic drift create new and different forms of animals. Read: No evidence Ron. None. Zilch. Nada.

You ask, "why is it so hard to perceive that God acts through laws and information that He put inside His creation?" The question can be answered, "has He?" God let's us know that He creates, does He tell us how He creates.

Thanks for not answering my questions Ron - typical of all vapid points and arguments you make.

Pickle said...


Have you objectively examined the evidence for creation? Or are you largely taking the word of skeptics and infidels?

I honestly think part of the problem is that we tend to take people's word for things, and not critically examine the actual evidence for ourselves.

For example, you say, "To say that the [radiometric] dating is wrong after as much success as science has had is difficult to accept."

But, long ago an article was published in a peer-reviewed journal which demonstrated that the U/Pb ratios found in Jurassic and Triassic strata couldn't be near as old as claimed. So by using the very science the skeptics use, we can end up proving that the strata fits into a biblical chronology after all.

Since Ellen White called the teaching that the days of creation weren't literal days "disguised infidelity, I wonder just how much disguised infidelity we can believe and teach before we become a disguised infidel.

Pickle said...

I guess I'll add one more thought.

The biblical account of creation pictures a God that was so personal, He formed Adam of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.

Evolutionists of every stripe don't believe in a God that personal, it seems to me.

Albert Einstein was accused of atheism. But he was a pantheist, and his God was the God of Spinoza. Yet because he didn't believe in a personal God, he was accused of atheism.

At what point does a theistic evolutionist's view of God become such that God is not personal enough, so distant that He isn't intimately involved in His creation? I think this is a question that ought to be asked.

Ron Corson said...

Ah yes the long ago there was this article defense. Then again there are hundreds of articles that seem to effectively use U/Pb ratios. But of course since since is filled with infidels, we don't have to listen to them. And we don't have to listen to Theistic evolutionists either because well we simply assume they can't believe in a personal God because they are infidels too.

After all remember what Ellen White said, Volcanoes are caused by underground coal fires, That Jesus brought God the plan of salvation and pleaded with God to accept the plan. That masturbation causes all kinds of physical diseases and that before and after the flood man and beast amalgamated and we can still see that evidence in certain races of men in her day.

well at least Science tends to fix their errors so chalk at least one up for the infidels.

Pickle said...


Your reply comes across as if you aren't interested in a serious discussion.

When you say that Ellen White said such and such, are you saying by that that you reject the biblical teaching that it is Jesus who testifies by His Spirit through the prophets? See 1 Pet. 1:10-11. If you reject what peter taught on this in the New Testament, I would be curious to know what part of the Bible you do accept as authoritative.

Feel free to cite a specific article that gives specific U/Pb ratios, and then perhaps we can discuss that, if you really are as open to scientific evidence as you apparently want creationists to be.

A 1976 Science article reported U-238/Pb-206 ratios as high as 27,300, which suggests a time of formation more recent by a factor of 270 for Cretaceous and 760 for Triassic.

If it truly is all about science, then this scientific evidence will be properly and objectively considered. But if the root of the matter is certain philosophical and religious presuppositions, then it will probably be ignored or ridiculed even if it can't be refuted. That's just the nature of how this topic seems to work.

Anonymous said...

What theological difference does it make if God made earth’s material billions of years ago and then assembled it later or made it recently?

What I never see in these discussions are the underlying assumptions of an argument spelled out. I also never see the dependencies spelled out. Is it too much trouble or does it weaken its own argument too much?

What does matter look like when it is first created? Are there different kinds or levels of energies which lead to different materials?

Scientists are searching for the “theory of everything” because the laws which fit the macro do not work on the micro and vice versa. This tells me that there still so much unknown that grand procurements are largely opinions.

For thousands of years people have been satisfied with a simple explanation of why things are. Evolutionist believe they have progressed beyond the simple minded, progressed to what? What has theistic evolution done to advance our understanding of ourselves, God and the situation we find ourselves in?

Every once in a while we hear about the missing link being discovered. Missing link! Where are the trillions of missing links! As this that and the other evolution combination was tried and failed there had to be billions of similar combinations ready and able to make another stab at it and they had to live on and on while attempt after attempt was made. These evolutionary steps should be evident today as well as in fossils – but they are not. Why not? An obvious answer is because it never happened. Where is the evidence of Darwinian evolution – mainly in the mind of those who think the here and now is all there is, what we see is all we get.