by Rod D. Martin
April 8, 2016
I am not an evolutionist. That may startle some because I am, by most standards, highly educated. What may surprise them even more is that I began as an evolutionist, and that it was that very education that led me to my present position.
Those who espouse theistic evolution (as I once did, after earlier espousing the atheistic sort) do so in an attempt to reconcile the current state of science to the eternal truth of Scripture. They forget that “the current state of science” is a moving target. It has not been long, for instance, since prominent cosmologists believed in the Steady-State Theory, which confidently asserted that the universe had no beginning and will have no end. This denied the Biblical account absolutely, whereas the currently dominant Big Bang Theory posits instantaneous creation ex nihilo.
Yes, science has moved closer to Scripture over time, which is exactly what we would expect if there is a Creator and if He is truthful. But more to the point, Christians who sought to conform Scripture to the scientific consensus circa 1940 were not merely unfaithful to God’s revelation: they were at odds with science too, within a mere handful of years.
Evolution has proved every bit as much a moving target as cosmology, if not more so. I will leave to others the scientific arguments: that is not my purpose here. And indeed, I will not be overly concerned if, upon reaching Heaven, God informs us that He created our world using the Genesis Device from Star Trek II, and that we are all descended from Klingons or even Tribbles. I am perfectly aware that, in this regard at least, God has not given us a lot of detail.
Even so, He has given us some. And though many have turned it into their religion, science (like logic) is not an oracle but a process, one to which the “garbage in, garbage out” principle fully applies. It is a tool by which we seek to understand the many details left unrevealed. It is constantly in error by its very nature, which should not trouble us in the least: it is our glory to seek out these matters.
So the more I embraced this idea of the scientific method, and the more education I obtained – particularly in logic and law and how we discern what we think we know – the less I was able to believe that evolution was so compelling as my teachers had told me. Indeed, whether or not evolution was actually true, I came to realize I had much less reason to believe it than I had reason not to.
Specifically with regard to theistic evolution, three points struck me as quite important.
- Assuming we believe Jesus and the New Testament writers (and I do), they uniformly take the Genesis account quite seriously. In that the writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit and Jesus was and is Himself God, by Whom and through Whom all things were actually created, we have little choice but to give that its full weight.
- Much of what they teach seems to require a literal Adam and Eve, who were literally made perfect and who literally fell, and from whom the entire human race has literally descended. Contradicting this causes…problems.
- Finally (and this seemed to me the rather larger point), the real issue is not whether the Earth is old or young, but the degree to which science, like everything else, rests on the testimony of others. I did not personally witness the creation, nor did I witness evolution, nor did I witness the Steady State or the Big Bang. I have no personal knowledge — nor does any other living person save God alone — of the reality or unreality of any of those events.
In point of fact, our abject dependence on testimony is true in virtually everything. Take for instance law. We cannot know with certainty whether Joe murdered Sally: even if we have video of him slashing her with his samurai sword and screaming “I hate you Sally, and I’m going to kill you right now!” it is at least possible that the video is fabricated, or that we heard it incorrectly, or that the man with the sword is Joe’s evil twin (as any soap opera fan knows).
This is why we present evidence to a jury: twelve normal people listen to the testimony, watch the video, and decide what they collectively believe to be credible. We set a very high bar, of course: they may not convict Joe unless they are certain “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But convict him they may, and their judgment is not only legally truth but practically so: a conviction will deprive Joe of his life.
Some will always disagree with the judgment. Some believe the Earth is flat. I have not been to space so I haven’t seen the Earth as a sphere; worse still, I have been in simulators that are pretty convincing, and I cannot know with certainty that if someday I think I go to space I’ll have actually done so. I will necessarily be trusting someone, even if only my own perception.
It’s easy to say “the evidence proves” this or that. But individuals are often wrong, and consensuses change. My point is not that truth is unknowable (although absent a sovereign God’s revelation, we are surely too finite to know much of it), but that what we know (or think we know) is entirely determined by what we’re told and whom we trust.
So with regard to evolution, and particularly the theistic sort, we are told to accept as certain the word of a great many men and women we don’t know, who are themselves trusting a great many other men and women they don’t know, whom we must blindly trust not only to be correct but to have pure motives in reporting what they find.
Yet we know they have evil motives – not because they’re evolutionists but because they’re fallen – and we also know that they are fallible: their profession quite recently believed there was no such thing as relativity, no such thing as quantum mechanics, no such thing as a Big Bang, no such thing as a heliocentric solar system, no way to conduct heavier-than-air flight, and a thousand other foolish yet dogmatically held certainties.
Against this, we have the Creator of the universe, Who is incapable of error and Who loves us with a pure heart, adopting us as His own sons and daughters.
Whom should I trust if there is a conflict? Fallible, corrupt strangers or the lover and savior of my soul?
Now for someone who has no relationship with the Father, the answer is clearly going to be different than mine. If someone prefers, as I once did, to believe Carl Sagan, so be it.
And again, my argument is not against science, but against seeing science as an infallible religion rather than a process of continuing refinement, against ignoring the boundaries God has set around that needed inquiry (or to put that another way, what the facts He’s given us tell us about the facts we’re seeking). My faith – rooted in my lifelong relationship with Christ and in His unendingly demonstrated trustworthiness – would not at all be shaken if I were to discover this afternoon that we live in The Matrix, or some other wild and unexpected revelation.
All of this is simply to put the testimony of these evolutionists in perspective. God is sovereign and God is truthful, and God is the only witness to the events being debated. Scientists are the people who bled George Washington to death, who can’t decide whether you should or shouldn’t eat bacon, and who were stampeding us into socialist “solutions” for the certain coming manmade Ice Age just a few years ago.
So I am highly interested in everything they have to say, because they frequently get it right, because when they offer an explanation with practical application it is usually the best available (for now), and because they improve upon themselves as time goes on. But that improvement itself implies a degree of error of which God is incapable; and for all these reasons I will trust Him for the framework and the boundaries in which I judge their ever-changing “truths”.
We can hardly be said to trust God if we can’t even manage that.
This article was originally published as part of my Beyond the Church Door series in the Florida Baptist Witness.