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04/10/2010

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Lee Irons

In 2001 in The Genesis Debate, Kline and I wrote: "Those who honor the authority of Scripture cannot rightly adopt evolutionary scenarios for the origin of man" (p. 180). Looking back I am a little embarrassed by that statement. I suppose, if we are honest, we would have to admit that with this militant statement we were trying to burnish our conservative bone fides with our literal 24-hour interlocutors in the book (Duncan and Hall). I can't speak for Kline obviously, since he is no longer with us, but it does seem to me that we overstated ourselves. It is true that, for us, our commitment to the authority of Scripture (specifically Genesis 2:7) makes us unable to adopt in good conscience evolutionary scenarios for the origin of man. But I think we may have gone too far if we seemed to imply that anyone who does adopt such scenarios is unsubmissive to the authority of Scripture. Many theistic evolutionists do have a low view of Scripture in that they casually dismiss Gen 1-3 as myth, but not all do, as Terry Gray and Bruce Waltke demonstrate.

Jason

Question: Based on your "Evolution Disclaimer" it sounds like there is biblical leeway to assess that animals and plants have been adapting to their surroundings since they were first supernaturally created by God. Is it unbiblical to hold the view that after the events of creation (God creating man in his image), that man, like the animal species has been micro-evolving each staying within their own kind or species. Would this explain why there are people of different colors, heights, facial features, etc. throughout the globe? If not unbiblical, does this fall into the category of "theistic evolution" or does that term only involve the origin of a species?

Lee Irons

Jason, the term "theistic evolution" refers to a harmonistic position that views natural selection as the means that God used to created all the various forms of life. Theistic evolutionists generally accept common ancestry, i.e., the view that all living things, including man, evolved from a common ancestor. The notion that change or microevolution occurred within the "kinds" (a Hebrew term which is probably broader than the modern scientific concept of "species") after they have been created supernaturally by God is a distinct position, one widely accepted by old earth progressive creationists. Even young earth creationists acknowledge the reality of change within species (e.g., racial diversity among humans, varieties of domesticated animals such as dogs, etc.). A possible hybrid view that should be given consideration is that God used evolution to create all the species of life, except for man. This might be called a variety of "theistic evolution" but the term usually includes belief in an evolutionary origin for man.

Patrick Mackey

Hi Lee,
This was a really great and thoughtful post! I'm a huge fan of your blog (and your part of the Three Views on Genesis book). Have you read any of B.B. Warfield's writings on evolution and Genesis? Mark Noll has collected the most important ones in a book, that's definitely worth reading if you're interested in how evolution can relate to an inerrant view of scripture: http://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Science-Scripture-Selected-Writings/dp/0801022177/

Another interesting thing to check out is Tim Keller's article on Christianity and evolution. He also approaches theistic evolution from a conservative, inerrant view on scripture: biologos.org/uploads/projects/Keller_white_paper.pdf

Pat

Joel

Very interesting observations about the implied views of the confession by RTS. As one that works in the field of evolutionary biology and is from, and committed to, a thoroughly reformed background, the recent events have been of much interest. The formation of BioLogos as a new voice for theistic evolution (I prefer evolutionary creation) brings, I think, a significant new face to the landscape of the science and religion discussion that has churned for the past 30 years. The BioLogos Institute houses a wide variety of evangelicals, many of which hold views that make me cringe, but has provided an outlet for even some reformed types to ask questions in an environment where they at least have a chance to discuss their views. In many ways I see BioLogos as a response to the Discovery Institute. The latter consciously attempts to be non-evangelical and neutral and yet many, including myself, find that free discussion is frequently repressed. Until now there has been no identifiable thing to attach the theistic evolution tag to and for good or ill such an organization exists. The “ill” part is that now any reformed-leaning individual that contributes to the products of this organization is in danger of being labeled an evolutionist with all the baggage that comes along with that. Nonetheless this group is bringing together people that otherwise represented a fragmented group that had little power to make a big contribution to the debate on their own and has given them a larger voice. I look forward to watching the “evolution” of this organization and seeing if it will, in fact, reshape the landscape in the evangelical community in the years to come.

Turning to one of you specific comments you talk about a possible hybrid view that God used evolution to create/shape all the species of life except man. I think this is a much more common view than may be admitted. However, I doubt there are many that hold to this view that feel comfortable with it. The reason I say this is that I think that most that hold this view, and I would include myself in this category at present unless Enns and others can come up with a more convincing exposition, hold it because they feel bound by their interpretation to hold to a physical Adam and Eve by their reading of Scripture. On the other hand if they accept evolution of all other species it is likely that they have some understanding of the physical evidence for evolution which is very strong. But, at the end of the day if one says the evidence for evolution of species is overwhelming one has to confront the fact that same sort of evidence exists for the evolution of the body of man. To then hold that Adams body was specially created in some ways requires one to hold two things that don’t mesh with one another.

Steve Rives

Lee,

It seems like it was a bad idea for Bruce to get close to the Enns fence. But for some reason, he did it. He has been around a long time, so I assume he knew what he was doing. It appears to me that he was pushing a button he knew he was pushing (or, he had a major brain lapse). But I don't know him, but I do know what it is like to exist in a denomination and to operate in the seminary system. I know there are limits and there are hot issues and that a lot is at stake (even simple things like enrollment). Adam is a hot topic right now. Given the topic, and given the past publications, Bruce seems to not have been acting in the best interest of RTS. The WCF can't protect someone in this scenario. At some point, appealing to the WCF is insufficient. RTS is ruled by the men who follow confessions. But RTS is not a church; it is a money-exchange system (where teachers have to get paid, and students are removed for not paying). When can an institution act to protect its model? Can they act when a faculty member ceases to operate with the best interest of the institution? Will churches send more or less students to RTS if RTS has a professor who goes on record using the word "cult" in reference to this debate?

Steve

Joel

Does Waltke in fact believe in Adam as a historical individual? I really just don't know. I assumed he did but then I came across this link http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/2008/07/re-evaluation-by-evangelical.html (which of course is not a primary source). I do find it curious that he simply refers to ADAM with the pronoun "their." Do you have any light on that?

JDF

Lee Irons

Joel,

In his nine-point clarification he says:

"1.Adam and Eve are historical figures from whom all humans are descended; they are uniquely created in the image of God and as such are not in continuum with animals.

"2.Adam is the federal and historical head of the fallen human race just as Jesus Christ is the federal and historical head of the Church."

That seems pretty strong to me.

On the other hand, as you noted, the quote from his Old Testament Theology is much more ambiguous. The blog that you linked to has used "ADAM" in all caps in its quotation of Waltke, but the original text employs a transliteration of the Hebrew word usually translated "Adam." This could be taken as providing a bit of wiggle room, as in "However you interpret this Hebrew term, whether as a proper name of an individual or as a corporate term like Israel." Also, as you say, the use of the pronoun "they" raises doubts.

Thanks for bringing this up. As I wrote in my post: "Perhaps I have misread Waltke or am unaware of something he has written or said. My point is that the argument hasn't been made yet and it would be nice to hear it before we cast out a highly regarded Reformed brother and scholar."

That's why it would have been nice if RTS and Waltke had engaged in a more deliberative process so we can get a full airing of Waltke's views.

JSuhr

Thanks for your insightful post Lee. It was good catching up with you too this past Sunday.

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