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My friend S.I. was the canary in the coal mine of evolutionary theory. So distraught was she in high school to learn she came from nothing and was going to nothing that she verged on suicidal. She became a Christian in the nick of time.
So where do we come from, and what difference does it make? Is the idea that you’re a 2.0 version of an ape really toxic in your life, or was my friend hypersensitive, like Hans Christian Andersen’s princess who could detect a nefarious little pea beneath a pile of mattresses? One of the finalists for WORLD’s 2017 Book of the Year was Theistic Evolution (Crossway), a critique of that approach, and I went to a conference early in April to consider it.
First question: the name. “Theistic Evolution?” What on earth? As the head-scratching spirit of Acts 19:15 might have said: Evolution I know, and Creation I recognize, but what is Theistic Evolution? Sounds like trying to have your cake and eat it too. Trying to be a Christian without losing university peer respectability.
Hitler named his party the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, Nazi in abbreviation. When asked which word in that ponderous title was more important—“National” or “Socialist”—Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels answered that “Socialist” was more important, because “National” is just an adjective. Right. Likewise, the operative word in “Theistic Evolution” is “Evolution,” not “Theistic.”
The operative word in ‘Theistic Evolution’ is ‘Evolution,’ not ‘Theistic.’
Let’s stop equivocating: Is God the operator in nature, or is time-plus-chance? If as a Christian you bashfully sneak in a God at the beginning and then switch to the Evolution bandwagon, you will still have to contend with Biblical testimony of a hands-on Creator and not a deistic higher power who wound the clock and walked away: “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock” (Psalm 104:14).
That’s present-tense guidance, and it implies the possibility of miracles too—those change-up pitches of God’s from His more regular ways of doing things (what we call, rather clinically, the “laws of nature”). As Westminster Seminary professor Vern Poythress put it at the conference, “There is continuing Divine choice at the atomic level.” That’s why it makes sense to pray.
Christian faith says an Intelligent Designer made the world and everything in it. Darwinist faith (both are faiths; no one was there “in the beginning”) says there was no Intelligence and that genetic mutation working through random selection is a sufficient explanation. God reveals to children what He hides from the learned, for whom judgment is reserved: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:19-20).
At least that’s the standard we apply to other things in life. If we come across a mousetrap or a Boeing 747, we think somebody made it; we don’t think it flew together perfectly by random force. And you can double or triple the alleged 13.8 billion year estimate of the age of the universe, but the theory won’t get any more plausible. The question remains the same as the one my granddaughter asked when we exited the planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York: Where did the stuff for the Big Bang come from?
Speaking of mousetraps, a basic household one has five parts to it—spring, platform, hammer, hold-down bar, catch. But all these parts have to be present for it to work, a condition that conference speaker Stephen Meyer called “irreducible complexity.” It’s an all-or-nothing thing. Remove one element and the trap is entirely useless.
Your eye and ear are like that, but in spades. Darwin himself said, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down” (On the Origin of Species).
His theory is breaking down. Evolutionists are in panic mode. Improvement of species by hit-or-miss mutations is making less sense all the time.
What an irony if just as that is happening, Christians make nice with a theory in crisis by corrupting Creationism into Theistic Evolution.