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Irreconcilable differences

Belief in the Biblical Creator and random mutation makes no sense

Irreconcilable differences


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.


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  •  SBTB's picture
    Posted: Sun, 04/29/2018 09:26 am

    Spot on.  And BTW, God can create something that appears older than it actually is (that is, the universe), just as He did with Adam and Eve.  Shortly after He created Adam and Eve, He told them to be fruitful and multiply, which implies they were capable of reproducing another human being even though they may have been just days old.

  • Dick Friedrich
    Posted: Sun, 04/29/2018 04:12 pm

    And may things like love, joy, and hope, things that we all experience and are real in some capacity, be explained by theistic evolution? At least people like Ayn Rand are honest, e.g. this quote from Atlas Shrugged “What is man? He's just a collection of chemicals with delusions of grandeur.” 

    And, speaking of honesty, is it a collection of chemicals stewing over enough generations or do we need help from outside ourselves to know it? If honesty is only what works best, whose best? Is it what you say it is or what I say it is? Or, is it only what the majority says it is by some ethereal vote of chemicals?

  • RC
    Posted: Sun, 04/29/2018 10:53 pm

    Not only do you need each of the mouse trap parts, but they all need to be (a) created out of the right materials (b) made to precisely fit together (c) know how to work in unison, have some (d) intelligence to know how to put them together in the right order and place and finally (f) some element of tools or tooling used to assemble them. 

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Tue, 05/01/2018 09:46 pm

    Some have tried to prove that the mousetrap is reducibly complex.  Dr. John H. McDonald, Associate Professor at University of Delaware, published an amusing series of diagrams of progressively complex, designed mousetraps!

    Posted: Mon, 04/30/2018 12:43 pm

    It is just like Satan to evolve the lie... " by corrupting Creationism into Theistic Evolution "

  • Bear
    Posted: Mon, 04/30/2018 01:09 pm

    My wife and I were introduced to theistic evolution when we worked for a year at a Christian university while on furlough from our mission assignment.  We were shocked at the time.  Sadly, we have discovered that most univeristies that claim to be Christian have embraced theistic evolution.  I believe it has a lot to do with being accepted in the scientific community and, maybe even more importantly, getting grants.  Perhaps accredidation is involved as well.  I can't prove any of that, but it's my suspicion.

    Worse, we saw many students enter the school with faith and leave questioning everything.  Many since then have completely rejected the Bible.  If we can't trust it on this point of creation, we can't trust it at all.

    Parents, beware!  Know what your children are being taught at their "Christian" school!

  • Yokefellow
    Posted: Mon, 04/30/2018 03:27 pm

    I really appreciate Ms. Peterson as a World Magazine author, and I believe what she shared was very good.  However, World Magazine authors continually refer to Stephen Meyer for their authority when it comes to creation science issues.  Of course, Stephen Meyer is an Intelligent Design guy and not supportive of six-day creation and a young earth.  World Magazine, why don't you start seeking out Jason Lisle (I believe a Ph.D. in Physics) from Creation Research Institute or Jonathan Sarfati (I believe a Ph.D. in Chemistry) from Creation Ministries, and of course there are fine scientists employed at Answers In Genesis.  Let's see a serious article dealing with the need to resolve issues that arise out of ID thinking when it comes to dealing with Genesis 1-11 as history and properly interpreting it.  See "Is Genesis History (Del Tackett).  I know you have presented some articles covering young earth views, but it's time to really grapple with what is the best way to go when it comes to the Bible and origins, and I believe Wolrd Magazine should step up to the plate and provide greater leadership in this discussion.  

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Wed, 05/02/2018 09:04 pm

    I recommend reading Undeniable (Douglas Axe, HarperOne, 2016).  Particularly relevant to your post is the section, "How to Spot a Fake ID," on pp. 48-49.

    ID strives to confine itself to observable phenomena and human reasoning.  Theology and hermeneutics live outside its purview.  Dr. Meyer elsewhere states that both young earthers and old earthers participate in the ID community.  So the shortcomings that some young earthers see actually are self-imposed limits considered appropriate by others.

  • Green Olive Tree
    Posted: Sun, 05/06/2018 06:53 pm

    The book Theistic Evolution makes a case that Genesis 1-3 should not be disregarded a priori as a source of information about real events in the past.

    A similar issue is that most geologists for 200 years have a priori disregarded Genesis 6-9 (about the Flood) as a source of information about real events in the past. As a result, belief in millions and billions of years of earth history spread to the church where it festers. If the fossils are really millions of years old, instead of products of the Flood, then disease, violence and death have been around before the Fall. And so we are led back to disregard of Genesis 1-3.

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Wed, 05/09/2018 10:54 am

    The principles of hermeneutics do not require that death, disease, and violence did not exist among non-humans prior to the fall, although that is a plausible stance. Satan told Adam and Eve that they surely would not die if they ate the fruit because He knew that God really meant spiritual death, not physical. In fact, Genesis 3:22-23 states that God kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden so that they would not eat from the Tree of Life and live forever. It is not certain that Adam and Eve would have lived without eating from the Tree of Life if they had not sinned.  It is hypothetically possible that they physically might still have died even in their innocent state, while spiritually living eternally with God.  (If you can find something in Scripture that guarantees that Adam and Eve would have continued to live physically without the aid of the Tree of Life, I am open to it.)

    Observe, too, that much of the "evil" of death and disease in animal life actually plays an important role in Creation.  Death perpetuates the cycle of life.  Populations balance and sustain each other.  It is possible that God designed Creation to operate this way even before the Fall.

    This is not a settled matter of interpretation.

  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Sat, 01/05/2019 02:51 am

    Theistic evolution and Intelligent Design are equally vague, allowing for practically any compromise.  These are terms which allow one to remain in respectable society to a degree.  It is far more interesting to watch God throw respectability out the window as he speaks the universe into existence in short order.  Then he spends thousands of years saying crazy things that polite society can't abide.  His appeal to babes is an embarrassment to the sophisticated.  And that's just the way he likes it.  Me too!