Theistic Evolution: A Sinful Compromise (A Review)

John Otis, pastor of a Reformed Presbyterian Church US (RPCUS) church in Burlington, North Carolina, has written a book on theistic evolution, Theistic Evolution: A Sinful Compromise, based on a series of lectures. His purpose in writing the book was to alert believers, and especially elders, to the danger that theistic evolution poses to the church:

A word of exhortation is needed to my fellow ruling and teaching elders: What is one of our foremost duties as elders? It is to protect God’s precious sheep from the wolves in sheep’s clothing that will devour the flock if they could. … Do I lump all those together as wolves who are not advocating a view of creation as presented in our Confessional Standards? Not exactly, some are far worse than others. … Those that I am really addressing are those who do advocate an evolutionary view, who do believe that man did evolve from lower forms of life, who do teach that God used this means to “create.” These men are the ones who must be silenced; they are disturbing families. In obeying Jude 3, we elders must earnestly contend for the Faith once for all delivered to the saints. This is my purpose (5-6).

Pastor Otis begins his book by considering what Scripture teaches regarding creation, creation days, and the chronologies. From there he moves on to a history of Darwin and evolutionary thought. Lastly, he spends several chapters on what he calls “Compromisers.” He takes time throughout those chapters to address specific concerns about the teachings of specific organizations and individuals.

Pastor Otis’ concern over theistic evolution and its influence in the Reformed church today is due in part to his own background. Before he became a believer, Pastor Otis was an agnostic, evolutionary, Biology student:

I was once an agnostic and an evolutionist in high school, though not a very informed evolutionist. I was a conscious unbeliever. It was God’s sovereign grace that saved me when I was a freshman in college. Upon my conversion to Christ, no one had to inform me that there was a problem with maintaining evolutionary views with my Christian faith. I immediately sensed this, even though I was severely biblically illiterate. I did not grow up in the church; I never read a Bible; I didn’t even understand what chapter and verse in the Bible meant. However, when the power of the Holy Spirit regenerated my deadened soul, and as the Spirit illumined my mind with biblical truth as I faithfully read my Bible, I knew that there was no reconciling of evolution with the Bible’s account of creation (280).

Why does Pastor Otis call theistic evolution a sinful compromise?

  • It robs God of His due glory.
  • It elevates science as an equal authority with Scripture.
  • It adopts a faulty hermeneutic.
  • It assaults the uniqueness and dignity of man.
  • It is insulting to Jesus’ true humanity.
  • It can undermine the glorious gospel.
  • It undermines the Bible’s credibility (281-284).

Beginning with what Scripture teaches on creation, Pastor Otis discusses some basic principles of Biblical interpretation. First, he stresses the importance of considering the plain meaning of the text. Second, he references the Westminster Confession of Faith’s section on Scripture and interpretation:

The infallible rule of interpretation of scripture is the scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture, (which is not manifold, but one) it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly (WCF, I: 9).

He points out that contrary to what many theistic evolutionists teach we do not need “science” to help us interpret Scripture. (15)

Pastor Otis then applies these principles to three of the most discussed issues in the creation vs. evolution debate: creation days, Biblical chronologies, and the creation of Adam from the dust. Theistic evolutionists, and others, teach that the days of creation do not need to be understood as literal, 24 hour days. And, if the days of creation are more symbolic than literal, then there is no problem with making the long ages necessary for evolution fit with the Biblical account of creation. Also, if the creation account in Genesis is read symbolically or poetically, then maybe it’s possible to read the creation of Adam from dust symbolically:

Theistic evolutionists want to take God fashioning Adam from the dust and Eve from Adam’s rib as a literary device, not to be taken at face value; in other words, not in the plain sense of the words which is an important hermeneutical principle. Apparently, we can get quite “creative” (pun intended) in how we interpret Genesis 1:26 and 2:7, 21. The evolutionists, even “Christian” evolutionists say that we need the testimony of modern biology, i.e. Darwinism, to properly interpret these texts. Really? And why do we need them? And why must we NOT take the plain meaning of the words of Genesis? And why must we say that the terms “from dust” and “from Adam’s rib” must obviously mean biological evolution from single cell organisms to man himself?(15).

The plain meaning of “day” and “dust” are simply “day” and “dust.” Two things that are familiar to all.

Using Scripture to interpret Scripture, Pastor Otis considers what the Biblical arguments are for interpreting the days of creation as 24 hour days. He lays out four arguments:

Argument # 1: The Fundamental Use of the Word “Yom” (day)
A word study for the word “yom” in the Old Testament reveals that the preponderant use of this term demands that we understand it to be a literal twenty-four hour period of time. The word occurs 1,704 times in the Old Testament, and the overwhelming usage has to do with a normal day from morning to evening. After all, what did The Westminster Confession say is the surest hermeneutical principle – Scripture interprets Scripture (23).

Argument # 2: Key Qualifying Statements
This is one of, if not the most powerful argument, in supporting the days of creation in being normal days. Inspired Moses qualifies the six creative days with this all important phrase – “evening and morning.” The obvious plain meaning is: This is a typical day since each day is viewed as “evening and morning” the first day, evening and morning the second day, etc. When we leave out Darwinian presuppositions, then the text is rather obvious (24).

Argument # 3: The Use of Numerical Adjectives
Consider this overwhelming evidence. In the 119 cases in Moses’ writings where the Hebrew word “yom” (day) stands in conjunction with a numerical adjective, such as first, second, third, it almost always means a literal day. The same is true of the 537 usages outside of the Pentateuch (24).

When the New Testament says that Jesus was raised on the third day, was it the third literal twenty-four hour day or not? Or could it have been thousands of years? (25)

Argument # 4: Divine Example Regarding the Sabbath Day
This has to be one of the most powerful biblical proofs that the days of creation were literal days. God specifically patterns man’s work week after his own original creational work week. Man’s work week is expressly tied to God’s (25).

What about the passage from 2 Peter 3:8-9? Doesn’t it say there that a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day?

Theistic evolutionists say, See, here is proof that “day” can mean an indefinite period of time. It is plainly obvious that this meaning is to be understood figuratively. The whole context pertains to those skeptics who are denying Jesus’ Second Coming simply because He has not returned yet. Peter says that God is not bound by time. Just because He hasn’t returned yet does not mean He is never coming, for with God, time is meaningless. A thousand years is like one day with God and a day as a thousand years. To use II Peter 3 as some proof for interpreting a day to be millions of years in Genesis is just sloppy exegesis to say the least. It is totally ignoring the prevalent use of the term “day” in Scripture. (25-26)

One of the other common arguments for the synthesis of long ages with the days of creation is that there are gaps in the Biblical chronologies. Appeals to the age of the earth using James Ussher’s dates are often ridiculed even by pastors and other Christians. We are told that there are gaps in the Genesis chronologies and that since “became the father of” can mean “became the ancestor of” there is no way to determine from the chronologies how long ago Adam was created. Pastor Otis responds:

You probably have heard that we cannot adopt a view that the biblical chronologies are accurate history because there must be gaps in the genealogies. Guess what? There are no time gaps in the chronology of the Bible. … The numbers add up precisely from one representative head to another representative head. It does not matter about the other sons and daughters as long as there is precision from one generational head to another (30-31).

Moving on from what Scripture teaches regarding creation, Pastor Otis briefly discusses the “conflict” between science and faith:

[T]he problem with Christianity and evolution, including theistic evolution, is that we do not have a clash between faith and science but a clash of faith versus faith, that is, we have a clash of worldviews (34).

He points out too that evolutionary science is not religiously neutral:

The evolutionist claims that he is neutral, that he is unbiased, and that he is not religious. Such a claim is ludicrous. All views of the origin of life are fundamentally religious (37).

And,

Evolutionary thinking is inescapably religious at its very foundation. It is wholly untrue that the issue is science vs. faith. No, it is one faith in opposition to another faith; it is a clash of worldviews (38-39).

Next Pastor Otis gives a brief history of Charles Darwin and the rise darwinian evolution. Charles Darwin was not the first to discuss evolution processes or to desire an explanation for the origin of universe and life that is not dependent on God. In fact, Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, wrote a book advocating spontaneous generation and millions of years of biological development. But it wasn’t until Charles Darwin wrote his Origins of Species that evolution began to be widely accepted as a theory (63).

Before Charles Darwin wrote Origins of Species, he had already abandoned what little Christian faith he began with:

It is evident that Darwin had lost his faith in Christianity and the miraculous before he formulated his hypothesis of evolution. This does not say he had no evolutionary ideas before this, but he still lost his faith in creation before he set out to discover how life and its varied forms would originate by the working of natural laws. Evolution came in with great force to fill the void left by the loss of his faith in God the creator (53).

Pastor Otis considers it important the order of Darwin’s slide into apostasy:

[P]lease note the process into unbelief for Darwin. It was to doubt the historicity of Genesis, then doubt miracles, adopt an old earth view, and then accept evolutionary views (54).

This is important because Darwin was fully aware that his theory of evolution would draw people away from a belief in God as creator. Darwin even referred to his work as “the Devil’s gospel” (59). Darwin’s theory of evolution was not religiously neutral from its inception. From the start, Darwin and the others who promoted his view actively sought to explain the origin of the universe and of life without the need for a Creator. George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying:

If you can realize how insufferably the world was oppressed by the notion that everything that happened was an arbitrary personal act of an arbitrary personal God of dangerous, jealous and cruel personal character, you will understand how the world jumped at Darwin (73).

The godless nature of evolutionary thought is illustrated by those throughout history who have used the ideas of survival of the fittest and natural selection to perpetual great cruelty:

Evolution provides the scientific and moral (or lack of morality) rationale for many to propagate evil. The field of eugenics is the applied science of improving the genetic composition of the human population. It seeks to achieve this goal through both encouraging reproduction among fit individuals and discouraging breeding among unfit populations. It has an evolutionary basis, and the means used to achieve this goal is population control by abortion and sterilization. But who decides who is unfit and unworthy to reproduce? Those who have the power to subjugate others! (74).

One of the best examples, of course, is Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party:

Hitler was an ardent evolutionist and a true believer. He was probably more consistent than anyone else has ever been. This is why he murdered so many people in the name of trying to perfect a race that would reign for 1,000 years (75)./p

Having discussed that the theory of evolution is not neutral, but is actually an attack on God as creator, Pastor Otis continues by pointing out various weaknesses in Darwin’s theory. He concludes:

As I conclude this chapter, we should realize that evolutionists themselves have recognized the great problem with Darwinism. The view of macroevolution cannot be scientifically verified. Darwin couldn’t do it and neither have any others after him. Living organisms and the fossil record do not give scientific evidence for macroevolution, but it does point to special creation. Hence, evolution is no scientific fact; it is outside the parameters of operational science. It is not a fact; science has not spoken definitively in the factuality of macroevolution; evolution is a worldview, a religious faith held as tenaciously as the most ardent Christian holds to his belief in the Bible (102).

The second half of his book is focused on addressing specific concerns of particular organizations and individuals. Because Pastor Otis is an elder in a reformed, Presbyterian denomination, he is particularly concerned with organizations and individuals either within the reformed world or with considerable influence within reformed churches. These include: the BioLogos Foundation, Dr. Tim Keller, Dr. Ron Choong, Dr. Gregg Davidson, Dr. Jack Collins, and Dr. Peter Enns:

The men and organizations that I will mention have compromised the Faith in my opinion. For some, the compromise is greater than others. Some obviously do not think their views are compromising positions; they think they are being “humble,” “open-minded,” and “diverse,” respecting the differing opinions of honorable men. Grant it, some of those who advocate the value of diverse beliefs and diverse interpretations of Scripture are sincere in their views. The problem is: Men can be sincerely wrong, and they can be responsible for leading the visible church of the Lord Jesus into great peril (109-110).

I will give a very brief synopsis for each of the “Compromisers,” as Pastor Otis calls them.

First, the BioLogos Foundation:

BioLogos is a foundation that touts itself as an evangelical organization that thinks theistic evolution is a true understanding of the origins of the universe and man. I consider this organization as one of the greatest threats to today’s visible church (110).

Pastor Otis gives three examples of what BioLogos teaches to illustrate how their views are compromising positions:

What is BioLogos’ View on Scientific Evidence of the First Humans?
The fossil record shows a gradual transition over 5 million years ago from chimpanzee-size creatures to hominids with larger brains who walked on two legs.

Genetics also tells us that the human population today descended from more than two people. Evolution happens not to individuals but to populations, and the amount of genetic diversity in the gene pool today suggests that the human population was never smaller than several thousand individuals (114).

Were Adam and Eve Historical Figures?
Genetic evidence shows that humans descended from a group of several thousand individuals who lived about 150,000 years ago.

One option is to view Adam and Eve as a historical pair living among many about 10,000 years ago, chosen to represent the rest of humanity before God. Another option is to view Genesis 2-4 as an allegory in which Adam and Eve symbolize the large group of ancestors who lived 150,000 years ago. Yet another option is to view Genesis 2-4 as an “everyman” story, a parable of each person’s individual rejection of God. BioLogos does not take a particular view and encourages scholarly work on these questions (116-117).<

Did Death Occur Before the Fall? BioLogos says:
Humans appear very late in the history of life. The fossil record clearly shows that many creatures died before humans appeared. This appears to conflict with Bible passages which describe death as a punishment for human sinfulness. However, the curse of Genesis 3 was that Adam and Eve, not the animals, should die for their disobedience. Therefore, animal death before the Fall is compatible with Christian doctrine (118).

The next chapter focuses on Dr. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA), New York. Pastor Otis goes into much greater detail, but he summarizes his concerns with Dr. Keller this way:

In summary, the main strikes against Dr. Keller are:

  • He allows his name to be used on BioLogos’ home page as a reference for the purpose of encouraging others to see the great value of this foundation, a foundation which openly embraces theistic evolution.
  • He has allowed his church to sponsor the workshops of BioLogos.
  • He has allowed Dr. Ron Choong to teach in his church, who has adopted views that not only embrace theistic evolution but which assault other precious truths of the biblical doctrine of creation.
  • He accepts evolution as a plausible explanation of the origin of all life, including man (137).

Connected to Dr. Keller is Dr. Ron Choong:

One of the men who is listed as a missionary and member of Metro New York Presbytery (PCA) is Dr. Ron Choong, who has taught classes in Keller’s church. Dr. Choong founded the New York based “Academy of Christian Thought,“ and he has written a book titled, Project Timothy: The New Testament You Thought You Knew. … Ron Choong’s views of Scripture, the relationship between Scripture and science, and man’s evolution is most illuminating and disturbing, especially since he is an ordained elder within the PCA (138-139).

Pastor Otis concludes his chapter on Dr. Choong with this summary:

Let us summarize briefly the main points of Choong’s doctrine of creation:

  1. The Bible’s reliability cannot be affirmed by its own historicity, literary, or theological components.
  2. Modern science corrects the historical and scientific inaccuracies in the Bible.
  3. Each generation with new discoveries need to revise their theological understanding.
  4. The Bible is silent on the mechanism of creation.
  5. The first eleven chapters of Genesis are not to be understood literally or even historically.
  6. Special creation is biologically untenable.
  7. Adam may or may not have been a single person, but he could be a representative of a community of hominids (ape-like creatures).
  8. Regardless of the singular or communal view of Adam, he was a hominid, having evolved from lower forms of life.
  9. God’s image conferred upon an existing hominid makes this hominid the biblical Adam.
  10. God’s conferring of His image upon Adam and Eve as existing hominids was done after they ate the forbidden fruit, not before.
  11. The image of God in man is the acquisition of moral knowledge, namely fear and guilt.
  12. Adam’s fall into sin is best seen as “rising beasts falling upwards to moral awareness.”
  13. Original sin as The Westminster Standards describe man’s fall is not true.
  14. The Westminster Standards are archaic, needing revision. They are an obstacle to fruitful science and theological conversation.
  15. Adam was not created with an immortal soul.
  16. Adam was not created righteous.
  17. Adam was not created with the law of God written on his heart.
  18. Adam’s sin was not a violation of God’s moral law.
  19. Adam and Eve were made loaded with sinful desires.
  20. Adam cannot be blamed for an existence of sin per se (158-159).

Dr. Choong, in response to questions about his teachings on Adam, said:

All my views about Adam and Eve have been published for more than 10 years and Redeemer as a church as well as Dr Keller as a minister have never had any objections to my non-doctrinal interpretations. This means that while I hold to a certain view of who Adam might mean, no church doctrine in the history of the church has ever made this a litmus test of faith. No one should get their knickers in a twist over whether Adam was a collective or a singularity (151).

Also, Pastor Otis notes:

At the 2011 meeting of Metro New York Presbytery, one presbyter suggested that presbytery look into the teachings of Dr. Choong. Did this happen? Was he disciplined by this PCA presbytery? No! The presbytery refused to look into it with strong vocal opposition to such a thing, and in fact, a request was made and granted that the idea of looking into Dr. Choong’s teachings not be recorded in the minutes lest his name be illegitimately besmirched (160).

The next chapter is on Dr. Gregg Davidson who gave a seminar on the age of the earth at the 2012 General Assembly of the PCA. Pastor Otis is very concerned that Dr. Davidson was allowed to speak given his published evolutionary views:

I believe that those who gave permission to Dr. Davidson to hold this seminar at the PCA 2012 General Assembly did a great disservice to their denomination and opened the door for further deterioration. Surely, someone knew of Dr. Davidson’s position on evolution prior to the invite. Surely, someone knew of his avowed commitment to viewing man as having descended from ape like creatures (163).

For those who are not familiar with Dr. Davidson’s work, Pastor Otis addresses both Dr. Davidson’s seminar at the General Assembly as well as his book, When Faith and Science Collide.

At the end of the seminar, Dr. Davidson was asked a few questions. One of the questions was particularly of note:

The question was: Did he believe that Adam was specially created and directly created by God from the dust, or if Adam was a hominid adopted by God? … In his answer, he said he did not see a difference between an Adam specially created by God from the dust and an Adam as a hominid adopted by God and given a soul. Either way, Adam was the first human and father of mankind. In other words, Dr. Davidson admitted to being an evolutionist, who thinks that Adam and Eve were descended from ape like creatures (164).

Dr. Davidson’s book, When Faith and Science Collide, gives a much fuller picture of what he believes:

Davidson’s bias towards evolutionary views is quite explicit. He says that science teaches us that “life began on earth 3.5 billion years ago.” Even though scientists are not cognizant of how life began from non living material and how everything evolved from single cell organisms to man, Davidson thinks there is a plausible synthesis with Scripture. This synthesis is: the Bible says that God commanded the earth to bring forth and it did; science says that man was formed from the same dust of the earth as all other creatures. In other words, science provides us with the accurate understanding of the mechanism of creation. Again, it is not biblical exegesis that is in the “driver’s seat;” it is the scientific views often postulated by unbelieving men (169).

And,

There is no question of Dr. Davidson’s commitment to macroevolution, meaning that all life forms evolved from simple, single celled organisms throughout millions of years. He accepts all of the presuppositions and arguments of the evolutionists in terms of their so called “scientific” findings. Davidson wants to maintain the science of evolution over the non-Christian agnostic and atheistic views held by many evolutionists. In other words, Davidson wants to accept the evolutionist’s conclusions but within the framework of God doing His creative work through the mechanism of evolution (174-175).

The next chapter deals with Dr. C. John (Jack) Collins, Professor of Old Testament at Covenant Seminary, and author of Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care. Dr. Collins’ book is an attempt to address the issue of the historicity of Adam:

His book’s title is not intended to deny the historicity of Adam. Collins says that he affirms Adam’s historicity, but he does so in such a way as to definitely allow for the possibility of non- traditional views to be considered as acceptable (211).

Pastor Otis explains his concern:

Here is the crux of the matter. For Collins, it is not really necessary for us to believe that God literally made Adam from mere dust on the sixth day, which is a twenty-four hour period. Literal trees or a talking snake are not necessary for us to get the point. All that matters is the worldview that from Adam sin came into the world. While Collins may be distancing himself from the conclusions of Ron Choong and Peter Enns, he will still consider the legitimacy of an evolutionary view of man’s origin (220-221).

And,

In conclusion about the views of Jack Collins, we can say rather conclusively that he has admitted to being a type of evolutionist; he just isn’t in the camp of being one who adopts the philosophy of evolution. His latest book argues for a type of modified monogenesis for Adam’s origin. It is a revision to the traditional view, but it falls within the parameters of sound reasoning nonetheless. Are we to be encouraged by this? Absolutely not! Covenant Seminary has an evolutionist on its faculty. It is wholly misleading to the public, and probably to its supporters for the Seminary. So, when Covenant Seminary says that Jack Collins does not subscribe to a Darwinian or a Neo-Darwinian view of evolution, it is totally misleading. And when the official seminary statement states that Dr. Collins may allow for some differences of opinion on some of the details, it fails to specify those details that Collins makes known in his books – he subscribes to a form of evolution, and he is very critical of young earth creationists and the whole field of “creation science” (250).

Lastly, Pastor Otis addresses Dr. Peter Enns, formerly of Westminster Theological Seminary and also formerly a Senior Fellow at BioLogos. Dr. Enns has written several books and essays including: The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Does not Say About Human Origins.

Pastor Otis sees Dr. Enns as the logical conclusion of the theology that begins with theistic evolution:

Peter Enns is the last person that I will analyze simply because he probably best typifies what can happen once one begins the downward spiral on adopting an evolutionary view to Scripture. This does not mean that all theistic evolutionists will end up theologically where Enns has, but it does show how one can easily end up with views purported by Enns. I would say that Enns’ views are the logical outcome of an evolutionary perspective, and the result when one views science as the best interpreter of Scripture (251).

Dr. Enns has written that it is not necessary to believe in an historical Adam, that evolution should make Christians rethink traditional views on things such as sexual promiscuity, and that death is not an enemy:

Evolution is a serious challenge to how Christians have traditionally understood at least three central issues of the faith: the origin of humanity, of sin, and of death… sin and death are universal realities, the Christian tradition has generally attributed the cause to Adam. But evolution removes that cause as Paul understood it and thus leaves open the questions of where sin and death have come from. More than that, the very nature of what sin is and why people die is turned on its head. Some characteristics that Christians have thought of as sinful – for example, in an evolutionary scheme the aggression and dominance associated with “survival of the fittest“ and sexual promiscuity to perpetuate one’s gene pool – are understood as means of ensuring survival. Likewise, death is not the enemy to be defeated … death is not the unnatural state introduced by a disobedient couple in a primordial garden. Actually, it is the means that promotes the continued evolution of life on this planet and even ensures workable population numbers. Death may hurt, but it is evolution’s ally (258-259).

Pastor Otis concludes:

Conservative men in the PCA ought to be very concerned about the present trend in their denomination. The debate over the doctrine of creation and the place that evolution has in it is nothing new. They have the dismal track record of the PCUS to observe and serve as a warning. Sadly, the warning is going unheeded (267).

Pastor Otis’ book, Theistic Evolution: A Sinful Compromise, is available for free download here. You can also order a printed copy here. The lecture series is available on Sermon Audio here.

An Atheist Evolutionist Asks a Good Question of Dr. Peter Enns

It seems that Young Earth Creationists are not the only ones who find BioLogos’ attempt to “reconcile science and faith” lacking. One atheist and evolutionist, Dr. Jerry Coyne, believes very strongly that evolution and Christianity are not at all compatible. In a recent article, Dr. Coyne challenges what he sees as BioLogos’ “sucking up to evangelical Christians, or giving them ludicrous ways to comport their faith with scientific truth—ways that are themselves unscientific (e.g., the historicity of Adam and Eve).”

First, Dr. Coyne reiterates his concern with BioLogos’ basic approach:

For a long time now BioLogos has ignored its initial mission of trying to convert evangelical Christians to evolution. It didn’t work—as I predicted—because those Christians know that if you buy Darwinian evolution, then you have to see much of the Bible as either fictional or at best metaphorical. And if you do that, then where does the metaphor stop? Was Jesus a metaphor for how we humans can save ourselves?

Evangelicals won’t buy that, nor do they like what they see as the other philosophical accoutrements of evolution: our status as mere evolved beasts like gibbons, the lack of a human soul, the absence of an external purpose or meaning to our lives, or of a God-imposed morality, and so on.

He goes on to quote from an article by Dr. Peter Enns on the subject of the Bible as metaphor where Dr. Enns attempts to show a similarity between Jesus’ parables and the “stories” in Genesis:

If this is how God chooses to communicate at the incarnation—the very climax and epicenter of his story—we should not be surprised to see God painting vivid portraits elsewhere in Scripture. This is especially true of Genesis and creation. Something so fundamental to God’s story may need to be told in a way that transcends the limitations of purely intellectual engagement. Genesis may be written more to show us—by grabbing us with its images than laying out a timeline of cause and effect events—that God is the central figure on the biblical drama.

Dr. Coyne isn’t buying it:

Most of us see the Bible as a total fiction. The great tragedy of Enns, and of accommodationists like him, is that he can’t buy that whole hog: because of childhood indoctrination or a desire to believe what is comforting, a Biblical scholar convinces himself that part of a fictional book really is fiction, though it teaches timeless truths, while other parts or non-negotiable fact. And he has no way, despite his Ph.D. in Biblical scholarship, to do that. Tell us, Dr. Enns: if Genesis was just a useful myth rather than truth, how do you know that Jesus was the Son of God and came back from the dead?

When Young Earth Creationists ask the question of where theistic evolutionists draw the line between reality and metaphor, they are ridiculed for over-reacting. Theistic evolutionists roll their eyes and say of course we believe that Jesus was actually resurrected. But notice again that the question keeps being raised and not just by the YEC crowd. If we can’t trust Genesis to be historical fact, then how can we trust that the Gospels are either?

Peter Enns: “the gospel is not about how you get saved”

Peter Enns has a recent blog post answering the question: What is the gospel? According to Dr. Enns, Martin Luther (and all the Reformers and all pretty much all the church since the time of the apostles) were wrong. The gospel is not about how people are saved from their sins:

Rather, the common Christian way of answering the question–like the example I give above–misses a lot of what the New Testament says about the gospel. Which, if true, is a big problem.

That is what Williams is getting at in his posts, and they’re well worth reading.

Williams points out that “gospel” as it is commonly understood, at least among conservative Protestants, is tied to issues that were big during the Reformation. Martin Luther and others were struggling with the question of how we are made right before God, or as we might put it today, “how do you get saved?”

To make a long and complicated story short and simple, Luther argued that we are justified before God by faith alone, not by works. As we might put it today, “good deeds don’t get you to heaven.” Luther got that idea from the New Testament, especially Paul’s letters–or better, how Luther understood Paul’s letters given the kinds of questions he was asking, but I digress….

Here is the point: How Luther understood “gospel”–how someone gets right with God–is not really “the gospel.” Rather, it is part of the gospel, an implication of the gospel. Luther talked about the gospel the way he did to address a theological concern of his time, but that doesn’t mean Luther’s definition gets to the heart of the matter. In other words,

…the gospel is not about how you get saved.

If the gospel is not about how you get saved, then what is it about? According to Dr. Enns (and N.T. Wright, among others):

According to the Gospels, the gospel is not about the afterlife, but what “kingdom” you belong to here and now. Jesus talks a lot about the “kingdom of heaven” (or “of God”), and this is commonly misunderstood as a kingdom “up there” somewhere. But read what Jesus says about the kingdom. It is about the rule of God on earth, with Jesus as king. “Kingdom of heaven” doesn’t mean “kingdom that is IN heaven” but “kingdom FROM heaven.” God’s reign, though King Jesus, is setting up shop here and now. The question Jesus asks the people is, “Do you want in or not?”

I once asked a pastor two questions to clarify what he was teaching on the gospel: what is the gospel, and what is the mission of the church? He answered that the gospel is the Good News that Jesus has broken into history and has ushered in the Kingdom of God and begun His work of redeeming the cosmos. The mission of the church, according to this pastor, was to invite people to join in this work of redemption. What about salvation and the forgiveness of sins? Well, that’s part of the whole thing, of course, just not central. That’s when we decided to leave.

The church has one thing it can offer that no one else can: forgiveness of sins and salvation. Any secular organization can rectify social ills, provide basic human necessities, and build parks and schools. I’m not saying that these are not worthy goals. We should not forget about the physical needs of the people we minister to. What I’m saying is that if we forget that we have a mission and that that mission is preaching the Good News of salvation and the forgiveness of sins, then we are salt that has lost its savor. If we are not reconciled to God, no amount of clean water, social justice, and redistribution of wealth will save us. We will have stored up our treasure here on earth and kept the most important treasure hidden from those we are helping.

Is our sin so minor a thing that our salvation can be treated so contemptuously? May God have mercy on us all.

Why I’m Not Using Susan Wise Bauer’s Curricula: A Review of Peter Enns’ Bible Curriculum

It’s that time of year again. Homeschool conferences are taking place all over the country this summer as homeschoolers gear up for a new school year. Last year, there was a big controversy over comments made by Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis about Dr. Peter Enns and his theistic evolutionary views. As a result of that controversy I reviewed the Bible curriculum that Dr. Enns had written. Telling God’s Story is a multi-year Bible curriculum aimed at children of all ages. It is published by Susan Wise Bauer’s Olive Branch Books, a division of Peace Hill Press. Given all of the controversy over Dr. Enns and his well-published views on Scripture and evolution, it is Susan Wise Bauer’s defense and support of Dr. Enns that has convinced me that her curricula are not what I want to use. (The link is for a positive review that she wrote for Dr. Enns’ book, Inspiration and Incarnation.)

What follows is the review that I wrote last year.

If you aren’t a homeschooling family, you may not be aware of the debate raging over a new Bible curriculum by Dr. Peter Enns. Here is a brief summary of the issues.

Dr. Peter Enns, formerly of Westminster Theological Seminary, has written a curriculum, Telling God’s Story, to help parents teach their children about the Bible. As part of the release of Telling God’s Story, Dr. Enns has been speaking at some of the homeschool conventions held around the country. At one convention, Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis expressed his concern about Dr. Enns “compromising” views, especially as it relates to Genesis, an historical Adam, and an historical Fall. One convention decided to uninvite Ken Ham because they didn’t like the “divisive spirit” of his comments about Dr. Enns. Concern was raised within the homeschooling community over Dr. Enns connection with BioLogos, a foundation that promotes evolution. Further concern was raised over the fact that the publisher, Olive Branch Books, is part of Peace Hill Press which is directed by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. Susan Wise Bauer is well-known and well-respected within the homeschooling community for her history series, The Story of the World, and book, The Well-Trained Mind. Olive Branch Books has released a statement in which it begs parents to read the curriculum for themselves instead of relying on secondhand accounts.

So, that is what I’ve done. I received my copy of the parents’ guide to Telling God’s Story, and I have now finished reading it. I also read Dr. Enns’ book, Inspiration and Incarnation, to help me understand his views.
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Even Evolutionists Know: There is No Reconciling Evolution with Christianity

Last week, Dr. Darrel Falk announced his upcoming resignation as President of BioLogos. Dr. Falk became President of BioLogos after Dr. Francis Collins stepped down to take the position of Director of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Falk’s resignation follows the departures of Dr. Karl Giberson, formerly Executive Vice-President of BioLogos, and former Senior Fellow Dr. Peter Enns.

What is interesting is Dr. Jerry Coyne’s take on Dr. Falk’s resignation and on the purpose of BioLogos. Dr. Coyne writes at the blog, Why Evolution is True, and is a professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago. Here’s what Dr. Coyne had to say:

Do have a look at Falk’s account of BioLogos‘s “accomplishments,” none of which actually include converting science-averse evangelical Christians to evolution. They’ve had workshops, meetings, and a big website for three years, as well as tons of funding from the Templeton Foundation and, I suspect, wealthy evangelicals. But they have no record of actually doing what they set out to do: reconciling science with evangelical Christianity.

The reason is palpably clear of course: those “ways of knowing” are incompatible. But Falk seems cluelessly puzzled by BioLogos‘s failure:

But as thankful as I am for that support, no straddling ought to be required. Science studies God’s creation, which places it on sacred ground, not foreign territory. And if it is sacred ground, then Christians ought to be right there providing tours of the landscape, not out on the fringes looking in. True, there are sections of the science landscape that need to be redeemed from the scientism Richard Dawkins and others use to surface-mine and subtly rearrange the terrain for their own philosophical purposes, but the fact that they have been able to do this may be partly due to our near-absence from the territory. We have been far too hesitant to enter this world, and sometimes it seems we have simply preferred to cast stones from the outside.

Elaine Eklund has shown that Evangelicals are fourteen-fold under-represented among the scientists at the nation’s leading universities. Is this a result of what Mark Noll (almost twenty years ago) described as a scandal—“the scandal of the evangelical mind?” Could it be that the territory seems foreign because we have stayed away and failed to adequately understand how science works and why it is such a dependable way of revealing truth about the physical and biological world that God has created?

Oh for crying out loud! Evangelicals and other hyper-religious people are underrepresented in science because it threatens their faith. It’s not an inadequate understanding of how science works, but a realization that the findings of science, if taken seriously, make the idea of a god superfluous. And, in the end, this is why all efforts like those of BioLogos will fail.

I probably don’t agree with much of what Dr. Coyne believes, but I think he’s absolutely correct about one thing: evolution and Christianity are completely incompatible. If BioLogos exists to make Christianity palatable for evolutionists, it doesn’t appear that they have removed the offense of the Gospel for those committed to an atheistic, evolutionary worldview. I hope that more Christians will realize that compromising Scripture to gain acceptance is dangerous and ultimately unsuccessful.

“Enns seems much surer of evolution than Scripture”

Over at The Aquila Report, Dr. Donald Crowe has an excellent review of Dr. Peter Enns’ book The Evolution of Adam. After giving a brief summary of the book, Dr. Crowe begins to interact with the various claims Dr. Enns makes in his book. (For a longer summary of Dr. Enns’ book, please click here.)

Enns does not so freely use the word “myth” in this book as compared to his previous work. But a non-historical untrue story is a myth by another name. The apostolic testimony is that they did NOT follow cunningly devised fables [Greek muthos = myth]. He seems to chide his former colleagues at Westminster Seminary by reference to those who “insist that all those other [pagan] writings are clearly ahistorical while Genesis is somehow presenting history.” He calls this a weak position of faith. He may have a point here, if he would move them toward a greater trust in the Word of God, but he does not. He believes consistency demands that Westminster and every other Christian concede much more to the evolutionary view. The history of compromise in the Christian church is a tragic one. One compromise leads to another until there is no firm foundation upon which to stand. The Church is large part simply drew new lines in the sand while beating a hasty retreat. The tides of time washed each line away. Enns has drawn the last line at the resurrection of Christ, the next stop is the abandonment of the faith altogether. But it could be a renewed by the grace of God to a trust in the authority of Scripture from the very first verse to the last.

Usually, his references to creationists are condescending and misrepresentative. Creationists do not believe that the earth is flat, that it was created just as its looks now [for example, the Flood made massive changes], or that the earth is a fixed point over which the sun actually rises and sets. Nor do we believe the Bible teaches these things, however much we may speculate about the personal views of the writers. He correctly states the conviction that God created the world in relatively recent history, but seems to lump that together with a belief in a flat earth. But the recent creation is derived from the inspired chronology of Scripture, the flat earth is not. There is no evidence that he has read any serious work on the creationist view. Not being able to fairly state what creationists actually believe and being unwilling to inform oneself of their literature might be seen as a weakness in one’s case.

So many things are simply asserted based on a presupposition that evolution is true that it would take a book larger than the one he wrote to give biblical replies. But biblical replies have been written, it is just that most evolutionists do not bother to inform themselves of them. Every Christian should be informed on the biblical doctrine of creation and be equipped to defend the faith.

I had the experience in seminary of having a German liberal who told pretty much the same tales about the OT, making most of the same assertions. He was, as far as I could tell, totally unaware of conservative works on the OT. It is hard to understand until you know that the “liberal club” like the “evolutionary club” thinks they are above reading such things, they read only each other. Conservative writings, no matter how scholarly, are dismissed with a snicker. “Scholarly consensus” to them means they surveyed the “club’ members and all agreed with the liberal view. Sadly, from reading this book one would never know there were any other views.

Tragically, Enns seems much surer of evolution than of Scripture. That is a sad and unnecessary condition for a Christian. He mentions in passing something about the ultimately divine origin of the Bible, but it is left very vague. I had to wonder, “Where is the view of Scripture held by Christ and the apostles? “ Wouldn’t that be the Christian view? Jesus affirmed the Scriptures of the Old Testament, certainty including Genesis. He was a ‘jot and tittle’ believer where Scripture is concerned. Jesus has been accused of being a “fundamentalist” by some liberals. Paul believed that All Scripture was God-breathed. Enns can dismiss Paul as an ancient child of his times, but does not touch on Christ who had the same views. We should be aware that the originators and promoters of the evolutionary worldview—those same people who allegedly force us to mythologize Genesis—also tell us that the resurrection of Christ is mythical. This should lead us to doubt their conclusions on Genesis!

Dr. Crowe goes on to discuss how evolutionary science and Christianity are truly different worldviews:

Everyone has the same observable evidence. The difference in worldview and ultimate standard shapes the way we interpret or make sense of the evidence.

What is our ultimate authority? Do we have the view of Scripture held by Christ and the apostles? For example when Peter spoke of Scripture as follows: “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; (Acts 1:16, NKJ) Or Paul’s declaration, “All Scripture is God-breathed,” or the statements of Jesus affirming the Old Testament as well as His own authority. The Scripture cannot be broken; it is enduring truth down to the jot and tittle. The God-breathed revealed word is the ultimate authority, the standard by which all human statements are evaluated. If we judge Scripture by a human standard, the Bible is no longer our ultimate authority. Autonomy has raised its ugly head.

Or, is Scripture just the attempt of a downtrodden post exilic people to reconnect with their identity by their ancient primitive non-historical stories modeled after pagan mythology? Can Jesus escape these charges hurled at Moses and Paul? Whatever view of ‘inspiration’ Dr. Enns may have does not seem to involve much of divine influence or preservation from error. The book is rather short on positive affirmations, except for affirming evolution. By God’s grace, our eyes can be opened, and we can confidently affirm all that the Scripture teaches. Biblical theology is rooted in history. Real historical events accurately interpreted. The Bible tells what happened and what significance it has. Of course, if it did NOT happen, then it has no significance.

Next, Dr. Crowe addresses various misconceptions about what “science” is and how Christians interact with it:

What is ‘science’? In a Christian worldview, science is a God-glorifying endeavor as we explore God’s creation and marvel at his power, wisdom and purpose. When we look at the creation through the clarifying lens of Scripture, every observation leads to the glory of God. We have a God-given standard by which to interpretation everything we see and everything that happens. Modern science was begun by Christians desiring to think God’s thoughts after Him and learn more of Him by studying His works. Things observed are rightly understood by the standard of God’s revelation.

An evolutionary worldview rules out any consideration of the Creator. They define ‘science’ as naturalistic, thus excluding from the start the right answer! But what if God really did create the heavens and the earth? Would it be legitimate to rule out the truth and consider only wrong answers? Has ‘science’ no interest in what really happened? Let’s say that God did create the heavens and the earth. Then it is true, scientifically true and historically true. In that case the evolutionary presupposition only guarantees that the truth will not be found!

What counts as ‘science’? ‘Science’ has a positive connotation for most people, including me. People think of technological advances like cell phones or MRI, of combating diseases by knowing more of how the body operates, or the engineering and mathematical skills required to send a man to the moon or orbit satellites. But is calculating the acceleration of gravity really in the same category as speculating about the origin of the universe? In a Christian worldview, with Scripture as our ultimate authority, we learn so much from Geology about the extensive catastrophic changes brought about by the Flood. Careful observations and measurements, consistent experimental results and technical and medical advances—all these give us a positive response to ‘science.’

But evolutionists do a ‘bait and switch,’ trading on the positive achievements of real science. Another ‘bait and switch’ tactic is in defining ‘evolution’ as merely ‘change over time.’ Once this obvious fact is acknowledged, evolution becomes “the development of higher life form, including man, from single celled creatures, the origin of life from non-life, of intelligence from non-intelligence, and many other unacceptable conclusions. In the name of ‘science’ they exclude God from their thinking, as true “Romans One”[i] men, and begin telling their just so stories. Rejecting Genesis 1 as “religion” or worse, they explain the origin of the universe by “The Tale of the Amazing Exploding Speck.” According to this Epicurean-like story, long, long ago and far, far away, a tiny speck no larger than the head of a pin had been just floating around in dark frigid space for millions and billions of years [not that there were really “years” then]. With no outside forces in existence, it of itself exploded into the entire universe we see today. The billions of stars, whole galaxies, and all our solar system with the Sun, the earth and all the planets were packed into the amazing exploding speck. The unimaginably massive material mass of the universe fit into a pinhead! The pieces gradually assembled themselves into stars, planets, moons, and earth.

Why does this qualify as ‘science”? Why does this explanation of the origin of life– that claims extraterrestrial aliens visited earth and left a few spores behind—qualify as science? It is more like a deliberately chosen presupposition, a God-excluding worldview, a philosophy of life.

It is not ‘science versus religion.’ We all have the same evidence to observe. The difference is in how we interpret that evidence. How do we account for it? Should I use the God-breathed record from the omniscient Creator as my standard of evaluation and interpretation? Or should I rely on a philosophy which was designed to exclude all consideration of God? But what if God is the right answer? Should I rule out the right answer because of philosophical preference? Won’t that simply guarantee that I would reach a false conclusion?

Dr. Crowe concludes:

I cannot think of anyone to whom I would recommend this book. I understand that many Christians struggle with the conflict between what they have learned from the Bible and what they have been taught for 12-16 years in compulsory attendance at government run schools. These schools systematically exclude any serious study of God from history or science; anyone even suggesting such a possibility or criticizing the established religiously held belief in evolution will be silenced or dismissed.

I had these kinds of questions as a new convert in high school. I learned that many Christians had devised ‘interpretations’ that allowed for a kind of synthesis of the evolutionary worldview with the Christian-biblical worldview. These were ultimately unsatisfactory. By God’s grace I was shown a better way. The answer I found was not an acceptance of evolution as truth, but a confidence in the Word of God and a new way of looking at life. It is far better that we present to the world an antithesis to their worldview, rather than attempt a synthesis. …

So what is our ultimate standard? Is it the God-breathed record of the omniscient Creator or the current cultural consensus of speculation among evolutionists, the leading originators and promoters of which are anti-Christian “Romans One” men?

If we allow Dawkins and friends to force us to mythologize Genesis, then every miraculous work recorded in the Bible, and to regard Paul as merely an ancient culture-bound man with mistaken opinions—how will we defend the resurrection of Christ? After all, the same crowd that demands Genesis be mythologized, also thinks the same about the resurrection.

(Before we hop on the evolution “bus,” we ought to find out who is driving and where they are headed.) We may praise God that there is a better way.

Let us cease the pathetic, unrealizable quest for academic respect from the Romans one crowd. Instead we must as Christians answer this call: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-5, NKJ).

You can read the whole of the article here.