Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Theistic Evolution & Old Earth Creationism

This post is a reply to Doc Rampage's recent post on the same topic. Doc, let me make a few quick observations if I may. First, very few (what I call) 'high level' apologists believe in young earth creation. Most believe in 'old earth' creation (not theistic evolution). Take such apologists as Greg Koukl, William Laine Craig etc...

There is a significant amount of evidence for old earth as you stated. But like you said, theres nothing about the evidence that would indicate God couldn't have done it in six days. (In other words the evidence is inductive not deductive in nature).

I tend to lean more towards young earth (creation of the earth with the appearance of age) myself but Im pretty agnostic on that topic. To me it makes little difference whether it started 6,000 years ago or 6 billion years ago.

However evolution to me poses a huge problem to Christianity. (Im sure Christianity could survive if we were to somehow find proof of evolution) but heres the big problem: Death before the fall of man. The cosmology that Christianity paints, or the world view insists that God's creation was GOOD even to the point of no death. Even something as trivial as thorns came about as a result of the fall according to Genesis. There are some who claim 'theistic evolution would only require animal death and not human death therefore it is compatible' however I find this argument weak. I see all death, even animal death, as an unintended consequence of sin. Christianity teaches that man has dominion over animals but no one can deny that animals feel pain and suffering when they are killed. (This is to speak nothing of course of the lack of evidence for evolution)

True, evolution would be actually conceivable given divine intervention. Without God the theory dwindles to a level of silliness in my opinion.

Interesting side note about your alien analogy: Francis Chick is the famous scientist and atheist who discoverd DNA. He was so opposed to theism that when he discovered it and realized how inadquate evolution was to explain the existence of such complexity, he developed his theory that aliens planted DNA on our planet.

8 comments:

Dave Gudeman said...

Thanks for the reply.

I have to disagree with you on your interpretation of the Genesis story. I believe there _was_ animal death before the fall. Animal death was necessary in order for Adam to grasp the analogy when before the fall, God said (I quote from memory) "In the day you eat from it you shall surely die."?

I don't think thorns resulted from the fall (nor did parasites, predators, and scavengers, none of which can exist without sickness and/or death). What God was saying is that man would have to work for a living instead of having all of his needs provided by God.

I also don't believe that animals suffer, as I explained here.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

I think much of our disagreement lies in semantics. I read your post on animal suffering. Im not trying to be philosophical. Can you in good concious tortue an animal? Can you even in good concious kill an animal without reason? To me _personally_, it is intrisically evident that death & destruction in any capacity are incompatible with God's righteousness and goodness. In a perfect world there would be no death of any kind.

The 'circle of life' that we know today surely depends on death. But we are making a huge assumption when we assume that nature has always been exactly the way it is today. The world was immeasurably different pre-flood and post-flood. It also makes a lot of sense to me to assume that the world and even nature itself was vastly different after the fall. We can even see radical adaptations by plants and animals that have resulted by (relatively) minor influences from mankind yet how much greater of an effect would a global or even large scale localized flood have? How can we measure the curse God put on the earth after the fall? Which btw, Genesis does claim that thorns were a result:

Genesis 3:17-18

17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,'
"Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life."

18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.

Now of course we can (and pretty much have to take at least some of Genesis as metaphoric)but you seem to be pretty intent on a literal interpretation of God telling Adam that he's gonna die. (I'm not arguing with you just pointing out that if some things can and should be taken metaphoric why not other things)

It's impossible to debate about semantics concerning Adam. How did Adam know what anything meant? How did God communicate with Adam through speaking if Adam had no one to teach him speech? How did he have a concept of anything? I generally assume that God just endowed him with the speech. I dont see how Adam would have understood the term "surely" without having some sense of "uncertainty" either but that isnt a stumbling block for me. I mean how has Adam been let down by anyone before? Who told him something that didnt come true before this? The problem is when we start arguing about the semantics on this level we quickly lose sight of the intended meaning of the passage whether metaphorical or not.

Assuming the animal kingdom was close or the same as what it is today: we would have to assume that lions were still hunters for example... So even without the fall very soon Eve could have been mauled to death by a tiger. The Christian world view is built on the principle that not only moral evil (like me stealing from you) but natural evil (like a natural disaster or wild animal killing your loved one) were both unintended consequences of the fall of man kind and the introduction of sin into the world. Christianity promises answers to not only moral evil but to natural evil. Heres a link from an anti theist who is so close to the truth he's missed the point:

http://www.vexen.co.uk/religion/theodicy_naturalevil.html

He's arguing that a good God would not allow natural evil like earthquakes. Why do we care about natural evils? He's right there is something very very horrible about natural evils. Just ask any of the family members of the Tsunami victims or Katrina victims. I could hardly care less whether my son was murdered by a human or whether he was kicked off a mountain side by an angry billy goat. One is a moral evil and the other is a natural evil yet both cause an equal amount of suffering to me which is precisely what I do not think God ever intended.

In your proposed cosmology, natural evil would have to exist (regardless of the fall of man) this includes animal death, animal carnivores, volcanoes, earthquakes, tidal wives etc... And as stated before, the observable world tells us (now) that many if not all of these things are very necessary to sustain life as we know it. But I believe it is erroneous to assume it has always been necessary. If God can created something from nothing its far easier to assume that He can also radically alter the natural order of things (already created) with just a passing breath.

So no, I dont know of any hard core Scriptural evidence for my view point off the top of my head. I'll let you know if I think of some. All of this stuff seems very intuitive to me though. The redemption story makes much more sense to me with the denial of moral AND natural evil prior to the fall of mankind.

Thanks for the comment and the post I thoroughly enjoy this kind of stuff! Keep bloggin!

Dave Gudeman said...

Genesis 3:18 is what I was referring to. I don't read this as saying, "I'm going to invent these things called thorns that you don't know what they are, but boy are you going to hate them" I read it as saying, "You've seen thorns; until now I have protected you from them; now you are going to have to fight them to get your food."

I also think there were predators, but that Adam and Eve were in no danger because God protected them.

Also, I do think God was speaking metaphorically when he said "you shall surely die." I think he was really speaking of spiritual death and using physical death as an analogy. But I think Adam had to have seen physical death for the analogy to make any sense to him.

Of course, I freely admit that the evidence is pretty slim on either side of the question...

Anonymous said...

Dave,

Herein lies the problem of Protestantism:

"I have to disagree with you on your interpretation of the Genesis story... I believe there _was_ animal death before the fall... I don't think thorns resulted from the fall (nor did parasites, predators, and scavengers, none of which can exist without sickness and/or death)... I also don't believe that animals suffer, as I explained here... I don't read this as saying, "I'm going to invent these things called thorns that you don't know what they are, but boy are you going to hate them" I read it as saying, "You've seen thorns; until now I have protected you from them; now you are going to have to fight them to get your food."... I also think there were predators, but that Adam and Eve were in no danger because God protected them... Also, I do think God was speaking metaphorically when he said "you shall surely die." I think he was really speaking of spiritual death and using physical death as an analogy. But I think Adam had to have seen physical death for the analogy to make any sense to him."

And for the final statement...

"Of course, I freely admit that the evidence is pretty slim on either side of the question..."

I'm sorry, but I don't see who you would need to freely admit that to. You made it clear what you think about the order of God's creation based on your interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, but it may be wise to see what the Church of Christ teaches on this topic, rather than trust your own beliefs. That is, of course, if you can bring yourself to believe that there were and are greater minds than yours and mine that have read, copied, translated, and pondered thoughtfully on the Holy Scriptures for many more years. Holy Scripture itself tells us when death (ALL death) was introduced, but for those of us who find it difficult to put it all together, there is always the writings from the Early Fathers and other great theologians.

NotMyOpinion30 said...

I understand that this may not help those in the Sola Scriptura world, especially not those who believe that Martin Luther was right when he removed seven books from the original canon of Holy Scriptures (the so-called "apocrypha").

Here goes:

Wisdom 1:13-15:
"God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of the netherworld on earth, for justice is undying.

Wisdom 2:23-25
"For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it."

In the Catechism:
1008 Death is a consequence of sin. The Church's Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man's sin (Cf. Gen 2:17; 3:3; 3:19; Wis 1:13; Rom 5:12; 6:23; DS 1511.). Even though man's nature is mortal, God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin (Cf. Wis 2:23-24). "Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned" is thus "the last enemy" of man left to be conquered (GS 18 § 2; cf. 1 Cor 15:26).

2852 "A murderer from the beginning, . . . a liar and the father of lies," Satan is "the deceiver of the whole world"(Jn 8:44; Rev 12:9). Through him sin and death entered the world and by his definitive defeat all creation will be "freed from the corruption of sin and death."(Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer IV, 125) Now "we know that anyone born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one"(1 Jn 5:18-19).

To believe that death existed in God's creation before the Fall is the equivalent of believing that God created death. It is the equivalent of believing that God created his creatures to rot, die, and kill each other for food or for other means. Both the Holy Scriptures and the Church teach that God did not create death nor does He glory in death. Therefore, logically, He would not find death "Good" like he found His creation. It was introduced when man fell to envy, the envy of Satan.

Hope this helps.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Wow thanks a lot. All great verses & quotes! I should have known about the Wisdom ones I read that book not too long ago. I still have a post on the back burner regarding the first two chapters of Wisdom. Such a great book.

Once again Catholic teaching falls right in line with intuitive truth. Thanks again for your assistance.

NotMyOpinion30 said...

Tim,

I know I added some Catholic information on when death entered into the world, but I did not add anything to address the second half of your discussion: evolution; mainly because I wasn't quite sure what the Church's stance is on evolution.

Anyhow, below is a link to the an Encyclical from Pope Pius XII: Humani Generis

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html

And here is an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences from Pope John Paul II (not an official document for Catechesis or anything):

http://www.cin.org/jp2evolu.html

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

From what I understand the Catholic Church is neutral on the subject. I know Catholic schools teach it though. I dont think there is any strong official teachings from the Church on it.