Saturday, April 30, 2011

God's Higher Purpose

Television, newspapers, and internet pages are filled with images of the tragic tornado super outbreak of April 28, 2011 in America’s deep south. This event now ranks second only to the famous tri-state tornado super outbreak of 1925 in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana which killed 747. At this writing, 343 people are known dead. Americans who were not personally impacted suffer in empathy for the victims and their families. We commit them to God’s care.

Of my own personal, first-hand ordeals with many severe natural phenomena of Planet Earth, none has resulted in serious personal tragedy. But I claim close-up experience with a tornado, hurricanes, blizzards, heat waves, cold waves, floods, droughts, volcanoes, and earthquakes. In 1973, several days after a small tornado passed within several hundred feet of the northern New Jersey school where I taught earth science, a half-dozen students joined me during lunch hour, pedaling a mile to view a spot in the nearby woods where the twister touchdown made it appear as though a giant rotary lawnmower had passed through. The current Alabama disaster makes that experience insignificant as I soberly contemplate the horrific power of weather’s forces.

Each occurrence of events such as the recent major Japan earthquake and tsunami or the Midwest flooding episodes of recent years brings with it many questions about “what God may be saying to us.” I do not question that God can control weather and send deadly storms. Psalm 148:8 references natural disasters accomplished at God’s bidding. Various translations state these events do His bidding, fulfill His Word, or obey His orders. Neither do I question that God’s omniscient foreknowledge may include every natural event happening now or yet to happen.

Since God has a higher purpose in mind for pain and suffering, premature, tragic, or mature-age death, and certainly, on a more cheerful note, the many joyful experiences we are blessed with most of the time, we must humbly endeavor to submit to the Creator’s plans and purposes. Those plans and purposes are far beyond human understanding. Man’s pronouncements about what we think God is doing, what we think God wouldn’t do if He were loving and benevolent, or what He ought to do according to our judgment, become impertinent, trivial, and foolish. However, we must not depreciate the grief which attends the human tragedy of this tornado outbreak.

We need frequent reminders of the ubiquitous severe events on earth throughout its history. The account of the creation of the heavens and earth in Genesis 1 recalls several events which were followed by the pronouncement that “God saw that it was good.” In the eons before and after God’s spirit moved on the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2) there were many manifestations of fierce and turbulent events as the earth acquired its features and characteristics. From the Big Bang until this very moment in earth history, the Second Law of Thermodynamics has operated as a God-ordained overlay of this universe. In brief, this means energy dissipates; things run down from a higher to a lower state of organization. Most of these events ultimately benefit humanity. Some, however, are violent, destructive, or fatally tragic.

The Alabama tornado outbreak is a tragic natural disaster almost beyond comprehension. A web search of historic natural disasters brings the broader picture of life on earth into clearer focus. We are reminded of many similar past tragedies both prior to man’s advent and since the creation of man on this planet over many millennia. Human discovery of the fixed laws of nature and how to apply them has enriched our lives. Modern society is the product of technology powered by energy sources birthed in many wild geological events of the distant past. Those events would be considered violent and tragic by today’s standards. The Book of Job and other scriptures refer to many natural disasters over thousands of years.

April 28, 2011 must be perceived within the context of the universe God created—a “Second Law” universe where things are running down. God’s “very good” creation operates under the umbrella of this law. It is not a “bad” law. The outworking of God’s imposed laws is manifest in God’s higher purpose to be experienced in the future. The New Creation described in Revelation 21-22 is in view for the redeemed people of God. In the New Creation God’s higher purpose will be fully revealed.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rejection Notices

Naturalism has many qualifying adjectives such as metaphysical, philosophical, and ontological. Many secular organizations endorse naturalism and reject the existence of God explicitly and proudly. An example is this terse statement: “Naturalism implies that there are no supernatural entities.” One Merriam-Webster entry for the definition of materialism is similar: “A theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter.” The message is clear. Naturalism is bitterly antithetical to theism in any guise.

Evolutionists compose a substantial majority in the world of biological science. In most cases their unabashed worldview is the worldview of naturalism. Many take the time to comment on creationist and theistic evolutionist positions in their statements, blogs, articles, books, and speeches. Their message to creationists is one of predictable, explicit rejection. Theistic evolutionists fare no better. In reality, they are scorned more harshly.

Steven D. Schafersman appears on many web searches on “naturalism” as a spokesman for the naturalist worldview. At the Conference on Naturalism, Theism, and the Scientific Enterprise in 1997, he presented a paper entitled “Naturalism is Today an Essential Part of Science.” This lengthy paper outlined the practice of naturalism prevalent within the science profession. I present his statements as the view of naturalist scientists and not necessarily as my own view. The reader should make his own judgment. Schafersman asks, “How convincing is the argument made by theistic naturalists, individuals who believe in both science and the supernatural, that evolution--or any statement of science--is firmly established by a naturalist method in which they don’t really believe? Not very convincing.”

Following are three other passages drawn from Schafersman’s paper:

“I maintain that the practice or adoption of methodlogical naturalism entails a logical or moral belief in ontological naturalism, so they are not logically decoupled.”

“Do theistic evolutionists think they are playing a game, in which they do science during the day with naturalistic methods, but at night go home and leave naturalism behind in the laboratory, since they don’t really believe it describes a true picture of reality?”

“I merely want to suggest that supernaturalistic methodological naturalists may wish to examine their metaphysical beliefs more closely, since I think they are illogically engaging in self-deception.”

Another spokesman for the naturalist worldview is Laurence A. Moran, a self-described evolutionary biologist. In his paper “Theistic Evolution: The Fallacy of the Middle Ground” he makes these incisive remarks:

“Scientists, on the other hand, argue that an interventionist God who guides evolution violates the rules of science…Supernatural explanations of the natural world are not scientific.”

“As explained earlier, the scientific description of evolution does not rely on, or permit, the intervention of supernatural beings.”

“So is there a middle ground where an interventionist, personal God is compatible with modern science? Perhaps not. The conflict between religion and science certainly isn’t avoided by postulating a passive God who doesn’t play an active role in guiding evolution.”

“If one’s explanation of the natural world posits a God who created the laws of physics and chemistry, then one is not behaving like a scientist. Of course, there’s even more of a conflict if one’s God is supposed to have set up the universe in order to produce humans.”

“It seems as though there’s no room at all for religious explanations of the natural world as long as we agree that scientists have to stick to naturalism.”

“In my opinion, the term ‘theistic evolution’ is another oxymoron.”

What may committed naturalists teach Christians? With respect to Christians who accept theistic evolution, scientists such as Scafersman or Moran offer instruction on what the embrace of evolution really entails: Belief in evolution necessitates acceptance of a naturalistic worldview, and affirmation of the reigning philosophy that scientists may investigate only the natural world and arrive at only naturalistic conclusions. Creationism and intelligent design proposals are effectively ruled “out of bounds,” an athletic term better expressed as “not in play.” This blog is committed to the acceptance of creationism as “in play,” both scripturally and scientifically.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

TE - Rejected Suitor

Theistic evolutionists, who now wish to be known as evolutionary creationists, are experiencing a chilly reception from naturalistic evolutionists. Both terms are problematic in the realm of evolutionary science. “Theistic” and “creationist” are not fitting descriptors within the paradigm of evolutionism. Evangelical evolutionary creationists, in particular, would acknowledge the Judeo-Christian God of scripture as the agent of creation, directly or indirectly making things happen (creating). One wonders if the problem is the proper understanding of reality or merely one of semantics.

Creationism and theism both fall outside the purview of naturalism. The adjective theistic implies the existence of a supernatural entity. Creationism, as a noun, implies the action of a supernatural entity. Neither term falls within the realm of science. Creationists are urged, in various ways, to make peace with science and embrace it in order to discover truth on origins. But science is not on the verge of making peace with theism or creationism, notwithstanding the pleasant “concordat” claimed by some naturalistic scientists to exist. Concordat is a term used by the late Stephen Jay Gould in his famous 1997 NOMA article in Natural History. Gould stated, “I believe, with all my heart, in a respectful, even loving concordat between our magisteria.” He referred to the magisteria of science and theology.

Historically, concordats have existed between authorities in church and state. They govern details of the roles of authority administered in independent spheres. Peaceful co-existence usually prevailed but some concordats were characterized by tension. Today science and theology are said to be separate realms of authority with neither impinging on the other.

These descriptions of the connections between science and faith ring with a pleasing sound until we grasp the reality of a shocking disconnect. Secular evolutionary scientists embrace neither theism nor creationism. The NOMA principle (non-overlapping magesteria) endorsed by the science, media, educational, and judicial establishments of our culture keeps theism and creationism at bay. Theistic evolutionists (evolutionary creationists) wish to be perceived as intellectually credible in our culture, but their efforts at rapprochement with secular evolutionism are doomed to dismal failure.

I urge theistic evolutionists to examine the reality of this difficult state of affairs. As suitors to evolutionary science, they are experiencing the pain of rejection. Their views also alienate them from their creationist brethren. They find themselves wedged between adjacent groups who reject them for entirely different reasons. They have endorsed the conclusions of evolutionary consensus science increasingly questioned even by the evolutionists themselves. Theistic evolutionists have rejected intelligent design and many other propositions of scripture with respect to creation events, especially the fiat creation of man in the Image of God.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Concerns on Consensus

Many theistic evolutionists, now promoting themselves as “evolutionary creationists,” yield to the belief that because evolution possesses overwhelming support among biological scientists, its claims on origins questions are credible. This is a position articulated by many brilliant people with whom I have discussed origins issues. For them adherence to majority opinion is an important support pillar for the evolutionary belief system they choose to hold.

Adoption of the consensus of scientists on evolution should be approached with the greatest caution. Acceptance of any consensus depends on the subject of the belief system in question as well as the identity of the group. Who proposes the religious belief system, the political ideology, or the behavioral theory? With respect to the evolutionary community’s proposals on the broad questions of origins, there is considerable complexity. Knowledge of evolution as a historical science differs considerably from knowledge of the "hard sciences" of chemistry and physics gained in the past few centuries. In chemistry and physics there is little contoversy and no need to “rediscover the wheel.” In those fields doubting the consensus of scientists is foolish and futile. It is not so with evolution.

How did life on earth originate suddenly and with bio-chemical complexity? Beyond that, the profound questions regarding the appearance of life’s multiplicity and the recent arrival of modern humanity demand our diligent consideration. Why do living things manifest such unmistakable signatures of intelligent design? How demonstrable and credible are the theorized driving mechanisms of macro-evolution such as natural selection and the more imaginative recent proposals such as “phenotypic plasticity?” The consensus of naturalistic bio-science professionals is that natural processes alone are responsible. Moreover, contemporary science philosophy dictates that we continue searching for natural explanations only, perhaps forever. Relying on the consensus of such biased stakeholders should inspire minimal confidence.

Theorized proposals of evolutionary processes as causally adequate for what we observe in the world of biology are not supported by the mere consensus of evolutionary biologists. Some of the strongest support for evolution in past years was the presence of so-called “junk DNA.” In recent years evolutionists have retreated from claiming that junk DNA affirms evolution. Increasingly, it has been shown to have function. But many theistic evolutionists continue to cite evidence such as junk DNA as a reliable indicator of common ancestry.

In the face of developing questions concerning evidence for the reality of evolution, I repeat my hope that endorsement of evolution by evangelical biological scientists not be driven by adherence to the modern scientific consensus. Modern science is strongly driven by the worldview of naturalism. Christian thinkers should resist endorsing the worldview of naturalism. Beyond that, but no less significant, we should resist the evolutionary consensus and avoid the temptation to be accepted in the world of academia based on evolution’s purported intellectual credibility. The harsh reality is that both naturalistic evolutionists and traditional creationists are harshly critical of and strongly opposed to the concept of theistic evolution now becoming known metaphorically as “evolutionary creationism.”

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Problems of Consistency

One of the most significant problems theistic evolutionists face as they spread their message on the origins of life is the inconsistency of their stance. On one hand they embrace science, saying that evolution is scientific. Of course, that statement is broadly true. Scientists investigate the questions of evolution. We are explicitly and implicitly exhorted to “come to peace with science” by authors and leaders in The BioLogos Forum. But marriage of the terms “theistic” and “evolution” is fraught with glaring inconsistencies.

Evolution is a naturalistic process, supposedly obeying natural laws as do moving or falling objects. It needs no God to direct or even oversee it. Science is a naturalistic venture, currently so defined by the broad consensus of science practitioners and philosophers. Some Christians with a theistic worldview are scientists, but they are obligated to keep their theism under wraps when discussing causal adequacy in any of their scientific discoveries or proposals.

When theistic evolutionists claim, as did Francis S. Collins in The Language of God that “…God chose the elegant mechanism of evolution to create (emphasis mine) microbes, plants, and animals of all sorts,” they are guilty of promoting a serious incongruity. We are exhorted by the promoters of TE to embrace science. But according to the rigidly controlled professional science establishment of our day, science will countenance the action of no supernatural intelligence, no creator, and especially, no God of Judeo-Christian scripture in its proposals of causal adequacy for anything we observe in our physical world.

If evolution cannot stand alone on its own merits without injecting God into the picture, perhaps the theory is undermined as false. Jason Dulle argues these points effectively in “Theistic Evolution: The Illegitimate Marriage of Theism and Evolution.” Dulle suggests, “If naturalistic evolution is not sound on its own terms, we have no reason to accept it as true, and thus no reason to do the exegetical and theological tango with scripture to accommodate it.” Dulle inquires, “Why do some Christians feel the need to maintain a theistic evolutionary view? The only sufficient reason is that theistic evolutionists are convinced that evolution is true.”

Theistic evolution, according to modern science philosophy, is not really evolution at all, since theistic explanations are not permissible in any scientific account of reality, including historical origins science. And science, according to modern science philosophy, is not theistic. The pronouncements of both theistic and secular writers that theistic evolution is an “oxymoron” are more easily understood.

Evolutionary biologist Laurence A. Moran makes arguments almost identical to Jason Dulle. It is fascinating that Moran and Dulle locate themselves on opposite sides of the origins belief spectrum. In “Theistic Evolution: The Fallacy of the Middle Ground” Moran says, “It seems as though there’s no room at all for religious explanations of the natural world as long as we agree that scientists have to stick to naturalism. Do scientists really insist on this restriction? Yes, they do.” This statement is not designed to make theistic evolutionists comfortable. They claim the mantle of science, but the science community is not supportive of theistic evolutionists’ desire to straddle the fence by claiming God “creates” through the process of evolution.

Dulle asks, “Is there reason to believe that the case for evolution is not as sound as scientists would like to make it? Yes, there are.” Many authors have discussed evolutionary theory based on its evidential weakness. Creationists and theistic evolutionists argue about the strengths and weakness of evolutionary evidence. Naturalistic and theistic evolutionists argue about the validity of injecting any theistic views into the origins discussion because of the self-imposed limitations on theistic reality by the ruling scientific authorities. In two important spheres, therefore, we experience impasse. The TRUTH is standing by as an observer.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Claims of Compatibility

Claims of theistic evolutionists that TE beliefs are compatible with evangelical theology and a Christian worldview do not resonate favorably with creationist perceptions of reality. On the other side of the origins spectrum, neither is the heavily naturalistic community of bio-scientists supportive of the TE concept. Theistic evolutionists attempt to please a group of people who, for various reasons, find it difficult to believe in the supernatural creation events scripture explicitly enumerates.

Consider some of the arguments posed by creationist Jason Dulle in “Theistic Evolution: The Illegitimate Marriage of Theism and Evolution.” Dulle argues that TE is not intellectually coherent. TE posits that God used the evolutionary process to create. That is to say, evolution, a chance, undirected process, becomes the creator. In theory, of course, God could mandate that “chance” events produce a manifestly purposeful, ordered outcome. Theologically and semantically, however, such a concept is an oxymoron--a conjoining of contradictory terms. (I acknowledge the philosophical complexity of this issue.)

When we observe our natural environment, there are plentiful examples of order. Some ordered natural features in non-living physical systems are highly impressive manifestations of natural patterns. These patterns are to be distinguished from designs. Formations of patterns in nature, such as tornado vortexes, snowflakes, and mineral crystals, obey pre-existent natural laws which are capable of producing apparent order from chaotic systems. Weather phenomena provide some of the best examples. Patterns, however, are to be distinguished from the ordered design features found in living creatures. Design features obey the ideas which come from instructions in a language. DNA is recognized by scientists as a language. All languages come from a mind. Information theorist Perry Marshall has clearly articulated these proposals in the past few years. He poses The Atheists Riddle: “Show me a language that does not come from a mind.”

Life forms are the product of the coded language of DNA, a complex sequence of instructional information beyond imagination. Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman, has stated, “DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created.” Trillions of living cells fabricate thousands of different proteins, the building blocks of all life forms. Each protein is a string of amino acids which folds exquisitely into an appropriate shape in order to achieve a special function. The physical structure of at least five million different species presently on earth, as well as the integrated functioning of their many life sustaining processes, is dictated by the presence of these intricately folded proteins.

Stephen C. Meyer, in his Discovery Institute publications, has outlined the incredibly unlikely scenario evolution as “creator” would have to accomplish in order to produce even one of today’s five million extant species: If Species A were to become Species B by the process of evolution, it would be necessary to produce, simultaneously, new proteins, new cell types, new tissues, new organs, new body parts, and finally, a new organism. To describe evolutionary processes as the virtual “creator” of earth’s multiplicity of life forms stretches credibility to the breaking point. This is equally true whether one claims to be a naturalistic evolutionist or a theistic evolutionist. The TE paradigm is not comfortable middle ground on which to stand with respect to the profound questions of origins of earth’s life forms, and in particular, the human race created in the Image of God. These discussions should be approached with open-minded humility, whether one embraces the tenets of evolutionism or creationism.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Evolution's Connections

Belief in evolution, and by extension, theistic evolution as it is understood today, is as old as the proposals of Charles Darwin, author of The Origin of Species in 1859. Historically however, ideas of a self-existent natural world and even primitive concepts of “evolution” have been present for many centuries. The formal theory of evolution of life forms on this earth, along with the startling proposal of a mechanism to drive it (natural selection), offered to an eager world by Charles Darwin in 1859, burst on the scene as an attempt to bring clarity to the formerly blurred picture. We could draw analogy to the recent advent of high definition, big-screen color television compared with the performance of early small-screen black-and-white receivers of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

The worldview of naturalism, which provides a foundation for the structure of evolutionary theory, also came into clearer focus. Naturalism has captivated large segments of our culture. It was not widely seen as a fully-developed worldview before the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species. In the decades following that landmark publication naturalism came to be recognized as a major worldview.

The Center for Naturalism ( provides a proper perspective for anyone who desires an accurate account of the origin of the naturalistic worldview foundations of evolution. Their website states, “The Center for Naturalism promotes naturalism as a comprehensive worldview –- a rational and fulfilling alternative to faith-based religions and other varieties of supernaturalism.” The website states further, “Though Darwin’s theories caused political and cultural turmoil, they also helped give birth to a new school of American philosophy, known as naturalism, which emerged as an alternative to traditional thought by grounding philosophical thought thoroughly inside nature.”

John Dewey (1859-1952), whose thinking influenced many generations of educators, is described in The Center for Naturalism’s website: “John Dewey -- a widely read philosopher, theorist, cultural critic, and public intellectual, inspired generations of philosophers in the United States with a system he called 'pragmatic naturalism.' " The website continues, “Here, at last, naturalism took its place as an explicit worldview (albeit with many variations), based on a broadly empirical, scientific epistemological commitment, but going beyond science by making that commitment the basis for ontological claims about the world – namely, the denial of the supernatural.”

Evangelicals who promote theistic evolution do not wish to have their beliefs associated with philosophical naturalism. Their desire, instead, is to appear to be supportive of science. The question must be asked: What worldview drives the science which supports evolution? How strong and how reliable is this science? What presuppositions drive that science? We must not forget that as Christians, we are committed to the discovery of truth above our commitment to science.