Full Text for Dogmatics 1- Volume 46 - Can you talk about the important differences between belief and creation and theories of evolution? (Video)

Dogmatics 46 Captioning provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 ******** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ******** >> This is just the point where natural science says that Christian teaching is wrong. Can you talk about the important differences between belief and creation and theories of evolution? >> Yes, Paul, I can talk about some of the important differences between our belief, our teaching on creation, and some theories of evolution. Now, let me start by saying a little bit about evolutionary theories. It's often said, it's often thought that Darwin composed -- Darwin thought of the theory of evolution, and that's not really true. What Darwin did was not think of the idea of evolution, but gave it a plausible basis, gave it a plausible explanation. There have been other theories of evolution, in other words, the evolution of life, and Darwin's special accomplishment was to provide a story, an account of evolution, the evolution of life which seemed to work with the world as we see it. And it's also important to realize that a fundamental issue that the theory of evolution has to meet is the apparent design, the apparent complexity and wonder of the universe, and especially of life in its diversity, in its intricacy. This could be seen already a long time ago, and one of the most famous arguments for the existence of God is in arguments, as I say, from design. And I'll read a selection from perhaps the most famous such argument by William Paley. This comes from the beginning of the 19th century. In crossing a heath, Paley said, suppose I pitch my foot against a stone and were asked how the stone came to be there. I might possibly answer that for anything I knew, to the contrary, it had lain there forever. Nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I found a watch upon the ground and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place, I should hardly think of the answer I had given before. That for anything I knew, the watch might always have been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone? Why is it not as admissible in the second case as in the first? For this reason, and for no other, namely, that when we come to inspect the watch we perceive what we could not discover in the stone, that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose. For example, that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day. That if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, if they were a different size than what they are, or placed after any other manner or any other order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it. Then later he says: This mechanism being observed, it requires, indeed, an examination of the instrument and perhaps some previous knowledge of the subject to perceive and understand it. But being once as we said observed and understood, the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker, that there must have existed at some time and at some place or other an artifice or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer, who comprehended its construction and designed its use. In a sense, the issue is not so much evolution, but the question about the design. Certainly human creatures, animals, plants, are very much more complex than any machine, and the diversity of natural life is extreme and wonderful. And it's obviously plain to see. What Darwin offered was, then, not so much a theory of evolution, but a plausible theory of evolution. In other words, a plausible mechanism to see how the design of the earth's universe might be seen to be apparent rather than actual. And this is the mechanism of what they call natural selection. People who, proponents, that is, of evolution, people like Steven J. Gould, *** who recently died, or Richard Dawkins *** often write about some of these features. For instance, the panda's thumb. The thumb of a panda is not quite like ours. It's not truly an opposable thumb, but rather it seems to be an appendage which is joined by some flesh and it operates in a way like our thumb, but it's not truly the jointed mechanism that ours is. They take this to be an example of a suboptimal design and something that's much more readily explained not by an intelligent powerful being who created all things, but rather by the process, a long process of a slow gradual adaptation and selection. The idea of Darwin or a neoDarwin account of evolution is that through slow, gradual changes which are found to be preferred or better suited to the world, life changes and adapts, it grows more and more diverse. When thought of this way, then, Darwinists, evolutionists, think of the world's life as coming, yes, in the sense of evolving, but not so much like a chain. They wouldn't say that human creatures came from monkeys, but rather something like a large bush. But in any case, they do argue that through natural selection, rather than an intelligent or a divine plan and work, the diversity and the complexity of the world's life can be explained. Richard Dawkins, *** who I mentioned, wrote a book entitled "The Blind Watchmaker." It was blind natural selection that gave us ourselves, that gave us the animal world and the plant life, and not someone parallel to the watchmaker of Paley's argument. Clearly the Christian account of creation speaks very much against such a view. One thing that we didn't discuss at any length was the Tennesseean scientific community to rule out almost any place for God, from the outset. But this is quite clear where discussion of evolution is concerned. There has been, perhaps you've heard of it or are acquainted with it, a debate about the notion of intelligent design can be taught. This isn't per se a religious point of view, although it is open to the notion of a divine creator, it does leave open that possibility. And that is typically ruled out of bounds at the outset, like we say, as a matter of religion. As a side note, what is interesting about this is that, for instance, Carl Sagan,** who died a number of years ago and was a well-known, on the one hand, proponent of evolutionary thinking, and on the other hand was involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. For instance, in his novel "Contact," writes about a young scientist who comes across a sign of intelligence. It's the use of numbers transmitted from outer space; in that instance, evidence of intelligence, evidence of design counts. But evidence of design in the natural world seems not to. You might say, then, that, and it often is said that those who hold with evolution often do so with a certain presupposition about the world; namely, that the natural world is all there is. That's sometimes called philosophical naturalism or materialism, and holds that what we see, what we can observe, what we can infer from what we see and experience, that is the world as a whole and that is all things as a whole and there is nothing that is beyond it or transcended to it, including anything that might be understood as a God. It's precisely in this way that many accounts of evolution and those who propose evolution are in direct conflict, pose a direct challenge to a Christian doctrine of creation, which starts out by holding that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. It acknowledges Him as the Father of all, that sees Him as the creator of all things visible and invisible. In addition to what might be called naturalistic accounts of evolution, there are also proponents of what is called theistic evolution. In other words, the idea that, yes, there is a God, perhaps the God of the Bible, and that He is responsible for all things, but that this does not exclude the notion of evolution in some way, a gradual evolution of life and the like. Now, in speaking to these things, in some way we can acknowledge some notion of evolution. That is to say some notion that things adapt, some notion of things changing. But that's not really where the challenge lies. It's the idea that life in radical ways changes, adapts, grows, that species developed, that species come and go and developed, and that is really where the challenge lies. And it comes on a couple of fronts, and so let me talk about some of them. One thing that any evolutionary or most of these evolutionary theories seem to question is the idea that man is in some way the crown of creation. According to a naturalistic evolutionary model, human creatures, human beings, are just another species. It's sometimes said by evolutionists that at a first approximation, that is at a first pass, all species are extinct. That's saying that virtually every species that has lived, according to this way of thinking, no longer exists. And what that suggests is that life as we see it now will, in millions or billions of years, pass away, be gone as well. Scripture clearly teaches, though, that man has a special place in creation. In other words, the Christian doctrine of creation centers man in a very definite way that naturalistic evolutionary thinking definitely does not hold with. Along with that, then, there is the issue you might say of the six days of creation. Now, it's worth noting that for much of the history of the Christian church, there hasn't been an insistence on six days of creation. Some noted figures in the early church understood the account in Genesis 1 to be symbolic, holding that God created all things at once, and the account of God creating in six days was held to be a way to talk about the order and complexity of creation, rather than as really some kind of account of how things are. In the Lutheran tradition, relatively little was made in the 17th and 18th century about the six days of creation, although it was held. It's only been recently, especially with the challenge of evolutionary thinking, that there has been a lot of emphasis on the six days of creation. It has to be admitted that the issue about the length of day in Genesis 1 can't be solved purely by grammatical concerns. In other words, the question here involves not only our account of creation, but also our use of scripture. Finally, our position on these things involves larger, you might say, theological considerations, and it involves also how we see God reveal himself in the scriptures and what the purpose of the scriptures is. But as to the six days and especially in relation to evolutionary counts, which see life as evolving from a lower to more complex things, and taking a long period of time, but there are some basic theological difficulties. The first would have to do with sin. The Christian conviction about sin is that sin is not near ignorance or finitude, it's not a feature of creation itself, but rather it was something that was introduced when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. In other words, the story of the fall is not merely a myth, but refers to an event that actually happened. And that's also consistent with our belief that creation itself in the beginning was good and that the corruption of creation is something that is temporary. And that God, when He finally comes to rule through His son Jesus Christ in the end, will restore creation and make it all new. But evolutionary counts tend to leave no place for sin. The same can be said about evil. Evil is not something that is a corruption of creation, but rather in the evolutionary count has to be seen somehow structural or innate to creation itself. And also with death, death is something that has to be, as it were, natural, as opposed to a result of sin, the consequence of sin. And as you can see from these things, we are talking about sin, we're talking about evil, we're talking about death, where the notion of these things is compromised, where it has to be seriously altered. Then the very concept of salvation, also, is altered. In other words, sin, death and the devil, sin, death and evil, are all things from which God promises to rescue us. And so an account of the origin of things, which leaves sin, death, evil, the devil, all these things, as parts of creation itself, part of nature itself, makes it impossible to have the Christian Gospel and Christian promise and really comes down to, then, the purpose of the creation narratives. The purpose of the creation narratives is not only to give us an account of what happened once upon a time, but as we pointed out already they set the stage. They establish God's relationship to all of creation, all of the universe, and they establish God's relation to human creatures. And it's especially in light of these things that theories of evolution, theories that like evolved from less complex and lower forms to higher and ongoing, that's especially where the problem --