How is this possible? Let me explain… The concept of ‘Sola Scriptura’, on which Protestantism was founded, is still one of the greatest unifying factors among evangelicals today. But a coach and horses is being driven through this doctrine by another belief that is insinuating its way into evangelical theology… the belief that the scientific establishment is right about evolution. And it is a Trojan horse for a liberal conquest of evangelical Christianity.
Gradually, leaders of the evangelical community are accepting evolution as fact – unlike the majority of average Christians. Why? Because they have been targeted for conversion to evolution by a small band of evangelicals who happen to be eminent scientists and who have accepted neo-Darwinism as unchallengeable fact. These ‘theistic evolutionists’ have persuaded some churches to adopt ‘Darwin Day’ this year and are on a campaign to rescue Darwin from atheism and creationism alike.
The truth is that ‘theistic evolution’ – the idea that God created life but used evolution to do it – is being squashed into an evangelical framework for the sake of the credibility of Christian scientists in the eyes of their secular peers. These evangelical theistic evolutionists have a laudable evangelistic aim – to remove the evolution/creationism controversy as a stumbling block to faith for scientifically-minded people. Once creationism is defeated, their thinking goes, then we can say to all scientists that you don’t have to leave your brains at the door in order to become a Christian. You can accept evolution and be a Christian – there is no conflict. Well, it’s perfectly true that you can accept evolution and be a Christian, but that doesn’t mean that evolution is true. However, it does mean that you have to surrender your view of the Bible as the supreme truth on the matter of origins – and ultimately on all matters – since science is the new gauge for spiritual truth.
Think I exaggerate? Stay with me.
‘Sola Scriptura’ was a foundational doctrinal principle of the Protestant Reformation held by the Reformers and is a formal principle of Protestantism today. It is Latin for ‘by scripture alone’ and is the doctrine that the Bible is the only infallible or inerrant authority for Christian faith. Consequently, Sola Scriptura demands that no doctrine is to be admitted or confessed that is not found directly or logically within Scripture. Sola Scriptura demands that all other authorities are subordinate to, and are to be corrected by, the written word of God.
But well-meaning evangelical evolutionists are forced to abandon this principle in order to accommodate evolution, and consequently they are crowning a new authority over Scripture – science.
Why? Because in order to fit evolution into the Bible narrative, you have to interpret unchanging, infallible Scripture in the light of changing, fallible science. If you accept evolution as fact, then wherever there is a clash between Scripture and evolution, evolution must be right, not the plain meaning of Scripture. Therefore the meaning of Scripture must be changed to make it fit evolution.
This is exactly what evangelical evolutionist Dr Denis Alexander, for example, has done in his recent book ‘Creation Or Evolution – Do We Have To Choose?’
But the fact that a theistic evolutionist has reached that position within the EA says something about the times we live in. Many evangelical Bible colleges and heads of denominations have publicised their pro-evolution views. Christianity magazine, the leading monthly for evangelical leaders, recently allowed a theistic evolutionist booklet, ‘Rescuing Darwin’, to be given away free with every copy.
Of course the magazine would say it doesn’t necessarily endorse the views of an insert paid for by another organisation, but neither has it prevented such a booklet going out to every reader. In addition, this month’s issue features an article on Darwin’s theology by a theistic evolutionist (Nick Spencer). It doesn’t explore evolution itself much, but nevertheless credence is given to a theistic evolutionist writer.
This trend is deeply worrying for anyone who cares about both the primacy of Scripture and the unity of evangelicals.
Let’s look closer at why.
A leading evangelical evolutionist is Prof David Cutler, president of the prestigious Linnaen Society. In an interview with the Salvation Army’s ‘War Cry’ evangelistic newspaper (which incidentally has carried many such interviews with evangelical evolutionists over the last year), Prof Cutler was asked, ‘Some people think that science has superseded the Bible. How do you view the Bible?’
His answer was revealing. It stood out from what was in other respects an orthodox evangelical interview. He said, ‘The Bible contains the word of God.’ Note the word ‘contains’. A traditional evangelical would have said, ‘The Bible is the word of God.’
What’s the difference? Well, if the Bible only contains the word of God, that implies that some parts of it aren’t the word of God. By contrast, if the Bible is the word of God, then all of it is the word of God.
Once you start saying ‘contains’ then you can chuck out any of the bits that you don’t like as not being inspired, or not relevant to today, etc. That’s convenient for Christian evolutionists who want to promote evolution as fact.
Denis Alexander, the author of ‘Creation Or Evolution: Do We Have To Choose?’ professes to be an evangelical. I have no doubt that he is. And he is a great scientist in his field. But when it comes to evolution, his theology falls woefully short of Sola Scriptura.
The methods of Biblical interpretation which he applies in his book are clearly liberal hermeneutical methods, yet because he belong to the evangelical faith, this seems to have been overlooked by most evangelical church leaders. Denis performs interpretative gymnastics with Genesis in order to shoehorn evolution into the story of creation, when it clearly doesn’t exist there.
David Anderson, a missionary working in Kenya and a keen blogger, lays out the theological errors in Denis Alexander’s book in great detail in a series of posts. He says, “If evangelicals take the contents of this book to heart, they will not only be endorsing a certain set of conclusions regarding origins; they will also be embracing a seriously erroneous approach to interpreting the word of God as a whole, and its relationship to other areas of knowledge.
“Such an approach, if carried out consistently, will ultimately damage the whole structure of Biblical revelation and the gospel itself – a road which I believe Dr. Alexander in this book has already travelled a long way down.
“I agree with Professor Andrew McIntosh, whose review in the Evangelical Times published in September 2008 asserted as follows: ‘By writing this book, Alexander has placed himself on the side of liberal theologians and, in this reviewer’s opinion, has departed seriously from the evangelical faith.’
It’s not just young earth creationists who believe in a literal six 24-hour days of creation who should beware of the liberal interpretation of Scripture that is the backdrop for theistic evolution. All evangelicals, whether you believe in God-directed evolution, Intelligent Design theory, progressive (long ages) creationism or whatever, should unite around the principle of Sola Scriptura. And if you do, you cannot take evolution as an authority by which we should interpret Scripture.
The real question is whether Darwinism contradicts the gospel. Dawkins and the atheists think so, as do traditional creationists. And here are some reasons why.
The Bible says the world was created very good and fell, beginning to decay. In contrast, evolution says it began in chaos and has gradually self-created into a state of complexity. The Bible says God created everything at the beginning, and his creative acts ended when he rested on the Seventh ‘Day’ (and we are still in that Sabbath Rest). But evolution says order has come about through natural processes which are continuing to ‘create’ today, and organisms will continue to be ‘created’ by evolution in the future. Both can’t be true.
Which is authoritative and infallible, the Book of God or the Book of Nature? God can speak to us through nature, yes, but nature and human scientists are fallen – so they are not a perfect vessel for revealing God’s truth. Only the Bible is.
Scripture should be used to interpret Scripture. Science can inform and help us understand Scripture, like history and archaeology can, but in any clash we should always choose Scripture. Time and again historians and archaeologists have mocked the Bible for containing myths for which there is no evidence, only to later find historical documents or artefacts that back up the Bible. Why should we think biology is any less fallible?
As David Anderson says: “The Bible is our ultimate authority, and therefore takes the prime place in interpreting itself… True Christian exegesis means to find out what the Bible itself actually teaches us about what Genesis means... How did Christ use its teachings and what was his and the apostles’ hermeneutic?
“Denis Alexander warns us against the danger of reading passages with excessive literalism. Where, though, I wonder is the opposite warning? We live in times dominated by Enlightenment thought. We live in the unpleasant afterglow of over a century of unbelieving theological liberalism. We live in times when people think of the Bible in terms of myth… not the real world of time and space. Literalism has slain its thousands, but liberalism its tens of thousands. “It is not excessive literalism which has ruined the mainline denominations of the professing Christian church; it is liberalism. So where is Denis’ warning that we might be in danger of treating straightforward matters of history as if they weren’t? Where are we alerted to the risks of facing the Bible’s cold, hard assertions about real history, real space and time, and committing the sin of unbelief in their face?”
Denis Alexander sums up his whole liberal approach when he says that Genesis “is describing creative events that occurred before anyone was around to describe them, so it cannot be history in any normal use of that term.”
So, God isn’t capable of writing history unless he has human eyewitnesses to do it for him? Is it not possible that God inspired Moses to write real history – as the Bible itself claims – or are miracles not allowed in evangelical theology any more, just as in liberal theology? For theistic evolutionists, Genesis is theology and evolution is science, and never the twain shall meet. They say the Bible wasn’t written as a scientific textbook, which is true. But they then conclude that where it does touch on scientific issues it can’t be trusted to say anything plainly – it must be all symbolic. In contrast, neo-Darwinism is science, so it can be trusted! Hail the new religion of evolution! Evangelicals should bow down to it, like a Canaanite idol.
The truth is that Genesis makes historical claims and so does evolution, and in many places they are in conflict.
I leave the conclusion to David Anderson: “As I read Dr. Alexander’s book, my main fear ironically isn’t that it’ll persuade Christians to embrace Darwinism. What this book will actually do to Christians who really take it to heart is much worse… it might lead them into a much more far-reaching theological downgrade, through the methods of Bible interpretation that Dr. Alexander uses… The authentic Christian approach to the Bible is to give it an unrivalled place of supreme authority and absolute truth, so that it dictates the parameters which any other supposed sources of truth must adhere too. The Bible is certain and non-negotiable; other sources of truth are uncertain, must fit within the parameters of Scripture and be believed with appropriate tentativeness.”
Written by Andrew Halloway, the contributing editor of ‘The Delusion of Evolution’, a booklet that exposes the fallacies of evolution and explains why scientists are increasingly taking up Intelligent Design as a better way to understand the evidence. See www.newlifepublishing.co.uk/delusion