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Evolution vs. the Bible

Francis Collins and BioLogos seek a different story of our origins than the one told in Genesis

Francis Collins Associated Press/Photo by Sait Serkan Gurbuz

Evolution vs. the Bible

The writer of this Saturday Series article, Elizabeth Handford, shared with me in an email that she “grew up in a godly home. (My father was John R. Rice, an evangelist and editor). In a secular high school, I came to feel I had to settle which was right, Darwin or the Bible. I checked Origin of Species out of the library, came to chapters 4 and 5, ‘Problems with My Thesis.’ I read Darwin’s agony because he could find no answers to his own questions (most of them still unanswerable). I became convinced that God’s Word was absolutely true. I still read copiously on both sides of the question.”

Elizabeth Handford graduated from Wheaton College in 1948. Elisabeth Elliott was her debate partner in intercollegiate tournaments. Her husband Walt was a pastor and chaplain in Greenville, S.C., for 48 years. Along with being a licensed private pilot and a Bible study teacher, she has to keep track of the birthdays of 33 grandchildren and great-grandkids. After she read Francis Collins’ The Language of God (Free Press, 2006) and saw how it undercuts the inerrancy of Scripture, she carefully examined its premises and evidence and sent me the essay that follows. It’s important, because 10 years after publication the paperback edition of The Language of God is still ranks in the top 10 of Amazon’s “Science & Religion” category. Please read Elizabeth’s essay and think hard. —Marvin Olasky

Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, is the brilliant scientist who led the International Human Genome Project to map the entire human genome. He calls the human genome the “script carrying all the instructions for building a human being.”

Collins is an ardent, eloquent Christian who came to faith Christ in his 30s after reading C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. But he is also an ardent, eloquent evolutionist. He strongly believes that there is no possible explanation of the existing world except evolution.

“Science reveals that the universe, our own planet, and life itself are engaged in an evolutionary process,” Collins wrote in The Language of God. “Evolution as a mechanism can be and must be true.”

He coined the word “BioLogos” to describe his position and established an organization of great influence under this name. Collins wants to provide a “safe place” for people struggling to reconcile their faith with science.

So effective has BioLogos been that its June 7 bulletin reports: “The conversation on science and faith is shifting. A recent Gallup poll found that, for the first time since 1982, young earth creationist responses dropped significantly. And rather than losing their faith, people moved toward BioLogos views, seeing God as the creator over millions of years. … We are reaching millions of people every year.”

But Collins does believe the Bible is the Word of God. The BioLogos website says, “We believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God.” So Collins struggles to align his commitment to evolution with his own statement of faith. He attempts to do this, and dangerously so, I believe, by describing inconvenient Scriptures such as Genesis 1 and 2 as “poetic” or “mythical.”

Collins struggles to align his commitment to evolution with his own statement of faith.

“After all, there are clearly parts of the Bible that are written as eyewitness accounts of historical events, including much of the New Testament,” he wrote in The Language of God. “For a believer, the events recorded in these sections ought to be taken as the writer intended—as descriptions of observed facts. But other parts of the Bible, such as the first few chapters of Genesis, the book of Job, the Song of Solomon, and the Psalms, have a more lyrical and allegorical flavor and do not generally seem to carry the marks of pure historical narrative.”

Again, Collins wrote, “Many sacred texts do indeed carry the clear marks of eyewitness history, and as believers we must hold fast to those truths. Others, such as the stories of Job and Jonah and of Adam and Eve, frankly do not carry that same historical ring.”

But this idea is completely alien to the historic Christian position on Biblical inerrancy. As an example of this, the Wheaton College statement of faith says, “The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are verbally inspired by God and inerrant in the original writing, so that they are fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in all they say.” (For a comprehensive presentation of this view, see the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy produced at a summit of evangelical leaders in 1978.)

The Scriptures do not claim to be mere “eyewitness” accounts. They claim to be the very Word of God. Note 1 Peter 1:10-12 (NKJV): “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”

2 Peter 1:21 (NKJV) says explicitly: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

Scripture is not “of any private interpretation.”

If a reader of Scripture can decide for himself what is true and what can be ignored, he is setting himself as arbiter over the Scriptures. He becomes the decider of truth. This is indefensible if the Bible is truly God’s inerrant Word. Scripture is not “of any private interpretation.”

This puts Collins in an ambiguous position. If a number of individuals began the human race, as he believes, then Adam and Eve are myths. But that puts in doubt New Testament Scripture that have serious theological implications. Chapter 5 of Romans asks, “How could the death of one man, Jesus, pay for the sins of the world?” The answer? “Because sin, and death, came into the world by one man, Adam” (Romans 5:13-21). If Adam did not exist, then all the Scriptures that refer to him (Genesis 5; 1 Chronicles 1:2; Job 42; Luke 3; First Corinthians 15; 2 Timothy 2; and Jude) must be stricken from our Bibles.

The same is true about Jonah. If Jonah “frankly does not have the historical ring,” then the Lord Jesus Himself was in error. And if that were so, then He is not the eternal Son of God! For Jesus said, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40, NKJV). Must we then also excise from our inerrant Bible the references to Jonah in 2 Kings 14 and Luke 12?

The issue here is not which scientific theory on the origins of life is correct. Our focus is only to show that the inerrant, verbally inspired Word of God cannot be reinterpreted simply to make it fit any theory of science.

This untenable position has contributed to the tensions we’ve witnessed recently on historically conservative Christian college campuses like Bryan. It seems conservative Christians are being blamed for the dissension. But the defense of a statement of faith in itself ought not to be considered contentious.

The inerrant, verbally inspired Word of God cannot be reinterpreted simply to make it fit any theory of science.

In the book, How I Changed My Mind about Evolution (IVP Academic, 2016), college professors at evangelical schools tell how they came to accept evolution. But the position they express is incompatible with the statement of Biblical inerrancy their schools hold.

Scot McKnight is a professor at Northern Seminary. His school’s doctrinal statement says, “The Bible is the revealed Word of God, given by the Holy Spirit through chosen men, and so is fully inspired, authoritative, and the sufficient rule of faith and practice for the believer.”

Yet McKnight wrote in How I Changed My Mind about Evolution, “Learning about science has taught me to be more scientific about the Bible, not less. It has taught me not to succumb to simplistic theories about the Bible, not to settle for less than rigor about what Genesis 1-3 are saying, and not to force an ancient Near Eastern text (Genesis) into the thought patterns and categories of modern science.”

Does not his description of Genesis simply as “an ancient Near Eastern Text” clash with his school’s view of the revealed Word of God?

Tremper Longman III is a professor at Westmont College. His school’s statement of faith includes, “The Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, is God-breathed and true, without error in all that it teaches; it is the supreme authority and only infallible guide for Christian faith.”

But Longman wrote in How I Changed My Mind about Evolution, “If it turns out that there was no literal historical Adam and Eve, does that mean that the biblical creation account is not true?” Why the “if” in this sentence, if the Bible is “God-breathed and true, without error” as his school affirms?

Mark Noll, a highly respected historian from Wheaton College and now a professor at Notre Dame says of How I Changed My Mind about Evolution: “This collection of firsthand experiences is important for showing that firm belief in the truth-telling character of Scripture can support, rather than undermine, the best scientific investigations. It also provides more solid evidence for the good that BioLogos is doing to transform science and religion from a war zone to an instructive conversation.”

It is significant that these believer/scientists focus on Genesis chapters 1 and 2. Why? Because they seem to state unequivocally that evolution cannot be the method by which God created human beings. Genesis 1:21-25 (NKJV, emphasis mine) says, “So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. … Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind’; and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind.”

Genesis 8:19 repeats the phrase “after their kinds” concerning animals after the flood.

This is reiterated in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 15:37-40 (NKJV, emphasis mine) says, “And what you sow … God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds.”

An honest scientist who believes the Bible is the Word of God must deal with these Scriptures. They cannot be written off as having “a more lyrical and allegorical flavor and do not generally seem to carry the marks of pure historical narrative.”

An honest scientist who believes the Bible is the Word of God must deal with these Scriptures.

Tim Stafford, senior writer for Christianity Today, writes in his book The Adam Quest (Nelson Books, 2013), “Evolutionary creationism’s greatest problem is the Bible. Evolution tells a story about our planet, and it is far from obvious that it fits the story we learn from Scripture.”

Francis Collins yearns for a safe place for perplexed Christians to find answers for their questions concerning Biblical truth and science. I also yearn for a safe place for people to express their doubts and get sure answers. But there is no “safe place” anywhere if human being must carry the burden of deciding which parts of Scripture are true and which are not. Thank God, He has given us His Holy Word, without error of any kind, trustworthy far beyond what our puny minds can understand.

All of us need humility of mind and heart, admitting that we are fallen human beings without the capacity to understand all God is. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NKJV).

True science and the Bible do not conflict. They cannot conflict. We simply do not yet know enough science to discern the answers. Meanwhile, we can trust our great and holy God to teach us everything we need to know about this wonderful world. After all, He created it simply by His command. He sustains it (Hebrews 1:3). He knows how it all fits together. We can trust His infinite wisdom and goodness.


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