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A Christian Pastor Explaining Evolution Vs. The Bible


Autumn girl
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Our Pastor bought us the book, The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller, after my husband told him about our serious doubts about Christianity (for me, it's past the point of serious doubts, but my husband is getting there). In this book Keller writes:

 

"Some Christians in the highly publicized Creation Science movement take the conflict model and insist that Genesis 1 teaches that God created all life-forms in a period of six twenty-four-hour days just several thousand years ago. At the other end of the spectrum are Christians who take the independence model and simply say that God was the primary cause in beginning the world and after that natural causes took over. Other thinkers occupy the central positions. Some hold that God created life and then guided natural selection to develop all complex life-forms without violating the process of evolution. Others, believing there are gaps in the fossil record and claiming that species seem to "appear" rather than develop from simpler forms, believe that God performed large-scale creative acts at different points over longer period of time...

 

...For the record I think God guided some kind of process of natural selection, and yet I reject the concept of evolution as All-encompassing Theory. One commentator on Genesis captures this balance well:

 

If "evolution" is...elevated to the status of a world-view of the way things are, then there is direct conflict with biblical faith. But if "evolution" remains at the level of scientific biological hypothesis, it would seem that there is little reason for conflict between the implications of Christian belief in the Creator and the scientific explorations of the way which - at the level of biology - God has gone about his creating process.""

Huh? :blink: From my research about evolution from non-Christian scientific resources, evolution is seen as fact, not even something relegated to something to "believe" in. I learned from Neil Degrasse Tyson that there is more scientific evidence in favor of evolution than there has ever been for any scientific theory before or since it was proposed. If it was the 1700 or 1800's evolution would be called a scientific law, rather than a theory, but scientists don't really name things "laws" anymore for specific reasons. It's a technicality. Evolution, due to the overwhelming evidence, is fact.

 

Right?

 

Am I wrong?

 

If this is true, then why do Christians keep getting it so wrong when it comes to what science has proved??? I understand bias and everything, but come on. The quoted author above said that if "evolution" remains at the level of scientific biological hypothesis, then basically everything is fine and dandy between Christianity and science. But I do not understand evolution to be a hypothesis anymore. I understand there are many questions still unanswered, but evolution as "fact" isn't going anywhere. It's proven.

 

Please correct me if I'm wrong.

 

And, if I'm right, then there is a HUGE problem with a view of "god" and the beliefs of Christianity in general. I like how Christopher Hitchens explains this, from about 8:30-12:30 on this youtube video:

 

 

I find this absolutely devestating to Christianity as a belief system.

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Guest Valk0010

The only problem I find with theistic evolution as a idea, is it makes out god to be cruel a lot like hitchens points out.

 

Christians have to modify it to fit it in there world, its kind of a bigger version of saying god did macro evolution but not micro evolution, as if there is a difference.

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The reason they cant accept evolution as all encompassing is cause it shows there was no Adam and Eve. It then follows that there was no original sin and thus no need for salvation. If there is no need for salvation then there is no jesus and their house of cards crumbles, so they need to keep it at a hypothesis level.

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The reason creationist dismiss evolution is that some people can become so entrenched in their beliefs that no amount of evidence can convince them. Some will do all sorts of logical gymnasics in order to shoehorn evolution into their world view, including drastic distortions of the theory. Others will deny until they die no matter what you show them. They have embraced an ideology that rewards faith, but all faith is blind. Anything that questions the premiss of their faith is simply a test to them. God himself couldn't convince them otherwise.

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This does raise a really good question as to the degree of resistance to the theory of evolution, not just by a bunch of Christian ideologues raging against any views that challenges their beliefs, but even your average non-zealous, non-evangelical Christian American who doesn't spend much energy thinking about much of anything. The idea jars even them it seems. So why?

 

I understand the argument about Adam and Eve, to sin, to Jesus, to the Church and the whole house of cards falling, but that is more a response in religious dogma to what I see as the greater anxiety that it causes. It's not about changing views about their religion, or their theologies, but I see it more a profound anxiety about loosing their perception of themselves as the centerpiece of creation! The universe no longer has us as its primary focus! Humans are facing growing up, and we're doing so kicking and crying about it!

 

Every stage we go though in our development as children is a movement further and further away from an early stage pure egocentrism. Each stage moves us further and further out from a "me" centered view of the world through our perception of ourself. We move from a bodyself identity, to a egocentric identity, to a groupcentric identity, to a sociocentric identity, eventually becoming globalcentric, and finally identify with the entire universe as self. So sociologically, our average-mode consciousness has likewise moved through these same stages of lessening "Me" centered universe, to tribe, to community, etc, further and further away from Me centered view of the universe.

 

Each stage is a painful letting go off that previous way of viewing themselves, and growth pangs occur. So now the news hits their ear, "Guess what? You are one of millions of species that evolved. It didn't have you in mind specifically." Yikes! Their view of themselves has just been unseated, trying to open their minds to a larger worldview which has them more as part of it, than the focus of it. It not about their religious doctrines, but the psychological terror at growing up.

 

A great question. This has really helped me answer some things elsewhere I've been pondering. :)

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You hit it head-on A-man.

 

When I was in psychology class, we learned about the developmental stages of a child to adulthood. And there's this stage where the kid believes that he or she is the center of all attention (especially during teenage years), but normally we grow up and realize that the world is not centered around me. I'm just one part in a big whole.

 

And I see the extreme/fundamentalist religious attitudes that some people have are signs of immaturity. They still want to keep that self-centered "me" concept. Everything is about me, or everything is about us humans. I'm so special, and humanity is so special.

 

To grow up and mature, is to realize that we are, even as a species, just a part in the great whole. THAT is what can give us a good understanding of our purpose and goal in life. Become part of the community, and leave the ego behind. Easier said than done... :)

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And I see the extreme/fundamentalist religious attitudes that some people have are signs of immaturity. They still want to keep that self-centered "me" concept. Everything is about me, or everything is about us humans. I'm so special, and humanity is so special.

Yes, I was going to say that all these rises in literalism and fundamentalist behaviors are symptoms of a greater psychosocial issue on a global scale. Religion is not the cause of these things, but people using these social structures the way they are, are distorting them into expressions of this terror, this change-state of consciousness. Religions are support structures for helping translate people's worldviews to themselves and with others through systems of symbols. As people's awareness takes in more information than the system can successfully translate for them, the system either adapts or is replaced.

 

Such explains the simple evolution of doctrines, practices, customs, etc. But when something radical happens, such as an entire new-level growth stage, moving from a teenager to a young adult, a great anxiety can occur. These are social systems, and entire segments, whole species actually seem to be undergoing tremendous shifts in perception beginning with the Enlightenment. It's not just something that shifts in a couple generations, but a centuries shift. We're struggling to adapt our structures to support us, and people reach back, forward, or just simply develop neurosis that turns inside on itself in self destructive movements - igniting the atmosphere we breath and burning the planet down. (Hopefully not). But I do see symptoms of this.

 

Getting rid of religion will do nothing. It's us. It's about finding that spark of light in our very hearts, the essence of our beings to live, to grow, to flourish. Our religions, or social structures reflect us, and like our conversation of the other night, they are symbiotic relationships. We create our worlds, and our worlds support us to whatever end we choose.

 

To grow up and mature, is to realize that we are, even as a species, just a part in the great whole. THAT is what can give us a good understanding of our purpose and goal in life. Become part of the community, and leave the ego behind. Easier said than done... :)

It's that understanding that can open up what is inside us to become greater, or we shut it down and die. It is impossible to de-evolve. We can never be in Eden again, undistinguished from the Great Mother. We are here to stay and continue, or die.

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I agree A-man.

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Huh? :blink: From my research about evolution from non-Christian scientific resources, evolution is seen as fact, not even something relegated to something to "believe" in. I learned from Neil Degrasse Tyson that there is more scientific evidence in favor of evolution than there has ever been for any scientific theory before or since it was proposed. If it was the 1700 or 1800's evolution would be called a scientific law, rather than a theory, but scientists don't really name things "laws" anymore for specific reasons. It's a technicality. Evolution, due to the overwhelming evidence, is fact.

 

Right?

 

Your understanding is right. My friend tried a similar ploy on me the other day when he said that evolution was just a "theory", obviously not understanding the scientific community's use of that word. Evolution by natural selection is so overwhelmingly demonstrated to be how life forms change over time, and that concept would be so simple to understand for otherwise well-educated young people that, at my fundie high school that had some of the most intelligent students in the state (okay, not saying much, since it's Idaho :HaHa:), they had to construct a straw-man representation of biological evolution as only 'random' chance. I never grasped the basics of it until during this semester in a beginning biology course...

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Very insightful Antlerman! I've always had a thought like that but couldn't really streamline it like you did. The insecurity is coupled with a loss of a purpose as well I think. For them it's far more difficult facing a life without an ultimate goal, plan or purpose. The difficulty lies in them not being able to create an ultimate or deeper meaning for their lives, they need that meaning to come from an external source. They need that safety net of no matter how bad it gets there's an underlying purpose to my suffering. If you see successful xtians they'll point to how God has guided them to this success, satisfying that inner need for a purpose or plan.

 

Perhaps another aspect is socially, how would they identify with other people? If you take away that common ground they have with their fellow xtians, how then do they operate in a world without that connection?

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A Christian Pastor explaining evolution is like a poet explaining the Duhamel technique for solving partial differential equations.

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A Christian Pastor explaining evolution is like a poet explaining the Duhamel technique for solving partial differential equations.

It would put a damper on things...

 

Have you met the mathematician's ex? Her name is Ellen Etox. :)

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If it was the 1700 or 1800's evolution would be called a scientific law, rather than a theory, but scientists don't really name things "laws" anymore for specific reasons. It's a technicality. Evolution, due to the overwhelming evidence, is fact.

 

Just a point of technicality, there are still laws and theories in science. Others can correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe a theory can include laws, but a theory is too broad to be considered a law, such as the law of thermodynamics or gravity.

I believe it's also reasonable to state that evolution is a fact.

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The reason they cant accept evolution as all encompassing is cause it shows there was no Adam and Eve. It then follows that there was no original sin and thus no need for salvation. If there is no need for salvation then there is no jesus and their house of cards crumbles, so they need to keep it at a hypothesis level.

The problem with this argument is that not all Christians, including not all creationists, believe in original sin. The doctrine of original sin is not found anywhere in the bible and was first created by St. Augustine. Augustine himself was no biblical literalist and believed that if science contradicts scripture, science should win over scripture. This is a quote from Augustine's writing, The Literal Interpretation of Genesis:
With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation.
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The reason they cant accept evolution as all encompassing is cause it shows there was no Adam and Eve. It then follows that there was no original sin and thus no need for salvation. If there is no need for salvation then there is no jesus and their house of cards crumbles, so they need to keep it at a hypothesis level.

 

To me accepting evolution really does make all of the Abrahamic religions collapse. I know there are Christian churches which somehow find a way to reconcile the two (for example saying the story of creation in Genesis was is a metaphor), but I can't. To me it's either true or it isn't, there's no middle ground. Maybe that's because I was a Fundie where literalism was taught. If Genesis, Noah's Ark etc. is just a metaphor how do you know what else in the Bible is? Maybe Jesus and his resurrection is only a metaphor too? If it is then leaves everything else in the Bible open to interpretation as well and there is no certainty in it any more. (Not that it's not open to interpretation anyway, hence the many kind of churches.)

 

Also I find the "it's a metaphor" argument pretty weak. What is it a metaphor for that the Bible claims the Earth was formed before the Sun and all the stars?

 

So I can see why evolution (and cosmology) is such a vital point and why it meets with such hostility. It's the greatest challenge Christianity has ever faced, because if it's true then the Bible is suddenly very questionable.Not just Genesis, but as a consequence, all of it.

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Guest Valk0010

The problem with this argument is that not all Christians, including not all creationists, believe in original sin. The doctrine of original sin is not found anywhere in the bible and was first created by St. Augustine. Augustine himself was no biblical literalist and believed that if science contradicts scripture, science should win over scripture. This is a quote from Augustine's writing, The Literal Interpretation of Genesis:

Of course the bible doesn't say trinity either. Its implied like original sin is.

 

And anyway the christian would say, if adam didn't exist, then why did say Paul call jesus the second adam?

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The reason they cant accept evolution as all encompassing is cause it shows there was no Adam and Eve. It then follows that there was no original sin and thus no need for salvation. If there is no need for salvation then there is no jesus and their house of cards crumbles, so they need to keep it at a hypothesis level.

 

To me accepting evolution really does make all of the Abrahamic religions collapse. I know there are Christian churches which somehow find a way to reconcile the two (for example saying the story of creation in Genesis was is a metaphor), but I can't. To me it's either true or it isn't, there's no middle ground. Maybe that's because I was a Fundie where literalism was taught. If Genesis, Noah's Ark etc. is just a metaphor how do you know what else in the Bible is? Maybe Jesus and his resurrection is only a metaphor too? If it is then leaves everything else in the Bible open to interpretation as well and there is no certainty in it any more. (Not that it's not open to interpretation anyway, hence the many kind of churches.)

 

Also I find the "it's a metaphor" argument pretty weak. What is it a metaphor for that the Bible claims the Earth was formed before the Sun and all the stars?

 

So I can see why evolution (and cosmology) is such a vital point and why it meets with such hostility. It's the greatest challenge Christianity has ever faced, because if it's true then the Bible is suddenly very questionable.Not just Genesis, but as a consequence, all of it.

 

This is EXACTY my thinking too. I was raised evangelical lutheran, with strong emphasis on luther's "sola scriptura", or "only the scriptures". It was his way of purging all the catholick excess out of xtianity, but it ended up teaching me that if it's not in the bible, there is no reason to believe it is true. This doesn't stop them from believing in the trinity, but at an early age I also wondered why we don't kill homosexuals as commanded in Leviticus. When I first heard the "interpretation" line of apologetics, my very first thought is how do we tell what is literal and what is metaphorical...

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I understand the argument about Adam and Eve, to sin, to Jesus, to the Church and the whole house of cards falling, but that is more a response in religious dogma to what I see as the greater anxiety that it causes. It's not about changing views about their religion, or their theologies, but I see it more a profound anxiety about loosing their perception of themselves as the centerpiece of creation! The universe no longer has us as its primary focus! Humans are facing growing up, and we're doing so kicking and crying about it!

 

 

I don't think this even so much of a Christian problem as it is an American problem. Americans in general seem to have this center of the universe mentality about their country with that whole American expectionalism nonsense. They have this whole attitude that America is the greatest nation on Earth, America is the moral police of the world so let's go wage pointless invasions in other people's countries, questioning the greatness of America means you're an American hater etc. But if you look at other first world countries, Christians in those countries have no problems accepting evolution and it doesn't bother their faith at all. Even most Jews accept evolution and expect for Ben Stein, I don't know of any Jews trying to force creationism in public schools even though both Jews and Christians believe in Genesis. It's only American evangelicals who seem to have a problem with evolution while the rest of the world has moved on. The only first world nation that has more creationists than the U.S. is Turkey which has their own Muslim version of creationism.
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Guest Babylonian Dream

Evolution was one of those theorie that in retrospect, this should've been obvious. Like gravity, evolution is just obviously there. You see it indirectly in your everyday life. You look like your parents, but not exactly the same; and to a lesser extent, you look like your great grandparents. Some of you might be like me, and look nothing like your great grandparents (if they were still around for you to meet them).

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The reason creationist dismiss evolution is that some people can become so entrenched in their beliefs that no amount of evidence can convince them. Some will do all sorts of logical gymnasics in order to shoehorn evolution into their world view, including drastic distortions of the theory. Others will deny until they die no matter what you show them. They have embraced an ideology that rewards faith, but all faith is blind. Anything that questions the premiss of their faith is simply a test to them. God himself couldn't convince them otherwise.

 

That is exactly right.

In Sunday School, not so long ago- in a discussion of assuming different doctrines from the scriptures. The teacher (my husband) said that it drives him nuts when people assume a conclusion and THEN search for verses to support their claims.:twitch:

 

Hello, creationism?!

The FIRST thing I thought about when he said that was this issue of evolution.

Especially since my husband subscribes to "Acts and Facts" magazine....from the Institute for Creation Research. Yep. (I unsubscribed and they still send them) The Magazine from October is called "Why does the Earth look so old? the theological costs of old-earth thinking"

The first article says "The disparity between Evolutionary Theory and the Biblical account on the age of the universe is no small matter. Rather, it is one that comes with Huge Theological Consequences"

 

So they start with this idea. "The Bible is true. God made the world. And then try to distort ALL scientific evidence to fit that mold. And that is ok.....? But trying to find verses that support having women as preachers is wrong.

 

okay.

Whatever!

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The reason they cant accept evolution as all encompassing is cause it shows there was no Adam and Eve. It then follows that there was no original sin and thus no need for salvation. If there is no need for salvation then there is no jesus and their house of cards crumbles, so they need to keep it at a hypothesis level.

 

 

EXACTLY!!!

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Most apologetics have a problem with twisting facts to suite theories instead of twisting theories to suite facts. They make up their mind before they have evidence and then try to twist the new information to fit the old model, happens all the time... even in scientific circles.

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Theory

 

So when Darwin came out with it, it would correctly be called a hypothesis. After over a hundred years of testing it is reality but labeled a theory because, shaped like itself, its still evolving. Thus allowing for changes in how it works.

 

Law

 

So a Scientific law requires a emperical constant. Therefore, Gravity is a law because, on earth, it has a constant acceleration of 9.8 m/s^2. If the observer was on Mars gravity would still exsist but the acceleration constant would be different. Thus, helping ot explian the Theroy of Relativity.

 

The theory of evolution can never be called a law, scientifically, until such time as some emperical constant could be found. Since it deals mainly with biology and species adaptation to environments, this would seem unlikely as all observation are mainly qualitative nature.

 

So, my understanding is the fundies are scientifically illiterate. They cannot be debated in scientific terms because it is a language they don't understand. However, many on this site have taken the time to learn, or had it forced on them, the fundie language and therefore can beat them on their own turf.

 

This is only perpetuated in the schools fundies finance and home schooling. The entire point of Orell Roberts U and others like it was to create a "class" of citizens that are completely indoctrinated in to the fundy mindset with the ultimate goal of gaining and retaining political power.

 

I only wish the pubilc school system would be takenover by the government and creating a unified standard that required among other things scientific litteracy.

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Well, if a scientific law requires an empirical constant, then it does indeed seem unlikely that evolution would one day be considered a law; the rate at which genetic mutations occur varies between different species and even between different regions of the genome. Perhaps there's an underlying factor that affects those rates of change.

 

I myself had the misconception that a scientific theory would become a scientific law after a long period of testing and observation, but what I see is that those concepts are not necessarily stages in a scientific idea's life. A theory is broader in scope, having its own internal system of logic that applies to related phenomena, while a law focuses on one sole phenomena (gravitation, for example). Regarding the theory of evolution, it encompasses several phenomena: genetic mutation (new sequences introduced into the genome), genetic recombination through sexual reproduction (the two Mendelian laws: segregation & independent assortment), Hardy-Weinberg principle (predict how common an allele is in the population through observation), population genetics, natural selection.

 

I hope I expressed this well, and it helps give me ammo for my fundie friend (who, three times in the same conversation, shouted "theory" at me when I was talking about evolution as if that word alone makes it not a fact). Maybe the way evolution is presented/conceived of should be different. It's usually seen from a top-down perspective by the general public where the most notable thing occurring is new species emerging over time; perhaps it's better to focus on the reality of genetic mutation & recombination which when placed in the context of the organisms' population & environmental challenges result in natural selection of the best-adapted. It's easy to mock evolution when it suggests something at first considered ludicrous (at least in the present circumstances), but not if the underlying reasoning is sound and the consequences logical.

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