Is this an issue really worth debating? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Over the weekend, I saw some Christian friends arguing on Facebook about evolution. One is open to it if not supportive of it and the other is skeptical. I have also been reading through Richard Dawkins’s Outgrowing God who seems to be of the opinion that if you prove evolution, then you have put God out of a job.
Here I sit then thankful that I don’t debate the issue at all.
Let’s start with Dawkins. Dawkins regularly in his book when he talks about anything outside of science gets things stupendously wrong. I don’t want to be like that. When I get to the science section of his book, it sounds impressive, but then I think that he really blundered earlier. How do I know he didn’t do the same here? I try to give the benefit of the doubt because this is his area, but it can be difficult.
Yet here I am, someone who has not studied science. Do I want to make the same mistake in the opposite direction? Do I want to risk saying embarrassing things about science in a way that when it comes time to the areas I do know something about that people will not listen to me?
Keep in mind this is me saying this is what works for me. If you are someone who has studied science seriously and reads both sides, I have no problem if you want to debate evolution really. I think there are better areas to debate, but I’m not going to stop you.
But what about Genesis? For Genesis, I go with John Walton’s interpretation. In this one, Genesis is not describing the formation of creation in material terms, but in terms of function. It is telling how everything works together in the making of sacred space. The days can then be literal because this is just God making declarations over what He has made.
As it stands then, I have no hill to die on. My worldview then does not depend on modern science. Evolution is true? Cool. I move on. Evolution is false? Cool. I move on.
In my opinion, both Christians and atheists who think evolution is the dealbreaker are misinformed. For one thing, none of this has impact on if Jesus rose from the dead. At the most, it can damage inerrancy. The case for the resurrection of Jesus does not depend on Genesis.
It’s also sad that in some sense, atheists are right when they say we have God of the gaps and science keeps filling in those gaps. The early scientists who were Christians did their science to see how God did something. It was not assumed that He had to do something a particular way and if He didn’t, then He didn’t exist.
Let’s take our own formation. We all believe thanks to Psalms that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and the Psalmist says we are knit together in our mother’s womb. At the same time, many of us do not balk at the idea that we are formed through a process of gestation that takes place in nine months and don’t think this means God micromanages our DNA. God can still form us and a natural process can be involved.
Why not with our original creation?
Also, the existence of God is not on scientific terms, since science can never prove or disprove something immaterial. It’s in the area of metaphysics and here the question goes deeper. It is the question of existence itself. What does it mean to be? It’s not just how the universe came into being, but how does the universe stay in being? What about goodness, truth, and beauty? Where do they come from?
These are questions that are not scientific necessarily, aside from perhaps how the universe came to be. The rest are philosophical questions and God is something that can be studied through philosophy. This is where the real battle lies.
Furthermore, I get concerned that we could be keeping up a stereotype of science vs. religion. This is a big problem I have with Dawkins’s book. At the end, he can describe things like starlings in flight or chameleons catching insects with their tongues or anything like that. I read it and think “How marvelous the way God’s creation works.” Why? Because God is largely in my background knowledge and I see no contradiction between evolution and God.
Thus, if God is in that knowledge and I have no problem with evolution, I, like many others, will interpret knowledge I gain through the lens of what I already hold on what I at least think are good grounds. There are plenty of people who will not think that way, but religion is a deeply important part of their lives.
For those who have science as their background and are atheistic, this will get them to think science and religion are opposed, but the problem is a number of religious people could think the same way. Dawkins could wind up driving people away from science.
The reality is if you pit these two against each other, people will gravitate towards the one that means the most to them. Jesus means a lot more to a lot more people than, say, knowing how far away the Crab Nebula is from us. They will accept science on basic things, but not on things that really challenge their thinking.
My philosophy now on it is to just stay out of it. I do not know the field well enough to debate it and I could make blunders that would undermine me in other areas. It also does not impact my position on Genesis or Christianity at all. Once again, if you know the science and you think you can give someone a door to Christianity, have at it. God bless you. If you are not a scientist though or someone who seriously studies it, be careful about debating such a topic.