What do I think of Howard Van Till’s view? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
This chapter is easily the longest one in the book, and that’s understandable. Van Till is taking on a position that is seen as a negative in much of the Christian community. There are too many times when a Christian says that they are open to evolution and immediately the hounds of heresy come out ready to devour.
So let’s get some positives.
First off, I fully agree with this aspect of Van Till’s essay. We don’t need to make it the point to anyone that they have to choose either evolution or Christianity. That does harm both ways. An atheist who is convinced by science, rightly or wrongly, that evolution is true, but is told he has to abandon that to become a Christian is not going to be able to easily do this.
For the Christian, if they see evidence that convinces them that evolution is true, rightly or wrongly, they could be ready then to abandon Christianity. This is especially so if we don’t give them reasons for thinking Christianity is true other than their emotional feelings. Now add in also that for young people in college, they could be more easily tempted to give in to strong sexual desire and have more emphasis to abandon Christianity.
The focus of Christianity is not creation. It is Jesus. I would rather have someone have the wrong view of creation and the right view of Jesus, rather than have the right view of creation, such as a Jewish person who treats the Old Testament like Scripture, and is wrong on Jesus.
Second, I appreciate his points on supposed gaps that we sometimes seem to want to see in evangelicalism. We often give the impression that the more questions science answers, the more God is out of a job, but what a poor view of God for both the Christian and the atheist. A God who is just a stopgap? Both the atheist and Christian have poor theology and yes, every atheist has a theology. They have a doctrine of the deity or deities they don’t believe.
Van Till says that a universe that has all of this seamlessness needs its own explanation. Something I notice in the book is I can’t remember one time Aquinas is cited. For Aquinas, the idea of sustaining of the universe would be essential to him. The existence of God is shown by something as simple as change in the universe.
I also appreciate that Van Till did spend some time in Genesis. I think he spent more than the others, but again, I wish he had spent a lot more. He did stress the importance of taking the text seriously.
Some negatives here?
I would have liked to have seen more of the evidence of evolution that he finds convincing, rightly or wrongly again. I do grant though that for those of us who are not scientifically minded, this could be difficult. We more often just hear that the majority, even Christian biologists, accept evolution, and this could be true, but I want to know why they do.
Second, I want to know how prayer works in his world. Van Till believes in miracles, but he doesn’t seem to explain them. What are we wanting God to do? Van Till can sometimes make God be too transcendent just as his opponents can overemphasize immanence.
Third, I would like to have had something explained about the soul in creation. How does man get one? Now it could be that Van Till holds to anthropological monism. Okay. Say that then. If he doesn’t, then explain what does happen.
Overall though, I think Christians need to listen to this position and don’t have the hounds of heresy come out. Making a war of science and religion only hurts both sides. These need to be viewed as allies and not as enemies and anyone who says they are enemies is doing a disservice to both. I am sure that is not the intention of many, but that is often the effect.
Next time, I plan to give some concluding thoughts.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)