Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, attempts to bring some impartiality to the creationism/evolution debate with his five-part address at Biologos of 2009. But while he shows sensitivity to those who believe in evolution and the Bible, he also muddles the issue.
Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, attempts to bring some impartiality to the creationism/evolution debate with his five-part address at Biologos of 2009. But while he shows sensitivity to those who believe in evolution and the Bible, he also muddles the issue. It’s not that he does not believe in the Bible. He and other pastors in the Acts 29 organization believe believe the Bible to be inerrant, meaning he believes in the authority of the first two chapters in Genesis. There we find the account that is most troubling to atheists like Richard Dawkins and others. No, the problem is that he does not really examine or define macro and micro evolution. In this Keller performs a service for those who elevate evolution to the status of world view. Those who claim Darwinism to be faultless would rather not make this distinction; they prefer to claim those who believe in the creation story don’t accept any form of evolution, whether minor adaptation or fantastic species change. It’s really easier to disprove challenges to evolution when the two are lumped together. Indeed, it is common for those on the evolution side to describe changes within a species such as fish to be proof of macroevolution.
On the other hand, Keller does acknowledge bias in the evolution debate, though he places this near the end of his paper. Objections to anything other than evolution are called a “plausibility structure” (Peter Burger’s idea). In this case it describes bias in academia and the media against thinking processes that naturally proceed from a belief in the Biblical account in Genesis. He describes how secular support for evolution has produced “enormous social pressure” And that it is the attitudes of atheists that we must contend with. It’s an accurate description: “Their attitudes are more powerful than their arguments,” he reasons.
He says: “The disdain and refusal to show any respect to opponents is not actually an effort to refute them logically, but to ostracize them socially and turn their views into a plausibility structure. They are well on their way.” It’s easy get this description from people like Dawkins, who thinks that people who believe in a God like Jesus, or Bible stories are very close to insanity. The vitriol is so thick from Dawkins that for many he disproves his own ideas because he has trouble being objective about ideas and people he disagrees with. But the fact is that they have been "well on their way" for generations. There is nothing new about it. The famous Scopes trial, The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, was in 1925.
Keller asks: “What will it take to help Christian laypeople see greater coherence between what science tells us about creation and what the Bible teaches us about it.” But he looks at it from the perspective of someone who does not see a need to know about evolution. If there is pressure on creationism from atheists, there should also be clarity in describing evolution. It goes both ways. This is where Keller falls short. Why write about evolution if you really don’t want to know about it? He also claims that to write about this and explain it to his laypeople, he must read “the work of scientists, exegetes, philosophers, and theologians and then interpret them for my people.” If one cannot explain evolution, it does not say about one’s understanding of science, or reading about it as a pastor.
In general, he bends over backward to help those who believe in evolution become Christians. In doing so, he ignores one of the most important systems of defining humanity in our time - Darwinism. Let's be clear. There is a need for pastors to be open about this conflict. Keller in a sense forms his own plausibility structure regarding evolution because he fails to explain it. It’s probably not a coincidence that he presented his paper before Biologos, an organization that has an open mind when it comes to evolution. One of their beliefs is that God used evolution to get us to where we are now. Believers who don’t want to give up the theory of evolution should thank him and Biologos. He desperately wants to use evolution to help people believe in God. But is that what really happens in the Genesis? God used evolution to predispose people to believe in him? What about the relationship between God and Adam? There are two significant problems with this.
First, God is a personal and intimate God throughout the Bible. There is an obvious disconnect here. God created the world for mankind, but when he created it, he wanted to wait a million years or so before he actually created someone who he could commune with in the Garden, etc? We are to get from this that God is a trustworthy, personal God, a God of love, compassion and forbearance? Why would God use evolution to create a time distance between him and man when it was not necessary? The other problem is that evolution is not really personal at all. It lives by creating disharmony, not harmony. Again, this is not the God that we know in the Bible. It isn't the God that Keller usually talks about on Sunday mornings either.
Second, was there really universal belief in God when he created the earth, if we are to believe the Bible? Why would a universal belief in God be necessary to survival? If we know anything about evolutionary thinking, we know that universal belief was not necessary for procreation or staying alive. Why would it be? This simply describes the creation story that introduces Adam and Eve. If we know anything about mankind, we know that of those who procreate now, many if not the majority don’t believe in a universal God. Why would it be any different when humans first started procreating?
It’s also easy for laypeople to be confused by Keller because of his grammar. He unnecessarily uses confusing sentence constructions and obtuse words. Instead of saying it’s common, say it’s not uncommon. This encourages the reader to think that you are smarter than they. If you have to ask about something, well, you probably should move to the back row, or the corner. And get a hat. If science could prove that religious belief has a genetic component that we inherit from our ancestors, would that finding be compatible with the reality of a belief in God or the Christian faith? Get that? Of course this is not what he wrote. He: “that finding is not incompatible.” Of course, that clears it up. But who are you to question Oz? He also describes the relationship, the covenant between God and man as a federation. Alexander Hamilton would have been proud. But have you read the “Federalist Papers?” lately?
He defines the challenge of evolution and Genesis with four points. In his first point, the problem is that people use evolution to describe not just the material world, but a world view and whether it’s worth thinking about God at all. But this is a given. If we know anything about atheists like Dawkins and Sam Harris, we know that there is a great deal of enthusiasm for using evolution for precisely that. Get rid of religion and the Bible with it. It may be confusing biology with philosophy, but try correcting someone like Harris. The problem is consistent. Evolution and complete dependence on nature is very effective at promoting atheism. It’s something that is all too common among biology professors in universities.
With an argument from Peter Van Inwagen, he suggests that God might want to have universal belief in God as a genetic quality. Is that possible? Van Inwagen says the fact that a designer of a vehicle uses the waste heat from its engine to keep its passengers warm demonstrates this. First, this is not a good example, because it is commonly used by the intelligent design crowd to demonstrate that if there is a design, there must be a designer. It usually does not combat the plausibility structure that he describes. People attempt to show that there must be a designer of a higher order to have created something as complex as a simple cell, and get nowhere with evolutionists.
Believing that evolution was just a little necessary throws a metal bar into the fan of attributing the marvel of creation solely to God. It is ironic that many who are devoted to Darwinism invoke a personality in natural selection, as though it had creative powers. It’s just too far to go just so that people who want to believe in a material world devoid of feeling, can meet him. It would be easier just to tell people they don’t have to take any of Genesis literally. Forget about Genesis 1 and 2. Start at Genesis 3. Or better yet, look at Christianity through Jesus and don’t even read the Old Testament. The problem with this is that God is supposed to be the same in the New Testament as in the Old - throughout the Bible. The upshot of all of this is that evolution fails as an evangelical tool, because it works to diminish the qualities that the Bible teaches about God. This should be obvious to teaching pastors like Keller. Evidently it isn't.
© 2013 Larry Ingram
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