One of the hot topics we're encountering today is the issue of how the planet earth and all who inhabit it came to be. This argument has been bolstered recently by the desire to teach "intelligent design" as well as "evolution" in our schools.
This past week I was reading Time Magazine, The Frederick Post, and l listened to what some folks had to say about evolution, creation, and intelligent design. And as is typical the positions mainly presented were the extreme positions of evolutionary
supporters and those who promote total biblical inerrancy.
In both cases what you have is polarization and either your in one camp or the other.
The problem with this kind of polarization is that it assumes that both evolutionists and what I call extreme literalists are attempting to answer the same question, and it leaves no room for a more comprehensive evaluation of the issue, considering things
like context, the question actually being asked, and openness to exploring sound ideas popular or not.
Now I am not proposing that we seek a position of compromise or harmonization on this or any other controversial issue we may face. I am however promoting the position we seek truth by using all the God-given means available to us. What I'm advocating is a
more comprehensive understanding of the issue we are trying to address, which is how the world came to be: through the creation by God or through a process of natural selection, better known as Darwin's theory of evolution.
I believe to address this issue objectively and effectively we need to use the gifts and abilities God has blessed us with, and they are: the scriptures (which is our primary authority), our ability to reason, our personal and community experiences with God,
and the teachings and traditions of the church. Wesleyan scholars call this the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.
To do any less, means possibly denying ourselves God's true revelation. You see God uses more than just one means to reveal himself to us, so it's critical we use all the tools at our disposal to address complex and controversial issues. God has blessed us a
brain, so we ought to use it.
So, with this said, I believe by using our God-given gifts and abilities we can better approach our topic today in a more objective and less polarizing way. So this morning we will take a broad look at creation and evolution, using scripture, reason,
experience, and tradition as the lens through which we look through.
Now as you know the issue of creation and evolution is a complex topic with many nuances that require more than 15 to 20 minutes of attention. So I hope this morning's message serves as a beginning point for you to do a more detailed reflection on your own.
And as you engage in further study I'd be happy to discuss any questions or ideas you may have.
Now most mainline protestant denominations, the Roman Catholic Church, some evangelical churches, and most biblical scholars and scientists take what Adam Hamilton calls a "biblical-scientific synthesis" approach, when addressing the issue of creation. This
view begins by recognizing what the creation story found in the Bible is meant to teach and what it's not meant to teach.
The verses of the creation story clearly teach that God is the creator of everything, and that nothing exists apart from God's authority and power. And in the creation narrative we read that everything created by God is good, and that the creation of
humanity, the crown jewel of his creation, was very good.
The creation narrative, when it was originally written, was meant to make it very clear to the ancient Israelites, living in the midst of folks that worshiped the sun, moon, water, and so on that there is only one God, and that God is the God of Israel.
At the same time the creation story teaches us this good news, the verses do NOT teach us the how and when of creation, they only teach us the who and why. The language of Genesis is the language of faith, not science. And this is a very important point and
one that's often missed by the evolutionists and extreme literalists when they're arguing with one another.
This means that the creation story in Genesis doesn't necessarily stand counter to scientific discovery, but actually serves a higher purpose, a purpose which leads us to the truth about God the creator, and our relationship to God as the created.
The creation narrative is meant to communicate our purpose for being created. It's meant to communicate the theological truth that Israel's God was not merely a regional god like the gods many from other nations served. But rather Israel's God is the God who
by his very words called forth light from darkness, and life from nothing at all.
The creation story was not intended to be read as literal scientific fact, but as spiritual and theological truth.
Now let's take a broad look at the theory of evolution. But to look at evolution we need to consider two aspects of evolution: micro-evolution and macro-evolution. Now micro-evolution (which really is not in conflict with the Bible) means the variation and
development within a species over time. For example, the dog which has developed in many different ways over time. This kind of evolution has been observed and there's overwhelming visual and scientific evidence that micro-evolution does occur.
Macro-evolution on the other hand, means evolution from one species to another. The most popular macro-evolution theory involves humans evolving from apes. It's this theory of evolution where there's the rub, and the tension between science and Christianity.
In 1859, Charles Darwin, in his book, On The Origin of Species, proposed a theory that the various species of animals resulted from a process of "natural selection," with the "favored races" being preserved in the "struggle for life."
Darwin's theory of evolution theorizes that all life forms start out at a very simple level and then, by natural selection, eventually become more and more complex as changes occur.
For many years Macro-evolution has been presented as the prominent theory for creation, to the point many began to view it as a proven fact. But the truth is macro-evolution as a theory has many holes in it, and is unproven.
Biochemical and molecular biological research continues to gather convincing evidence that the living cell is totally useless, unless and until it reaches its final form, and then having reached that form, any change at all actually destroys, not enhances
So to imply evolution is a fact, with natural selection as its basis, is wrong, it's only a theory and an unproven theory at that. It's just one person's idea presented over 140 years ago, and popularized in the mid 20th century of the how and when of
creation, it's not the ultimate answer.
But we must be careful not to condemn science. Science is not an enemy of the Bible and the Bible is not an enemy of science. They both have different functions and if used properly can actually compliment one another.
Now with regards to the controversy over creation or evolution the issue is complicated because science and the Bible are actually answering two different questions. The Bible answers a personal question rather than a scientific one. And scientific answers
or theories do not prove or disprove the personal answer. Dr. John Lennox uses the following illustration to make this point.
"Suppose I wheel in the most magnificent cake ever seen and I had in front of me various fellows of every academic and learned society in the world, and I picked the top men (and women) and I tell them to analyze the cake for me.
So out steps the world famous nutritionist and (s)he talks about the balance of the various foods that form this cake.
Then a leading biochemists analyses the cake at the biochemical level. Then a chemists says, "Well yes, of course, but now we must get down to the very basic chemicals that form this (cake)."
Then the physicist comes on and says, "Well yes, these people have told you something but you really need to get down to the electron and the protons and the quarks." And then the mathematician steps up and says, "Ultimately you need to understand the
fundamental equations governing the motion of all the electrons and protons in this cake."
And when they finish it's a magnificent analysis of the cake.
And then I turn around to them and say, "Ladies and gentlemen, I've got just one more question for you. Tell me why the cake was made." And there in front of these intelligent people is Aunt Mathilda who made the cake.
It's only when the person who made the cake is prepared to disclose why she's made it that they'll ever understand why. No amount of scientific analysis, however exhaustive and detailed, can answer that question.
And then Aunt Mathilda in the end says, "I'll let you out of your misery, I've made the cake for my nephew Johnny - It's his birthday next week." And there's the answer isn't it?
You see no amount of scientific analysis of the planet on which we live will ever tell us why it was made, unless the Creator himself chooses to disclose the answer. And the good news is he has chosen to reveal the answer, and that answer is what is called
Evolution is not the enemy of the Christian faith; it's merely a way of talking about one possible process that could have resulted in the wonders of life on our planet.
But with this said, evolution alone, without God, is still ill equipped to explain the origin of life or the grandeur of the human spirit. And as scientists continue to study the theory of evolution, more and more are concluding this theory has no sound
scientific basis. The more they study the more holes they find, and the more they realize that a creative force much greater than us had to be involved in creation.
Science has and will continue to help us understand how things work. The creation story was never meant to teach us this. Instead it was meant to teach us that behind all these theories of "how's", lies the ultimate "Who" of creation: the God who created the
means and processes, who set them all in motion, the God who remains active in our lives, and the God all honor and glory are to be given. So I suggest we keep the issue of creation and evolution in the proper perspective, and not become polarized to one end of the spectrum or the
Again, the creation story teaches us the who and why of creation, and the theory of evolution attempts to answer the question of how and when.
As you know, with any controversial issue I like to share with you my personal opinion so you know where I stand and why. I do this not expecting you to always agree with me on every point, but I feel strongly that a congregation ought to know where their
pastor stands on issues we face today. However, I hope you will take the time to read scripture, to use your ability to reason, your experiences of God, and your understanding of your faith tradition to explore this topic more thoroughly.
Now I don't agree with the theory of macro-evolution. The idea that humanity has evolved from another species through a series of mutations or natural selection is inconsistent with the Bible, my understanding of Christian teaching, and the science
surrounding this theory just doesn't support it as a viable theory. The theory of evolution has way too many holes in it, and as scientists do more and more research they're finding even more problems with it.
For too many years, evolution, with all it's weaknesses and unexplained holes, has reigned unchallenged in American public life, in our zoos, science centers, schools, and mass media.
So I applaud the idea of teaching "intelligent design" in school, to challenge old theories, and to present an alternative to evolution. Not only is it more consistent with our Christian beliefs, there is also more and more compelling scientific evidence
supporting a Creator, making intelligent design more credible than evolution, from a scientific perspective.
As a matter of fact, intelligent design can stand on its own scientific merits, apart from scripture, more so than the theory of evolution can. So to not teach intelligent design in school, at a minimum, would be intellectually dishonest. God gave us minds
to use, so it's good to explore new ideas seeking clarity and understanding, because in doing so we can grow in our faith and in our relationship with God. But we must always keep theories, facts, and truth in the proper perspective.
Now for me, although I find the questions of how and when interesting, I prefer putting my energy into knowing more about the who and why of creation. The fact is I'm here, how I got here is intriguing, but what's far more important to me is what am I going
to do with my time while I'm here.
We only have so much time and energy to use, so I prefer to invest it in things of eternal significance. Besides, when I reach the heavenly kingdom, God willing, I can learn all about the how and when in more detail.
My focus right now is on understanding God's purpose for me and then fulfilling that purpose as best I can. And besides, this is the criteria Jesus will use to judge me.
Niky Gumble writes: "God has revealed himself in creation and supremely in Jesus Christ, as witnessed to in the Scriptures. Science is the study of God's general revelation in creation. Biblical theology is the study of God's "special" revelation in Jesus
and the Scriptures."
So as theories come and go, and as science continues to explore the question of the how and when of creation:
- I encourage you to place your faith and trust in the one who created the heaven's and earth, in the one who created all humanity in his own image.
- I encourage you to seek God's revelation in and through the life of Jesus Christ.
- I encourage you to respond to God's Living Spirit in the here and now, keeping fixed on the one who created you and why you were created.
- And I encourage you to focus your time and energy on praising and bringing glory to God and his creation, the rest will take care of itself.
Read other messages by Pastor Wade