Posted by: Ken Brown | August 20, 2007

Creation and Evolution

In the relationship between Christianity and contemporary culture, few issues are more contentious than the debate over creation and evolution. The trouble lies not just in the numerous disagreements over the science of evolution, but also in the way that question has become tied to so many other concerns – from the age of the earth, to public school policies, to moral relativism and even the existence of God – that have only tangential relation to evolution itself.

The result, as should be obvious to anyone who has considered the matter, is a debate that constantly shifts from science to politics to theology, and back again, with little concern for consistency or clarification. This is a culture war in which even those on the same “sides” often disagree on all manner of fundamental principles, and spend more time misunderstanding and vilifying their opponents than reasoning with them.

Given this sorry state of affairs, I’m tempted to avoid talking about the issue altogether, especially as I am not, myself, a scientist or even a philosopher. But how can I do so? If I am going to talk about Christianity and contemporary culture at all, I cannot ignore this elephant in the room. However, to limit confusion as much as possible, I will simply begin by stating my current views as succinctly as I can, and hopefully over time I will be able to explain why I accept these positions:

  • I believe the existence of the universe is entirely contingent upon the will of God; it had a beginning and is not self-existent.
  • I believe the universe is somewhere around 13 or 14 billion years old, and the earth is approximately 4.54 billion years old.
  • I believe that life on earth is irreducibly complex and no blind processes alone can explain its origin.
  • I believe all human and animal life on earth has descended from one or a few common ancestors.
  • I believe that while natural selection explains many odd features of life, its power has been grossly exaggerated.
  • I believe it is an open question whether and how God has actively guided and propelled the continuing evolution of life.
  • I believe that, however they came about, the essential features of humanity – including morality, reason, society, etc. – are intended by God to reflect his image.

Thus,

  • I believe morality is properly grounded in God’s own character, not created by humanity or inferred from evolution.
  • I believe that while atheism itself implies a meaningless and amoral universe, acceptance of evolution does not require acceptance of atheism or its implications.
  • I believe the Bible, including the first chapters of Genesis, is intended to reveal the character of God and shape us to reflect it, not to provide us with arcane details of history or science.
  • I believe that, ideally, public school science classes should only teach established science, but that, practically, parents and local school districts should have the right to decide for themselves what their students need to learn.
  • I believe that the relationship between Christianity and mainstream science is, and will remain, a complex one, but there is no unbridgeable chasm between them.
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