A gracEmail subscriber asks: “Can someone who believes in God and accepts the Bible as his word also believe in evolution as the process by which God brought into being the diversity of animal life on earth, including human beings?”
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Let me begin by saying that I have not the slightest sympathy for the theory of evolution and I cannot imagine ever believing that it is so. From first grade through my first graduate degree I attended conservative religious schools that opposed the teaching of evolution. To this day, I have never attended a single class in which evolution was taught. However, most Christian students do not share my experience. Those raised on both fundamentalist religious teaching and mainstream biology often feel forced to choose between what they perceive as faith and knowledge, dogma and Darwin, spiritual formulation and scientific fact. That conflict is intensified when Bible teachers and science teachers alike present their respective materials as mutually exclusive. Faced with such pressure, many thoughtful students either decide they cannot continue to believe in God or conclude that they must abandon all confidence in science.
This dilemma is both tragic and unnecessary according to Dr. Francis S. Collins, head of the Human Genome Project and author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Free Press, 2006). Collins himself grew up in an agnostic home and became an atheist as a science student in college. However, as his scientific studies progressed, he began to contemplate realities he observed in the laboratory and also within human consciousness that pointed him toward a recognition of God. Assisted by the writings of C. S. Lewis and others, Collins eventually became an evangelical Christian. Now he grieves at the battle between science and faith, a struggle which he insists ought never to have existed in the first place. The key to “a comfortable synthesis,” he believes, lies in recognizing the roles and limits of both science and faith. Regarding origins, he says, it is the role of science to answer the questions “when?” and “how?” and the role of faith to answer “who?” and “why?”
Having seriously studied the Bible for more than 50 years, I wholeheartedly agree with Collins’ assessment of which questions the Bible intends to answer and which answers science is equipped to resolve. I also agree with Collins when he tells Christianity Today that “God is the author of all truth. You can find him in the laboratory as well as in the cathedral. He’s the God of the Bible; he’s the God of the genome. He did it all.” Despite that agreement, I remain enormously uncomfortable with Collins’ suggestion that Theistic Evolution provides the framework that successfully bridges faith and science. Yet I was equally surprised to learn that the great evangelical apologist B. B. Warfield, who practically wrote the modern doctrine of biblical inerrancy, was a theistic evolutionist. I am not an evolutionist. But I am convinced that God could have made all the earthly creatures — including ourselves — by any means he chose. And not being a scientist myself, I would be extremely sorry if I mistakenly misused the Bible in a way that unnecessarily discredited it to someone who knew far more about science than I ever will.