Re: How to discuss evolution with friends. WAs RE: YEC and loss of faith:

From: george murphy (
Date: Wed Feb 13 2002 - 08:30:52 EST

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    Walter Hicks wrote:

    > Hello Shaun,
    > I believe that George is the best equipped to theologically answer your
    > question and not stray from fundamental Christianity. That is very
    > important. I may have some ideas to throw in just because I have had to
    > work with similar sensitive discussion often in my life. I wish to
    > respond to to you but it will take some time to formulate it. Then I
    > will expose the thoughts to the ASA list for corrections & criticisms of
    > my ideas.


            Following up on Walter's recommendation, let me comment on what I see as
    the best general approach to this matter of freeing Christians from the idea that
    they must accept YEC as an essential part of Christian faith. Please note the way
    I state that. The primary concern is not convincing them of the truth of
    evolution, but convincing them that they need not be _opposed_ to evolution on
    _religious_ grounds. If that can be done then evolution can be considered on its
    merits as a scientific theory.
            2 other general principles to start. 1st, the way one discusses creation
    & related subjects should take into account the nature of the audience. Thus the
    ideas I suggest in the following shouldn't always be followed in 1-2-3 fashion.
    Some pragmatism is needed. & 2d, in discussing this with those who think that YEC
    is crucial to Christian faith it's important to be pastoral & not just try to win
    a debate.
            So - several ideas:
            1) Scripture - & Genesis in particular - is true & authoritative as a
    witness to God's historical revelation, & that means as a witness to Jesus
    Christ. "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me"
    (Jn.5:46). (The point there is not - as in some apologetic - that Jesus is
    testifying to the truth of "Moses" - i.e., the books traditionally ascribed to
    Moses - but that Moses is part of the witness that points to Christ.)
            2) After mentioning Moses I should note that the question of the
    _authorship_ of Genesis isn't primary. If someone insists that Moses wrote it
    all, OK for now. But the 2 creation accounts are still 2 very different accounts,
    regardless of who wrote them.
            3) It is crucial for people to realize that there are other types of
    "true" statements and texts than
    what we regard today as accurate scientific or historical accounts. Jesus'
    parables are _true_ but there is no reason to think that they are all accurate
    accounts of things that actually happened. The Prodigal Son, the Wedding Banquet,
    and the Wise and Foolish Virgins express theological truths about the character of
    God, the Kingdom of God, and the need to remain on watch but there's no need to
    think that Jesus was limited to recounting real events to express such truths.
            & of course poetry and poetic imagery are pervasive in scripture, even
    though they usually aren't labelled as such.
            4) There are 2 main reasons for believing that the Genesis creation
    accounts are not to be read as straight historical or scientific narratives.
            a. Internal evidence: The 2 accounts (1:1-2:4a & 2:2:4b-25) can't both
    be accounts of this type because they can't be reconciled _as accurate historical
    narrative_ without damaging the integrity of one or both.
            b. External evidence: All the scientific evidence that the earth is much
    older than 6000 years, that the sun existed before the earth, that life arose in
    the sea before on the land, that humans and other species evolved, &c.
            It would be disingenuous to suggest that b. hasn't played a major role in
    getting us to examine traditional interpretations of Genesis, but for the present
    purpose & to begin with we can set it aside & focus on a. I.e., scripture itself
    gives us reason to believe that at least one - & perhaps both - of the Genesis
    accounts are not "history as it really happened."
            5) It is essential to keep these points together. Saying that "the
    Genesis accounts are not 'history as it really happened'" is NOT to say that they
    are "false".
            6) In what sense then are the Genesis accounts "true"? Among other
    things they tell us that -
            a. The world and human beings are God's creation - i.e., depend for their
    existence entirely upon God.
            b. God creates by his Word.
            c. Creation is good, though it is not "part of God".
            d. Human beings are given a special place, with special privileges and
    responsibilities, in creation.
            This list is of course not exhaustive!
            & these points are not just religious common sense. Many religions &
    philosophies reject one or more of them.
            7) Two other points worth noting with a view toward evolution are
            a. use of the imagery of _mediated_ creation of life, and
            b. the interpretation of the Sabbath in the rest of scripture not simply
    as the end of a literal week but as the goal of creation - e.g., Heb.4.
            8) Discussion of creation should not be restricted to Gen.1&2, & I even
    question whether it's best to start there. Much of Is.40-55, Pss.104 & 136, John
    1:1-18, I Cor.8:6, and Col.1:15-20 are just a few of the texts that ought to be
    front and center here.

            With all this there's reason to hope that a YEC Christian can be brought
    to see that it's possible to hold a robust doctrine of creation without a
    commitment to a literal creation week or a young earth. IF that happens, & if the
    person has any acquaintance with relevant scientific evidence, then the manifest
    inconsistency of trying to hold on to a YEC view will become apparent. I.e., if
    there's no dogmatic reason to try to shoehorn all the evidence for 14 billion
    years into 6000 then the attempt will be dropped.
            From there on the issues will be about how God acts in the world and about
    scientific evidence for age, evolution, &c. The former YEC may for one reason or
    another not want to accept full blown Darwinian evolution & may prefer some
    variety of progressive creation, e.g. This raises other questions & I won't
    lengthen this post by considering them further at this point.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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