Re: YEC Invasion

From: Keith Miller (
Date: Sat Sep 06 2003 - 18:41:20 EDT

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    Below is a letter that I wrote to a pastor of a local church where ICR
    was to give a workshop. I was given the opportunity to give an evening
    presentation at the church a few months later. The letter is a
    description of how I approached the issues. Perhaps it might be
    helpful for you.



    Simply stated, my position is that there is no inherent conflict
    between evolutionary theory and a Christian faith with a high view of
    scripture. By evolution I mean the theory that all living things on
    Earth are descended from a common ancestor through a continuity of
    cause-and effect processes. I believe that there are no necessary
    breaks or gaps in causal explanations. That is, all transitions in the
    history of life are potentially explicable in terms of "natural"
    cause-and-effect processes. This theory is no mere guess or hunch, but
    an extremely well-supported explanation of the observed record of
    organic change. It has great explanatory power in drawing together an
    incredibly wide range of data from many disciplines in an explanatory
    framework. It has been very effective in generating fruitful and
    testable hypotheses that have driven new discoveries and advanced our
    scientific understanding of the universe.

    I accept the Bible as authoritative and true in what God intends it to
    communicate. However, simply accepting the truth of the Biblical
    writings does not indicate the meaning of those writings. Just as our
    observations of the natural world must be interpreted within some
    explanatory framework, scripture also must be interpreted. There is no
    such thing as an objective reading of scripture. The question for the
    Christian is then - What is the best interpretive framework for any
    given passage of scripture. I am convinced on the basis of current
    evangelical scholarship that the best interpretation of the first
    chapters of Genesis is a literary one in which neither time nor
    chronology is part of the intended message.

    Finally, I fully and unhesitatingly accept the doctrine of Creation.
    God is the Creator of all things and nothing would exist without God's
    continually willing it to be. God is intimately and actively involved
    in all natural processes. Every natural process is as much an act of a
    personal Creator as any miracle. The best term for this view of God's
    creative activity is "continuous creation." Furthermore, I believe
    that God's existence can be known in the creation through faith.
    However, scientific observation provides no proof of the existence of a
    creator God, indeed it cannot. Neither does scientific description,
    however complete, provide any argument against a Creator. Since God
    acts through process, evolution and the theology of Creation are
    perfectly compatible. In fact, I see them as positively reinforcing.
    An evolutionary understanding of Creation illuminates our theological
    understanding, and theology places our scientific discoveries in a more
    comprehensive context and provides necessary moral guidance in the
    scientific endeavor.

    Much of the controversy over evolution and creation seems to rest
    firmly on the widely held view that evolution and Christianity are in
    irreconcilable conflict. However, this conflict view has been
    thoroughly discredited by both theological and historical scholarship.
    Christian theologians (including evangelicals) have long recognized
    that a faithful reading of Scripture does not demand a young Earth nor
    does it prohibit God's use of evolutionary mechanisms to accomplish His
    creative will. Many evangelical Christians at the time of Darwin found
    no inherent conflict between evolutionary theory and scripture. In
    fact, several of the authors of the "Fundamentals" (the set of volumes
    that gave us the term 'fundamentalist") accepted some form of
    evolutionary theory. Even B.B Warfield, who argued forcefully for
    Biblical inerrancy, accepted the validity of evolution as a scientific
    description of origins. The primary advocates of evolutionary theory
    in America included Asa Gray, George Frederick Wright, and James Dana
    -- all committed evangelical Christians. Evangelical theologians
    today widely recognize that scripture is not properly seen as a source
    of scientific understanding. Questions of natural mechanisms and
    processes are simply not the concern of the Biblical texts.

    Many theologically orthodox Christians have viewed evolution since the
    publication of The Origin of Species, as a positive contribution to
    understanding God's creative and redemptive work. For many, important
    theological truths concerning the nature of humanity, the goodness of
    creation, God's providence, and the meaning of the Cross and suffering
    find renewed significance and amplification when applied to an
    evolutionary view of God's creative work. The integration of an
    evolutionary understanding of Earth and life history with theological
    understandings of God's creative and redemptive activity has yielded
    important insights. The fruits of these efforts need to be more widely
    known and discussed. There is a desperate need to diffuse the heated
    conflict that has grown up around the issue of evolution. The
    evolution/creation "warfare" view has effectively inhibited productive
    popular dialogue on important theological and scientific issues.

    Despite the long theological dialogue with evolutionary theory, many
    people continue to view evolution as inherently anti-theistic and
    inseparably wedded to a worldview that denies God and objective
    morality. Although this understanding of the meaning of evolutionary
    theory is strongly promoted by some, its conflation of metaphysical
    naturalism with evolution is widely rejected as philosophically,
    theologically, and historically false, and is recognized as damaging to
    the discipline of science. Science is a methodology, a limited way of
    knowing about the natural world. Scientific research proceeds by the
    search for chains of cause-and-effect, and confines itself to the
    investigation of "natural" entities and forces. This self-limitation
    is sometimes referred to as methodological naturalism. Science
    restricts itself to proximate causes, and the confirmation or denial of
    ultimate causes is beyond its capacity. Science does not deny the
    existence of a creator -- it is simply silent on the existence or
    action of God because its methods are useless to answer metaphysical
    questions. Methodological naturalism is a description of what
    empirical inquiry is. It is certainly not a statement of the nature of
    cosmic reality. Science pursues truth within very narrow limits. Our
    most profound questions about the nature of reality (questions of
    meaning and purpose and morality), while they may arise from within
    science, are theological or philosophical in nature and their answers
    lie beyond the reach of science.

    Theology, like science, must take account of the evidence at hand.
    While distinct, our scientific and theological understandings must
    inform each other if we are to be intellectually whole persons.
    Theology and science while addressing different realities and different
    questions are not hermetically sealed ways of knowing. Maintaining
    clear definitions of different types of knowledge actually aids in
    their integration. The confusion of metaphysical naturalism with
    evolutionary theory inhibits the productive interaction between the
    sciences and Christian theology. It does so by injecting into a
    scientific theory a metaphysical worldview that is simply not a part of
    the theory.

    One commonly held perspective that tends to reinforce a conflict view
    of science and faith is that God's action or involvement is confined to
    those events that lack a scientific explanation. Meaningful divine
    action is equated with breaks in chains of cause-and-effect processes.
    This view has been called a "God-of-the-gaps" theology. God's creative
    action is seen only, or primarily, in the gaps of human knowledge where
    scientific description fails. With this perspective, each advance of
    scientific description results in a corresponding reduction in the
    realm of divine action. Conflict between science and faith is thus
    assured. However, this is a totally unnecessary state of affairs.
    God's creative activity is clearly identified in the Bible as including
    natural processes, including what we call chance or random events.
    According to scripture, God is providentially active in all natural
    processes, and all of creation declares the glory of God. The evidence
    for God's presence in creation, for the existence of a creator God, is
    declared to be precisely those everyday "natural events" experienced by
    us all. Thus Christians should not fear causal explanations. Complete
    scientific descriptions of events or processes should pose no threat to
    Christian theism. Rather, each new advance in our scientific
    understanding can be met with excitement and praise at the revelation
    of God's creative hand.


    The “Creation/Evolution debate” is often presented as though the
    doctrine of Creation and the scientific theory of evolution are
    mutually exclusive categories. As the above indicates, this is simply
    not the case. In addition, my perspective is one among many that
    comprise a whole spectrum of positions. It is important to help
    Christians become aware of this diversity of views, in order to diffuse
    the conflict and schism that often surrounds the discussion of Earth
    and life history within the evangelical community.

    I believe that the most fundamental issues are those of scriptural
    interpretation and the nature of science. In my experience, much of
    the conflict stems from misunderstandings of the nature and limitations
    of scientific inquiry, and attempts to make scripture speak on issues
    it was not intended to address. These are topics that deserve serious

    Another problem is the general lack of understanding among the public
    of the available evidence for Earth and life history, and how that
    evidence is interpreted. As a geologist and paleontologist, I can
    state confidently that the preserved evidence for an ancient Earth and
    for a dynamic evolving history of life is simply overwhelming.

    In light of the above, I would suggest that two presentations would be
    appropriate. One would focus on issues of scriptural interpretation
    and the nature of science. The other would focus on the scientific
    evidence. These presentations could be given the same evening, or on
    two separate days. In either case, I would make an effort to maximize
    the time available for open questioning. Answering (or at least
    responding to) specific questions from those attending is often the
    most effective way of getting down to the issues that are of most

    My hope is that those who attend would be exposed to a position that
    they might not have heard before, and that this would stimulate
    thoughtful and prayerful reflection. Most of all, I would be immensely
    gratified if such a presentation would lead people to value others as
    brothers and sisters in Christ who may have very different perspectives
    on issues tangential to the core of the Christian gospel.

    Keith B. Miller
    Research Assistant Professor
    Dept of Geology, Kansas State University
    Manhattan, KS 66506-3201

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