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Greenville SC, 2 September 2015

This past weekend was phenomenal. It was rewarding and fun to preach and teach in the Paradigm shift series (a new approach to evangelism). Visiting Jacksonville is always special: It's a great city, I love the forward thinking of the leadership team, and it's my hometown!

Before we begin the middle installment of the Evolution mini-series, let's quickly review last week.
Recap: A False Choice
  • The How v. the Why. Science deals with the how: natural processes, developmental stages, chemical reactions, and so on. Scripture deals more with the why: God's reason for creation, his ultimate will for us, etc. As long as we distinguish the how from the why, we're unlikely to find contradictions between Nature and Scripture. 
  • Category error. The Bible is not meant to be trawled for scientific principles. Although the scientific evidence is virtually unassailable, partially informed understandings of evolution have muddied the water. Some believers attempt to read Scripture and Nature as scientific documents. Yet the Bible is a book of relationships -- not biology, chemistry, physics, etc. Genesis, as part of God's Book of Words, tells of us of true spiritual origin: a loving God. For our physical origins, we may consult his book of Works, Nature -- which is apprehended through science.
  • Being considerate. Since for some believers evolution is a "disputable matter," those with a strong opinion should bend over backwards to be considerate of those who might stumble (Rom 14). As long as one believes God is the creator, he or she is on track biblically. One's scientific understanding of creation is not a salvation matter.
  • Geocentrism. A rough parallel to the controversy over evolution during the last half-century in the U.S. is the disagreement over the motion of the earth (around the year 1600). The Bible repeatedly affirms the earth can never be moved, and that the sun rises and sets. Yet science presents a different view. Does God want us to take Ecc 1:5 literally? To embrace pseudoscience (astro-gymnastics to preserve the old geocentric model), or to reject the Bible as uninspired (mistaken science) -- neither choice is necessary. The God of truth is the God of all truth, whether found in the Bible or in the laboratory.

Evolution & Genesis

Nature and Scripture, as we have seen, are complementary. This means that science and theology should be complementary, too. Might science and Genesis clash less than we think? Could God have used the process of evolution for the creation and diversification of life forms? Here some of the common objections are considered.
  1. "Evolution is only a theory, not fact." I used to say this myself! But to be fair, that's not how "theory" is used in science. A theory is a comprehensive explanation of the facts, a way of making sense of the data. Gravitation is a theory -- yet that hardly means we're safe skydiving without a parachute. Einstein forever changed how gravity is understood, but he didn't render gravity obsolete. At any rate, evolution is well supported by facts: the fossil record, speciation even today, and the conclusive findings of genetics. It is possible that a better theory, or a different version of the  theory, will undermine evolution. Evolution isn't sacrosanct, just the best model for what is observed.
  2. "No true Christian accepts evolution." Actually, nearly all accept at least some evolution; the disagreement lies in how much. Microevolution, the accumulation of small changes through reproduction, is hardly controversial. Some Christians deny macroevolution (one species changing into another), while others accept most (but not all) macroevolutionary events. And it is normal for believers working in science to accept evolution as a robust working hypothesis. The only view we men and women of faith are bound to reject is atheistic evolution -- the mistaken notion that even without God there would be a creation.
  3. "Darwin undermines faith." As noted last week, Charles Darwin had no intention of rendering faith obsolete. He was only trying to make sense of the facts. When Darwin released his Origin (1859), some of his biggest fans were Bible believers! Already before 1800 the entire geological column, with its unvarying succession of levels and fossils, had been worked out, with the implication that the world was unspeakably ancient. The conclusion had been reached not by skeptics, but by Bible believers.
  4. "Scientists unfairly rule out the supernatural." Science deals with nature, not supernature. It's neither for nor against the supernatural. A Geiger counter has no bias against kilograms; it just can't weigh them. Similarly, neither is science prejudiced against the beauty of a symphony. It has nothing to say about beauty -- even if it can explain the acoustics of sound. A few scientists have an agenda, and trade on their authority in one (fairly small) domain to lecture others on faith, though in my experience most are persons of integrity.
  5. "If Evolution is true, then we're only animals! Your great... great grandfather may have been an ape, but mine wasn't. The notion is insulting." (Speaking of "insulting"...) The Bible classifies us as both belonging to and ruling over the animals -- yet only when we live spiritually, faithfully bearing the image of God. Otherwise, we begin to descend to the level of the flesh. Genetically we have much in common with other animals. Yet, unlike them, we have a choice: to live by the flesh or to live by the Spirit! For the person insulted by human evolution, it gets worse. The Bible describes us as made of earth (Gen 2:7). Dirt! Adam, which is a play on words with 'adamah (the word for earth, ground, dust) reminds us of our lowly origins and our heavenly Creator. Remembering our origins should keep us humble!
Want to learn more about Genesis and Evolution? There are 14 more points valuable in the discussion -- click for the full article. Note: this is premium material -- membership required. There's also a free podcast, Questions on Genesis.

Before we move to the next unit in Answering Skeptics, we'll suggest answers to the common questions you might be asked by seekers and skeptics alike.
Loosening the Bible Belt
Tonight I head to Greenville, South Carolina, for the Southeastern Evangelism Conference. My class, which I will share with Tom Brown (of North River): "Loosening the Bible Belt." How to connect with the ultra-religious South? Should meet a lot of needs. I will expect to see some of you there! Hope your week is going well.

2 Cor 4:4,
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