Last year (on August 8, 2011) National Public Radio had a program on evangelicals who where questioning the existence of a literal Adam and Eve, given the rather new widespread acceptance of man’s origin via evolution in Christian colleges and universities. As Christians such evangelical evolutionists, of course, believe that evolution was God’s plan, purpose, and process. They typically decline, however, to suggest exactly when prehistoric hominids became the imago dei: creatures in God’s image. That’s just one of a host of new and critical issues unquestioned acceptance of evolution creates for orthodox Christianity. Christian evolutionists do, nonetheless, totally reject philosophical naturalism—the view that there is no supernatural realm that is the reality behind the existence of the natural.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it (John 1:1-5).
Now as I understand it, the naturalistic theory of origins says that for billions of years after the unknown and unknowable beginning there was nobody. There was something, but it wasn’t somebody. As the universe was developing and organizing without order or purpose, nobody knew or observed it. Throughout time and space there was no person, no intelligence, no will, no consciousness, no sensory awareness, no knowledge, no thought, no reason, no word—nowhere! For millions of eons something was here, but no conscious mind was aware that something was here. There was no purpose or intent, yet without anybody or anything here to direct it, this something followed an orderly progression from a simplicity that’s never been observed to a complexity we can’t understand. [Big Bang photo source]
So if the apostle John’s understanding of the beginning is wrong, what was in the beginning? Naturalism gives credit to a big, unimaginable “explosion” that caused immateriality to take on materiality. Purposelessness then created a cosmos. Chaos organized itself. Unconsciousness awoke. Deadness begot life. Asexuality engendered sexuality. No one became someone. Impersonality gained personhood. Irrationality became rational. Non-entity became a self. And this material self functioned for millions of years according to the inexplicable principle of self-preservation to evolve into a being who, oddly, could even purposely will to give up his life for the belief that everybody and everything have a spiritual (super-cosmic) cause, purpose, and destiny. So godlessness created God. And because of that belief, amorality produced morality, which in turn developed into complex moral and ethical systems based on apparently irrational beliefs about deity, spirituality, goodness, love, and immortality.
Let’s summarize that: For all but the last tiny eon of existence, nothing had knowledge of anything else; yet something lifeless and unconscious cooperated with something else lifeless and unconscious to bring into existence the living, knowing, conscious, intelligent, rational creature called man who survives by deliberate cooperative relationships. This accidental—and oddly naked—ape communicating in symbols invented language and made poetry. The uncreated thing created music and art, and its evolved and embarrassingly illogical emotions cause it to weep over the stunning beauty and grandeur of its apparent purposeless and meaningless environment.
This reasoning, decision-making, sensory somebody who came into existence by the will of nobody can yet will to love or hate, kill or allow itself to be killed, and even develop the capacity to senselessly alter or destroy the natural systems that created it—threatening to send everything back into unconsciousness.
So according to naturalism, man is nothing but a cosmic orphan overwhelmed by the knowledge that he has no ultimate purpose and no ultimate hope. Shakespeare’s Macbeth articulated it well:
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
To me the wonder of the creation is so great and the naturalistic worldview is so unthinkable, I can only declare with that ancient poet, David, who said:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world (Psalm 19).
We do know that living species change over time (micro-evolution). We can see that on a fairly short time-scale. I suppose God could have used evolution in the process of creating Adam and Eve. God’s Word, however, does not in any way imply that. So when we see what seems to be a different message in His other book, the creation, orthodoxy must still affirm that both of God’s books are true. We may not have the knowledge at this time to reconcile them, and we have to be humble enough to live with that. I do know that the theological bathwater is getting really dirty and the tub is being tipped. But, thanks be to God, there is still a Baby in there.
Christians in the sciences, are you keeping your eye on the Baby?