A class taught by John Oakes, PhD at Christian Evidences Conference 6/12/09 on theism and reasons to believe in special creation. See below for notes. Special Creation 3.95 Mb
Natural creation or Special creation of life and of human beings?
We will look at the evidence for evolution, but first let us think for a bit about science and religion:
Science: The use of experiment to test theories about the laws of nature.
Religion: A religion is an organized approach to human spirituality which usually encompasses a set of narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices, often with a supernatural or transcendent quality, that give meaning to the practitioner’s experiences of life through reference to a higher power, God or gods, or ultimate truth.
•n Scientific knowledge is a relationship between observations
•n Scientific knowledge is quantitative
•n The observations are subject to refinement
•n Scientific knowledge is progressive and tentative
•n Scientific knowledge is neither true nor false, but rather consistent with the observations and consistent with prior knowledge
•n Religion is a belief in something
•n The belief is not necessarily substantiated by physical or material evidence
•n Religious knowledge obtained through holy writings, authority, revelations and religious experiences
•n Believers have faith or trust in such knowledge
The Limits of Science: Questions science cannot answer:
Why am I here?
•n Is that the right thing to do?
•n How valuable am I?
•n Does God exist? Does God act (theism)?
•n Will that God respond if I pray?
•n Do supernatural events (miracles) happen?
Conclusions about the place of science and religion in answering questions:
•n Religion and science ask different kinds of questions and define words differently
•n Religion and science appear as if they were two incommensurate paradigms addressing the identical information area
•n Are they "Non-Overlapping Magisteria? (NOMA) as Stephen Jay Gould suggests? No! They inform one another to an important extent.
Galileo, who remained a loyal Catholic to the end of his life, makes his position clear In a letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany:
"[In] St. Augustine we read: ‘If anyone shall set the authority of Holy Writ against clear and manifest reason, he who does this knows not what he has undertaken; for he opposes to the truth not the meaning of the Bible, which is beyond his comprehension, but rather his own interpretation, not what is in the Bible, but what he has found in himself and imagines to be there.’ "
"This granted, and it being true that two truths cannot contradict one another, it is the function of expositors to seek out the true senses of scriptural texts. These will unquestionably accord with the physical conclusions which manifest sense and necessary demonstrations have previously made certain to us." 7
Galileo was not suggesting that his discoveries were contrary to the truth revealed through scripture, but that science had offered a refinement to their proper understanding.
1. Evidence supporting evolution and common descent.
•n What does the physical evidence say?
•n Fossil evidence
•n Genetic/DNA evidence
•n Is there "Irreducible Complexity?"
•n Human evolution?
a. Human chromosome #2, viral insertions, jumper genes and so forth.
b. Evidence, in the case of bacteria and viruses, of positive mutations. AIDS virus evolves around drugs used to suppress it.
Is the distinction between micro and macroevolution real?
Bottom line, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that all life is connected by some sort of evolutionary "tree" of life to ancient life forms. This is not Satan-inspired philosophy. It is the most reasonable conclusion from the scientific evidence.
Tentative conclusions with regard to evolution.
•n Evolution has happened. Microevolution has been observed.
•n Fossil evidence strongly supports the idea of change over time, but that change often happens in surprisingly sudden bursts (punctuated equilibrium). The Cambrian explosion raises real questions.
•n Genetic evidence gives very strong support to the idea of common descent.
•n Like it or not, this is true of humans as well.
•n Statistical and other arguments give support for evolution being theistic, rather than deistic, but this is not a scientific argument.
•n God invented evolution; let us give him credit for a great idea.
2. Does the overwhelming evidence for macroevolution and common descent mean that special creation should be thrown into the same trash can as geocentrism or young earth creationism?
Question: Is this evidence that special creation did not happen?
Question: What kinds of questions is science good at asking and answering?
Warning: My arguments for special creation are NOT scientific!!!!! By definition!!!!
Reasons I believe in special creation:
•n Because it is biblical.
•n Because life itself almost without doubt was a special creation.
•n I do not buy the God-of-no-gaps argument.
•n Theism vs Deism: consistent theology
•n Because miracles have happened.
•n I am cautious about the metaphorical interpretation of Genesis.
•n New Testament writers believed in special creation of Adam and Eve and their descendents.
•n Because I am biased.
I. Special creation is biblical. It happened in the New Testament.
Luke 3:8 JTB God can make children of Abraham from these stones.
Q: would these children of Abraham have 46 chromosomes, including chromosome #2, the retroviral insertsions, jumper genes and so forth?
Jesus makes wine, fish and bread. (John 2:1-11 John 6:1-15). Was the fish evolved?
Virgin birth of Jesus. Where did the 23 chromosomes not supplied by Mary come from? What was the nature of the chromosomal material found in the cells of Jesus?
II. Because life itself is almost certainly was a special creation. Call this a god of the gaps argument if you like.
•n Warning! This is a God-of-the-gaps argument!
•n Evolution and the creation of life are completely separate issues
•n As a chemist and as a physicist, I am thoroughly convinced that life is a special creation.
•n This argument is about as strong as the Anthropic Argument itself.
From Biologos: Conclusion
The study of life’s origins is an exciting area of research. The jury is still out on how life first emerged. A simple response would be to give a God-of-the-gaps explanation: that some supernatural force, namely God, must have intervened to bring life into being.
But consider the timeline of these scientific quandaries. Life on this Earth appeared approximately 3.85 billion years ago, yet serious scientific study of its origins began just 60 years ago. A convincing scientific explanation may still emerge in the next 50 years. Though the origin of life could certainly have resulted from God’s direct intervention, it is dangerously presumptuous to conclude the origin of life is beyond discovery in the scientific realm simply because we do not currently have a convincing scientific explanation. Although the origin of life is certainly a genuine scientific mystery, this is not the place for thoughtful people to wager their faith. This kind of logic would mean God worked in some special way at this stage in the creation process only to allow the evolutionary process to yield later developments that did not require divine intervention. In contrast, BioLogos maintains God’s original and elegant plan for the universe included the potential for life to arise without necessarily requiring later supernatural engineering to jumpstart the process. In the BioLogos view, God’s sustaining creative presence undergirds all of life’s history from the beginning to the present.
Fred Hoyle on special creation of life:
"The chance that higher life forms might have emerged [by chance] is comparable with the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein."
III. For theological reasons, I do not buy the God-of-no-gaps a priori naturalist assumption.
What is wrong with a random designer? If God created a means of evolution and then had to tinker with it to move it along, this would give less glory to God than a fully designed random process which acts on its own.
This is a philosophical claim which Collins is not well prepared to make.
Aside: Let us acknowledge that God-of-the-gaps arguments are generally weak and that they have a notoriously bad history.
I don’t know about you, but I find God-of-the-gap arguments to be very troublesome. The history of such arguments is very bad.
ID’s attacks on the theory of evolution have fallen almost completely flat!!!
Q: What about God-of-no-gaps? Is that required by the evidence? Is that consistent with the Bible? Can science decide the question of whether there are gaps?
Does the science allow us to declare that there are no gaps? What about the Cambrian Explosion of life? Does the science demand a materialist explanation?
Might God have, in his wisdom, caused the mass extinction events?
Materialist’s response: No.
My response: I don’t know.
Is a Christian wise or well-justified to make a naturalist assumption with regard to formation of life and evolution of life? I say no!!!
IV. Further theological reasons: Deism vs Theism
Reasons I am not impressed with deism.
1. Posits a theistic God in his dealings with spiritual reality but a deistic God in dealing with the physical world. Not consistent.
2. Seems clearly to be in conflict with the biblical picture of God. Does science help us to illuminate the nature of God? Is natural revelation sufficient?
3. Please forgive my slippery slope argument, but where is this headed?
There was no Adam and Eve. These are just metaphors. There was no fall. The "fall" of Adam and Eve is just a metaphor for the fall all of us have taken.
Ex: Biologos web site.
Well, did God create life?
4. History of deism: Isaac Newton, Joseph Priestley. All eventually denied the resurrection and deity of Jesus. I do not want to create a straw man argument, because clearly many who do not believe in special creation do believe in the deity of Jesus.
Question: Is evolution deistic or theistic? Did life progress by completely random processes, or did the hand of God direct its progress and, perhaps even intervene in dramatic blatantly supernatural ways at some points?
Answer: I do not know!
Please forgive me for arguing by analogy, but:
Did God let history evolve on its own?
Or does God allow history to proceed on its own most of the time, but keep his finger in there and occasionally even intervene in a dramatic way???
Does God let our individual lives evolve on their own, or does God keep his "finger" in our lives, even intervening in dramatic ways at various times?
God is big enough for free will to be real and yet to work in our lives.
Scientific free will and predestination can work together with God.
God is big enough for free will to work and yet to intervene in history to bring in Jesus Christ.
To the Christian this is all obvious.
What about the physical universe? Why de we demand that God behave differently with regard to physical reality than with human history and individual humans?
Darrel Falk provides the following perspective:
"The Bible tells us that God created, but it does not tell us how, and we need to be careful that we do not force the God of the Universe into one of our human molds. […] What do we learn about the nature of God’s activity from studying the Bible? One thing we learn is that God builds freedom into His creation. […] Just as God builds freedom into our lives today, so freedom may well be a central component of God’s biological world as well. This is not to say that God is not playing a supervisory role in creation in a manner resembling the role God plays in my life and yours. But there is no a priori scriptural reason to assume that the biological world was created one species at a time by the God of the Universe "pushing creation buttons" each time he wanted a new species. […] God’s spirit guides the progression of life. His presence is never far from creation, just as it is never far from the events of my life. Nonetheless God respects my freedom and (I suspect) values freedom in the rest of creation as well." 6
The Rev. John Polkinghorne explains:
"[There] is no doubt that part of God’s interaction with the world must be that of letting agents or circumstances take their course. Without that there would be no true freedom, and the gift of love in creation must be the gift of freedom, both to humankind and also to the Universe itself, as it explores its own inherent potential through its evolving process." 4John C. Polkinghorne, Science and Providence: God’s Interaction with the World (Philadelphia and London: Templeton Foundation Press, 2005), 11.
V. Because miracles happen. Those who tend toward deism tend to rationalize ALL miracles. (yes, this is another slippery slope argument!)
"The Miracles of Exodus" Colin J. Humphreys. Mt. Sinai was a volcano which happened to erupt at the right time, the manna was resin from a naturally occurring plant in Arabia, the plague of the first born was due to mycotoxin-induced poisoning. The first born died first because they ate first from the fungal-infected grain. most of the events were miracles of timing, not supernatural events. Ex: hail, gnats, red Nile, etc.
The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand was really a miracle that Jesus was able to get those selfish people to share the food they were hiding.
Again, forgive my slippery slope argument, but what is next? The storm in Galilee (Mark 4:35-41)? The resurrection of Lazarus? The resurrection of Jesus.
The history is not good in this area.
VI I am cautious of the metaphorical interpretation of Genesis.
The Everyman Reading
The Everyman Reading of the creation story provides a very different metaphorical take on the text. This view understands the Fall as an allegorical story representing every human’s individual rejection of God. In this light, the Fall was not a historical event but an illustration of the common human condition that virtually everyone agrees is deeply flawed and sinful. In this view, it does not matter if Adam and Eve were historical figures. Their deeds simply represent the actions of all humans and remind us of this troubling part of our natures.
This interpretation is less popular among those who believe the Fall was an actual historical event.5 For example, consider the comparisons of Adam and Jesus that Paul makes in the book of Romans. Here Paul describes Adam as a sort of representative of humanity who sinned and brought on the curse. Adam is contrasted with Jesus, the new representative, who brings life: "For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many" (Romans 5:15 – NIV).6 And Jesus, of course, is clearly a historical figure – both the biblical texts and considerable extrabiblical evidence corroborate that.
Another view sees human-like creatures evolving as the scientific evidence indicates. But at a certain point in history, it is possible that God bestowed special spiritual gifts on those who had developed the necessary characteristics. This historical event would endow the recipients with the Image of God. (See Question 18 about The Image of God.) We can say that Homo divinus was therefore created from Homo sapiens. With these spiritual gifts came the ability to know and experience evil – an opportunity that was grasped with tragic consequences that have carried through the history of Homo divinus.
This view can fit whether the humans in question constitute a group or a specific male-female pair. In the case of a group, we can imagine God interacts with all members of the group and essentially initiates the relationship that exists today. If the initiative is with a single human couple, then that relationship can spread to and through their offspring as that subset of the existing population comes to dominate.
In these two cases, humans exercised their free will and caused the Fall. The connection of the Fall with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil suggests that Homo divinus exercised their moral consciousness by choosing to live independently, rather than by God’s instruction. The Genesis narrative provides a vivid description of their consequent alienation from God.
These accounts can be fit together with the genetic evidence of all species’ relatedness and a larger initial population of humans. They also keep Adam – whether an individual or illustration of a group – as representative of all humanity.
VII Biblical arguments:
Luke 3:37 …. the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
Luke is a historian. He is not writing as a historian here, but are we to conclude that Seth did not live? Where in this genealogy do real people emerge?
Romans 5:14 Adam
Eve 2 Cor 11:3
Abel Luke 11:51 Hebrews 11:4
Cain 1 Jn 3:12
Enoch Heb 11:5
Noah 2 Pet 3:6 Just like in the time of Noah, so it will be at the end of time. Is the second coming of Jesus a metaphor? By the same word the present heavens and earth are held in store for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
But you take a metaphorical view of parts of Genesis, so why not take a metaphorical view of the first 10 chapters?
I do not take Genesis 1 to be a metaphor. To take something non-literally is not the same as to take it metaphorically.
I can even buy the literary interpretation of Genesis 1 to some extent, but this does not completely remove the historical content.
The lives of Adam and Eve are clearly prefigures. There is huge symbolism in the lives of Adam, Eve and their children. That does not make them metaphors.
Might there be metaphorical aspects of the garden, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Quite possibly so.
God is simple, but he is able to reconcile seemingly contradictory things from a human perspective quite easily. God is simple, but he is also complicated.
Abraham and Isaac are prefigures. Are they metaphors?
Moses and David are prefigures. Their lives are highly symbolical. Are they metaphors?
VIII Because I am biased.
Am I biased? Yes. Do I make choices? Do I choose to believe certain things over others due to a predisposition in that direction? Yes.
When in doubt, I lean toward a literal interpretation. When the most obvious interpretation is the supernatural, I tend that way. I lean toward under-metaphoricalizing Genesis. I will admit this.
I object to those who imply that all intelligent and scientifically literate people who are not absolute troglodytes must come into the God-of-no-gaps fold. I am not there.
There are a number of believers who give virtually full benefit of the doubt to science. They are as close to naturalism as they possibly can be without contradicting, in their mind, biblical truth. Do not count me as one of them.